Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cameron three months later

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Above) Vehicles remain scattered along the entry into Cameron, La. on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2005. Plans are being considered for the government to purchase all coastal property in southeastern Louisiana at pre-hurricane prices.

(Left) A mobile home and other wreckage remain untouched in Cameron.

Homes and cars remain destroyed in Cameron, La.

An anchor remains in a driveway near a destroyed car in Cameron.

A destroyed home has a message that the owner plans to rebuild in Cameron.

Charles Primeaux, Jr. dumps destroyed clothes from his home (pink house on the left) in Cameron.

Only one new structure has been erected in Cameron.

(Right) Donald Eure shucks oysters aboard the Lizzy J. at T.J.'s Seafood dock in Cameron. Eure has homes in both Cameron and Panama City, Fla.

(Below) Donald Eure shucks oysters aboard the Lizzy J. at T.J.'s Seafood dock in Cameron. He said the seafood plant was the first business to open in Cameron after Hurricane Rita.

For additional coverage, please see Hurricane Rita's toll on SW Louisiana or Mark's Hurricane Rita visual timeline.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Dangerous dry conditions

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Lenard Bettis III of the Winnie - Stowell Volunteer Fire Department battles a field fire near Interstate 10 in Winnie on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2005. The fire began as a controlled burn but got out of control.

A fire spreads toward an overpass near Interstate 10 as the Winnie - Stowell Volunteer Fire Department tries to control it. The VFD chief said the department handled 50 percent more calls this year than last year.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Beasley gallops

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

West Orange-Stark's Kenneth Beasley (No. 7, center) threads the needle between Anahuac's Grady Richardson (No. 1, left) and Clay Hanf (No. 33, right) at Mustang Stadium in West Orange on Thursday, October 13, 2005. It was the first day for high school football to return to Southeast Texas after Hurricane Rita.

Beasley was named as one of the area's players of the year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Grilled grin

Lil Roe, a Beaumont-based rapper and recording artist with Go Gettas Entertainment, shows off his mouth grill at a recording studio in Beaumont on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2005. Many hip-hop performers are opting for million-dollar smiles with gold and diamonds.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Lil Roe shows off his mouth grill at a recording studio in Beaumont. The grill inserts over teeth like a retainer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Prepared for returns

(Right) Guest services representative Charles Williams returns money to a shopper at Target in Beaumont on Friday, Dec. 23, 2005.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Left) Guest services representative Nekendra Diggles handles a return at Target in Beaumont.

Photoshop Shape tool tips

Photoshop features various custom shape tools. Later versions contain the shapes we'll discuss today (sorry 3.0 users). These can be laid over an existing image, sized and embedded into the image itself. This is useful for preserving copyright, pointing out particular parts of a photo (arrows) or various other "artistic" aftertreatments.

As always, it's critical to save the photo with a new name (Save As) before we work with an original image. Otherwise, the original is gone forever. Hopefully, the original is already on a read-only CD, so there's no way to write over the original information.

The copyright custom shape tool is probably the single most useful custom shape. This shape lets others know an image is owned and use requires payment. It completely eliminates the "I didn't know" excuse.

It's best when combined with a photographer's name and Web site. Then, there is absolutely no excuse for copyright infringement.

Although the shape can be moved until the image is flattened, it's best to add text first and then add the shape tool (for sizing and placement reasons). To move the shape at any point, select the Move tool (quad-arrows) from the toolbar. Drag the layer where desired.

To use the custom shape tool, open an image in Photoshop. Choose the custom shape tool (it looks like a splat on the toolbar). Click on the arrow next to the shape indicator at the top of the screen. Choose the © symbol (by the way, the html code for this symbol is "& copy" without a space between them).

Once the shape is chosen, click on the top bar of the image. Move the cursor to the desired location for the symbol. Click, hold and drag the mouse toward a lower, right hand corner until an appropriately size © appears. The © appears as the mouse is moved.

To change the color of the ©, click on the Color box at the top of the page. Select a desired color or create a custom color with the RGB controls.

Once the text and © symbol are in the desired location, choose Flatten Image from the Layer options. Save.

Rule of thirds
This part may seem random, but it'll make sense when I post about composition.

Photoshop features a rule of thirds custom shape tool. This can be laid over an image to assist with cropping to the rule of thirds or checking an existing composition against the rule of thirds.

To use this tool, open an image in Photoshop. Choose the custom shape tool (it looks like a splat on the toolbar). Click on the arrow next to the shape indicator at the top of the screen. Choose the rule of thirds grid (it's often the last shape offered).

Once the shape is chosen, click on the top bar of the image. Hit the Caps Lock button to change the cursor to precise. Move the precise dot to the upper left hand corner of the frame. Click, hold and drag the mouse toward a lower, right hand position. The grid will appear as the mouse is moved.

Adjust the grid to a desired composition. The goal is to have a primary subject item (an eye for example) on one of the four inside intersections or the horizon line inside one of the outer thirds. Change to the crop tool. Crop around the exterior of the new composition. Double click to set the crop.

Open Layers (under Window) if not already open. Select the custom shape tool layer. Click on the upper right hand arrow. Choose Delete Layer. The composition now conforms to the rule of thirds. Save.

Enough for now,

Monday, December 26, 2005

Offensive Player of the Year

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Newton High School senior Toddrick Pendland poses for a portrait at the school in Newton on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005. Pendland was named by The Beaumont Enterprise as the Offensive Player Of The Year after Newton won the state championship.

Art is frustrating

Technically, PJs are artists. As artists go, PJs are technical. We work with numerical calculations and mostly standard compositions to tell stories - other people's stories. But through it all, we tell the story of ourselves.

We tell stories through "art." The images we make are an extension of ourselves. These images show where we've been, how we work with other folks, what we've done, how we've survived and how we've grown - as storytellers, technicians and artists.

Often, our images tell about the mistakes we've made. Common mistakes include bad exposures, timing, focus and compositions. They also tell of wasted time and opportunities to tell stories differently. Or, more regrettably, they tell of time wasted when we should have told different stories altogether.

When I was in college, I lived in the art dorm. An intelligent, eccentric graffiti artist lived across the hall from me. He personified art. He had tattoos, piercings, dred locks, combat boots, a leather jacket and a kilt.

He was emotionally committed to his artwork. He cursed. He threw things across the studio. He cursed. He broke things. He cursed. He would dig through trash dumpsters for supplies. He cursed. He wrapped his hair around small branches to make paintbrushes to unleash his raging art. Did I mention he cursed ... often.

He was tortured by art. He worked on calculus problems to ease his mind from the hardship of art.

At the time, I focused on the technical aspects of photography. So, I didn't fully appreciate his struggles. While writing an upcoming post about composition, I've come to understand and even appreciate his torment. Calculus, which has a fixed answer, is much easier than art, which has no answers. Art only questions.

Furthermore, quality art is never correct. Quality art always has flaws. Art can always be better. At the same time, it can't. Quality art is synchronistic flaws. A technically perfect piece of art is boring. It takes mistakes to elevate art to perfect. Calculus is easier.

Each time we grasp a camera, we expect mistakes. Even if everything's perfect, bad chemistry or other problems can destroy what we've made. And, as we've determined, it destroys a part of us because we are the beginning and end of what we create as art.

A painter begins with a blank canvas and must fill it. A sculptor begins with metal, rock, clay or wood and must mold it into a shape. PJs begin with a blank sheet of film or a blank memory card. Our beginning is the same.

Instead of a painful, sudden birth of art, PJs experience an agonizing drawn-out gestation period. We struggle through the conceptual phase (finding story ideas), the development phase (getting access) and the growth phase (technical background). When the images are finally made, we're pleased if they have all the right parts. The art we create is a relief.

While other artists must labor within their own mind to create art, PJs explore the world outside ourselves (the uncontrollable world) and find scenes and compositions to fill our frame.

During the actual labor pains of art, PJs fixate on the elaborate mechanical apparatus upon which our art must perform. We let ourselves believe our work is nothing but hardware, math, experience and location.

To accept responsibility for artistic success would indicate we're artists using a tool. It means we're responsible for the entire process. This might be seen as a direct conflict with our prime mission:   tell the truth.

As such, we recoil from the title "artist." We prefer to call ourselves documentarians or technicians. However, we must eventually recognize others call our work "art." We must also address the aesthetics of our work. In other words, we must tell the truth and create art. To do so, we must understand some art basics.

Consequently, we must periodically step back and look inside ourselves instead of at the world around us. This is where art begins.

Inside PJs' minds exist the elaborate visual language by which we communicate with our viewers. Although this language is governed by classical rules, those rules are often in direct conflict with each other or the reality surrounding PJs. Additionally, new rules are introduced by each failure or success. The end results are the visual stories we collect upon blank sheets of film. This outward expression of our internal visual language is called art.

Art is confusing and frustrating. It's even harder to explain. But, we must all eventually confront it individually to understand it.

Enough for now,

Sunday, December 25, 2005

FEMA Christmas

Brittany Smith, 15, said Christmas is about family. The rest of the Smith family seconded her insight. The family lost their home and personal items, but they have each other and a FEMA-provided trailer. With a tiny artificial tree and carefully wrapped packages, they are prepared to begin anew and rebuild what Hurricane Rita tried to take away. Through it all, they still have family.

The Smith family watches Jake Dale Smith, 7, (a mixed breed dog, bottom) speak for treats in their FEMA-provided trailer on their property in Vidor on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2005. From left to right are Martin Smith; Lauren Smith, 17; Brittany Smith, 15; Ashlyn Tucker, 10, and Becky Smith.

The Smith family is prepared to celebrate Christmas in their FEMA-provided trailer on their property in Vidor. Their home was destroyed by trees and water during Hurricane Rita. From left to right are Becky Smith; Ashlyn Tucker, 10; Colton Yount, 15; Lauren Smith, 17; Martin Smith and Brittany Smith, 15.

Becky Smith (left) and Martin Smith (right) discuss last-minute shopping for Christmas in their FEMA-provided trailer on their property in Vidor.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Taste of the season

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Maddison Taylor, 9 months, tastes one of the family's tree ornaments in Silsbee on Friday, Dec. 16, 2005. The family gathers annually to decorate the tree with many handmade and keepsake ornaments collected throughout the years.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Winter Wonderland Christmas Holiday Parade

(Right) Sgt. James Johnson of the 644th Transporation Comany in Beaumont decorates a float before the parade in Beaumont on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2005. This year's parade was dedicated to the armed forces.

(Below) Dinah Rogers (left) and Tim Irvin (right) of CenterPoint Energy help decorate the company's truck before the parade on Main Street.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Right) Doneane Beckcom of Port Neches attaches lights onto parade participants before the Winter Wonderland Christmas Holiday Parade.

(Below) Asia Rogers, 4, (left) watches floats as her cousin Keshawn Morris, 5, (right) runs for thrown treats during the Winter Wonderland Christmas Holiday Parade.

U.S. Corps of Army Engineers and FEMA representatives throw prizes from a float during the Winter Wonderland Christmas Holiday Parade on Main Street in Beaumont.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dec. iTune downloads

* Desert Rose by Sting (reminds me of Fayrouz)
* She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby (most fav song)
* Life In a Northern Town by The Dream Academy (oboe rock)
* Can't Get You out of My Head by Kylie Minogue
* Our House by Madness
* Perfect Way by Scritti Politti
* Father Figure by George Michael (great video)
* Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass
* Twilight Zone by Golden Earring
* Whip It by Devo
* White Flag by Dido (in support of her stand against racism)
* Careless Whisper by George Michael (Fay's request)

Hear samples of these songs. I got a dozen as a starter month.

Beaumont Tree Lighting Festival

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Deshaun Bell, 7, (from left to right) Kailon Forward, 7, Lori Redeau and Lyrique Redeau, 5, prepare peanut butter bird feeders before the Winter Wonderland Christmas Holiday Parade on Main Street in Beaumont on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2005.

(Right) Tobi Burgan, 9, of Beaumont prepares a gingerbread man during the Winter Wonderland Tree Lighting Festival at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.

(Below) Members of the Lamar University Jazz Band perform during the Winter Wonderland Tree Lighting Festival at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.

Beaumont firefighters officially light a Christmas tree at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas before the Winter Wonderland Christmas Holiday Parade.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Feast of Sharing

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Alexandria Bobineaux, 5, of Beaumont selects extra treats at a table during the H-E-B 15th Annual Feast of Sharing at Ford Park in Beaumont on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2005.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NPPA clarifies photo blog category in BOP

I got some clarification for folks wanting to enter this year's NPPA Best of Photojournalism competition in the Web division categories. The blog category is for amateurs only.

However, pros can compete with parts of their blogs in the Picture stories division. Pro-photobloggers can compete as INDE Web sites. If the pro photobloggers are part of a publication's URL ( they must compete in the OVER or UNDER category.

This probably means bloggers don't stand a chance against fancy Flash presentations, but what the heck. Let's all give it a go, and they might make a pro blog division next year. :-)

Here's the clarification I got from Eric at NPPA:

I have consulted the contest chair for the web division and he stated that sites created by professionals are eligible for entry into the Independent sites classification. In this sense, the blog category is only for non-pro citizen photojournalism. Pro stories, even from blogs, should be entered in the Independent classification in the different categories. We will amend the rules online to make this distinction clearer. Please feel free to write with any questions or concerns.


Eric Waters
NPPA Sales & Contests
National Press Photographers Association

So, what does this mean for non-pro photobloggers? It means you have been invited to the party. If your images rock, prove it. Go head to head with the absolute best amateur photobloggers in the world and have your work judged by trained, pro PJs.

There are three blog categories:
1. Portraits
2. Festivals and Events
3. Photojournalism

The winners in these categories go against the big dogs for special awards.

Remember to check your egos at the door. This competition is extremely difficult to win. "Amateur" is a broad definition. It means anyone not making a full-time living in PJ work. In other words, all the bloggers who are also weekend stringers at major papers and magazines are eligible because they have day jobs. So, competition won't be as easy at it first appears.

Since it's the first year for this category, new photobloggers (on the verge of greatness) have a strong chance of winning. Next year will be even more difficult. So, take advantage of this year's opportunity.

Enough for now,

Biz district rain

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Darcy Henry of Port Neches walks in the rain through the business district in downtown Beaumont on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005. A cold front created rain throughout Southeast Texas.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Treeless garden center

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Kathy Fields arranges fruit at the Beaumont Garden Center on College Street in Beaumont on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005. She said the center sold out of several hundred trees far before expected because Hurricane Rita damaged Southeast Texas tree farms. Many Southeast Texans purchase Christmas trees directly from these farms.

(Right) Raymond Domingue of Beaumont selects fruit to purchase at Beaumont Garden Center in Beaumont. Few wreaths remain for sale.

(Below) A limited number of prepared fruit and nut baskets await customers at Beaumont Garden Center in Beaumont.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Suggested reading and gifts for PJs

Maybe all the good little PJs didn't get the gifts they wanted this year. Possibly, some PJs have an upcoming birthday. Since it's the end of the year, some PJs may be looking for last-minute tax write offs for professional development.

No matter the reason, here are some books all PJs should read or have in their own library (preferably sitting on their desk). There are many others, but these are the cornerstones.

I've also listed every possible need in The PJ Candy Store.

Learn it: understand how to make images

by Barbara London, John Upton
The Negative
by Ansel Adams, Robert Baker
AP Photojournalism Stylebook
by Brian Horton
The Nikon School Handbook
by William Pekala (Editor), Harvey Johnson (Editor)
National Geographic Photography Field Guide
by Peter Burian, Bob Caputo
National Media Guide for Emergency & Disaster Incidents
by Bob, Jr. Riha, David Handschuh
Major Principles of Media Law
by Wayne Overbeck

Earn it: earn money with your work

Photographers Market(changes annually)
by Donna Poehner (Editor)
ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography
by American Society of Media Photographers
Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business
by Vik Orenstein

Churn it: reference materials

AP Stylebook and Lible Manual (spiral edition)
The Associated Press
Webster's New World College Dictionary
by Michael E. Agnes

Burn it: get these images into your brain

Deeds of War
by James Nachtwey, Robert Stone (out of print, but available)
Moments: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs
by Hal Buell

Turn it: a shameless plug :-)

Rita Captured (SOLD OUT)
The Beaumont Enterprise

Enough for now,

Playing tight

Memorial High School's Dominique Keller (No. 23, left) keeps his eyes on the ball as an Ozen High School's Ben Wells (No. 14, right) tries to block a pass during a basketball game at Lincoln High School in Port Arthur on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise