I do have the coolest job ever!

A slap upside the head always comes when you least expect it.

“You have the coolest job ever,” said a hockey fan standing behind me admiring one of my photos at the Spokane Arena last night.  I was on deadline preparing to transmit my pictures of a blowout Spokane Chiefs hockey game back to the paper when those six words stopped me cold.

“You have the coolest job ever.”

Up until that utterance, I’d beg to differ.  It had been a long 14-hour day and I was tired. I started in the morning shooting a freelance job. I take extra work now whenever I can.  It helps make up for the furlough days and pay cuts I have endured over the past year.

The economic trauma and turmoil facing my and every other newspaper in the country weighs heavily on my shoulders at times. When someone asks me why I entered the newspaper biz, I tell them it’s because I have a passion for telling stories.  Like any good photojournalist, I see the world a bit differently from most people. There is a creative energy that burns inside me.  When I put a camera up to my eye, life becomes my palette.  I felt it when I bought my first professional camera in high school and I still feel it today…well most days.

“You have the coolest job ever.”

As I sat there hunched over my laptop, awareness washed over me. Here I was at a hockey game that I didn’t have to pay to get in, surrounded by the best cameras, lenses and laptop that I didn’t have to buy. The only thing missing was a cold beer by my side.

Looking back over the past seven days at some of what I have produced for the readers of my newspaper and viewers of our website, I realize that I can’t let the uncertainty of the future kill my creativity. Today, I put a sticky note on my computer monitor that simply says, “Try Harder.” It is my little reminder  that  (slap upside the head)  I do have the coolest job ever!

These are some of the highlights of my past week– a mix of multimedia and stills.

Several dozen great blue herons were perched on pilings in the Pend Oreille River at Usk, Washington Tuesday, March 2, 2010. Area birding enthusiasts said this is the time of year large groups of the giant birds can be seen migrating and resting in certain areas, such as the Pack River Delta along Lake Pend Oreille. Soon they will disperse in smaller groups to nesting rookeries in cottonwoods or other woodlands near water.COLIN MULVANY colinm@spokesman.com

Tim Michaels, who lost part of his leg in a grain elevator accident holds a wooden foot carving a relative brought him during his stay at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash.

Videos: Click image to view.

The king of Cat Tales Zoological Training Center gets a root canal.

In the Kalispel Tribal Language Program, new Salish speakers immerse themselves in daily conversation with elders and then teach what they have learned in nearby public schools.

Ten ways to make your photos better

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As more and more word journalists  learn to produce multimedia, I thought I’d share my top ten list of ways to make your photos better.  I give a copy to each of my Intro to Photojournalism students to refer to throughout the quarter. Everyone is familar with the process of photography, but few really understand the nuance of how to see a good photo.

  • Get closer. The biggest mistake photographer’s make is that they don’t get close enough to their subjects. The old  Robert Capa saying: “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
  • Know your camera intimately. Too many good photos are lost to poor exposures and out of focus negatives. Get a feel for how your camera meters a scene. Use manual exposure when the lighting is contrasty or subject is backlit. Practice focusing on moving cars and people. Think “focus, focus, focus” as you’re hitting the shutter. Your photography can’t improve until you feel comfortable with your camera.
  • Four corners. As you compose a photograph run your eyes around the outside edges of the viewfinder, checking to make sure your not cropping someone’s head off or that there is not some unwanted element coming into your picture.
  • Anticipation/Seeing. Look for the “magic moment.” Be ready to push the shutter before the moment happens. Pre-visualize.  Ask yourself “what could happen” Watch body language and facial expressions.
  • Composition. Look for angles and camera placement that adds drama to the photo. Don’t just put your subject in the center of the frame. Think left or right of center. Will negative space help your photo, or will getting closer be better? Look for leading lines into subject.
  • Lens selection. Wide angle helps show subjects in their environment. Telephoto compresses the scene making the subject “pop.”  Know which lens will work best for a scene.
  • Perspective. Get on your knees or climb a tree. Most people see the world from eye level. Take the viewer of your photograph someplace where they’ve never been. It will make your pictures instantly more interesting.
  • Shoot layers of information. By layering your pictures with info they become more powerful and the message is stronger. They have an instant wow factor. Use foreground and background elements to create a message. This is the tough to master. It is mature seeing.
  • Read the light. Photography is all about light. Learn to see it; Understand how light can set a mood in a photo. Even when you are not photographing something look at the quality of the light around you. Is it warm, cool, side lit?
  • Have something to say with your photography. Your pictures are a reflection of you. Your photography is how YOU interpret the world around you. Find passion in your love for photography.