Monday, June 30, 2008

Losing a ride

A skateboarder loses his ride during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park in Allen on Saturday, June 21, 2008. Go Skateboarding Day (GSD) is the official annual skateboarding holiday. It occurs on June 21 each year.

© Mark M. Hancock /

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lizard lounge

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

A lizard warms in the sun at Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center in Orange on Tuesday, March 27, 2007. Although the property was severely damaged by Hurricane Rita, the center plans to open to the public in the fall of 2007.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


© Mark M. Hancock /

This is another test image from the D300 in Plano on Thursday, June 26, 2008 (about 3 minutes after the other shot).

I shot an assignment with the D300 today at medium file size and had amazing results at both 400 and 1000 ISO (images in about a month). I need to get the additional battery pack because I tend to shoot a lot of verticals.

Strangely, it worked in AF mode with a 2X teleconverter that hasn't worked on any other Nikon camera since my N90s. Now if it only worked in TTL with any of the various speedlights I've bought in the last 15 years...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wedding vessel

© Mark M. Hancock /

Fayrouz and Mark's wedding vessel rests on a coffee table in Plano on Thursday, June 26, 2008.

This is the first test image with my new Nikon D300. It's late now, so I must mouth the word "Wow" silently.

It's difficult.

I guess I should point out this image is hand-held at 1/30th on 200 ISO. I had it set for .jpg fine with a large file size. When I opened it in Photoshop, I expected it to be about five megapixels (MPs). It was 34.9MP. Say it silently with me, "Wow!"

I'm breaking my own rule and using the camera without reading the phonebook-sized manual three times. I read the quick-start manual twice though. All the functions are instinctual, so I'll be fine for a shoot tomorrow. I can read the mega-manual between shoots this month to learn the newest functions.

I honestly haven't been this excited about a camera since I got the first N90 to arrive in Texas. To my disappointment, it couldn't perform multiple exposures like my FM... but this camera can.

The D300 also has a dust cleaning system, so I'll be able to shoot at f/32 again. I haven't shot with maximum depth of field in years.

The biggest relief with this camera is that I'm completely back in business. I've only been working newspaper gigs this month with my Nikon D1Hs because I didn't have the MPs for magazine or commercial gigs.

Now, I have a high-end camera and beefed-up laptop with wireless broadband. I'm back to a point where I can literally shoot and transmit high-res, toned and captioned images from any location in less than an hour.

My wife and sister have employed several saints to work on my behalf. They have St. Joseph working to help earn income (he was a hard-working, honorable guy, so I like him a lot). St. Patrick is standing on the router to bring luck (I've got a few issues with him). St. Anthony is working to "find" gigs. St. Jude is new to me and working the hardest. He's in charge of finding hope.

Since everything is in place now, I hope I'm lucky enough to find more income.

BTW, I'll be able to start posting June images fairly soon as the embargoes finish. While I could be busier, I haven't exactly been sittin' around the house sippin' lattes.

Enough for now,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

West Brook handoff

West Brook's Christine Michael (No. 33, center) takes a handoff from Christian Louis (No. 12, right) during a high school football game at Memorial High School in Port Arthur on Friday, Oct. 26, 2007.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Get insured

Insurance is a business issue most PJs want to avoid. It falls somewhere below root canal on a pleasure meter. However, we need it. So, let's understand it.

I've upgraded all kinds of insurance lately, so this information is current. Folks reading this in a few years need to check with their insurance agents.

Basically, insurance is legalized gambling. We're betting something horrible happens. Large corporations are betting it won't. The larger the amount at risk, the more money either side must ante up.

However, there are some caveats. First, almost all the money we pay is a business write off (auto and home are percentages). So, we get to reclaim most of our payments.

Second, there's no measuring the value of peace of mind when something bad could happen. If we have health insurance, we're far more likely to get a wide-angle shot of a gator or snake. Without insurance, it's a 300mm or longer moment.

The same peace of mind applies to where we drive, where we shoot, what equipment we use, where we park, who we invite to our home, etc. Essentially, every "freedom" we tend to enjoy as PJs is covered by some form of insurance. Yes, we can do whatever we want in America, but we are entirely responsible for the repercussions and expenses if something goes wrong.

Considering the PJ profession, it's wise to bet something will go wrong.

Auto liability insurance
In most places, auto insurance is required to operate a vehicle on the road. It's also most PJ's first experience with insurance.

For most staff PJs, it's a non-reimbursed job requirement (no insurance = no job). Some staffers get a monthly car allowance to cover some of the expense, but this has become increasingly rare.

Basic liability is required by state. However, new car loans often require full coverage. This costs quite a bit more, but it means the car will be fixed if it's damaged or replaced if it's totaled or stolen. It can also include provisions for medical expenses of occupants and security of equipment in the vehicle.

These risks become higher or lower depending on the PJ's location. However, auto insurance is already starting to overlap other insurance expenses and might reduce the costs of supplemental premiums (this is good).

Health insurance
Health insurance is often the reason most PJs prefer to be staffers. We know we're covered and can get semi-repaired or if something goes wrong. It allows us to take calculated risks at our job without too much fear.

This doesn't mean PJs with acrophobia won't be screaming like a monkey during a skydiving assignment. But if they shatter on impact, they don't have the additional worry of a $50K hospital stay, loss of income, etc.

For most PJs, this is the single most expensive form of insurance. Staffers have a significant portion paid by their employers, but still have a hefty portion taken out of their income. Meanwhile, freelancers are on the hook for the whole amount or have a beautiful, kind, loving spouse with good insurance paying the premiums for us. ;-}

Homeowner/Renter insurance
By itself, homeowner/renter insurance can be quite expensive. A low-value rental policy can cost more than $100. However, when it's purchased as a bundle with auto insurance it can actually cost less than the auto insurance alone.

It's unbelievable, but I'm living proof. It also means I have a full-service insurance agent, full coverage on two autos, good driving histories, are over a certain age, married, and so forth. But, it's possible to pay less for more insurance. Check with your local insurance agent for the best prices.

If you own the property, you need this insurance and are required by a mortgage contract to have it. Considering what I've photographed in my career, it's a good investment against something tragic.

For PJs, this is a partial write off for the business-use percentage of our home. We write off the same percentage of the insurance. However, it covers much or all of our home-based equipment and archives as well as claims against us if something happens to our home or someone gets injured at our home.

Again, this coverage overlaps into our business insurance needs.

General business liability insurance
When I went freelance, I knew I needed this coverage. If a staff PJ drops a camera on a pro boxer from the catwalk, the paper is on the hook for expenses. If a freelancer does it, it's a life-halting event.

Even something as simple as a person tripping over a wire or a light stand accident can become a career-ender for freelancers without this insurance. Consequently, don't consider mounting cameras and strobes in remotely dangerous locations without proper coverage.

Some cities have ordinances requiring this insurance before photographers are allowed to make images within the city limits - even in public places. While the Constitutionality of these ordinances might be questionable, it would cost more to legally challenge the ordinance than to pay the premium and have some peace of mind.

While this may sound like staffers can skate, they're skating on thin ice. If a staffer takes a freelance gig, it's not covered by the paper. They might try to sneak it in under the radar, but it could cost the staff gig in the long run.

Consequently, it's wise for staffers to purchase this insurance as well if they plan to accept freelance gigs.

Again, when it's bundled with other insurance, it's surprisingly reasonable. For about $30 per month, PJs (staff and/or freelance) could get about $300K liability, $20K business property theft/loss, $5K medical liability, $10K equipment breakdown, attorney's fees and actual losses sustained.

The price goes up as numbers increase, but it's still reasonable when bundled. Again, check with your local agent.

From my point of view, it's probably the best $30 I could spend as a pro PJ. It also makes my service more appealing to other businesses because they know I'm absorbing basic liability. If I'm dumb enough to drop a light stand on a new car, it's covered.

Property insurance
Property insurance covers all our equipment. While it's taken years for us to acquire all the gear we use every day, it can be gone in seconds.

Most gear is covered under auto, homeowner or business insurance, but it can be covered separately as well. Again, freelancers are on the hook for the whole amount of the gear lost if it's not otherwise insured.

Staff PJs normally have their gear covered on a company-wide program. Unless staffers want to replace everything out of pocket, it's critical to routinely update company records with equipment lists and serial numbers.

I keep a spreadsheet of all my equipment and serial numbers. Part of my workflow is to add all new equipment and serial numbers to the spreadsheet before I allow myself to use the equipment once.

Loss of Business insurance
This is catastrophic loss insurance. Wedding PJs in hurricane areas as well as flood and fire zones are most likely to consider this coverage.

This insurance is relatively inexpensive because it's a back-end rider on other policies and is often considered a "last resort" claim. It's also difficult for PJs to claim this insurance because the kinds of disasters that lead to this claim are exactly the kinds of disasters we typically cover.

So, PJs are likely to earn equal or greater income from alternative sources while other businesses lose all income. Traditional (studio) photographers and wedding PJs may want to still consider this option while primarily news PJs aren't as likely to pay this premium.

Errors and Omissions insurance
This is considered "special business insurance" for professionals. It's commonly purchased by technology professionals for protection from data liability (real or alleged).

It's also used by some photographers to guaranty delivery of professional services. Again, wedding PJs are far more likely to need this coverage than primarily news PJs. In a worst-case scenario a wedding PJ snowed into Buffalo might be happy to have this coverage while the nuptial service continues in LA without a photographer.

It won't help with the mother of the bride, but it might help return the PJ fees. I'm not sure if it would cover the bulletproof vest needed afterward. Again, check with your local agent. :-)

Travel insurance
Unless PJs are certain their insurance is universal, it normally stops the second a foot or tire crosses a border or the PJ boards most forms of interstate mass transportation. This is when travel insurance must be in place.

Staff PJs normally have this covered by the company. Be certain the company has plenty of supplemental insurance before pitching the story about guerrillas in the Peruvian Andes or Congo.

Freelance PJs must arrange travel insurance. This is a complete business write off. We'll hope freelancers already have a client before they take off to points unknown. The client pays these expenses as part of the invoice total. If not, the images are part of the freelance PJ's stock portfolio, so it's still a complete business expense.

No matter what, this is very important insurance.

Most frequently, PJs need all-inclusive international business insurance. This covers medical, dental, emergency evacuation, cars, property rentals, liability, trip interruption, cancellations, baggage, property theft, identity theft, loss of business, accidental death and return of body (funeral shipping).

These are sold for single trips or for multiple business trips over the course of a year (typically with total-time restrictions). There is also insurance to cover longer trips (more total or consecutive days), but these have much higher premiums.

Check with your local agent before dealing with an unknown national or international organization.

As with everything in this world, make sure the company has a reputation of delivering when needed. Research, research, research and remember to look for negative information posted on the Web. When your leg shatters in Peru, it's not the time to find out the emergency medical evacuation required pre-approval.

Life insurance
We're all going to die eventually. All PJs have the potential to die before expected.

Life insurance is the biggest gamble of them all. We're betting we'll die (a certain bet). The insurance corporations are betting we'll run out of money or change insurance carriers before it happens.

The most secure is staff PJ life insurance. It's typically paid by the company as part of the terms of employment. The company knows when you die, and human resources will help your family recover what's rightfully theirs.

The next most secure is "whole life" or "permanent life" coverage. Most PJs don't need this. It's far more expensive than term insurance. It's essentially a tax shelter for wealthy individuals. The policy collects interest and pays a tax-free, lump-sum death benefit. If you're already rich, go for it.

Term life insurance is best for most freelance PJs. It gets progressively more expensive as individuals age. Premiums also increase based on the amount of death benefit we request. Some PJs may want to think they're worth millions and millions. Unless they earn it annually - they're not.

Keep premiums reasonable by only purchasing the amount it would take to cover funeral expenses and keep your family as secure as if the PJ was still alive. Unfortunately, this isn't very much, but it's also fortunate because it means the premiums are lower.

It's vital to let the beneficiaries know about term life insurance policies. Term policies expire if they aren't paid - because the payer, you know, died and stuff. So, beneficiaries need to know how to quickly claim their prize. :-)

Final thoughts
Unfortunately, insurance is a bet we really don't want to win. It means something horrible happens to us or our property. For the sake of our business and loved ones, we must win this bet when the time comes. It's their future we're gambling.

Enough for now,

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Future Lamar pitcher

Hardin-Jefferson High School pitcher Taylor Monse balances a baseball on the brim of his cap during baseball practice in Sour Lake on Tuesday, May 13, 2008.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Hardin-Jefferson High School pitcher Taylor Monse fields balls during baseball practice in Sour Lake on Tuesday, May 13, 2008. Monse will sign a letter of intent on Friday to play at Lamar University next year.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Village Creek vacation

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Humble residents Travis King (left) and Rose King (right) prepare their tent for camping at Village Creek State Park in Lumberton on Friday, May 16, 2008.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lines and arcs

© Mark M. Hancock /

Buildings contrast the treetops they overlook in Plano on Tuesday, June 17, 2008.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Go Skateboarding Day

Paul Adams of Dallas works a bowl during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park in Allen on Saturday, June 21, 2008.

photos © Mark M. Hancock /

Westin Smith of Plano catches some air during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park. Go Skateboarding Day (GSD) is the official annual skateboarding holiday.

A shattered board is discarded during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park. GSD occurs on June 21 each year.

Metroplex youths take turns working the course during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center.

Michael Tang of Dallas turns during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park.

Westin Smith of Plano practices a move during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park.

Paul Adams of Dallas works a bowl during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park.

Paul Adams of Dallas works a bowl during Go Skateboarding Day at The Edge Youth Center at Allen Station Park.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Uban bunny

© Mark M. Hancock /

A rabbit tries to blend into the scenery in Plano on Thursday, June 19, 2008.

I've already used the "Every bunny loves some bunny" headline. Blogger's display image compression was horrible in 2004, click on the image to see it more clearly.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vocal Trash concert

Chris Beck (from left to right), Steve Linder, Chris Norwood and Sean Edins of the band Vocal Trash perform at the Amphitheater at Oak Point Park in Plano on Thursday, June 19, 2008. The free event was part of the City of Plano's Picnic in the Park series.

photos by © Mark M. Hancock /

Chris Norwood (from left to right), Kelsey Rae, Chris Beck, Steve Linder and Sean Edins perform as the band Vocal Trash from North Richland Hills.

Chris Norwood of the band Vocal Trash from North Richland Hills plays guitar at the Amphitheater at Oak Point Park.

Chris Norwood of the band Vocal Trash from North Richland Hills plays guitar at the Amphitheater at Oak Point Park.

Guests listen and dance to the tunes of the faith-based band Vocal Trash from North Richland Hills.

Chris Beck (left) and Steve Linder (right) of the band Vocal Trash perform at the Amphitheater at Oak Point Park.

Chris Norwood (from left to right), Steve Linder and Chris Beck of the band Vocal Trash from North Richland Hills perform at the Amphitheater at Oak Point Park in Plano.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fire arbitration

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Beaumont Fire Department district chief Keith Stewart (left) answers questions from assistant city attorney Joe Sanders (right) during arbitration at the Beaumont Civic Center in Beaumont on Tuesday, April 1, 2008. The city would prefer to combine fire and police dispatch and replace departmental employees with trained civilians.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Soggy cattails

© Mark M. Hancock /

Cattails fight against rushing water in a drainage ditch after an afternoon storm in Plano on Tuesday, June 17, 2008.

PJ ethics during convergence

I was asked the following questions for an upcoming Black Star eBook. I thought y'all might be interested in the answers.

1. In general, how should the news industry deal with the problem of digital photo manipulation? What are news organizations doing wrong -- and right -- today?

As with almost every problem, education is the starting point. Photojournalists need to know digital manipulation is a lie and won't be tolerated.

Most major news organizations have codified guidelines against digital manipulation. The people who violate this basic tenet of reader trust do so willfully. Ultimately, responsibility is placed squarely on the person who physically eliminates an electric wire or soda can.

Having laid blame where it belongs, the industry needs to spread the knowledge of these rules to other portions of the industry in terms they understand. If our co-workers don't understand our ethics, they won't hesitate to request we violate these unknown rules. We must explain our ethics to them in a their own language.

If a reporter requests we do something unethical, for example, we could ask if they "make up" quotes in their stories. While they should recoil from the notion, the actions are exactly alike. A lie is a lie.

Photographic organizations need to partner with the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society for News Design, state press associations, other industry-related organizations and universities to educate the entire workforce and reduce the pressure for good people to do bad things.

While digital manipulation gets the most notice when it happens at a top-100 newspaper, it's far more likely to occur at a tiny community paper or regional magazine. These publications are the training grounds of tomorrow's photojournalists and page designers. If unethical habits begin at this level, they're unlikely to halt as these people move to larger publications.

Educating all news professionals at the entryway of the industry and holding them accountable for their actions is the most consistent way to ensure continuation of ethical standards.

2. Do print photojournalism and television photojournalism, in practice, have different ethical standards (on issues such as staging shots, for example)? If so, how this should be addressed in a converging industry?

Ethical standards of the two entities are largely historical and cultural differences. Radio and television (RTV) are regulated by the government (FCC). Newspapers are not and are Constitutionally protected from such regulation.

Broadcast RTV outlets originally used public airwaves and were regulated as "entertainment." Using broadcast media for news is a relatively recent development. While early broadcast news pioneers came from the newspaper business, most recent broadcast celebrities have not.

This divergence is often compounded at universities. While some universities do understand the connection, others continue to place RTV majors in the theater arts departments rather than journalism.

At my university, the two colleges were literally on opposite ends of the campus. I don't recall any RTV students in my journalism or media law courses.

If television photojournalists are surrounded by actors rather than journalists, it's understandable they would have a misguided sense of ethical standards. Actors appreciate and strive to achieve believable illusions rather than authentic reality.

While many individual television photojournalists are outstanding ethical beings, the pressure on them to act unethically (and be rewarded for such actions) is extreme.

The best approach would be to remove RTV photojournalists from the corrosive learning environment. Additionally, the role of actor/anchor should be minimized. Considering how much money is vested in this current structure, I don't see it changing anytime soon.

3. Where should photojournalists ultimately turn for ethical guidance? The NPPA? Their individual employers? Somewhere else?
The NPPA and other ethical photojournalists are the best places to turn for guidance and role models. However, the behaviors of photojournalists rest entirely on the shoulders of those individuals.

The guidelines are codified and well established. Adherence to the guidelines is expected.

4. In what ways do you think the ethics conversation might change going forward? For example, do you think it's time for "dirty words" in photojournalism -- like "photo illustration" -- to become more accepted in practice, so that photographers won't have as much of an incentive to be deceptive when altering photographs?

In a news environment, photo illustrations should be deliberate and obvious. A pig riding a flaming motorcycle while juggling sharks is a photo illustration. Digitally removing a soda can from an image is simply a lie.

Minimizing the photo illustration term and allowing photojournalists to digitally manipulate images or set up images is contrary to journalism and truth. The notion of lowering this standard is a ridiculous, destructive idea. It promotes lies and punishes truth.

No news image is made "more important" through digital manipulation. The manipulated images and the people who create them have cheated authentic photojournalists and the public.

Meanwhile, I don't want to appear draconian about Photoshop.

I have no problem with professional commercial photographers. They create stunning visual fiction. They are handsomely paid to do so. I applaud them because that's their profession, and they don't claim to tell the truth.

Photojournalists chose to tell the truth for a living.

I'll also note that until the most recent cameras, it was common to get dust on a digital sensor. Before these "dust proof" cameras, we got dust and lint on our negatives and sensors. In both cases we "spotted" the prints or scans to make the final image look like the actual scene.

Nobody saw a 12-foot-long rope hovering in the air - it was lint or a hair on the shutter. It wasn't visible to anyone other than the film, scanner head or digital sensor. By spotting this aberration, the final image more closely resembles the reality.

However, it doesn't take a genius to understand a soda can, people's legs, electrical wires and such aren't dust.

The acid test is simple. If another photographer stood beside a photojournalist, would they capture the same image? If the answer is yes, it's a spot. If the answer is no, it's a lie.

Lastly, we need to address professional competitions. Although there have been two recent notable instances of photojournalist deliberately manipulating images on deadline, it's highly uncommon. Most photojournalists transmit deadline images as fast as they can.

The problems often occur during competitions. With our industry being as competitive as it is, some photojournalists make unethical decisions to try to beat the competition. Much of this parallels the highest levels of sport competition.

Just as sporting organizations have become better at identifying steroid users, pro photo competitions have gotten better at identification and stripping awards from digital cheaters.

Software currently exists to identify cloned pixels. I'm certain it could be applied to video as well. This quickly identifies digitally manipulated images. It could be incorporated into many applications in the future and eliminate the desire to present false images.

However, unlike sports, photo contests don't elevate the honest, ethical photojournalists left in the wake of deceit. Professional photojournalism competitions should select "alternatives" like sporting contests. If contest officials later determine a contest was awarded to a false image, not only should awards be stripped, but those who were beaten by a lie should get their rightful awards.

The 2nd-place finisher in a contest would have won 1st place if someone hadn't tried to steal the award. Instead of a consolation prize and bitter experience, the rightful prize should be awarded to the ethical, honest, honorable photojournalist. This would be most profound to the photojournalist who would have won 3rd place.

Until good photojournalists are rewarded for quality images and ethical behavior, the motivation to lie and cheat will remain stronger for some.

Enough for now,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Egrets, I've seen a few...

... but in the end, I shot them my waaay...

Two great egrets trade places on a tree at Smith Oaks bird sanctuary in High Island on Friday, April 25, 2008.

© Mark M. Hancock /

Families of great egrets nest on a tree at Smith Oaks bird sanctuary in High Island.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing instruments

© Mark M. Hancock /

One writing instrument rests on another in the early morning light in Dallas on June, 5, 2008. Authors have the option of which instrument to use.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Smokin' shark

© Mark M. Hancock /

Anglers pose with a shark caught during a chartered fishing trip on the Fisherman's Wharf in Galveston on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2006.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Baptist General Convention director visits

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Dr. K. Randel Everett, new executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, (left) and church member Tom Hanna (right) enter the Calder Baptist Church in Beaumont on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. A majority of Baptist churches in Southeast Texas belong to the convention.

Dr. K. Randel Everett, new executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, (left) has a laugh with Chaplain Bob Webb with Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital (center) and Curtis Soileau of Lumberton (right) at Calder Baptist Church.

Curtis is officially the new "I wouldn't have guessed that" name champion. His last name is pronounced "swallow" like the bird. The previous champion was Lin Xan (last named pronounced as "swan").

- Always ask how people spell their name.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kemah Boardwalk train

The CP Huntington train takes passengers on a tour through the Kemah Boardwalk in Kemah on Aug. 5, 2007. Many coastal communities want to emulate the waterfront success story of Kemah's boardwalk area.

© Mark M. Hancock /

Categorize multiple photo groups

Between competing in contests, studying competition winners and judging other competitions, I've learned a few things about multiple photo submissions. Judging probably taught me the most. Once I looked at a few of the submissions, I immediately knew what NOT to do.

This post should keep some folks from making the same mistakes I've seen/made in the past and others inevitably will make in the future.

Photo clump
I've already detailed what a photo clump is. While it isn't anything to aspire to make, readers enjoy them. They also work well in several en vogue presentation formats (namely SoundSlides and videos from stills).

If a PJ is covering a festival, state fair or some other large-scale event where a photo clump seems the best solution, be certain to get everyone's names. At least this makes the clump of photos have some meaning. It's best if the clump is visually rich with plenty of variety to keep viewer interest as well.

A package is the basic story-telling unit. It's typically three to six images. It's small enough to be packaged together in a stand-alone box on one page of a broadsheet newspaper.

A typical package includes a wide shot to set the scene and a tight detail shot while the remaining shots are the best images from the take.

If nothing else, this stresses the importance of lens and perspective variation and getting detail shots. If there's no wide or detail shots, there probably isn't a package. Otherwise, the package looks like a clump.

It's best to shoot details as both horizontals and verticals. There needs to be variation of orientation to make an effective package. The detail shots "fill in" the layout gaps.

Every daily assignment can be shot as a package. Although they won't all run as packages, introducing variation to every assignment makes for a more interesting newspaper because the best shot from each assignment will likely result in a different focal-length lens, perspective, depth of field or detail.

The individual images from disparate stories can complement one another on a page rather than appearing redundant.

Photo packages are like stone soup: each minor improvement to options yields a much higher overall affect. A folding chair in an empty room can be successfully shot as a package. Put a person in the chair, and it'll work better, etc....

A series is a set of images which show change over time. The entire point of a series is to allow the reader to compare the images to graphically see the change. If the images don't show a significant change, a single image is better.

Some classic successful series might include:
An extremely fast, active news event to establish timeline.
A tree shot from a similar location during different seasons of the year.
The sun moving across the horizon on the longest day of the year on the North Pole.
A rose in a vase degrading from fresh to dust.

Photo story
I'll do a specific post on photo stories soon. A photo story is the format PJs prefer to use and appreciate the most. A typical photo story uses multiple photos to explain or expand on a subject or issue.

A quality photo story has all the elements of any great piece of story telling. As such, it has a lead (lede) image, a kicker image, transitional images, timing, pacing and surprises. Redundancies are eliminated in the editing phase and the finished product is polished and tells the story completely, succinctly and aesthetically.

Photo essay
A photo essay is different than a photo story. An essay is an exploration of a theme. Unlike a photo story, which is propelled by action (visual verbs), a photo essay is typically steeped in nouns (people, places, things or ideas). Either the theme is a noun or the images are nouns relating to the theme.

See this essay about Cottonwood Abstractions as an example. I could have easily covered the event as a photo story. The festival occurs twice each year (spring and fall). It's ranked in the top 25 art festivals in the United States, so there are always plenty of people doing things. However, the paper wouldn't want to run the same story each spring and fall. It would become redundant and meaningless to our readers.

Consequently, I made it a differently themed essay each time. It actually took much longer to conceive and shoot the essay than to shoot a story. The year it rained, the theme became "Water colors." Another time it was "Reflections of Cottonwood."

Judging from the feedback, our readers liked the essays and appreciated the thought put into them.

While the examples are one-day essays, others may take weeks or years to complete. Many documentary stories - particularly in National Geographic - are actually essays. They explore global warming, drought, famine, rain forest reduction or some other theme. Often, the theme is the noun. In other essays, the images are the noun. Sometimes both the theme and the images are nouns.

Choose the best approach
Understanding how groups of photos are categorized (clumps, packages, essays or stories) is the first step toward making photo stories. Next time, we're going to decide the best approach to a subject. Often, this is decided by the story idea or subject matter. However, the approach can sometimes change in the middle of the shoot or during the editing process.

Enough for now,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Changing pace and salary

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Jeana Hill (left) talks with customer Raymond Bourgeois (right) as she waits tables at The Old Orange Cafe in Orange on Thursday, May 8, 2008.

Jeana Hill returns menus to the hostess desk at The Old Orange Cafe. Hill graduated with an industrial technology degree from Lamar State College-Orange and will start as an operator at DuPont by the end of May.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blue Elbow Swamp trail

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Jeff Watson (right) of Cumming, Ga. walks down the observation trail with his daughter Kelsy, 3, at Tony Houseman State Park in the Blue Elbow Swamp behind the TXDOT Travel Center in Orange on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blue Elbow Swamp buddies

A snake slithers past a turtle at Tony Houseman State Park in the Blue Elbow Swamp behind the TXDOT Travel Center in Orange on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Monday, June 09, 2008

Blue Elbow Swamp tree frog

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

A tree frog rests at Tony Houseman State Park in the Blue Elbow Swamp behind the TXDOT Travel Center in Orange on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Blue Elbow Swamp turtles

Two turtles warm in the sun at Tony Houseman State Park in the Blue Elbow Swamp behind the TXDOT Travel Center in Orange on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Blue Elbow Swamp garfish

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

A garfish waits for a meal at Tony Houseman State Park in the Blue Elbow Swamp behind the TXDOT Travel Center in Orange on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Blue Elbow Swamp flower

Flowers bloom at Tony Houseman State Park in the Blue Elbow Swamp behind the TXDOT Travel Center in Orange on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Normally I'd post the next week's worth of images as one post, but I'm working on other issues this week. So, I'll post one per day from this series. This series and this image are from my final full day at Beaumont.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Botanical Gardens benefactors

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Ann Harder (left) and her sister Edra Harder Bogucki (right) chat outside the new reception center at the Tyrrell Park Beaumont Botanical Gardens in Beaumont on Tuesday, May 13, 2008. The sisters donated funds to help restore and improve the gardens.

Ann Harder talks with others as she carries her gardening supplies to a work area in the garden at the Tyrrell Park Beaumont Botanical Gardens.

Roses grow in a garden near the new centerpiece waterfall and restored pond at the Tyrrell Park Beaumont Botanical Gardens.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stained glass repairs

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Margaret Desmond, interim pastor of First Presbyterian Congregation, poses for a portrait at the church in Orange on Thursday, May 15, 2008. The stained glass windows and dome of the church are scheduled for repairs and cleaning. The glass images are copies of famous art works.