Posts Tagged ‘augusta chronicle

28
Aug
11

departure from the Chronicle – part 1

As some of you know, I will be leaving the Augusta Chronicle in a few weeks.  No formal date has been set as of yet, mostly because my wife and I have the luxury of time during this transition.

My wife accepted (and has since started at) a job in Greenville, S.C. as a graphic designer for a company that makes educational material for special education teachers and students.  Her parents live there and the area is, no offense Augustans, what the CSRA should be.

When I leave, I will be a freelancer full-time, something I haven’t been since 2006.  At the time, I didn’t have the experience or (more importantly) the connections I have now.  It was a certain struggle back then, but somehow it led to bigger and better things (the Chronicle job, among others).  As of today, I don’t plan on being a freelancer for the rest of my working life.  That may change with success and/or time.

Being a newspaper photographer was the best job in the world.  I use ‘was’ because it will never be the same.  In the past let’s say 50 years, the field of photojournalism has evolved, sometimes by leaps and bounds (think digital cameras), but mostly at a relatively normal pace compared to the fields around it, including other newsroom jobs.  But the current economic climate and newspapers’ inability to capitalize on the Internet, photojournalism is not evolving as normal – taking new technology and ways of working in stride and adapting. No,  in reality, it’s going through a revolution…and no one, I guarantee it, can foresee in what shape it will be in when it comes out the other side. The difference between when I arrived here almost exactly 5 years ago and now is, no joke, night and day.  I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who’ve been in the business 10 years or 20.  It’s not even the same job anymore.

I titled this post ‘part 1’ because I plan on covering many facets of my time at the newspaper – things I’ve learned, things I’ve loved, things I’ve kinda hated.  And I’ll finish with what lies ahead.

I can start with stating two facts.

1 – I’ll miss the daily grind of newspaper work.  Getting up in the morning and not knowing what you’ll be up against, who you’ll meet, what you’ll get to do.  That excitement of grabbing your assignments and going out to make a picture.

2- I’ll miss the people I work with.  That common bond we journalists share called cynicism.  And we have a unique sense of humor, especially the photo dept. (everyone wants to hang with the cool kids, admit it.)

So. Off we go…

-RAE

http://www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

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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

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

 

04
Jan
11

fishin’

Leland Rodgers fishes on the Savannah River, Monday, Dec. 27, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

I guess there’s no better way to start out 2011 than with a left over image from 2010, since I’m constantly in a state of catch up.  You’d think with the new year, 2011 would start fresh but alas that’s not the case.

Motivation is a fickle thing.  It changes depending on an infinite amount of factors; your mood, the weather, subject matter, what you had for breakfast that day, etc.

Around the holidays, there is so little to cover that newspapers start to get desperate.  School’s out, government is out, high school sports are all done for the season – for the most part, people are closed up in their toasty homes enjoying family and friends.  That’s good for them, bad for us (it is a generally accepted fact that reporters and photographers have good days when bad days happen for others – it’s just the reality of things, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

At any rate, one of the Chronicle reporters who is usually pretty good about scaring up a decent story when in a bind, was doing a story on how the Army Corps of Engineers was planning on releasing more water into the Savannah River from the dam upstream.  Well, how do you illustrate something that hasn’t happened yet?  And in a time crunch?  You go to where the end result will be and hope for the best.  This is how I found myself on the 5th Street bridge waiting for something, anything, to happen on the river. 

These things can be agonizing.  An oft used phrase in photojournalism, ‘hurry up and wait,’ definitely had the potential to make for a long day.  But as I walked along the sidewalk and took a peek over the railing, there he was. I hadn’t seen him from the car because he was almost underneath the bridge.   A man bundled up in countless layers floating in a small boat trying his best to fish in nearly freezing conditions.  Because let’s face it, that’s the way we all wish we could spend the afternoon.

Fishing pictures come a dime a dozen, but I’m attached to this one for some reason.  I guess it’s the best fishing moment I’ve caught with my camera (because that’s saying a lot, right?)  But at the end of the day, to me, it’s just pretty light with lots of negative space and reminds me of how I’d feel if I were in that boat.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

07
Dec
10

Cam the ham…

…but I like the guy.  Some see his post-game over enthusiasm as cocky and pretentious, while others think he’s just an emotive kind of guy who loves his fans.  Maybe it’s a little of both, but all I know is I like the photo moments he gives up.  Who cares if he hams it up, the man knows how to give it up for the camera.  He’s expressive and smiling, and he does things that make our jobs easier – like run around the stadium high-fiving fans or spinning a towel around to acknowledge the crowd, on in the case of the SEC championship game, get carried off the field by his teammates like a scene from a movie.  These are all things photojournalists WISH would happen at every game, but they rarely do.  But then again, if they happened so often, they wouldn’t be so special and photographable (is that a word?).  So therein lies our quandary.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is carried onto the field after defeating South Carolina in the SEC championship football game at the Georgia Dome, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Atlanta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

I don’t know what it looked like on TV, but that’s one helluva scrum we were in.  I’ve never seen anything that pushy and I’ve covered my fair share of big games and star drivers that attract hoards of photographers and television cameramen.  I’m always surprised there’s not a photographer who gets trampled or loses an eye in these things.  The attitude you have to adopt is one of ‘go all in or don’t go at all.’  Total cluster.

But it’s fun.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is carried onto the field after defeating South Carolina in the SEC championship football game at the Georgia Dome, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Atlanta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

-RAE
24
Nov
10

What are you thankful for?

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, second from right, looks back after escorting a tearful Latonya Holmes before the arrival of her husband, Sgt. David Holmes' body at Sandersville Airport, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

As I sit in the Waynesboro McDonald’s trying to waste some time between assignments down here in Burke County, (whoever thinks this is a glamorous job need only spend a week with us out on the road to see that we photogs eat TERRIBLY – on the go and wherever we can, usually fast food), I’m tempted to talk about Thanksgiving a little, this the day before the big turkey day.

Last July, I wrote a quick note on my Facebook group about the work I was doing with fellow writer Adam Folk focusing on the Army’s casualty assistance program.  We covered for the daily paper, and I posted something here about it – and how the widow’s screams were quite haunting during her husband’s arrival on a chartered flight from Dover, Delaware in a casket draped with the American flag.  It finally ran on Veterans Day with photos I had been sitting on since the summer.  I’m glad they found a home in the paper and online, because these were very moving images from a very moving experience for all involved, including me.  As photographers we do our best to illustrate and document what is going on, but there are a few rare occasions where photos, video, nothing can really relate what it was really like.

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, right, and Master Sgt. Vincent Grissom, left, help Latonya Holmes to the funeral service for Sgt. David Holmes at New Birth Christian Ministries, Friday, July 9, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, left, looks on as Latonya Holmes, second from left, is consoled by Master Sgt. Vincent Grissom, as the body of Sgt. David Holmes is prepared to leave New Birth Christian Ministries after funeral services, Friday, July 9, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

It is stories like these that make me thankful for what I have.  It’s the story of the husband who dedicates his life to the caregiving of his aging wife suffering from Alzheimers as she slowly loses the memories that effectively makes up their 38-year marriage.  It’s the story of a grieving mother who has lost her son in an instant of senseless violence.  Or the man who sits on a curb while his small house and everything he owns burns inside. 

These are the moments that, when I see them, I take a quick pause to realize how lucky I am, and I’m grateful for it.  Yes it’s part of life – that amazing thing we call life – with it’s highs and its lows and the total unpredictable nature of…nature.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, right, holds Latonya Holmes' hand as he tries to comfort her during the arrival of Sgt. David Holmes' body at Sandersville Airport, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

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