Friday, September 2, 2011

Grandma Carmen

It's been a little over a year since my grandmother passed away, and a lot has happened that I wish she would have been around for. I graduated from Columbia. I got engaged. And a couple weeks ago I was married in my hometown. It was a good sized wedding, somewhere around 100 people, but in all honesty she is one of the people I wanted there the most. Maybe that's because she couldn't be there, but she's been on my mind a lot lately since the wedding. A lot of who I am and what I've done thus far in my life, I owe to her. A strong woman, who was one hell-of-a storyteller, I spent a lot of my childhood with her and my grandfather. Fortunately he was there to see me get married, and even danced with my bride.

I found these pictures recently while going through an old hard drive coincidentally. I had forgotten about them actually, as I took them a few years ago. It was Christmas time, and like always, our family gathered at Grandma's. As she and I got older, I wanted to document her and my grandfather. I remember even trying to record some of our conversations, but I might have to dig through some more hard drives for those audio files.

But these photos say a lot about my grandmother. This is what she did, what she lived for. Her familia. And though it was a lot of work to make fresh tortillas and cook enough food for her large family, she wouldn't have it any other way.

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I do.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tips for driving cross country

So I'm halfway through my second trip across the country in about as many months. And I felt that there needed to be another guide out there, because I didn't really find one suitable. I'm making/made the drive from East to West Coast and vice versa. Specifically from California to New York. I will add to this as I think of things. Currently I'm in Kearney, Nebraska.

1. You're always going to be behind what you planned. Plan for that.

2. Pick up plenty of snacks before hitting the road. Little things, like trail mix, granola bars, gum and especially sunflower seeds. Seeds are a savior, cause they keep you occupied and busy. Flavored seeds seem to be a little easier on the tongue.

3. It's important to keep your mind busy as well. I do this with talk radio, specifically podcasts like This American Life, Fresh Air, Planet Money, ESPN Fantasy Football. Also baseball games on the radio have been awesome, though with the radio you're changing stations pretty constantly.

4. Apply ample amounts of sunscreen on your left arm if you're the driver. Right now my left arm is literally five shades darker than my right. It's kind of creepy actually watching my hands type and they're two different colors.

5. When choosing to stop for the night, find a set of hotels in a town or really close. They're always cheaper than a group that are just off the highway with a town far away. Also, don't be afraid to shop around. I just go in and ask the price, and then if it's high, I'll leave. Tonight that got me $30 off, as the "corporate discount" kicked in as I was walking out the door. Some people just want to sleep in their car, and that is a valid thing to do, but I like to get out of my car and shower and use the toilet. Plus I have a car full of stuff. Camping is an option, but pay attention to the weather. Also, truck stops fill up really fast, so it might be tough to get a spot there.

6. Back to eating. Eat small snacks as you drive. Large meals make you sleepy and takes time.

7. Iowa has the best rest stops in the country. Free wifi.

8. Keep your gas tank above half a tank. I usually stop and fill up between half and 3/4 tank. That's usually stopping time for me anyways. Plus there might be long stretches where there is no station. But for the most part, there's gas every 50 miles or so at least.

9. Coffee sucks from Nevada to Indiana. Stick to like McDonalds coffee or if you're lucky a Dunkin Donuts. Starbucks is an option, as well. But coffee in the middle of the country is a lot weaker than in Cali or NY/NJ.

That's it for now, check back often for more tips and such.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Front page

Woke up today and saw that my photo of a kid who took mowing lawns to a more professional level, mentioned in the post below, made the front page today. A nice little surprise. I had made it on the front once before, but it was only for the first edition. Robbie was a great kid, and you should check out the story, which also has the video I shot for it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Recent videos for The Star-Ledger

I'm starting to shoot video at The Star-Ledger now, which I really enjoy. I usually have to shoot stills and video at the same time, which is a juggling act. You're going miss a shot on either video or photo guaranteed. So the best thing I've found is, if the situation allows for it, split up the time. Dedicate the first part shooting stills and the second shooting video and just live with what you miss. But you're really not missing anything, because you got it on one or the other.

I'm shooting on the 5d Mark II, which is a dream to shoot with. At Columbia I used a separate audio recorder for sound, but now I'm using a Rode shotgun plugged straight into the camera or wireless mics plugged straight in. That seems to be working great, though if I was doing a really nice project, with a little more time, I would go back to the audio recorder.

You can see one video I did on a relay for life event here. I decided to focus on one person who survived and he was a great guy.

The second one is here. It's about an 11-year-old kid who started his own business mowing lawns, though he's taken it a step further than most kids.

Friday, June 24, 2011

One month in

I'm half way through my internship at the Star-Ledger and it's been a lot of fun. I've had the chance to cover everything from court hearings to baseball to protests. And it's not just what I'm covering, but the lifestyle of a photojournalist is something to experience. It's a lot of time on the road, trying to constantly be creative and working random hours.

Here are some photos that I like from the past month.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Now interning at the Star-Ledger

Last month I graduate from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and started an internship as a photojournalist at the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger is a fantastic newspaper and has an excellent photo staff. They're coming off a Pulitzer Prize win, and in the short two weeks I've been on the job, I've heard nothing but good things from New Jersey residents.

While there, I am just like a staff photographer. I get all the gear, any range of assignments and most importantly a paycheck. I've been lucky in that I've been able to cover a few MLB games recently. I got out to the Mets/Braves and then a couple Yankees games against the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. These games are a workout, as I'm transmitting early and often. Here are some photos from those three games:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Half way across the country

I'm in Nebraska at the moment. It's pretty country, just not a lot out there.

So far my journey has been okay. A lot of driving and I'm pretty much half way through. I'm slightly behind, which is no surprise, but I'll make it to NYC by Monday. I'm not sure how I feel about the drive. I was excited to see a lot of the country, but there isn't much to see from the highway. Overall though, it is kind of cool to pass through these sleepy towns.

I've survived on sunflower seeds and This American Life Podcast. I've been able to stop and grab some photos, and shot a few from the window of the car. Here they are:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

So you're going to Columbia Jschool...

Today I graduate from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. It's simply insane. A year and a half ago, the thought of finishing my master's seemed as far away as New York City from my small farm town, Lemoore, CA. But the big day is here and I couldn't be more happy. I've never worked so hard, and never have had such a big payoff.

With all that said, I wanted to leave a little something for those following my class' and mine footsteps. You're told a lot in those emails you get about what to read, what to do to prepare, where to find housing and whatever else. It's a lot. If you're anything like myself or some of my friends here, chances are you're not going to get to most of it, so I wanted to give it to you straight.

- New York City is safe. I've never had a problem with anyone, in fact most people are very helpful here. The only place people are rude is in the subway.

- The huge reading list you get is, needless to say, ambitious. When you're here, you will have very little time to read – even the newspaper. But before coming, I'd recommend regularly reading The New York Times, multiple sections. Read their blogs. Find an author you like and follow him. Also be sure to look at the New Yorker as well. There is at least one or two articles in there that are worth reading. Columbia students get discounts, read about them here. If you get a chance to read some of those books, awesome, but at least know what's happening in the world and who is writing about it.

- Housing can be a pain in the butt if you didn't get campus housing. I actually received it, but they wanted a lot of money right away and I just didn't have it at the time. So, in July, I posted on my class' Facebook page and right away found some roommates. Luckily one lived close enough to the city, that a day trip was all he needed to find a place. We used Columbia University's Off-Campus Housing listings, and found an amazing place. We got really lucky. But when looking for housing, keep the basics in mind – proximity to the train, school, grocery store and laundry. If you're thinking about living in another borough, know that living outside Manhattan will definitely restrict you with your work and socially at times. I had a friend who lived deep in the Bronx and regularly had to couch surf because school work would keep her here too late to safely take the train. Sometimes she missed out on outings because of that as well. Just make sure you consider all of that.

- When those boot camps get going, make sure you take the time to meet some of the instructors who won't be regular teachers at Columbia, but are there for the boot camp. One professor I met ended up being one of the most influential persons I met this year, and I just met him for lunch between classes one of those weeks. Also those stories you do that week could help you get started for RW1.

- Speaking of RW1, it is everything you hear it is. It's tough, time consuming and has made some people cry. I covered Brooklyn, for the Brooklyn Ink, and it was a journey to get out there every week. But three tips I can pass on:

  1. Don't over-stress. What are you going to stress about so much? A deadline? Trust me there is another one where the first one came from. Take it one story at a time, with one in your back pocket. Don't skimp on your reporting, cause a lot of stress comes from having a crappy story on deadline, because you were too afraid to call another person.
  2. Meet with your professor constantly. They're here to help you and really want to. They want to know you and you want to know them. I can't say enough good things about my RW1 professor, who, if I ever had a question, always had an answer.
  3. Make it worth it. This school is all about what you make of it. If you want to do digital stuff, make it happen there. If you want to write some longer pieces, make it happen there. If you truly mess up, it's perfectly fine in RW1. But be sure to take advantage of the stories around you and resources you have.
- When they tell you, that it's impossible to have an internship during the fall, that's a load of b.s. for most students. If you're the type that stresses easily or has bad time management skills, then maybe you shouldn't, but then again if you have those issues maybe you should reconsider being a journalist. If you've worked as a journalist, then you'd have no problem managing a one-day-a-week internship. Personally, I not only interned (on the Lens blog at The New York Times), but held down a part time job (unloading trucks at The Container Store) as well. I wouldn't recommend that, as my performance suffered from it, but you do what you got to do. Just make sure the internship is worth it.

- When you pick classes for the second semester, two questions to ask yourself are: What professors do you want? And, what do I want to be when I leave? I picked my classes based on professors, and for the most part it worked out. Sandy Padwe's sports journalism class is amazing. I've never had a class address so many issues in journalism that reach across all types of reporting. That's the one class everyone should take. Looking back though, I wish I would have picked more visual classes, especially Duy's video class. I want to be a photographer and it would have been good to have some stuff from the second semester. With that said though, the skills I learned from my classes in the spring are extremely valuable and I took away a lot from my professors.

- The master's project. If you can't find a story and write 6,000 words in six months then you're in the wrong place. If you're doing a print project, it really is easy. You have so much time to report and put it together it's insane. It is easy to put it off though and worry about more pressing stuff first. If you dedicate time to it every week early on, you'll be more than fine. That is especially important for digital media projects. Take the time to log and transcribe early in the project. You're life will be so much more easier. And go the extra mile. I had a print project, but shot photos, video and put up a Web site, which you can see here. Just don't get caught in the trap that you still have a few months to go, cause that'll quickly turn into a few days. You might not have much of a spring break if you're doing video and stuff, but I honestly enjoyed that week of editing till the wee hours. It's what I want to do, and it's a lot easier when you don't have work from other classes.

Well I got a few hours till graduation now. I hope yours isn't rainy like mine. As you start your semester, meet as many people as possible. You're going to be close to your Rw1 and rightfully so, but be sure to go to those lectures, social events and meet people. And lastly, like I said before, this school is what you make of it. It will only make you a good journalist if you do your part. Everyone here is good, so it is up to you to stand out. Ten months flew by, but it was a memorable ten months, as it will be for you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead

A large crowd, made up of mostly young people, gathered in the intersection of Church Street and Vesey Street early on May 2, just ours after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. They chanted pro-American slogans such as "USA" and singing songs such as "God Bless America." Vulgar chants associated with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were also shouted, as people climbed street light poles and stood on top of phone booths. The higher someone climbed the street light, the more cheers they got.

NYPD and Port Authority police stood by, watching the crowd of several hundred people, in which there was a lot of alcohol. By 1:30 police had barricaded Church Street from traffic. At 3:00 a.m. the crowd was still several hundred people.

There were flags galore, draped around the shoulders of celebrators and military personal showed up in dress uniform. Men in kilts made their way down church street playing bag pipes. People took pictures with them and the military personal. A man walked around with an ipad that read, "Obama 1, Osama 0." It was also a media frenzy, with dozens of video cameras and lights.

A small memorial was placed at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site display, with four candles and a sign that said,"Dedicated to all those who fought, suffered and died to bring us this moment. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten. Sept. 11, 2001 - May 1, 2011." Maxine Bright, of Yorkville, went up to the memorial and quickly lit a candle before leaving the site.

My photos ran on the Tribeca Trib.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tourist Time

I had some friends in town this weekend, Carlos Moreno and Stefan Armijo, and was extremely thankful to have them come visit. It's been a long 8 months, and seeing some familiar faces. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to hang out with them as much as I wanted to, but I did get to take a tourist moment. After living in New York City for months, I finally took a trip over the Brooklyn Bridge. Here are some photos I took along the way.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring is here!


It's been a long winter and these flowers brought so much joy to me, true signs that the worst is behind and this Californian can defrost, I had to take a picture of them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Brooklyn Salsa Company

Me and Brian Park collaborated on this assignment about two guys who created a salsa company at the height of the recession and are doing fairly well for themselves. They are two great guys with a strong vision and great personalities. And the salsa is pretty good.

I really enjoy shooting video, but I'm a little green with a experience. I've studied it, watched tons of it and have a great eye. I just need to get out there and shoot more. Video is a difficult medium, because unlike photo you can't just explain something, you have to show it. This video was a great learning experience, working with what you have and meeting a deadline. I do wish I could have gone farther with it, shooting the guys on at their farms and such, but just like newspapers you're always time restricted.

On assignment with a New York Times photographer

So I shot this videos last semester of for the Lens Blog. We just wanted show what a typical New York Times assignment is. Sometimes you get good assignments, and others are not so glamorous.

I shoot with is Nicole Bengiveno, a world-class person and photographer. I heard stories about Nicole from my old adviser Kim Komenich and from my editor Jim Estrin, who is also a great person to go on assignment with, about how cool she is and how good she shoots. Again there were some difficulties shooting, but Nicole was able to get the shots and even after she had transmitted pictures she was still snapping away.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A square love affair

About a year ago, I bought a new camera. I was in my last semester at San Jose State University and pretty much had full-range on one of my final projects and I wanted to get back to my roots, so I scoured Craigslist and Ebay for a Rolleiflex. Luckily for myself I found one at a great price in Scotts Valley. The man I bought it from, was selling it with a heavy heart, as hard times were forcing him to part from his father's old camera. He said he felt a little better about selling it to me, seeing as I was looking to use it, instead of simply flipping it.

At the time I was fascinated with all the flags I saw and wanted to do a series on them for my Image and Idea class. I eventually changed my mine, much to my regret now, and didn't really use the camera a whole lot (If you want to see an awesome flag series, which is much better than what I would've produced in a semester check Misha Erwitt's on the Lens blog). When I say I wanted to get back to my roots, I don't really mean by shooting film, though that is part of it, but I wanted to slow down with my shooting and really think about it like I use to when I first started photographing. I wanted to allow myself some time and this twin lens reflex allowed me to do that.

I eventually fell on hard times myself close to graduation and had to part with the camera for a bit. Thanks to my buddy John Russo for helping me out in a tough spot.

In the half year I had it though, I shot about four rolls. I say about, because I knew the first roll I loaded wrong, and thus two pictures came out. I recently got the camera back and took three of the rolls I shot to be processed, finally (If you're in NYC, head to Sunshine Color Lab near MSG, great guys and good work). I love getting film back and the smell of a lab. I use to work in one back in the day. The only problem is that it's slightly expensive to develop and buy film in general.

Some of the better images from those three rolls are up top, unfortunately one roll is actually in my Jeep back in California, and I know I got some images on there. But I absolutely love this camera and plan on having it with me at all times here in New York City. Anyone else shooting with a rollei?

Friday, January 28, 2011

This is New York City

I've been in New York for several months now and haven't really shot anything. I played around with video a lot last semester and wrote a lot, but I rarely took MY camera out of my bag. It was a disappointing realization, when I went back to California for the break and didn't really have a whole lot to show my family and friends. I hope to change that this semester, even planning to carve out a day dedicated to exploring and shooting. But more importantly I just need to take my camera out more often.

Like the one I found at Union Square in the subway. I could decide if these guys were cool or just creepy. They were getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but it wasn't so much for their music, which I don't remember being bad, I just don't remember it at all. But here is a glimpse of New York, where this isn't really weird, just another cold day in the city.

Have you shot anything good recently?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In case you missed it....

I had a post run on The New York Times Lens blog yesterday about a German Photographer, Andy Spyra, who is working on a project in Bosnia. There were some pretty horrible things that happened in Bosnia during the Bosnian War and Andy is there 15 years later, amid their healing process. His photos are quite great and extremely necessary I believe. They are still finding mass graves and from Andy's pictures, apparently you can find a lot of ruble still. I think he is doing great work, in the spirit of documentary journalism and it makes me just as anxious to find a project.

You can my post here on the Lens blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shooting in the snow

I woke up today to giant snowflakes floating outside of my window. Ever since I've moved to New York I've been wanting to get out and shoot when it is snowing. Today I got my wish. Fortunately it wasn't that cold outside and the hardest part was trying to keep the snow out of my face while looking for pictures.