Road Work Ahead

photo by Derek Pell

Although most of my time is gobbled up by editorial duties for Zoom Street, I still accept photo assignments for newspapers and magazines. I recently shot stills and a video for The Bark (it’s The New Yorker for dog-lovers). The subject was scent-detection dogs and it was a fascinating assignment. Adding to my inspiration was knowing the photos would benefit from the magazine’s talented art department.

In short, it was a plum.

The tip here is to approach every assignment like it’s a killer opportunity—even when it seems downright dull.

Case in point: the other day I was asked to shoot the installation of two highway stop signs. A story only of local interest because it featured an intersection known for its auto fatalities.

A news assignment like this offers little creative freedom and a tight deadline. (I took the photo at 6:PM and the editor needed it by 7.) The goal was to tell the story in a single shot—hopefully with a touch of drama. (Did he say “drama”?…Yes he did.)

The shot at top is the one that ran, and the little drama it possesses is due to the wide angle composition, contrast, and color saturation. I broke a rule by having the stop sign dead center, but it works in this case because of the converging lines surrounding it. As for the  saturation, this is a personal preference. I usually under-expose my shots a few notches for impact. Some people like it, some don’t. [1/200 sec. at f/13; –1/3 EV; 12-24mm lens at 13mm]

Because of the time limitation, cropping was done in camera, which is a good habit to develop—deadline or no deadline—because less time in post-production means more time to shoot.

When the photo appeared online it received a surprising number of favorable comments. Comments on a news item rarely mention an accompanying photo, so it was very gratifying. It made the roadwork worth it.

The photo below didn’t run with the article, but I decided to use it to fill a pothole on my blog.

photo by Derek Pell