Friday, July 29, 2005

Shoot Freestyle Motocross

Eric Farr performs stunts during a practice run for the Freestyle Motocross show at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Friday, July 29, 2005.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Toby Whittington performs stunts during a practice run for the Freestyle Motocross show at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Friday, July 29, 2005.

If this tour comes to your town, shoot it. They are cool (no problems with IDs or access), and they are fun to watch. I shot a media practice session before the first evening. This let me set up my strobes and work the arena from different angles.

If time allows, try to shoot a live show as well. The lighting is better, fans make a better background and they'll do the extremely dangerous stunts for competition.

There is one visual problem. The images can all start to look alike. I shot from all around the arena. Although the riders and the stunts are different, the images all have the same look (vertical). So, if you want to pull a package out of it rather than a front and inside pair, you'll need to work riders on the floor as well as the aerials. Since I knew we would run a pair, I concentrated on the jumps.

Due to the shapes they make, and how high they jump (almost to the ceiling), images like these are best shot at a 65-degree front position with a 400mm lens on a dit from the top of a normal arena (1st tier at major arenas). If shooting available light, a side view with a 200mm or 300mm can mix up the visuals, but my strobe created shadows and a background sign was annoying.

Enough for now,

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Jo Krausz, an extension plant pathologist, talks to visitors during the 58th Annual Rice Field Day at the Texas A&M Research Extension in Beaumont on Thursday, July 14, 2005.

Catch, then tag

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Tiffany Ritchie (right) of Texas Connection from Lake Jackson slides safely onto second base past Ashley Waldron of the Houston Jets (left) during the American Fastpitch Association national softball tournament at Ford Fields in Beaumont on Thursday, July 28, 2005.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Photos everywhere

I updated the Hemphill space shuttle countdown images and posted them below.

Meanwhile Fayrouz posted some of our images from the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens in Galveston on her Break Room blog.

Enough for now,

The land of milk and honey ... bees

The Rev. Matt Thomas of the Faith United Methodist Church of Fannett pries the lid off his bees in a field in Fannett on Wednesday, July 27, 2005.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Thomas uses smoke before moving his bees. Smoke causes the bees to engorge and makes them less likely to sting the beekeeper.

Thomas inspects his bees for parasites. The bees' social structure gives Thomas a lot of sermon material on hard work, productivity and taking care of one another.

Thomas points out his hive's queen bee. The queen bee is the only female capable of reproducing. Younger queens tend to produce more offspring and allow the hive population to grow and produce more honey.

Before y'all ask. Yup, I got stung. Twice. Once on the eyelid and once on the arm. Yup, it hurt. Yup, I'm mildly allergic to bees.

The bees were cool until I was done shooting. I was about to get into my truck when I saw one out of the corner of my eye. I blinked, and it stung me on the lower eyelid of my left eye. If I hadn't blinked, I'm certain it would have stung my eyeball directly.

So, if anyone has a bee assignment, the closer to the hive the PJ gets, the safer it seems to be. The Kamikaze bees seem to fly on the perimeter.

As an additional safety note, when stung by a honey bee, scrape the stinger out. If you try to squeeze it out like a splinter, it only injects more venom. At least I knew this one helpful hint because my dad raised bees until I was stung by a scorpion and became allergic to bees.

If stung, take Benadryl Maximum Strength antihistamine capsules. Benadryl also produces a topical cream, but I'm not certain it works as well as wet baking soda to releive the pain and remove the venom.

Luckily, honey bees can only sting one time, and then they die (except the queen, who has a strait stinger). Unfortunately once a bee stings someone, it releases pheremones to let the other bees know where to attack.

Enough for now,

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Shuttle recovery helpers

(Left) A marker remains on Beckcom Road in Hemphill. It is near the location where the remains of Kalpana Chawla were found after the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas.

The original marker was placed there by Roger Coday. He and his brother Frank Coday were the first to identify the remains as human according to some reports.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Right) Belinda (top) and Roger Gay (bottom) take a break from work at Fat Fred's Restaurant and gas station in Hemphill on Thursday, July 7, 2005. They helped organize the community to assist the Columbia space shuttle recovery workers. They will attend the next shuttle launch in Florida on Wednesday.

(Above) Belinda Gay wears her space shuttle pins each day at Fat Fred's Restaurant and gas station. She helped organize the community to provide food and lodging for recovery workers.

(Below) Clark Barnett talks with Belinda Gay at Fat Fred's Restaurant. Barnett was one of the first people to find the remains of astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-born woman in space, while he drove to the hardware store.

Robert and Belinda Gay; Marsha Cooper of the US Forest Service; Billy Ted Smith, emergency management coordinator for Sabine, Newton and Jasper counties; and Fred Raney, pastor of the First Baptist Church, were invited to Cape Canaveral, Fla. to watch the launch on July 13, 2005.

(Above) Sections of the planned memorial are on display at the Hemphill Chamber of Commerce in Hemphill. The space shuttle mission was canceled on Wednesday, July 13 while many Hemphill residents were in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

(Right) Hemphill Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Faye Broadway (left) listens to board member Rhoda W. Berry (right) talk about the time following the disaster at the chamber office in Hemphill.

(Above) Belinda Gay (right) wipes away a tear as she and Marsha Cooper of the US Forest Service (left) watch televised coverage of the space shuttle Discovery launch at the VFW Post in Hemphill on Tuesday, July 26, 2005. The VFW Post had been the recovery command center when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over East Texas.

Both Gay and Cooper were invited and attended the scheduled launch earlier this month at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. When the first launch attempt was canceled, they decided to watch the launch and gain some closure together in Hemphill.

(Above) Ray Broadway (from left to right) shakes hands with Tony Alexander as Faye Broadway, police chief Roger McBride and Belinda Gay relax after watching the safe launch of space shuttle Discovery at the VFW Post in Hemphill.

The VFW Post served as the recovery command center when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over East Texas. Alexander was the commander of VFW district 19 during the tragedy and was on the first recovery search team.

For more information, please see NASA's Web site.
Enough for now,

Housing boom?

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Leo Torres with Bobby Gaston Construction of Lumberton inspects wood as he frames a home in the Westchase Village subdivision of Beaumont on Thursday, July 21, 2005. Many areas around Beaumont have experienced a sharp rise in housing starts.
Enough for now,

Monday, July 25, 2005

Nursing home entertainment

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

WIBF light heavyweight champion of the world Valerie Mahfood (left) of Groves referees a boxing match between Pate Austin, 5, of Vidor (center) and Jamie Whaten, 6, of Beaumont (right) at the Beaumont Nursing and Rehabilitation center in Beaumont on Saturday, July 23, 2005. The event invited local celebrities and guests to box three rounds with Mahfood to raise funds to purchase a large screen television for the center's residents.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Count the sounds

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Park ranger / education specialist Leslie Dubey of the National Park Service has visitors count the number of natural sounds they hear on the Kirby Nature Trail at the Big Thicket National Preserve on Friday July 1, 2005. Land is being purchased to add to the Big Thicket National Preserve.

About done

I've been working on the events blog to make it a useful tool. By the end of this week, I should have it hammered into enough shape to start maintaining itself. This means I'll have time and get back to writing PJ-related stuff soon.

I've fielded some questions about the events blog as a PJ tool. I'd suggest other PJs could find great use building up their own regularly scheduled events lists. It allows the PJ to have something available with little notice if a story falls apart. It also helps build idea and contact files for various subjects and organizations.

The monthly events lists are difficult to build and maintain. I needed them down here for various reasons, so I had to make it. If a PJ's newspaper already has a functioning online events calendar, it's not worth the trouble.

However, PJs who know what's happening will always have an advantage when dealing with the word side of the house. If a PJ knows about a weeklong event, a reporter without forethought can't act as if it's a surprise on the last day of the event. If the event was so critical, it would have been assigned when the PJ knew about it a month before it happened.

Likewise, if a PJ really wants to cover a particular event because it has visual potential, s/he can pitch the subject to a amiable reporter and get to spend a day on the beach rather than at a zoning commission meeting. Knowledge is power. ;-}

Enough for now,

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Getting a strike

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Above) Crossroads Bowling Center general manager Mark Williams demonstrates a perfect strike at the center in Beaumont on Tuesday, June 21, 2005.

(Below) Mark Williams, a former professional bowler, demonstrates the proper bowling delivery sequence at the Crossroads Bowling Center in Beaumont.

Enough for now,

Friday, July 22, 2005

Focus feature

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Prentice Barrow of Focus sings during the inaugural Cajun Zydeco Jamm Fest at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Saturday, July 16, 2005. Focus is a quartet of singers from Ozen High School in Beaumont. They recently performed at the Apollo Theater.
Enough for now,

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Champion goat tyer

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Stephanie Jacks of Beaumont poses for a portrait with Daisy, a 10-year-old quarter horse, at her family's barn in Fannett on Friday, June 24, 2005. She won the national championship for goat tying at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. on Saturday, June 18, 2005.

Goat tying is a collegiate rodeo event where participants ride up to a tethered goat and bind its legs together with a rope. The winners accomplish it in the shortest time without penalties.

Enough for now,

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Recruit workout

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

U.S. Army recruit Floyd Guillory of Vidor is supervised by Houston Recruiting Battalion soldiers as he climbs a rock wall at the American Legion Post in Beaumont on Saturday, July 16, 2005. The recruits also toured the Port of Beaumont and viewed military equipment.
Enough for now,

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Zydeco Fest accordion

Brian Jack of Brian Jack & the Zydeco Gamblers from Dayton works the accordion during the inaugural Cajun Zydeco Jamm Fest at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Saturday, July 16, 2005.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Monday, July 18, 2005

Rice reflections

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Sprinklers water a crop of rice during the 58th Annual Rice Field Day at the Texas A&M Research Extension in Beaumont on Thursday, July 14, 2005.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Americare outrage

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Above) Richard Schlesinger (center), whose wife is from the Beaumont Americare office, voices his anger at the situation outside the Americare office in Pinehurst on Friday, July 15, 2005. The home health care company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the company bounced payroll checks totaling about $140,000 for its 762 employees.

Former Americare employees gather outside the company's office in Pinehurst on Friday to collect back pay.

This situation is both an example of the good and bad parts of this job. It's good when PJs can show the damage inflicted on the working people by inconsiderate business owners (putting it mildly). It motivates the community to do some house cleaning and rally to help their neighbors.

It's bad when we must go into situations where people are already injured and we can't immediately help. The harm has already been inflicted upon these workers. I could only document their pain. However, their anguish should be seen by other workers at other companies. It should give them (as well as investors) reason to pay close attention to the management of a business and take appropriate actions before it gets to this point.

Of the people waiting to get back pay, most understood the PJ's role and were helpful. Others were simply angry at the employer and verbally lashed out at everyone: the former employer, the police and the media (me). I understood they were in pain and needed to vent, but it's difficult to take the brunt of their anger when we're trying to help.

I covered a candlelight vigil in Dallas after a known gang member was shot dead by a police officer. Because of the situation, I was the sole "outsider" at the event. It was not only unpleasant, it was also dangerous because I was on my own (the police couldn't be there). I wasn't terribly concerned because of my background, but I could see where it might shake up some PJs without military or martial arts backgrounds.

One of my co-workers called this week the trifecta. Each PJ on staff was screamed at, verbally threatened or generally abused by folks who had nowhere else to vent on three different assignments. It's rough, but it's part of the job and part of society. We must show the pain to help prevent it from happening again. Now the question remains, how do we prevent it from happening again?

PJs can only show the problem and pieces of the solution. It's up to the community to repair the problems and heal from the wounds. It's our job to show them how well they're doing.

Enough for now,

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A near miss

Softball players and parents listen to game delay instructions as lightning flashes nearby during the TXAFA State Tournament at Ford Park in Beaumont on Friday, June 8, 2005.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

I'll admit the foreground is... well... it sucks, but it's hard to predict lightning. I'm filing this under "it can be done." Next time it will be better. For the techies, it's at f/22 on 200 iso at about 1/50th and hand held with a 80~200mm zoom.
Enough for now,

Friday, July 15, 2005

High gas prices

Renee Simon of Port Arthur fills the tank of her Honda del Sol at Fast Lane No. 27 in Groves on Tuesday, July 12, 2005. Although the gas station is down the street from a Total Petrochemical refinery, the price of a gallon of fuel was similar to other retailers around the Golden Triangle. Gas prices across the U.S. are at new record highs.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Fly like a Falcon

Miles Watson, 11, of Beaumont performs tricks at the Police Activities League's Five-O Skate Park in Beaumont on Saturday, July 9, 2005.

Pro skateboard star Todd Falcon appeared later with his demo team and band to promote his skateboard DVD and music CD.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bunker buster

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Pro golfer Michael Arnaud fights his way out of a bunker during the Fourth Annual Brentwood Country Club 54-Hole Blowout at Brentwood Country Club in Beaumont on Monday, July 4, 2005. He won the tournament.
Enough for now,

Collegiate PJs should know this

An author is writing an "introduction to collegiate student publications" book. She asked me a set of questions about photojournalism. Considering how strongly I feel about the field, I might be the wrong person to ask.

However, it did force me to think about how miserable my work was when I first started down this path. Improper exposures, soft focus, missed moments and general cluelessness are all part of the learning curve. Every pro suffered through it in the beginning. It takes some slapping around (self-induced or via a mentor) to get past the initial failings.

I want to expand on some of these issues soon, but below is the bare minimum I think collegiate student journalists need to know.

For the pros who visit this humble corner of the blogosphere, consider how you would answer the questions below. If you disagree or feel something is amiss, please let me know (comment or e-mail), and I'll relay your thoughts to the author as well.

If you want to skip ahead to questions, use these numbers:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

1. The audience for my book is primarily students working on their college newspapers. Some are journalism or photojournalism majors, many aren't and they may not have much background in the basics of journalism/photojournalism. Considering this, what do you think are some of the key things I should touch on in the photojournalism chapter?

To capsulate photojournalism: photojournalists tell stories with visual verbs.

Photography is about documenting nouns (people, places and things). Journalism is about telling stories. Photojournalism is telling stories with photographs. However, while photographers use nouns, photojournalists must capture verbs (actions).

The verb is the key component of a photojournalistic image because news photographs are always accompanied with a caption or cutline. These are two-sentence written summaries that include who, what, when, where, why and how. Additionally, these images frequently augment or promote a written news story.

Before we continue, we must understand still photography is the single most powerful medium of communication. Because of the way the eyes and brain work, still photographs can become part of a viewer's memory in a matter of seconds. Powerful images are literally burned into the neural network of a viewer's mind. Years later, viewers are able to describe photographs in detail after only a few seconds of initial examination.

Furthermore, photography cuts across all social, linguistic, educational, intellectual and age barriers. Within seconds, a three-year-old in any part of the world is able to understand emotions and actions captured in a photograph.

With this great power comes great responsibility. Accurate and compassionate visual reportage is also critically important to news outlets, subscribers and democracy as a whole. It must be executed to the highest ethical and technical standards.

Photojournalists must first become great story tellers. They must understand journalism, sociology and photography as well as or better than those professionals. Additionally, they must be driven, passionate, organized, clerical, courteous, flexible, artistic, physically capable and mentally agile.

Photojournalism is not an easy job. It is not a glamorous job. However, it's often fun and satisfying. Most professional photojournalists can't imagine having another job.

College publications are excellent training grounds for young PJs. Collegiate publications allow PJs access to news and feedback. If taken seriously, these publications can lead to competition wins and eventually to freelance or staff jobs at major newspapers or magazines.

Because many student reporters don't have sufficient backgrounds in journalism, it's important to immerse oneself in the medium. Overall, the industry is contracting while the demand for top-notch reporters is rising (due to retirement). Consequently, there are no openings for minimally adequate reporters or PJs. Only the best and most passionate survive in this industry.

2. Can you tell me a bit about your experiences on student newspapers?
What are you most proud of? What do you know now about photojournalism that you wish you knew then?

In college, I worked on the student publications as a writer, photojournalist, news editor, and editor-in-chief on the newspaper side and a PJ and writer on the magazine side.

I won several collegiate awards for both writing and photography. The most notable was first place for Story Illustration, Single Photo at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Awards in 1995.

Looking back, I wish I had been more competitive and learned more about the business side of the profession while I was in college. It's important to learn early to survive financially in this profession. Otherwise, it takes more time and more work to create a reputation and achieve an acceptable level of income.

Everyone is cutting budgets and will gladly take quality work for less than it's worth. Low prices only damage the ability of PJs to acquire equipment and be available for assignments. It's easy to stay busy as a PJ. However, it's impossible to continue when PJs are averaging less than minimum wage or losing money while making images for cheap buyers.

Young PJs must learn the bare minimum they must charge to break even under any circumstance. This includes the costs involved in renting all equipment required to complete a shoot. If the PJs already own the equipment, it saves them money. However, if the equipment breaks, they must rent it to complete the shoot. If the job bid price is too low, they immediately lose money and need to increase their workload simply to pay for the first shoot.

Additionally, PJs must keep as many rights as possible to their images. It's fine to accept extremely large sums for all rights, but anything less than $1,000 per frame is a potential loss. Student publications should never expect to have any rights beyond one-time use.

3. Student newspapers, perhaps even more than professional papers, cover a lot of speeches. What advice do you have for photojournalists trying to make interesting images out of speeches and meetings?

I don't believe it's necessary to shoot talking heads. It's always better to arrive early and/or stay after the speech to get more natural images of the speaker interacting with other folks. Typically, the speaker are more relaxed after the speech than before, but it depends on the content of the speech.

If there's no way to avoid the dreaded lectern shot, try to shoot it from the side. This keeps the microphone out of the subject's face, it often requires a longer lens and the shallow depth of field helps clean up the background. Remember to shoot from both sides of the room to let page designers have more than one layout option.

4. What advice do you have on shooting sports?

Again, I have detailed instructions about many sports on my blog.

All team sports have the same starting sequence. The photographer must shoot a frame of the official roster for both teams. Otherwise, there's no way to identify the players. Even if the photographer is given copies of the rosters, shoot a frame of each roster to keep the names in the archive with the images. Also, shoot signs to identify the venue's proper name.

For team sports, it's most import to take follow-up shots to identify players by their jersey numbers. Without these numbers, the player can't be confirmed and the greatest images in the world go unused. Corrections are unacceptable and kill a PJ's reputation.

Before covering a sporting event, look at as many images of the sport as possible. Analyze the successful images and understand how this image occurred. Photographers must ask themselves some questions. What were the players doing? How did the photographer make the image? What equipment or access is required? Try to emulate the images you like and avoid failed images.

Because most sports are played in evenly-lit venues, images are about focus and timing. Although auto-focus lenses have become better in recent years, most student-PJs have manual lenses or instable AF lenses which are best focused manually.

Practice focusing skills on moving cars and other fast objects. Don't load film into the camera, simply follow objects and get a feel for keeping the plane of focus on the lead edge of the subject. Also, learn to keep both eyes open while shooting sports. The non-firing eye watches the action and predicts variables while the shooting eye concentrates on composition and focus.

Timing is also delicate. While shooting at 1/1000th of a second, there are 999 wrong times to shoot. Each camera has a slightly different lag time measured in millionths of seconds. PJs must be familiar enough with the camera to compensate for the lag time and nail the shot at the precise moment.

Most successful sports images are about collisions and emotions. Understand when and where collisions are most likely to occur and concentrate on those areas. These collisions are obvious in contact sports, but lesser collisions occur each time a player hits a ball or hits the ground after a jump.

Timing is also a matter of physics and gravity. Top level athletes fight gravity to make great plays. However, gravity is always the winner. Since the power of gravity is squared, understand that the player's inertia eventually equals zero at the apex of a jump. At this point, the PJ can shoot the player with the slowest shutter speed because the player is basically still (neither moving up or down) for a fraction of a second. In low-light venues, this is critical.

Likewise, when two players are running toward each other at equal speed in a contact sport, the moment of collision reduces each players speed to zero. Otherwise, the speed and panning direction can be predicted as the speed of the fastest player minus the speed of the slowest player at the point of collision (with some variation for the body mass of the players).

Beyond the basics, try to be able to see the players' eyes, which often means understanding which direction the players look, and shoot from the opposite direction. Also, learn how to light gyms and arenas with remote flashes as quickly as possible or affordable. With recent camera advances, lighting skills are the barrier between amateurs and pros.

Finally, get the fastest lenses available on a budget. Most sports are shot in low light. It's better to start with an f/2.8 prime 100mm lens than with a f/4 zoom 80~200mm lens because the image quality is better for the light level.

5. I've talked to so many journalists -- students and pros, photo people and word people -- who lament the poor communication between photographers and reporters, photo editors and word editors. What can students do to improve communication and collaboration in their newsrooms?

Frankly, news is becoming decentralized. If reporters and PJs learn to be independent, they'll be better served. At major newspapers, top-tier reporters and PJs rarely go to the office. They file and receive assignments via e-mail or Web servers, complete the assignments on location and transmit the results in real time back to the office. Many freelancers work exclusively this way.

Since this process costs less and speeds production, I don't see the trend reversing 100 years to a central beehive where everyone wastes travel time to drop off the honey.

However, at the top-level newspapers and magazines, photo requests from the reporters are frequently kicked back to the reporter for revision because they didn't care enough about the assignment to justify the cost of a PJ.

Reporters make "photo requests." These go to the photo or assignment editor for approval or rejection. The photo editor makes the actual "photo assignment" for a photographer based on the photo request and photojournalist availability and travel budgets.

Lack of forethought on the part of a reporter causes an immediate rejection. Each assignment costs a company about $400. Reporters must remember their request must justify this expense. A reporter's request for a mug shot of someone s/he interviewed doesn't warrant a PJ when 499 other reporters are working on stories of crime, poverty, taxation, entertainment and sports while only 15 to 20 photojournalists are available on any given day at a large metro newspaper.

Simply stated, there is no such thing as a fast-breaking spectator sport or a deadline mug shot. Professional PJs are journalists first and demand the same lead time to make images as reporters need to collect quotes for a story. This time allows them to research the assignment and consider visual options based on access, previous images and other factors.

Last-minute assignments are reactionary and only allow PJs to shoot whatever is happening at the time it happens. The final results show the lack of forethought. Breaking news is breaking news for both reporters and PJs. Each gets what they can before deadline. Feature stories should never need to be handled as breaking news.

Because of the factors listed above, the most important communication a reporter can have with the PJ is on the photo request. The request should be accurate and detailed. It should let the PJ know the story line rather than a shopping list of shots, which are often impossible, improbable or unethical.

Armed with thorough knowledge of the story and its key contacts, PJs find the right images to supplement, support and promote the story. This is what the reporter should want and expect.

Meanwhile, the PJ should take the responsibility to collect important information such as names and cell phone numbers for reporters. They should also get quotes from remote locations to add to the story. However, this information can be e-mailed from the location to the reporter.

Consequently, the reporter should include their own cell phone number and e-mail address to exchange additional information with PJs.

Unlike professional publications, student publications should give PJs and reporters solid critiques about their treatment of the subject matter as well as the technical quality of their work. Reporters should say they're disappointed with the results of a photo request when the images fall flat. This should allow some dialog between how the assignment request was written and what actually happened in front of the lens.

If the PJ did the best with the information s/he was given, responsibility for lack-luster images falls onto the reporter. If the PJ failed to execute the assignment to its full potential with the information the reporter provided, the responsibility falls entirely on the PJ. If both sides accomplish their mission to the fullest of their abilities, the results should be recognizable. If either fails, the results are obvious as well.

6. Any advice on shooting portraits?

Portraits show a small slice of a person's personality. Quality portraits take time. The PJ should get to know the subject (either in person or through the assignment and/or personal research) and try to illustrate some aspect of their personality in relation to the story. If the story is about a clown, the PJ should call ahead to be certain the subject is in clown make-up with appropriate props.

Unlike straight news photographs, portraits allow the photographer some control over the subject and environment. If the subject has a white plastic cup on their desk, a PJ could not ask for it to be removed during a news assignment. However, during a portrait assignment, it can be removed to make the image cleaner and better.

The common quality about portraiture is that the subject looks directly into the camera. This is the universal code to let readers know the subject knows this is a portrait and not a news event. This code means the portrait is posed and not real or even natural.

Although commercial photographers prefer to have the subject look off axis, I personally believe this is lying to news readers unless the portrait is extreme in either its subject matter or lighting.

A studio-lit person waist deep in rattlesnakes juggling flaming chainsaws is allowed to look off axis if they must. However, convincing someone to do some action and claiming it's a "portrait" is absolutely forbidden. A PJ may get away with it once or twice, but their reputation is profoundly damaged if they're known for setting up their images and trying to pass them off as real.

I've heard the argument that the cutline clearly stated the image was a portrait, but this is a hollow excuse because most cutlines are modified before they're published. If it's a portrait, have them look into the lens and avoid confusion.

7. What can student journalists (including PJs) do to make their papers visually stirring?

All journalists should take chances. Yes, reporters must ask the softball, background questions. PJs must take the standard safe shots. But once everyone knows they're covered and have something to publish, go out on a limb.

Reporters should always ask subjects, "What do you do?" Although the answer should include expected answers such as, "We will have a fire training session at 1 p.m. on Friday." It could also include an unexpected answer such as, "I like to make needlepoint pillows."

The second answer solicits a portrait of the firefighter with some of his/her needlepoint creations. The first answer creates an inside photo of the firefighter actually demonstrating his/her fitness to rescue citizens in need of help.

For an over-the-top example, the firefighter might pose for a portrait at the training grounds surrounded by flames while looking up from a needlepoint. Or, the firefighter might hold a needlepoint canvas toward the camera while a hole burns through the center of the canvas to reveal the firefighter's face.

In short, portraits show creativity. Reporters are welcome to help PJs arrange some of the extreme portraits by letting PJs know the subject is willing to have their portrait taken at the training ground with the needlework and will bring some extra canvases to burn.

However, if the reporter doesn't ask the right questions and relay the answers to the PJ, these facts may never be known about the subject. Even if the PJ learns this information at the shoot, it's often too late to make arrangements for a better image.

8. What other advice do you have for student newspaper photographers?

Study everything and learn to think critically. If an assignment isn't complete, challenge the assignment writer. Don't accept weak assignments and don't make weak images. The final image has the PJ's name under it. Demand enough information from the reporters or conduct enough research on your own to make amazing images.

If necessary, withhold your name from inadequate assignments. If the images next to a particular reporter's stories consistently have no credit line, it tells readers and editors a lot about the reporter. News briefs don't carry bylines and neither should mug shots, copy shots or weak assignments.

I did this years ago when I felt ambushed by an assignment. It definitely got the attention of editors. I did my job and completed the assignment to the best of my abilities with the information and time I was allowed and the situation in which I found myself. However, I didn't feel the assignment or results met my minimum standard. Consequently, I refused to allow my name to be published with the image.

All heads immediately turned toward the person who made the weak request, and my reputation was not damaged by another person's lack of forethought or deliberate interference.

For college PJs, the library and Internet should be obsessions. Critically analyze every photo. Look carefully at the works of master photographers and understand how the master made the images. Look beyond the subject matter and study the skeletal structure of the image, element placement as well as the layers of information the photographer introduced. Concentrate on how they make images with clean backgrounds and separate subjects from other image elements.

Now is the time to become intimately familiar with the camera and software as well as quickly gaining subjects' trust and access. The technical mechanics of photography should become secondary to the act of visual reporting.

If a PJ is shooting with a digital camera, the standard minimum is 100 frames per assignment. Work with the subject and use different lenses, angles and lighting until 100 or more frames have been created. Pick the best frame and hide the rest.

It's also important to become a "collegiate photojournalist." This implies a specific amount of skill and expertise with the camera. I like to compare photography levels to football because many new PJs understand the level of skill and practice required.

Many high school football players dream of becoming pro football players. However, it takes iron-willed determination to make it onto a college football team. Most collegiate football players never make the pros, but others could compete at the highest levels while in college.

Photojournalism requires the same level of confidence and talent. High school photographers learn to control their camera and can acquire some quality images. Collegiate PJs should be competing against their peers nationally and preparing for the leap to pro. This means collegiate PJs should be better than any high school photographers or any amateur (hobby) photographers with years of experience.

Pro football players are considered top athletes - not only in their sport, but also in terms of raw athletic ability and passion. To remain professionals, they must continue to grow and develop a record of significant accomplishments. "Bad days" are unacceptable for pro football players, they must perform at their peak each time they step onto the field. Pro PJs are the same.

Pro PJs should be able to handle any assignment around the world with absolute confidence and consistently provide images of a level higher than any other photographers. A pro is worthy of the title. They can literally create compelling, award-winning images at mundane assignments because they simply don't give up and have a wealth of visual knowledge to draw upon.

Although college PJs may only be taking their first steps along this path, they must quickly learn to run at a speed equal to their peers and faster than untrained amateurs. Otherwise, they won't make the leap to pro.

During this training time, it's critical to learn the value of quality images and name recognition. Anyone can make a photograph. Telling stories with photographs is much harder and can command appropriate payment. Selling photo use rights cheaply quickly ends a budding career. Don't settle for less from yourself or your clients.

Enough for now,

Monday, July 11, 2005

Traffic construction

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Traffic moves along a construction zone near the interchange of Hwy 69 and I-10 in Beaumont on Thursday, June 23, 2005.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Happy splashers

Dereca Garrett, 7, carries Nakahia Donald, 1, through the splash fountains at Central Park in Beaumont during the 4th of July Celebration at Central Park on Monday, July 4, 2005.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Shark hunters

Andrew Deudley of Lumberton breaks through a wave as he uses a kayak to drop bait as he tries to catch sharks at McFaddin Beach west of Sea Rim State Park along the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, July 6, 2005.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Above) Deudley prepares bait to catch sharks at McFaddin Beach. As many as a half dozen bull sharks have been spotted together along parts of the Southeast Texas coast.

(Below) Deudley removes the remainder of his bait after it had been hit while he tried to catch sharks at McFaddin Beach. One bull shark, was seen in less than 10 inches of water and only 20 feet from shore.

Big Sabine Lake Guide Service captain Buzz Corder of Beaumont (left) and his brother-in-law Dana Tatum of Atlanta (right) look for sharks at McFaddin Beach. Corder said bull sharks are extremely aggressive and territorial.

Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) can also penetrate far up freshwater rivers. Bull shark have been recorded thousands of miles up African and South American rivers.

(Above) Andrea Primo (center) of Groves keeps close to her daughter Maisy, 5, (left) and son Gage, 2, (right) at Sea Rim Park along the Gulf Coast. Shark and alligator warnings are posted and have been observed at the park.

(Below) A sand tiger shark swims at the Moody Gardens Aquarium in Galveston. Although all sharks are cold-blooded fish, great white sharks and eight other species are capable of raising their body temperature to hunt for larger food sources in colder waters. Consequently, they are unlikely to hunt in the warm waters immediately off the Texas coast.

© Mark M. Hancock

(Above) Whitney Hensarling, 17, (left) talks about how the shark attack in the Gulf of Mexico near the beach in Port Bolivar ruined her vacation swimming plans. She and Jeni McCollister, 15; (from left to right) Jarod Hensarling, 14; Josh Hensarling, 8; and Levi Walling, 14, were playing along the beach because they were not allowed to swim in the waters where this week's shark attack happened.

Lydia Paulk, 14, of North Carolina was bitten on her foot by a shark a few feet from where the youths played. She was taken to the University of Texas Meical Branch in Galveston and was listed in fair condition. Hers was the first shark attack off the Texas coast this year.

To learn more about sharks, please visit the Fox Shark Research Foundation's Web site.

video by Mark M. Hancock /

Please see the video slideshow

Friday, July 08, 2005

Celebrating retirement

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Charles McDonald (right) celebrates an early Independence Day with his family in Beaumont on Saturday, July 2, 2005. The family also celebrated McDonald's retirement from the U.S. Air Force after almost 25 years of service.

After a tour in Iraq, the subject was a very stoic fellow. It took almost three hours to catch one break in his composure. Even then, it was a quick view. It flashed for three frames and was gone again.

However, I learned his family and friends see him as happy. People have selective memories. They fondly remember the good times and overlook the bad. It was worth the wait to show the subject the way his family and friends know him. It would have been much easier to get "a shot, any shot" and split, but it's better to get the right shot.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Steel lockout

A truck leaves Gerdau Ameristeel's mill as United Steelworkers Union international president Leo W. Gerard talks to locked-out workers in front of the mill on the east side of the Neches River near Beaumont on Tuesday, July 5, 2005.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pick one

Yup, I got oodles of Independence Day photos from all over Southeast Texas. I'll post a few of the less obvious ones over the summer plus the video slideshow at the bottom of this post. Today's post lets y'all play photo editor.

Madison Foreman, 6, of Beaumont offers to pet a dog before the 1st Annual Calder Place Star Spangled 4th of July Parade at the BISD Administration building in Beaumont on Monday, July 4, 2005. Everyone received participation awards and special prizes were awarded by category for decorations.
Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Madison Foreman, 6, of Beaumont runs with an adoption kitten after the 1st Annual Calder Place Star Spangled 4th of July Parade. The parade ran along North Street to Lucas.

Obviously, only one of these images could get into the paper. I had a rough time choosing which one I preferred. The top one has a cluttered background and some light problems, but the action and connection between the dog and the girl is nice.

The second image is cleaner and has some interesting highlights on her hair. However, the kitten is not exactly pleased with the situation (she was running at the time).

If y'all had to play photo editor between these two images, which would you pick? Neither one ran, so my fragile feelings won't be hurt if someone says they both suck.

video by Mark M. Hancock /
Please see the video slideshow.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A golden evening

Chenelle Guidry has appetizers before the LU-llaby of Broadway - XIII at Lamar University in Beaumont on Tuesday, June 7, 2005.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Monday, July 04, 2005

Twin bed

Twin babies Patrick (left) and Jared (right) Rager sleep together at Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital in Beaumont on Thursday June 30, 2005. The babies participated in the hospital's first experiment with co-bedding of premature twins. Co-bedding of twins is believed to speed their progress as the children do not go through separation withdrawal in addition to other health issues.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Above) Nurse Aubyn Choate (right) works with Melanie Rager (left) of Beaumont on her twin babies Jared (center, left) and Patrick (center, right) in the infant intensive care unit of the hospital.

(Below) Melanie Rager attends to her twin boys Patrick and Jared at the hospital.

Fireworks reminder

If anyone feels shaky about shooting fireworks tonight, you might want to check out last year's Independence Day assignment post. It needs a serious edit and add some links, but it might help anyway.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Gossett promotes humanity

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

The Rev. George Clements (left) and Louis Gossett Jr. (right) applaud a speaker during a press conference at the Hotel Elegante in Beaumont Thursday, June 16, 2004. They are in town in honor of the One Church One Child 25th anniversary. Planned events of the "Juneteenth Celebration" include a movie viewing of "The Father Clements Story" and a golf tournament.

In the 1987 television movie being screened, Gossett portrayed Clements, who founded the One Church One Child organization to recruit, train, and support families and individuals who want to adopt or foster children.

Deadline pop quiz: Where in the AP Stylebook can a journalist find the guidelines to write the title of a clergy member?
The answer is in the comments section.