Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Some days ago, I watched "Memento" with Michelle. The title means "remember" in Latin. It's a crazy story (I'm still trying to figure it out) about this guy whose memory got completely messed up after his wife was killed. He actually doesn't have any short-term memory at all; so, he always carries a polaroid with him, takes pictures and then, before he forgets why he took that picture, writes down, on the polaroid's frame, the name of that person or place and a note about it.

When the movie was over, I remembered something that had happened a couple of weeks earlier. It has to do with two pictures. This is the first one:

I took it during an assignment about a church that provides a bus service to pick up children in rural areas and so make it easier for them to attend their Sunday activities. Certainly, it's not a Pulitzer prize winner, but I was satisfied with the fact that I did a decent job balancing the afternoon light outside with the light inside thanks to some flash bounced off the bus ceiling.
A few days later, Brennen Smith, one of my colleagues at the Decatur Daily, took this picture at an animal shelter:

And then I saw it! My picture was there, in the newspaper where those puppies were peeing and craping (can you see it?). I laughed out loud, but also thought about the short life of newspapers pictures: you take it, turn it in, it's printed in the paper the next day, and probably that same day shit is thrown on it or it's used to clean something. That's sad, dude, very sad.

So, after I watched that crazy movie, this fact came to my mind and then I thought, "Yes, it's true, a picture in a newspaper lasts for just one day -or even less. But, hey, what about the people in the photograph? Probably they'll keep a copy of that day's newspaper for much longer than that. Maybe they'll even show it to their grandchildren many years from now. That picture, whether it's good or not so good, will remind them of the past. They'll be happy to have a visual, tangible proof of that memory... just like the crazy guy in the movie."

I don't know if any of this makes sense, but this thought at least has made me to be (or try to be) even more respectful with the people I photograph and more aware about the fact that most of them will probably keep their picture for years.
I think it's a positive thought to end this roller-coaster year of 2008.
I wish a great 2009 for y'all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


In just two days I found myself in two different situations that made me think (with gratitude) of Rita's class and, specifically, the "multiple flash" assignment. Yes, current students, that's not only something you've got to do to pass that class; you'll have to use it in real life, and without warning...
The first one was a rehearsal of a musical performed by 2 actors/singers. It was in a hotel lobby and the lighting situation was really F-light: on one hand, day light coming from windows (but not enough to make the picture printable by our old print press); on the other, fluorescent lights on the ceiling and incandescent/energy saving lamps on the tables. Decided to do my own lighting with two flash units I had. One on camera, bouncing off the ceiling for overall lighting. The other one, a slave, sitting in front of the piano and bouncing off the music sheet, to light the singers' faces.
The result is not too bad, and this is the pic I chose for publication. Only after having turned it in, I realized that the flash unit was visible! but only after a second or third look (it's sort of camouflaged by the piece of furniture behind it, and I hadn't even noticed it while toning the picture!). Did you actually noticed it?

The other assignment, on the very next day, was at a country music bar that has family-friendly karaoke on Thursdays. I swear the only lights there were those little christmas bulbs, which is to say: there was no light. I needed to capture the "family atmosphere", and that implied more than one layer. I put a slave unit on top of one of the amplifiers to give some light to the stage (you can't see it: it's behind the lady) and used the unit on camera to bounce light off the ceiling on the lady dancing with her grandson (funny: I didn't know it at the moment, but the guy singing on the stage was her boyfriend... all in the family, I guess).



Saturday, November 15, 2008


One of the good things about being a photographer is that, most of the time, you don't work in an office. One of the bad things about being a photographer is that, sometimes, you don't work in an office...


I didn't know who Gene Stallings was... mortal sin! (at least in Alabama). Among other achievements, he was the Alabama coach when the Tide won its last national championship. Let's put it this way: if Bear Bryant was a god, Stallings was the pope. He was at the dedication ceremony of a playground for special need kids. It was named after his late son, John Mark, who had Down syndrome and died not long ago at 46 years of age. A young man called Harley Truman, also with Down syndrome, went to greet Stallings after his speech and that's the moment in the first picture above.
The former coach also spoke at a church service. After taking the usual speech shots (to be on the safe side), I went around the huge gym to try to get something a bit different...

Thursday, October 9, 2008


                                           Downtown Bay City, MI

I think it was a wise decision to leave Michigan before winter hits hard that part of the world and come back to the warm south, changing the waters of the Saginaw bay in Lake Huron for those of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama.

Saginaw Bay

Saginaw Bay

                                       Tennessee River, Decatur, AL

Now, seriously, I'd have happily finished my internship at the Bay City Times if I hadn't gotten a job in Decatur, AL. It was great to work with the people at the Times. That internship gave me the chance to do a lot of new things, mainly to do video again (I hadn't touched the camera or the editing program since I finished my documentary in February this year). I shot and produced 6 pieces in 3 months (baycitytimes. blip.tv), which is not too bad. I'm grateful to Mike Randolph for that; not only because he gave the time to do it, but also because I learned I great deal from him. Thanks Mike!

Also, I had the opportunity to shoot some things I'd never shot before, like high school football, cross country, swimming, soccer... I at long last started to understand those Friday nights and what a big deal they are in American life. As an European person, I never quite understood all the excitement until I got in the midst of it. But, hey, now that I'm in Alabama, and I'm always doing the night shift, I'm fully into it (pity that those HS stadium lights suck and you've got to use flash if you want the get anything. At least, in Michigan there was daylight until 8 p.m. or so...). I'm going to throw in here some of the pics I took in the last couple of weeks in Bay City.

                                         These little dudes are the Little League State champions.

                                                         Hats off!
                                                                         Diving champ

                                                        Nice light to work with

                                             Labor Day weekend feature



But no doubt my best memories from Bay City are the great moments I spent with my friend, roommate and fellow photo intern Scott Mussell. Oh, those long nights of talking, drinking, philosophizing, listening to the Rolling Stones, watching David Lynch's films, the Big Lebowski... Here's Scott:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

WAKE UP CALL & portraits

I haven't updated this blog for almost 3 months, shortly before I left Alabama and move to Michigan. That's a lot of time. Probably I wouldn't be writing this if I hadn't had a phone interview with a photo editor yesterday in which he told me that, when people apply for jobs, he's more interested in looking at their blogs than their portfolios...

So, I thought, where to start? I've shot a lot of stuff over the past 3 months. Come to think of it, a big deal of our daily work is portraits, and yet I hardly post portraits here. So, I'm going to throw a few of them that I've taken since I moved to Bay City.

Portrait of a biking/hiking trail promoter. I had never taken any in-motion portrait before. The idea came up while driving to the state park where the trail is. I took it with a very slow shutter speed, panning and flash (-1 stop).

I had been taking portraits of volleyball teams for the season previews and got sick of the usual poses with the ball or behind the net and all that kind of stuff. So, this time I decided to do something different. I pictured the team in my mind as an all-girl rock band and my photo was their album cover, and this is what I got. It may not look as a "volleyball portrait," but the girls were very excited about it.

Figure-of-eight auto racing champ

Faithful voter: Charles Hamm's American flag has only 48 stars. "This is the flag under which I served," he says. The Monitor Towship resident has voted in every major election since World War II, saying it's his duty as an American.
The paper published the horizontal picture. I like the old look of the vertical one. My idea was to make it look a bit like a "World War II" picture shooting it with a very shallow depth of field and then taking the color saturation down.

James Murray and his son, Aevrik, were both born on the same day at the same time: June 20 at 2:33 a.m. James, in 1985 and Aevrik, in 2008.

This 16-year-old girl is a weight lifting champ. I asked her to give me a mean look, but I don't think this is mean enough; she still looks very lovely for a weight lifter...

Friday, June 20, 2008

More City Stages

3 days of shooting music, music and also music. Thousands of pictures. These are just a few, a random selection (you know the trick: shoot the 3 first songs and then you're kicked out).

The Roots

Shooter Jennings (like going back to the early 70's)

Old Crow Medicine Show

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals

Interpreter that translated the main bands' lyrics into sign language (I don't know why I keep referring to him as "The Prophet")

Joe Bonamassa

If I had been in the crowd...

... instead of taking pictures for the paper at the Buddy Guy concert, I would have been the fan on the center-right. I swear.

Buddy Guy... What a Guy! He's 70-something and still can make you feel the blues like nobody else's business.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


While browsing through my archives trying to find a particular picture, I came across two photos, almost forgotten, that brought me some memories.

I shot the first one at a game between the US women's soccer national team and Australia. It was the first time (and only one so far) that I was to shoot a professional soccer game and, obviously, I was pretty excited about it. To tell the truth, the action on the field wasn't very good and the crowd was really small (maybe not even 1,000). So, all in all, not a very exciting atmosphere. It was only towards the end of the game that I realized that most of the spectators were schoolgirls that probably didn't care much about the defensive gaps or the midfield tactics: they were there mainly to get an autograph from one of their soccer heroes.

To me the look on this girl's face (her name is Mackenzie Johnston), who was hoping to have her ball autographed by Abby Wambach, said it all. And that's why I like it better than any other picture I took at that event. Fortunately, this time the sports page designer felt the same way and played the picture bigger than the action shots.

I shot the second one for a section called "Fashion Ambush." It's about fashion but not about models; just ordinary people at their work places. It has to be a full body picture and shot quickly (no lights or umbrellas or other stuff); so, usually we take these pictures outside. This time, the problem was a HUGE thunderstorm with tons of water and strong wind... OK, let's do it inside. And you know how office light usually is: yes, as one of my teachers used to put it (I believe she still does), it's F-LIGHT (which usually means both: fluorescent light and f* light). To make things worse, this 60-something year old wonderful lady, whose name is Michael Boutwell (yes, yes, that's correct: Michael) had had foot surgery and was wearing one of those medical boots and a big bandage. Anyway, long story short, I went back to the newsroom with the picture below and very, very disappointed:

But a couple of days after the picture was published, I got a message from Mrs. Boutwell. I'll copy here a couple of lines:

"You may not remember me, but I am the lady at Blue Cross that you came to take pictures of for the 'Fashion Ambush' article, that could not keep her mouth shut! I must say you may the subject look better than ever before. The picture was great. I had so much fun with this and appreciate all your time and patience. I am sure in your line of work all over the world you meet
many interesting people and I am just a little drop in the big bucket. Anyway, thanks again and good luck in all your endeavors and in your career (...)

P.S. You mentioned your Mom might have foot surgery. Remember I had the boot on from surgery. Hope she does well."

Isn't this amazing? While we photographers are all concerned about composition, light and so on, and about hitting a home run almost everytime we take a picture, "normal" people can be extraordinary happy with just A picture. And this simple anecdote made me think that if, in our line of work, we can make someone happy, that's far more exciting than taking an award-winning photograph (granted: this is also a consolation for those of us who have never won an award...)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nikon flashes

I'm definitely a Canon shooter, but when it comes to flashes I think Nikons are better. I had to take some portraits of these HS football players (Jeremy Cox, Brandon Heavens and Harris Gaston). The assignment was at noon; so I took with me the strobes, umbrellas, reflectors, battery packs and all that stuff. But when I got there I realized I had left the light stands on my desk in the newsroom. Didn't want to ask anyone to hold the lights because the grass had been watered just before the photo shoot and you never know what weird things electricity may do. Long story short, I decided to use just my off camera flash (we shoot with Nikons here in Birmingham). I had tried similar things before with a Canon flash before and never got results like these ones. And although it's not a killer portrait, at least Nikon saved my ass.
Thanks to Angelo (a student who happened to be there) for holding the flash and to the field keeper (forgot his name) for holding the helmet.
I stole the idea from portrait Jeremy Harmon shot in Provo about a year ago...