NPPA Region 8

Legal Issues for Photographers seminar

October 27th, 2011 | Events | No comments

SAN ANTONIO, TX: Do you know what your legal rights are as a photographer? In these days of ever changing digital technology, complicated contracts, work for hire, decreased budgets and even the fear of terrorism, knowing our legal rights and how they effect us and our businesses can be as important to our success as the ability to make great pictures.

In this seminar, Attorney and long time photojournalist Alicia Wagner Calzada will explain what photographers need to know about the law – to protect both ourselves and our clients, avoid sticky legal situations, better understand contracts, protect our intellectual property, and plan for the future.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011, 7:00 – 9:30PM (Doors open at 6:30)
Location: 9th Street Studios 315 Ninth Street, Suite 2, San Antonio, TX 78215
Complimentary refreshments will be provided

ASMP Austin/San Antonio is handling registration: Register Online
For More information: contact Mark Greenberg
at or 210.386.8888

Get Region 8 updates on Twitter @NPPA8


AP’s names News Editor/photos for Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma

September 10th, 2010 | Message Board, Photojournalism | No comments

It’s been over a year since Ron Heflin, formerly the AP photo editor in charge of Texas, entered into retirement without any fanfare. Today he can be found around the Dallas area, camera in hand, freelancing or better yet, at the skeet range with rifle in hand enjoying one of his many hobbies.

A few months ago AP began the search to replace him. Top applicants from around the country applied for the management job held by Ron for over 10 years. The areas of the newly named photo editor, Kim Johnson-Flodin, have now expanded to include Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“It was very competitive,” said Matt Otero, one of two AP staff photographers based in Dallas, who didn’t know exactly how many people applied but noted that there were a lot.

Kim’s arrival on Oct. 4 is highly anticipated. “We are happy,” said Tony Gutierrez, “ the other half of the AP photo team based in Dallas. Both Tony and Matt have worked with Kim on major events such as the Super Bowl and are familiar with her management style; a seasoned editor with good people skills.

For the first six months after Ron’s departure Matt and Tony became all too familiar with the administrative duties that Ron took care of such as applying for credentials, coordinating coverage of major events and rounding up pictures from member papers. They very quickly gathered an appreciation for what goes on behind the desk. With the recent re-organization of AP those duties were picked up by Chicago, now the regional desk for this area, and Matt and Tony returned to their primary objective, making pictures.—posted by Anita Baca

From the AP

Kim Johnson, a photo supervisor with The Associated Press in Los Angeles, has been appointed News Editor/Photos for Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The appointment was announced on Sept 3 by Director of Photography Santiago Lyon. Johnson will be based in Dallas.

“Kim brings a decade of AP experience to this role both as a photographer and supervisory photo editor,” Lyon said. “Her understanding of member needs and her excellent journalistic instincts will serve both the AP and the membership well in this position.”

Johnson began her career in 1990 as a staff photographer at The Wichita Eagle in Kansas where she covered regional sports and news. She joined The Times-Picayune in New Orleans in 1993 as a staff photographer covering the region as well as the first free elections in South Africa. In 1994, Kim joined the staff of The Sacramento Bee where she covered Northern California, professional sports and news features in Asia and Europe.

Johnson is a graduate of Santa Clara University who has completed post-graduate work at San Francisco State.

Who is this guy?

July 21st, 2010 | Photojournalism | No comments

Michael Zamora is a staff photographer for the Corpus Christi Caller Times. In June he was asked to produce an audio slideshow on veteran and recently retired photographer George Gongora. Michael reflects on their first meeting and writes about the touching retrospective he produced.

Who is this guy?
That’s all I could think when I first met George Gongora. I was interviewing for a job at the Caller-Times and was asked to sit next to him and watch him work as I waited for the next editor interrogation.

I don’t remember what we talked about, just remember asking myself that question. For years I’d worked with photographers around my age. Suddenly I was next to a shooter from a completely different generation as he pounded the keys and fought with Photoshop. It was like watching my father trying to tone a photo, and my technologically challenged dad can’t tone a photo to save his life.

Who is this guy?
As I got to know George, I developed a respect for his work and his connection to the readers. He cast a shadow across the community that I felt from day one.

Everywhere I went I heard the same question: “Are you Gongora’s son?” I should have said yes. I would have gotten much better access those first few months.

After nearly 44 years of covering his hometown, photojournalist George Gongora retired from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in June. He left behind thousands of images and countless stories about how he got them.

The connection he had with the community didn’t go unnoticed by the editors at the Caller-Times. His final day was celebrated with a front-page story spanning his career as a trailblazer and relentless photographer who knew how important his role was to the readers.

Part of that package was an audio slideshow that I was tasked with creating. Daunting? Yes. The man had been working as a photojournalist longer than I’ve been alive. The plan wasn’t to cover his entire photographic career, but to pick a few photos with interesting stories and have George talk about them.

“This is embarrassing,” George said as I led him into an empty office for an interview. Honestly, it was awkward for me too.

George has always been a private man. He didn’t like it when people made a fuss over him. It was a sharp contrast to his community persona. He was a photographer who didn’t take no for an answer; a journalist who would often put himself in peril to get a shot. He crossed police lines, fell off bridges and helicopters, and ignored roadblocks, all to get the picture. He did it because he always considered what he did a public service.

But as the end of his career loomed, all George wanted to do was quietly slip out of the office on his last day, without any fanfare. Because of that, much of the planning for the story was done without his knowledge. Dozens of George’s photos and newspaper clippings had quietly been pulled from the archive in anticipation of his retirement.

By his second-to-last day on the job, though, the cat was out of the bag. George now found himself sitting at a table full of his photos with a microphone pointed at him. Visibly uncomfortable, George sat down as I started setting up to record.

“Where did you find this stuff? Unreal!” he said with a big grin. Any resistance he had quickly melted away as the memories washed over him.

His stories were almost unbelievable. When he started speaking in German in the middle of one of his stories, I once again found myself asking; “Who is this guy?”

I asked about how he felt about leaving the Caller-Times, expecting to get an answer about being ready to retire. Instead, he compared it to breaking up with the love of his life.

“Damn, it hurts,” he said. “Man, I miss it so much already.”
Those words stuck with me as I sat behind a computer that afternoon putting together the slideshow. I knew I couldn’t just throw down words over photos and call it a day. Fortunately all of the pieces for the story came together pretty quickly.

Unfortunately it all got handed to me the afternoon before the story was going to be published. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I was going to make the most of the time I had. His stories were pretty lengthy, but a lot of his tone and pace were important. I edited down each segment as much as I could without losing the flavor of each story. I enlisted the help of our archivist, who pulled some extra photos from George’s career to round out the slideshow.

I only used about half the stories he told, but I thought the ones that made it in were diverse and captivating. One of my favorites was the story of George’s favorite photo. It was the first time the newspaper ran a color photo, and George made sure it was a good one by shooting an eye-catching feature of a naked boy rushing to get into a kiddie pool. There’s no way I could get away with shooting something like that today, I thought. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a color print of the photo. All we could find was microfiche file.

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I got so wrapped up in the production I missed George’s going away party. I wanted to be there, but I couldn’t pull myself away from the editing the audio slideshow. By the time I was finished, the party was over. The time I spent on the audio slideshow was well worth it, though. More importantly, putting together the slideshow helped me finally answer that burning question: Who is this guy?

George Gongora is just an ordinary man with an extraordinary amount of passion. He has a passion for photography and a passion for his community. And George is definitely still on the community’s mind these days. After the story ran, people were constantly asking about him, and once again about my relation to him. But the question wasn’t “Are you Gongora’s son?” Instead, it was “Are you Gongora’s replacement?”

“No,” I answer. “There’s no replacing George Gongora.”

Michael Zamora has been a photojournalist for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times since August 2007. He was named the class 3A Star Photojournalist of the Year in 2009 and 2010 by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. The 2001 University of North Texas graduate has previously worked at The Morning News in Fayetteville, Ark., and the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle in Cheyenne, Wyo.

UT’s Picture Show

May 14th, 2010 | Events | No comments

Over 200 attended the University of Texas Chapter of the National Press Photographers Association (UT NPPA) at the Midtowns Commons on May 1, 2010 in Austin.

In early May I received a Facebook invitation to The Picture Show, the University of Texas Chapter of the National Press Photographers Association (UT NPPA) third annual spring show. It was scheduled on the same evening that Betty White was to host Saturday Night Live. Even though I live in San Antonio and the exhibit was in Austin I was pretty confident I could get back with plenty of time to catch SNL as long as I left there by nineish. But I was still there at 10:20 pm. Volunteers had started cleaning up, picking up the abandoned cups, taking out the trash, making plans for the rest of their evening, when I finally pulled out of the Midtown Commons’ parking lot. The apartment complex had donated their empty live/work spaces for the exhibition.

Sorry Betty White, but I just couldn’t tear myself away from the celebration of the young photojournalists and their finest work. Their enthusiasm for their work well done saturated the air and I was inhaling it all in as memories of my college years came flooding back. Their energy was so contagious that an hour visit turned into two and half.

This was a special year for the student group as it was the first time the exhibit was juried. L.A. Reno, co-president of the student chapter, said they decided on a juried exhibit for the student’s spring presentation because they wanted to “ramp up their credibility, up the caliber.”

The judges were Donna DeCesare, Marianne Fulton and Lesley Nowlin who noted in their judge’s statement that, “The value of a juried exhibition is the professional selection process. This carries weight on a resume when the integrity of the process is maintained.”

Reno said that this exhibit was not a random collection of pictures as in previous years but the exhibit came with a vision — that of DeCesare’s, Fulton’s and Nowlin’s. The judges noted that the entries were judged on their compositional, emotional and narrative qualities, fresh approaches, while avoiding visual clichés. They particularly valued the images that made them feel a genuine connection.

UT student chapter members Ben Brioñes. left, Caleb Fox and Brennan Lawley.
Silent auction.

Tara Haelle, secretary of the UT student chapter said out of more than 200 images that were entered, 22 were chosen. Thomas Hackett, a doctorate candidate in American Studies at UT, received Best in Show for his striking black and white portrait of a woman who confronts the viewer with a lit cigarette dangling from her mouth.

Friend of an exhibitor, Kate Prejean reads Thomas Hackett’s bio.

by Anita Baca

Advanced StoryTelling Workshop: Final Day

April 28th, 2010 | Conference Dispatches | No comments

After attendees turned in their final video projects, the workshop concluded on April 16, with the “gradation” of attendees, who received their certificates and posed for pictures with workshop instructors.
by Shawn Dullye, Texas State journalism major

Advanced StoryTelling Workshop: Day 4

April 28th, 2010 | Conference Dispatches | No comments

The workshop opened with director Steve Sweitzer and instructor John Goheen critiquing attendees’ video assignments. The video assignments were filmed around the San Marcos area and covered a wide array of topics.

Sweitzer and Goheen gave attendees pointers when it came to transitioning from one story to another. For instance, during a news segment about local businesses, Sweitzer spoke of the importance of seeing each business owner instead of simply using a sound byte.

“I want to see the business owner when they’re talking,” Sweitzer said. “Say it, see it.”

Nate Stewart, of WLTX in Colombia, South Carolina, composed a story about Texas State student Elizabeth “Lizzie” Velasquez. Velasquez has a rare and undiagnosed genetic condition that prevents her from gaining any weight.

Boyd Huppert and Jonathan Malat, both of NBC Minneapolis’ KARE TV, lead the “Refocusing on Focus” session. The focus statement for the session was “Make students better story tellers.”

Huppert and Malat provided an exercise over focus statements by showing different news stories they had produced, and had students try to come up with a focus statement for each story.

by Shawn Dullye, Texas State journalism major

Getting all the angles of Texas Stadium implosion

April 22nd, 2010 | On Assignment, Photojournalism | No comments

More than 20,000 people were on hand in Irving, Texas on an early Sunday April morning to witness the implosion of Texas Stadium. It took 2,715 pounds of dynamite, six million dollars and a year of planning to reduce the Cowboy’s home of 37 years to rubble. Assistant Director of Photography Irwin Thompson outlines the Dallas Morning News’ excellent photo and multimedia coverage.

First, I would like to thank Gary Barber, Ahna Hubnik, David Guzman, Nathan Hunsinger, Tom Fox, Gerry McCarthy, Jim Mahoney, Courtney Perry, Louis DeLuca, and intern Andy Jacobsohn for doing an awesome job on this assignment, and Guy Reynolds, night photo editor, for his concise editing. It was a pleasure to work for this group.

We had Texas Stadium surrounded. Multimedia producer Gary Barber and I were located on the south end of the stadium, on the balcony of the Days Inn. Gary built a bracket on which he mounted a Canon EOS 1D Mark iV and Canon EOS 7D for stills.

Photo by Gary Barber

I manned the Sony A1U, next to Gary. For the first time, ever, we had live streaming video on through Gary was the key to having live streaming video. He tirelessly worked to make it happen.

David Guzman and Gary Barber shot video, edited and posted it to the web within thirty minutes after the event. David was on the rooftop of Central Freight where he manned two cameras during the implosion; a Canon 5D and a Sony A1U. The Canon 5D was a stationary camera used to film the collapse while the Sony A1U was used to pan from left to right to capture the explosives firing around the stadium.

Gerry was part of the ‘early crew,’ arriving when the main spectator parking lot north of the stadium opened at 2 a.m. He shot video with a Sony PMW-EX1 camera and stills with a Canon 5d Mark II.

Photo by Gerry McCarthy

The video was later edited by David and the stills were made into a slideshow by Ahna Hubnik. David was the video editor onsite and Ahna worked from the comfort of her home in Denton, building slideshows and editing video.

Both sets of content were on the Morning News’ site well before the implosion took place. After shooting what was touted as “The Last Tailgate Party” Gerry went into position to shoot the implosion from the northeast angle. Gerry set his 5d to record video, and shot stills with a Canon 1D Mark III and IIn. In addition to the cameras, Gerry used a wide assortment of lenses, including wide angle and telephoto zoom lenses, and fast prime lenses for low-light tailgating photos.

Matt Nager and Gerry McCarthy, right. Photo by Gerry McCarthy

Tom Fox covered the implosion from Central Freight Lines across the highway from Texas Stadium. After a couple days of scouting the lighting and location, he utilized their office building roof and rented a 24-ft box truck to shoot from.

Tom Fox, self portrait.

With two different locations Tom and multimedia producer David Guzman, utilized 3 HD video cameras, and remoted four still cameras. From the northeast corner of the stadium, each camera gave a different perspective and sequence of the stadium falling towards them. Everything from a wide angle with spectators in the foreground to a 300mm shooting suites and buttresses collapsing.

A couple of days before the implosion graffiti artists tagged the wall surrounding the stadium with ‘Enter History’ with smaller catch phrases ‘How bout them Cowboys’ and ‘Texas Stadium R.I.P.’. It lined up perfectly with the truck top location.

Photo by Tom Fox

“I kind of got a little lump in my throat after it became a dust cloud. Looking back on my first visit to the stadium, I remember walking the graduation stage and picking up my high school diploma. A rush of memories came back to me including Garth Brooks flying from the stage to the upper concourse on wire, the Promise Keepers rally, numerous high school, Ring of Honor inductions and college football playoffs to NFC Championships. Great stuff. You don’t need a building for memories, but it was a nice reminder,” said Tom.

Photo by Tom Fox

Louis DeLuca was stationed in the University of Dallas Bell Tower about a half of a mile north of Texas Stadium. The vantage point offered the closest elevated, unobstructed view of the stadium, with the added bonus of having the downtown Dallas skyline in the background.

The tower is 200 feet high. Louis arrived at 4 a.m. to climb the 300 steps to the top. Because of the round design of the tower, the best vantage point to view the stadium was not a direct view, it was about 30 degrees to the east. The opening had vertical iron bars about six inches apart running top to bottom.

Louis had to mount two cameras to the vertical bars with super clamps and magic arms, but had to position the cameras outside the structure to be able to angle his lens to see the stadium. “I could ‘squish’ my head between the bars just enough to be able to see into the viewfinder to compose and focus.”

Photo by Louis DeLuca

Louis used Pocket Wizards to fire the cameras. The lens used for the implosion sequence was a 70-200mm zoom, set a 70mm. The fireworks shots, before the implosion, were taken with a 16-35 mm, set at 35mm.

Intern Andy Jacobsohn was over Texas Stadium and covered the implosion from the WFAA 8 helicopter. Along with the reporter/pilot and the camera operator they were up in the air at 5:45 a.m. for the 7 a.m. implosion to get in an orbital rotation with the other air traffic.

Photo by Andy Jacobsohn

Andy brought two cameras with him, one wide angle lens and an 100-400. With three highways that frame Texas Stadium he decided to photograph the implosion with the wide lens from the regulated minimum flight ceiling of 1,600 feet. With the 100-400 Andy was able to photograph details of the crowds, closing of traffic, and the remains of the stadium.

Nathan Hunsinger shot and edited all the footage into one video. The edit lasted seven hours, not including two hours of gathering and importing video from seven video cameras.

The edit started with the audio timeline of the best ambient crowd sounds mixed with the sound of explosions. The video was then edited in multiple layers, keeping time with the audio. Finally, it was a matter of picking the best clips that were real-time and distributing them throughout the video. Then extended the overlap on each clip to let repetition create the flow.

You will notice the video of the implosion ends moments after the explosion audio. This technique was used to give the viewer a sense of how long the structure took to fall using images and audio. The editor, after seeing many great images filter into the server, made the decision to add 18 seconds of the countdown to really show the entire scene.

See the video: Ten cameras show different views of Texas Stadium implosion

Advanced StoryTelling Workshop: Day 2

April 15th, 2010 | Conference Dispatches | No comments

From: Billy Calzada of the San Antonio Express-News and workshop attendee.

TV reporter Boyd Huppert and photographer Jonathan Malat opened their talk, entitled “Making the Team Work,” by conducting a faux wedding of two NPPA Advanced Storytelling Workshop attendees, one being a videographer and the other a reporter.

“I promise to carry your tripod,” vowed the “bride” reporter, “love the NPPA, and never ever give you less time to edit a story than I took to write it, ’til your inevitable back injury do us apart.”

The “groom” photographer vowed to “stay informed on the issues we cover, honor your words with pictures and sound that prove them, and never, ever make you tap dance on a live shot while I make one more edit, ’til your anchor position opens up do us apart.”

The wedding symbolically illustrated the relationship between journalist and photojournalist.

Chronicle’s DOP a Pulitzer juror

April 15th, 2010 | Photojournalism | No comments

Steve Gonzales, director of photography at the Houston Chronicle, gives us a peek into the world of judging the Pulitzers.

I was 20 when I helped judged my first photo contest. That was a small regional amateur photo snapshot competition. The winners submitted more scenic photography than news photography. In the 27 years since, I have judged too many contests to count.

In the first week of March 2010 however, I was honored to be a juror in the most prestigious photo contest in the world, The Pulitzer Prize. This started out as an invitation from Pulitzer Prize Administrator Sig Gissler. The invitation clearly states that confidentiality in the judging outcome is very serious. The rule for the signature is so serious that your signature is required before you can be accepted as a juror.

At the end of February I boarded a plane to New York for “jury” duty so to speak. A little over four hours later I was in a bitterly cold Big Apple. I arrived at my hotel late and ordered room service. Between eating and watching the Houston Rockets game, I reviewed the guidelines for the Pulitzer Prize nominating jurors.

The letter that had been mailed to me said we were to assemble at 9 a.m. in the Joseph Pulitzer World Room which is on the third floor of the journalism building at Columbia University. With the guidelines in hand, a warm jacket and hat, I exited my hotel lobby Monday morning, confident I knew where I was going. After walking several blocks I realized I had walked in the wrong direction from my subway entrance. Fearful I was going to be late for the first day of judging, I hailed a taxi.

After arriving at Columbia and admiring the large statues facing Broadway, I suddenly felt the great weight of responsibility. I would be entering the journalism building to assist in the selection of the highest honors awarded in journalism. I was following in the footsteps of other jurors who had made this trek since 1917.

I made my way through the snow-lined walkway to the doors of the journalism building. A security guard welcomed and directed me to the Joseph Pulitzer World Room. There 75 jurors were chatting and drinking coffee under a stained glass artwork of the Statue of Liberty dwarfing two worlds. Directly under the stained glass were five large wood and leather chairs. Around the room were many large folding tables surrounded by five to seven chairs. On each table were stacks of binders, books and folders containing the 2010 Pulitzer Prize entries.

At 9 a.m., Sig Gissler took to the podium and welcomed the jurors. He delivered a pep talk that would have made Knute Rockne proud. He stressed the importance of honoring the confidentiality agreement regarding their selections. Our duty was to pick three finalists in each category. We were not to give the selected three any ranking he instructed. We were to explain why we picked each and give their merits in a short-typed narration. It is the Pulitzer Board who picks the winners from our selections. They also hold the right to go back to the pool of entries to find a finalist of their own.

I was picked to serve on judging two photo categories: Breaking News and Feature Photography. We had a total of 75 entries in Breaking News and Features combined.

Our team of jurors included:

Nancy Andrews, managing editor of Digital Media for the Detroit Free Press
Richard Murphy, photo editor of the Anchorage Daily News
Sherman Williams, assistant managing editor/visual journalism at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Nanya Friend, editor and publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail

Williams was our chair and he started out the process by asking us to use yellow Post-it® notes to rate each entry on a scale of one to five, five being best. We began the task of reading the cover letters and viewing the entries. When done with an entry we would pass it along until each of had read the letter, viewed the entry and given it a ranking. Then it was moved to a keep or reject pile.

I never thought we’d get through viewing all of the entries. The first night after judging, I dreamt of entries taking over other entries; each one morphing into a larger entry. Was this a nightmare or an anxiety attack?

We worked tirelessly to make it through the first category and then decided to continue into the next category in the off chance we needed to move an entry from one category to another.

After we made it through the first round, we then placed all of the highest-ranking entries back on the table and now the hard part began. We had to start weeding out entries that we would have all been proud to enter. Each of us were professional and made our case for why we felt an entry should stay or be put in the large stack of entries that would not be honored for consideration. I have to say at times it was gut-wrenching to debate for or against an entry, but the talented jurors in the room showed great respect for one another’s opinion.

After several days of looking through the best work entered in visual journalism, the cream of the crop rose to the top. We were all exhausted, but felt we had fulfilled our roles of identifying the top three entries in each category. We all pitched in to make sure our narration was a complete statement for each of the finalists. We called for Sig Gissler, who kindly reviewed our submission, graciously thanked us for our service and then dismissed us from our duty as jurors.

So, after this grueling day after day of looking at images, what did our group of jurors do on our afternoon off? We went to the International Center of Photography to look at more images!

Advanced StoryTelling Workshop: Day 1

April 12th, 2010 | Conference Dispatches | No comments

Multimedia journalist Billy Calzada makes his way into a classroom at the Advanced Storytelling Workshop at Texas State University in San Marcos on the first day of the workshop. Billy of the San Antonio Express-News was the last participant added to the list. The workshop sold out this year.

After introductions Steve Sweitzer, the chair of the workshop, focused on focus statements. Sweitzer talked about the value of taking the time to express what the story is about in a complete sentence. Taking it further Sweitzer asked us to explore not only the, “Why should we care?,” aspect of a story, but to ask ourselves, “Why is it interesting?,” not only once, but many times until we reach a story idea that is sharply focused and worth telling.

John Goheen and Bev Chapman discussed enterprising ideas. From the two of them we learned ideas are everywhere but your mind must be open to them. Geehan says anything that seems out of place always catches his attention. During a morning run he came across a couch parked along his running path. He did not just wonder what it was doing there but he investigated and learned that it belonged to a local fraternity. The guys from the frat put it there so they could watch the baseball games in the field that was located just below the running path.

Chapman says her radar is always on, even when out to dinner with her husband, where she learned that there was a different tax for different beers by turning over her drink coaster. She also reminded us that we are surrounded by sources; family and friends.

Shawna Woodall, a junior at IUPUI, participates in a workshop exercise. Chapman asked the attendees to quickly jot down three friends and then asked a few in the audience to share some information about the friends they had written down. The exercise proved that we are surrounded by people who probably have interesting stories.

The last speaker of the evening was Scott Rensberger of the BBC. Rensberger used Hollywood movie clips from Amistad and a Bug’s Life to get his point across; the story is everything and get past preconceived ideas. Rensberger said the best stories tell us something we don’t already know.

TSU Professor David Nolan was a gracious host ending the first evening serving the hungry workshoppers. Because of the threatening rain the planned outdoor picnic at a local San Marcos park was held indoors. The crowd was fed Kip’s BBQ available with the hottest jalapenos around for the daring.—Anita Baca

National Headliners Award for Texas photographer

April 7th, 2010 | Bringin' It | No comments

Austin American-Statesman staff photographer Ralph Barrera reflects on his award winning photo essay of 7-year-old América Alcántara who was diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome. The genetic disorder kept her skull from growing normally and threatened her life. In June 2009, doctors at Dell Children’s Medical Center performed craniofacial surgery that reshaped more than her skull. Almost a year later Ralph received a 1st place National Headliners award for his photo essay, “America: A Young Girl’s Fight.”

I am still amazed how people continue to allow a total stranger, like me, into their lives and offer me the privilege of telling their story to thousands of readers. I had the wonderful opportunity to follow America Alcantara and her daughter, also named America, through the youngster’s treatment for Crouzon syndrome.

I met little America on her last day of first grade. On her first day of summer vacation she had craniofacial surgery. Over six months, she was in and out of the hospital, was home-schooled, endured multiple checkups and heartaches, and finally was healthy enough to return to school in November.

By her side, her mother slept in the same hospital bed for a month as she recovered from the initial surgery. The two, close already, became inseparable and developed a bond that will live longer than any photograph I took. It is times like these that give me a special sense of appreciation for life; make me humble and thankful, provide solace and energy to keep going.

On this visit to Dell Children’s Hospital I saw America the daughter resting peacefully as America the mother cuddled her in her arms, gently stroking her face even though she had this high-tech titanium halo wrapped around her head and mouth. It was a moment I didn’t want to disturb, but one I definitely had to capture. I lifted the camera high above my head for an overhead view, thinking somehow this was less obtrusive, and grabbed a couple of quick frames. It made for a delightful and insightful photograph that told the story of a mother and her sick daughter, but from the gentle smile on mom’s face you can tell everything will be all right.

For America I hope everything will be all right in the years to come, and for America the mother, I know she feels the same way.

Must see video: America Alcantara: A young life reshaped, produced by Jenni Jones, narrated by the Ralph and reporter Mary Ann Roser.

Video workshop in San Marcos offering “day passes”

March 24th, 2010 | Events, Message Board | No comments

From Pat Holloway, workshop coordinator:

The Advanced Storytelling Workshop is coming to San Marcos April 11-16 at Texas State University.

We have made a few changes and added a couple of instructors to make the workshop more dynamic than ever. Kathy Kieliszewski from the Detroit Free Press is joining us this year. She is doing amazing work at her paper and is a perfect addition to our faculty.

If you can’t be with us for the week, we are offering “day passes” on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. You will be able to participate in one assignment and will be able to take advantage of the critique sessions planned during the three days and have full access to the instructors for one on one time. Sunday is $60.00, Monday and Tuesday day passes are $110 per day or pay $250 for the three days. NPPA members will receive a $50 discount on the three day pass.

It is an amazing workshop coming just down the road in April. I hope to see some of y’all there!

SWPJC: Day 2

March 7th, 2010 | Conference Dispatches, Photojournalism | No comments

From Ashley Landis:

USA Today’s Garrett Hubbard speaks about purpose in his career. “Passion without purpose is just dead. How do you find your purpose? What makes you come alive?” he said. “I discovered my purpose when I was at the end of myself.”

USA Today’s Garrett Hubbard, right shoots video of master of ceremonies Jim Veneman as he introduces a panel of photographers. Keith Landzinski, left, of Colorado Springs, Colo is pictured on far left. They along with Esther Havens of Austin, Dave Black of Colorado Springs and Gary and Vivian Chapman of Atlanta, Ga. answered questions on the state of the journalism industry.

Kevin Vandivier, former photo editor of Texas Highways magazine, asks the panel how they control selfish ambition in their careers.

Linda Smith, left, critiques the portfolio of Kelsi Williamson between conference sessions.

Bill Bangham, left, of Virginia and Alan Hood of Canada pose for a photo with the Chick-Fil-A cow. Chick-Fil-A provided lunch for the conference.

Nan Dickson of Temple shares her photos of Alzheimer’s patients during her two minute show.

Dave Black demonstrates lighting techniques. “If you want a picture to look interesting, only light part of it,” said Black.

Scott Goff of Virginia Beach, Va. has his portfolio reviewed by USA Today’s Garrett Hubbard.

Gary and Vivian Chapman of Atlanta, Georgia speak about changes in the photojournalism industry. “What do we do sometimes where there’s change? We hit the panic button,” said Gary. The couple produced stock photography for 15 years before prices dropped in 2008. They said they haven’t found the answer to their problem yet and weren’t sure what they were going to say when they were invited to speak at the SWPJ Conference. “Saying yes to coming here made us kind of get it together.””

Gary and Vivian show a video during their presentation. “We’ve had challenges in our life,” said Vivian. “This is not the end.”

Ashley Landis works as a staff photographer/reporter at the San Marcos Daily Record, where she has been since February 2006. She also freelances for the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung and other media outlets and owns Landis Images. She grew up in Plano, Texas and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Photojournalism from the University of North Texas.

SWPJC: Opening Night

March 6th, 2010 | Conference Dispatches, Photojournalism | No comments

From Ashley Landis: The 2010 Southwestern Photojournalism Conference began in Fort Worth on Friday, March 5 with speakers Esther Havens of Austin and Dave Black of Colorado Springs, Colo. The conference is from the perspective of photographers who believe photojournalism to be a calling and the act of bearing witness to be important.

NPPA President Bob Carey and Master of Ceremonies Jim Veneman draw names for door prizes at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Fort Worth.

Freelance sports photographer David Black of Colorado Springs, CO tells a story about how he gained access to a platform at the Olympics by offering a television videographer chocolate chip cookies.

Freelance sports photographer Dave Black shows some of his work. With a background as an athlete and coach, Black made a transition to sports photography and has covered 12 Olympic games. The photo pictured in the background is one from a book he’s working on about horse racing.

Esther Havens of Austin presents works she’s done in Africa. She said when she started photographing, she was looking for images that would help her career – that “perfect shot.” Then she took a photo of a little boy with sad eyes who was clearly in need of help. When she saw it and realized she just took his photo and didn’t help him, she took a step back and said to herself, “I either need to put down my camera for good or I need to change.”

Team work at play in Austin

February 26th, 2010 | On Assignment, Photojournalism | No comments

Jay Janner of the Austin American-Statesman remembers how a seemingly ordinary workday in the Texas capitol quickly turned into a major breaking national news day on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010. With the direction of Assistant Director of Photography Nell Carroll the Statesman’s photographers find themselves in the right place at the right time.

A large plume of black smoke rose in the distance.  I was driving through north Austin to a routine assignment at the beginning of my Thursday morning shift on Feb. 18.  Just as I noticed the smoke I got a call from the Statesman’s Assistant Director of Photography Nell Carroll who told me to forget about my assignment and instead go to a house fire.

When I arrived the house was still engulfed in flames.  It was a big fire. I worked the scene for about ten minutes, and then I got another call from Nell.  She told me there was even bigger news unfolding not far away. A small plane had crashed into a building in northwest Austin.

So I quickly left the house fire, which was still burning out of control, and headed a few miles away to the scene of the plane crash. On the way there I saw another large plume of black smoke.  Someone on the radio said the building housed the IRS offices, and immediately I figured this was probably a deliberate act.

Traffic was moving slowly and some roads were closed so I parked my car at a shopping center across the highway from the plane crash.  It was quite a distance from the building.  That’s where I took my first photo.

It took me awhile to walk across the highway overpass and down the road and then talk my way past a police checkpoint but eventually I got near the building.

Meanwhile, my co-worker Alberto Martinez was in a helicopter on his way to the site.  He barely had time to take any photos before authorities ordered the chopper out of the area.  Luckily, he didn’t need much time to nail the shot.

Statesman staff photographer Rodolfo Gonzalez arrived on the scene, and was escorted very briefly to the front of the building where he took photos of investigators sifting through the wreckage of the plane.

I went to the backside of the building to attempt to photograph people’s reactions to the event. I found Elizabeth Hogeda-Romo who was sitting on a curb behind the building. She was visibly shaken.  She said she witnessed the crash from an adjacent building.

It was discovered that the house fire I was photographing earlier belonged to Andrew Joseph Stack, the same man who flew the plane into the building.  So my co-worker Deborah Cannon was scrambled back to the house fire to take more photos.

Next to arrive at the IRS building were Statesman staffers Ralph Barrera and Larry Kolvoord who were stationed across the highway directly in front of the building.  They had a clear view of the whole scene, and made several photos of firefighters and investigators throughout the rest of the day.

I was stationed at the media staging area for press conferences, and just in case any more media tours were organized.

It was a day that will be remembered in Austin for a long time.  And it was a day that I’ll always remember for being part of a great group of photojournalists who worked together  as a team to cover one of the biggest news events in recent Austin history.

Jay Janner has been a staff photographer at the Austin American-Statesman since 2003. Previously he was a staff photographer at the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

He is a two-time NPPA Region 8 Photographer of the Year and a three-time Cox Newspapers Photographer of the Year. He has been named Photographer of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas.

Just another press conference. Not.

February 23rd, 2010 | On Assignment, Photojournalism | No comments

Have you ever wondered how many photojournalists there are in the world? I imagine legions. But what are the chances of finding yourself only one of four photographers covering the press conference that stopped the world for 13 minutes on Friday, Feb. 19, 2010. Meet Eric Gay, who has been working for the Associated Press for 22 years.

Take a break from Spring Training Baseball to shoot a quick news conference…no problem…right? Unless it’s Tiger Woods
breaking his silence after a three month absence. Oh yea, it’s a pool situation and I’m one of three (later four) photographers, three writers, and two TV cameras. So it’s just the few of us and 40 of Tigers’ friends and guests.

Who knew that Tiger would finally speak out, and me, a photographer from San Antonio would be the one in position to make the trip to the TPC Sawgrass Golf Club. Our Orlando photographer is in Vancouver shooting hockey.

Anyhow, I felt like I was back on the campaign trail. Arrive and check in at 8:30 a.m. for an 11:00 a.m. event. The media check-in was at the Marriott, down the street from the golf club. You can’t even see the gate from the hotel, but that’s where a viewing room was set up.

A shuttle bussed us to the course clubhouse for yet another holding/work room. I wanted and was prepared to set up a remote to shoot the overall photos I needed, but remotes were not allowed. There was no time anyhow.

We were escorted to “the room” within minutes of the start time. The room was lighted for TV with tungsten, heavy from one side and not even…lots of drop off.

The guests were quiet and arranged in three rows below a huge chandelier. The oak walls were replaced with the traditional blue curtains. I’m guessing this was to create a staging area behind the scenes.

The organizers instructed us to not block the TV cameras and asked us to work from the right side, and the back of the room. This worked fine since Tiger entered and exited from the opposite sides of the room. My editor instructed me to shoot the h-e-double-toothpicks out of Woods…and so I tried. Not my usual style. I like to wait on moments rather than press.

Woods proved to be predictably boring, reading from a prepared statement. I had expected about five minutes of shooting time; We ended up with about 13.

Tiger never showed much emotion. He never even raised his hand past his chest. The big moment came, after reading his statement, when he approached his mother, hugging and kissing her. Thank goodness it was a prolonged hug, since it gave me more shooting time as well as time to improve my perspective.

Within minutes the hug and kiss photos were on the wire, followed by Woods entering, exiting, looking up, looking down, etc…. All-in-all, I sent about 20-25 photos for general service, followed by another 120 plus to the AP archives. I’m unsure of the exact numbers, but the other pool photographers did about the same.

But hey, it was just another news conference…right?

Eric Gay’s most recent assignments include the World Series, Fort Hood shooting, Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, NBA All-Star game and now Baseball Spring training. But Eric mostly works in San Antonio and South Texas. He graduated from the University of North Texas in 1990.

Self-assignment turns into exhibit

February 21st, 2010 | Events, Photojournalism | No comments

Benjamin Sklar’s Zulu at 100 opened Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010 at the Darkroom, a gallery and frame shop, in New Orleans.

I photographed the 100th anniversary of the Zulu parade in 2009 while simultaneously working on another project. I never meant the material to turn into an exhibit, but I knew I had something special after I processed the black and white film from Mardi Gras morning.

A year later I made my goal of having a show hang in New Orleans during Mardi Gras a reality. I met with different galleries at the end of the summer showing an 11×14 silver gelatin set of fiber prints to various gallery owners/curators. I found a good match with the staff at the Darkroom and I committed myself to reprinting the set in 16×20 for a February show. They were particularly excited that I was still shooting film and using darkroom printing techniques.

The night the show opened we ended up having a moderate turnout due to a heated mayoral election, freezing temperatures and Mardi Gras had begun, not to mention the Super Bowl the following day. I sold a print the first night and many limited edition hand stitched books of the series that made the work more accessible beyond collectors. In Louisiana tradition we served Abita beer and two types of king cake. The weekend was a lot of fun and I learned a lot in the process of making a show happen. I owe a great deal of thanks to the my mom Susan, girlfriend Maria and the staff at the Darkroom, Charles, Danielle and Cameron, for their support, patience and energy.

Yesterday (Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010) the Zulu Krewe marched for the 101st time in their history and I’m sure it was a bonne Mardi Gras. Thanks to all the people involved with Zulu for their spirit and inspiring traditions.

‘Zulu at 100’ will hang at The Darkroom in New Orleans until April 1, 2010.

Ben Sklar, a Baton Rouge native, is a freelance photographer based in Austin, Texas specializing in editorial, documentary, and portrait photography.

Zulu at 100

February 5th, 2010 | Events | No comments

The black and white photography series called “Zulu at 100” features the Zulu parade’s 100th anniversary that took place in February 2009 during Mardi Gras. The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club was officially founded in 1909 as insurance for African Americans in New Orleans and has evolved into a prestigious group that celebrates their culture.

Overtime the group has overcome adversity and racism, especially during the civil rights era, to march on Fat Tuesday every year. The photographs capture the energy, history and excitement encompassing the 100th anniversary of the Zulu parade.

To coincide with Mardi Gras 2010 I’m hanging twelve 16×20 silver gelatin limited edition prints from the series. The prints were made with light sensitive fiber paper and chemicals using darkroom printing techniques. Additionally, I’ve hand stitched books showing the whole series.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Ben Sklar, a Baton Rouge native, is a freelance photographer based in Austin, Texas specializing in editorial, documentary, and portrait photography.

How’d ya do that?

January 5th, 2010 | Photojournalism | No comments

By Eric Kayne

Recently, the Best of Photojournalism 2009 book was published and sent to NPPA members. My photo of soldiers carrying the casket of Joshua Alexander Molina, a solider killed in Iraq, won first place in General News and was subsequently published in the book.

Shortly after, I heard from my friend Anita Baca at the San Antonio Express-News that her and other photographers were scratching their heads about what was a reflection and what wasn’t in the image.

From left Shaminder Dulai, Ashley Landis, Bob Owen, Mark Sobhani, J. Michael Short, and, holding the book, Mark Greenberg, view my photo in the Best of Photojournalism 2009 book. Photo courtesy of Darren Abate.

Anita thought it would be cool to explain how the image was made. It’s a question I’ve answered before – I photographed the loading of the casket of Joshua Alexander Molina through the back window of the hearse used to transport Molina from the church to the cemetery.

The reflection of what was behind me, as well as what was in front of me, created a layered photograph as a result. Basically, what ever was dark in the window, the curtains for instance, reflected the member of the Patriot Guard and the church in the background. The part of the window with nothing behind it is transparent allowing the view of the soldiers loading the casket.

Here’s a sequence of ten photos with the reflection shot sequence in the middle:

In the first frame, you can see the window of the hearse and the soldiers loading the casket. I stood at the outside edge of the window at the second frame, thinking I might be able to make something layered through the window. After getting my exposure and composition adjusted, I made four frames and then backed out. You can see me in the reflection in the bottom right corner. The white is my shoulder and the round shape is the lens of my camera.

The result surprised me because I didn’t really know what I had until I got back to the newsroom. At the time, I remember being a little miffed at the television mast in the background, but I’ve since accepted it. Nonetheless, I’m happy with the image – there’s nothing else like it in my portfolio.

The lesson to me is that risk begets reward.


Eric Kayne

A Long Day’s Night

December 19th, 2009 | On Assignment | No comments

Last week the AP contacted me to photograph the 467th Medical Detachment Unit deployment to Afghanistan. This was the unit that lost 3 soldiers in the Nov. 5 shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

My work day for this assignment, start to finish, was about 11 hours. Of those 11 only 30 minutes was actual shooting time, the rest of the assignment involved driving, waiting, more waiting and editing. But after it was all said and done, I would have rather been at Fort Hood then in my bed that night.

On Thursday, Dec. 12, I had to be in Fort Hood at 8:30 p.m. The drive from Austin to Killeen takes about an hour and half. Because I was concerned about rush hour traffic I gave myself over two hours to drive to Killeen. Promptly at 8:30 p.m. the assigned PAO escorts met the media at the South gate. We caravanned to the deployment site on the North side of Fort Hood. That took 40 minutes. Upon arrival we were told that the plane had been delayed four hours and that the soldiers were now resting.

There would be an interview session for media at 10 p.m. with two members of the 467th available for questions. The media was also given the option of waiting until 2:30 a.m. when the unit would deploy. I called my contact at the AP and shared the latest circumstances.

Between the 4 media outlets that showed up for the assignment, only a Waco TV news crew and I chose to stay for the 2:30 a.m. deployment.

As time neared for the interview sessions they set us up by some tanks, serving as backdrops. The questions began and I quietly did my job in the cold of the night, the same night weather forecasters were reporting that many parts of Texas were expected to freeze.

From there it was back to the holding area for a few more hours until the actual deployment. I read a book to pass the time.

Just before 2:30 a.m. we hopped into our cars to drive the short distance to the chapel where the unit would be arriving. Wanting to stay warm we waited in our cars. About half an hour later we spotted the unit marching down the street.

The 34 soldiers marched to the chapel where they sat and waited for further instructions. Fifteen minutes later they were back on their feet and in a bus that would take them to the airport, on their way to Afghanistan.

I had recently purchased a car converter so while driving to where AP staff writer Angela Brown was staying in Killeen, I was able to ingest my memory card onto my laptop. Angela had alerted the desk clerk of my early morning arrival. The clerk was helpful and even fed me breakfast. At around 4 a.m. I started editing and transmitting.

Within the first 30 minutes of the drive back home, exhaustion hit me. I pulled off the highway and into a parking lot for a quick 15 minutes nap. I officially made it into my warm cozy bed at about 7 a.m. with the thought of how much I love my job.

—by Thao Nguyen. Nguyen is a freelance photographer, based in Austin.

Harry Fest

December 16th, 2009 | Events | No comments

Dozens of friends and colleagues attended a “Celebration of Harry” party Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009, in honor of legendary photojournalist Harry Cabluck who was recently laid off by the Associated Press after 40 years of service. The event was held in the stately Lt. Governor’s Reception Room at the Texas State Capitol.

“Thanks for coming,” Harry said as he greeted me. “This is better than my funeral.” Indeed, it probably felt to Harry a bit like attending his own funeral, getting to hear all of the nice things people had to say about him.

A good time was had by all including an upbeat Harry himself who made it clear he was not retiring. “I’m going to keep taking pictures,” he said.

Harry’s got some friends in high places. Near the end of the party Texas Gov. Rick Perry and First Lady Anita Perry made a surprise visit.

“Anita and I love you Harry,” Perry said. “And I love Anita,” replied Harry to a round of laughter.

With so many photojournalists in the room, flashes were popping all around as the Governor made his remarks. Then Perry used his cell phone to snap a photo of Harry. “You’ve just been tweeted to 20,000 people,” Perry said.

—by Jay Janner. Janner is a staff photographer at the Austin American Statesman

See a slideshow of the Texas State Capitol gathering.

Share your gift

December 5th, 2009 | Events, Photojournalism | No comments

There is a worldwide movement this holiday season to help those less fortunate see themselves with new eyes.

On Dec.12, 2009 the worldwide community of photographers will participate in the debut event, Help Portrait. Photographers around the world will make portraits then print and deliver them to those who can’t afford to have one made of themselves or their families.

Mac tech and photo advisor Tricia Buchhorn has formed a San Antonio group and is inviting you to share your talent and love of photography with those who find themselves in difficult situations.

From press release:

The goal of Help-Portrait is simple;
1. Find someone in need
2. Take their portrait
3. Print their portrait
4. Deliver their portrait

Over 4100 people in 470-plus locations in more than 55 countries have already registered and formed groups with the numbers growing daily.

Help-Portrait was formed by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart as he contemplated using his skills and expertise to give back to those who may not have the opportunity for a professional photo. The idea is that a photographer has the unique ability to help someone smile, laugh and return their dignity- it is a movement, a shift in photography. This movement began only 2 months ago with the launch of the YouTube video from Cowart.. Since then, Help-Portrait has spread across the world as photographers have jumped on board to give back.

“December 12th is about helping people who never imagined having their portrait made,” shares Cowart on his idea. “Kids who don’t have their own families, those in need at children’s hospitals here and abroad, single moms, the elderly, the homeless or even your own neighbor. This is about giving pictures, not taking them. It’s about building relationships in your own community and giving hope.”

The San Antonio group got an early start. On Friday, Dec. 4 it was a night of welcomed disorder at the Battered Women’s Shelter. The event began at 6 p.m. Jo Hilton, Don Little, Alicia Wagner Calzada, Sabrina Ornelas and Tricia Buchhorn spent their Friday evening sharing their photographic talents. In the end 50 families were photographed and 90 prints were made.

When Alicia walked in the door she was pleased to see people walking around in their fancy dresses, a few kids in Santa suits, others in their big fluffy winter coats, all lining up to have their picture made. Everything went well despite the technical glitches with the printer. Some members of the San Antonio Help-Portrait group were there until the last picture was printed at 1 a.m.

“It was a great experience. Most of the women arrive at the shelter with only the clothes they are wearing, so it felt really good to give them something that was positive,” said Alicia.

The San Antonio group has two events scheduled for Dec. 12, one confirmed; the Christmas party for children with Multiple sclerosis.

If you’d like to join the San Antonio group contact or check out the Web site to form your own group.—Anita Baca and Tricia Buchhorn

A tribute to Harry Cabluck

November 23rd, 2009 | Photojournalism | No comments

Everyone on the photo staff at the San Antonio Express-News has a Harry Cabluck story. Everyone but me, that is. I never had the pleasure of meeting this man that is referred to by many as a Texas legend and a Capitol treasure. Harry has been making pictures since before I was born, and I ain’t no spring chicken. The Texas Tribune reported that his career has spanned more than 50 years, 40 of those for the Associated Press. On Nov. 17, 2009, his job with the AP in Austin ended, another casualty of our crippled industry in which layoffs have become the norm.

As I listened to the various stories, I loved how the storytellers would channel Harry by imitating his voice. From the impersonations, I gathered that he is one of those rarest of human beings: cantankerous and loveable in the same breath.

I decided to peruse the AP archive looking for photos by Harry, knowing to keep an eye out for the one of Carlton Fisk hitting a home run in the 1975 World Series that Billy Calzada thought might be hanging in a hall of fame somewhere and something about a football “immaculate reception,” and then there was that killer rabbit photo, or not. And then that time at the Texas Open when Harry had the worst position but in the end made the best picture, beating out the two staffers we had in the sure-shot positions.

When I typed “Harry Cabluck,” the search returned 135 pages of 60 images per page. Yeah, that’s a lot of pictures; most of them were only from the past 10 years. I went through every single one.

I learned that sports photography comes easy to Harry, or at least he makes it look that way. I saw that he has photographed more national leaders than I can count on all my fingers and toes. I noticed the ease people such as former president George W. Bush and Gov. Rick Perry felt in front of his camera. And I was blown away by the behind-the-scenes pictures of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ stellar quarterback Terry Bradshaw in his prime.

They are all in this slideshow of pictures by Harry that I’ve selected. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Good luck to you, Harry, in your new ventures. And I hope you keep making pictures.— Anita Baca

Navigating the Downturn

November 12th, 2009 | Photojournalism | No comments

During a recent “Navigating the Downturn” dialogue at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Communication, four panelists discussed how to approach photography from a business perspective. About 25 students, professors and professionals attended. The panel, organized by the National Press Photographers Association, was part of a nationwide effort that has already included evenings at Syracuse University and in Seattle. The discussion was moderated by Donald Winslow, editor of News Photographer Magazine.

Alicia Wagner Calzada, right, speaks during the panel discussion.

Robert Seale, former staff photographer at the Sporting News and the Houston Post; Mark Sobhani, former staff photographer at the San Antonio Express-News; Michael Mulvey, former staff photographer at The Dallas Morning News; and Alicia Wagner Calzada, former staff Orlando Sentinel and Rumbo photographer and NPPA past president, all gave their perspectives on getting ahead and staying there in the current challenging environment for editorial photographers.

Students, faculty and professors listen to the panel. From left is Robert Seale, Mark Sobhani, Michael Mulvey and Alicia Wagner Calzada.

Robert Seale noted that since the time he was laid off from the Houston Post in 1995, he has never had a non-updated portfolio. He later worked for the Sporting News, where he spent years in anticipation of leaving, one of his ultimate goals being to own his own work. “That was a huge, huge thing for me,” he said. He suggests photographers save their money and build up their kit – lighting gear, a good tripod – as well as practice good business acumen by having a separate business checking account and creating an entity for your business to protect your personal finances. Seale added that one should research his or her market and figure out a niche. “You need to be a specialist.”

Mark Sobhani, center, cracks wise during the panel discussion.

Mark Sobhani, who freelanced before he became a staff photographer, is also the owner of Wildfire Coffee, a coffee house in San Antonio. He opened the coffee house while he was a staff photographer at the San Antonio Express-News. It was the experience of opening and running a new business that changed his perspective after being laid off. In the past, he approached his freelance business as a photographer. He now treats it as a business owner. Sobhani also emphasized how the law of supply and demand cuts across all genres of business, be it the demand for coffee beans or photographers. If there is a glut of beans or a glut of photographers, that will affect the cost or compensation of both.

Moderator Donald Winslow, off-camera, encourages Robert Seale, left, for his thoughts.

Alicia Wagner Calzada noted that a photographer should become comfortable with rejection; to not be afraid to turn down jobs that won’t cover one’s cost of doing business. She learned the value of her time during a visit with a small business development counselor. Time otherwise spent on an under-budget job could be used for marketing. In Calzada’s case, she likes sticking with “old-fashioned postcards,” saying that it’s too easy to delete an e-mail. Further, she said the time invested in marketing instead of taking bad deals would eventually pay off.

Dirck Halstead makes the point that the best tool is one’s head and emphasized being a problem-solver.

Michael Mulvey isn’t shy about asking potential clients what their budget is. “Do you want someone who’ll show up with $20,000 worth of gear and knows what they’re doing? What’s the value in that?” On the topic of value, Sobhani noted that clients who hire based on price instead of quality will move on when they find someone cheaper. Someone who hires a photographer based on their work will be a much better customer in the long run. “If their first question is about price, its a red flag,” he said. They’re not calling him because he’s a good photographer, but because they might think he’s a cheap photographer.

Robert Seale spoke about focusing on a niche and paying attention to details.

Seale finished by addressing the importance of attention to detail. A photographer should print two or three print books, create thank-you cards and postcards, having all correspondence seamlessly integrated with one’s brand. He also stressed e-mail etiquette and the ability to be pleasant in writing.

Later, the panel, students and faculty gathered at one of Austin’s oldest venues, the Hole in the Wall, for drinks and conversation.

Michael Mulvey, left, holds court at the Hole in the Wall following the panel.

Magnum photographer and professor Eli Reed quenches his thirst.

Mark Sobhani with a glimmer in his eye.

Alicia Wagner Calzada at the Hole in the Wall.

Robert Seale, left, and Michael Mulvey share a laugh.

– by Eric Kayne. Kayne is a freelance photographer based in Houston.

On the Fort Hood Tragedy

November 11th, 2009 | Photojournalism | No comments

About a week ago, all was quiet at the photo desk front, just getting through the day, bringing me closer to my weekend when I would take my daughter shopping for a dress for her first dance. But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had something more sinister in mind. By Thursday afternoon 19 children would lose a parent, leaving our nation shaken again, wondering once again what possesses a person to commit the cowardly act of shooting down unarmed people.

It didn’t take too much thought, 20 minutes after we learned of the massacre, staff photographer Edward Ornelas was tapped to go. He was standing in the middle of his living room surrounded by his gear and personals he would need for his trip to Afghanistan, wondering what to pack, when he got the call from director of photography, Bob Owen.

It’s a good two and half hour drive to Fort Hood and we weren’t sure what Edward was going to get, but the important thing is that he would be in place for the difficult days ahead. Just 24 hours after his arrival he would make, what is for me, one of the most memorable pictures in the follow-up coverage of the Fort Hood massacre, capturing the grief of the army post and the nation; a soldier standing at attention while a tear ran down his face.

In Austin, freelance photographer Jack Plunkett had just arrived at home after running some errands. He switched on CNN and listened as the story was breaking. He was contemplating heading to Fort Hood when LM Otero of the Associated Press called and asked if he could get to Fort Hood quickly. That was about 3:15 p.m., two hours later Jack would move a photo of a distraught woman being comforted by her husband. That picture would grace the front pages of many Texas newspapers and beyond.

The pictures of the gunman, the victims, the investigation and the agony continued to move, reminding me every day that a terrible tragic event had taken place and many people were hurting, a job that belongs to journalists and one they did very well this past week.

The coverage culminated with a solemn ceremony, honoring the 13 killed. Over 100 photojournalists were there and one can only imagine how many thousands of pictures were made. One of those images, made by Rodolfo Gonzalez of the Austin American Statesman, of Pfc. Aaron Nemelka’s mom crying at his fallen soldier memorial, is like her grief, almost too much to bear. It is a picture I hope everyone sees.—Anita Baca

Must see: Jay Janner’s blog entry for Nov. 5, Fort Hood Tradegy

How I came to know Xavier Mascareñas

November 4th, 2009 | Photojournalism | No comments

It was about the same time Region 8 Director Kevin Martin asked me if I would like to run the Region 8 blog. My name is Anita Baca and I am a multimedia team leader and picture editor at the San Antonio Express-News.

While I was wondering what on earth to blog about, I was also wondering why Sig Christenson, the Express-News military writer, who was supposed to be on vacation, was covering a soldier’s funeral in New Mexico, way out of our coverage area.

I only wondered about Sig’s exploits because I was asked to find a photographer to cover the funeral of Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Warren Westbrook, a career soldier who died on Oct. 7 after being badly wounded in Afghanistan. He was to be buried in Shiprock, N.M. on Oct. 16. No problem, I thought, I’ll check the NPPA’s member directory. The directory has five listing in Farmington. I started with Xavier Mascareñas of the Daily Times because I liked his name. The NPPA member directory is my secret weapon, it has saved me many times.

When Xavier answered his phone he assured me they would be covering the funeral and they would move the pictures on the AP wire. And he was true to his word. I scanned the wires a few days later wondering what was taking so long knowing full well Xavier had a full day of shooting. He was probably going to file late he had warned. What I was not expecting was one of the best funeral pictures I’ve seen in a long time finally move across the wire.

It was indeed a picture worth waiting for.

Check out the Daily Times photographers new blog, Behind the Lens.