Since starting at The News Journal I’ve had the chance to cover some pretty cool assignments. The homeless survey, final training exercises at Ft. Dix and some of the daily stories have been a lot of fun. Lately, though, it’s been a bit of a grind. There hasn’t been much come through I really got in my wheelhouse, and I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a shooting funk.
When I saw The Heat were playing the 76ers in Philly this weekend, I decided it might be a nice recharge for the batteries to see if I could cover something fun (even if it was my off day). Ginger Wall has our season credential for the 76ers, but she’s been out for months after knee replacement, so we had to call up and get a credential for me. That had me sweating a little when it was Friday morning and I still hadn’t heard an answer, but midway through the day I got the word I was good to go.
I hadn’t shot the NBA before, but got the word from a few friends that had that it was usually a breeze. Some even said it was easier than most college games, and I have to agree. While I’ve run in to plenty of college’s that make life way more difficult that it has to be, everyone at the Wells Fargo Center made the game easy to cover.
I’m not even really an NBA fan, but standing next to Dwyane Wade while he was warming up was just cool. And as much as I might dislike LeBron James after “The Decision” and how that whole thing was handled, I have to admit, the man is good at basketball. Really good.
If you want to see the full take from the game, check out the gallery on our site. For some reason, it uploaded in reverse order, and I’m still not up on the system enough to correct that.
A couple weeks ago, Beth Miller and I embarked on a middle of the night romp through Wilmington. If you’re not from the area, Wilmington looks like a mid-sized city, but really doesn’t have the population it’s size would lead you to believe. Only 72,000 or so people live in Wilmington, per the last census, even though the city has over a dozen large buildings that make up it’s skyline. It’s very much a commuter city.
That said, it has all the problems any major city has. A high crime rate relative to it’s population, a major drug problem, and a large number of homeless men and women.
Every year, the department of Housing and Urban Development charges states with the task of counting the homeless they have in order to break up funding for programs to help them to each state. This means in the middle of the night once a year volunteers embark on an attempt to get an accurate count of the homeless population as best they can. That count is plugged into a formula to account for the undoubtedly large number of homeless people who can’t be found, and funding is then determined for the following year.
Beth and I traveled through one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Wilmington (where a cop was shot in the face a week later) and watched as our group of volunteers we were following approached two people we suspected were… let’s just say up to no good… on a street corner. We followed them through areas of Downtown. Around the train station our group’s leader, Wallace Jackson, who had once been homeless himself, detailed where we could find most people. While only a few homeless individuals were found that night on the streets (surveys were done in homeless shelters earlier that provided the largest numbers) Beth and I got a picture of this city few people see – the city after dark, and it’s hidden residents.
I met some pretty interesting people that night, and I’m going to try to pursue a story on the young homeless people I met at one of the shelters.
Give Beth’s story a read, she did a fantastic job: The Hidden Homeless
One of the big pluses to joining the staff at The News Journal is getting to cover college sports I’m familiar with. Cover Wyoming’s basketball run to start the season was awesome (though it appears I got out at the right time since they’re 3-7 since I left), but covering a program I grew up this close to feels a bit more special.
The University of Delaware isn’t an athletic powerhouse like Alabama or even Maryland. They do, though, love to pop up from time to time and surprise the world, usually on the back of a star athlete. Joe Flacco brought the football program back to prominence after transferring to Delaware from Pittsburgh and leading them to a national championship. Elena Della Donne, has lifted the women’s basketball program to new heights after transferring to Delaware from Connecticut, playing volleyball for a year and then returning to her first love, basketball. In just three years on the team, and 101 games under he belt, she broke the Colonial Athletic Association points record last week against JMU.
I haven’t had the pleasure of covering the Blue Hens much, Bill Bretzger has handled most of their games since I arrived, but I did hit the road back-to-back days to Philly to watch the men’s and women’s teams take on arch-rival Drexel. The women were pretty dominant in their victory, though the game became a bit of a nail biter with three minutes remaining before they closed the door. The men’s team, like they love to do, played a squeaker the whole way, watching a large lead evaporate before winning at the end.
Delaware will hosts the opening rounds of the women’s NCAA Tournament, so I can’t wait for that fun next month!
My last day at the Casper Star-Tribune came on January 9th. After 10 months of amazing assignments in a gorgeous state, it was time to start a new adventure back home at The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, just one county over from where I grew up in Maryland.
Before I started at The News Journal, though, I took advantage of my employment gap to pick up a freelance assignment for The Daily Press in Newport News, Va., a paper I had interviewed with before deciding on Wilmington.
Sgt. David J. Chambers, of Hampton, Va., had been killed by an improvised explosive devise in Afghanistan, and his remains were arriving at Dover Air Force Base for dignified transfer. I wasn’t expecting to hear Daily Press photo editor Adrin Snider on the other end of the phone when I answered it with a moving box in my hand the night before the transfer, but was grateful to have the chance to pick the assignment up.
I’d seen Steve Ruark’s work over and over from Dover. Covering transfers for the AP, Steve has covered almost all of them since the Obama administration opened the process up to the media. Ruark spoke to The Baltimore Sun about his coverage last year and as you’d expect, dozens of media outlets turned out originally, but now Steve is usually the only media representative there, sometimes accompanied by Getty’s Patrick Smith (who is another phenomenal shooter).
I was lucky both Ruark and Smith were there when I arrived to cover the transfer. I’ve always wanted to cover the transfers, and I hope now that I’m at The News Journal, maybe I can help devote more attention it now that I’m here. At the same time, with staffs shrinking everywhere, it’s totally understandable why few transfers get covered by anyone. The reporters and photojournalists just aren’t there to be sent.
Steve and Patrick detailed what would happen for me. They explained the nuances of each branch of the military’s transfer procedures: How the Marines appear to have a very slow walk, and how fast the Army seems to move. All-in-all, the whole process takes just a few minutes.
They weren’t kidding about the speed for the Army. From the time Chambers transfer case left it’s C-17, to the time it was resting in a transfer vehicle, only 2 minutes could have passed. I’m not sure a single second of that transition went undocumented between the three of us. I’ve never heard shutters clicking so fast and so constantly. It’s amazing, though, the different images that came out of my head while having to remain pretty stationary and watch a transfer team walk perpendicular to me over just a few minutes. In all I sent eight different images to The Daily Press.
With my last few weeks in Wyoming closing out I decided to try one more shot at the night sky. Every night I came back from Laramie and drove past the wind farm Medicine Bow, I wondered what the wind turbines would look like against the stars. Finally knowing I wouldn’t have the chance soon, I made an image.
Jack Nowlin braved the blistering -7F degree temperatures and 45mph winds with me to make a few frames, and the one I pulled off actually wound up a in a few papers around the country after hitting the AP wire. I even got a note from a friend in Sacramento, where I interned in 2010, that it was in their photos of the day gallery.
I learned more about the night sky that night too. The Milky Way dominates the sky in the summer, but in the winter, the shear number of stars you see is mind blowing. There must be hundreds of thousands visible to the naked eye.
I’ll miss Wyoming’s beauty now that I’m back on the east coast, after accepting a position on the photography staff at The News Journal, in Wilmington, Del., where I interned in 2009. The sacrifice is worth it to be near my family and friends I grew up with again, but there will always be a piece of my heart in Wyoming, where the wild skies left me in awe.
Before I left for my pre-Christmas, Christmas vacation, Adam Voge and I went out to Midwest, Wyo. to tour an abandoned power plant with Orin Young, whose father worked at the plant as an engineer. More and more coal power plants are shutting down across the United States as coal becomes more expensive in the face of stricter regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. Many that aren’t shutting down are converting to natural gas, which is much cheaper and in a lot of cases easier to obtain.
Back in 1958 this power plant shut down in Midwest, but it burned natural gas.
The plant was built in 1923 to power the pumps throughout the surrounding Salt Creek Oil Field. Natural gas, at the time, was seen as a nuisance byproduct of oil drilling, and usually vented or burned away at the pump site. But, when the need to get rid of this abundance of flammable gas was met with the need to power hundreds of pumps throughout the oil field, the plans for the power plant came about.
The plant ran steadily out in the middle of nowhere some seven miles north of the town of Midwest until the transmission lines around the plant were bought by another power company, and the plant wasn’t needed.
The building as it stands now looks like something out of an episode of The Walking Dead or some other post-apocalyptic fantasy. It’s once glistening and shining windows have been rilled with bullet holes and rocks. It’s walls show the graffiti of 54 high school classes that have tagged it since it’s shut down. The hum, though of a power substation sitting next to it, still makes the building sound alive.
As one newspaper clipping we found at the Midwest museum noted, “If you were to hold a seashell to your ear you might hear the ocean, but inside the Midwest Power Plant you hear the sound of purpose.” (The quote was something to that effect at least.)
That couldn’t be a more accurate description of what walking through that building was like, especially with Young painting pictures of what it was like to see the building when he was a kid.
Give Adam’s story a read, he did a great job with it: Gas Plant
Check out the gallery at the top of the story while you’re at it.
Derek Cooke Jr. didn’t play high school basketball. He wouldn’t be playing college basketball if not for a chance meeting with Cloud County Community College’s head coach at a basketball showcase in Washington, D.C. in which Cooke impressed the coach enough for a scholarship offer.
Though raw, Cooke gained the attention of Wyoming and a few other “mid-major” basketball programs, including a team I used to cover, the University of Evansville. He even had looks from top schools like Oregon and WVU, but they weren’t ready to commit with just a year of JuCo ball under his belt.
Though just averaging six points and just over eight rebounds per game in one year of organized ball at Cloud, Cooke would move on to Wyoming with three years of eligibility and a coaching staff that saw a diamond in the rough.
Cooke now has the opportunity to learn not only from a strong coaching staff at UW, that has the team at 11-0, but gifted players like Larry Nance Jr. and Leonard Washington (who is a shot blocking machine).
It’s interesting, readying Ben Frederickson’s article that I did this portrait for, that Cooke could barely dunk at 6’7″ in pick-up games after high school. At 6’9″ now, and a whole lot of training under his belt, Cooke only missed two dunks through the 20 or so I put him through in a 20 minute period at the Arena-Auditorium back on December 6th, and those really only came after Cooke had worked up a good sweat and started trying to pull off a few unnatural moves.
Derek was great to work with, and I see a lot of the potential his coaches see too. He could have a really bright future ahead of him.
It’s been a crazy week in Casper, and if you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve heard the stories of the shooting/stabbing at Casper College. Reading the team’s reports on it, it sounds like something out of a movie. For a writer, it’s got to be a clip that would stay in the portfolio for a while. The singles I’ve seen come out, not nearly as exciting, and that’s got to be expected since it just looks visually like any other crime scene.
With that in mind, I’ll consider myself lucky that I was off on Friday, in preparation for my LONG day in Laramie on Saturday covering women’s basketball against Eastern Michigan at 2pm, and Wyoming men’s basketball against #19 Colorado at 8pm. With a 2.5 drive each way, that’s 5 hours in travel time stacked on eight hours of coverage, excluding processing time. That all equals a long, long day.
The drawback to being in Laramie all day was missing out on a chance to cover the follow up to the shootings for the New York Times, who called me on Friday evening to see if I could pick the assignment up. The plus was I got to cover one of the biggest wins recent Wyoming basketball history.
Colorado came in ranked #19 in the country and 6-0, Wyoming was standing at 7-0 but not having played much of anyone. Wyoming’s defensive style frustrates every team they play and keeps them in most games, but Colorado was going to be a real test. It was one Wyoming handled well.
I’ve covered almost every home game Wyoming’s had to this point, outside a few in a tournament the team hosted during the week, but I’ve not seen them dominate a team as competitive as Colorado yet. The win was huge for the Cowboys and the fans (who finally showed up to a game) showed it. Fans rushed the court as the buzzer sounded, some even leaping on Luke Martinez’s back for a ride. I snapped a few frames and rushed to the catwalk to try to get the madness from above. By then, though, the players were on their way off the court.
Overall, it was a great game to cover, and the second major upset I’ve covered in the last two years. The last one came when Evansville topped Butler (fresh off their appearance the previous year in the NCAA Tournament Final) at home last November.
And it just dawned on me, I forgot to link to the gallery from the game. Check it out: Wyoming upsets #19 Colorado
A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Sierra Trading Post fulfillment center in Cheyenne, Wyo. It’s a warehouse, but don’t call it a warehouse, they made that clear.
I wasn’t all that familiar with Sierra Trading Post to be honest. I’d heard of them, but outside of that had no idea what they did. Turns out they’re much like the Amazon.com of clothes and outdoors equipment, and the center showed it.
Normally these kinds of tours are pretty interesting, but not much for the visuals. This was about the best I’d ever seen though, and the photos have gone somewhat viral I guess. I got a note from my former editor, Kevin Swank, in Evansville that he saw one on the wire and got a chuckle out of it. I heard from a friend in Gillette it ran in their paper, and it also made an appearance on A1 of the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale.
I’ve always kinda wanted to work for a wire. Seeing your work show up everywhere is just really rewarding. It’s one thing when one photo editor likes what you did enough to put it in print,it’s another when a few dozen do.
Probably the coolest thing about the shoot, though, was Beemer, the “morale dog,” of the fulfillment center. He reminded me a bit of my dog back home, Buster. Lovable, curious, and an affinity for stealing socks.
This past weekend I covered the Wyoming State Football Championships. Wyoming has five divisions, Class 1A-4A, but 1A is broken into 6-man football, and 11-man football, giving small schools in towns like Baggs, Wyo. (pop. 438) and Dubois, Wyo. (pop. 982) a chance compete. I drew the two 1A games, while Alan covered the 2A, 3A and 4A games.
I wasn’t initially thrilled to do 1A, since most schools that small pass the ball about three times a game. The games were exciting though, and having never seen 6-man football, it was fun to learn the sport on the fly. Scoring is pretty rampant (the first three scores of the game came on the first three plays), and extra points are backward (kicks are worth two, while scoring plays are worth one).
The games were part of a long weekend of sports coverage where I also covered the men’s and women’s basketball home openers at the University of Wyoming each night too.
All content Kyle R. Grantham 2002-2010.
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