Posts Tagged ‘photo


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.



balloon release

Jahsaan Bryant, 10, releases baloons with friends during activities to celebrate the Army's 235th birthday, at the Child, Youth and School Services at Fort Gordon, Friday, June 18, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Last Friday was a busy day for me.  I spent the day at Fort Gordon, for the 3rd time that week, to shoot the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders (and a few players too, but who was paying attention to them, I mean lets be honest).  Since Fort Gordon is considered a bit of a haul for us, not to mention dealing with the security that goes with a federal Army base, we like to consolidate assignments on whatever day the photographer is present so that we minimize how many times we have to go out there.  This meant I had something else to shoot, only minutes after the cheerleaders were scheduled to land in Blackhawk helicopters.

Long story short, after waiting for an hour in the sun at Engineer Field, I quickly grabbed a few shots of the cheerleaders.  Then, the public affairs specialist, Siobhan, escorted me to the Child, Youth and School Services where they were conducting events for the children to celebrate the Army’s 235th birthday.  We thought we were late, but luckily, upon our arrival, the kids were just finishing up their hand-made decorated kites and waiting for the balloon release.  This was something I had previsualized.  I knew I wanted hands, balloons and sky.  It ended up better than I could have hoped, since the floating balloons created a nice background for the kids and hands.  The layering really invites the eye to move around the frame.

Now, about those cheerleaders.  Here’s a link to the photo gallery on the Augusta Chronicle website:

There’s just something inherently funny about primping cheerleaders and loud Blackhawk choppers.



pond jump

OK fine, it was bound to happen.  But I’m proud of myself for holding out for so long.  The cliche to end all cliches in community photojournalism…the first cute kid photo has made it to my blog. 

But can you blame me?  It’s the fastest most effective way to get a picture with a reaction or a funny face, probably because kids are so unadulterated.  But that’s only part of it.  The real reason I like kid assignments is the high cost/benefit ratio.  The harder I work a situation with kids in it, the more likely I will get something good.  It’s super rewarding.  The longer I hang around, the faster the kids will totally forget I’m there and just act natural.  Adults don’t do that.  By contrast, I can show up to an adult meeting, or event, and hang out for hours and never get anything worth while.  It’s not that I didn’t try, but the assignment was doomed from the start.

Nathan Stewart, 5, makes a face as he looks for insects during Pond Jump, a learning activity for children including dipping nets in a pond to find frogs, tadpoles and insects at Reed Creek Wetlands Interpretive Park, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in Martinez, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Daniel Huntsman, 5, uses his muddy strainer to look for tadpoles during Pond Jump, a learning activity for children including dipping nets in a pond to find frogs, small fish and insects at Reed Creek Wetlands Interpretive Park, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in Martinez, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

The mud and water in this boy’s boots  made a squishing sound everytime he came running to his mom or dad to show off a crawfish or tadpole.  How is that not cute?


And that’s my five minutes of uncynical-ness for the day.


slip n’ slide

You’re a senior at a local prep school.  It’s your last official day of class.  You’ve had four (six in this school’s case) years of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, good times and bad times, all that.

What better way to celebrate your impending freedom to go out and learn at a higher learning institution than a SLIP N’ SLIDE! YEAH.

But as was the case for Westminster Prep School seniors last Friday, first you get to play a faculty vs. seniors volleyball game, in which you crush your 11th grade algebra teacher in the face with the ball.  Then on your way to the slip n’ slide, you get to run all over the soccer field with the sprinklers on, as a sort of warmup to the drenchedness that you are about to experience. And finally you make it to the baseball field, where proud moms have set up a tent with fruits and cookies and other goodies (where are the Jello shots?) to accompany a solid hour of forming a line, running, jumping, sliding, forming a line, running, jumping, sliding, formi…you get the idea.

Seniors last day fun.  Before you have to go out and do something with yourself. Good luck.

From left, Rebecca Shine, Jim McPhail and Charlotte Thornton ride down the slip n' slide during the Westminster seniors' last day, Friday, May 7, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Festivities also included a faculty/seniors volleyball game and a sprinkler run on the soccer field. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

This was an outtake.  Another version made the paper as a standalone on page 2a of Saturday’s paper.  And although I decided on the other one because it was cleaner (background) and was easier to read, I really like the girl on the right’s legs up.  It looks more like a moment.  But the background on the left is messy and any photographer who knows me, knows I’m a background Nazi.  So it’s new home is here.



National Day of Prayer

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sucker for silhouettes.  Some would argue it’s cliché, or it’s just something photographers use from their “bag of tricks.” But what a tool it can be.

When it’s used correctly and in the right setting, it can be so effective in conveying a situation.  It also makes the image instantly readable without the “clutter” of having faces, or things to draw the viewer’s eyes away from the moment.  Plus, it’s striking. More impactful.  I don’t know. It’s one of those aesthetic things.  Soft early morning light never hurts either.

Members of the military and civilans bow their heads in prayer this morning during the Fort Gordon National Day of Prayer Observance Ceremony, Thursday, May 6, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Before the ceremony, I saw the flags and the soldiers congregating nearby.  A bit of previsualization and it turned out pretty nicely.

For astute readers of this blog, you’ll notice this is reminiscent of the JROTC photo I posted in April here.  Is it just the nature of those two assignments, or am I already a broken record? Oops, I’ll get on that.

For more photos of my two assignments for National Day of Prayer, see the slideshow on the Augusta Chronicle’s website.



Talladega debrief

While sitting in the AP darkroom for 18 hours waiting for tornados to maybe or maybe not hit Talladega Superspeedway, I calculated how many race weekends I’ve spent at the place.  This was my 19th race weekend, so if you average out three races in the spring and two in the fall, that’s 95 actual races I’ve shot since 2001.  That’s just enough to be kind of impressive, but not enough to be any sort of record, or cool for that matter.  I’m in Dega experience no man’s land.

All that said, there’s always the small possibility of getting an interesting shot, made smaller by the fact I’m usually placed in the pits, where you see the least amount of the track.  My day consists of trying to wrestle my way between an angry tire changer from the team in front of me and an angry fuel man from the team behind me to get a picture of Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson in a 14 second pitstop.  And between pitstops, I pan with the cars as they pass in front of me in case this happens:

Carl Edwards (60) goes airborne as he crashes with Mike Wallce (01) James Buescher (1) and Jason Leffier (38) during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron's 312 auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Sunday, April 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

That’s twice in one year he’s performed so ‘well.’  Got some air but no flips.  This is becoming a pattern. Catch you next time Carl!



Me and 200,000 of my closest redneck friends

It’s that time of year again.  I get a farmer’s tan, smell like a bonfire for three days and jostle for position with four tv camera men and 12 photographers just to take a lame picture of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pitstop.  Yeah.  Why do I still come here.

Carl Edwards flips into the catch fence on the last lap of the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Sunday, April 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Well, every once in a while you get a “big one.” I’ve been coming to Talladega since 2001, and it only took 8 years and 15 races (they run two a year here) to get a decent wreck picture.   Like it or not, it’s what people expect to see when they see NASCAR photos.  It’s a luck of the draw kind of thing, and since I’ve always been the pit guy shooting for the Associated Press, I rarely saw any death and mayhem, so to speak (because lets face it, 100% of the fans are there to see carnage.)

Without getting into too much specifics, let’s just say it was the last lap, last corner, one guy moved down on the other to cut him off and they touched.  Then one went careening upside-down into the catch fence.  That’s classified as a big one in my book.

I’ll likely never top this photo.  So again, why do I still come here?




2010 Masters in the can.

It’s done. Finished. Finito. I ate my last Masters Club sandwich smuggled out of the press center.  Do you think it had gone bad?  Probably.  But it was oh so good.  And I’m not sick yet, so…

The 2010 Masters was fantastic and had a little something for everyone.  From the overdramatized Tiger return story, to a true family guy persevering to take a convincing win.

This was the first Masters that I’ve seen where the eventual winner didn’t win because everyone else around him fell apart, kind of “the guy who sucked least.”  No, this year, it was more of a classic Masters tournament, the kind I’d heard about, where great golfers pull out great golf shots and make runs for the lead.  It was exciting.

With so many great golf shots, came great photo shots as well, from our Chronicle staff.  Mickelson’s eagle heard around the world on 14 was captured by Corey and the sequence ran on the front page the next day. I’m pretty sure we were the only publication to have that picture.  Zach had a good shot from Monday when Tiger, Couples and Furyk skipped their balls across the water on 16 during their practice round (a family tradition!) And from Sunday, we had Phil’s winning reaction covered from all angles on 18.  Jackie had a nice frame of him raising his arms with the crowd in focus behind him and him out of focus.  She says she didn’t do it on purpose and that it was the autofocus going in and out, but I think she’s being a bit modest.  It’s a different look on a nice moment.  Here’s my take on the same moment in time:

Phil Mickelson wins the 2010 Masters with a birdie putt on 18 during the final round of the Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 11, 2010. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

The Masters really brings out the golf-liker (lover’s too strong of a word) in me.  I watch highlights from the tournaments leading up to the April major, just to get myself back into the swing of things (so to speak).  I also found myself sneaking a few peeks at the PGA tournament at Hilton Head this weekend, a week after the Masters.  Call it a residual effect.

But it’s easy to understand why we (photogs) love Masters week so much.  Best example comes from this Masters Sunday breakfast in the Clubhouse restaurant, paid for by the Chronicle.  Not that the food’s really that great, but the hashbrowns taste just that much better when you can look out through the big oak tree from the second floor dining room and see thousands of people in their Sunday best, watching the biggest names in golf tee off in the greatest golf event in the world.  It’s special.

Below is our traditional Masters group photo in front of the scoreboard.  We all look noticeably warmer than in previous years.

The Augusta Chronicle photo staff group photo at the Masters. From left, Mike Holahan, Corey Perrine, editor Sean Moores, Jackie Ricciardi, Rainier Ehrhardt, Zach Boyden-Holmes, Dede Smith, from our sister paper in Jacksonville, Fla., and bossman John Curry.



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.