Archive for October, 2010

27
Oct
10

My run in with Jennifer Keeton

First a little background for those unfamiliar with local Augusta news (although this did make the national news for a millisecond a few weeks back.) 

Jennifer Keeton is a graduate student at Augusta State University studying education counseling.  Apparently she told a group of students something along the lines of homosexuality is wrong and she believes this because of her religion and wants to convert them.  ASU told her to stop and now she’s suing for infringement of her rights.  That’s the really really basic gist of it. 

When the news broke, a photo of her on a balcony was provided to the media (from whom I don’t know) which has pretty much circled the globe 63 times by now.  At my paper, The Augusta Chronicle, everytime we wrote an update story to how the case was going (it’s still going by the way), we’d use that same picture over and over again.  Sometimes cropped into a mug (journalism speak for headshot) or the full picture. 

I don’t know a single newspaper editor that doesn’t start having a nervous twitch when a mug has been run more than three times.  It’s just stale as last week’s bread, and a fresh picture becomes a priority.  Of course, Keeton was ordered by the court to stop attending class for the time being and although we have her address, we aren’t going to go paparazzi her house.   So as the news calmed and no new developments with the case were in sight, the urgency for a fresh picture died down and it became the general consensus around the newroom that it was now a waiting game. A waiting game to see when she’d show up at a public event. 

Now on to last Tuesday.  I was assigned to cover a meet and greet with Pam Tebow, mother of ex-quarterback for the Florida Gators Tim Tebow, who garnered fame because of the pro-life commercial she made for this year’s Superbowl.  At any rate, she tours the country speaking to groups about abortion.

I was a little early so I casually walked up the center stair case at the downtown Marriott that leads to the various ballrooms and conference rooms.  And as I got to the top, I stopped dead in my tracks when I instantly recognized Jennifer Keeton.  Of course, she instantly looked at me too, what with all the photo gear on me I was less than inconspicuous.  We both shared an instant moment of heart sinkage.  But to her credit she kept it cool.  And I hope I did as well while nonchalantly walking past as I looked for the Lamar room. 

I knew Pam Tebow would arrive shortly and that THE shot would be the two shaking hands or talking to one another.  After a few feable attempts to get something from far away – just in case – Tebow arrived and that’s when I let discreteness take a backseat.  I got close and fired like a mad man (of course seconds earlier the autofocus on my camera stopped working, so I had to revert to manually focusing in a dark hallway where I couldn’t actually see if things were sharp or not — I’d later discover that a switch had been flipped to manual focus by accident.)  Pam Tebow had no idea who she was and continued to ham it up for the camera, over facial expressing and over exhuberantly shaking hands.  No matter, because in this picture, it makes Tebow look like even she’s surprised to see Keeton for the first time in months.  There’s nothing really remarkable about the photo, except for its news value.

Anyway, I ran back to the paper and got a few pat on the backs for being at the right place at the right time.  News-wise I’d say I’ve had a pretty good week so far.

Pam Tebow, right, speaks with Jennifer Keeton, left, at the Augusta Care Pregnancy Center banquet, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

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23
Oct
10

KKK cross lighting

It’s not everyday the KKK conducts a rally three blocks from your house.  It’s also not everyday the KKK decides to hold the first public cross lighting ceremony in 50 years the same day a few miles away.

And yet that’s what happened today.  On my day off.  But I wasn’t going to miss this.

A member of the Ku Klux Klan holds a swastika flag during a rally in front of Augusta State University, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

The local Klan announced a few weeks ago that they would rally in front of Augusta State University to support Jennifer Keeton, who is suing the school for requiring her to learn about the homosexual community or be expelled.  To be honest, it was a rather unsuccessful rally.  It was highly contolled by the police, and there were more counter-protesters than actual KKK members present.  The whole thing turned into a shouting match and even though the Klan had a permit to demonstrate from 1pm to 4pm, they called the whole thing off after about 20 minutes and left.  All in all pretty lame.

Then I get home to find out they would be burning a cross, and that it would be open to the public.  Now it’s getting simultaneously better and weirder.  I drop dinner with my wife (sorry honey) and haul out to Warrenville, S.C., hoping it won’t be another dud like earlier.  It’s not.

After a couple of hours listening to the Imperial Wizard talk about the KKK’s views and why they are misunderstood, and reporters try to ask questions that don’t immediately reflect their political and cultural views (lots of dancing around the real questions, really), the ceremony finally started.  We learned that they don’t actually burn the cross, but the fabric that surrounds it, and that the ceremony wouldn’t take long (the cross was aflame for 2 minutes, almost exactly, according to the time stamps on my pictures.)  And to make things even more photo friendly, more than half the members were in robes and hoods.

And even though it was a public ceremony, noone from the public showed.  Local television news didn’t show either.  It was only me and the other staff photographers at the Chronicle, who were all present whether or not they were on duty.  And two staff writers.  That’s about it really.  I guess I can’t blame the public for not showing.  Who would want to be in the vicinity when the cross is lit?  As media we have an excuse to satisfy our curiousity.

As it was my day off, I’m free to do what I want with the images, so I immediately shopped them around and after the AP passed up the chance, Reuters took three photos of mine.  I think it’s one of Yahoo!’s top photos tonight, but that could be changed by the time you read this.  In any case, it’s great fun shopping around a photo when you’ve got nothing to lose and nothing to prove – and you know the image has great news value.

As a side note, the Imperial Wizard warned us that it was likely that the police would probably show up just after the start of the ceremony.  Sure enough, as each Klansman was lighting his torch, a cruiser drove by on the narrow dead end gravel road.  I though surely he’d get out and break up the party, but he just drove on by.  I was surprised.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan wrap a cross with fabric before a lighting ceremony, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C.

Imperial Klaliff David Webster begins a Ku Klux Klan cross lighting ceremony at a home, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C. KKK Imperial Wizard Duwayne Johnson said it was the first public cross lighting in 50 years.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in a cross lighting ceremony at a klansman's home, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C. KKK Imperial Wizard Duwayne Johnson said it was the first public cross lighting in 50 years. REUTERS/Rainier Ehrhardt

Members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in a cross lighting ceremony at a klansman's home, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C. KKK Imperial Wizard Duwayne Johnson said it was the first public cross lighting in 50 years. REUTERS/Rainier Ehrhardt

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

20
Oct
10

Tall buildings and high places

From left, Ben Keilholtz, Joe Grabb and Greg James, all from AAA Sign, attach the "G" from Wells Fargo on the old Wachovia building, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

Let’s be clear about this:  I hate heights.  Not in the sense that you can say you hate carrots, simply because you’re over exaggerating a distaste for them.  It’s more like I loathe heights.

Probably related, I also have a deep fear of them.  An irrational muscle tightening and body paralyzing fear that strikes whenever I get on a ladder any higher than 10 rungs. 

I was reminded of all this when I was escorted to the 17th floor of the old Wachovia building and into the storage/maintenance facility wedged between the top of the building and the Pinnacle Club.  All this to photograph a crew putting up the new Wells Fargo signage on the side of the building.  Then came the worst part – and something I should have remembered from my previous trip to the roof of this building – the two story free climb up a perfectly vertical steel ladder attached to a wall next to the equally tall air conditioning units. Two of the cylinder rungs near the top are bent, as if an elephant had recently tried to use it (how you bend a metal ladder at that height is beyond me.) 

Being on the roof of a tall building, with a wall surrounding me is not the issue.  It’s when there’s open space below that gets me.  And that’s why that two story climb is exponentially worse for my nerves than hanging out on the roof and enjoying the view of sunny Augusta and North Augusta.

And then there’s the very awkward and embarrassing, if anyone’s with you, transitioning between the ladder and flat roof surface – with camera equipment.  It almost always ends up being a mix of falling and rolling oddly onto the flat surface.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t look cool as you take your shaking hands and grab at anything attached to the floor only to imitate Shamu jumping out of the SeaWorld pool.    

But, once on the roof, there’s a small retaining wall all the way around so as long as I keep my eyes looking level, or up, I’m ok…until I have to take pictures of guys attaching a giant G to the building’s side 20 feet below me.  There’s no other way to get a good shot without leaning over the side, thus exposing myself to the open space below.  As I’m taking pictures, the guy on the roof, making sure the hanging scaffolding is secure for the three men below, asks me: “Hey you should get down there with them, and feel how it swings.”

Um. No. Thanks.

This is all topped off with the process of getting down, this time with the equally awkward transition from surface to ladder, in reverse (arguably less dumb looking but probably more dangerous.)

I’m always so happy to return to solid ground after these assignments. 

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

10
Oct
10

Georgia vs. Tennessee

Shooting college football is a lot of fun.  There’s action every play so there’s no excuse not to get a decent selection of images during an entire game.  The fans are rabid and as a result there is a lot more emotion involved in winning or losing a game, whether from the players or student section of even the diehard fans way up in section ZZ on the top deck.  It’s more convivial, something the NFL fails at for the most part, save for a few teams like the Packers or Saints.  I don’t know, there’s just something about college ball. 
So the Georgia Bulldogs kind of suck this year, I mean lets be honest.  But after beating major rival Tennessee with a convincing 41-14 score, the student section was celebrating like they’d just won the national championship.  It’s because every game is a party.  Here are a few images from Saturday. 

Georgia head coach Mark Richt acknowledges the student section after defeating Tennessee 41-14 at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, in Athens, Ga.

Georgia's Washaun Ealey goes airborne against Tennessee during the first half of their football game at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, in Athens, Ga.

Georgia's A.J. Green scores a touchdown during the first half of their football game against Tennessee at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, in Athens, Ga.

Georgia's Caleb King is tackled by several Tennessee players during the second half of their football game at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, in Athens, Ga.

Georgia's Justin Houston celebrates after sacking Tennessee's quarterback during the second half of their football game at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, in Athens, Ga.

 

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

07
Oct
10

Petit Le Mans leftovers part I

Here are a few extras from Petit Le Mans last weekend.  It’s such a hectic few days between what’s going on in the pits and on the race track, as well as editing and those pesky things called eating and sleeping, there’s barely any time to really get stuff together for a blog update.  It’s go go go, edit and send, go go go, edit and send.  I’m convinced I’d lose a bunch of weight if it weren’t for the Tostitos Eric and I continually munch on in the photo room (trailer really) as we edit.  Some photogs listen to music on their headphones, others develop a case of restless leg syndrome – all in order to focus and do it fast.  We just eat the crunchiest thing we can find.  Hey, whatever works.

Anyway, due to popular demand (ok, two people) here are more photos, with even more to come.

Oct 1, 2010 - Braselton, Georgia, U.S. - Ferrari driver GIANMARIA BRUNI, of Italy, waits for qualifying for the Petit Le Mans auto race in Braselton, Georgia.

Peugeot drivers Anthony Davidson, left, of England, and Alex Wurz, of Austria, speak during practice for the Petit Le Mans auto race, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, in Braselton, Georgia.

#1 Patron Highcroft Racing Honda Performance Development ARX-01c: David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud, Marino Franchitti during night practice for the Petit Le Mans auto race, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, in Braselton, Georgia.

Audi driver Benoit Treluyer, of France, during practice for the Petit Le Mans auto race, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, in Braselton, Georgia.

Oct 1, 2010 - Braselton, Georgia, U.S. - STEPHANE SARRAZIN, of France, waits in his Peugeot 908 race car during practice for the Petit Le Mans auto race in Braselton, Georgia.

Oct 1, 2010 - Braselton, Georgia, U.S. - Audi Sport general director Dr. WOLFGANG ULLRICH, of Germany, during practice for the Petit Le Mans auto race in Braselton, Georgia.

Oct 1, 2010 - Braselton, Georgia, U.S. - Ferrari driver GIANCARLO FISICHELLA, of Italy, during practice for the Petit Le Mans auto race in Braselton, Georgia.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

 

04
Oct
10

Dindo Capello B&W

I’m not usually one to convert my images to black and white.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t find a good B&W photograph striking in its own way.

When you get right down to it, I just don’t think about it.  I see the world in color, my camera sees the world in color, so my images are in color.  It was different when you loaded B&W film.  You were locked in with no choice.  That’s what the film saw – shades of gray.

Of course, nowadays, with the ability to go back and forth, there is a tendency to turn color images  into B&W to make up for the fact that it’s not a strong picture to begin with.  The photographer hoping the grayscale will add another dimension to an otherwise mediocre photo.  The way I see things, turning an image to B&W actually removes something from the picture.  The eye is no longer distracted by splotches of color in the background or the pink in a person’s skin tone.  In this respect, I believe a photo has to be good enough to start with in order to withstand this stripping away effect.

All that to say, there’s something special about a veteran racing driver from Italy waiting to take the wheel and the look on his face as he focuses.  I hope you agree that this deserved to be converted.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

01
Oct
10

Petit Le Mans

 

08 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 HDI FAP: Pedro Lamy, Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin during night practice for the Petit Le Mans auto race, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, in Braselton, Georgia.

 

After going on vacation, being busy with breast cancer photo projects, and other bad excuses, I’ve neglected my personal blog a bit.

But a good excuse to update today is my yearly trip to Road Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans endurance sportscar race.  Aside from an opportunity to return to my photographic roots and make great images with motivation, it’s a chance to see old friends – most of whom have crossed the Atlantic for this event.  

This is my first race of the year after missing three or four major races I used to cover religiously.  It’s like riding a bike.  And I’m glad for that.




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