Saturday, October 6, 2007

Shooting video

Hello everyone,

My assignment Friday was to video tape the Football Game of the Week for our newspaper. Getting ready for it is always a challenge because batteries need to be fully charged, need to have new or almost new video tapes (mini DV) and have to make sure the external microphone is nearby. Tapes go bad quickly, and you don't want to end up with a tape that has no game for you. Plus, one has to familiarize one's self with the teams so that we can attempt to follow the action by watching out for the best and key players. Rosters have to be found somewhere (usually MaxPreps) and the coaches have to be located and informed of our intentions to video tape the game and of getting a post-game interview.

The other thing is that high school football is very popular everywhere and so parking is almost always a problem. Getting there early is the key. Prior to the game, I have to do some B-roll of people and players warming up and introductions, so about one hour or a little more is needed before the actual game action. Since the on-camera talent (Fred Robledo, prep sports editor or someone else) talks about the teams matching up, I have to show the players doing something before the game along with general team shot warming up, the fans coming in, the mascots getting crazy, band coming in, whatever.

Once the game begins, carrying a Canon XL2 on your shoulder for the two hours or so along with a backpack with everything you need is tiring but what can you do. Putting yourself on the sidelines is also something to be aware of because many times the players come right at you and if you don't jump out of the way, you'll go down with them.

Half time show action is taped too and some crowd shots. After the game, interviews with the coaches and player of the game come quickly and then back to the office to edit and do the voice over.

It takes some two and a half hours to three hours just ot finish about 8 minutes of action and interviews. Downloading in real time takes about 45 minutes to an hour, according to how much was shot. What sav es me some time is that as the tape is downloading, I am sitting watching like a hawk, noting down video clips and times on the clips of everything I will need for my final cut. I usually end up with some 75 to 100 clips in my final take. Then mixing video with audio, extracting audio and voice over takes some more time. Don't forget to watch your final product first so that anything you find wrong is fixed prior to putting it on air. Once in a while, we'll find wrong last name when the audio was being done, so we just redo it real quick and that's all. So, by the time the finished product in online for the customers, it has taken a full day or about 7.5 to 8 hours of work.

Check out some of my and my colleagues videos at

Until next time, keep shooting.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Court Room Drama vs. "Heart-Warming" Story

My assignments today: Whittier Superior Court & Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy visit from Richard Moore

My court assignment was the arraignment of 27-year old Melissa Serrato of Pico Rivera. This is Serrato, coming out of the courthouse after she pleaded NOT GUILTY.
She was in court to face one felony count of (this is MY disclaimer) alleged gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated - i.e. killing someone (running over a 15-yr. old boy on Lambert near Mills, close to Cal High School) while driving drunk.

Well, this was a very unusual morning because I am usually told, prior to the judge coming out, if I have been or not allowed to photograph the accused. The judge came out and the first case was Serrato's. I looked at the deputy in charge and he signaled me to move to the area inside where the jurors usually sit so I could have a frontal view of my subject.

This is Serrato next to her attorney, facing the judge.
My subject was having none of me today because for some reason her hair was mostly down in front of her face when while waiting outside the courtroom, she looked perfectly fine. Dear me, I shot a few photos of her half-covered face and the deputy signaled me that that was enough. I walked out of the court as her proceedings continued. Since I knew I did not have enough pics to give my editor, I planted myself outside the courthouse, near the corner so when this alleged drunk killer came out, I would snap to my heart's content.

After waiting a few minutes, the family of the boy came out, prayed right outside the courthouse entrance and then walked away towards the parking lot.

This is Serrato, second from left, wearing large dark glasses.
Soon after that, the accused walked out with her supporters, family, next of kin. There were maybe some 10 to 15 people. They immeditely spotted me and moved her back behind a wall. One man and a woman walked towards me, and in loud voices told me to GIVE HER SOME PRIVACY, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO DO THIS. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF SOMEONE DID THIS TO YOU. I'M GONNA GET AN UMBRELLA. To this I thought to myself, "Geeze, Louise, if I got drunk, got behind the wheel and killed someone, I would be so contrite, so repentant and so embarrased that I would know that I deserved the attention. I would only have brought all of this to myself." But, I stayed quiet and did not say anything to them.

I just stood my ground and kept focused on the area where the woman was hiding. If she had just showed her face in the courtroom, I would have had a proper photo for publication, but she chose to hide from the camera. Now, she made my job more difficult because she wanted privacy. The fact of the matter is that she put herself in the public eye by putting herself in this situation. As a bona fide journalist, I have the right to photograph anyone of interest to the public.

After a while, the female relative returned with the umbrella (I think the umbrella was going to be used in an attempt to shield her from me) and her attorney walked past me saying something like "THEY GOT YOU REAL BUSY TODAY, DON'T THEY."

How dare he say this when he is defending someone who, by their own choice allegedly got drunk, got behind the wheel and allegedly killed a 15-year old boy crossing the street. WOW! The nerve!

Anyway, I waited another five minutes or so and then about half of the group walked with the accused one north on Painter Ave., away from the parking lot where they had come from. I think the man who walked past me berating me, drove to some street north of there and picked her up. Anyway, that's what happened and I still got a good shot of her, POW!

Check out the story here:

This is the pain this lady, allegedly, is causing the family of the 15-year old boy. Anyway, to make a long story short, she pleaded NOT GUILTY and must return ot the same WHittier Superior Court on Nov. 26 for her preliminary hearing. If convicted, she faces a minumum of 4 years or a maximun of 10 years in State prison. In the mean time, she is free on $100,000 bail.

Now, for the other side of coin.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La CaƱada hosted Richard Moore, an Irish man who at the age of ten in 1972, was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. Moore lost his sight. He now has Children in Crossfire, a non-profit that gives "service of humanity, particularly children around the world who, like himself, have been caught in the crossfire of violence, as well as poverty and hunger."
Moore spoke about his life in Derry, Ireland, and how on his way home from school he was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier. Moore said he has since met and forgiven the soldier. Moore fundraises for children in worn-torn countries through his foundation and the Dalai Lama is one of his supporters.
At the end of his talk, many of the girls (girls-only Catholic school) stayed around and asked one-on-one questions, bringing some to tears. Anyway, this was much better and nicer to approach and photograph than the courthouse drama.

Check out the video I did for this story as well.

Last note: Just as an FYI, our website, by far, gets the most hits on stories/photos/video of high school sports and hard news, including accidents, murders and COURTROOM APPEARANCES.

Until next time, keep shooting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Another Freeway Crash

Well, it was in Pasadena this time. As I cruised the east side of Whittier near La Habra, I heard the radio reporting major closing on the 210 Pasadena freeway. I might be some 30 to 40 miles away, and in the morning traffic, boy would I have to battle. I finally decided to head that way when I neared the 605 freeway in Whittier.

It took about one hour and 45 mins. to battle through traffic to get to the location (210 north, just before Arroyo Blvd and right in front of the rear of Muir High School), only to find that the freeway on-ramps near the accident scene were closed. At the last freeway on-ramp before the accident, I decided to follow the street parallel to the freeway.

As I drove parallel to the freeway, I could first see a huge soundwall, then I could see tv trucks' antenas and I was getting depressed at the thought of having to go back some two to three miles, get on the freeway and battle more bumper to bumper traffic. Boy was someone or something looking after me because right at the accident scene, the sounwall ended, there was some construction of a drainage pipe on the freeway embankment and.... the fence was down, there was no concrete sound wall and all I had to do was walk up a steep embankment to get to the crash.

There were two big rigs, one fused to the end of the other. The one in front was a dirt carrier, the ones that pull two "buckets" behind them that are always seen in construction sites carrying dirt or concrete or asphalt off.

Pasadena fire official is in foreground as others work near trucks in the background.

The other one, the one that rear-ended the front one, was a mail carrying truck, also with two trailers behind it. The cab of this truck was stuck into the end of the rear "bucket." And the entire cab and first trailer were completely burnt. The fire dept. had their jaws of life out, cal trans was controlling traffic and CHP was also taking care of business. After a while, the Coroner investigators arrived and tried to remove the body from the cab. The body of the person who had died in the fiery accident. After a few attempts, they decided somehow to remove the body by pulling it out of the cab, since it was somehow trapped in there. Once the body was out, they inspected it, took some pictures and wrapped it in plastic and cloth.

Man, oh, man, was this a horrific scene. I have seen people hit by trains, by cars, shot up and all that , but seeing this poor guy, somewhat in a seated position, charred completely from head to toe, that was very numbing and shocking. A CalTrans guy approached me and said that the guy was 31.

The quietness of the scene is all that I remember even though there were some 20 people around and two lanes of traffic were moving by. The smell was that of burnt-out truck, much like when a house burns, but nothing else. Obviously, I took photos of what was going on, but as soon as I left the scene, incidentally, right after the coroner put the body in their truck, I felt sick, sad. Seeing something like that so close made me think of the guy and what he must of gone through in the last few seconds of his life.

Terrible thing to happen to someone, burnt in a crash, and I just hope he did not suffer too much or at all. Seeing a scene like this really tells you how unimportant some things in life are and just hoe precious and fragile life can be.

California Highway Patrol, Pasadena Fire Dept. stations 31, 35 & 36, Cal Trans and L.A. County Coroner work on this accident. I'll spare you the more graphic photos.

Until next time, keep shooting.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On-the-spot news - Auto accidents

Hello everyone,

It is wise to keep your news information flowing to you at all times. First thing I do in the morning is to log onto the California Highway Patrol website for accident reports that are updated instantly all the time.

( It would be wise for all of you to bookmark this link: ).

This way, I am up on all accidents throughout the L.A. area and can head out when bad ones come up in our coverage area. Lets face it, people like to see the worst accidents and this is verified by the hits on our newspaper's website. Accidents, fires, murders, anything that is hard news gets the most hits by far, along with high school sports.

So I hear about a big accident shortly after 8 am and head out there to the 605 Southbound just north of the 60 freeway. I am going north very slowly as I approach and thankfully, there are two fire engines and a highway patrol on the northbound HOV lane (carpool). I park IN FRONT of the emergency vehicles and jump over the center divider. I would have never gotten to the accident on time if I'd gone around to the Valley Blvd. onramp and headed south. It was all a mess already sicne the freeway south was completely closed and only the right lane was open for all to go east and west on the 60 fwy.

This is the photo that I was waiting for. The injured party, rescued and on his way to medical attnetion.

With this photo, I set the scene so people see familiar landmarks (signage) and recognize the accident scene.

The fire dept from Pico Rivera, South El Monte and El Monte (engines 40, 90 and 166) are feverishly working on getting a driver out of a van that is on its side with a pick up truck stuck into the roof.

There are another six or seven cars behind this mess, all in a wide state of damage, from small dents to entire axles broken off. So, I click away, always giving the paramedics and fire dept. their distance because I do not want to be thrown out of the scene for being in the way.

As they work on the guy with the JAWS OF LIFE, I walk carefully north of the freeway always looking at traffic and photograph the rest of the mayhem. I get back to the rescue and get the fire dept as they pull out the guy. He is put on a stretcher and is wheeled off to a nearby ambulance. This is when I get as close as possible to get a good shot off. When action is fluid you have more leeway to get closer and pop off some nice pics. Anyway, as soon as the guy was taken away, one of the fire trucks parked on the northbound lanes took off, so that was my cue to exit myself. I do not want to be stuck on the other side of the freeway, on the carpool lane, stopped when all the traffic begins to flow again. I had what I needed and this time, the tow truck clean up was not as good as what I had (the rescue) so I did not mind having to leave.

Here, you want to set the scene of the accident. You want to have your viewer be in the scene. A CHP officer fills out a report as the fire dept. rescues a driver.

Another way to show the scene, from a different angle.

By using an interesting foreground (the truck), you lead the viewer into the action, i.e. the officer taking a report from the driver.

I stood away from the rescue as to be unobtrusive. Notice that I popped the flash to expose properly shooting into the sun.

Tech notes: Manual settings using 2.8 16-35mm & 2.8 70-200mm. Keep it around a f5.6 for depth of field and go with the sunny 16 rule on 200 ISO for sunny light (figure out the shutter speed, to get into the manual mode you need to be in). I popped gthe strobe (flash) on because when the sun is lower on the horizon, extreme shadows will kill your exposures or when shooting into the sun will also wreak havoc on the exposures.

Until next time, keep clicking.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Courtroom Photography

Hello everyone,
One of the most difficult places in which to photograph is... The courtroom.

{Photo Caption: Accused double-homicide mastermind Theodore Shove, at right, talks with his attorney Alex R. Kessel during opening statements for the murder trial of Shove and his accomplice, the accused killer, Lewis Hardin, at the Los Angeles Superior Court in downtown L.A. on Monday October 1, 2007.}

Yes, this is a place where the judge is the Lord of his or her Kingdom and nothing happens in this place unless the judge lets it happen.

As journalists, we need to report (and photograph) goings-on in the courtrooms, like trials for murder, robbery and kidnapping, to name a few. Our problem is that most of the time, the defense attorneys will cry foul and argue that our photography will compromise their client's right to a fair trial. Many times, the judge will agree with this line of thinking and after spending from a few minutes to a few hours waiting for approval from the judge, we are rejected. But, sometimes, we prevail and are allowed to take photos of the suspects, accused and even convicted murders.

Today was one of those days where the judge did not decide to let me photograph until she had talked to the attorneys. And, much to my relief, she agreed to allow me, but first, with a few stipulations.

Since this was to be opening statements for a murder case, I had to stay in a place unobstrusive and could not photograph the jury (which is fair). And, since I had to stand near the jury box, but away from the public seating, I was not to make any noise or could not leave until a break. As soon as the attorneys were informed that I had been given permission, the defense attorney claimed that I did not have anything to muffle my camera's sound. The judge asked me why I did not have a blimp for the camera and how loud the camera was going to be. I answered the judge very politely and said I was not provided with a blimp by my emplyer and I did a test for her by shotting one frame. She noted that it was not that loud and then she asked how many photos I was going to take. I said it would be about 10 frames and she said ok.

{Photo Caption: MUG SHOT: Accused killer Lewis Hardin, right, looks right into the camera during opening statements of his murder trial at the Los Angeles Superior Court in downtown L.A. on Monday October 1, 2007.}

The next problem was that since there were two defendants, one was sitting right in front of an overhead projector, so he was being blocked most of the time. I wa able to move a little back towards some of the jurors and shot off a few frames of him. But, the main guy, the alleged mastermind of the murders was right in front of me and so he was easier to get. Being in court is already intimidating enough, but having two murder suspects starring at you often is something else. Anyway, proceedings stopped about 12:30 pm and I left with these pics. There are more photos here:

You can also read the grizzly details of how two old people were bludgeoned to death with a tire iron in their bed.

The two defendants are accused of masterminding and murdering La Habra Heights residents and Paramount business owners Hubert and Elizabeth Souther after the Southers refused to sell Shove their hardware and tool business. Shove, also refered to by prosecutors as self-proclaimed Italian crime family member Toni Bonanno, and Hardin face the death penalty if convicted.

This is what a blimp looks like.

Tech Notes: Exposure was manual, wide open 2.8 @ 1/40 to 1/60 secs. 300 lens with monopod. Do not like IS because from previous experience, battery runs out much faster and focus is a little more difficult, specially in low light situations like a courtroom, plus lights were dimmed so jury could see a Powerpoint presentation by the prosecution.

Until next time.

Bill of Rights ~ Amendment I

Hello everyone,

I will begin this blog by giving you the law that allows me to work as a photojournalist without fear of anything and anyone, as long as I follow the law.

Bill of Rights ~ Amendment I

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion, or PROHIBITING the free exercise thereof; OR ABRIDGING the FREEDOM of speech, or OF THE PRESS; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In essence, the right to freedom of the press guaranteed by the first amendment is not very different from the right to freedom of speech. It allows an individual to express themselves through publication and dissemination. It is part of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression.