Monday, 31 January 2011

The "HIGHS" to "LOWS" & Inspiration where you can get it

Two days ago I was asked if I would travel to Cairo to cover the ongoing street demonstrations there and the peoples' calls for Mubarik to step down. I have rarely ever said no to any request and this was no exception. Conversation in the office suggested that management would likely give the story a few more hours to decide which direction it might take, and how we might best use our resources to cover it for  our Canadian audience. What is often lost in journalist's desire to cover big stories overseas is the question of what our readers might want from this story.

Needless to say, I spent that evening speaking with my family, answering concerns from my teenagers, who are both old enough now to understand the risks that are sometimes involved with my profession, and preparing for a phone call to tell me which flight I was on.

What transpired over the next twelve hours is not relevant to this conversation, but the result of it was that we would not be sending a photographer into the region.

I was disappointed, but similar things have happened in the past, and likely will in the future. It is the reality of working in a profession where preparation is key, yet decisions don't always come as quickly as we'd like them too.

The next day, Sunday, it was back to work as usual, except this was an unusual day that comes along every six weeks for me and my fellow staff photographers. I was schedules to work the evening shift as a Photo Editor - a shift that I dread, not because of the work I do, but because I feel under prepared for the demands of the shift, and because it is next to impossible to make informed decisions without having been involved in much of the debate leading up to that point.

My shift overlapped with Tim McKenna's (Tim is a NNA winner, and now second in command in our department). The man is a saint - a fine achievement for someone who nearly followed a path to the priesthood when he was 13 - and works harder over longer hours than any staffer I have ever met.

With the combination of what was going on in Egypt, a few technical glitches, a smidgen of staffing issues, and perhaps a wee bit of my limited ability to complete some of the more technical tasks as they arose, Tim ended up staying very late into his shift. In fact, after starting six hours before me, he only finally left the building about twenty minutes before my own shift ended. As I said, the man is a saint, and an inspiration.

Anyway, in the span of 24 hours I went from anticipating a flight into Egypt and all that would entail, to helping select images for a A-section that was 75% devoted to the crisis there. There are some amazing images coming out of that country and I would certainly prefer to be there, making similar images myself.

My colleagues - photo editors - who work very hard to make sure we get the best assignments possible, and desperately push to get the best of every image selection in the paper, will no doubt take exception to me referring to a shift as a photo editor as a "LOW." But everything is relative, and I would think that although the job of our photo editors is extremely important, and challenging and rewarding in its own ways, few would argue that compared to what was possible from my weekend - in relative terms - feeling completely out of my element as a photo editor was certainly a "LOW."

Now I'm looking forward to the 3-10pm shift all week, and hoping I can make some images that will turn heads from the opportunities I'm given, and those I can dig up myself.

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