Tuesday, 3 November 2009

NPAC Member's Blog – Day 2

This is a great week for me to blog I must say. Mondays aren’t exactly my favorite day of the weeks as it is, and this week I’m on my least favorite shift – the 8am to 3pm. This shift gets even more difficult after the clocks are turned back an hour like we all just did. Leaving at 6:15am from Hamilton for an 8am shift in Toronto is brutal.

But today the photo assignment gods were smiling on me (Thanks Roger) and mercifully my first assignment was a 10am job the other way down the QEW, in St. Catharines. On Day 1 of this blog I mentioned that I thought that I was going to do a very similar shoot to one I did in 2007. As it turned out was a completely different location. That was somewhat of a relief, but it still didn’t change the fact that it was in a sensory lab. If you haven’t visited or photographed in a sensory lab I should tell you that most labs of this sort are designed to have little or nothing to stimulate the senses. That makes sense but it doesn’t sound very visual does it.

So, as much as we are desperately trying to avoid pure portraits at The Globe and Mail these days, and as much as I am trying to avoid lighting portraits when I must do them; both were absolutely necessary today if I wanted to make anything at all visually appealing. Out came the lights, the room was “re-decorated” to make it more interesting, and thanks to the patience of my subject, we were able to come up with something useable. It will run on Wednesday of this week, so I’ll post it here then.

At the Globe we try to file everything as soon as possible after each assignment. This means we don’t have images sitting on cards, or the laptop, when news breaks or we get busy doing something else. It also helps the photo editors prepare for daily meetings when the images are in-house, designers to get an early start on pages, and the web editors love having options to post. With that in mind we use our Blackberrys to transmit pictures. Transmission isn’t the proper term here because what we actually do is transfer our images from the laptop to an added memory card in the Blackberry and then send each image individually directly into our system. It’s certainly not an ideal way to get images into the office, and it’s incredibly cumbersome when covering breaking news happens, but we’ve all found a way to manage.

Peter Power edits from the front seat of his office - the “roomy” Toyota Corolla.(Photo by Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Today my Blackberry decided it was going to act up on me. I tried sending three images from the portrait session in St. Catharines; two versions of the lit portrait I’d done, and a straightforward headshot. The last image is standard for everything I do, and I’d recommend everyone adopt a similar practice. This means that for every assignment you do you build your library file, and you’d be amazed how often people come up in the news again for different reasons. But I digress.

One image made it to Toronto, while the next three emails simply sat there. It’s a frustrating thing that happens once in a while, and usually a re-start of the Blackberry will fix the problem. But not today; today I had to delete the emails and create them again. Happily I watched as they were finally sent. This isn’t a huge problem, and doesn’t take too much time to fix, but again, on deadline it could make or break you.

Normally we can all fit more than one assignment into a day, but with travel, the fact that I was in The Niagara Peninsula, and I was off at 3pm, meant that I hadn’t been given another assignment for the day. But I’m not one to sit idle, and I still feel guilty if I’m not looking for photographs, so I started to look for something else to justify my existence, not to mention my pay cheque.

Down along the Welland Canal I found a ship passing through the locks in an area where the public can still get relatively close. Changes to security post-911 have restricted most access to the locks between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The images weren’t riveting by any means, but it didn’t hurt that the ship’s name was Canadian Olympic. I’d be very surprised if the picture ever makes it into the paper, but I sent it anyway. If it runs it will certainly be a back-handed way of getting an “olympic” photo published.

Canadian Olympic makes her way south through the Welland Canal after passing through Lock #2 (Photo by Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

There are many days when my feature pictures need a sympathetic eye to be considered useable, but for years I’ve been encouraged that something half decent is better than nothing at all when photographs are needed. At The Globe and Mail we rarely run a stand-up enterprise photograph, and desperately avoid weather pictures, but old habits are hard to break, and I think I give Moe fits some days by insisting on shooting them regardless. Sorry Moe.

Finally, on my way home, I thought I’d pass by a local cemetery to do some preparation for the upcoming Remembrance Day ceremonies. It’s always a good idea to make inquiries surrounding upcoming events if you have an idea for coverage. In this case, I made some headway, but I also came across something that to me speaks to the issue of fewer and fewer vets each year. The photograph didn’t take long, and I was able to send it to The Globe before the 3:30pm meeting.

A veteran's tombstone, for Robert Sinclair, who passed away recently in 2009, sits beside a tree near his grave and the graves of many other veterans. The tombstone was waiting to be set by cemetery staff.(Photo by Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)


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