Sunday, September 26, 2010

ONLY IN AMERICA VIII (or is it only in the Deep South?)

Auburn head coach Gene Chizick (upper middle) prays with both teams at the end of the game between Auburn and South Carolina at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010


These portraits were published in our weekly photo column. The text I've copied below accompanied the pictures.

On Saturday, September 4th, I had the assignment of taking pictures of the Civil War battle reenactment at Point Mallard Park. Since my coworker Gary Cosby Jr. had already covered the event extensively (and very well, as usual) the previous day, I thought of doing something different that wasn’t necessarily focused on the battle itself. And so, the night before, I came up with this idea of doing a series of old-looking portraits using a lensbaby.

Lensbabies are small, compact lenses mounted inside flexible ridged rubber tubes, much like vacuum cleaner hoses. The front standard can be manipulated off axis to move the sharpest area of focus (called the "sweet spot") to almost anywhere in the frame. Therefore the important part of the subject can be rendered fairly sharp with everything else out of focus, even if it is the same distance from the camera.

I did take a couple of pictures of the battle, but this only confirmed that I should go with my plan, because the light was terrible: the bright, high summer sun at 2 p.m. kept all the actors’ faces in the most absolute darkness, and whenever I tried to change my angle in order to get a better light, the parking lot and baseball fields appeared in the background, which obviously didn’t fit in a Civil War scene.

My big discovery that day was Wendell R. Decker (in the first picture above). This photographer from Bowling Green, Ky., takes vintage pictures with a "sliding box" camera from the 1850s (on his right in the picture). The camera hasn't been modified and Decker uses the same technique that was used during the Civil War. He makes his own tintypes or ferrotypes (a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal) and ambrotypes (on glass sheets). He travels with assistant Suzy McGill across the country, from one Civil War reenactment to the next, taking pictures of both re-enactors and the public. I got so excited listening to him, learning about his work and the way that old camera works that I almost forgot that the battle had begun…

Like the lensbaby, old portrait lenses of days of yore frequently had a lot of spherical aberration, which gives the effect of concentrating your attention to the in-focus area (the "sweet spot). And this is why I thought I could get a more "old photography" look if I used one of them.

And this I promise: my next post, whatever it is, won't be about portraits...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Sixty nine year-old Ethel Jones poses with her .38 caliber snubnose revolver behind the glass door window she shattered when she fired three shots at a burglar who broke into her house Monday, August 30, 2010 in Decatur. An 18-year-old suspect was taken to Huntsville Hospital with a gunshot to the abdomen.

I asked her to be behind the broken glass with her revolver, and she stood there aiming that pistol straight at me!

- Excuse me, Mrs. Jones, is the gun loaded?

- Of course, what's it good for if it's not loaded?

- Ahem... Is the safe on?

- Oh, don't worry. Like I say, guns don't shoot if you don't pull the trigger.

- Well, in that case, could you please point at some other place? You can hold it like James Bond if you want...

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Jamie Hall, center left, waitress at The Brick Deli & Tavern, won tickets to Los Angeles and the Emmy Awards. Hall is taking with her coworker Jasmine Young, center right. They will be on the red carpet watching the stars walk before the show.

A couple of days ago, the life styles editor asked me to take a picture of two waitresses who had won tickets to be at the Emmy awards in L.A. They would also be allowed to be next to the red carpet watching the TV stars walk by. The image of two Decatur women being on the red carpet in Hollywood surrounded by paparazzi and fans came to my mind. We asked them to bring some of their friends to the photo shoot to be Hollywood extras. My plan was to give them cameras with strobes that I would triggered with a remote so as to have all the flashes firing at the same time. In order to be on the safe side, I took with me an "Alien Bee" light with a soft box to be used as the key light and thought of using the strobes just as secondary lights, but when I got to the Princess Theatre, the place I secured as a shooting location, I changed my mind: "What the hell," I said to myself, "let's use only the paparazzi strobes and see what happens..." And the picture above is the result.

On a side note, the subjects forgot to tell their friends about it. When they showed up without extras, I asked them to go back to the bar (it's only a block away) and bring at least 6 of their customers. It was easy. "Free beer for whoever comes to play as an extra" was all they had to say...