Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Grand Haven Cardboard Sled Races

Now that I'm no longer a Columbia College Chicago student, I am shooting for a couple different newspapers in southwest Michigan - The South Haven Tribune, The St. Joseph/Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium.

This image was shot during the Grand Haven Cardboard Sled Races held this past weekend in Grand haven, MI during Winterfest.

(photo by Jody Warner)

Any day with a camera in my hand is a good day...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Tower Opportunity

A few minutes ago I spoke with the owner/founder of the tower company I've been photographing. It seems that there may be another tower project to photograph near the Quad Cities in western Illinois, near the Iowa border. It's a 500 foot guyed tower, like this one in Hawaii. It should be fun.

I've also decided to show you what the equipment required to climb these towers looks like. As I mentioned in a previous post, the stuff is very expensive and, honestly, I'm OK with that. Whatever it costs to get me home each night is OK by me. Here's a front view:

And a back view:

Any day with a camera in hand is a good day...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forest Firefighter Video

I will again thank the following organizations for participating in this photo documentary project beginning. It could not be done without their support:
  • The Georgetown, California Fire Department
  • Cal Fire
  • The National Forest Service
  • The National Forest Service firefighters and ground crews
  • The Growlersburg Fire Camp, Georgetown, CA
Thank you ladies and gentlemen. You all are true heroes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Forest Firefighting Project - Day 9. FIRE!

The fire district I'm photographing had another fire this morning. A small one, but it was easy to photograph due to its size. I rode Engine 61 out of the Georgetown Fire Department station 61 with a Fire Captain, Engineer and a firefighter. It was a very cramped engine and a bumpy ride. I remember the bumpy rides from my firefighting days.

In the photo above, you can see firefighters from the Growlersburg Fire Station.

More later.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Forest Firefighting Project - Day 8. FIRE!

A fire broke out near Mammoth Bar in the Auburn State Recreation Area.
The "Mammoth IC" is seen above. The Incident Commander is sitting in the
truck coordinating the many fire attack forces coming from the ground and
via fixed-wing
aircraft and helicopters.

Day eight here in Northern California brought a fire that charred more than 525 acres near Mammoth Bar in the Auburn State Recreation Area. Indications from the California Highway Patrol, Sheriff and National Forest Service suggest that individuals with bottle-rockets (illegal fireworks) started the fire. Authorities were looking for the two young men immediately after the fire was discovered.

This fire was outside the fire district of the Fire Chief I've been shadowing. This allowed me to get near the Incident Command center as seen above, but not near the firefighters on the ground. More to come...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Forest Firefighting Project - Day 7

You guessed it - still no significant fires here in California as of 5:30 pm local time. A large fire was paged out earlier today but turned out to be dust from a dynamiting operation. Yep - dust.

I had an opportunity to have a look at the minimum security prison camp here in Georgetown called the Growlersburg Fire Camp. Prison inmates such as drug users and other non-violent criminals come to the Growlersburg camp to work out the remainder of their sentence. The majority to the inmates at this facility are well-spoken and courteous men that took a wrong turn (or several wrong turns) in their life. They fall into the category of a "trustee".

The primary purpose of Growlersburg is to house six companies of wildland firefighters made up of camp inmates - Growlersburg Crews 1 through 6. They are legendary in the world of California forest fire fighting. Known for their hard work and focus, they cut fire lines along side firefighters from all other departments. They often cut lines faster and better than the National Forest Service firefighters. At least that's what I've been told. Without a fire, I can't see it for myself.

It would seem that a larger than normal percentage of camp inmates find a crime-less life after leaving this place as opposed to other prison opportunities. Cal Fire Captain Brian Eagan said:

"About 30% of our former firefighting, released inmates don't come back into the prison system as opposed to only 10% of those released that don't have an opportunity to work in a fire camp like this."

Cal Fire Captain Brian Eagan is a 20+ year veteran of the fire service.
He indicated that he loves his job here at the Growlersburg Fire Camp.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Forest Firefighting - Day 6

Georgetown (CA) firefighters search a house (the drill tower) and prepare
it for a simulated forest fire during an evening drill on Monday, July 13.

The last six days have had various opportunities to see what this volunteer fire department can do with the limited budget. In short, they can move mountains.

The Georgetown (CA) Fire Department operates in the larger conceptual structure of California fire protection (Cal Fire). They protect their own district and they also protect the entire state. No. I'm not kidding or exaggerating.

The California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) and the National Forest Service coordinate the network of fire departments throughout the entire state. They're coordinated to be "wheels up" in 20 minutes and go anywhere in the state - anywhere. Last fire season (May - November, 2008) the two "strike crews" operating out of the Georgetown fire station responded to the farthest reaches of Southern California and to the border of Oregon. So when I say that the Georgetown Fire Department "moves mountains", that's what I'm talking about.

Fire Chief Greg Schwab surveys a planned heli-pad site near the community of Volcanoville, CA. Landing zones for helicopters are strategically located throughout the fire protection district in order to provide quick transportation of the injured/ill when an emergency strikes. The mountainous terrain in and around Georgetown (CA) makes it difficult for the fire department to transport people to the local hospital via a typical ambulance.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Forest Firefighting in California

First things first - I just realized that my current photojournalism site looks bad on MSIE - go figure. I'll get that fixed as soon as possible. Now to the nitty-gritty...

Georgetown (CA) Fire Chief Greg Schwab is, by far, the most supportive fire chief I have encountered in my photography career. Knowing that I have a background in firefighting, he has given me complete access to all operations within the department. - including structure fires, medical calls and rescues - to say the least, a very rare opportunity.

Georgetown (CA) fire chief, Greg Schwab explains a departments water
tender (tanker) during the initial period of the project without fire runs.

As far as the actual forest firefighting, it's been a few slow days out here in Northern California. The first four days were a complete bust as far as forest fire photography - no fire runs what-so-ever. The fire crew I'm working with seems to think that I may be a "jinx". By that I mean that the weather was very hot with low humidity before my trip - high 90's to over 100 degrees with very low relative humidity - prime weather for forest fires. The day I arrived the temperature went down into the 80's and the relative humidity went up - it even rained last night!

The weekend brought travelers into the area and many of them were on motorcycles. The first official run of this trip was to an area of the district called Uncle Tom's Cabin. A cyclist wrecked her motorcycle breaking several bones. She was air-lifted to a local hospital and, at last contact, was doing well with her recovery.

The flight crew from Calstar arrive to evacuate an injured motorcyclist on
July 11, 2009. (the debris in the image was from the helicopter landing and
blowing dust)

The weekend also brought storms - rain and lightning throughout the fire district. Lightning caused my day start before 5 am local time and start a structure fire in an area of of the district called Volcanoville. The fire turned out to be small and the fire was extinguished by the homeowners shortly before the arrival of the fire crews.

5 am local time - Garden Valley firefighter Clyde Rust carries the youngest member
of the home where the fire occurred. The home turned out to be his parents house.

Little did I know that the day was just beginning. Later that morning, and at the same address as the earlier house fire, a tree was discovered that had been struck by lightning - it was on fire. Apparently, it smoldered even while the fire department was at the home earlier. This type of fire (now called a "vegetation fire") brought out the troops - Georgetown Fire and the Forest Firefighters from Eldorado National Forest - the Iron Mountain Hand Crew and the Big Hill Helitack team. These young forest firefighters made quick-work of the massive poderosa pine (more than 110 feet tall and 3+ feet in diameter) by felling it and extinguishing the fire that smoldered approximately 50 feet above their heads. In other words, they brought the fire down to them. It was an impressive site to see.

The base of the giant ponderosa pine after it was cut down and extinguished.


Any day with a camera in hand is a good day - and often, it's a VERY good day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Update, Forest Firefighters and Final Cut Pro Suite

OK, first "failure" of the effort to get the tower images published along with a story. Chicago Magazine rejected the first attempt at getting them published. After the next shoot, or a couple shoots, I'll make another attempt at the story and images at Chicago Mag. Keep your fingers crossed.

On another, I have secured a long photo shoot with a group of forest firefighters called "Hot Shots" July 8th through 21st in California. The Fire Chief in Georgetown, CA accepted my request to become embedded with his forest fire crew(s) for a period of a week or more. Much thanks must go to Georgetown Fire Chief Greg Schwab for his agreement and ideas for the shoot. There will also be plenty of video shot during the shoot.

The video is why I obtained Final Cut Studio 2. I needed something really heavy like that suite to create the video/still images and sound I see in my head. If I can get the video, still images and sound bites that I'm currently seeing in my head, the final video will be unbelievable - I guarantee it.

Any day with a camera (now video or still) is a good day. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Newer Website Coming Up Soon!

I'm also happy to report that my website, TheVisualTruth.com, is being rebuilt by a talented web builder and photographer Elena Jatia. You can find her at ElenaJatia.com. After saying that, I'm guessing that some of you might ask, "Why would you refer to another photographer on your blog? Isn't that a risky venture that they might hire her instead of you?"

Good question and you're correct. It is a little risky - but - when someone like Elena helps me...I like to help her as well. Karma, you know. What goes around, comes around...etc, etc, etc.

I really need to make the site less cumbersome and get some of my new stuff up there - boxing, baseball, soccer, skydiving...pix I'm proud of.

I may also be photographing the tower workers for a magazine article - maybe. Keep your fingers crossed.