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Picture of the week

April 11, 2010

A boy playing

A 5-year-old boy shows off his skills at Thompson Park playground in The Dalles, Ore. Photo copyright Mark B. Gibson/The Dalles Chronicle

It often seems to happen that a newsy week of rushing about headlong is followed by a week so slow I find myself looking for anything to photograph, preferably something human.

The result is known in the newsroom as a “stand-alone” or “wild art” feature photo. It is related to the “grip ‘n grin” check passing and the “shake ‘n bake” political visit. Of course, kids in the park are pretty obvious and way overused. I have probably shot this a million times, in fact this is my second “picture of the week” featuring a kid in the park. But this kid and his mom were the only humans I’d seen all afternoon, and I was getting desperate.

I was eager to shoot, though, not only because he was such a cute kid but because I was testing out my new-to-me (used) lens, a 17 to 35mm f2.8. I haven’t had a good wide-angle view since moving to the digital camera when the Nikon D1 came out: It takes a very wide lens to compensate for the smaller digital image frame. This lens is extremely wide in its field of view, even on a digital. Nothing is as inspiring as extending your visual framework.

When shooting kids I always approach the parent before taking any pictures. The local people know who I am, and that I work for the paper. Those who don’t know me ask to see a business card. I get permission and I get their names. I’m rarely turned down; even though I look, according to one former reporter, like a serial killer or even, I’ve been told, a windsurfer.

This boy was typical: he immediately ran away and hid behind a bench. We played hide-and-seek for a while, me making occasional comments about his climbing skills as he dashed over and around.

“Did you get my picture?” he yells as he blurs past. “No. Boy you go fast!” I tell him. He runs away to peer at me from between the slats of the bench. His mother says “I guess he’s shy today.” I reply that “It just takes a little time.”

This picture was taken after maybe ten minutes. He loves airplanes and rockets, talked up a storm once he got going. He’s hanging maybe two feet from my big camera and wide-angle lens, saying “Take my picture! Take my picture!”

So I did.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2010 20:32

    He is adorable. I’m so glad you found him with his wonderful enthusiasm for life!

    Now about you … serial killer? Nah. Windsurfer, maybe. I know, HIPPIE! No, not that either. You are who you are, just as the rest of us are who we are.

    I love your writing, bro. You are amazing – have always been amazing. I am so proud of you and the work you do.

    • April 14, 2010 04:12

      It’s amazing how much we go by appearances, isn’t it? Someone told me that when I first came to The Dalles, they saw me walking down the street and thought I was a homeless man. Then they saw my camera… homeless men don’t carry professional cameras. People have trouble catorgorizing me, which is something of a compliment, actually.

  2. April 15, 2010 19:33

    I got the biggest kick out of this post. I love the photo, of course–who doesn’t enjoy looking at an exuberant youngster.

    What you wrote about how people perceive you sometimes, is a riot!!! I always thought you kinda looked like a mountain man…a kind of Jeremiah Johnson. (grin)

    I LOVE your writing. I learn a lot and I always come away inspired.

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