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Archive for August, 2010

Today was my last day as the summer photo intern at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I shot two assignments and then had to turn in my photos, my story (to be published in September), my camera gear and my computer.

Oh, and my ID badge, too.

I'm sad I had to give up my ID. But not surprised.

Interning at the AJC has been an overall good, if challenging, experience. This was my first time working five days a week for a newspaper — and my first time at a big metro daily, too. Suffice it to say that I’ve definitely learned a lot, and I’d like to think I’ve improved as well.

Although I’m no longer at the AJC, you’ll still see my byline throughout September — mostly under food photos. But also keep an eye out for a story I worked on. (Or, you can just check back here on my blog: I’ll definitely post the link and blog about my experiences with the story!)

What’s next? Tomorrow, I’m roadtripping to Missouri; the next week, I’m going back to Texas. And, as you might have guessed, I’m also applying for jobs. If you know of any leads, let me know! My experience at the AJC was challenging at times, but it definitely hasn’t burned me out on newspaper photojournalism.

In closing — I’m grateful to all the help and support I received from AJC editors and photographers, and also to all the people of whom I’ve made pictures. It’s been a pleasure. Keep in touch, and y’all take care now.

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The day before I knocked on the door and persuaded a caught-off-guard Kelly to let me spend time with her husband and her newborn baby, I parked my car in a cul-de-sac in McDonough, walked to the front door and was promptly greeted by David and Melissa. Unlike Kevin and Kelly, this couple was expecting me.

“What do you need pictures of?” they asked. “How can we help you?”

“Just go about and do whatever you need to do,” I answered. “I’m here to make pictures of what you’re doing today, so I’ll just be a fly on the wall and you can completely ignore me.”

And that is exactly what happened.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) David James, of McDonough, takes a quiet moment for himself in his family's kitchen before dinner preparations begin, on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010.

Why David?

The reporter met David at a government jobs fair and decided to feature him in an unemployment article. David has been unemployed for about a year since January 2009 — with a few three-month stints here and there — and I was sent to make some pictures. Expectations, I later learned, were not high.

So, for the first time ever, I walked into somebody’s home, became invisible and made pictures of everyday life. For almost three hours.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. David James talks with a traffic attorney who called in the middle of the James family's dinner on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010. While he was still a truck driver, James had a rollover accident in August 2009 that lost him a job offer earlier this year and that has him doubting whether he could get a driving job again.

Coincidentally, in those almost-three hours, David received two important phone calls: He got an offer for a job interview, and a traffic attorney finally called him back.

(more…)

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Last Thursday, I walked up to a house, rang the doorbell and spent the next five hours with the new parents and their baby who lived inside.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery on ajc.com.) Kelly Skelly, of Roswell, breastfeeds 2-week-old Liam before she and Kevin prepare to take him to Kevin's parents' home for a few hours on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010.

Kevin and Kelly Skelly met at cancer camp when they were teens. They both overcame their diagnoses. He proposed to her a few years later, at camp. They didn’t think they could have a child — Kelly had been told her medication for the cancer had rendered her sterile.

They decided to try anyway. And now they have 3-week-old baby Liam.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) Kevin Skelly, of Roswell, cradles 2-week-old Liam in the master bedroom on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010, after feeding the baby some medicine for jaundice.

Thanks to Kevin and Kelly for letting me into their home for five hours, especially since they weren’t expecting me at the time.

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This is Harold.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) Forsyth County Jail volunteer Harold Adair leans on the front window desk on Monday, Aug. 9, 2010. Adair volunteers at the jail about 4-5 hours every day, and usually helps with administrative work.

Harold moved to Forsyth County when he married his second (and current) wife. She told him to volunteer in the jail, since he didn’t know anyone in the area.

Harold now knows all the staff and officers, as well as many of the inmates. And he’s a tough old cookie, too.

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Elvis lives.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery on ajc.com.) Dames Aflame showgirl dancer Tracy Sacan dances with Elvis impersonator Robby Dean off-stage as the band Kingsized performs "Polk Salad Annie" on-stage during the Elvis Royale show at Variety Playhouse on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010.

I had my doubts, when I was assigned to photograph an Elvis tribute concert on Friday night. How would I tell one “Elvis” from another? Aren’t tribute bands stereotypically notorious for being… well, not-so-good? Would this be just another concert where I’m ushered from the lobby to the pit to photograph three songs, and then booted out?

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dames Aflame showgirl dancers Rebecca Crawford and Beth Del Mero wait offstage for their cue before dancing alongside Kingsized band singer Mike Geier during "CC Rider" the first number of the Elvis Royale show at Variety Playhouse on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010.

Turns out, I had no need to worry about any of the above. There weren’t too many Elvis impersonators, the band and dancers put on a great show and — a first for me — I had complete backstage access.

(more…)

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Yesterday was Friday the 13th. And it was rainy, and there was bad traffic, and there was no way I was going to make it to an assignment on time. (In my defense, I left early enough to allow for the estimated driving time — as determined by Google Maps and my GPS — as well as an extra 40 minutes. That’s how bad traffic was.)

After I called my editors, I shot some rainy traffic photos. Then I drove around, got a little lost — and found an indoor shooting range.

So I walked inside and made some pictures. I figured if anything, the rain couldn’t deter business from this place.

Brandon Ball, of Lawrenceville, said this was his first time shooting a handgun.

(Left to right) Adam Donnelly, of Doraville, and his nephews Brandon and Aaron Ball examine the last target of the day. Aaron said he had just flown in from Florida, where he lives, for Brandon's bachelor party.

Empty shell casings litter the ground as Adam Donnelly, of Doraville, fires at his target.

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On Wednesday, I photographed people preparing a furniture store that opened in midtown on Friday.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery on ajc.com.) Store designer Chris Bowers, of Chicago, arranges furniture and decor for furniture store CB2's storefront facing Peachtree Street in midtown Atlanta on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010.

“Furniture store? Business news photos? Eww!” one might say.

But I had fun. And I like furniture. Especially furniture I can’t afford — I mean, I can dream, right?

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A worker enters the CB2 storefront, as seen from inside the Bank of America parking garage located between Peachtree Street and Crescent Avenue in midtown, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 -- two days before the store opens for business.

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Yesterday was a long day — I worked 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a two-hour break in the late afternoon. But the day began with horses and ended with puppies, so it’s all good.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery at ajc.com.) Nelly Segal, of Maine, walks her daughter's Bernese mountain dogs Molson and Jasper up and out of the Piedmont Dog Park on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010. Hundreds of dogs and their owners came to the park on its official reopening day.

Special thanks to Stephen, who helped me out last night after I circled around Piedmont Park and all nearby side streets, with no luck for parking, for 40 minutes.

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Within the space of a week, I was assigned to photograph two different brands of lawyers here in Atlanta.

First, the “boutique” law firm that won a $17.5 million case over the city of Atlanta, an advertising company and a local businesswoman:

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) (From left) Stephen Lowry, Jeff Harris and Darren Penn -- of boutique law firm Harris Penn Lowry, LLP -- stand for a portrait in their downtown Atlanta offices on Wednesday, July 28, 2010. Beside them are a few of many boxes containing roughly 150,000 documents relating to the Billy Corey case, which the law partners won in court this Monday.

That was a one-light set-up. Wish I’d had two. Then it could look even more like a TV show promotional.

Next: A lawyer who quit practicing law full-time and opened up her own restaurant. She still practices — on-call.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) Noon Midtown restaurant chef/owner Katie Birmingham lets 2-year-old Carter Loegel of Decatur choose his dessert from a platter of samples, during the lunch hour on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010.

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Last Tuesday was National Night Out, so five apartment complexes on the Franklin Road corridor in Marietta held their own “block parties” before joining together for a big party at the end of the night.

The story, which ran today (with an astonishing FOUR photos in print!), was about how that area of town is reviving after slumping into shabbiness and crime. The photo below isn’t very story-telling, but I transmitted it anyway because I loved the way this little girl was completely tuned to the music at the event. Much to my surprise, it was one of the four photos that ran in print.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) With a balloon on her wrist and sidewalk chalk in her hands, Jayla Gibbs, 2 of Marietta, dances to the deejays' music at the Casa Mia Trace apartment complex's tennis courts during the culminating National Night Out event on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010.

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Today, I shot two more Proposition 8-related rallies. They took place on opposite sides of the street.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.( Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery at ajc.com.) A rainbow flag flutters against the Central Presbyterian Church courtyard fence, across the street from the Georgia state capitol building where the National Organization for Marriage held a rally on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010.

One rally was on the steps of the Georgia state capitol building. It was held by the National Organization for Marriage, which is on its “Summer for Marriage Tour.” They had speakers and singers, and about 15 supporters showed up.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dave Lenhart, of Cumming, Ga., holds up a National Organization for Marriage sign as singer Angelica Tucker performs at the podium in front of the Georgia state capitol building on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010.

The other rally was across the street. It was a silent protest by supporters of gay-marriage rights. About 150 people showed up for that one.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlantans Oscar Hdez and Luke Robuck join hands and cheer as R&B/gospel singer Vernessa Mitchell (not pictured) sings about unity while at the National Organization for Marriage podium in front of the Georgia state capitol building on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010. Hdez and Robuck said they have been partners for eight months now.

At the end, NOM packed up its merchandise and podium — and people on both sides of the street went their own ways.

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When my editor assigned me to photograph Usher, Justin Bieber and Bill Clinton for tonight — well, I thought that was a pretty interesting combination of people to group together and cause the Internet to explode.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery on ajc.com.) Usher.

Turns out, though, that press photographers could photograph only the red carpet and the finale number. And that Bill Clinton would not be walking the red carpet (and, in fact, would be photographed only by the house photographer).

So my editor told me just to do the red carpet. So I did.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery at ajc.com.)

Some notes:

  • Usher is shorter than I expected him to be.
  • Justin Bieber is about as short as I expected him to be.
  • Some of the other photographers seemed to really enjoy shooting the red carpet. I’m glad they were having a good time.

If you ever do a red-carpet assignment, make sure you bring comfortable shoes and a small step-ladder. And make sure your flash has fresh batteries. And format your memory card before shooting.

Fortunately, I did all of those things. And I survived my first red-carpet photographer experience.

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© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) Close-up of actor Chaz Wolcott in his "Mister Mistoffelees" makeup, before hair and makeup supervisor David Hanson starts painting the nose, whiskers and mouth.

Earlier this week, a reporter and I went behind the scenes to see how the make-up is done for “Cats” the musical. The U.S. tour is in Atlanta until Aug. 8, which means every night until then, you can see audience members flocking to the Fox Theatre in costumes of various feline extremes. (No, really.)

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery on ajc.com.) Actor Chaz Wolcott, in full "Mister Mistoffelees" costume and make-up, demonstrates a few dance moves characteristic of the central character in "Cats" the musical.

Anyway. If you’re at all familiar with this 4th-longest running show in musical theatre history, you are aware of how intricate and elaborate the costumes and make-up are. (more…)

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The worst part of photographing food for the newspaper is that it’s usually food I can’t afford to buy or make.

For example — a $1,000 picnic basket at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park. A picnic basket that includes two Maine lobsters, caviar, expensive steaks, cheeses, stuffed peppers and truffles.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery on ajc.com.) A New York sirloin Kobe-style Wagyu steak, served with grilled pineapple, as well as (not pictured) asparagus spears, a Maine lobster, a pan-fried rice cake and a baguette -- all part of the $1,000 platinum picnic basket, which is available at all Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and ASO Presents concerts at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta.

Also — ricotta cheese. And not the kind that you buy in a tub from the grocery store.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to read the relevant article on ajc.com.) Homemade ricotta cheese, topped with olive oil and herbs, served on an appetizer plate with prosciutto, bread and pineapple mostarda.

As Jeff and my family can confirm, I’m not a big fan of cheese unless it’s melted. But this — this was just tempting.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ricotta cheese, topped with a slice of fig, served with ricotta poundcake as dessert.

Food photography. I love it, and I hate it. But mostly I love it.

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Last-minute rally. Last-minute assignment.

© 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Click on the image above to view the full photo gallery on ajc.com.) Art Izzard, an organizer for Queer Justice League of Atlanta, waves a rainbow flag at the corner of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010, after a federal judge overturned California's gay-marriage ban. Izzard acknowledged that Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling is the first of many steps before gay marriage is legalized but said each step is reason to celebrate.

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Appalachian fog

One of the 31 Poynter College Fellows with whom I became friends-for-life happens to live in Roanoke, Va. — and this past weekend, I visited her.

In addition to visiting the Mill Mountain Star, driving around Roanoke and having a small dinner party, she, Jared and I hiked what I later learned is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail.

Otherwise known as McAfee Knob.

Almost there!

Items of note:

  • This was my first time hiking in the Appalachians.
  • This was my first time hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
  • This was my first time hiking east of the Mississippi, period.
  • It was foggy. Very foggy.

Fog on the trail.

That last item is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it is important for you to know that I used to associate fog with axe murderers. Having grown up in the valley-less Houston, I first encountered fog a few years ago during a nighttime drive on a two-lane Tennessee road that wound itself down and through a valley. And it was scary. I was convinced that, at any moment, the fog would fade away to reveal an axe-wielding maniac waiting to assault our oncoming vehicle.

(more…)

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