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Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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June 10, 2008 10:05 PM

Feature Hunting: What You See Is What You Shoot.

Posted by Rod Mar

The assignment of "feature hunting" contains an interesting dynamic.

Basically, the premise is this: go out and find a photo of something fun/interesting/visual/newsy that can run in the newspaper without an accompanying story, only an extended cutline.

At best, these are slice-of-life photos that really are worth the proverbial 1,000 words.

At worst, they're a silhouette of some kid on the swings at a park.

Either way, when the editors are chomping at the bit and deadlines await, the bar for what comprises something worth publishing gets lower and lower.

For the photographer, it's a race against the clock.

Check the paper/website for a listing of the day's events.

Call a couple of your "go-to" sources.

And then, hit the streets and hope you come across something good.

The best feature photos are always serendipitous. You're already somewhere shooting one thing and you happen upon another. That's what happened when I found these dancers for a feature last month.

Then there are the days like Sunday, when I was asked to use a concert in the park as a "starting point" for a feature hunt. The concert was nice -- the music was pleasant and a few people stopped and sat for a listen. But it was not photogenic, and hard as I tried, I couldn't make an interesting photo.

So I wandered. Walked through the park at the Ballard Locks. Found a father and son looking at the fish ladder. Can't be too picky and this was a complete grab shot ("grab shot" -- see it, shoot it). Not bad, but certainly nothing to write the Pulitzer folks about.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 35mm, ISO 1250, 1/160th sec., f3.5)

Went over to Golden Gardens Park hoping for some wind-surfers or something other than beachcombers at low tide (we'd run a fistful of low-tide photos all week). Saw sailboats all in a pretty little row, reminding me of ducklings following their mother. Found a human figure standing by the shore and did my best to make a pleasing composition.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender @ 215mm, ISO 2000, 1/2500th sec., f5.0)

Sometimes that's the life of a newspaper photographer. You head out with the hope of making an incredible image, but then the clock starts to tick and it seems as if nothing interesting is happening around you. A quiet paranoia even sets in, and you're convinced there's a great photo going on right around the corner, or in the next neighborhood, or, worse, the neighborhood you just left.

In the end, the editors appreciated the photos, they filled appropriate spots in the paper, and I'd done my job.

See it, shoot it and don't get too picky. Hate to say it, but sometimes that's the job.

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