Monday, December 31, 2007

Firefighting city hall

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Retired firefighter James Mathews (left) and retired chief Joe Clark (right) carry protest signs as they walk during a picket at Beaumont City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007. Retired firefighters picketed city hall following Monday's burn injuries of firefighter Cody Schroeder and Capt. Calvin Carrier.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Catters' schoolin'

Wildcatters's Moises Gutierrez (No. 39, left) checks Mississippi Sea Wolves' Lance Monych (No. 18, right) during an ECHL hockey game at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2007.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Local grade school students cheer before a hockey game between the Wildcatters and Mississippi Sea Wolves at Ford Arena. The team-sponsored event helps students prepare for an upcoming TAKS test through applied science.

Wildcatters' Brandon Benedict (No. 26) stretches for the puck as Mississippi Sea Wolves' Jason Tejchma (No. 6) gives chase during an ECHL hockey game at Ford Arena.

Wildcatters goalie Anton Khudobin blocks a shot with his foot during an ECHL hockey game against the Mississippi Sea Wolves at Ford Arena. The Catters remain in first place for the entire ECHL.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Texas trailing phlox slideshow

Photos & music by Mark M. Hancock / photos © The Beaumont Enterprise

Conservation organizations work with forest management companies and the government to reintroduce the endangered Texas trailing phlox plant in Tyler County on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007. The plant is only known to grow in four Texas counties.

Friday, December 28, 2007

'Tis the TAKS season

Dunbar Elementary School technical liaison Margie Clayton (top) works with 4th-grader Kyra Rodgers in the computer lab at the school in Beaumont on Friday, Dec. 21, 2007.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Dunbar Elementary School 4th-grader Tre'von Antoine considers an engineering problem at the school. The school used seasonal themes to educate students for the upcoming Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test.

Image is part of the Charlton-Pollard series.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Restaurant business booms

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Lynn Ferguson, assistant manager at McAlister's Deli, prepares umbrellas on the patio for lunchtime business at the store in Beaumont on Friday, Dec. 21, 2007. The number of Southeast Texas deli-style restaurants has grown in recent years and the trend is expected to continue.

Tia Matos (right) explains deli options to Tazia and James Paul of Beaumont at McAlister's Deli in Beaumont. Texas is ranked 4th in the nation for restaurant sales growth and 10-year industry job growth.

Noticeably absent from local restaurant options are Middle Eastern, (non-Italian) Mediterranean or Indian restaurants.

We just returned from Dallas. While there, we pigged on Middle Eastern food and pleaded at each restaurant for them to open a franchise here. Since Beaumont is located on I-10 between Houston and Lake Charles it's an ideal setting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Building jobs

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Work continues on the Golden Pass LNG plant in Port Arthur on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007. The Port Arthur City Council is concerned about the number of local jobs created by industrial construction.

Please read "... how many locals are hired ..." by Christine Rappleye.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Joseph, played by David Webb, (left) and Mary, played by Katie Ice, (right) chat while waiting on visitors in the live nativity at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Beaumont on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007.

Shepherds (right) play their scene while the wise men (left) wait for their cue during the live nativity at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Beaumont.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hockey Santa

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Wildcatter season ticket holder Jason Huff of Beaumont helps organize arriving buses before a hockey game between the Wildcatters and Mississippi Sea Wolves at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2007. The team-sponsored event helps local grade school students prepare for an upcoming TAKS test through applied science.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christus boogie

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Dr. Tom Royer, Christus Health Systems CEO, plays Christmas carols with hospital staff and guests at St. Elizabeth Christus Hospital in Beaumont on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dewey spider

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

A spider waits in a dewey web in Tyler County on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007. Wednesday morning's thick fog made driving difficult throughout Southeast Texas.

Award Winner:
2nd Place, Feature Photo, Texas Press Association

This image is also the final image in this slideshow. You're not seeing double.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Feast of Sharing

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Beaumont resident Julio Raveiro entertains his 5-month-old daughter Solanah Raveiro during the 17th annual H-E-B Feast of Sharing at the Ford Exhibition Hall in Beaumont on Friday, Dec. 14, 2007. All Southeast Texas residents were invited to free entertainment and a holiday meal.

Volunteer Brad Jorgensen distributes pies during the 17th annual H-E-B Feast of Sharing at the Ford Exhibition Hall. Volunteers prepared 7,500 meals for the event plus an additional 3,000 meals to be delivered to homebound individuals in the Beaumont area.

Home-schooled senior Meghan Seim, 17, greets guests during the 17th annual H-E-B Feast of Sharing. H-E-B is the largest privately-owend business in Texas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sour Lake Christmas On The Square

Ashley Jones of Beaumont leaves the square with her shotgun after gunning down a man as part of a gun fight show during the Old Timer's Day and Christmas On The Square in Sour Lake on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Earl Keith of Sour Lake (bottom) rises from the dead after a gun fight show during the Old Timer's Day and Christmas On The Square.

Sour Lake resident Ann Carpenter announces activities during the Old Timer's Day and Christmas On The Square.

Children ride an oil-barrel train through the square as gunfighters talk during the Old Timer's Day and Christmas On The Square in Sour Lake.

MP3 music

I'll post the MP3 songs I've composed with some explanation on this page. View this page to learn how to install this player on other blogs.

To hear the song, click on the player, then click on the play symbol (click on the triangle inside the circle twice).

All music on this post is © Mark M. Hancock /

This is the MP3 to go with the Texas trailing phlox slideshow. Genre is folk. (:36 sec)

This is the MP3 to go with the Holiday Lights slideshow. Genre is seasonal. (1:12 sec)

This is the MP3 to go with the Douget Rice Farm harvest slideshow. Genre is folk. (:40 sec)

This is the MP3 to go with the Hotel Beaumont Annex demolition video. Genre is dance/techno. (1:23 sec)

This is an experimental MP3. Genre is jazz. (1:05 sec)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

World Trade Building

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

The former World Trade Building in downtown Port Arthur is scheduled to be repurposed as an apartment complex. Many vacant buildings in southern Jefferson County are finding a new life as business returns to the area.

The former World Trade Building in downtown Port Arthur is scheduled to become an apartment complex. Repurposing existing buildings saves construction costs while reducing vandalism and security problems as well as increasing a city's tax base. Several historic buildings have been saved recently.

How to shoot holiday lights

Please see the slideshow with examples (hit "back" on your browser to return to this post).

Many folks install decorative lights for different holidays from September through February. The most common holidays are Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Halloween/Samhain, Diwali, Kwanzaa and - on this coast - Mardi Gras. Lights are attached to everything from homes and boats to people and floats.

Due to the work and cost invested into these sometimes elaborate decorations, PJs need to know how to photograph groups of light-emitting devices.

Although most PJs make this look easy, holiday lights are difficult to capture correctly. Consequently, this is a very info-heavy post. More casual shooters should probably read Quick tips to shoot holiday lights instead.

First major hurdle
We know more light equals better exposures. Two 100-watt light bulbs produce twice as much light as one. Each additional light increases the amount of light falling on a subject.

Forget this rule while shooting lights as the primary subject.

When lights are the primary subject, each equally-powered and filtered light is about the same. This is because we meter the light source, not where the light is falling.

Distance dropoff
If a light is 100 feet away, it's about the same as lights 10 inches away from the camera (depends on moisture and pollution). Both lights are emitting the same amount of light. It's still subject to the inverse square law of light, but the source is constant and more intense than the light falloff.

The distance from the camera does play a role in digital dropoff. Film records each tiny light photon as it affects the silver halide to the point of reciprocity failure. Digital cameras record light on a sensor. As lights become more distant or camera angles become wider, their relative size becomes smaller. Eventually, they become too small for the digital sensor to record all of them. This creates a light loss which must be considered by digital photographers.

The opposite is also true. Because we're directly photographing lights rather than where the light falls, the largest lights spill onto nearby sensors.

Both effects happen with film, but aren't as pronounced.

Use a tripod
Eliminating camera shake is vital. Use a sturdy tripod. Most PJs also use electronic shutter release cables (called "plungers" by film shooters).

Because we're shooting a scene filled with highlights, any camera motion is amplified. This is compounded by slow shutter speeds. There is no way to hand-hold a camera absolutely still for six seconds.

It's not too hard
Although the explanation may sound difficult, digital camera technology removed many of the problems of yesteryear. I could explain the nightmare this was in film days, but I'll spare y'all.

Now, simple color balance is one adjustment. Bracketing exposures is another automatic option. Chimping (looking at the preview screen) is probably the greatest advancement when it comes to accurately capturing holiday lights.

Meter failures
It's important to remember a camera's (reflective light) meter really doesn't know the difference between holiday lights and grains of sand. Even sophisticated automatic meters can be easily fooled by holiday lights.

A camera meter tries to find the average amount of light in a scene. It measures the amount of light areas (whites) with the amount of dark areas (blacks) and tries to find an average (gray).

Middle gray works for most daylight photography, but it's the worst option for holiday lights because both the highlights and shadows are ignored to find something in-between (the wrong exposure for both).

Pro shooters need to use manual controls for absolute exposures. Amateurs with advanced cameras may want to bracket exposures to get some usable shots. Point-and-shooters may end up needing to cover flashes and even sensors with black electrical tape to trick the camera into doing what's needed.

Have patience
It takes a lot of patience to make beautiful images. It gets exponentially more difficult when trying to photograph holiday lights.

It takes a lot of time to compose images – particularly with a tripod. Exposures can often last several seconds. Getting the correct exposure takes additional time. It’s worth the work, but be patient.

At this point, it's probably best to separate shooters by ability. Select the most appropriate option to avoid confusion or boredom.
Casual photographer
Advanced amateur
Pro PJ

Casual shooters
Recent camera advances removed most of the problems pro shooters had in the past. These technologies are incorporated into most amateur and pro-sumer cameras. So, let's do this the easy way before we get to exact exposures.

Disposable cameras
Purchase a one-time-use film camera (disposable camera) loaded with 800 ISO film (most are). Depending on the brand and its actual settings, it should get roughly acceptable results.

The base exposure for most holiday lights is f/2.8 at 1/60th second on 800 ISO. If this means nothing to you, don't worry. Many disposable cameras can make this calculation (or something close to it) automatically.

The most important issue is to purchase a camera without a flash. If the only camera available comes with a flash, don't turn it on.

While several images aren't going to be properly recorded, a photo lab can often recover a "near miss" exposure. The most important factors are to be as steady as possible, squeeze the shutter release and entirely fill the frame.

Point-and-shoot cameras
Expect failures with point-and-shoot (P&S) cameras. They aren't designed to handle complex lighting situations. Experience with the camera (and many bad photos) is often the key to success.

The primary task with a P&S camera is to find the perfect balance of enough lights to trick the camera's meter. If the frame is filled with too much light, the meter underexposes and images look dark (or muddy as prints). If there aren't enough lights, the camera overexposes and everything washes out (there are no solid blacks).

Again, digital P&S cameras with a preview screen are best. Move around and keep shooting. Delete the bad frames later. Film P&S cameras may require several attempts (and some expense) to get a good shot.

P&S quick fix
A quick fix is to emulate a disposable camera (see above). To do this, set the camera on 800 ISO and put electrical tape (black tape) over the flash. Some P&S cameras may also need the light sensor to be covered as well.

Advanced Amateurs

Adjustable SLR cameras
Most single-lens-reflex (SLR) cameras have manual settings. For the most accurate manual settings and creative results, read the pro advice below. Otherwise, this advice can quickly get some shots for the family photo album.

Use a tripod. Set the camera for tungsten light (the icon looks like a light bulb). Turn off the automatic flash. Set the film speed to 200 ISO. Set the camera to program or aperture priority (f/22 preferred).

Fill the frame with the composition. Focus the lens. Shoot. Now, set the exposure compensation to +1 and shoot. Just to be safe, bracket the same shot with a +2 setting and shoot. One of those three shots should do it.

If the camera has a preview screen, take a look (called "chimping"). If one of those three images looks perfect, note the exposure (since the camera is on a tripod, it shouldn't change much depending on the number of blinking lights). This should be the exposure for most of the scene (expect about f/5.6 at 1/8th for 200 ISO).

As new compositions are attempted, try to adjust the exposure compensation until the exposure is the same as the first image you liked (it might take +/- 5 stops to do it). It should be correct for the rest of the scene. If not, simply bracket the new composition until it looks OK.

Professional issues

How to get the right meter reading
Using a hand-held reflective meter, slide the dome over the sensor. Choose the lowest-power clear twinkle light (the smallest one) and get a reading about an inch away from the light (expect about f/5.6 at 1/8th for 200 ISO).

Two stops over this reading (because we're shooting a "white" light) is the accurate exposure for a single lighting style scene. The +2 adjustment works fine on a single Christmas tree with identical lights.

When the scene is more complex, we must consider every type of light within the scene. I can imagine the OCD folks needing a paper bag about now. Relax. Instead of freaking over every little light, we must accept there's no way capture every scene. We need to let some lights blow out and some lights go black.

So, we'll only consider the extreme ranges of the scene. If we can keep both edges within a dynamic range (five stops), there's no problem. If it creeps over both ends, we'll need to make some choices.

Calculate the best option
We've established our base exposure. It should be around f/5.6 at 1/8th for 200 ISO. We added two stops, and now we're at f/5.6 at 1/2 second for 200 ISO. This is our corrected base exposure.

As other lights are considered, the corrected base exposure should only go down (less exposure) if we must move the range.

Next, identify and meter the brightest light in the scene. If the brightest light is within two stops, close down two stops and all is fine. If it's more than five stops, either consider excluding the light or controlling its duration (see below).

Light source
There are four basic decorative lighting schemes. These are: direct source light, reflected light, diffused light and mixed light.

This is the first issue to resolve before shooting because it determines the success of the shoot. Each light source requires a different approach. They can get especially tricky when combined.

Direct source
Most holiday lights are direct source. The lights themselves are the decoration. Because the light itself is the subject, it's common for automatic cameras to underexpose these images for tight shots and overexpose for loose shots.

Reflected light
Yard decorations and some trees are lit by an external light focused on the primary object. The most pleasing and visually challenging of these use an impressive array of (often colored or filtered) lights.

Because these items are typically spotlighted in a dark environment, it's common for automatic cameras to overexpose these images.

Diffused light
Plastic and inflatable nylon yard decorations typically contain internal lights. These lights are diffused as they pass through the object.

Often, the design of the decoration itself dictates photographic success. If powerful lights are located in the base and the light must somehow make a 90-degree turn to light a portion of the decoration, don't expect good results.

To be safe, take several meter readings from different parts of the decoration. Hopefully, the designer understood light and used more opaque materials closest to the light source(s).

If the meter readings fall within two stops of the base exposure, there's no problem. Otherwise, consider isolating, excluding or limiting the light duration of the decoration.

Mixed light
Parade floats often employ a mix of lights. There are tiny direct lights as well as spotlights on float elements, which may have internal lights, and the entire float is further affected by street lamps and the headlights of other vehicles. If these are shot near sunset, twilight works into the background as well.

Many PJs also throw some fill flash into the mix to stop motion of the moving parade floats. The PJ must have a solid grip on all light qualities to get these shots.

Light levels
As we determined, light sources and angles also determine how we must make the camera react for the amount of light we need to capture.

Next, we must determine how much light we want to capture. While this may sound obvious, it isn't. Unlike most EV calculations, there are more wrong answers than correct answers with a large number of lights. Unfortunately, we're expected to find the single best answer of all the options.

Often this involves a balancing act between different sources, but it can also involve the intensity of different lights. It can be further complicated by the color of those lights due to the filtration process.

For brevity, the base exposure for most holiday lights is f/5.6 at 1/4th second on 200 ISO. This is also f/22 at four seconds on 200 ISO (six seconds is preferred due to reciprocity failure). This is the same as f/2.8 at 1/60th second on 800 ISO. Flash exposures should be manually factored to achieve desired results.

Limit light output options
The first issue is light output. It's critical to decide which light sources (or reflections) a PJ wants to capture in one image. These are purely subjective and aesthetic decisions. The PJ must make these choices to acquire the right image for this choice.

In mixed light, this may mean cropping out the brightest lights or letting the weakest lights fall into darkness. Sometimes it means adding artificial light (flash) or timing the shutter release for different strands of lights.

It might even involve partially blocking more intense lights during part of the exposure to get the exact cumulative amount of light.

If a photographer owns the property, it's best to set up reflective lights at the proper distance to provide even light. Otherwise, unplugging or blocking a floodlight with a camera bag for a few seconds during the exposure normally does the trick. The duration can be manually calculated.

Light filtration
If all the lights in a scene are the same style, there's probably only a difference in luminescence caused by light color and age. While the bulb age may only cause one stop of variance, bulb color could cause four or more stops of light loss and create some significant problems.

The human eye sees all the lights as about the same intensity. The camera doesn't. Heavily dyed or filtered lights fall off the bottom of the dynamic range while unfiltered lights go past the top.

Because there's many companies make cheap holiday lights, there's no control on light quality or filtration. One company may use a heavy coat of paint to filter lights. Other companies may use a different formula or less dye.

Expect different brands of lights in one scene. If a PJ is lucky, the scene only contains various shades of one or several filtered colors. However, most scenes also contain unfiltered (clear) lights, which dominate the scene.

Even trees or other yard decorations with spotlights may have colored floodlights of different intensities. Include those with exposure levels closest to the main lights being captured. Avoid the brightest of these.

The most diabolical device is the color wheel. This cruel device rotates a filtered disk between a flood light and the subject being lit. It often moves through some combination of red, green, blue and yellow. Each color has a different filtration and exposure. Shots must be timed carefully to capture the correct colors and light intensity (particularly if other lights are also on blinking timers).

Most PJs think about timing when we're shooting at 1/8000th of a second. After nailing fast action, a six-second exposure should be easy, but sometimes it's not.

Blinking lights
Most blinking lights are set on a timer (or timed fuse). They're on for a while, then off, then on, etc. At some point, all lights are on. It might require waiting six hours, but everything is likely to eventually sync.

The simplest way to handle this is to observe the light patterns and figure out when they will all sync. One shot, and it's done. Guess wrong, and do it all over again. It's only time.

The easier way to deal with this issue is to have one extremely long exposure to capture the entire cycle of lights. If all lights turn on and off for about the same amount of time, this is the best solution. It may require a neutral density filter (or four), but it's a surefire way to get the total effect of the lights.

If one strand of lights remains lit while the others blink, we're back to the first plan (waiting).

Choreographed light displays
While these displays are cool as heck, they're not so cool or easy to capture with a camera. The problem is they're choreographed to music. Not many songs use all the notes in equal portions. Therefore, some lights are going to be on longer than others.

To get the entire show in one shot is going to be a challenge. First, study the light pattern. If it's the same song over and over, it'll be much easier than a four-hour program. Even if it's the latter, there should still be enough repetition of pattern to make a successful image.

Because the lights are turned on unequally, the exposure must also be unequal. This is the root of the visual problem. To get the shot, we need a multiple exposure camera or some light-blocking barrier (mat board or black velvet cloth).

Multiple exposure cameras are best because we simply shoot fast, keep track of which sets of lights have been shot and wait for the unused ones. Once everything is shot, advance the frame and do the same two (or 10) more times to ensure one of the frames didn't have a boo-boo.

The shot is still possible without a multi-exposure camera. Expect to burn a lot more frames and only hope for something near correct.

For simplicity, let's go with a standard six-second exposure. This means each light in the scene must be exposed to the film or CCD for a total of six seconds. Again, this could be a timing situation like the blinking lights above, but most often it's not.

To accomplish this shot, we'll use our light-blocking barrier and set the camera on bulb or 30 seconds manually. Next, we remove the barrier during the least often seen lights and immediately cover the lens when those lights turn off.

The folks who set the cameras on bulb can be more selective and have a higher chance of an accurate cumulative exposure. If all goes well, we should collect six seconds of all different sections of lights.

I said it wasn't easy.

As Marie commented in the Quick tips post, light displays with twilight make magical images. As she stated, the sky has more color and more architectural detail is captured.

Part of the magic is how little time is available and how much skill is required to accomplish these images.

She pointed out the blue qualities of twilight. This is amplified when we color correct to tungsten light. Tungsten is primarily red with yellow. The complimentary color for red is cyan and the complimentary color for yellow is blue. When we try to make tungsten light about right, we shift all other light strongly into the blue range.

There's another way to correct with the red curve, but available light will shift toward green (yuck - unless it's Halloween). Consequently, a red sunset isn't going to be a reality unless neon-red house decorations are appropriate.

The entire trick to incorporating available light is arriving early. Break out the tripod; try a few angles and lenses until the best composition is found. Then wait.

We're waiting for available light in the background of our scene to be equal to or less than the lights we wish to photograph. This is where skill applies.

Because there is no universal "twilight" setting, we'll need to figure out the correct exposures on the fly (it changes for each exposure). There's no way to guess the correct exposure for every location and atmospheric condition around the world. We could let the camera do its thing and hope it comes out right, or we could help the process along.

My best advice is to walk the exposures down. This means light balances earliest with wider apertures (f/4) and last with tight apertures (f/22). Going back to our base exposure example, this means the first appropriate f/4 photo should be when available light hits 1/8th second on 200 ISO (or 1/16th on 400 ISO).

More color saturation occurs at a -2 ambient light (excluding holiday lights). This post is already too long to explain reciprocity failure and other factors involved with balancing available light and artificial light. If PJs understand what's going on, cool. If not, bracket like heck until twilight turns to night.

As stated, skill and experience are important when working with available light.

Color balance
We're talking about colored lights, so color balance is somewhat subjective. We'd like filtered lights to appear near the same color we see with our eyes. To accomplish this, we need to determine the kind of light we're photographing.

Once we establish the actual light source, color correction becomes easier. Although there's everything from LED (light emitting diode) to mercury vapor lights in a scene, we need to identify and correct for the predominant type of light while shooting. We can adjust for the other lights when toning.

We've already covered how to balance the light, so this is a quick reminder.

Tungsten is the most common holiday light. It's inexpensive and widely available. Most present a pleasing warm tone (orange) in the 2500K or slightly lower range.

Film shooters need to use an 80A tungsten color-correction filter and compensate for light lost (about two stops) or use T-type (tungsten-balanced) film. Digital shooters need to use the tungsten setting, try to white balance or custom correct around 2500K.

LED (light emitting diode) rock for several reasons. First, they're color balanced to 5500K. Set the camera for daylight, and we're cool.

These lights also use far less energy, so they're good for the environment and the checkbook. They also don't burn out or break like filament-based lights. So, they could last many years without replacement.

Lastly - but most importantly - they're safe. LED lights don't waste energy to create heat as halogen and tungsten lights do. Consequently, they're far less likely to ignite trees, models or other decorations.

While PJs cover fires, we'd rather not. We cover the fire to show tax dollars at work (the firefighters), but we also want to get help from our readers for the newly-displaced family or business.

PJs would much rather spend the holidays with their families than covering a tragedy. LED lights can still have wiring issues, but they're much safer than other holiday lights.

The main lighting concern with LEDs is the minimum exposure. Because these lights are regulated by electrical cycle (60 cycles per second), exposures should be 1/60th or slower (1/30th is better) to ensure a correct exposure. Needless to say, a tripod is required.

Get good at working with LED light (as a source and subject) because almost all lights are heading in this direction due to the latest energy bill. Many light-bank units are already moving in this direction.

Candle light
In Texas, several homes have luminarias. These are candles or other lights contained within paper or plastic sacks with decorative designs.

While the sack itself is brown and may contain colored plastic or tissue paper to produce stained-glass effects, the light inside is what matters to PJs. Take a look in one of the sacks and be certain of the light source. If it's tungsten light, balance for tungsten.

If it's a candle, it's 1500K. Either dial in the K temp or use the tungsten setting and color correct while toning.

Film shooters need to use an 80A tungsten color-correction filter and compensate for lost light (about two stops) or use T-type (tungsten-balanced) film. Images need additional post-production correction.

Color balance the flash with CC gels to the predominant light source. LED requires no additional balancing.

As always, the name of the game is fill the frame. Look at the scene and select elements to include within the frame. Arrange the composition to highlight those elements and exclude unwanted elements.

The balancing act with lighted scene compositions is more delicate than most other compositions because the majority of the scene is literally nothing. It's empty black space surrounding a highlight.

Too much space becomes boring. Too little makes the scene look cluttered.

Look at the lights from various angles with different lenses to determine how to best see the scene. Although not always obvious or deliberate, holiday lights often have hidden connect-the-dot patterns within the scene. Look for these as well as overall compositions.

Dominant elements
In standard photographic compositions, we place a dominant element in an environment. When shooting fireworks or working with holiday lights, it becomes more important.

Everyone gets wowed by cool displays of lights. It's important to search the scene and find something to nail down the image. Without a dominant focal point or repetition of pattern, the image quickly falls apart.

Depth of field plays an important role in determining the plane of focus, but the composition still requires key elements. It's important to use compositional conventions to capture meaningful images. Traditional tools such as image skeletal structure, Golden Ratio, and balance are more important when so many conflicting elements are introduced.

Creative effects
Pros often introduce additional creative effects to make images shine.

Depth of field
Using the maximum aperture produces a natural streaking of light from point-source lights.

Selective focus when combined with a shallow depth-of-field and close focus creates a stunning effect with a sharp subject and soft circles of light in the background.

Fog effect
Fog refracts point-source lights and adds a nice "glow" to the light. In cold, dry climates, fog can be replicated by breathing on the camera lens immediately before shooting.

Zooming during an exposure creates a Superman-type effect. However, don't zoom more than 1/3rd of the total exposure duration to keep the base image recognizable. Extra care must be taken to ensure focus during the zoom with double-action lenses (singly-controlled focus and zoom).

Double exposure
If a camera is equipped for double exposures, many creative options are available. A popular option is to make one out-of-focus exposure and sharply focus for the second exposure. This creates wide glows around the primary lights. Repetition of pattern can also be accomplished with double exposures.

Another option is to make multiple partial exposures to limit total input from selected (blinking) areas of the scene. However, make sure to reach the minimum cumulative exposure.

Using the multi-exposure speed method allows PJs to include different colored gels for wild effects. Food preparation cling wrap wound onto bent coat hangers can be "dodged" during some of the exposures to make unique images.

Experiment with all options.

Flash with blur
A popular professional technique is using flash with blur. This technique is most often used for portraits. Focus and rear-synch flash exposure are pre determined. A long exposure is selected and the camera is moved until the flash fires. A similar technique is to use a front-curtain flash synch and zoom. Both create unusual images when combined with holiday lights.

Only the "Old Timers" will understand this, but images can be reverse light painted. The process is similar to shaking an enlargement print around a dodge. Essentially, the camera is moved during a slow, rear sync flash exposure to increase virtual volume to existing lights while the primary subject is dark. When the flash fires, the frame is completed with some very cool light.

Catadioptric lens
Some photographers have special lenses, which produce unusual images. A rare catadioptric lens uses mirrors to increase focal length. It also creates fun donut shapes with out-of focus lights. Popular and inexpensive Lens Babies allow for focal plane adjustments and very interesting light patterns.

FX filters
Special effects filters, also called "trick" or "gimmick" filters, change light in various ways. The most popular are starlight filters, which refract and channel point-source light to create long projections from the light. Radiant and multi-parallel filters also work well with lights.

Lens flare
Lens flare occurs when light directly hits the lens. It's very likely to occur while making images of holiday lights. Most of the time, PJs try to avoid lens flare. However, we can occasionally use it to our advantage and amplify the amount or quality of specific lights.

Flare isn't hard to capture. Get close enough to any significant light source, let it directly hit the lens, and there you go. One incidence of flare occurs for each lens element the light strikes.

If flare is a desired goal, work it properly to ensure its effect is appropriate and deliberate. Otherwise, it looks like a mistake.

Enough for now,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday lights

Photos & music by Mark M. Hancock / photos © The Beaumont Enterprise

Please read Quick tips to shoot holiday lights or the more complete (and much longer) How to shoot holiday lights.

YouTube version

Quick tips to shoot holiday lights

This post was written to go with a newspaper story about holiday lights (see the slideshow with examples). Pro shooters may prefer to read How to shoot holiday lights.

These tips are for casual point-and-shoot photographers:

  • Be patient. The display isn't going anywhere.

  • Use a tripod or brace the camera on a post or tree.

  • Turn off or cover the flash.

  • Use 800 ISO film or digital settings.

  • Set color balance to tungsten.

  • Carefully select only what you want to shoot.

  • Get close enough to entirely fill the frame.

  • Exclude bright lights (street lamps and most spotlights).

  • Isolate displays or combinations of lights.

  • Turn the camera sideways for some shots.

  • Shoot different angles such as high (on a step stool) and low (on the ground).

  • If possible, set the camera to bracket exposures or +1 exposure compensation.

  • If possible, use the self-timer to avoid camera shake.

  • These tips are for advanced amateur photographers:

    Advanced amateurs should follow the general advice above. However, use the lowest possible ISO setting, the most depth-of-field and manually meter the exposure. Use an electronic or manual shutter release cord to avoid camera shake.

  • The base exposure for most holiday lights is f/5.6 at 1/4th second on 200 ISO. This is also f/22 at 4 seconds on 200 ISO (6 seconds is preferred due to reciprocity failure). This is the same as f/2.8 at 1/60th second on 800 ISO.

  • Film shooters need to use an 80A tungsten color-correction filter and compensate for light lost (about two stops) or use T-type (tungsten-balanced) film.

  • Creative effects
    Advanced amateurs can introduce additional creative effects to make images shine.

  • Using the maximum depth-of-field produces a natural streaking of light from point-source lights.

  • Selective focus when combined with a shallow depth-of-field and close focus creates a stunning effect with a sharp subject and soft circles of light in the background.

  • Fog refracts point-source lights and adds a nice "glow" to the light. In cold, dry climates, fog can be replicated by breathing on the camera lens immediately before shooting.

  • Zooming during an exposure creates a Superman-type effect. However, don't zoom more than 1/3rd of the total exposure duration to keep the base image recognizable.

  • If a camera is equipped for double exposures, many creative options are available.
    A popular option is to make one out-of-focus exposure and sharply focus for the second exposure. This creates wide glows around the primary lights. Repetition of pattern can also be accomplished with double exposures. Experiment with them all.

  • Some photographers have special lenses, which produce unusual images. A rare catadioptric lens uses mirrors to increase focal length. It also creates fun donut shapes with out-of focus lights. Popular and inexpensive Lens Babies allow for focal plane adjustments and very interesting light patterns.

  • Special effects filters, also called "trick" or "gimmick" filters, change light in various ways. The most popular are starlight filters, which refract and channel point-source light to create long projections from the light. Radiant and multi-parallel filters also work well with lights.

  • A popular professional technique is using flash with blur. This technique is most often used for portraits. Focus and rear-sync flash exposure are predetermined. A long exposure is selected and the camera is moved until the flash fires. A similar technique is to use a front-curtain flash sync and zoom. Both create unusual images when combined with holiday lights.

  • Enough for now,

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Ride 'em Santa

    Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Dan Buffington, a mechanic at Triangle Lawn & Equipment, waives at motorists from a mower in a parking lot near the business in Beaumont on Friday, Dec. 14, 2007.

    Dan Buffington, a mechanic at Triangle Lawn & Equipment, spins in circles on a mower and waives at motorists in a parking lot near the business in Beaumont. The store has a Christmas sale, and he said he got a break from work to attract shoppers.

    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    TXDOT Memorial

    Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Family members and co-workers honors nine Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) employees killed in the line of duty during the TXDOT memorial unveiling ceremony at the TXDOT headquarters in Beaumont on Friday, Dec. 14, 2007.

    Saturday, December 15, 2007

    Pimp C funeral

    Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Friends and family attend the funeral service of UGK rapper Chad "Pimp C" Butler at Robert A. Bob Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. Hundreds of fans braved the cold and rain to attend and pay their respects to the rapper and his family.

    Video © Mark M. Hancock /

    Friends, family and fans gather for the funeral service of rapper Chad "Pimp C" Butler in Port Arthur on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. Video features brief after-funeral interviews with Diamond White, Nickey Ephriam, Clarence Griffin and DJ Bird.

    Please read "Pimp C Funeral" by Fred Davis.

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Moving ahead

    East Chambers' Tramain Thomas (No. 1) gains yards against Hardin-Jefferson during a football game in Winnie on Friday, Sept. 21, 2007.

    Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Sour Lake puppy

    Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Gracie, a 7-week-old Merle Great Dane (left), headbutts Piper, a 4-year-old Yorkshire Terrier (right), during the Old Timer's Day and Christmas On The Square in Sour Lake on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007.

    A statistical countdown problem

    At the end of October, Go Stats changed how they report visitors. This creates a problem with the Countdown to a Win contest.

    The millionth reader portion of the contest remains unchanged. However, the Top Referrer award is more difficult to quantify.

    I've considered several options to make the Top Referrer award fair (and more fun for me) under the circumstances. I believe the most fair way to deal with this is as follows:
  • All referrers reported earlier get to keep the Oct. 18 numbers.

  • Any referrers not reported in the top five get credit for the lowest number of references to the Oct. 18 report date (516 hits).

  • Once the millionth visitor is identified, I'll allow two weeks for y'all to calculate the day-by-day math since the report changed. If a referrer can prove more hits with a combined score than the current leader's combined hits, they win.

  • Essentially, anyone who hadn't linked to this blog before just got a 516-hit boost. If those blogs can shoo a bunch of visitors to this blog in the next month or two, they could beat the current Top Referrers and win a signed and framed custom print.

    Good luck.

    Enough for now,

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Michael Rubenstein interview - Part B

    © Michael Rubenstein

    Please read Michael Rubenstein's biography and Part A of this interview. Please also see additional images on his blog and Web site .

    Benjamin Rasmussen wrote,
    Congratulations on the move Michael. I have loved seeing your stuff come over APAD and am excited to see your work from India.
    Thanks Benjamin, I appreciate it.
    What made you decide to go with Redux as your agency and what was the process like of getting representation?
    I'd been working with a different agency for the past three years and felt that I wasn't getting the attention that I needed. I wanted an agency that would focus on building up a solid stable of customers, would help me build up my "brand" - if you can call it that - and would support the work that I want to do. Redux and specifically Marcel, Jasmine and Laura were great. They were frank about the state of the photography business, what I could expect and were honest about what they thought of my work.

    We had a few meetings over the course of about six months, and - at some point during those discussions - we decided India would be a fine place to be based, and I started packing. I think getting representation is about the same as getting a magazine to hire you or a newspaper. You show your work; you have conversations; and if you fit, you fit. If you don't, then you move on. My style and my goals fit with Redux, and I was lucky enough to sign with them.
    Now that you are in India, do you have clients contact you with editorial assignments or is most of your work self assigned and then marketed to different publications?
    It's a bit of both. I've only been here for a month and with Thanksgiving and the holiday season coming up things are slow. Some of my clients have contacted me or Redux, and I've done some editorial work over here. Most of what I'm doing right now, however, is getting my life and office in order. Finding an apartment, negotiating a lease, and just getting your bearings in a city like Mumbai isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, so that's taken quite a bit of time.

    I also am researching stories that I'm interested in photographing and - once I start them - I'll pitch them to Redux and to my editorial clients. I have to say being represented doesn't mean you sit back and let the assignments come in. If anything you have to work harder on your own projects to show everyone you're busting your ass and not resting on your laurels.
    Before you left for India, did you spend time in New York showing your book and making contact with different photo editors or did Redux act as a go between.
    I sure did, for three weeks in fact. I made contact with some editors myself, but in general, Redux set up most of my visiting schedule.
    Mike Young in eastern NC wrote,
    How did you get into a career as a photojournalist? From what I've read and heard from other journalists, photojournalism is not one of the most sought-after careers, due to several unfavorable qualities - low income, constant traveling, little or no benefits, etc. Is this true? What aspects of photojournalism drew you to it? What do you like most about your job? Any additional advice that you would give to an aspiring photojournalist?
    Thanks Mike, that's quite the question! I got into photojournalism a bit late. My undergraduate degree is in Environmental Policy and Social Movement Theory. I worked with environmental NGOs for about eight years before I decided I wanted to be a photojournalist.

    I loved the work that I was doing and I wanted to continue to make a difference in communities that needed help, but working with NGOs was getting very frustrating with Bush in office.

    I'd known a few photojournalists in Portland and San Francisco, and I had an inkling that was the direction I wanted to go in; so I quit my job, bought a camera and started to learn as much as I could.

    As far as PJ not being a sought after career, man, if you're doing this for the money, good luck to you. I'd say if you want to get rich quick, be a banker or a stock broker. This job is a calling, if you're not drawn to it, pulled to it, don't do it.

    For me, I love the constant traveling, meeting new people everyday, working on my own schedule and eating Ramen Noodles. It's fabulous.

    As for advice, go with your heart. If you are good at what you do, and you work on issues that are important to you, then you'll be fine. Take business classes if you're in school and intern a lot. If you think freelance is your path, assist a photographer you respect, for a year. Learn everything you can because as soon as you start working professionally, there will be 50,000 other photographers that you're competing with. Good luck!
    James M. Martin wrote,
    I started out apprenticing at a commercial studio five years ago and have slowly become a photojournalist. I have worked at newspapers and magazines, and more recently for CNET ad CNBC. I am at a point where I can grow more. I feel like now I am looking to take a next step... Should I be getting a photo rep to find work for me?
    You should do whatever feels right to you James. Some people have a rep, some don't. I'm new to India and new to photography, and I like having other people to bounce ideas around with and to help me as a go between with my clients. Negotiating is a hard thing to do and then to have to work with the editors directly afterwards can be awkward. I prefer to let my Rep be the tough guy and for me to be the nice one. OK, all of you that know me, stop laughing.

    In all seriousness though, having a Rep has been great for me - especially with Redux. They are like full-time networkers, and I often don't have the stomach for that kind of thing. I prefer to make pictures all day instead of being on the phone. For more sides to this question there are four blogs out there that have been going on and on lately about whether to have a Rep or not. Check them out and make your own decision:   Aphotoeditor, John Loomis, Andrew Hetherington and this person, who is a rep.

    Good luck James!
    How important is an education for a PJ? Why?
    I think an education is important for everyone. Do I think it's important to get a degree in photojournalism as an undergrad? No. I think you should study history, anthropology, business, anything but photography. Pretty pictures anyone can do. Pictures with depth, with meaning, intelligent pictures that tell a real story and connect themes, those pictures you can do when you study something else.

    Take some photography classes, take some J classes, take an ethics class, but as an undergrad, do you need a degree in photography? No. I went to graduate school for Visual Communications. It was a great experience. I met a ton of people and learned as much or more from classmates as I did from professors. It helped a lot, but without everything I had already done in my life it would have allowed me to make pretty pictures and that's about it.
    How are access and legal issues different in Southeast Asia?
    I'm a stranger in a strange land. I have to be VERY careful not to piss off the police or the government while at the same time covering issues that are important to me. In some ways, being a foreign journalist in India has helped me get access to places that local journalists couldn't; in other ways, I'm a total outsider; and it can be frustrating. I'm trying to learn the language, and that will help. Other than that, I can pretty much shoot what I want, when I want as long as I'm polite, and I follow the rules of the country I'm in.
    What sources do you use to find and research stories?
    I talk to people on the street. I use NGOs, local papers, the Internet. Same stuff I'd use in the States. It's no different here.
    I'll guess you had the normal batch of shots before heading overseas. I'll also guess water processing and other basic sanitation isn't the same as in the U.S. What precautions do you suggest for Americans traveling overseas? Are these health issues for the local or just for foreigners?
    HAHAHAHHAHA. Oh man, shots, did I ever have shots. Just be smart. The water will make you sh_t. Drink bottled water - always. Wash your hands - a lot. Keep your nails short. If you eat street food, be prepared to pay for it later. Bring toilet paper with you wherever you go. Don't bring drugs with you, buy them there; it's cheaper, and you don't need a script - plus doctors are cheap to go to here, if you really need one.
    How do you travel there? Do you plan to buy an auto?
    We take Auto Rickshaws and taxi's almost everywhere. [I take] the train sometimes - when it's not packed. We may buy a car, but the idea of driving here is absurd. Who knows what the future will bring once we get used to the place.
    What kinds of insurance do you have?
    We have general overseas health coverage and emergency-evac insurance. Just in case.
    How are income and sales taxes handled?
    No idea! Wish me luck with that one!!!
    What do PJs need to know about embassies, governments and working overseas?
    Register with your embassy when you arrive. They can't help you with visas; but if the country is evacuated, they can help you get out. Not that you'd want to get out, but they can help if you have to. I'd say get the proper visas if you can - especially if you're new; don't try to work on a tourist visa unless you've got a ton of experience and can get yourself out of trouble. Other than that, it's common sense. Be safe and make good friends.
    What else should PJs know to help them survive in this field?
    Mosquito repellent and Imodium. Learn to love them. That and patience and smiles will get you further than screaming and yelling every time.

    Enough for now,

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Michael Rubenstein interview - Part A

    © Michael Rubenstein

    Please read Michael Rubenstein's biography and see additional images on his blog and Web site .

    What do you do?
    I'm a photojournalist that picked up and moved to Mumbai, India to cover South Asian issues. I don't really shoot spot news; but if there is a huge natural disaster or something quite important, I'd be on the next flight out. For the most part, I shoot editorial assignments for magazines, a lot of portraits and shoot documentary work as personal projects. We'll see how it turns out though; we've only been here for a month. A month today actually!
    How did you decide to become a overseas photojournalist?
    My fiancée and I had been promising ourselves since Bush got re-elected that we'd spend some time out of the country. About six months ago things just started to fall into place. I'd been looking for a new agency and decided I wanted to work with Redux Pictures. I met with the folks over there and - over the course of a few months - it was decided that they needed someone in India, and I wanted to go. That was that, and a few months later, here I am.
    You were working on your master's degree at Ohio. Why did you decide now was the best time to make the leap into the pro world? Do you plan to finish the degree? If so, how/when?
    I do plan to finish my degree. I learned quite a bit at Ohio, and I would like to go back and finish up. I'm hoping at some point they will let me take a couple of classes via Ichat; it certainly would make things easier. As for the leap to pro, when I was at OU in 2006, I got an offer to fill in for an ill photographer at The Oregonian. I was thinking it would be for a month or two, but they kept me around for six months, and then I worked nearly full time for them as a stringer for the first half of 2007. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. The editors and staff at The Oregonian are incredible people and taught me just as much as I learned at OU while I was there. I made some life-long friends there, and I got to live at home with my fiancée - always a bonus.
    Why did you choose Redux Pictures?
    Redux is a great agency. They are small for the industry, and they spend a lot of time on each photographer. I'd always heard great things about Marcel Saba and Jasmine DeFoore, and - when we all met and talked over the specifics - it seemed like an obvious choice. Get a new agency you click with and go to India; who would pass that up?
    What criteria do they use to select their correspondents?
    You know, you'd have to ask Marcel and Jasmine about that. I'm guessing they look for people whose photography they like, and they think is marketable, and a person that will click with the atmosphere of the agency, but that's my guess.
    I've read several horror stories about agency malfeasance. What are some pitfalls to avoid?
    I know it's sad to say, but photography and photojournalism are a business. That's why newspapers shut down, and that's why some agencies take on a million photographers and take a year to pay you. I do what I do for everything else. I talk with people, I read up on them, I check them out, and then I go with my gut. Most of the time it works. If it doesn't, whatever doesn't kill you right?
    Is your arrangement more like a stock agency or a photo representative?
    Redux handles everything for me: my assignments, stock and commercial work. I wanted someone that could do everything in one place.
    How does working for an agency differ from "just winging it" into a hot zone?
    Winging it in a hot zone? I can't think of anything else that sounds as terrible as that. I haven't ever worked as a conflict photographer - not that I wouldn't, but I haven't just yet. Having the support of a team of people to get me assignments and sell images for me has been invaluable. I would never personally just hop on a plane to Baghdad or Kabul without having some kind support back at home. But then again, I've never worked in a "hot zone" and maybe that's why!
    What are your thoughts on micro-stock? Citizen journalism?
    I think it's great. Blogs and the Internet are changing the way information flows, and that is positive. I do, however, think people know professional photojournalists and journalists have a higher ethical standard to uphold, and - while they may read citizen journalism - they know to check it against professional accounts. As far as micro-stock.... a good picture is a good picture; why shouldn't we use it if its there?
    How did you pick India?
    Like I said earlier, it was more of a conversation with Redux than it was saying, "I want to go to India." I'd never been to India before; and after a lot of research and phone calls, we decided to take the risk and go. That's how it happened, and it's been great.
    How did you prepare for the move, what specific advice do you have for others?
    Moving to another country sucks - especially if you want to bring 20 cameras with you and computer equipment. Getting it overseas usually requires a relocation service (which we couldn't afford) or something of the sort. We just packed 11 bags and went. We should have gotten a Carnet, which would have allowed us to bring any equipment we wanted as long as we left India with it when we left to come back to the states. Unfortunately, we didn't know about it until the customs agents in Mumbai let us know we needed one. Let me tell you, that was a fun hour-long conversation at midnight after 27 hours of travel!
    What obstacles have you needed to overcome and what advice do you have for others?
    The language barrier has been fun and apartments are very expensive. We miss home sometimes and our friends, but - other than that - it's great. My advice is to be open, easy going and make local friends. After that, everything will fall into place. If it doesn't, that might be your sign to move on.
    This seems like a very expensive undertaking. How much money should a PJ expect to have on hand before making a similar move? Where does this money come from? How long before you'll catch up on your finances?
    A lot. A LOT A LOT A LOT. About a year's salary should do it. It's going to be about a year or so before things get back to normal; and where does the money come from? A money tree silly! It's in the back yard. All jokes aside, it comes out of my pocket; reps don't pay relocation costs.
    What specific equipment did you need to take and what did you purchase on arrival?
    You can't purchase gear in India. There are 100 percent tariffs on everything. Try paying $5k USD for a 5d. YUCK. We brought everything and narrowly escaped customs with my gear and our luggage. I have digital and film cameras and a laptop and hard drives and everything you'd have in the States. You just don't buy it here. It's cheaper to go to NY and buy it there, even with the flight.

    Digital equipment:
    2 - 5ds
    1 - 35 1.4
    1 - 24 1.4
    1 - 50 1.2
    1 - 85 1.8
    1 - 135 2.0

    Film Cameras:
    1 - 4x5 field camera with 4 different lenses
    2 - Leica M6 with a 35 and 50 mm lenses
    2 - Mamiya RZ 6x7 cameras
    1 - Rolleiflex TLR 3.5
    1 - Mamiya 7II with 80mm 4.0 lens
    1 - Mamiya 6 with 60 and 75 mm lenses
    1 - Linhoff Master Technica 6x9 with film roll capability
    1 - Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm lens

    Marantz with a Sure mic

    Canon HD20 1080 camcorder

    Mac Pro
    What do you expect to shoot and which clients do you expect?
    I shoot everything. I'll do a lot of documentary, travel and editorial work and maybe some commercial. Probably not any fashion. I don't really know that business. As far as clients, I'll work for, any magazine or newspaper I enjoy reading, and I think will respect my images.
    How has the magazine industry reacted to your agency affiliation and relocation?
    They seem to like it. I've been getting more work these days.
    Do you self-generate work? If so, do you funnel all work through the agency?
    Yes and Yes. All my work goes through Redux, and I am constantly searching out stories to photograph.
    Does the agency get paid for all your work - no matter who acquires the assignments?
    Yup. They sure do. They deal with billing and our agreement is that they take a chunk of all the work I do. In turn they promote me, handle my archive and deal with the money. I'm ok with that.
    How important a role will convergence (photo, video, audio, text) play for you?
    I am happy to shoot stills and video and audio. The writing, well, I'm not all that eloquent, but Apple's grammar check is helping with that.

    I like multimedia. I like being able to give viewers/readers firsthand information. I like that my subjects can talk for themselves; although here in India, it is hard for Westerners to understand the accent. What I don't like is editing; for me, the best case scenario is working with a team where I gather the stills, video and audio; and then I work with a producer to make something that is great. I think it's rare to find one person who is so good at all of the different aspects of multimedia capture and production that they can pull off a fantastic story alone. I think that as we get more into extensive multimedia coverage with newspapers and magazines that the team effort will become more common. In fact, the first thing I'm going to train my assistant to do is video and audio capture and tagging.

    In all seriousness though, I think multimedia is great, and it will have a place, along with stills, in magazines and newspapers. For me, it's interesting to start to think cinematically about the stories and projects I'm working on. I think every student that's in a photojournalism program should go take some introductory classes at a film school. I wish I had when I was in grad school. In fact, the Knight Fellows at Ohio University both took film classes while I was there. Perhaps the students should have taken their lead!
    Do you expect to change the world with your images? If so, how?
    I don't expect anything. I am happy to be here in this crazy, beautiful country and that's really all I can ask for. If someone is touched by my photographs, then that is wonderful, but I'm not here expecting to change anything.

    Please read Part-B of this interview.

    Enough for now,

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Tree of Angels

    Ginger Rode prepares angles before the 7th Annual Tree of Angels at the Jefferson county Courthouse in Beaumont on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007. She prepared angels for a brother, who was a homicide victim, and another brother, who was killed by a drunk driver.

    Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    The Victims' Assistance Center invited families and friends of a victim as well as survivors of a crime to add an angel ornament to the tree. The tree will be on display throughout the month of December.

    Sunday, December 09, 2007

    Gator Country expansion

    Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Big Al catches some rays in his pond while work continues on a new, full-service restaurant at Gator Country in Fannett on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007. The theme park will reopen on March 1 and the restaurant will open April 15, 2008.

    One of two new Nile Crocodiles lays in the sun at Gator Country in Fannett.

    Gator Country owner Gary Saurage (right) directs Steven Parr (in backhoe) as they move a gift shop at the theme park.

    Cold-blooded alligators try to absorb sunlight at Gator Country.

    These were shot right after a cold front, so the gators and crocs were moving slowly. Don't get this close to a Nile Croc unless it's cold.

    Please see the Gator grabbin' contest video at Gator Country from this summer.

    Saturday, December 08, 2007

    Wildcatters keep lead

    Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Wildcatters' Jonathan Paiement (No. 94, right) and Gwinnett's Derek Nesbitt (No. 17, left) battle for the puck during an ECHL hockey game at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007.

    Wildcatters' Marc Fulton (No. 23, left) and Gwinnett's Jon Sitko (No. 24, right) slam into the glass behind Gwinnett's goal during an ECHL hockey game.

    Wildcatters' Anton Khudobin (No. 35. left) blocks a shot while Jordie Preston (No. 17, right) moves in to assist during an ECHL hockey game against Gwinnett.

    Wildcatters' Michael Grenzy (No. 3, top) flips the puck over the leg of Gwinnett's Dan Turple (No. 38, bottom) for a goal during an ECHL hockey game at Ford Arena in Beaumont. The Wildcatters won the game 3-2 and keep the ECHL South lead.

    Friday, December 07, 2007

    Mustangs get corralled

    Fourteen-month-old Brennan Jones, grandson of West Orange-Stark's head coach Dan Hooks, strides down the sideline before a Class 3A high school football playoff game at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville on Friday, Nov. 30, 2007.

    Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    Brandon Allensworth (No. 66, center) and the rest of the West Orange-Stark team takes the field before the Class 3A Division II high school football playoff game against Waco LaVega at Sam Houston State University.

    West Orange-Stark's Ronnie Dennis pulls in a reception to set up the team's first touchdown against Waco LaVega during a high school football playoff game.

    West Orange-Stark's Jacorey Roberts (No. 54, left) and Carltives Zetar (No. 32, center) sack Waco LaVega's Danzel Wilson (No. 4, right) during the playoff game in Huntsville.

    WO-S's DePauldrick Garrett (No. 24, left) gets hit by LaVega's Reco Pardue (No. 30, right) during the football playoff game. LaVega won 20-12 and ended WO-S's season.

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Cards slam the Cavs

    Lamar's Justin Nabors (No. 24, left) slams the ball through the hoop against St. Gregory's in the Montagne Center at Lamar University in Beaumont on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007.

    Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

    St. Gregory's Sam Stuart (No. 34, right) tries to block the shot of Lamar's Ashton Hall (No. 15, left) during a college basketball game in the Montagne Center at Lamar University.

    Lamar's Ashton Hall (No. 15, left) and Matthew Barrow (No. 23, right) trap St. Gregory's Kyle Lulko (No. 3, center) during a college basketball game in the Montagne Center at Lamar University. Lamar beat the Cavs 95-59 and broke a five-game losing streak.