Never have I been more relieved to put a month behind me. I started 2011 nursing the wounds from a Christmas Day car accident where I was hit by a guy running a red light. Wear your seat belts folks. They saved my life. Despite my Subaru being totaled, a massive concussion, some stitches and some ongoing deep aches and pains, I am lucky to be relatively unscathed. I’ve lost count to how many doctors appointments I’ve been to in January. Because of my accident, I have missed quite a bit of work. But as I rounded out the last days of January, I could honestly say that I am starting to feel a lot better and I am looking forward to a new year of making photos. Here are a couple shots from the past couple of weeks that caught my eye.
Well, better late than never. I’ve finally edited through all of my photos that I shot over the course of 2010 and have selected out my best of the year plus a couple favorites. Looking back on 2010, I realize it has been a big year of growth for me at the Daily Republic newspaper. I have been gathering up my images for submission to all of the end-of-the-year photo contests. I find the process to be a good time for reflection on the development of my photography and a chance to figure out my goals for the new year. I have no doubts big things are coming my way in 2011. I want to thank all of my friends and family that have supported me during 2010. I’m so glad you are in my corner. It was a great year. I’m looking forward to what 2011 brings. Happy New Year everybody. -M
Rachel Nathan-Funk, 12, her sister Leah, 5, Teagan Talbot, 7, and Kylie Shields, 7, lower left to right, watch Grupofolkloriko Nuevo Amancer folk dancers during a multicultural event at Dan O. Root Elementary School Tuesday evening.
Mass casualty volunteers from the Solano Community College nursing program and EMT students watch as paramedic Perry Hookey, far right, applies fake blood on the forehead of volunteer Russ Koch, left, prior to the start of the simulated disaster drill at the college Thursday morning.
Vacaville Ballet Academy dancers Madelline Layeghi, Laura Rutter, Sonya Thrasher, Daisy Montero and Rachel Goldberg, left to right, prepare for their upcoming performance at the Wednesday CLub in Suisun City during their practice Tuesday evening.
Student members of the Fairfield High School Scarlett Brigade Marching Band rehearse their routine in the student parking lot Monday afternoon. The school will be hosting the Tournament of Champions band competition this weekend.
Members of the 60th Expeditionary Medical Support unit secure their chemical warfare outfits during a mock missle strike at Travis Air Force Base Thursday afternoon. The event was part of a three day excercise on the base meant to simulate situations at a deployed location for the troops.
A look into the preparation of of the California Farms Duck Club and their efforts to create habitat to sustain their life-long love of duck hunting in the Suisun Marsh.
For the past couple of months, a reporter from my newspaper and I have started working on a year long documentary project focusing on the Suisun Marsh and the Delta. With water usage being such a hot topic in California, we wanted to explore all of the groups and organizations that are staking their claim for water rights. Our first subjects were members of a local duck club and their year-round dedication and passion for creating habitat for waterfowl. I had a great time hanging out with these guys. Stay tuned over the next year for other installments to this series. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. -M
After a grueling summer long hiatus from fly fishing, I finally remedied the situation. Last weekend I met up with my good buddy Ryan Peterson of The Fly Shop and The Big Pull for a weekend fishing for steelhead along the banks of the Klamath River in Northern California. I spent most of my time with a spey rod in hand but I did manage to pick up my camera for a little bit. Here are a couple shots that caught my eye. Tight lines.
Here is a multimedia video I just completed about a finish carpenter that defied the failing economy by turning his childhood fun into a modern-day longboard skateboard venture.
I’m pretty excited about this post. For the past month I have been working night and day on this multimedia project. I found Bob Waller, of Waller’s Woodys, by chance while working on another story for my newspaper. Bob is a high end finish carpenter here in Fairfield who for the last 25 years has been doing high end custom woodworking and carpentry throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. As he puts it, “I was a cake decorator for a house. Doing beauty for the sake of beauty.” When the economy began taking a nose dive two years ago, Bob watched as his business dwindled from being booked six months out to a near trickle. It was that point that he realized he needed to go another direction. A phoenix rising out of the ashes. Through the encouragement of his sons, he decided to harness the life-long love of skateboarding and started a longboard skateboard company based off of the old 1960’s Woody panel wagons.
This story meant a lot to me in that it was a very personel project. For the past couple of months I had been frustrated with the stories that I was producing mostly due to the fact that my newspaper always gave me very limited time to development and work on one. I wanted a project that I could do on my time at the pace I wanted to develop it at. A pace that favored quality over quick deadlines. Waller’s Woodys was my answer. Bob and his family were gracious enough to open their door and let me into their lives. Through their patience and trust, I was given full reign to experiment and try new approaches to telling a story. Most notably my use of video. I’ve done little video work as a photojournalist throughout my career and I saw this project as a great opportunity to give it a shot. I had a great time with it. I am grateful to them for allowing me play and to step out of my comfort zone as a journalist. Check out the video, let me know what you think and spread the word. Best, -M
I’d like to dedicate this story to a friend and insanely talented photographer Monica Lopossay who recently helped me to refocus my approach to my photography. I am forever grateful.
Friends of an unidentified shooting victim escort each other away as Fairfield police officers perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him Monday night in the parking lot of Armijo High School.
Fairfield police search individuals who were in a home where a shooting took place Tuesday night on the 200 block of Hamilton Drive. No arrests were made and police continued their investigation into the night.
I’ll say it right off the bat. I hate these types of assignments. There are times in my journalism profession when I am forced to confront difficult situations and circumstances. Every day in our photo department we listen to the police scanner traffic. Most of the time it is fire engine crews headed out to a medical emergency. Other times it’s another call about a car accident on I-80 Interstate. But every once in a while, it is a call about shots fired. I’ve come to learn that violent crime is a very real problem in the community my newspaper serves. My job as a photojournalist is to tell a story through my images that can help our readers stay informed and also to keep them aware of events happening throughout their community. Thankfully these situations don’t come around often. But when they do I am forced to make a big decision…Do I make that photograph?
Earlier in the month of October, I was working the night shift at the newspaper when the call came across the scanner that their were a group of people fighting on the parking lot of a nearby high school just down the street. Immediately after that, I heard the dispatcher say “shots fired.” Boom! I was out the door with my camera in hand. My reporter and I arrived at the scene not four minutes after the call. Most of the police were coming in behind us. I arrived at the scene (shown in the first two photographs. The third is a separate incident) of people screaming and upon further examination a lone police officer giving CPR to a young man on the ground. It was a horrible sight. It is rare to respond to a scene and be one of the first people there. Most of the time the incident has already ended. This time was very different. I knew a wave of police would be arriving soon and would very quickly put me and my camera as far away from the scene as possible. I knew I had to work fast to make a picture. Times like this your training and instincts just kick in. Your own emotions are shielded by the camera in front of your face. A young man is fighting for his life. You just react.
In journalism school my instructors described it as “Passing the Cheerio Test” as in if the controversial photo doesn’t make the reader spit out his morning breakfast while also telling the story, the photo was considered “safe” to publish. It is this balance newspapers constantly battle with and the topic has been addressed and discussed relentlessly by my colleagues in the profession. Where is the line drawn? What is our duty to our readers? Really tough call. It was times like this when we had such a powerful photograph, a decision was made and my editors knew that the line must be approached.
My editors decided to run the two top photos on the front page. Their basis was that the victim could not be identified in the photo and the images told the story that no words could quite describe. It got a lot of reaction. I returned to work the next morning expecting to hear of all the subscriptions that were canceled because of the photos. I was surprised to find a very different response. There were tons of comments on the story online and as expected, the photos drew some criticism. But for every negative comment there were two or three comments from readers that expressed how important thought it was to show these photos. These events were happening in their community and they didn’t want to ignore it anymore. The decision to run the images had started an important conversation throughout the community. I consider that a success and those comments tell me that I am doing my job well. Regardless, it doesn’t make it any easier to make the photographs but I feel it is very important that I do. What do you think? -M
Shaina McCormick, 18, of Fairfield, kisses her new fiancee Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Waller, 19, of Fairfield, after he proposed to her in the Sacramento airport on Oct. 9. Below, McCormick embraces Waller after he popped the question.
Dr. Seth Kaufman, left, of North Bay Medical Center waits for a medical robot controled by Dr. Alan Shatzel, on computer monitor, of the Mercy Neurological Entity of Greater Sacramento Area during a demonstration of the new machine Thursday morning in Fairfield. Dr. Shatzel can remotely control control the robot from his Sacramento location with a laptop and a joystick.
Larry Nelson, former Vacaville High School head wrestling coach, center, is being inducted into the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame. Nelson highly successful career spanned over 43 years at the school.
Travis Air Force Base KUDOS participant Justice Wong, 4, tries on a chemical warfare gas mask during a mock deployment simulation for children of deployed troops. The event aimed to show the children the process of what their parents do to prepare for deployment.
Spouses and children of deployed military troops walk the Travis Air Force Base tarmac to tour a C-17 Globemaster cargo jet during a mock deployment demonstration to give the children a better idea of what their parents deployment is like.
Solano Community College professor Danielle Widemann gives her Physical Geography science class a visual lesson explaining how the earth’s axis and orbit around the sun creates the seasons here on earth during a recent class. Widemann, along with her entire family, went to SCC for their education and she has been teaching at the school for over seven years now.
Shawn Beckett, 2, far right, along with Kalie Beckett, 3, Calece Beckett, 5, and Reese Moten, 4, left to right, wait outside their home after emergency crews evacuated them after a semi truck drove into a low hanging power line near the corner of Rocky Hill Rd and Novato Drive in Vacaville Tuesday evening. The accident left thousands of PG&E customers without power.
Here’s some of my favorite photographs I made in September. Enjoy.
I checked the mail the other day to find that the newest edition of The Flyfish Journal issue #3 has been published. It’s exciting because I had another one of my photographs published as a double truck in the opening spreads. I’ve been with these guys from the beginning and I am anxious to see where they take it next. These guys are rewriting the definition of the fishing magazine at a time when the industry and magazines in general are in a state of flux. The magazine has coffee table quality printing, is well written and has excellent photo play. I have yet to find another venue that displays my photos so well. You can check the magazine out for yourself here or find it at any major publication store like Borders or Barnes and Noble. Sweet.
Last week I was sent out to Travis Air Force Base to photograph the arrival of the California National Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade after their year of deployment to Iraq. This isn’t the first time that I’ve documented a troop arrival. But this time was a bit different in that our fair Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would be in attendance to shake the hand of each troop as they got off the plane. This changed my approach to photographing the event in that my access to roam around was limited by the numerous “Secret Service” aka California State Troopers who are his body guards. I decided to really study the crowd and try to absorb the mood of the place. The impatient excitement of the family members was everywhere. I realized that for all the stresses I might have during my work day, none hold a candle to the military family members that must wait around for their loved ones to return home from a war. This became apparent to me when I started to watch the faces of family members as they saw their loved ones, their streaming tears of joy and then watch them embrace on the windy, military tarmac. What a release. What a relief to have your daughter, your son, your mom or your dad back save and sound. It was a pretty cool event to witness. -M
Over the last two weeks I was assigned two stories about local watering holes here in Solano County. The first was a story on the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, a non for profit group who help raise money for the community. The group is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and I spent the better part of an afternoon watching them socialize over discounted beer at their meeting hall at the Marina Center in Suisun City. They are a great group of people. The second bar I documented was the historical Bird’s Landing Tavern out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a pretty incredible place. The owner Shirley Paolini, well into her 80’s, continues to run the place since the passing of her husband Mel a few years back. The place has been around since the 1930’s and was used by Clint Eastwood to film his 1982 film “Honky Tonk Man” movie. Nowadays it acts more as a museum than a working bar. Locals still come in for an occasional beer but the highlights of the place lie in the antiques and old historical photos of Bird’s Landing and Collinsville that line the walls of her bar while peanut shells pile up on the floor. It is a quiet and peaceful which is just how Paolini likes it. During out conversation during my visit she would often look up at the photos on the wall and when I asked her about them she said, “I always feel like I am around good friends when I look at them.” She’s a pretty cool lady. I love these old gems of places off the beaten path. This both of these places were a lot of fun to shoot. -M
I find it hard to believe that summer is already half way over. But alas, mid July is here. Things have been pretty calm around the newspaper for most of June and into July. I’ve been doing a lot of cruising for feature photos aka “slices of life” around town. We’ve been quite fortunate to have a pretty cool summer this fall with the minimum amount of 100 degree days and people have been taking advantage of the opportunity. I took the opportunity to head home to Chicago for a long overdue week vacation. I just returned home early this morning. Got to see some live blues, watch some friends get married, build a chicken coop for my mom, clean a garage for my dad, visit with old friends and even meet with ace Chicago Tribune senior photographer Alex Garcia. All in all it was a great little trip home.
A couple weeks ago I did this story on a couple guys here in town who were making a Christian based hip hop album. Their group is called Immortal Ministries. It was pretty cool to watch how they piece together their rhymes and sound effects into music. It is a lot like mixing a multimedia piece for the newspaper. I’m not a religious person. But regardless of whether or not you believe in their message, it was cool to see them following their passion for hip hop and create upbeat songs. You can check them out here
Here are a couple photos that I made in the last week or so. Now that school is out things are really starting to slow down here assignment wise. This is pretty normal at small daily newspapers like mine. But these slower summer months offer good opportunities to start long term projects. Currently, I am in search of a good documentary topic to shoot. I’m always open to ideas and suggestions. My focus is turning to the end of this week when I will be headed home to Chicago for a week. Really looking forward to seeing some old friends and family. Thanks for stopping by. -M
These photographs are from a last minute story I shot of a local family who have come together to help raise their nephew who has Down syndrome. I had literally about 24 hours to get this story shot while holding down the photo department as the sole photographer while my fellow staffers were absent either on vacation or injured. Things were kind of rushed to say the least. But considering the time constraints, I was pleased with the results. The power of family never ceases to amaze me. You can read the captions under each photograph.
Mary Eble, left, and her sister Martha, right, play with their nephew Nicholas Eble by encouraging him to box. “We try to introduce him to new activities and keep him moving,” said Mary Eble. Nicholas requires a constantly present caregiver and that role is divided between his two aunts and his father.
Mary Eble struggles to convince her nephew Nicholas that changed plans for the evening mean that he must accompany his aunts to their boxing class instead of watching movies at home. “Routine is so important to him because their is so much in his life that he can’t control,” said Mary Eble, “It is a big comfort to him and when things don’t go to plan, often times we have to work to find a compromise.”
Nicholas Eble, 31, plays his Ghostbusters video game at his home in Fairfield. “Nicholas is in many ways pretty independant,” says his aunt Mary Eble, “His ability to entertain himself allows us opportunities to get other stuff done around the house.”
Meals on Wheels employee Gerald Madueno, left, accompanies Nicholas Eble as he delivers a meal to a Suisun City resident. “We want Nicholas to be intergrated like everyone else,” says his aunt Mary Eble, “Since being laid off from his previous job, Nicholas has been volunteering for the non profit once a week.”
Nicholas Eble works on his fist jab with with Jesse Lopez Jr., owner of J L Tepito Boxing Club Thursday evening during his aunts boxing class. Trying to keep Nicholas active can often be a challenge for his family and their work schedules so they push him to try activities they are involved in like boxing.
I spent the better part of this week covering all of the happenings of the Solano County Fair festivities. Not the busiest fair I’ve attended in my career. I’d imagine that the organizers were frustrated about it too especially when they are competing against a Six Flags roller coaster park across the street. For my money the Ferris wheel just can’t deliver. Still, for the few kids that did attend you could tell they were enjoying themselves. Like most fairs around this country, we had the 4-H livestock competitions. I was never in these events as a kid but watching them now it is pretty fun to watch the kids and their reactions during the events. You can tell that each has put in a lot of work to get here and they all take it quite seriously. Separate from the 4-H events, I stumbled upon a new event of pig racing. They were pure comedy. An uplifting end to what has been a very long and hot week here in California.