Bridge Building (and Breaking)

I’m a little behind on blog posts from my assignments the past couple of weeks…

My first assignment as a staffer (hooray!) was a linguini bridge contest at the high school. The kids built bridges using a pound (or less) of linguini, and weights were stacked on top of the creations to see how much they could hold.

The winning bridge held 1500 pounds. I’m not even kidding. It was unreal.

(that’s my cousin on the left. she’s my inside source for all things high school.)

The winner! Didn’t even crack under the strain of 1500 pounds.

[I don’t usually post black and white photos here, but I started using Lightroom this past month for all of my editing and for the first few assignments found it easier to convert batches to b&w right away (since the paper publishes in black and white only). I’m trying to break myself of that, though; I like color!]

Welcome (Back) to Texas: Fishy Beer Bike

I mentioned in the previous post that I’ve photographed Beer Bike for seven years.

And while it is certainly true that the key to good event coverage is always looking for the contextual and visual surprises…it’s also true that sometimes, you just want to try out a different lens. Like a fisheye.

When I rented the fisheye for this trip, I essentially did it for one reason. Everything else, every other picture I took, was just icing on the cake as far as I was concerned.

I wanted this picture:

This is not a groundbreaking, earth-shattering photo by any means, but I like it for two reasons. The first is that I’ve never seen this picture made before (oh, CPOY, you’ve taught me so much!). The second is that, like I said, this is almost exactly the shot I wanted…I wanted an aerial overview of the whole event (when I was deciding on whether to rent or not, Chris very correctly pointed out that the aerial was almost necessary to justify using a fisheye in the first place). This very rarely happens; it’s not often that I have an idea for a photo and then it actually works out as planned.

I thought at first I would just go up to the first level of the football stadium, where there are always some spectators, and see what I could see.

I took a few shots there, but they weren’t right at all. The curve of the horizon wasn’t prominent enough (nor was I high enough to get a convex curve), and the distortion wasn’t working with me.

(This is how not to shoot fisheye photos. Womp.)

So I went higher, to the top of the stadium. It was also the first time I’d ever thought to shoot from this vantage point (I know, I know…), which turned out well for some other photos as well (see previous post).

And from there, it worked. Thanks, fisheye!

Welcome (Back) to Texas: Beer Bike

This was the seventh year in a row I’ve taken photos at Beer Bike. It is the the third year in a row I’ve blogged about it…but it never gets old.

For those who don’t feel like checking out back entries, Beer Bike takes place every spring at Rice University (my alma mater).

First, campus gets overtaken by a giant, formerly-Guinness-record-holding water balloon fight. This is where the beer comes in; most people are, um, soaked both inside and out.

Following the water balloon fight, everybody heads to the bike track for the races.

There are three races: alum, women’s and men’s. Each has ten chuggers (women chug 12 ounces of water, men chug 24 ounces; they used to down beer, but water replaced that when people realized it was a lot easier to chug- and therefore made it easier to win races) and ten bikers. As soon as a chugger finishes his water, the flag goes up and the biker goes off. This repeats ten times. First team to finish the relay wins!

Halfway through the men’s race, the track judges decided conditions were too windy (there had been seven crashes already in the race) for biking to continue, so they switched to a Beer Run with five legs left to go. The bikers who had yet to race thus had to go from biking a mile as fast as they could to running a third of a mile as fast as they could. Not the same thing. I don’t envy them that switch at all.

If these photos all look like the same maroon team racing…that’s because I’m biased and photographed mainly those bikers/chuggers from Brown College, where I used to live. One of the perks of not actually being on assignment :)

Welcome (Back) to Texas: Some Portraits

Most of the time I’m not sure if it’s Texas that I miss so much, or just the people who live there (or who used to live there, back when I did). It’s probably some sort of combination of the two; I have yet to figure out the proportions.

Anyway, part of the reason my pre-job vacation was as fantastic as it was was the simple fact that I got to see said people…some of whom I hadn’t seen in almost three years (see: Anishka, first photo). Reunions are the best. [note: these are not ALL of the wonderful people I visited. that would make for a very, very long blog post…]

Not a portrait per se, but I like this picture a whole lot.

Welcome (Back) To Texas: Rodeo!

I graduated from college in 2008 (geez…). That year, and in 2009, I went back to Texas and to Houston for New Year’s Eve—because during both of those years, I had a team playing in the Texas Bowl. And I went to Texas during my spring breaks while in grad school.

But this year, I didn’t have a reason to go to the Texas Bowl…and a couple of my friends instead came to visit me in New England, which meant I didn’t make my usual New Year’s trip. So I hadn’t been to Houston in a year (this was, frankly, way too long).

Usually when I go to Houston I’m trying to pack a ton of visits and events into a couple of days, and some stuff inevitably gets left out. This year I didn’t want that to happen, and I made my stay much longer than it usually is. Which left me time to go to the rodeo (well, the livestock show part of the rodeo. but still!)!

Catching Up! News + Chicago Trip

Wow, a lot has happened since the last time I blogged. Let’s see if I can actually backpost everything in a reasonable fashion…

First and foremost, I got a full-time job! I am back with the Vineyard Gazette, the paper I freelanced for last summer, as a staff photographer and high school sports reporter (and general assignments reporter when needed). I’m so excited about the job; I loved working in that newsroom before and it’s very nice to be back. I’ve never lived in the Vineyard year-round, though, which is going to be interesting. It’s so quiet here right now (now that there are 15,000 people here instead of the 100,000+ who come in the summer), but the lack of traffic and the fact that I can always find a parking spot when I need one are definite bonuses. :)

Before I moved out here to start the job, I took a longish trip to visit friends in Chicago and Houston, which was great (okay, better than great. okay, there really isn’t a word to describe this trip). Before I left, I decided to rent a fisheye lens to take along with me. I did this for one reason, really, and that was “taking photos at Beer Bike” (one of the Houston events I went to). More on this later. But I’d never used a fisheye before, and wanted to test one out just for fun. I can’t justify the cost of actually buying one and adding it to my arsenal, but the rental cost was more than worth it. This was also the first lens I’d ever tested out, and I can definitely say that the overall renting process was a breeze.

Here are some (fisheye and nonfisheye) photos from the Chicago leg of the trip.

Northwestern University

I still find Lake Michigan (and the Great Lakes in general) to be a very strange concept.

I got so distracted setting up the exposure for this photo that I then forgot about my pasta leftovers from dinner and left them at the El stop. Oh well.

At Midway Airport. Had to literally chase this picture down (my lens was a 20mm; this has been cropped), and then shoot one-handed because I had my suitcase, too. But it was worth it! So cute!