Monday, May 30, 2011

Death and a New Perspective

For a couple of days last week, I covered the death of Hawthorne Police Officer Andrew Garton.

If you had told me last week that I could have a better understanding of what South Bay area law enforcement officers were going through, I probably wouldn't have believed you.

It's not that I didn't have the ability to understand or empathize with what the officers were feeling. They had lost a friend and fellow officer.

I've covered stories that have involved death before and often. I've suffered through the death of friends and family members.

So, now I understand that it was with a slight of bit of arrogance to believe I understood how the members of the Hawthorne Police Department felt last week.

They lost a friend and coworker to a set of circumstances that just seemed randomly impossible. Not to violence in the line of duty, but just to an accident.

Reporter Rita Garcia and I talked to people who knew Officer Garton. I think it fair to say, the officers we spoke to seemed frustrated and troubled over the sudden loss.

Working in news, I've seen how random life can be. Accidents happen. Mostly they happen to other people and sometimes we have a reason to tell the story on the news on TV.

Accidents? Mostly they happen to other people.

I'm still dealing with the loss of my friend and coworker, James Kang. The suddenness and unexplained circumstances surrounding his passing is also frustrating and troubling.

My condolences go out to the friends and family of Officer Garton. It's now with a different perspective that I offer my condolences.

It might sound slightly trivial, but it is with the sincerity of having also recently lost a friend that I add, I feel your pain.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

James Kang Lives Forever

A close friend of mine passed away yesterday. The unexpected and sudden nature of his passing has left me feeling quite unprepared to accept that he's no longer with us.

I don't have much in the way of details and nobody even knows yet what caused his death. He was at work at our station. He told people he wasn't feeling well and left to go home.

His body was found later in his car in the parking structure.

I'll say it for you, "DAMN!"

James was one of the guys I hung out with to take pictures. Our group (we're still not a club) has met and continues to meet irregularly (but often) simply to indulge our hobby.

He was one of the few people crazy enough to hang out with me day or night in the sunshine or even in the rain just to take pictures.

Many people might think it was a little insane to be in the places we frequented in the hours we we there. It was always a conscious effort to capture and share photos that were outside of our "comfort zone".

He was a spiritual brother in photography and all around just a great friend.

James Kang lived a life of kindness and friendship.

He set the best example of anyone I've known of how a friend should behave.

I wish more people were inclined to follow that example.

James leaves behind a lot of tearful friends.

Knowing how much he loved taking pictures, I truly believe we'll soon see our first photographs of heaven. They'll be black and white and will have been shot on film.

Understandably, it might take a while for him to post them on Flickr.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pointe Mugu by way of Bakersfield

It was just like my good old early days of working in news.

I found myself on the far side of the Grapevine, racing up Highway 99 towards the top story of the day.

I also found that the oleander photographs much better in the daylight, but stay focused here.

It really wasn't that long ago that I'd been covering the news in Bakersfield. In fact, it actually was just the day before.

I'd already been to Bakersfield once this week. Doing live shots in front of the house where the Governator stashed his baby momma and illegitimate son.

There's no law that says I can't be sent to Bakersfield twice in one week. Maybe there should be.

Lucky for me, it was a SAT truck assignment. I'd carb loaded on the way up and had even caffeinated myself before digging in for a nice long easy-peasy evening.

Then it all went to crap.

A plane crashed on the air force base at Pointe Mugu. Bryan, we need you to take the SAT truck there and put a reporter on TV for 10pm.

Crap. Crap, crap, crap.

Driving to Bakersfield two days in a row is bad. Having to turn around (after getting all the way there) is worse. Having to drive almost all the way back, then driving out to Pointe Mugu is even "worser" than that.

Well, at least the reporter was Serene Branson. That took some of the "worser" off.

The drive was only medium bad. At least it wasn't raining and there's always a nice feeling I experience when driving towards Los Angeles.

It's nothing against Bakersfield. I had a blast when I lived and worked in Kern County.

It's just getting close enough to where I can see the lights of the city. It's that feeling that I got when I was heading for home on my weekend. That feeling was just the relief that I'd made it through another week and I was heading towards my family.

Except this time I turned right at Highway 126 and took the back roads towards Pointe Mugu.

That kind of sucked.

The Story Covered

So anyway, we did not cover the shooting that maybe was gang related. Rachel Kim and I were sent to an auto accident near the mall up in Rancho Palos Verdes.

It was not a very complicated accident. Older driver couldn't stop, ran her car at full speed up an incline, hit a railing, went airborne and crashed into the front of a nail salon.

The most amazing thing was that nobody was seriously injured. Lots of property damage and the car was totaled, but nobody hurt.

Check out the front wheel. I did a double take, because I thought that was blood splattered.

It wasn't.

That's just nail polish. There was a lot of it splattered around and you could smell it in the air.

My days are often filled with tragic stories. Most of the time they fade away from my active thoughts and become fodder for my subconscious to chew up.

I'm pretty sure I'm not going to worry too much about this one. I've been to similar scenes where it wasn't just nail polish.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Story Not Covered

Friday had me in for a dayside shift. I'll show you why a little later.

I was working with Rachel Kim and our assignment was to cover a shooting in Wilmington.

I don't remember the words "drive-by" being used to describe the shooting.

Most news organizations have developed a policy to not cover stories that are gang related. Good or bad, there is a reason behind what does or doesn't make it into the newscast.

If a story has the obvious appearance of being gang related, we likely don't cover it.

This story had a strong appearance of being gang related.

We were reassigned.

Derby Days (or what I did while on vacation).

Really should just make this a slideshow, but that requires more work than I have time to invest this morning.

There's not a lot to say about my evening at the Holiday Skate Center in the OC.

I'm always looking for visually interesting subjects.

The Renegade Roller Girls have never disappointed in that.

They aren't exactly easy to capture. A sports photographer might have a better (easier) time of it.

I just hang out and do the best I can.

It helps that I'm shooting digital instead of film. I burn through a bunch of bytes of data capturing those megapixels.

Sometimes the shots work.

There are times when the action is slower and it's easy to capture the mood or emotion of the moment.

Sometimes I'm in the right place at the right time. Something interesting, maybe intriguing, will catch my eye.

Other times I just do the best I can to follow the action and hope I captured through my lens what I witnessed in person.

It's pretty safe to say that I miss more than I catch.

Just keep in mind that photography for me isn't always about capturing the decisive moment.

That would be too much pressure. That would make it too much like work.

No, that won't do.

Gee, I believe I did mention that I was on vacation.

Some shots will just have to sit in the archives for a while. Someday, I'll be able to look back on them and they'll have more value for me.

Other shots will show how special they are right away.

What can I say? It's all practice towards something, but I couldn't really tell you what that something is supposed to be.

Taking pictures is something that I enjoy. I'm not going to analyze it. I'm just going to keep doing it.

And I'll also keep sharing. Until someone convinces me otherwise, I'll keep believing the places I go and the things I see are worth sharing.

It might not always be wonderful, but I think I lead a pretty cool life.