Saturday, February 24, 2007

I'm Now a Yeti Betty

The new bike arrived today! It's sick light and covered in bling, courtesy of Sports Garage:

I guess this means I am now a member of "The Tribe," as Yeti owners like to refer to themselves. :) I haven't named this bike yet; I need to ride it a few times and see what its personality is like.

Yeti the company is based in Golden, which is cool. That means that both of my mountain bikes are from Colorado companies (even if the actual frames are made in Taiwan). Here's the Yeti headbadge:

And here's a peek at the lovely new XTR derailleur and wheels:

I would like to publicly thank my sponsor, the Joseph R. Caivano Foundation, for his immense generosity and his patience in listening to me freak out about my financial situation. I dedicate this racing season to him!

Another great thing about today is the weather. The snow that was predicted never showed, so I got to ride outside -- yahoo! I didn't even care that it was windy. I can't even describe how great it feels to be on the bike and outdoors again. Being injured and trapped inside for so long made me feel half dead.

A lot of what I love about riding outside is just noticing things. A lake I passed had ducks out exploring the half-melted surface:

There was also a guy standing by the bike path with an SLR camera and an enormous lens, probably a 600mm, photographing prairie dogs, of all things. I almost stopped and said, "Wow, that's a really big lens," like dumb people always say to me, just to irritate the hell out of him, but decided to spare him at the last minute. It's bad enough he was taking pictures of rodents in really bad light.

More good news: the Maverick folks have decided to use me for their ads! I'm very excited. I go in for a photo and video shoot next week, so I need to get a haircut and run through some possible things to say besides "My Maverick is, like, way cool, dude." Actually, they're wanting me to paint a picture of myself as a maverick, too, and then explain why the Maverick bike and I are a perfect marriage. I need to put some more thought into this and try to make it really compelling. They already liked what I wrote, but I want to show up with several options in my head, ready to say in a compact "sound bite" kind of way. They sent me a sample of the print ad:

Thank god I'm too broke to get into motorcycling, because this would probably tempt me.

I don't get the comment about how the bike would piss some people off. That doesn't make any sense. Unless he's referring to other bike makers, who might get mad they didn't think of such a beautiful way to solve the problems inherent in suspension design.

Update on the Karen Rodarte story: We're in a substantial dilemma about her family's status in this country. They're illegals, as you might have guessed, but they've begged us not to print that, obviously. But the trouble is, if we do that, we're leaving out an important fact, and we ARE journalists, after all. Now, we could just let readers figure that tidbit out for themselves (it's pretty obvious, since the family has no access to medical care), but then so could the INS or anyone else in a position to deport them. They MUST be aware of the risk in talking to us, I would hope...but maybe they're not clear on how public this story will really be. So, I've taken a break from shooting any more photos, because this story could very well get axed altogether if we can't figure out a way to deal with this. Obviously, I would feel tremendous guilt if they got kicked out of this country because of us, when they desperately need to be here for Karen's treatment. I mean, I have my own conflicing feelings about illegal immigration, but this family is already here, and Karen is highly unlikely to get what she needs in Mexico.

In the meantime, I really need to get on the ball with doing an audio slideshow about SOMETHING. Folks in the newsroom have definitely noticed that Mark and Josh are the only shooters tinkering with multimedia so far.

Speaking of work, I won second place in the Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters contest for Portrait/Personality with this picture:

I've just started entering contests again this year. I've always found them kind of meaningless, especially in Colorado, where there just aren't a lot of newspapers. There's only about four papers in our circulation category. The next category up is even more lame: The Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Colorado Springs Gazette. And I'd be willing to put money on the fact that the Gazette's circulation has fallen below 100,000 Sundays, which would actually put them in our category. And then the Rocky and the Post are owned by the same people anyway, so....what's the point? ;)

But one thing that was cool is that CAPER made a Best in Show category this year, and Todd Heisler from the Rocky won with this amazing photo:

(Sorry it's so small; I nabbed it from their website.) It's from a story about the soldiers whose job it is to deliver the bad news to families. Go here to see the whole package, which is an incredible example of great journalism and use of multimedia.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Karen's Story

I'm working on a new project about Karen Rodarte, an 11-year-old who survived a rare, aggressive brain tumor. Research tells me that:

"Brain Tumor: Atypical Teratoid / Rhabdoid Tumor
This rare, high-grade tumor occurs most commonly in children younger than 2. It is generally found in the cerebellum, which is the lower, back part of the brain that controls balance. These tumors tend to be aggressive and frequently spread through the central nervous system.
Even after surgery and chemotherapy treatment, the survival rate for children younger than 3 at diagnosis is less than 10 percent. It appears that older children, when treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy after surgery, do somewhat better long-term, nearing 70 percent.
Treatment generally involves surgical removal of the tumor followed by chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may be considered depending on the age of the child and whether the tumor has recurred."

It's wonderful that the survival rate is better in older kids like Karen, but what this doesn't tell you is the impact on their daily life. At 11, Karen's memory is heavily affected, making it difficult for her to remember even simple things like basic addition; it took her a very long time to memorize the alphabet.

Here, her teacher admonishes her to pay attention to her math work, in spite of having onlookers:

Each day she gets the challenge of having to remember her lunch code, a surprisingly long string of numbers she'll have to produce while feeling the pressure of standing in the lunch line. Here, she gets a high-five from her para-educator after she practiced the number correctly:

Karen has grown up speaking Spanish at home, and prefers it, but understands English very well and has no trouble making herself understood. She does struggle with writing in either language, though. Here, she laughs with one of her teachers, after finishing an assignment with the translation help of friend, left:

Her Spanish-speaking parents, however, are having a hard time with the medical system, especially as they continue her treatment without the benefit of health insurance. Perhaps this story will bring some Good Samaritans out of the woodwork.

In the meantime, Karen enjoys recess with her friends:

The tumor has stunted her growth, and part of her treatment includes doses of human growth hormone, an expensive substance also prized by endurance athletes. Who knows... maybe she'll grow up and become an Olympic marathon runner or something...her balance doesn't actually seem that impaired.

I have about six weeks more to devote to this story -- an eternity in newspaper time -- so I plan to record audio and create an audio slide show, which will be my first (and long overdue) foray into the multimedia trend that is rapidly becoming the future of newspapers.
I just hope I can capture Karen's hilarious giggle, which was cracking up everyone in earshot.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I've Been "Modeling" More Than I've Been Riding Lately.

Dammit. But hell, when I'm 70 years old I can look back on these and reminisce about being able to stay upright on a bike.

Josh came through for me again, this time for the folks at Maverick American Bicycles, who plan to use real Maverick owners in their advertising, and wanted to see pictures of their potential people.

I don't know if they'll choose me, but it's nice to have the photo either way.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sometimes I think I should quit the news biz and become a food photographer. I seem to be decent at it and it's fun.

From a story on Valentine's Day food:

Oysters with champagne "caviar," from Q's Restaurant.

Spinach mousse with Meyer lemon. I got to taste both of these, and they were delicious. The concept was food that you could feed your sweetheart, which is why they're bite-size portions. (I think I would probably throw up if I had to watch another couple feed each other in public, though. I mean, come ON. Gross.)

I just like to analyze the dish and figure out how to light it in a pretty way, and make it look tasty. I usually use just a combination of window light and one flash... I'm always amazed that it looks pretty tolerable. I mean, it's no fancy studio light like the food pros would do, but what the hell. I work for a small-town newspaper.

A few weeks ago we did a story on liquor for winter sipping, and I got this good layout with my photo:

But honestly, I don't think I could do this kind of thing full-time. I'd really miss being outside, for one thing. Plus, I really do like to shoot things that move and talk. :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Nothing But Crickets

I know it's been way too long since I've posted here. I'm probably just talking to myself. Wait, what else is new? :)

But I gotta get this rolling again for summer, when I'll actually have a life.

In the meantime, I've had two consecutive back injuries that have kept me off the bike since my ruined trip to Fruita in October. I won't even try to describe how frustrating and depressing this has been , since nobody likes a whiner. But I will say that I've been spending WAY too much time here:

The lovely Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, where I have been contemplating life's meaning while strapped into this medieval device:

Traction is strangely relaxing. You get a harness strapped around your chest (woe to the girls with the big boobs) and another around your hips, and then the machine pulls the two apart. Ahhhhh.

Also slowing down my life (for what -- eight weeks??) was this:

So let's just hope that the rest of the mountain bikers around here have screwed up their training as much as I have. ;)

Since I've been down for the count, I've been trying to write that book on photojournalism. I've spent many hours looking at this:

The writing process has been really enjoyable, actually. It's made me reconnect to some of the deep-seated reasons that I became a photojournalist -- just in time to attend "the sky is falling" meetings about the dire straits of the journalism industry. Yay. You kids in journalism school make a run for the business school while you still can.

So my life has felt like a kind of "Groundhog Day": Get up. Go to work. Try not to fall on ass in Daily Camera parking lot. Go to physical therapy. Form a close and personal relationship with Advil and the floor of my apartment. Abuse caffeine while working on book. Go to bed, get up, start over. Drag friends out whenever possible, but discover that people are seriously hunkered down with NetFlix. Ponder subscribing to NexFlix. Remember the torture of watching "Failure to Launch" (which has a hilarious "mountain biking" scene that made me almost regurgitate my popcorn) and go back to working on book. Space out in endless fantasies of travel, mountain biking, and good-looking men. Realize I'm still here and sigh in disgust. Repeat.

I did take some time for fun, though, most recently by going to the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance black tie fundraiser. Some local celebs showed up: Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and his wife Heather Irmiger:

Giro d'Italia winner Andy Hampsten and University Bicycles owner Doug Emerson:

And as for me, I pulled out my 1940s-era dress and accessorized with the usual hardware:

It was also an opportunity to wear the necklace my mom gave me and actually buy cute hair gadgets, something this tomboy hasn't done since middle school.

The other freakin' fabulous thing is that the cold weather finally headed out to the East Coast for a change. Today my coworker Josh and I did assignments on foot to bare our bumpy white flesh to the sun:

We wandered around together for a few minutes, since we're usually never able to do that; Josh oogled the co-eds out on their afternoon run while I got jealous watching people ride by on their bikes. Everyone looked ecstatically happy to be out in the warmth.

But I heard it's going to snow again this weekend. Sigh..... and repeat.