Posts Tagged ‘chronicle



12
Nov
10

Veterans Day

Members of the Westside High School marching band perform during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

The weather was perfect, the light was nice, and the long shadows created by buildings and trees made for some different and exciting photos of an otherwise, and this by no means I don’t like them, completely overshot event in the photojournalism world: parades.

At first glance, anyone with a visual tendency will recognize that parades offer a range of things to shoot, no matter what it’s about – Veterans Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s, whatever.  People are dressed up, there’s usually floats, cars, happy onlookers, etc.  The list is pretty long.  Photojournalists take pictures of people doing things, and there is a lot of that going on at parades. 

So I guess that’s why parades remain probably the single most covered (in terms of photography) community events in the U.S.  And as a result, original images are very hard to come by.  Ask any photographer and he or she can give you a list of parade pictures they’ve shot or seen shot: candy throwing, Shriners doing donuts in go-karts, troops marching, bands playing, onlookers waving, parade walkers waving,  drunk Irishmen waving, floats with people waving and in the case of Christmas, Santa waving.  Done and done.  Such is a pj’s life.

So, I went into yesterday’s Veterans Day parade expecting to find cliches and a mission to avoid them as much as possible.  Luckily, the weather cooperated and the low humidity provided crisp sunlight and very blue skies – two factors that truly improve photos.  This simultaneously energized me to find some new angles or moments, and made those cliche shots bearable to shoot, knowing they were at least well lit and purdy-like.

So there you have it.  Another Veterans Day parade in the books.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

Children from Curtis Baptist daycare wave small American flags during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

 

Members of the military march during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

Patricia Haley holds a photograph of her father, who was a World War II veteran, during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

Students from Curtis Baptist Elementary watch the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

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

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
Aug
10

Scrubs

Part of what makes this job so appealing is its unpredictable nature.  One day I’m taking pictures of back to school activities, the next I’m in scrubs and documenting a full on surgery. 

And when the location, or event is so off the charts cool, or fun, or unique, you gotta take a second to take a picture of yourself — if only to say that you were there, a little like a badge of honor (some sports shooters collect credentials, like Olympic, Super Bowl or Masters passes).

I have a collection of work related self-portraits (and they’re always the same: me making a face holding the camera an arm’s length away with something cool in the background.)  Me at the Masters. Me on the roof of Curtis Baptist Church. Me in Ushuaia, Argentina.  Me in full scrubs in an OR. 

This morning at University Hospital, I joined the subject of one of the stories we are doing for breast cancer awareness month in October.  She has been a very willing and easy going subject through out the whole thing and allowed me and a writer to be present during her double mastectomy.  And as things were winding down, I had to take a moment to turn the camera and document myself as being present. 

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

23
Jul
10

makes you wonder

My job takes me to a lot of different places.  Most of the time, those places are interesting, fun, or in some form or fashion, meaningful.  And some times, I’d rather not have seen that place to begin with as was the case with the old Castleberry’s food plant on the edge of Augusta’s ghetto. 

For a little background, Castleberry’s (owned by Bumble Bee) canned chilis and stews at a plant that, from the outside, looked old and dirty and honestly didn’t give the impression that the inside was any cleaner.  A couple of years ago, they had a massive recall of their chilis due to botulism.  The bad press mixed with the downturn in the economy meant that Castleberry’s closed the plant and abandoned it soon after. 

Fast forward to this past week, when it was announced that Mercy Ministries, a controversial homeless shelter in the middle of a residential area across town, would be moving its thrift store to the old Castleberry’s plant after buying it for a dollar.  This was good news and meant an old building would be used again and Mercy Ministries would be able to expand on the cheap. 

To illustrate their “moving in,” I was charged with the task of finding the electrician who was trying to find all the switch points and fuse boxes to shut off electricity to unused areas and restore it to the rooms to be filled with people’s used stuff for sale.  This task proved time consuming and while I waited on him to do something interesting enough to photograph for the paper, I roamed around this completely abandoned warehouse and food factory. 

Nearly everything that was metal was rusted out, fluorescent lights dangled from the ceiling and piping was bent, cracked or just plain missing.  The only thing not somewhat attached was this bucket, which looked like it was being used to catch leaking oil or hydraulic fluid of some kind.  Coming from what, I don’t know.  It was all a little creepy.

A lone bucket sits in the old Castleberry's food plant, soon to be taken over by Mercy Ministries and their thrift store operation. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Makes you wonder what this place looked like two years ago.

I shoot a self-portrait of myself in a curve mirror as I stand next to piles of used clothing to be sold at the new Mercy Ministries thrift store, housed in the old Castleberry's food plant. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

I still had time to take a picture of myself in one of those curved mirror you see at particularly dangerous or blind corners.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

12
Jul
10

got to ride in a helicopter!

Being stuck in row 44 of 45 on a commercial airliner flying through thunderstorms complete with screaming  babies and bad airplane food = clearly sucks.

Having your own helicopter for 15 minutes to shoot exclusive pictures of major breaking news = clearly awesome.

A gas line near Stagecoach Road burns after a rupture, Monday, July 5, 2010, in Thomson, Ga. McDuffie County Commissioner Paul McCorkle was injured and his son Jason killed during a gas explosion and fire. Following a preliminary investigation, it was determined that Paul McCorkle was operating a bulldozer on the property and accidentally struck a Dixie Pipelines liquid propane gas line. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Because we are a newspaper, reporters and photographers have to be on call at all times, including holidays.  The photo department deals with this by having one photographer assigned to be on call that day in case news happens.  Of the four holidays I’ve been assigned since 2006, two of them have involved major breaking news in a town not really known for its breaking news.  I’m apparently a magnet for holiday michief and disaster.
The Fourth of July (observed) holiday is never a very exciting day.  The assigned photographer usually finds a standalone to fill out the paper and maybe catches kids playing in a pool or something.  That was supposed to be my day until I got two calls and an email almost simultaneously that a gas main had exploded and was still on fire.  The smoke is visible for miles, all three people said in their messages.  So I grabbed the 500mm and headed out to Thomson, normally a 30 minute drive.
Twenty minutes, later, I arrived at Stagecoach Road, where it was blocked off by state troopers.  As I gathered my gear, I could hear the roar of the giant fire only a few hundred yards away through the forest.  I went over to the nearest grouping of officials and asked what was the status and how far could I go up the access road to take pictures.  One of the firefighters said right where I was standing was perfect and not to go any further.  I could see the flames through the trees, but it wouldn’t have made a good image.  So I turned and mentioned to a guy in a flight suit (I’d realize what he was wearing a bit later) that it’s useless for me to be standing here, I need flames.  Little did I know,  I was talking to Todd Hatfield, director of operations at Air Med, who also flies the helicopter.

As luck would have it, he immediately offered to take me up to take photos.  Before I could remember that I absolutely hate flying, I said “you betcha!” and off we went toward the chopper.  What had I done.  I was committed now.  This guy was doing a nice thing for me and it would almost be rude for me to back out now.  Not to mention, I needed to get photos, and this was by far my best chance to get something good.

So I got in the back of the helicopter, strapped myself in and made sure my cameras were wrapped around me and my neck because Todd was leaving the door open for me to get a better view.  The flight was uneventful, and I honestly didn’t have time to think about how much normally I would be hating it because I was so focused on making pictures.

So to recap: At 11:o0 a.m., I was sitting quietly at my desk in the air conditioning.  By noon, I was 700 feet in the air over a roaring gas pipeline fire.  Nice.

-RAE

http://www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

04
Jun
10

graduatin’ time

Never one for pomp and circumstance, I didn’t go to my college graduation, and I would have skipped my high school ceremonies had I been given the option (remember how the principal threatened the kids likely to “act” up by holding on to our real diplomas until we had actually walked across the stage and left the building? I remember really having a problem with that, as my inner adolescent was outraged that they could keep us from doing anything we wanted at this point…we were going to graduate no matter what, and no amount of chest beating and attempted power wielding was going to scare us.)  But I digress.

And, most appropriately, I don’t plan on attending my 10 year high school reunion when it’s held…tomorrow. Yes it’s been 10 years, and for the past five, I’ve tried my best to ignore the facebook messages urging everybody to attend.  No, instead I’ll spend the weekend in Greenville with the in-laws who still (and hopefully always will) ooh and aah over my new son.

As things come full circle, I spent last week and the week before covering our local high school graduation ceremonies (thankfully, all of the schools’ events are grouped together in one arena).

Near total darkness aside, graduations at the James Brown Arena are quite fun to shoot.  We have the run of the place, so you can get all kinds of angles and you have good access to the graduates as they hug and celebrate.

Below is a picture I quite like, but thought it was a throwaway shot at the time of pressing the shutter button.  It breaks a bunch of photojournalism “rules” (more like suggestions, really) including rule of thirds and the old ‘faces sell newspapers’ which, sorry to say, only word people think.

But it’s an easy read and it tells a nice story about the journey they are about to embark on.  They’re leaving one thing behind and going through new doors to their futures.  It works, I think.

New graduates Juanita Cody, left, and Kelsea Leverett hug as they walk out of James Brown Arena after A.R. Johnson graduation ceremonies, Tuesday, May 25, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com