Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In our newspaper (like any other newspaper, I guess) we shoot a lot of promos for upcoming plays and musicals. Who would have ever thought that this area of North Alabama was so rich in cultural events?
Anyway, we are sent to "take pictures of a rehearsal" (that's what the photo request says), and, at least for me, nothing beats the actors/singers movements and expressions combined with real stage lighting. But more often than not, what happens is that there's no rehearsal, the lights are not on (and nobody knows where the switch is) or simply they're not meeting at the theater, but at someone's house or, even worse, at a school gym. Invariably, the conversation goes more or less like this:

They: So, how would you like to take our picture?
Me: Oh, you just start your rehearsal and I'll be shooting. You do your thing, and I'll do mine.
They: Rehearsal? Oh, no, no... We came here just for the picture. There's no rehearsal today.

I used to get very upset by this kind of situations, but recently I've changed my approach to that. If this is going to happen over and over again, there's no point in getting upset. So, one fine day, I decided that is these are just promo photo shoots (not documentary photojournalism) I was going to take it easy and treat them as promos, using my own lighting (usually two off-camera flashes with shoot-through umbrellas) and trying to give the final product a rather magazine/poster look. I'm now having more fun doing it, trying new stuff everytime and, most important, learning something new each time. Here's some recent pics:

From a Burt Bacharach revisited show

From a Decatur Civic Chorus musical

From the original Athens, AL musical "We interrupt this program... Pearl Harbor remembered"



Trying to get something a bit different out of the countless christmas parades we shoot every year.

THANKSGIVING LUNCH (another year...)

Like a year ago, this year I had to work on thanksgiving day, too. Again, I wasn't allowed to show recognizable prison inmates' faces. Obviously, I didn't want to take a picture similar to last year's (it's somewhere on this blog). I saw this little girl who was helping her mom to serve soda to the inmates and decided to follow her and see what happened. The light was coming from a window very high up behind her, so her face was very dark most of the time. But then she came next to that inmate and the light reflected off his orange/white jail suit onto the girl's face. I focused on her and hoped the guy turned his face so it wouldn't be recognizable... And it actually happened.
I think the girl's facial expression is priceless.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009



Some newspaper photographers (actually, many of them) say you know you've been at the same paper for quite sometime when you start shooting the same assignments again. In fact, when I came to Decatur a year ago, one of my first jobs, if not the very first one, was to photograph the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Athens, AL. Funny enough, last weekend I had the same assignment.

It's been a great year professionally. Above all, I have a job as a photojournalist, which is something very difficult to get these days, especially for someone, like me, relatively new in this industry. But, on top of that, I'm very lucky to be working with great colleagues who have become real friends.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009



The 2009-10 football season started last week

But before that, we spent a couple of weeks taking portraits of selected players for the football special section published on Sunday. I was in charge of the cover, and for that I took the players out of the usual places (locker rooms, football fields) and photographed them in different spots of their respective towns. Behind each of those portraits there's a long story (maybe I'll tell them some other time...)

The nice thing about the first two weeks is that you still can shoot the first 10 minutes of the game without using flash. Come mid September and you can forget about it... well, unless you have a nice Nikon D3 and shoot at 6400 ISO. My newspaper bought one of those a couple of weeks ago. Problem is there's 3 photogs shooting HS football, and the most veteran will probably get to use it (which I completely understand: the guy has spent 15 years shooting football with flash... I think he deserves better). As for the rest of us mortals... well that's -shooting with flash- actually the meaning I give to "Friday Night Lights."

Sunday, July 19, 2009



It was the first time I tried this tilted-camera panning.

Ode to Michelangelo...

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This one is pretty obvious...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Little Miss pageant

I mean..., this girl is only 2 years old! She didn't even know what the heck she was doing there and why all those older people were looking at her (they were actually JUDGING her).
My opinion about these pageants? I'd rather keep it for myself.

Monday, June 22, 2009


OK, OK, it's true: there are air shows in other places, too. But, for me, the occasion for this third "Only in America" post represents rather the opportunity to photograph something like this from up there. I mean, I was the ONLY photojournalist at the air field. Didn't have to fight with anyone else to get a spot to fly with the "Red Thunder" air show team. In short, ONLY IN AMERICA you can find air shows in a small town like Courtland, AL. In fact, so small that they don't even have a newspaper; so, when the newspaper photographer from the bigger town goes there, the organizers make it really easy for you.
Besides having a lot of fun (see last picture), I learned a couple of things from this experience:

- It's pretty difficult to photograph the other planes if yours has the wings on the belly, instead of on top. Your own wings get in the way most of the time.
- I asked my pilot to leave the canopy open on my side because I didn't want to shoot through glass. This is better for the pictures, but a) you get really cold (specially if you are wearing just a t-shirt) and b) the wind is so strong you can hardly hold the camera steady.
- With acrobatic, or rather "aerobatic", teams like this one you don't really need to carry a long lens with you unless you want to take a picture of the other planes' pilot's eyes. They fly so, so, so freaking close to each other (see 3rd. picture) that a 17-35 mm. lens will do. And anyway, there's no room in the cockpit for a second camera.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


After seeing the winners gallery in this year's BOP, I decided to try a bit of heavy toning with a random picture that I had taken one random day from the other side of the river. I have to admit it: didn't do a good job. Photoshop is not my thing...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


A couple of months back, I posted some pictures here, the very first ones I took of a story I was working on. I finished it and it was published two sundays ago. I think I'm lucky to work for a newspaper that gave me 2 and a half pages for that. Not the kind of thing we're used to in these times of less and less print. Yeah, true, it was in the lifestyles section, but who really cares?

I also did an audio slideshow for the newspaper's website. You can listen to Collis Crayton and see more pictures by CLIKING HERE

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The worshipers' ghosts in the Coca-Cola temple.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I've come to the realization that many of the things that Americans take for granted, that I myself take for granted (after having lived here for over 3 years), are not that "normal", or rather common, in other places. Since this blog has now visitors from Europe (mainly Spain), I'm going to start posting pictures about events/people that may seem common or normal for most US citizens, but which, for others not so used to them, still carry that distinctive American Flavor. After all, I'm a foreigner here and, as such, still have the capacity to be surprised by those exclusive "American things."

And let's start with something I shot last weekend in Athens, Alabama. A rodeo clinic conducted, among others, by ex-rodeo champion and bareback instructor David Fowler, from Rome, Georgia.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Only in America, only in America...

Saturday, April 11, 2009


                  From left, me, Jim Yates and Bonnie Montgomery (photograph by Jim Yates)

Usually I don't post pictures of me, but a couple of weekends ago, I had such a blast visiting my friends Bonnie and Jim in Nashville, TN, that I've absolutely got to leave some kind of visual record here.

When Jim and Bonnie moved to Nashville over a year ago, Jim thought he had to have a band because everybody in Nashville does (including Bonnie). One fine day, Jim was riding his bicycle down Shelby Avenue and noticed the Shelby Avenue Baptist Church. "That's it," he thought, "I've got the name for the band!" And that's how "The Shelby Avenue Baptist Singers" (TSABS) were born.
Bonnie has several serious musical ventures, including her opera (www.billyblytheopera.com) and her folk music (www.myspace.com/montgomerytrucking). "Shelby is my little creature," says Jim, "and I don't want to give the impression that Shelby is Bonnie's main Nashville musical outlet. She endures The Singers for me and has a fine band of her own."
In reality, TSABS has many, many members, as many as people are wise enough to drag their asses to that wonderful city to visit Bonnie and Jim. Tradition dictates that, each time they have a visitor, they'll 1) take a square picture reminiscent of those old gospel albums, and 2) Hosts and guests will record a church hymn. Usually, the guest has to add a special contribution.
I was no exception, and they asked me to add that little something to "Where you there." I didn't know what to do. Had never played that song before; but, after listening to Bonnie play it on the piano, I asked them to give me some minutes to go outside with a guitar and see what I could come up with...

                     (photograph by Jim Yates)

...and what I came up with was a little monster in which I mixed folk style chords with some more Latin/Jazzy ones. It's really an awful way to cook up music, but we sort of liked it (must have been the Jack Daniels...)

                          (photograph by Jim Yates)

                               (Photograph by Bonnie)

Thank God, Bonnie came to the rescue and fixed everything with her wonderful voice.

Jim is the most handy guy I've ever met (well, with the exception of my father). For the album cover picture, he made a soft box with just a card box and two white trash bags (borrowed from his neighbor, in the purest Yates tradition). All in 5 minutes. Here it is, the invention and its satisfied inventor:

And you folks can hear "Where You There?" and all "The Shelby Avenue Baptist Singers" previous recordings and see Jim's wonderfully crafted photographs by clicking HERE

Then, we went to downtown Nashville to just dive and drown ourselves in live music...

If y'all really like music, Nashville is the place to live. No kidding.