Saturday, August 25, 2018

Once upon a time I was a newsphotographer

Reading a Facebook post from an old colleague who took a newspaper buy-out, he posted how he liked all the events he has witnessed first hand. it started me thinking of my favorite moments at the various newspapers where I have worked. I always think about the successful photo that resulted.

For example, I remember interning at Newsday and getting to go to a peace concert at Shea stadium. Can't remember what bands were playing, it was a year after Woodstock, but it was the audience that caught my attention. The photo of the fans cheering has stayed in my portfolio.

A summer internship at the Aspen Times was a kick, got to find all my own stories. No assignments! I loved the new offset press and having all the space to fill with picture pages. Did a page on a rodeo, a sports car race, festivals, etc.

The one week "guest photographer" spring break for Chicago weeklies was fun in freezing weather showing a mail man who made friends with dogs.

On my first day at the San Francisco Examiner, the photo chief Bill Nichols assigned me to travel around with Fran Ortiz. Fran had freelanced for LIFE magazine but now worked full-time as a staff photog. We were heading to an assignment and he got a page on his car radio to head to Marin county where police were getting resistance and calling in support as they tried to confiscate a boat. I happened to have my motorized Nikon F with a 180mm lens, and Fran had his trusty Leica.

We got there with the boat owner on the deck and the police trying tie down the boat. The owner had a knife to cut the rope. I immediately stopped and started shooting with my long lens. The photo made the front page. From then on I've always had a photo make a section front page on my first day!

But is the returning P.O.W. photo taken at Travis AFB on a Saturday for the Examiner. It gets published as an example of being at the right place at the right time, well not the right time, my shot is a fraction of a second off the AP photog Sal Veder's shot.

As a staff photographer at The Philadelphia Inquirer my favorite moment was getting assigned to take a helicopter from Philly to NYC and come back with a photo. Photo of what? It was the power blackout in New York, no television or radio coverage. It was a front page story and the paper needed a photo. Photo Director Gary Haynes thought maybe an empty Times Square without electricity? But when I got there at 2 p.m. the shadows were terrible and you couldn't really see the lights were out. How could as aerial show no electricity? We had to go back the pilot didn't want to run out of gas, but there was some smoke. I told him to go past it as we circled around to head back.

Before we got to where the smoke was coming from we passed a a warehouse district and saw the picture. Looting! Seeing the resulting photo surprised the newspaper. They wouldn't run it until they could verify it. Getting through to the police was a challenge. Could they do it? I couldn't believe they'd hold the photo until the police verified there was looting going on. Nobody outside of New York knew about it, or believed it. Was this widespread?

At the Fort Worth Star-Telegram I started as a photo editor, but with the digital imaging being an editor was more like simply being a copy-boy, linking images with stories. So when I got to get back to being a news photographer my first assignment was to cover a high school class getting a lesson on ageing. They felt the kids needed to understand how older folks can't hear, see or breath as well as they did, and stuffing cotton in the hear, breathing threw a straw made them feel being old. Great photo and it made the front of the metro section.

But the best memory as a photog at the Star-Telegram was one Sunday when I had to do the work of two photogs. One staffer had called in sick, so I needed to go his assignments too. Driving around for three assignments, I also picked up a great "weather art" photo of two guys fishing on a raft in the middle of a corporate center reflective pool.

Getting five pictures published the next day, made my day.

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