How is it that the Blues Brothers’ soundtrack continues to evoke such emotion after almost 40 years? Like a Youtube user, Ramblingamblinwillie, wrote “A band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline”. Hilarious. Truth.
Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd running away from the police as the timeless music plays in the background.
The trumpet is blaring in my earphone. It’s smooth, it’s punchy. It’s dialoguing with the second trumpet. They’ve taken off. They are arguing. They are Jim and Dan. But there’s the bass to hold them together.
I probably look like a fool as I move my head, tap my feet, and smile, in the regular cafe’ I come to. Fortunately there aren’t that many people today. But then again, if only they could put the soundtrack on the speakers I think the entire cafe’ would be jammin’. Go ahead, listen to it.
Let me reel myself in again. Where was I?
Yes, the police chase.
I learned, while attending an open photographer’s forum, that access is probably the hardest part of making great photos. I should clarify.
In documentary photography. The press certainly has the credentials to access all types of news. Great photographers have connections. Others, like war photographers, are willing to give up their lives to go photograph and document war zones – not many would.
From the many interviews that I’ve read, on how photographers got their first big break, many made a great photo of a major event. Be it photographing the Queen, or Bolt smiling at the Olympics, many photoreporters had access to places that most people don’t.
So, how could you and I get access to new places, to document the world around us, to discover through photography?
Volunteering. That is my solution, and my recommendation for all of you that are interested in both discovering and giving back to the community.
It was late September, last year, 2017. I did a random Google search and looked up “volunteering”. After a few other searches, and never going past the first page of results, I found Volunteer Match. And it was there that I started searching for communities, organizations, individuals and anything else that was listed and that needed photography.
I came across the PLEA Foundation, in Rochester, MI. They were hosting the 2nd Annual K9 Police Pumpkin Run 5K, and needed a photographer. I reached out to Ashley, the President and Donations Director of the organization, and after a couple of email exchanges I was in.
The next morning I pack up both my Nikon D5500, with the 18-200 lens, and the Fujifilm X100F, and set out for the races, literally.
The PLEA Foundation’s mission is “To provide support with training costs and much needed equipment through donations to law enforcement professionals, including K9 officers in need” and is 100% volunteer based.
In today’s world almost all organizations have Facebook and Instagram feeds. Some also have blogs or websites. And what do all of these media outlets need? Photos?
So if they need photos, you provide photos, you meet new people, you discover the world around you while doing it, and all the while have access to places and events, why not?
I show up at 8 am, as agreed with Ashley the day before. Yes, because reliability is the second lesson I learned. It doesn’t matter whether you are getting paid or not. You made a commitment to help and it should be honored with the same diligence as any other professional, paid, work. Ashley also gave me a list of photographs that they wanted, and I studied it thoroughly before heading to the event. I kept a copy on my phone to double check as the morning progressed. Again, in the spirit of reliability.
The ceremony was first. Rochester Police Department’s K9 Kitt would receive bullet vest, which was offered by Rochester Junior Women’s Club and BulletBlocker.
In between some of the official photos I would try to make other photographs, for me. The ones that were not “commissioned”, but that I wanted.
I had set my camera to Shutter Speed priority in this case, knowing that I wanted 1/500 to freeze the moment. And with the Nikon D5500 I was able to rapidly fire three frames to capture the moment. It is deceiving, because Kitt was a well trained German Shepard, but, having had a German Shepard in my younger days, I know that look. Teeth in sight, meet the might, run for your life!
The race was soon after.
And when the gun fires, off the participants go.
Sun flair in the back, participants running towards me. Everyone just enjoying and helping out however they can in a beautiful Detroit end-of-summer day.
As the race was taking place I continued photographing Officer Michael Knight, K9 Kitt’s handler, and the surrounding scene.
20 minutes later the first racers were back. Most of them checking their wearable technology; iWatches, Fitbits, Garmins. Drinking water was next. As was moving back to the pavilion for some cider and donuts.
Soon after the results were posted, like when looking up grades outside of the classroom.
And of course it had to end with the medal ceremony.
By 12:30 I was done. I checked the list and I had taken all the shots that had been asked for. At the same time I was pleased because I had made my photos. I had discovered through photography.
Within a few day I sent the images to Ashley and this was her reply:
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for volunteering and taking photos at our event. They are PHENOMENAL!!! You did an outstanding job! I got so emotional viewing them because we planned this event for so long and you beautifully captured the event from the beginning to end.
You are incredible!
Everyone at the Foundation was huddled behind my computer so they could view them all, and everyone was just in awe by how amazing they are.
We would love if you could attend other events we have.
And just like that not only had I gotten access to something that I would have otherwise never seen, but I provided the organization with what I specifically could offer. Not to mention future collaborations, and being listed as a donor on their website.
The Blues Brothers were running from the police, the Marathon participants were running for the police. I am listening to the music of the former and photographing the latter.
Here is the article on the event.
Until Next Time,
A Process to Process