Posts Tagged ‘journalism


That Casey Anthony hoopla

While we were flipping through channels this evening, I paused on CNN for a minute to watch some lawyer spout off about the Casey Anthony verdict, and my wife turned to me and asked something I hadn’t considered yet.  “How did this whole Casey Anthony thing get so big?” she asked.  And that’s a really good question.  I don’t know.  It’s not like she’s a famous football player/actor or something.  She’s middle America.  Unfortunately murder cases come up all the time in this country and they barely get noticed outside their city or state. Where did all this media attention come from?

Of course, when I heard that a verdict had been reached and that it would be read at 2:15p.m. EST, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to add to that media attention.  So I hurried down to Nacho Mama’s with an idea.  I had just been there for lunch that day and remembered that the TV was on in the kitchen (you can see the cooks from over the bar).  When I got there, I still had about 15 minutes to spare so I shot a few frames of the cook with CNN tuned in on the tele.  It was something, but not exactly what I wanted.  The TV was too small and it was difficult to get something that would read easily.  So I had another idea.  I hurried across the Savannah River to North Augusta in hopes that the WalMart would have a wall of televisions set to CNN or Fox News.  But as I made my way to the back of the store I realised my error.  I remembered that most big box stores don’t have cable on their TVs on demo.  Instead they have a loop that plays extraordinary action sequences like sky diving or rock climbing to show off the 1080p or i or whatever it is.  I confirmed with the electronics manager. No cable.  Bummer.

So I rushed back to Nacho Mama’s, know that the potential for a decent frame was there, I just needed to hope for a decent close up of Anthony as she cried or smiled or whatever.  By the time I got there, the verdict had been read but they were replaying her reaction over and over.  I basically reshot the same picture but with a more interesting image on the tube to give it more context.

Guess this is my little way of saying I was there.  For better or for worse.

Cooks Mike Goings, left, and Erik Starlings prepare food while watching the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial in the kitchen at Nacho Mama's, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/The Augusta Chronicle, Rainier Ehrhardt)





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.


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.


(accidentally) getting involved

As journalists, and even more so, as photographers, we constantly try to stay out of the situation we are photographing.  We try to be a fly on the wall, letting the subjects do what they do while we document the situation. Sometimes this is difficult to get into peoples’ heads (i.e.: no I don’t want you to pretend you’re doing something, just do it naturally, as if I wasn’t here), but that’s for another blog post.

Last week, I got a call from bossman to head to North Augusta to shoot a giant dredge boat/pontoon being prepared for shipment to Canada.  It was cool. Very cool.  A 400,000 pound boat with a huge “ladder,” an arm that lowers with big teeth on the end to remove silt from the bottoms of ponds and such.  There were workers all over the place, cutting, wiring, welding, walking in dangerous places, the whole nine yards.  And the owner was really cool about showing me around, and even left me for a bit so I could do my thing.  Usually that’s a dream assignment; the kind where you have free reign to walk around shooting very photogenic things going on? 

Yeah.  Except apparently I need parental supervision because I accidentally dropped a memory card down the ONE crack in the boat that led to nowhere.  It didn’t even bounce on anything, it just fell straight down, perpendicular to the ground and directly into the slot between the hull and the pontoon.

Now, normally, if it had been a fresh card without ALL OF THE STUFF I HAD JUST SHOT on it, I would have considered letting it go as a gift to the photo gods, if you will.  But I needed those images.  So after getting on my knees and peering into the darkness to determine that it really had gone deep into the bowels of this $4 million boat, I had to resign myself to asking one of the workers to help me out.  His name was Ethan Robert and boy do I owe him a beer or 12. 

Long story short, he went to the ground with a long rod and started pulling (pushing, scraping, etc.) out a bunch of junk from underneath this boat that had been sitting there for a year, maybe more.  Everything but a very thin, small memory card.  By now half the crew is paying attention to me and Ethan.  People are getting flashlights, getting the air compressor ready to “blow it out.”  In other words, I halted work on this huge boat. Single handedly.  Ugh.  The opposite of what I could ever have wanted. 

All said and done, we figured out it was on a hook where the hull attaches to the fuel tank.  Ethan managed to knock it off the hook and drag it out.  Save for a bit of dirt, it was ok, and it later worked fine in the card reader.  And the images were fine. 

Ethan Robert uses a metal rod to retrieve me memory card that I stupidly dropped into the bowels of a 400,000 pound boat. I'm smooth like that.

Ethan’s the man.



Masters Preview Friday: Fun in the Sun

I had today off in exchange for working this coming Sunday where the main priority will be to catch (you guessed it) Tiger if he arrives early to register and to hit a few balls on the driving range. 

Therefore, I didn’t have access to any of our old Masters photos, but I did have this “fun” pic of fellow Chronicle staffer Michael Holahan taken during a break in the action last year on 18 green.   Way to go goof ball.

Augusta Chronicle staff photographer makes a face as he waits for golfers to make their way up to the 18th green during the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National, Sunday, April 12, 2009, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

But that’s what the Masters is all about to me.  Extremely long hours mixed with moments of fun and excitement.  This would be one of those fun moments.  We have radios to keep in touch with each other (photogs and editors) so we can coordinate coverage over the expansive course.  But sometimes we use the radios to make fun of each other or to make jokes. 

In the case of this photo, I shot a few frames of Mike while he was unaware of me, but then I came on the radio to tell him he’d been spotted.  He finally found me and made a face.  This is that face. 

Oh, and the egg salad sandwiches and ice cold chocolate milk are to die for.  If that’s your kind of thing, of course…



Masters Preview Thursday: The beauty

Tim Clark hits his approach shot on No. 2 during the first round of the Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club, Thursday, April 9, 2009. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

The beauty of the Augusta National is often talked about and well documented but nothing prepares you for actually seeing the real thing.  The prestine greens, perfect flowers, everything is where is should be.  It’s exactly what you imagine, only they made it cooler. 

When people find out I cover the Masters, they always ask what its like.  I always tell them two things.  1- It’s as beautiful as you think; the National does everything exactly right, or they don’t do it at all.  2-Setting foot on the course is like stepping back in time.  Tradition is king.  Very little changes from year to year at the Tournament.  The only changes I’ve noticed in four Masters are that the fairway cross guards no longer wear yellow hard hats (ok, maybe that one wasn’t such a good decision to begin with…) and this year, the practice facilities have been built from the ground up on the old press parking lot (thanks!).  The fact that there are 60-foot pine trees sitting in what was a gravel lot 10 months ago says it all.

The above image is soothing to me.  It brings back mental images of how the light dances around the valleys and hills that make up the National.  Television doesn’t do the elevation changes justice.  And the trees lining most of the fairways are simply amazing.  At any point in the day, you can find a hole that has really graphic-looking shadows making for something interesting. 
We don’t typically use fairway approach pictures very often, and to be honest, I’m not even sure this ran in the paper but looking at it does the same thing to my brain as eating chocolate does.  It’s simply pleasing to the eye.

Some people say it’s hard to take a bad picture at the Masters.  I look at it more like it’s hard to take a picture that is good enough and conveys the beauty that is the Augusta National.



Masters Preview: the joy

His name is Shingo Katayama, and I hope he wins the Masters one day. 

The man knows how to give it up when he does well.  And in 2009, he did pretty darn well.  He finished fourth at 10-under so he had good reason to celebrate.  But Shingo celebrates fourth as if he won the thing.

The photo staff at the Chronicle jokes that if he ever takes the green jacket, he’ll be making snow angels in the bunker and running around the 18 green high-fiving everyone.  And that’s probably not very far from what would really happen.

So, for this Tuesday edition of the Masters Preview blog post, here are two photos from Shingo’s walk up to 18 green on Easter Sunday, 2009. What a demonstration of joy.

Shingo Katayama, of Japan, celebrates as he walks to the 18th green during the final round of Masters Tournament, Sunday, April 12, 2009, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Shingo Katayama, of Japan, celebrates as he walks to the 18th green during the final round of Masters Tournament, Sunday, April 12, 2009, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: Expectations



Tiger, Tiger, Woods Y’all

Tiger Woods waits to putt on No. 18 during the first round of the Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club, Thursday, April 9, 2009. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Yeah yeah yeah, by now we all know he’s coming back to golf, and he’s chosen my backyard to do it.  But regardless whether or not you think he deserves all the media hype, or the American people’s short term memory treatment, the greatest golfer of the modern era is going to compete in his 16th Masters in less than a month.

Tiger hasn’t won at the Masters since I’ve been a staffer at the Augusta Chronicle, but come every April, sports writers everywhere talk about whether or not this is “the year” for him to win, almost like it’s a matter of when, and not if.  And seeing as the British-based bookie William Hill has the odds at 5-1 that Tiger will come back from four months off, deflect every personal question directed toward him and somehow block out the massive crowd following his every move on and off the Augusta National, to win his fifth Masters, I’d say it’s starting again.

And as for the media hoopla, time will tell.  But I’m already hearing of freelance photographers getting gigs just to cover the media presence around the National (since it’s the next best thing you can do when you’re not credentialed.)  Think of it as paparazzi-ing the paparazzi.  I’m just fortunate I’ll be inside the sanctity of Magnolia Drive and not on the outside looking in.  Tigerpalooza 2010 has officially started.



Play on shadows

Feature hunting is one of those things.  The old time killer and newspaper filler.  It’s feast or famine usually because you either roll up on something decent or there’s nothing around to shoot.  Plus it’s not like an actual assignment where you really have to try hard to make something because you know a writer is putting together a story and it’s your job to illustrate whatever it is.  Nevermind if it’s just some lawyer (no offense to lawyers) behind a desk doing paperwork.  Figure something out. You’re the visual guy, do it.

No, feature hunting is what you make of it.  It’s either awesome or there’s nothing there.  It’s awesome this time of year, especially on the first nice days of spring when everyone wants to work/play/be outside.  Every few hundred yards there’s someone doing something.  Today, I came across two decent features within thirty seconds of each other on Walton Way.  These days are like shooting fish in a barrel.  There’s no looking necessary, they’re all around you.

Academy of Richmond County's JROTC Drill Team practices in the school parking lot, Monday, March 8, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Yes, the photo is upside down.  It didn’t run in the paper that way, but I prefer the long shadows looking like they’re the ones marching.  Does it not remind you (vaguely maybe?) of some cold war, North Korean-ish communist propaganda painting?  You know, the kind that portrays a group of farmers staring hopefully into the distance but holding up guns instead of farming tools?  Maybe it’s the non-descript nature of the shadows (no faces, no distinguishable characteristics apart from human-looking shapes) that force your brain to invent something in their place.  Or maybe they’re just members of a JROTC Drill Team marching in the afternoon sun.