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... is a freelance photographer working in Middle Georgia

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beauty At The Landfill

I went to the Houston County Landfill this past week to shoot the installation of two huge methane gas powered generators. Quite the cool green project. The generators will provide electricity for over a thousand homes, powered by garbage, or the gas created by the decomposing garbage.

The Houston County Landfill is not what one would expect, thinking of a garbage dump. It is literally quite green, the reclaimed areas looking more like a park.

There are always buzzards around the freshly dumped trash. They follow the tractor, trying to get a bite before the refuse is covered with earth. When the tractor gets too close, they take to the air. The view from below provided a great shot of the birds.

The sky was full of clouds that added to the scene, I wanted to capture them as well. I did my telephoto thing, but had to get a wide angle shot of the sky. That gave me the top image, a bit of 15mm action. One of the coolest cloud shots I have ever done. A bit of beauty from the landfill.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Award Winning Writer?

Over the years I have been truly blessed to win quite a few awards for my work, all for my efforts as a photographer. God has been very kind to give me this ability with a camera, and the opportunity to use it.

When I joined the Leader Tribune staff in November of 2008, I discovered another medium of expression, I began writing. During my time at the Telegraph, I occasionally did a little writing, but the pictures were my passion. Photography still is my constant, but writing has been fun. I really got into the words, often the story being accompanied by my pictures instead of the other way around. I was doing several stories a week and really enjoying my work.

One of my favorite stories was on Fort Valley animal control officer Jessica Weidner. That is Jessica pictured above. I spent the day with her, and wrote about her passion for her job, her desire to really make a difference. This story was entered in the Trib Publications annual Better Newspaper Contest. The story won a First Place for Best Feature Story.
One of my photos won First Place for feature photos. The win for a photo is cool, always a thrill to win an award, but the writing award is special. I got a call from a reader after the story ran this week, telling me about the win. There is a real irony to winning an in-house competition after being laid off.

I have included the story below if anyone would like to read it.

                                                             Jessica's Story

She began her workday Thursday dumpster diving behind Ace Hardware in Fort Valley. Her name is Jessica Weidner and she’s a cop. Jessica is also Fort Valley’s Animal Control Officer. Ace employees called Thursday morning after hearing puppies crying in the dumpster. Six puppies, maybe a week old, were under the garbage. “They were covered with ants and fleas, yelling up a storm,” she said while she washed the puppies, ridding them of the filth and fleas.

Jessica has been in the “animal business” for eleven years. She said she just kind of fell into the field. She spent over six years a veterinary tech, then time in animal protection with the State of Georgia. Last year she received her certification and spent about six months as a police officer in Reynolds, Georgia. She heard about the animal control position in Fort Valley and applied for the job. The first week on the job she had to crawl under a house to rescue three puppies, but said Thursday was her first time in a dumpster.

Jessica, Chief John David Anderson and a couple of colleagues gathered in the Chief’s office with baby bottles of formula and a box of puppies. The four feed the starving puppies. Chief Anderson said he and his wife would look after the brood until they were old enough to be adopted. Jessica said she can’t take animals home to recuperate anymore. Her young three children get too upset when they have to leave.

After the puppies were settled in Jessica hit the streets in her pickup truck fitted with a kennel and other tools of her trade. The truck bears the same lettering as the Department’s patrol cars. She said “I patrol within the city limits looking for problem animals. When I get a call I respond. Yesterday a lady called 911 and said cats were attacking her dogs and I needed to come out and do something.” Stray cats had been hanging around the lady’s yard attacking her Chihuahuas. One was injured enough to require a trip to the vet. Jessica had set up a trap for the strays.

After checking on the trap she rode across town. “I patrol high nuisance areas where there have been trouble dogs.” There are several ordinance violations she looks for. Dangerous dogs such as Pitt Bulls and Rottweiler’s have to be registered with the city and kept in specific enclosures. Dogs can not be running at large. They also have to have their rabies inoculation. Jessica encourages pet owners to check at the Police Department for a copy of the ordinances.

She often does drive-by welfare checks, making sure animals have shelter from the elements as well as food and water. She is a sworn police officer so she is also looking for criminal behavior.

Jessica spots a large white dog in a vacant lot near College Station Drive. She says the owner has been warned twice about the dog wandering the neighborhood. She stops and talks with the owner’s son who tells her the family has decided to surrender the dog instead of trying to keep in their yard. The dog is captured and loaded into the truck with the assistance of fellow Fort Valley Police Officer Stuart Williams. She said her fellow officers had been very helpful to her, assisting when she needed a hand. Stuart followed Jessica to her next call, an area where she had tried to pick up a neglected dog the day before. The owner was able to get away with the dog.

The dog had disappeared by the time she got to the location so she parted company with Stuart and headed to the office of Veterinarian Lori Giles with the dog she had picked up earlier. The city has entered into a program with Dr. Giles to handle impounded animals. She works with an out-of-county adoption service. The animals are spayed or neutered and put up for adoption. This program has earned the city’s animal control program a Low Kill/No Kill classification. The city is now able to apply for USDA grants to help with the animal control program.

Dr. Giles said that animals that are inpounded are held for three days. If they are not claimed in three days they will be sent to a shelter of foster home hopefully for adoption. Some animals will not adoptable due to aggressiveness or severe health problems. If funds are available the medical problems will be fixed. Dr. Giles said that animals will be scanned for an imbedded identifying micro chip.

Jessica said “When I approach people they think I am going to take their dog. I want to leave it in the home, just want to see it taken care of. This is something I enjoy doing, and somewhere I can make a difference.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Don't Know What It Is, But What A Photo Opp

We had a new bloom in the garden this past week. We are not sure what it is, but it makes a wonderful photograph. The previous owner was really into the garden, and there is no telling what kinds of bulbs are hidden under the rich black dirt. Every time we trim the huge Ginkgo tree and get more sun, we have new things pop up.

We first saw this one before the blooms opened. They finally were ready to shoot Friday. I took my flash and a light stand when I went to shoot, but the sun was hitting from just the right angle. Flowers almost always photograph better with backlight. Direct sun is usually too harsh.

Anyway, I just wanted to share these. When you photograph flowers, do one that shows it all, but try getting close, just doing parts. And watch the light.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Peach Still Life

I  have been wanting to shoot some peaches since peach season began. I finally got around to buying
some peaches and doing my little shoot.  The top two were done on a mirror, just thought it might make a
neat image.
They are out of order, the bottom was actually the first one I did. I used two lights, one behind and a bit to the side. The other was caming in at about 45 degrees on the left.  THey are okay, but I will probably buy some more peaches and try again.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Want To See A Killer Photo?

                                                                                                   Photo by Dusty Martin

I am doing my photography class this summer at the Fort Valley State University Warner Robins campus. We had our third class last night. I have sixteen students who share a strong interest in photography. We have a homework assignment each week, and have seen some nice images.

Last week we had a class on composition. The homework assignment was to use what we talked about in class and shoot a killer photo. The above image is Dusty Martin's homework photo. This image rocks. I opened it and just went, "WOW. Someone is listening in class."

I love photography, I love sharing what little I know about this wonderful art. It is so rewarding to have a class full of people who are hungry to learn. Makes an old man happy.

You go, Dusty.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Sprinter

I photographed a high school sprinter yesterday. Peach County's Travis Richmond. I needed to get a portrait of him, and wanted to do something with a bit of drama to it. These are in reverse order as to the way they were taken.

The first shot was him in the blocks. I set it up so the sun was over his shoulder. To capture the sun and Travis both with detail, I dropped my ISO down to 100, chose to shoot in Manual, and had an exposure of 1/320 second at F10. The flash was on a stand set just to my left, at eye level with Travis.

For the second two I let him explode from the block, shooting from a low angle. My light stand would not go low enough to get the light where I wanted it, so for the center photo I was hand-holding the flash, aiming it at him as he flew by. I wanted the light to be more directional, so for the top image, the flash was laying on the ground.
All were shot with my 15mm lens. The extreme wide angle was needed to capture the scene, but also wanted that wide angle distortion on his body as he went past.
The top photo is pretty much what I wanted. Love the mix of light and shadow, the look of determination on his face, and the way the sun highlights his muscle tone. Wish I had a bit more sun showing. Oh, well.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Birds and Cats

I came home from the gym Tuesday morning to find Deborah in the process of rescuing a baby Blue Jay. The little guy must have fallen out of his nest. Deborah took him away form one of our cats. We could not find hsi nest, so she put him in the top of a trellis in out garden.

The little guy was calling his mom and dad, but also managed to attract the cats again. Our cat hunkered down at the bottom of the trellis for a while, then sprang to the top. I shot a couple of pictures of her at the bottom eyeballing the bird. She jumped up the the top with the bird. There was a great shot of her face right behind the bird. I went to chase the cat away. I must be getting really old and soft. I didn't shoot the picture before I went to the rescue. I am still kicking myself for passing up that photo. Course if I had got the photo, and the cat got the bird, Deborah would have kicked my butt.

Momma and Daddy bird finally came, and I got a nice reunion shot. We kept the bird away from the cats for a day and a half, but he finally died. His parents seemed to give up on him. Just another day in nature, I guess.

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