Looking Behind

I don’t have much to offer this week. I know — that’s a sinful thing for a photographer to say. I’ve been busy and obsessed with job applications — now almost 30 across more than 20 states — and my grandmother’s dealing with illness. My head has not been in it, which is no good.

But I can still give something, something I intended to give months ago: a kind of review of my multimedia internship this summer at the Springfield News-Leader. It was the first time I’ve been really able to dig into my photography on a daily and professional basis. I consider it extremely valuable. I hope some of the lessons I got from it are worth reading to you. For some of these, the lesson learned is better than the image itself. Even if no one looks, I will always consider the self-reflection worth the time, a reminder that I’m pretty good, but not nearly good enough that there isn’t always more to learn and try.

Thanks for looking!


t_Frog Jumping 12This is a nice moment of triumph for a young fellow who won his frog race at an annual competition to the east of Springfield. Kids capture frogs, often the night before, and set them against each other in three size divisions. His competitors aren’t too thrilled. But the greatest moment of this event was later, when a bull frog blew away the competition and sprinted out of its circle in about 2 seconds. I missed it, because I was fumbling with a lens. Lesson: When possible, remember pointers for next time or next year. And maybe just bring a body for each lens.

t_Quilt 3The man in the middle is a World War II veteran. His daughter is to the right, and her acquaintance is at the left. The woman on the left is part of a group that makes quilts like this one for veterans. The trio seemed fond of each other. The man was very hard of hearing and was intent on telling some stories when I arrived, and didn’t seem bothered by my attempts at instructions for a portrait. So I soon relaxed and just went with it. Lesson: Are you really in that big of a hurry?

t_South Haven 4This is at a vacation Bible school in town, where 600 kids a day would come to a local church to play games and be part of Biblical lessons. My editor was impressed by the moment but pointed out that this photo doesn’t tell the story of the camp’s religious underpinning. It’s just kids having fun. Despite how good the moment is, it didn’t really complement the written story. His remarks stung a little but I wouldn’t forget. Lesson: Always check with and complement the reporter’s focus and actions.

t_Fair Jayne 6

This woman is named Jayne Meadows and is about 80 years old. She has worked at the town’s fair for decades and almost glows with incredible energy and love for the fair and the people who come out to display their vegetables and wood carvings and everything else. This brooch belonged to her mother, who met her father at a fair. Her mother continued to love fairs for the rest of her life, and making a last-minute nighttime run to the local fair is one of Meadows’ last memories with her. The reporter on this story didn’t dig enough to find these things out. I let her know. Lesson: See your subjects. Don’t leave the seeing to the reporter (or the photographer).


This is a BNSF railway worker plotting out the path of a car that slammed into a stationary carriage on a track in north Springfield. The orange spray paint follows the faint line of black tire marks toward the train track. I was sent to photograph this the next day, when the car was long gone. I was told by BNSF folks there that I couldn’t show the workers. I went for their shadows. Not groundbreaking, but it was a first for me to be told not to photograph the people on-scene.   Lesson: New requirements mean new solutions.

t_Homeless Count 10The two women in red are social workers and volunteers in Springfield’s twice-yearly census of the town’s homeless population. Here they’re interviewing a homeless couple in the downtown square as other volunteers wait behind. The story was simply about the census itself, and it was unquestionably crucial that I talk with and show the homeless people involved. But people in such trouble often don’t want to be photographed, so I had to balance their privacy and comfort. These two kindly declined to speak with me, but many others were willing. Lesson: Stepping away from my needs is an essential skill here.

t_Juliana margaritas 13This was a shot for a feature on margarita recipes, taken in the kitchen of the writer in charge of the piece. I’d used a flash before, but this was pretty much a first in that the strobe was almost mandatory. I think it went pretty well, and the writer was patient as I tried every angle I could think of, both for the camera and the bounce light. It took many tries. Lesson: Take many tries.

t_Fair pre-free 8

This girl is playing on an attraction at the fair. It almost seems like this image is basically childhood bliss. I saw it only after getting right up to the attraction’s fence, kneeling and pointing my lens up through the fence. I don’t think I’ll ever stop repeating this photography lesson: Get lower.

t_parade 12This man is putting the final touches on his vintage Ford Model T car for a July Fourth parade. It’s one of those photos that didn’t seem all that noteworthy at the time — in fact I think I was slightly reluctant to wait where I was sitting for those few moments — but ends up being one of the nicer images in the lot. Lesson: What’s the harm in pushing the button?

t_OK drills 14This is an image of a high school football team’s drill, where several pairs of players face off in a kind of tunnel, fenced on both sides by the rest of the team. I was trying to capture that set-up here. This was my first ever assignment about football, at any level. I was a bit nervous, but there wasn’t any trouble. Lesson: When people are used to being watched and photographed, it can be a reason to relax a little, not to freeze up.

t_Kids summer camp 2I got a kick out of the look this girl gave me. “Can I help you?” I was photographing her and other kids at a forested park outside Springfield, for a feature about summer activities. When I have to take portraits, which are innately unnatural, I try to make them as un-posed as possible, kind of like this one. She just happened to look over at me during her interview with the reporter. Lesson: Not all portraits are formal.

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