Posts Tagged ‘rainier ehrhardt

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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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

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
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

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

 

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

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