The final hours are counting down for 2011. What a year. For me it was a rebuilding year both professionally and physically. I started out the year with being hit by a car while out on assignment for my newspaper and the result has been an intensive year of doctors visits, pain management and rehabilitation. I’m finally starting to feel better but my recovery is far from over. The car accident was a pretty derailing experience for my year and it has taken me a while to get back on the tracks. My priorities this year have been to heal my body and continue to form the foundation for my future in the business of photography. Right around the time of my accident, I had a series of pretty intense/ego bruising photo edits from some very talented and respected editors in the journalism industry. It’s always good to have that reality check to put you in your place and make you re-evaluate what you are doing with your craft. It forced me to do a lot of soul searching with how I approach my photography and my maneuvering through the rapidly changing journalism industry. It was good for me to hear and I think down the road I will be a stronger photographer for it. I still haven’t quite figured it all out but I can say confidently that I made some progress this past year and that I have high hopes for 2012. I’m looking forward to it. Happy New Year everyone! -M

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.

Spring is California is incredible. Everything has been so green and the temperature has held steady at around 65 degrees. All this nice weather has really brought people out in the community. It’s like someone flipped a switch. Now all of a sudden their have been a constant flow of pretty interesting stories and overall everyone around here has been in a good mood from the nice weather. Always a good thing. It has also been extremely busy around the newspaper. Hence my lack of posting. So here are some photos that I shot from the month of March.

Towards the end of December I went to photograph a woman that was starting a Womens Gun Club at a local shooting range. These photos are the second part of our coverage for that story. You can read the story here. Along with the initial portrait I shot of her, I also did a little photo story of her teaching the other women in the club. I grew up shooting rifles as a Boy Scout but had never actually shot a hand gun before. These ladies were kind enough to let me try one out. I can see why if holds so much interest for people. It was pretty fun to shoot.

Harvest is in full swing here in California. Everywhere you can see the explosion of fruit stands along the roads and the numerous farmers markets in the small towns. Having started my own vegetable garden I now know the rewards of patience for letting your crop come into its maturity. What most people don’t realize is that behind the scenes of the California law enforcement, another type of harvest is being conducted. The cultivating of marijuana. Eradication is a better word for it. Last week I was able to tag along with the Solano County Sheriff Department for a drug bust on a couple illegal pot gardens in the nearby hills of Pleasant Valley. This is nothing new for them. Every year law enforcement officials bust thousands of these gardens throughout the state. This time would be no different. The same protocol was applied. Find and identify the plants from helicopters in the air, organized your crew of undercover policemen and drug task force officers, and then send in the troops to disperse/arrest the growers on sight while eradicating the crops.

I was on hand to document the eradication of the plants. The law officials had identified about 6000 plant garden and by the time I had arrived, they had sent in their armed police officers to cut down and and haul out the goods. Unfortunately the press wasn’t invited to this part of the event. We would have to wait at the drop point. The wait wasn’t that long. Maybe twenty minutes. Then I looked up hearing the buzz of the on coming helicopter bringing in the drugs. It isn’t everyday you have the county police placing thousands of marijuana plants at your feet. The familiar smell from college was engulfed all around us. As I stood on top of the awaiting dump truck I shot pictures as officers worked to free the plants from their transport nets. It was a surreal feeling to be crawling over literally hundreds of thousands dollars worth of drugs. I kept thinking it was so much fuss over such a simple plant. As I watched the officers pour diesel fuel over the massive pile of marijuana, I grabbed a six foot plant and had Vacaville Reporter photographer Rick Roach take a portrait of me. You never know when another opportunity like this would come again. Something tells me that living here in California, I won’t have to wait to long. -M

This is a multimedia story I just completed for my newspaper about an unique, youth out reach program that the Fairfield, California Police Department is implementing into combating local street racing. It had been awhile since I last brought our HD video camera out to an assignment. Top the Cops drag racing event at Infineon Raceway. I thought it turned out pretty good. -M

Here is a recent documentry project I finished up here at work. I have included the page layout from how it ran in the paper too. Best, -M

Artificial light allows Solano County residents to continue doing the tasks of daily life long after the sun sets. But the luxury of light comes at a cost – it dims the starry grandeur of the night sky and, when used improperly, wastes energy. Light pollution foes advocate using only the amount of light that is needed and focusing it on the areas where it’s needed. As Solano County continues to grow, communities must decide how much light is needed for safety, advertising and other hallmarks of modern life. They must decide how much is too much.