The end of 2011 is approaching and in the newsroom that means the year end lists are being made. Top 10 stories, top 10 quotes, top 10 reader comments, top 10 photos, top 10 this, top 10 that. I would normally compile a collection of photos I've taken this year that I like without any structure. I like it so it gets added to the collection. But this year I'm taking a note from my friend a fellow photojournalist Clifford Oto and selecting one photo from each month.
Some months were easy. One photo stood out among the the rest. In other months(July) no photos were particularly interesting. And then there was October, a month full of great photos.
My votes have been tallied I have made the final judgement. Here are my favorite Lodi News-Sentinel photos from 2011.
The year got off to an exciting start with the reorganization of the SJC board of supervisors. As I'm sure you are all aware, there are no assignments in the world of photojournalism more action-packed than meetings. From the beginning this was a real slobber-knocker of a meeting. Items were discusses in monotone voices, thanks for a year served were given. I could hardly contain my excitement. During the meeting, Mr. Ruhstaller up there was named the new chairman of the board. While he was speaking to the crowd he leaned forward to reach the mic and peered over his spectacles. With the county sign behind him it was one of those moments where all the elements came together to make an interesting photo out of a boring moment.
It's been a couple of slow years for fires. We haven't had any major structure fires or grass fires in a long time. Fires are always horrible for the people affected by them, but for photos they are a goldmine. When I arrived on scene for this fire the flames were under control so I resorted to photos of the firefighters cleaning up the mess. but then from the garage came a couple of firefighters carrying puppies. They were barely breathing. One appeared to be unconscious. The firefighters and EMTs gather around the dogs and began resuscitating them. I knew as I snapped photo after photo I was getting something few had ever witnessed. Did I get any photos of flames? No, but would that really have been better than an EMT cradling two puppies, one wearing an oxygen mask?
The guys on SWAT have a tough job. They deal with the crazies who will probably hurt themselves or others if they get the chance. To keep their skills up to snuff the SWAT team has monthly training sessions and occasionally hold competitions against other SWAT teams. In this photo the Elk Grove team was going from classroom to classroom searching for a "husband" holding his "wife' hostage. When they entered the room they began yelling at the reporter and I to get our hands up, not realizing we were not part of the scenario.
This was one of my favorite assignments from the entire year. Retired WWII veteran Chuck Casella was a B-17 gunner when he served. In April he had the opportunity to take a ride on the Liberty Belle, a B-17 that toured the country. It was amazing to see the oldster hopping on board and navigating through the plane like he was a twenty-something again. Sadly, about a month after these photos were taken the Liberty Belle crashed and burned outside of Chicago.
Shooting Cinco de Mayo at New Hope School in Thornton has become an annual event. There's singing, dancing and kids in traditional Mexican clothes. This year I snagged a photo of a kindergartner who seemed to be quite embarrassed while still having the time of her life.
As a journalist you are sometimes involved with a story that truly opens your eyes. This year Jeff Kooyman was that story. He's one of those people that everyone in town knows of, sees them hanging around here and there, have heard stories about but know really know anything concrete about the person. If you speak to Jeff you may think he's a little off. 30 years of drug abuse will do that to you. But what you probably don't know is he's a graduate of UC Davis and a brilliant pianist. He is the reason you don't judge a book by its cover. Check out the video, "Jeff Kooyman: A Life Renewed" for the whole story.
This has been the year of REACH. I have photographed REACH more times this year than any other year at the Sentinel. I've been to the REACH station, I've taken a couple rides in it and I've been to numerous accidents in which REACH was used to transport an injured person. This photo was taken during a training session with Lodi firefighters at Hutchins Street Square. They were reviewing landing procedures. Nothing to terribly exciting. But while shooting I did get the opportunity to stand beneath the chopper as it was landing, giving me a unique view of the crew.
Feature portraits a constant as a photoj. Rare is the day I don't shoot one. Staci Takach is a local photographer who was featured on the cover of the Lodi Living section. She brought a bunch of cameras for the interview and photo shoot. I gave her the simple instruction of "have fun." It worked. She was relaxed and gave me plenty of great candid shots. This was my favorite of the bunch and my favorite portrait of the year.
Former LNS reporter Jordan Guinn is a glutton for punishment and will do just about anything you tell him to. So what did we do to the guy who gets motion sickness if he turns a corner too quickly? We threw him on some carnival rides at the Lodi Grape Festival. He was a trooper, riding nearly everything he was told to, but he couldn't keep the brave face on the whole time. If you ever want to hear a grown man scream, watch the video of Jordan at the Grape Festival.
Wildlife photography is not my specialty. In fact, I'd say it's the field of photography I am the worst at and have the least amount of experience in. So when I got this photo of a juvenile bald eagle at the Pardee Reservoir I was quite pleased with myself. We saw the eagle take flight from the shore and I manages to snap off a coupe shots before he got out of range. But in a stroke of good luck he landed again and perched on a tree. We manage to drive out boat right under the guy before he finally took flight again, giving me this shot.
Kabbadi is an eastern sport. A mix of tag, red rover and wrestlemania. I love shooting other cultures so I jumped at the chance to work on my day off and shoot at the Sikh temple. The sport was unlike anything I had ever photographed. Surrounded by a crowd of about 3000 it was also the largest sporting event I covered this year.
In July a postal worker was hit by a car as he crossed the street. His legs were crushed. He has had multiple surgeries and months of therapy, slowly learning to walk again. During one of his weekly sessions at Lodi Memorial West the physical therapist pressed on his knee as he performed leg presses. The look on his face was of excruciating pain.
For family members of soldiers serving oversees there is no better gift than their safe return home. This month I've photographed two homecomings – a son surprising his mother and a father surprising his children. Tears flowed freely at both. It's hard to imagine a more joyous occasion.