A Tom Dorsey Photo

Long ago and far away I lived in Kansas and where I worked for the Salina Journal. It was my first full-time newspaper gig and in many ways a proving ground of sorts. I got there in 2002 and left at the end of 2003. It seems like a lifetime ago.

While at the Journal I worked with two very talented photographers, Tom Dorsey, the chief photographer, and Ryan Soderlin. This was fairly early in my life as a professional photographer and I feel that I learned so much from working with these guys.

Ryan is the person who introduced me to the idea of the “37th frame” a concept strictly digital photographers would have no connection to. It goes back to the days when photographers bulk loaded their own rolls of film. A roll of bulk loaded film is 36 shots. But sometimes you would have an extra frame. That 37th frame became a shot that a photographer takes just for themselves. Not for the paper, not for any audience, it’s a chance to reconnect to the art of photography. When I started in all this, I began on film and sometimes I still miss it. I have bulk loaded my own film (who could ever forget the days of T-Max and Tri-X). Even though I’m well into the digital age (and glad to be there) I still try to make time for those personal shots. Without them, I think I would get all too jaded.

From Tom I learned about Photoshop and color. He’s the person who really helped me understand the value of quality toning and editing. Tom always had such a sense of wonder in his photographs. I don’t know exactly how long Tom has been with the Journal, but it’s got to be going on decades plural by now. And even though he’s in the same place, looking at the same subjects day after day and year after year, Tom still manages to keep his eyes open and see the beauty around him.

Today as I was surfing the Associated Press TOPIX (top pictures from around the world) I saw this lovely sunrise of barn out in Kansas. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s a Tom Dorsey photo. It’s been years since I’ve had the chance to visit Kansas. Seeing that photo seemed like Life presenting me the perfect excuse to call up an old friend just send well wishes. I’ve already told Tom congrats on the phone, but he gave me permission to share this photo on my blog so here it is…

Congrats to Tom Dorsey for winning the attention of the AP and subsequently the world with his beautiful photo.

The sun illuminates clouds early Thursday morning June 16, 2011, behind a barn east of Salina, Kansas. Later in the morning thunder storms dropped heavy rain in the area. (AP Photo/Salina Journal, Tom Dorsey)

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Just a little bit over-prepared

Yesterday was fun day. It was “Media Day” up in Glacier, and that’s me — a proud member of the big, bad, liberal media. : )
The media was invited to join members of the Park Service and the USGS for a guided tour of Going-To-The-Sun road above Avalanche Creek. Officially the roads are closed at Avalanche and opening day is still weeks away. But because we are media, because we will tell a story the park wants told, we were escorted up to about two miles shy of Logan Pass to photograph the snow removal in process.
Snow. In June. It’s just so wrong. I know I’ve been here more than a year, but really, I can’t let it go. I hate the cold. I hate the snow. And there is a lot of it. Sigh.
Well, since I hate the cold, and since I have been warned about this photo shoot being up there in the freeze-out zone, I went home the night before to gather my gear and plan. I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to do whatever was necessary to not be cold. The problem is, I don’t know exactly what not cold will require. When in doubt, bring everything.

Sorrel boots. Check.
Winter socks. Check.
Thick sweat pants. Check.
T-shirt. Check.
Another shirt. Check.
Flanel jacket. Check.
Down coat. Check.
2 pairs of gloves. Check.
Wool hat. Check.
And just like that, the word of the day is suddenly “over-prepared.”
Plus there is all my camera gear.
And when we got there, we were outfitted with avalanche homing beacons, bright yellow safety vests, and hard hats.
“Oh good grief, Charlie Brown,” says I.

Two things become immediately obvious with this list. One: I have finally taken all the advice I’ve been given about wearing layers to heart. And two: I was prepared to meet the abominable snowman yesterday. I could have walked right up and shook his hand and still been warm. Ha! Snow! I laugh. I scoff in the presence of the white shroud.
Actually, it wasn’t nearly as cold as I had been led to believe. I can’t help but wonder if some of my fellow co-workers weren’t just having a bit of fun at my expense. As gullible as I am, it wouldn’t be a hard trick to pull off. Or maybe I just didn’t notice the cold because I was too busy enjoying the mountains. It’s every bit as gorgeous as I remember. The clouds gathered quickly and the tops of the peaks were rapidly obscured but I still walked away with one favorite shot of the day and here it is.
If I’m reading the map correctly, and remembering exactly where I was (which means I have an above average shot at being wrong here) that is Mount Oberlin, Clements Mountain, and Mount Cannon off there to the left. And just when you thought the day would be totally gray, a splash of sunlight to bring to life the spring green of the valley along McDonald Creek. The only downside? Getting out of all that stupid gear when the photo shoot was over.

Adventures in Night Photography

Life in Montana has been a string of new experiences for me. It’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about living here. There are constantly new opportunities for me to step outside the familiar and either learn something new about the world, or better still, learn something new about myself. This weekend, the new experience was night fishing.

The first question you have to ask yourself is Why? (Heavy Sarcasm in your voice when you say this so there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that what you are really asking is “What the h— for?”) I actually skipped that all important first question. When a friend of mine told me he and his boys were going out night fishing my first thought was “That sounds like a cool photo shoot.” And just like that, I won an invitation to come along. Oh yeah, in case I haven’t mentioned this recently, being a photographer has some really great perks.

So, Bill, David, and his son’s Garrison and Jackson are going to go night fishing on Bitterroot Lake, which is near Marion, a town about 25 miles west of where I live. The only down side in all of this is, they are leaving now. They are in the process of walking out the door and they grabbed the phone as they are heading out. I can come along, but only if I leave right now. It’s been kind of a long day. I’m home. And my shoes are off. One of these days, for my own edification and sense of self-awareness I’m going to have to work up the statistics for how much less likely I am to do something once my shoes are off. It’s a psychological trigger for me: shoes are off = done for the day. A moment ago I was bragging about the “perks” to being a photographer. There are downsides as well. One of them is that your boss doesn’t care about your shoe status. When he calls you up and says, “There’s been a three car accident at the intersection of 93 and Reserve. Reports indicate that one of the vehicles is on fire and possibly someone is trapped.” You do NOT respond with, “But I’m home, and my shoes are off.” You say, “Got it.” Then you grab your shoes, grab your gear, get in the Jeep and Go. When I got this invitation I had to put away that part of my personality that wants to whine and switch into photojournalist mode (shoes-gear-Jeep-Go).

And hey, I got there in time. Climbed on the boat and we are off. Just in time to enjoy an incredibly beautiful sunset. Nice light makes for photographer heaven. : ) Fortunately when I was grabbing things to bring along with me, I included a sweat shirt and my winter down jacket. Cold. I know I should be used to it by now, but I’ve been cold since I moved to Montana. Nighttime on the water. Yep, I’m cold again. What I did forget to bring was a set of extra batteries for my flash. Drat. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the cold. The batteries agreed with me and they just up and quit on me after a few shots. Double drat.

But other than the cold and the battery failure it was a great night. I got some photos I am happy with. We’ll be publishing these soon in the Daily Inter Lake. And I even got a personal shot out of the evening. Not only did we have a great sunset, we had a gorgeous moon set shortly there after. The moon was barely more than a sliver in the sky which quickly followed the sun down. The view from out on the water was incomparable. Once these things were done we anchored the boat and worked on catching a few more fish. At the end of the night, I have my photos, the boys have their fish and we are all pretty happy and heading for the dock. This is when things get “interesting.”

I mentioned that we are past sunset and moon set. By the time we decide to head in we have also moved past twilight into the truly pitch black night of middle of nowhere Montana. The stars under those circumstances look amazing. Sadly, the stars are just about the only thing you can see. Occasionally we catch glimpses of houses and lights and even a few campfires. But the dock we are looking for is not lit. And none of us can see much past the front of the boat. We head back in the direction we came from, but after some time the boys decide that we have gone too far. Just off to the side of us, there are some people on the beach enjoying a bonfire. And so I say to Bill, why don’t we get a bit closer and ask them for directions. Bill turns towards me and replies “Are you serious?” It’s pitch black and I can’t see his face, but I don’t need to. His tone makes it perfectly obvious that he is questioning my sanity. Yes, I’m serious. I am a girl. I have no qualms about owning up to the fact that I have mis-located myself and am in need of assistance. Not like the people on the beach are going to care. And hey, they won’t be able to see us, so it’s not like anyone will ever know it was you.

For years I have listened to married girl friends of mine complain about men and their unfathomable aversion to asking for directions. I used to wonder if there were circumstances that might override this aversion. Nope. I don’t think there are. After Bill’s reaction I didn’t even bother making this suggestion to David (the guy steering the boat). We did find the dock eventually. And like I said, I’m happy with the photos, so every other concern fades when I’m happy about pictures. I have, however, learned an important lesson for any future night fishing expeditions. Next time I’m going to suggest someone park close enough that we can use the vehicle alarm system as homing beacon.