Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Passing of Godfrey Humann

A week ago Godfrey Humann past away in his home in Gerber. I only met Humann twice in my life, but his passing brought sadness to my heart. A little over a year ago I had an assignment to shoot a video of a man with an extensive model train set he had set up in his basement. I was too shoot video and photos to go along with the story. I had heard about Humann and his model trains but never had the opportunity to meet him.

Godfrey Humann sits at the controls with his South Shasta Lines model trains in preparation for a special opening for Christmas while at his home on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 in Gerber, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I took a day to head out to Gerber, a small town between Chico and Red Bluff. I arrive to meet a man that I will always remember. He took several hours to show me around his miniature train set, and several hours it took. There was so much detail in all the buildings, trains, towns, people, and animals throughout the basement. Humann would show his train set every year to the many that came to see it for themselves.

The South Shasta Lines model trains zooms full electric ahead in preparation for a special opening for Christmas while at his home on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 in Gerber, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)
While talking with him, I began to see him as a man who lived a full life. He had many stories to tell about the history of the land and his trains. He was very entertaining. I listened and I tried to capture his story. There was so much to capture too. From working on a farm to all the replicated town on the mini railroad, Humann had all the time in the world to tell you about the one he built. He played with the train set as I captured video and I became entranced by the sounds of the whistle too.
Godfrey Humann sets up his South Shasta Lines model trains in preparation for a special opening for Christmas while at his home on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 in Gerber, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)
I remembered when I was a young boy playing with trains myself. My grandfather worked on the Pacific Union railroad to build a life for our family. I have always had a connection with trains as far as I can remember. I played with my train set as a kid watching the locomotive spin round and round the tracks for hours. I found myself doing the same when I met Humann.

The train passes through Dunsmuir as Godfrey Humann sets up his South Shasta Lines model trains in preparation for a special opening for Christmas while at his home on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 in Gerber, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I could watch his miniature display and never grow tired of all the detail that he had put into it. It was also his warm personality that kept me happy. He was not for profit or for lecture, he was to show people the trains to have them be like kids again. In Humann's time, trains were seen as great engineering achievements with such stability and strength that any kid always was amazed by the power of the locomotive. This love with the train was what he was hoping to bring to anybody who stepped into a world of amazement in his basement.

I was saddened to hear that he is gone. I am glad I was able to see the train set. When reflecting back I realized this was a story that the pictures gave just one aspect to the atmosphere of who he was. We have so many senses that vision can not always be superior. Sometimes we have to hear for ourselves what makes a person so great. So I leave the video I made of Godrey Humann (1912-2009).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm Back, and Fishing for Photos

I came back from a wonderful week in Hawaii on my honeymoon with my beautiful wife. It was a fantastic week with photos to come as I sort through the 4,000 images I took. But on my return, I came back to a full days work waiting for me.

I came back to a full work load on Saturday. It was a typical Saturday with events needing to be covered throughout the day. I found myself heading up the hill to Paradise for a Kid's Fishing Day at Paradise Lake. I arrived later in the morning several hours after the 6am start. The thing about fishing is the fish are really biting early in the morning. By early afternoon they slow down with the heat. While searching around for a shot I realized I was committing the same actions as my subjects.

Lucien Pool, 3 (left) and Brian Pool (center) shield themselves from Evann Pool, 4 (right) as she casts her fishing line into the Paradise Lake in hope to snag a fish for Kids' Fishing Day on Saturday, April 18, 2009 in Magalia, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I was "fishing" for my shot of the story. The kids would pick their spot, cast their line, and wait for a bite. I would do the same. Pick my spot, ready my camera and fire when I saw a bite (good shot). I would "catch" a good shot here and there but not the big one I was waiting for. I didn't have much time but I continued to search. Coming back from a week off, I was excited to spend a little more time being creative.

I walked the bank of the lake until I noticed a grandfather with his grandson. The shot was what I was looking for. It was very simplistic with the two individuals silhouetted by the blue water. I composed the shot and waited patiently to capture it as my subjects waited to catch their fish. I became a fisherman of images as I waited. The position was right but the actions from the subjects weren't quite there. I waited another ten minutes as both of them sat diligently in their chairs. I was hoping from one of them to stand up so that I could see the fishing pole in the image too.

Robert Flynn, 9 (left), waits patiently after casting his line into the Paradise Lake next to his grandfather Alan Reil, (right) in hope to snag a fish for Kids' Fishing Day on Saturday, April 18, 2009 in Magalia, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

As time continued to pass I realized my time was coming to an end. I was going to have to make my exit to a baseball game. I hadn't got the shot quite yet. I decided that I would hold out a little longer to see if I could get the shot I wanted. As I waited longer a man came up to me asking what I was doing. I told him the image I had in mind and he said, "Do you want me to ask them to stand?". I told him,"No, no. I don't set things up. It always eventually happens." And within 30 seconds the grandson stood up to cast his line in again. It was what I had been waiting for. I began to "reel" in the shot. "I got it. I got it" I thought to myself. It was like catching the big one.

Sometimes we photojournalists rush through assignments being pushed on deadline. It is always good to be patient and take the time to fish out the shot you want. You'll be pleased with the result. It is never about firing off 300-400 adequate images. Take the time to search out those few original images that bring a new vantage point to everyone's view.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Setting Sails to Hawaii

Aloha! I just finished packing my bags for Hawaii. I am setting out with my beautiful wife to spend a whole week on the Big Island for our Honeymoon. As so, I won't be posting any blogs for a while. I will be enjoying my wife. I just checked the weather, and we are actually going to get some rain while we are there. It won't be like cold north state rain. I mean its going to be 75 degrees and still raining. Ah, I love the tropics. That's the rain you can dance in.

Cassie and I have our picture taken in 2007 along the beach of Waikiki in Oahu, Hi. Diamond Head can be seen in the background. (photo taken by Gloria Halley)

Cassie and I had travelled to Oahu two years ago and now we decided to head back trying to see a volcano and waterfalls. We love it and are excited to go. I'll keep it short being that I am too excited to keep writing here, and not travelling. Aloha!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Getting Back to Nature

Today I got the chance to photograph Plant of the Week. Yeah, that right, it's so exciting. Actually the truth is that Plant of the Week is very comforting. Normally I am rushing around shooting car accidents, fires and depressing stories that it is quite nice to photograph a beautiful subject. I enjoy Plant of the Week and any nature story. Being outdoors allows me to take a look at how beautiful the world around us really is.

Plant of the Week - The Dogwood tree at TJ. Nursery on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 in Chico, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I am considered an artist by some, but I don't feel I "create" as much as I "capture". Sure I can compose an image into something representing art; but I generally find that the Artist has already created His work and merely show others what I see. There are some "digital photographers" who use a lot of post-production in Photoshop to "create" and image. I keep mine simple. Auto-levels and curves. That is about it. I don't do too much dodging and burning which many film photographers still feel is a natural effect to photography. I keep my images pretty close to how I see them.

Plant of the Week - Blossoms on the Dogwood tree at TJ. Nursery on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 in Chico, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I always love nature shots because they carry many looks and feelings. I feel people are connected to nature in very similar ways to how they are connected to people. When you see someone with rosy cheeks and red lips you are embraced with a warmth. When you see people with direct posture you feel a sense of stability. These are reciprocated in when someone would see an image of a Dogwood tree blooming and feel a warmth from the vibrant red color. Or when someone looks up upon a Ginkgo biloba tree and feels a sense of strength and durability.

A Ginkgo Trees in front of 1417 Esplanade is one of the trees being looked at as a "Heritage Tree" on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 in Chico, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I love nature and love to experience it. I always am more captured by what I can see with my eyes and not my camera. There are things in this world that are beyond comparison. I try to show people just a little slice of the world that we know. We are always inundated by so many distractions in our culture that we can't forget what a wonderful sight everyday the nature around us shows. Whenever we feel this world has little beauty to offer, we just need to get back to nature.

Sprinkles Don't Rain Down on Baseball

I can't let a couple sprinkles rain down on my baseball game. I got a game to shoot and nothing is gonna stop me from getting the images I need. Well, if it were lightning and thunder I might at least hide up in the press box or something. Tuesday I covered Chico State against Concordia University under a dark sky. I generally don't mind cloud cover. It brings better lighting for the players. The shadows at Nettleton Stadium are atrocious. I just can't wait for Outlaws this summer...heh...yeah? These clouds did bring a cold wind and little sprinkle during the game.

Chico State's Bryan Willson (left) attempt to catch the ball to make a play against Concordia University's Pete Lemone (right) who slides safely into second base in the top of the first inning during their baseball game Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at CSUC Nettleton Stadium in Chico, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

Some sports play through any weather. While that sounds exciting, it might be more exciting from the comfort of being a fan sitting on a comfortable couch with a pizza in hand. When I have to work out in the cold, it is a very different story. Baseball is different. The weather can bring rain delays. Baseball players generally don't do well is harsh weather conditions. This isn't a bash against baseball players. I don't think anyone would be safe throwing a 90 mph hard ball with a slippery grip on a surface that you would be sliding around like you were on the Ice Capades.

Fans holds their umbrellas as rain sprinkles on Chico State's Bryan Willson at bat against Concordia University in the bottom of the second inning during their baseball game Tuesday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

In any event I must always continue to work. I needed to look for a shot that told the story of playing baseball with harsh weather. Light rain is not the easiest to photograph. It doesn't pick up well in digital photography. And when you have to shoot fast action behind it, the output is hard to manage. That day I was lucky enough to have game continue to play through the light rain. This gave me the chance to use the fans to my advantage. I am always looking at my backgrounds to assist the subject of the photo. I took the fans with their umbrellas and composed them behind a player. It is a simple shot with not a lot of action, but it gets the point across that the weather was cold and wet. I would have enjoyed a sliding play at home plate, but I'm not working for Getty quite yet. Besides it's too cold and wet to stay any longer than 3 innings. My hands were icicles out there.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Baseball Bummer

Generally, a good sports photo revolves around a great action shot. Looking for that peak action is always something we photographers strive for. Most times the peak action can become very predictable as you learn more about the sports you are covering. Volleyball: at the net. Basketball: under the hoop. And then there is baseball. Baseball is not my most favorable sport. Unlike the other sports, baseball is not really a contact sport. I try to look for the contact but when it comes it is fast and far between.

Most photographers don't favor baseball either. I feel that this is because there is not much contact in the sport. What I have learned is that baseball is much like shooting portraits. Once I stopped looking for action and started making portraits of the players, my shots improved. I could predict the plays as normal, but this time focus in on the people being the plays.

Chico State's Kevin Seaver (left) reaches out to complete the force out against UC San Diego's Josh Tanner, who is called out at first base in the top of the third inning of their baseball game Friday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

This weekend Chico State played UC San Diego in a 4-game series at Nettleton Stadium. The first game was disastrous with the team losing 19-8. It was painful to see the scoreboard keep climbing. Games like this don't lead to the best action shots. This is why I must look for a good portrait that conveys the emotion of the game. After hearing of the horrific loss from Friday's game, I began looking for a more emotional image for Saturday's doubleheader. I decided if they would lose those games an emotional shot would work best.

The image came in the third inning when third baseman Bret Ringer came up short on his run to first base. He was called out and he didn't look to happy about it. His out ended the inning. I followed him through my lens as he made a hit and raced down the line. Once he was called out I continued to follow him looking for a reaction. He finally showed his frustration once he began to take his helmet off. I snapped a few and had a shot.

Chico State's Bret Ringer reacts to being forced out at first base against UC San Diego in the bottom of the third inning during their first baseball game of a doubleheader Saturday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

Later in the next inning I was able to get another emotional shot and an action shot in the same play. Chico State's Jimmy Dodos scored by sliding into home plate putting the Cat's up by one in the bottom of the fourth inning. He was excited and I was able to capture his enthusiasm after being called safe. Unfortunately for the Cat's, the latter emotion didn't stick as they lost both games of their doubleheader Saturday. What did work out nicely is the image of Ringer showing his frustration. This image showed the Chico State baseball team emotion of their game play.

Chico State's Jimmy Dodos (left) slides safely into home plate against UC San Diego's Kellen Lee (right) in the bottom of the fourth inning during their first baseball game of a doubleheader Saturday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

Chico State's Jimmy Dodos pumps a fist after sliding safely into home plate against UC San Diego in the bottom of the fourth inning during their first baseball game of a doubleheader Saturday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

A shot like this is something that sets photographers apart. With camera gear getting cheaper, now parents can carry the type of equipment professional have. But there is a reason we are professionals. We are able to see the world a little differently and hopefully capture the difference to show the rest of the world. I tried to capture not just an ordinary baseball action shot, but something stronger. The team felt a baseball bummer, but that doesn't mean I have to either.

Friday, April 3, 2009

This Market Gains New Heights

Chico's annual tradition is back as the downtown streets were filled with the public for the Thursday Night Market. The Market has always been a highlight to the Chico night scene. This year I wanted to something different in photographing the event. It can become very easy to fall back on the general look that everyone sees. This is not my job. Everyone sees the Thursday Night Market from the same vantage point, six feet up and six feet back. I wanted to tackle the venue with a new height.

Lillian Gray, 21 (left) and Amanda Nimitz, 22 (right) pick out some flowers at the opening day of the Thursday Night Market on Thursday, April 2, 2009 in Chico, CA. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

During Christmas I received a 13' light stand as a gift. The primary purpose was for extending a flash into sky. I came to shortly realize the light stand had the strength to prop a camera 13' in the air too. I decided to take my new toy out on the town. It would give Chico a whole new view of itself. I called my friend Matt who agreed to help me carry the equipment. The stand is pretty light, but carrying two cameras, three lenses, a flash, camera bag, strobe kit bag, and a light stand can really wear a guy down. We carried the equipment down to the market and I began setting up. I placed a remote trigger to the camera so I could fire it from the ground as it hung in the air 13' above me.

People browse through Broadway St. during the opening day of the Thursday Night Market. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

Then I began taking images of the large crowd along Broadway. I would have to raise the camera up, trigger a couple of shots and then lower the camera down so that I could check the angle of view. It worked pretty well, but I had to race against the vanishing sunlight. The best shots of the market are at twilight when the is a rich night sky that illuminates the public in the streets. Once the sun goes down, the streets are black and forget shooting anything faster than 2 seconds. I took a couple of general shots from ground level. I actually wasn't "feeling" the Market like normal. It might have been because I arrived late coming from a volleyball game. There wasn't anything that was catching my eye as special or unique. I decided to keep my focus on my elevated viewpoint.

Seen from 4th St. people browse through vendors at the Thursday Night Markets. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I choose about nine or ten different locations before it got too dark to continue. It was very interesting to hear the public "ooh and awe" as they passed by. There were some who carried a camera of their own asking what was I doing and who I worked for. There were others who would say,"Oh, that will be a great shot.". It is funny to hear peoples responses when they see a guy who looks like he knows what he is doing. The truth is I really don't know much about what I am doing. But I can never get the shot by just thinking about it.

Hundreds of people line the streets of Downtown Chico Thursday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

I yield a 10% acceptance of my images. This means that if I want one good shot I have to take at least 10. Is this good? I don't really know. I just know that I have to shoot a lot to get a lot. I have known photographers that can just point and shoot the best in a single frame. I am a constant explorer always getting closer and closer to what I want. Sure I get those "single stunners", but for most occasions I am always searching for a better image. This keeps me from getting stale as I always try to beat my own best.

The Phoenix Building glows in the evening light at the Thursday Night Market. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

To my dismay, the desk did not know these photos were coming and had no room to use them in the paper. Since I wasn't feeling the images anyway, it gives me a chance to try for a better one. I have an idea in mind to improve the current images. I will give it a try. At least I can always have a next time to get to a new height.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wildflower Power!

Last week I had the opportunity to venture out to Table Mountain in Oroville, CA. The warm weather has brought the best out the wildflowers that lay over the open field. It is truly an amazing sight that we have every year to see so close to home.

People enjoy the weather atop Table Mountain as they fly kites and hang out Monday, March, 23, 2009 in Oroville, CA. (Jason Halley/ProPixelographer)

A lone purple flower pokes out amongst the yellow on Table Mountain. (Jason Halley/ProPixelographer)

I spent the day taking a mentee from Chico High's C.H.A.M.P.S. program to learn about landscape photography. My intentions that day were not to take many photos, but rather to teach. But when I saw all the color before my eyes, I couldn't help but snap a few.

People walk through the colorful wildflowers Table Mountain Monday, March, 23, 2009 in Oroville, CA. (Jason Halley/ProPixelographer)

Cows graze on Table Mountain as the Sutter Buttes are seen in the background Monday, March, 23, 2009 in Oroville, CA. (Jason Halley/ProPixelographer)

While searching out photos I would teach my mentee about how to always be looking. This is one of the adventures to being a photographer is that I am always investigating the world. I always tell them to exaggerate their skills. When you want to take a photo from a low angle, then get really low. Don't kneel down, but take the camera away from your face and lie on the ground. Put the camera on the ground. This might only change the height of the camera only about a foot or so, but the angle of view has such a dramatic difference.

A rock wall rests along the open fields of Table Mountain. (Jason Halley/ProPixelographer)

This idea of exaggerating your intentions was seen most apparent on an image of California Poppies. I stumbled on a hill of poppies glowing in the sunlight. I began taking pictures of them from a standing angle, but wanted to get a closer look. I knelt down, but still could not get the shot. I loved the deep blue sky behind the rich orange poppies. I just needed to figure out an angle to match those two items together. Then I decided to just go ahead and lay down. Once I was lying down, the shot still wasn't quite there. I had to lay my camera on the ground. I would use the live view option on my camera to compose the shot. I took about 50 images to get the one. I ended up being very pleased with the shoot.

California poppies cover Table Mountain Monday, March, 23, 2009 in Oroville, CA. (Jason Halley/ProPixelographer)

California Poppies pop out of the ground on Table Mountain in March. (Jason Halley/ProPixelographer)

Being that I wasn't out there on a work day, I didn't feel any of the struggles to get a shot quick and get back for deadline. I actually was able to take the time and enjoy my surroundings. And I think it paid off. I am pleased with the end result. Just walking around I was able to shoot for myself. The wildflowers are still flourishing if you get a chance to get out there. But don't worry if you miss it. There is always next year. It is one of the joys of this geography that we have the opportunity to see nature's beauty just a few miles away.