Wednesday, July 29, 2009

California Reconnaissance

Ever since landing my job in Fairfield, California I have been hard pressed to get the time to go fly fishing. Regardless of the direction I could head, it would be a solid 2-3 hour drive to get to some decent trout streams. And with that knowledge, there always seemed to be something else occupying my attention. It was maddening. So when a scheduling change up at work allowed me a four day weekend, there was only one thing on my mind. I needed to get my line wet. My brother Eric is a pilot up in Alaska and after one of our weekly phone conversations, the idea of a road trip came up. One of the perks of his job is his ability to fly for free on Alaskan Airlines. I proposed a weekend fishing mission to the greater Yosemite National Park/Eastern Sierra mountains and he jumped at the idea. Weeks went by and all the necessary preparations were made. I picked Eric up at the San Francisco Airport around 11 p.m. and we decided to push on (4 hours) through the night driving all the way to Mammoth Lakes. Having never fished the area before, stopped at one of the local fly shops in the area called The Trout Fly and ended up getting the scoop from Granite, one of the knowledgeable guides in the shop. For the next three days we fished the Upper Owens River, Hot Creek and the Tuolumne River within Yosemite National Park landing countless 10-12 inch rainbows and brookies. Nothing to do cartwheels over, but it was a great opportunity to scratch the fly fishing itch, make some cool night photographs, explore the pretty scenery and catch up on each others lives while sharing a bourbon bottle between us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tahoe Sightseeing

A couple weeks ago, my morena Clara and I along with my two roommates Zach and Anna made a trek to Lake Tahoe to hike up Mt. Tallac. There was a great view from the top.

Harvest time

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Lazy July

It was pretty incredible. June seemed like such a busy month for assignments and then July came around and instantly there was almost nothing. It has been a blessing and a curse. Good because I have been avoiding going out into the 100 degree heat of Fairfield and have instead been devoting my time to revamping my Shopping for Dynamite book. It has been bad because I haven't been shooting much photos. Hence the lack of July posts. I figured I would post some of my favorites of the month here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Making of a Photo Illustration

I wanted to talk a little bit about a photo illustration that ran on the front this past week's Sunday Sports section of the Daily Republic. I was assigned early last week to photograph our sports department's picks for the Track Athletes of the Year, Daje Pugh and Dante Thomas of Fairfield High School. I love getting these type of portrait assignments. There are no rules for them and they allow me full control of the final outcome. They allow me to really think of creative ways to show individuals in a different way. Such was the case for photographing Daje and Dante. Both of these athletes had stellar track & field seasons this year. The story was focusing on their success in their hurdling events. I wanted to show them hurdling. Going to the track was too obvious of a place to photograph them. I wanted to put them in a not so common place. I find that coming up with the concept of a portrait photograph is usually half the battle. I found my idea for this image while driving past the water fountain in downtown Fairfield and seeing the kids playing in it. My thought process was that I wanted to show big kid athletes playing but at the same time look tough. I wanted to show them exploding through the water like they did to their opponents this past season. I felt the fountain would be the perfect canvas.

I called up each of them and told them my idea for the shoot. Both were up for it and we settled on a time to meet. I chose a time in the late afternoon when I knew that the light would be the best. Their were numerous things for this shoot that would be out of my control. Weather and the fountain. I arrived an hour earlier with fellow photographer Chris Jordan to test the light and to figure out how I was going to shoot Daje and Dante. Chris and I did some test shots with my portable light set up and determined which fountain jets I would have them jump through.

Once I had my exposure and lights dialed in, it was time to have Daje and Dante step in. We were at the mercy of the fountain. Each time the fountain shot off, I have Daje and Dante sprint and jump through a pre determined jet of water. This was the tricky part. It is very difficult to get both your subjects looking stellar in the same shot. As a photographer there is little I could do to help remedy this besides encouraging them to keep their eyes open or to direct how and when they should jump. My lighting consisted of two Nikon Speedlight strobes on stands: one at far camera left to counter the evening sunlight and one just to my right to add a little pop to their faces. These were triggered remotely by my pocket wizards. I would only get one flash burst per jump to light up my subjects. Therefore, I had to wait to squeeze the camera shutter at just the right moment. This process took many attempts to do. Despite the cool breeze and the oncoming sunset, Daje and Dante were good sports about their numerous runs through the fountain.

After the shoot, I returned to the Daily Republic Photo Department and began the final series of steps to make this photo illustration come together. I choose the best two images (see above) and spent a whole day working in Photoshop to carefully blend together these to images. Once my two subjects were together on the same canvas, I added extra jets of water to the background to enhance the overall impact of the image. The spray of the water made it really difficult to blend together. It was tedious work but in the end I was quite pleased with the results. -Mike Greener

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Drag Racing against the Fuzz

Top the Cops from Mike Greener on Vimeo.

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. I thought it turned out pretty good. -M

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vimeo for Everyone!

A Bark in the Park from Mike Greener on Vimeo.

This is a video I did last fall about the community of pet owners that occupy the Lagoon Valley Dog Park in Solano County

I recently discovered this great alternative to youtube called Vimeo. I re uploaded this old video I did last fall on a local dog park. Hope you all like it. Best, -M