fairs, festivals, fun

Summer's wrapping up, meaning the last festivals of the season are rolling around. Though I've a bit worn out of festivals, I've enjoyed the last few, and I always love a good county fair. Patrons mill about the rides Tuesday, August 6, 2013, during the Augusta County Fair at Expoland in Fishersville. Tuesday was the first day of the fair, which will continue through Saturday.Montana Deming, 6, pulls sister Cheyenne Deming, 9 (left) and Makayla Talley, 10 (right) on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, during the Augusta County Fair at Expoland in Fishersville. Tuesday was the first day of the fair, which will continue through Saturday.Madison Hansen, 7, does flips on the trampoline at the Augusta County Fair on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, at Expoland in Fishersville. Hansen is part of the Hansen Spectacular Thrill Show, which is an acerbating show featuring her, her two sisters and parents.Lisa Millette, an Allegheny Mountain School fellow, sports radish earrings at the Project Grows farm Thursday, June 20, 2013, in Verona.

Martina Hall, 16, readies her pig, Roxanne, for show with her aunt Lisa Lacy on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, during the Augusta County Fair at Expoland in Fishersville. Tuesday was the first day of the fair, which will continue through Saturday.Eden Lange, 14, lays on her horse as Anita Warmington watches Megan Canavan play with her 8-month old son, Codey Reese, during the Middlebrook Ruritan Horse Show on Saturday, August 3, 2013, in Middlebrook.Blacksmith Chris Furr talks to visitors at the Irish forge at the Frontier Culture Museum on Saturday, August 3, 2013, in Staunton.Caitlin Snook, 14, of Fishersville, pets a chicken named Lorna, held by employee Lindsey Bonsall at the Irish farm at the Frontier Culture Museum on Saturday, August 3, 2013, in Staunton.Employee Lindsey Bonsall sits down at a table inside the house at the Irish farm at the Frontier Culture Museum on Saturday, August 3, 2013, in Staunton.Employee Robby Keller works on the loom inside the house at the Irish farm at the Frontier Culture Museum on Saturday, August 3, 2013, in Staunton.Tim Earhart sends his bowling ball down the lane during league night on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at Staunton Lanes.John Egnor hits a backhand return during the men's single open semi-finals at the Augusta Health/News Leader Tennis Tournament on Friday, Augusta 2, 2013, at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton.Players from the Wilson Memorial football team take a water break during the first day of practice on Monday, August 5, 2013, in Fishersville. Football players from Buffalo Gap, Lee, Wilson, Fort Defiance and Waynesboro had their first day of football practice on Monday. 

rubbin' is racin' — the safety of dirt track racing

One thing that you need to know about dirt track racing that should be obvious but was apparently not apparent to me — you will get dirty while you're out at the track. Especially if you're prone to accidents. And walk across a muddy track. And yes, I'm prone to accidents. People who serve on pit crews gather in the middle of the track to watch the race during the dirt track races at Eastside Speedway on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Waynesboro.There are two dirt tracks in our coverage area — one near Waynesboro called Eastside Speedway and another in Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge Speedway. I went to Eastside without any issues — got pictures, got names, had an overall great time. I spent most of my time in the pit, which is outside of the track, or walking to the inside of the track where many of the pit crews stood to watch their drivers race.

Jeff Wimer lowers the jack as son and driver Jakob Wimer looks on before the dirt track races at Eastside Speedway on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Waynesboro. Natural Bridge was a little different though — most of the pit is inside the actual track itself. Cory Mull, our new sports reporter, and I got there early, before the races started, to talk to people and mill about. Before the races start, a large water truck douses the dirt track in gallons of water, making it tacky and muddy to make it safer for the drivers. And unsafe for me, apparently, crossing it obliviously.

Duct tape with the words "I'm scared!" cover the bars protecting the driver's seat on a racing car at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. Many cars no longer have windshields for racing anymore, due to the weight which can be used elsewhere, and bars and helmets instead protect the driver from mud and flying debris. I'm pretty sure I crossed that track immediately after the water truck had gone by. And, because I had been to Eastside and crossed that track without any problems, I didn't anticipate the insanely slick conditions that the track was in, due to the large amount of water that had just been dumped on it with no cars to pack it down.

Ryan Adams, 22, secures his helmet before heading out to race in the sportsman division at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. Late model and sportsman series races often offer the biggest payout to the night’s winner, sometimes going as high as $1,500.So, I crossed the track with Cory. And didn't get far. My feet came out from under me, clad in completely traction-less Toms shoes, and I landed on my ass, camera bag barely cushioning my fall. Once I was down, I did not know how I would get up. I knew my shoes were not going to help my situation, but figured now that I knew how bad it was, I'd be a bit more careful. So, I got up, only to take one step and be back where I was, on my ass, in front of drivers and pit crews and the racing fans and track employees. And yeah, covered in mud.

Sprint cars return to the pit after a qualifying race at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. NASCAR driver Jason Leffler was killed in a crash on June 12 at a dirt track in New Jersey, caused by a mechanical failure with the torsion bar on his car coming apart. The moose plug is expected to prevent that from happening.A woman watches the drivers from inside the track on Saturday, June 30, 2013, in Natural Bridge.I decided the only way I was going to get across was, somehow, to take off my shoes and, like, dig my toes into the mud track to provide some traction. A track employee ran over to help and him and Cory basically took my mud-soaked arms and led me across, as I practically skated on my feet to the other side. So, I put my mud-covered feet back in my mud-covered shoes, accepted some towels from some really sweet drivers, brushed off my ego, and worked for the next three hours covered in mud.

Ryan Adams, 22, talks to his father, Chris Adams, as his dad straps him into his car before he heads out to race in the sportsman division at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. Late model and sportsman series races often offer the biggest payout to the night’s winner, sometimes going as high as $1,500.Besides my muddy accident, I had a great time at the tracks. Cory and I worked to find out how safe the dirt tracks were after a famous NASCAR driver, Jason Leffler, had a fatal accident on one in New Jersey in June. We found out that most accidents are caused by aggressive drivers and people that hold grudges, or mechanical failures, like in Leffler's case. Or poor shoe choices and walking across a dirt track covered in mud. And in that case, the only casualty was a now very muddy camera bag and a ruined polka dot shirt.

Driver Buck Roadcap gets inside his vehicle as car owner Kenny Tanner and wife Beth Roadcap get him ready for racing in the late model division during the dirt track races at Eastside Speedway on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Waynesboro. Roadcap races against nephew Derrick Rankin.People who serve on pit crews gather in the middle of the track to watch the race as Petie Coffey drives by in the late model division during the dirt track races at Eastside Speedway on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Waynesboro.Cory wrote a great story about the very complicated issue of dirt track safety. Be sure to check it out.

A man waves a flag signaling to the racers during the super stock division during the dirt track races at Eastside Speedway on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Waynesboro.Charles Wyatt races in the super stock division during the dirt track races at Eastside Speedway on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Waynesboro. Wyatt placed first in the finals of the division.Drivers and pit crew watch the other races from inside the dirt track in the pit at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. At Natural Bridge, there is a metal fence that separates outsiders from entering the track. It’s only opened when cars are off the course, though there have been occasions where spectators have crossed to visit Pit Road during warm-up laps.Randy Gardner races in the sportsman division on the dirt track at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. The track is lined by two-pronged metal fencing, roughly four-feet high, along the straight-away portions of the course, and there is no fencing on the outside of the track along the curves at Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge also has a concrete wall on the inside straight-away.Larry Ramsey races in the late model division on the dirt track at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. The track is lined by two-pronged metal fencing, roughly four-feet high, along the straight-away portions of the course, and there is no fencing on the outside of the track along the curves at Natural Bridge. “The straight-aways are fine to keep the fans safe, but the turns for us, it's better not to have them [the fencing] at all,” Bob Reiner said.Trophies and racing memorabilia decorate the office at Natural Bridge Speedway on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Natural Bridge. Drivers, depending on their division, can win prizes from $300 to $1,500 in a race.Drivers and their pit crews gather between races during the dirt track races at Eastside Speedway on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Waynesboro.

The Boys of Fall

Football season is over. Though I might complain about sports sometimes, football is actually my favorite — I love the emotion and glory and American-ness of it all. I've been at The News Leader for about a month now, and throughout this, my boss has been battling Nikon to send back my work camera — not his favorite task. This means I'm still using my own gear in the meantime, and I've been shooting football with my 70-200mm. Because I've mostly shot college ball, which is much more restrictive when it comes to access, a 300mm is what I'm used to. But with the nature of high schools and the access we get, the 70-200 is so perfect and I think my shooting has actually improved a bit from what it used to be.

Here's some frames from the last three weeks of high school football.

synchronized swimming

With great risk comes great reward — and I consider getting a camera anywhere near the water at least a little risky. I pitched this synchronized swimming assignment to the paper because the sport has always been on my mental photo bucket list. It seemed like it would provide a plethora of great visual opportunities — repetition, sports action, and the always-interesting underwater shoot. synchronized swimmingAs an intern and a recent college graduate, it is no surprise that I don’t have the money to throw around to get underwater camera housing. Scrimping and saving is no novel concept to me when applied to photojournalism — I routinely carry around black plastic trash bags, a poncho and rubber bands for camera protection for the inevitable sports game in the rain. Living on a budget means getting creative, after all.

underwater synchronized swimming picturesSo for this underwater shoot, I used nothing more than a $13 Plexiglas fish tank, a flamingo-patterned beach towel and some black T-shirts I grabbed from my closet.

synchronized swimmingNow, this isn’t my first underwater rodeo — it’s my second. I have done one underwater shoot previous to this one to get a portrait of an Israeli Olympic swimmerfor a magazine. I used a fish tank for that shoot, and after seeing one in the equipment locker here at The Oregonian, I figured I was set.

synchronized swimmingI showed up during a synchronized swimming practice at the Tualatin Hills Athletic Club. The girls were using a space that took up two lanes of the pool, so I situated myself on the ledge of the pool so that they were facing me. I placed the beach towel down to sit on — it was very wet and I had an assignment to go to after this one — and put my feet in the water so that I was square with the athletes.

synchronized swimmingOnce I was situated, I got the fish tank — which holds about 15 gallons — and placed it in the water between my legs. For most of the shoot, I pushed the tank into the water and held it between my knees. The power of buoyancy pushed against any force that I applied downward so that water didn’t pour in unless I pushed too far (I didn't push it too far). For some of the shoot, the very dedciated writer, Findley Merritt, pushed down the tank while I had my arms free to move around the camera inside.

underwater synchronized swimmingWhether the tank was being pushed down by myself or Findley, though, I could not see through my viewfinder to make pictures. I set my exposure by checking a few test shots and had the camera on an autofocus point where I knew at least one of the swimmers would be at all times (for my shoot previous to this, I used manual focus — I think both have their advantages).

synchronized swimmingIt was definitely a fun experience working with these girls and seeing them work on their routine. Olympic synchronized swimming is going on right now, so if you dig this, check it out there.

synchronized swimmingAlso, feel free to check out the story on The Oregonian's website.

UPDATE: I drew a terrible stick drawing diagram showing my set-up for this shoot, for those interested!

timbers vs. galaxy

I've never been a huge soccer fan, but my experience at Jeld-Wen Field, shooting alongside the Timbers Army may just change that.
timbers army
Shot my first MLS soccer game and had the opportunity to go along with Oregonian staff photographer Thomas Boyd as a second shooter for the game — Portland Timbers versus the LA Galaxy. The atmosphere at the stadium was intense and awesome and it was a really great experience for my first game.
timbers army
I thought I shot alright, nothing amazing — I get really nervous about shooting sports lately, for whatever reason, and it seems to be getting the best of me. Maybe it's because I haven't shot it regularly since high school football season. Something I'm hoping to work on.
timbers vs. galaxy
I feel like lately that sports photography has been put on this crazy pedestal in my eyes. I feel like I get plenty of stuff that would run in the paper, but nothing that I look at and go, "Holy crap!" Maybe contests have ruined sports photography for me. It's gotten down to where if I don't think it is portfolio-worthy, I just don't care about the sports images I shoot. Probably not the best attitude and something I really need to sort out.
timbers versus galaxy
Anyway, the Timbers lost to the LA Galaxy 5-3. But I still got to look at David Beckham, so it was bittersweet.
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summer football

High school football rarely has good light. Since football season is in the fall, it gets dark quickly. Plus, the stadium lighting isn't always particularly good because, well, it's high school football — not the NFL. So you do what you can and get what you get and probably shoot at 6400 ISO (not really, but, well, maybe) and you're done. les schwab bowlSo, when I was given the assignment to shoot a football game on Saturday — you know, in June — I was intrigued. The solstice just happened, so the days are super long. The game started at 7 and the entire thing was played while the sun was up — it ended around 9.

les schwab bowlAnd, of course, the sun set, and there was awesome light. Super awesome. And then there was rain, and it was just light rain, not the kind that makes you want to cringe and hate your job. And then there was a rainbow. It was all very beautiful.

I kept waiting for something amazing to happen in that light. Nothing super awesome happened, and it was obviously hard to focus, so if something did I probably missed it. But I enjoyed it. God, I love nice light. It was a great day to be shooting sports.

les schwab bowlSo, I'm putting up a ton of pictures. I know none of them are particularly amazing and just pretty light for the sake of pretty light, but I don't care. Because I haven't shot sports in awhile and it was the first time in a long time that I really got into it and enjoyed it and didn't hate everything I photographed. So here it is.

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naked bike ride (nsfw)

There are many things that, to me, as an outsider, are very Portland — beer, roses, cycling, coffee, and being weird. Keeping true to one of Portland's adopted mottos, "Keep Portland Weird," the Naked Bike Ride rolled through town yesterday. One would think that hey, sure, some people could come out and it'd be funny but not that well-attended — but you would be wrong. Thousands of people flocked to the event — I can't say how many, but it's an expected 8,000. naked bike rideThere are a lot of questions I had before attending this bike ride. Would I get sick of seeing so many naked people? What exactly is the point of all this? And, most importantly, how do you ride a bike with, you know, your junk in the way?

naked bike rideI still don't know how people managed the genital-on-a-bike-seat situation, but I officially saw more naked people last night than I have collectively in the rest of my entire life. And after initially not really knowing how to get someone's name without looking at their naked parts, I think you just get really used to all the naked people running around — my only trouble was trying to squeeze through a crowd without hitting someone's butt with my camera. And, well, trying to find appropriate pictures to run online in a photo gallery for The Oregonian.

lovebomb go-goAnd the purpose for all of this? Allegedly, it's to draw attention to cycling. I guess there's no better way to do that than to throw thousands of cyclists into the streets, au naturel.

naked bike rideI consider last night my official welcoming to Portland because of the true cultural celebration that is being weird here. I had a blast as you only can with a group of naked cyclists, even if I was clothed.

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