Snapping pictures and taking names since '03

Gillette News Record

Under the Sea on the Stage

Just look at the moments ’round you,
Right here on life’s big floor,
A photog’s got a better view
What more is you looking for?
Under the sea,
Under the sea,
Angles are better
Up where it’s brighter
Shoot it for me.
Open aperture all day
Fillin’ up memory away.
While we devotin’
full time to shootin’
Under the Sea
Right here all the peeps is happy,
as if the film on a roll,
A cam not on hand ain’t happy
They sad ’cause their cards are full
missing a call ain’t lucky
And if the timing is late
Well then the boss get angry,
Guess who’s future be delayed?
Under the sea,
Under the sea,
nobody beat us,
try us and join us
then you’ll see
All of the ledes start with a hook
under the sea we love the look.
We got no troubles,
life is the bubbles
Under the Sea

I’m a big fan of backstage shooting. This particular rehearsal was for a Little Mermaid show that double-casted almost every role.

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Life in Jail, Not Behind Bars.

There’s another way of breathing free air while serving a jail sentence, but it might involve shoveling livestock feces. So long as an inmate is eligible, meets specific requirements and is accepted to the program, he or she can make the time spent in jail feel quicker, and be shorter.

Instead of paying a debt to society by sitting in a room with four white walls, a select few are helping out at Cam-plex, maintaining the grounds at the jail, washing government vehicles, or completing custodial or cooking work inside the prison. Locals recognize them by their horizontal black and white stripes removing snow in front the entrance of the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office on a cold day. But they never cease to offer a warm welcome to anyone who passes by. The 12 men of cell block P and three women in cell block J feel fortunate to be part of the program, it certainly has its advantages, but not everyone can participate.

The inmate work program allows inmates to pay off a portion of court cost, fines and fees, or even shorten their jail sentence.  At 40 hours a week and five work days, that can drastically shorten life behind bars.

A typical walk through the prison halls warrants inquiries from a number of inmates. “If I plead guilty can I?” A female inmate pending trial asks for clarification on the program as she exits her block. “I only have one felony,” she implores.

“Just because we wear stripes doesn’t mean we are violent or angry or trying to get away with something,” inmate Herald Rank said.

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Avoiding Nut Shots

Last weekend was state wrestling. Which meant many photogs around the country looked down their viewfinder at high emotion, intense muscles, and nosebleeds. All the while trying to avoid nut shots. Our local paper covers the team that has won state for the last 11 years in a row. And they won again this year. To put that in perspective, some of the current wrestlers hadn’t learned to walk the last time the Campbell County Camels lost at state. But because of the constant victories, there was a lack of emotion that many are used to seeing. So I shot some other kids in leotards too.

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Hairball of a Good Time

Not too many words here but lots of photos. Hairball is a 80’s cover group that mimics the appearance and mannerisms of bands such as ACDC, Journey, Guns N Roses, Queen, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS and more. This is their 13th year of performing. It was bright and loud. I’ll let you know when I regain my hearing.Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball Hairball

Back to Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed

The more you look through a view finder, the better you get. There’s is no denying experience, but there are tendencies photographers adopt with passing years. It’s not a product of laziness, it’s a shortcut to being efficient. I’ve gotten skeptical of weak assignments, ask fewer questions, and edit less photos. The bad comes with the good. Now, I walk in a room and spot a ray of good light, can decipher scanner speak, and always keep a hardhat in the car. But when I was starting out,  I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The passion was filled with naive optimism and determination. Every breath was a desperate gasp to succeed. I once shot a truck stop four times to get perfect light.

It’s time to return to the basics. Reapply fundamentals, and experiment with stuff I know nothing about. I’ve got to walk away from the main scene to find a secluded moment, take chances on hunches, and aim at the unfamiliar.

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Triumph Over Adversity with a side of Pictures

Just finished working with an inspiring woman who has a wonderful story of triumphing over adversity. Breast cancer survivor Ladena Chitwood wasn’t just skating to win the bout, but to combat a disease that plagued her life.

The experienced, aggressive skater decked out in pink ribbons has a mean hip check. She’s more commonly known in the roller derby realm as Rinki Dink, and she skated with a vengeance Saturday.

Chitwood, 49, was living in Wisconsin when she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, considered the most advanced condition and incurable. The infection had spread to other organs and the prognosis was bleak.

“They told me I had six months to live,” she said. “But I’m still here and I skate.”

Chitwood underwent multiple surgeries before having a double mastectomy in September 2009. She received her first clean scan on July 1st, 2011 and has been cancer-free since.

A portion of Saturday’s Final Beat Down against Black Hills Roller Derby sales were donated to breast cancer research.

Enjoy the pictures and a few others from last week.

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Hump Day!

Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike Mike… Guess what day it is? Hump Day! That’s right, the Campbell County High School CAMELS won the State Swimming and Diving Championship last weekend.

We covered the weekend of preliminary and final heats. While shooting for other city papers and trying to come up for air every once and a while, I aimed to shoot some races a little different.

Thanks for looking

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Welcome To Gillette

Moving to a new location is like shaking a magic eight ball, or getting a box of chocolates, or any other cliche you can think of. Gillette is a new scene with different moments and every day is a gamble. It’s a town built on cowboy hats and oil rigs, and the people are neighborly and inviting. Local supermarkets stay open during power outages and retirees show up to shovel the high school football field for the biggest game of the season.

The biggest change I’ve seen (besides constantly trekking through deep snow and cow droppings) is the access. It’s easy to take advantage in a small city and go places I would normally be restricted to. Along the same lines, the people in my photographs are not paying attention as much. Not sure if they are used to a camera being around or they simply don’t care. Either way, I’m going to milk it (another cow reference, there’s a lot of cows here). Regardless, I’m always experimenting with new tactics to be a wall flower. Wearing bland colored clothing, asking for names and quotes at the end, using the phrases “pretend I’m not here” or “do what you would normally do” more often. I’m interested to hear what works for other folks. Feel free to participate in sharing time.

On a side note, working for print again is a refreshing reset. It’s more efficient and better practice to aim for a few stronger images, rather than a large collection of mediocre ones. I can tell my shooting and editing process is much more selective. Although we’re well in the digital age, it’s alright to conserve some ammo.

Thanks for visiting and we hope you come back soon.

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Mallo Camp

Mallo Camp is an educational, outdoor adventure for fifth graders that kids look forward to when they’re in second grade and brag to their younger siblings to when they are in eleventh grade. Students create artificial clouds in meteorology, capture arthropods in entomology, and learn the sour taste of willow branch in botany. They speed through lunch and avoid any cabin time so to be in nature as much as possible. It’s three days of playing in the dirt, getting scraped up by trees and having close encounters with wasps and the kids love it, and so did I. I’ve been been a camp dweller and avid “outdoors-dude” all my life. Between the kids referring to me as “camera guy”, “hey put me in the paper”, and “Mr. Tree”, it was tough not to join in the fun. An editor suggested we shouldn’t stay at the camp longer than five hours. We were there for nine, oops. It was for the sake of journalism.

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The Bus Barn

It takes more than a pencil pusher and a couple drivers to make the wheels on a bus go round. The Campbell County School District Vehicle Maintenance Building is a cramped space of efficiency, chaos, and friendship.

An ordinary day is anything but typical. Dispatch operators are often talking on the radio to drivers about routes changes, while at the same time on a phone call with a distraught parent, and simultaneously coordinating with mechanics to fix a broken bus. That’s just the first ten minutes.

Supervisor of Transportation Keith Chrans understands a rapidly growing city requires compromise and innovation.

“We don’t want to lose our small or hometown mentality, but we need to be more in line with how larger districts are run,” Chrans said. “Not only are the students increasing, the number of routes and bus stops increasing, but just what we do has changed.

In the last five years, the number of kids bused to and from schools has raised from 3,350, to more than 5,000. In a single day, the 110 Campbell County routes drive a total of 10,700 miles. That’s 275,000 gallons of gas per year.

The Bus Barn is a pretty appropriate story for my first post in the new city. After walking around town looking for something to shoot, there was an overpopulated bus parking lot. I mean they parked these buses everywhere. On streets, in front of houses, in other parking lots, it’s ridiculous. Gillette’s population has grown almost 30% since 2005. It’s a small city getting bigger city and I’ve seen things here I would never have expected, mostly because of the access. The Bus Barn is a microcosm of the city. The locals are good, smiling, hard-working people trying to adapt to their growing town.

Thanks for looking and lots more on the way.
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