In this industry, one can expect to have a crazy day every now and again. Although a 12-hour shift is not the norm, it is also not wildly uncommon. I’d say on average I get at least one of these a month. Last Thursday was my crazy day.
I woke at 5:15 a.m. and battled with the alarm clock for 15 minutes before dragging myself into the shower. I'd worked late the night before and made the mistake of turning on the TV instead of going straight to bed when I got home. At this point I was on about three hours of sleep. I tried to compensate with a quick shower and a lot of coffee, but it didn’t help.
I was on the road by 6, heading out to Declo to cover my first of three football practices that morning. Along the way I apparently missed the detour sign on Interstate 84 that should have alerted me to the fact that the only piece of construction on the entire interstate had closed the exit I needed. It wouldn’t be fun if it weren’t a challenge.
After a 20-minute detour down Yale Road, I made it to practice. Unfortunately, I was booked back-to-back with football practices, so I had all of 15 minutes to shoot before I had to leave for Burley. The nice thing about these moments is if I know I’m on limited time I kick up my game. There’s no time to over-analyze my angles; I just follow my instincts and shoot. A lot of times these actually turn out well.
Despite my GPS screaming at me to turn around, I managed to get lost on my way to Burley. I’m going to go ahead and blame this on being over-caffeinated. I made it to Burley High School around 8:15, just as the players took the field. I was able to shoot their warmup stretches and a few fumble drills. It wasn't enough to create a diverse gallery, but I could pull the four photos I needed for print.
Off to Minico.
The six cups of coffee coursing through my veins finally started to mellow. I actually listened to my GPS this time and made it to Minico by 9 — the first shoot I was on time for that day. When I got there I saw the multi-colored blocking sled and six players running drills with it. I’d found my spot.
When I’m in a pinch for time and have to make a quick photo, there are always two things I look for. The first is lighting. Being outside for practice, the lighting was even and great, but there weren’t any cool effects to utilize for my photo. If I were inside and had rays of light shining through a window, that’s where I would go to make my image. I moved on to my second tool, color. When scanning the practice field, the first thing that jumped out at me was the brightly colored sled. If it stood out at a glance, it would stand out in the image. That's why I picked this spot.
After practice and a quick portrait of Tim Miller, I jumped in my car and took off for my fourth assignment of the day. It was only 10 a.m. I made it to Rupert by 10:15 to cover the women’s domestic violence shelter. Board President Mark Burgess talked about the need of keeping the shelter open while giving me a tour of the facility. This made for a quick and easy interview shot that doesn’t really look like an interview shot. For anyone stuck in the situation of a person-at-a-desk shoot, ask for a tour. The photo is almost always better. Instead of focusing on you, the subject will usually be occupied with explaining his surroundings.
It was now 11. I took a quick trip to the gas station to refuel and re-caffeinate. For the record, copious amounts of coffee and soda are not a healthy standard I recommend, but again, I was on three hours of sleep. This is what happens when I don’t go to bed on time.
By noon I was back in the office and uploading my previous four shoots. I was able to tone the three football practices before I was back on the road. Fortunately, my final two assignments of the day were in Twin Falls.
I started at the CSI Refugee Center. The shoot focused on bicycle donations and the center's need for a bicycle mechanic. This one was pretty straightforward.
My last shoot of the day was surprisingly longer than expected. I went over to Twin Falls High School to photograph new students registering for classes. In my mind this assignment should take all of 10 minutes. You get a photo of some parents filling out paperwork and call it a day. As you can guess, things didn’t go according to plan.
I shot the standard paperwork images and was ready to take off when I realized this was a centerpiece story. Paperwork images weren’t going to cut it. I ended up staying for over an hour following a new student and her father as she walked her class schedule, found her locker and did all of the other activities associated with being a new student. At this point I was pushing 10 hours. All I wanted to do was go home and eat my first meal of the day. I’m so glad I didn’t.
For the final package, I used only one of the paperwork shots and five of the student and her dad. By spending extra time with her, I got a sense of her personality. Pictures of her looking angrily at her dad because she couldn’t get her locker open or covering her face because she was embarrassed by my camera help to shine a light on who she is.
At the end of the day, when you’re exhausted and hungry and desperate to get off the clock, it is easy to throw in the towel and say “this is good enough.” It isn’t. Spend the extra time to get the image that tells the story. It is always worth it in the end.