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28
Jun
11

Georgia football and the war of northern aggression

Some assignments are beyond words.

One of our reporters is doing a story on people doing searches for their ancestors who fought in the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, as I’d soon find out from my subjects).  I arrived for the assignment and noticed what a quaint little neighborhood it was.  It was a pretty recent development and the house I was about to go into was a cozy, well kept home.

But when I walked in, it was 1865.  General Lee portraits everywhere, confederate flags, commemorative pistols and knives, you name it.  Before I shot the couple’s portrait, they gave me a quick tour of the hallway, where most of the important stuff was hung.

This caught my eye.

What. The. Hell.  Georgia football players rushing the field against General Sherman and his army on horseback?  I was speechless.

In fact, I’ll post what it says in small print on the picture…because it’s worth noting. Trust me.

“Whether or not the University of Georgia was playing football in the fall of 1864; or whether or not the Union General William Tucumseh Sherman had knowledge that those ferocious Bulldogs were engaged in such a sport; or whether or not anyone other than a Georgia Bulldog fan wishes to believe the following account of what happened, does not detract in the least from this fantasy of that historical event….

General Sherman’s original intentions were to march directly from Atlanta, Georgia to Columbia, South Carolina, (where he later appeared, pillaged, and burned the capitol of that great Southern State). However, after approaching Sanford Stadium at Athens, Georgia, he suddenly realized his terrible mistake.  Barely escaping with his life, he then wisely decided to take his army six hundred miles out of his way to Savannah by the sea.”

Amazing is all I got to say.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

23
Jun
11

Cycling time trials

Avery Wilson competes in the junior category during the USA Cycling National Championships individual time trial at Lake Strom Thurmond, Thursday, June 23, 2011, near Clarks Hill, S.C.

Not too much to say about today other than I spent 5 hours on and off the Lake Strom Thurmond dam shooting pictures of hardcore road cyclists during individual time trials for the USA Cycling National Championships.  Then back to the office to edit photos for the newspaper, a photo gallery and a video.  One assignment = one full day.

The coolest part is the sound those carbon fibre wheels make when they pass by.  Whoosh whoosh whoosh.  It’s pretty nifty.  And I have a tan now too.

Tomorrow is the criterium.  If there’s a crash, I’ll post a blog don’t worry.

-RAE

http://www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

21
Jun
11

Favorite Le Mans image

I began my photographic career as a motorsport photographer.  It was only a couple of years into it that I got bit by the photojournalism bug and jumped ship to tailor a portfolio suited to get a job as a newspaper shooter.

However, a few times a year I freelance for motorsport.com and Zuma Press at endurance sportscar races, most notably at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.  It’s always fun to return to my ‘roots’ so to speak and see old friends.  I’m back in my environment, I know what to do, and I’m comfortable.  Motorsports photography has everything: speed, obviously, but also people, colors, a need for a sense of timing.  At the end of the day, it’s a sporting event, and covering it does require a certain amount of photojournalism-ism.

So it’s obvious that as I’ve evolved as a pj, I’ve also evolved as a motorsports photog.  And when one of the Zuma editors asked me to shoot some behind the scenes/spectator stuff in order to give a variety other than sports photography, it added a new challenge to my coverage.

So as the race continued on and the sun started to get low on the horizon on Saturday evening, I took a few moments to leave track side and the paddock to join the spectators enjoying the fun.  It had been a long time since I’d been on the other side of the fence, looking at cars several yards away through reinforced fencing.  The view sucks, but the culture doesn’t.

I borrowed a 24mm 1.4 lens from Nikon France who were providing service for credentialed photographers on site.  This was the time to use the hell out of it.  The amazing thing about that lens, other than the insanely cool look that depth of field gives, is the incredibly rich colors and crispness it gives.  When it’s sharp it’s tack, and when the light’s flat, it’s contrasty beyond belief.  It’s the perfect photojournalism lens, period.  The lens’ biggest virtue is how it makes any boring scene look interesting because of the mood it sets.  There’s nothing like setting a mood with a photograph.

So, all that to say that my favorite image from an auto race contains no cars, no drivers, or racing personalities.  Not even an inch of track or tire barrier.  Instead, it’s a scene you could find at any county fair, or amusement park.  It’s more photojournalist than straight sports photographer.  Maybe I’ve evolved past that.  Maybe.

Or maybe it’s just the lens.

June 11, 2011 - Le Mans, France. A fan watches as a couple enjoy a carnival ride during the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race.

 

And another just cuz.  It’s a photo blog afterall.

 

June 10, 2011 - Le Mans, France Audi Sport driver Tom Kristensen, center, of Denmark, during the 24 Hours of Le Mans drivers' parade.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

30
May
11

Court reporters

Court reporters fascinate me.

I spend more than my fair share of time in courtrooms waiting to get a sub-par picture of a shackled suspect as they are whisked by me.  To pass the time, I often pay attention to the court reporter.

They are almost always women.  They have intense eyes as they pay attention with more fervor to what’s being said than I ever did on any math test.  But at the same time, the rest of her body usually seems to be doing something else, as if she’s painting her toenails under the desk.  And finally, they talk into that weird contraption.

What the hell are they saying into that thing?  Is it some kind of shorthand speak that only the computer recognises?  Is it a standardised language?  How different is it from what the lawyer in the cheap suit is actually saying?  How detailed is it really? Every word? Mostly the gist? Sometimes the back and forth gets pretty darn fast.

All these questions are thrust upon me every time I have to shoot an assignment in a courtroom.

On one recent trip (to the sparkling new courthouse so I was excited), one of the cases before the one I had to shoot related to an assistant band teacher, HIV positive mind you, who was accused of have sex with one of his students.  Now this was just the bond hearing, but a lot of gruesome details were brought up by the young prosecutor that this poor court reporter had to transcribe in detail.  While most of the court was shaking their heads softly and some were mumbling words of astonishment, this lady was hard at work, never flinching.  Clearly she had heard this type of story a million times before. Fellatio, sodomy – somehow the use of clinical, sterile words in context makes it worse.

Which begs the question, at what point does it get normal?  This was a question I routinely asked when I used to do a feature on local dirty jobs called Grime Pays.  At what point do you forget you’re waist deep in raw sewage?  Or when do you stop noticing the smell in your clothes after a day of picking up roadkill?  The answer was almost always very quickly.  Partly because your senses get dulled from routine exposure, and partly because the mind is quite a powerful thing.  If it’s thrust into a particularly unpleasant situation, it will turn things off in order to survive, or at least in this case to make life relatively bearable while spraying down used port-o-potties.

At any rate, here’s a picture of that particular court reporter hard at work.  Looking at the photo now, it kind of seems like a lonely job.  Just you, your short-term memory and the mic thing.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

10
May
11

Masters best ofs and outtakes

My 2011 Masters Golf Tournament reedited slightly.  After a week of shooting golf I seem to have needed exactly a month in order to stomach looking at them again.

I’ve experienced five Masters now.  In many ways they’ve all been different, but they’ve also been the same.  After five years, your ‘fresh’ eyes have all but disappeared.  You know what works and what doesn’t and you’re subconsciously editing yourself in order to save time and (most often) energy.  My theory is that your second Masters is your best.  You’re still fresh and excited from your first time, but now you’re more familiar with your surroundings so you’re not hindered by logistics so to speak.

At any rate, here they are!  How about in chronological order so we don’t play favorites.

Thanks for looking as always,

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

Patrons walk across an expanse of grass during Monday's practice round for the Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club, Monday, April 4, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Martin Kaymer zips up his jacket as he walks on No. 13 during Tuesday's practice round at the Augusta National, Tuesday, April 5, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Honorary starters Jand Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer with chairman Billy Payne after teeing off on the first tee to open Thursday's first round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Thursday, April 7, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Tiger Woods reacts to missing a birdie putt on No. 10 during Thursday's first round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Thursday, April 7, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Charl Schwartzel walks along sixteen during Saturday's third round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Saturday, April 9, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Rory McIlroy on 18 during Saturday's third round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Saturday, April 9, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Tiger Woods eagle on number 8 during Sunday's final round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Sunday, April 10, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Charl Schwartzel, right, and K.J. Choi after Schwartzel's eagle on number 3 during Sunday's final round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Sunday, April 10, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Charl Schwartzel, of South Africa, reacts after making birdie on No. 16 during Sunday's final round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Sunday, April 10, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Charl Schwartzel, of South Africa, reacts after making birdie on No. 18 to win during Sunday's final round of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Sunday, April 10, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Tiger Woods walks along the water on No. 16 during Sunday's final round for the Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 10, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

22
Mar
11

Sebring

No matter how hard I try to fight it, I’m a motorsports photographer at heart.  Always have been, always will be.  Sure I work at a newspaper to pay the bills, but in a perfect world I’d be out shooting cars and the people who make them go.

Last weekend was the 59th Sebring 12 Hours in Sebring, Florida.  It’s run on an old WWII airfield using two cement runways connected by 11 or so corners paved sometime in the 50s.  To say that it’s bumpy is an understatement, and I’m convinced it’s (only) 12 hours and not 24, like its Le Mans counterpart, because of how grueling it really is.  It’s always been said that if a team, driver, car can make it at Sebring, it can make it at Le Mans.

Below are a few of my favorite images from the weekend.  Oddly enough, the French team I translate press releases for won the whole thing.  Their first overall victory at Sebring and it was great fun to see them celebrate so much.

This year, I was big into using other people’s flashes to my advantage.  We were also lucky enough to get the famous sunset on the front straight.  And since we were two photographers for Motorsport.com, it gave me the freedom to do something different rather than play it safe.  I think this might be my best take from a race so far in my 11 year motorsport career.  Enjoy.

Over 190 American Le Mans Series drivers pose for a photoshoot before the 12 Hours of Sebring, Tuesday, March 15, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Oreca driver NICOLAS LAPIERRE drives the Peugeot 908 during practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Rebellion Toyota Racing driver NICOLAS PROST looks on during testing for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Monday, March 14, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Corvette driver JAN MAGNUSSEN, of Denmark, looks on during practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

BMW Motorsport BMW M3 GT: ANDY PRIAULX, DIRK MULLER, JOEY HAND during night practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Audi Sport driver MIKE ROCKENFELLER, of Germany, drives the R15 Plus during night practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Mar 18, 2011 - Sebring, Florida, U.S. Patron Ferrari driver DOMINIK FARNBACHER, of Germany, poses with a drawing of his F458 during an autograph session for the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Mar 19, 2011 - Sebring, Florida, U.S. Peugeot driver ANTHONY DAVIDSON, of England, drives the 908 during warmup for the 12 Hours of Sebring.

The infamous cracks in the cement during testing for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Monday, March 14, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Oreca driver NICOLAS LAPIERRE, of France, drives the Peugeot 908 during night practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Mar 19, 2011 - Sebring, Florida, U.S. Peugeot driver FRANCK MONTAGNY, of France, leads the field at the start of the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Peugeot driver PEDRO LAMY, of Portugal, waits during practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Sebring, Florida.

Mar 19, 2011 - Sebring, Florida, U.S. The sun sets on the front straight during the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Mar 19, 2011 - Sebring, Florida, U.S. Oreca Peugeot driver LOIC DUVAL, of France, waits for the team's final pit stop during the 12 Hours of Sebring.

From left, Oreca technical director DAVID FLOURY, team principal HUGUES DE CHAUNAC, and driver OLIVIER PANIS, celebrate after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Mar 19, 2011 - Sebring, Florida, U.S. Oreca Peugeot driver LOIC DUVAL is carried away from his car after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Mar 19, 2011 - Sebring, Florida, U.S. Overall winners, from left, NICOLAS LAPIERRE, team principal HUGUES DE CHAUNAC, OLIVIER PANIS and LOIC DUVAL celebrate during podium celebrations at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

03
Mar
11

an act of light

A small pocket of light is a photographer’s best friend.

He motivates me when the alternative is a standard kids-learning-in-school photo.  He surprises me when I least expect it, and usually at the most unusual places.  He allows me to set a mood and let the background go black – not darker, or underexposed, but black.  In short, he’s nature’s spot grid…and thank goodness for that.  

Assistant Pre-K teacher Debora Williams, center, reads a Dr. Seuss book with Adrian Murray, 4, left, William Wallace, 4, second from right, and Connor McQuiston, 4, right, during Pre-K class at Oak Brook Country Day School, Tuesday, March 1, 2011, in Martinez, Ga. The Southern Education Foundation released a study on the financial impact Georgia's Pre-K program has on the state. Last year, the program saved the state $34 million in long term costs because Pre-K decreases the chance children will have to go through special education or repeat grades. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

 

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

20
Feb
11

video video video

Ask any newspaper photographer who has made (or is making) the transition from still photography to video and one of the first things they will complain about is the amount of trial and error that goes into teaching yourself a completely different medium.  It’s understandable that most people think if a photographer can shoot great pictures, then it’s fair enough to assume they can produce great video.

This is not true, in case you were wondering.

About the only thing that still and video have in common is that you point a camera at something for a period of time, capturing images.  Everything else, from subject matter to how you handle the camera to the editing process, are completely and utterly different.

Unfortunately with the way the economy has been recently, many newsrooms have been forced to learn video on their own.  Many photojournalists took four solid years (or more) of training and education to be newspaper photographers but only get four months to suddenly become video experts.

All this leads to hours and hours of trial and error.  This means taking five tries just to get the right settings on import (you think learning all the numbers and formulas for photography is confusing), then three tries just to get your editing timeline up so you can see your video clips.  Then it’s hunt and peck for the right keys to slice, move, control volume, make ending credits (keep in mind this is all really basic stuff).  And that’s the frustrating part – once you get over the idea that you’ll never make a Pulitzer prize for your video and that the general public really only wants to see max 2 minutes of video before their Internet-induced ADD kicks in, you still find yourself struggling just to get an easy, almost linear video exported.

If you Google “video export” you will get 4 gazillion results all telling you different things.

.avi, .mp4, codec, NTCS, key frame, progressive/interlaced, compression settings, MJPEG.  Am I speaking your language yet?

And don’t get me started with the numbers.  It took me 14 tries just to make sure the aspect ratio stayed the same on export.  What do 4:3 and 16:9 convert to in pixels?  Who knows.  Just keep exporting until you get something that looks right.  It’s amazing how much time is wasted watching your computer export a thirty second test clip.

I could go on and on, but I’m actually getting decent results now, and the Chronicle staff photographers are using me as a sort of guinea pig as we continue to perfect our videos.  We’re still not happy with how the Brightcove player (something we don’t really have control over) compresses the video once it gets on the website.  Our exported .mp4 is actually really good looking.  We’ll get there eventually.

Below is a link to a video I made while I spent half a day with a Pre-K class in Augusta for an education cuts story.

http://bcove.me/ma4vn3sh

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

01
Feb
11

a spot o’ spot news.

Let me preface this post about spot news (unplanned news like shootings, fires, accidents, etc.) with a small disclaimer.

We cover the things that happen in and around our community.  This means the good and the bad, the glamorous and the not so glamorous.  With spot news, it is the nature of our jobs, that inevitably, someone’s misfortune is going to be our ‘good’ fortune.  I’ve touched on this before in previous posts and you have to take a small step back to look at the bigger picture.  A particular tragedy is very sad for those living through it, however, the public has a right to know what’s going on in their neighborhood.  Most newspapers have a certain threshold of spot news that they will give their attention to.  In other words, the explosion, fire, whatever, has to affect many people or cause a lot of damage to property – or must be unique in some way as to make it newsworthy (think car crashing through a liquor store window).  If we went out to cover every single fatal crash, then we’d truly be ambulance chasers.

Every newspaper is different.  Some cover spot news like there’s no tomorrow, handing out police scanners to photographers and reporters.  Others, and The Augusta Chronicle falls into this category, have one scanner in the newsroom and will only run out if there is something big that warrants it (see above).

All that to say, yes, I get excited when there’s a large fire to run to, or an explosion has rocked a pipeline in McDuffie county.  It’s a little like EMS workers and how they block out the suffering and pain they see everyday.  You get desensitized the more you’re around it.  And it’s part of a photojournalist’s moral quandary to decide whether to take a picture of a grieving father or tearful mother.   At that moment you realize that this is part of life, and it is a story worth telling.  No matter how heartbreaking.  It is what we do.

But luckily, this picture has a relatively happy ending.

Chanta Wise, left, a her son Marquis, hold their dog Reeses after it was rescued by firefighters during an apartment fire at Georgia Place Apartments, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. No injuries were reported. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

As I ran around the apartment complex to get a better look at where the firefighters were actually fighting the blaze, I saw one of the rescuers holding a pet carrier…with a dog in it.  I thought to myself, I’d better get ready because at any moment, the owner might come screaming out from nowhere, hugging and kissing the dog from the joy of being reunited.  Ninety percent of our job is anticipating what’s going to happen.  I had been in such a rush to get to the scene that I hadn’t put a memory card in my camera yet, and so had to fumble around in my pocket for one.  As I was closing the door to the card slot, the woman I was hoping for made her appearance from a neighboring apartment building.  “Oh Reeses, Reeses!!!” I could hear.  I had no time to format my card and just started shooting without knowing how many frames I had left.  It could be 4 or 400.  I didn’t know. Stressful. I clicked away as her son arrived and I backed up as they moved away from the burned out apartment.  This is when I made the picture.  It’s a clean frame with noone else around for distraction, and I was close enough to use a wide angle lens – something that’s unusual for spot news.  A small group of onlookers were gathering around us, and I continued to back up until my left leg stepped on – and fell through – a rotted out tree stump.  For about three uncomfortable seconds my leg was buried up to my thigh in a hole that felt like it didn’t have a bottom. I knew I had scraped my calf pretty good, but the adrenaline was pumping so it didn’t really matter. I managed to get myself up and thankfully was unnoticed by anyone else in all the commotion (I think?). By then the moment had passed, but I knew I had something good.

No injuries were reported.  Including mine.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

26
Jan
11

Your new favorite blog

http://shitphotojournalistslike.tumblr.com

So far this sums up the last 9 years of my life.  Kudos to whoever started this.

-RAE
http://www.rainier-ehrhardt.com