It’s 110°F Out, But It’s a Dry Heat


Cooling off–Here’s a typical feature picture you might see in a newspaper especially when it’s the first day of summer when it’s over 100°F. I found this woman lying down in the shade waiting for her bus. Ask for permission first, or take the picture first? There are no hard and fast rules. If possible, I always take the picture first simply because the moment will be gone if you don’t. Spontaneous moments are ruined if you ask first. When discovered, come clean. It always works out better instead of trying to sneak away without any explanation. You’ll risk having the cops called on you especially if there are kids involved.

It’s those hot summer days like today that I don’t miss being at the newspaper.

I used to drive aimlessly looking for  feature pictures.

Add today’s price of gasoline, multiply by the number of photographers on staff and you’ll get the idea of the cost of a picture that may never get published.

The Hunt for Wild Art

What is a feature picture?

A human interest picture of anything that looks interesting that could grab the attention of the reader.
The reason?

The reporters could not come up with a news story worthy of the cover.

So they had lots of room and no news to fill the paper with.

And the thinking of the editors or word folks?

Surprised–A student shrieks as a radio station promotional person dressed in a space suit surprises her on the campus of Pomona College. Pictures of this sort take lots of patience, anticipation and a healthy dose of luck. They happen when they happen. No “do-overs.”

A bad picture displayed big takes up more room than a bad pseudo news story.

Inevitably I would drive by the same old parks to see if anyone was out and about.

water_playOver time the kids, especially those I had taken pictures of, at the same old park would recognize my car and wave.

English playwright Noel Coward wrote “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”

Actually he probably didn’t know about newspaper photographers.

The worse part about this aimless driving around is that the pictures I turned in had no shelf-life.

So all summer long, this cycle repeated itself: cruise around, look for pictures that sometimes wouldn’t get published at all.

Water play–By the end of summer, I must have shot this picture so many times the kids recognized my car when I drove by. My old photography professor used to be very mean whenever we turned in a picture with kids. He said, “Pictures of kids are a dime a dozen.” It explains why I’m a pauper.

Weapon of Choice

When I’m driving around, I usually had:

  • one camera body with a 300 mm lens
  • another body with a 70-200 mm lens

I always set the exposure for ISO 100 1/1000 sec @ f4 for subjects out in the full sunlight.

If they were in partial shade, I’d adjust it on-the-fly, opening up the aperture or dropping the shutter speed accordingly.

Okay, there’s bound to be one or two of you, my intelligent audience, reading this asking,
“Why is Peter, a professional photographer going out in the middle of the day looking for pictures?

Doesn’t he know that’s the worse time to be looking for pictures?”

Short answer: if he wants to keep his job, he’ll do as he’s told?

Midday is the worse time to be looking for a picture unless you happen to be looking for the picture below which I found in Buffalo, NY.


Musical notes–At least this is what I thought when I first saw these birds resting on wires on the side of a grain silo. Because the grain silos are cylindrical, the overhead noon sun made curved shadows on the silo walls. ISO 400 1/2000 sec @ 5.6. Kodak Tri-X film.

Identifying People in Pictures

Taking the picture is just a small part of coming back with a usable picture.

Sometimes the person you photograph doesn’t want to give me their name, no matter how I cajoled them.

Most newspapers won’t use a picture when the photographer cannot provide the name of the person in the picture.

Getting their name is like getting consent to use their picture.

Needless to say, it’s happened to me enough times that I’ve been told I can charm a rat into giving up his coat.

Of course I’ve also been skunked like the time I photographed a couple smooching in the park.

Having noticed the wedding bands on their fingers, I made the assumption they were husband and wife.

Oh..yes, they were married, but not to each other. Needless to say, I sheepishly moved on.

4 thoughts on “It’s 110°F Out, But It’s a Dry Heat”

  1. Hello Karla,
    I’m so impressed by your being featured on Canadian tv. Keep up the wonderful work of balancing art with technology but more importantly, sharing your knowledge and empowering others.

    The watermark is done in photoshop. It’s not too hard to do. I’m considering doing a tutorial on how to create such a watermark in Photoshop as a blog post. Stay tuned. Thank you for reading my blog and taking the trouble to leave your comment.

  2. hi pete – how did you get that watermark onto your photo? Was it just in photoshop – or do you have a programme that puts them onto your photo automatically?


  3. DeeAnn,
    I have fond memories of your hometown especially driving on Florida Avenue when it rains. I suppose if I weren’t looking for pictures and trying to dodge the flooded intersections, it wouldn’t be so bad.

    I also love the tranquil mornings whenever I drive through San Jacinto. I expect that’s why you live there.

    Southern California in the summers is just brutal when the mercury climbs past the 95 F. But the rest of the year, we love it.

  4. I remember specifically knowing what ‘events’ were going on around Hemet area so I didn’t have to cruise parks. Listening to scanner for Spot news helped too.
    Valley-Wide’s Mommy & Me class was always an easy- (Kyds+ Moms/Dads+activity).
    It got harder to shoot this type of ‘art’ though, as it was timely news and not generated by a reporter (instead of photojournalist).
    Also called stand alones, they somehow got harder to put on daily budget. Never could understand that mentality.
    Happy to be out of sun though it was better than being in office.

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