Toddler triptych


Gordo, Alabama

Just a few pictures from a call for wild art from the paper earlier today. Known in PJ (photojournalist) circles as “wild art, “standalones,” “weather art,” “feature photos,” “page brighteners,” “puff pieces,” “filler,” or “fluff,” they usually mean that it is either a slow news day or a story fell through, leaving a big empty hole. In an ideal world, there would never be a need for a photograph without some compelling news angle or graphic element, but things happen. In today’s instance, a slow news day combined with no staff photographers on hand meant a quick job for me — just drive around and find something.

When I was doing this a lot, I used to keep a stockpile of newspaper clippings, flyers, calendar items, etc. so that I would have a good shot at finding something compelling, but I have been rather lazy lately. There is nothing more stressful than aimlessly driving around, hoping to find something amazing and coming up short. These photos, while cute, aren’t really what you want to come back with. They are a cliché, and not even a good one at that. They served their purpose, which is better than nothing, and to my credit I drove almost 50 miles to at least try to bring back something from an area the staff photographers don’t get to very often.

That being said, I need to go back to thinking like a journalist. A lot of my best habits are sliding and I’m doing things I never would have done six months ago. I forget to carry my cell phone sometimes; I don’t always Photoshop my stuff the minute I return home; I write on scraps of paper instead of in a notebook, which is harder to lose; I’m not reading the paper every day; I’m not jumping out of bed and getting dressed by 8 am. And of course, I am not keeping up with local events, a rarity for a girl who used to read everything that would hold still long enough and eavesdrop in the grocery line for story ideas.

A good feature hunter will already have a pretty solid idea of where he/she is going before ever walking out the door, knowing that “cruising” is generally a waste of time and a good way to have a wreck. For those who are interested in the finer points of feature hunting, Dave LaBelle has issued an updated version of an old industry favorite called The Great Picture Hunt 2: The Art and Ethics of Feature Picture Hunting. I haven’t ordered my copy yet, but I plan to soon. Basically, I just need to get back on my feet, regroup, redevelop the strong habits that are a necessity to make it in this business. For example — sleep. I need more than three hours of unbroken sleep a night. Some days I am so exhausted that I can barely hold my camera, let alone point it in the right direction and shoot something brilliant. It is 2 a.m. now and I dread walking to my bedroom, crawling into bed, attempting to do something that should be so very easy but comes so painfully hard for me sometimes.

Which reminds me of something else — if you are just idly surfing, you may want to check out this post by Sminklemeyer at In Iraq for 365. An Army journalist who recently returned from Mosul, Iraq, his journal offers a glimpse into his difficulties readjusting to life in the U.S. and living with post traumatic stress disorder. It gives new meaning to the phrase, “Freedom is not free.” And that goes for all types of freedom. At 3 a.m., someone pays the price, whether you know it or not.

And to be fair, I thought I’d post a link to my favorite photo of the day as well, East 3rd’s 750 ml. Yes, I know — I linked him earlier in the week. But he’s just so very good sometimes. And if I salivate over a photograph and wish I had taken it, then I think it deserves a link.

Same goes for writing. If I drool over someone else’s syntax, or if someone’s words move me, then I think maybe they should get a link. After all, the entire premise of the internet and the blogging community relies upon links. Without them, we would just hit dead ends. With a good set, we can chase rabbits all day long. So. I think it is high time that I give back to the community. Besides, I figure you all could use a break from me occasionally.

Music of the day: Blood and Roses by The Smithereens (lyrics)

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