Covering the Conventions

I prefer not to mix politics with business but after watching the coverage of the final evening of the Republican National Convention,  I decided to make an exception.

As a former journalist for both newspapers and a national news magazine,  I covered plenty of campaigns and elections.  Whenever these things occur, especially for the Presidential campaigns, the news staffs always gear up and pull everyone from their usual “beat” in order to cover the event.

While working for a Phoenix newspaper, I was tossed from my usual assignment as an arts editor into the election night flurry at the Westward Ho hotel where the Republican party candidates gathered to await the voting results.   There was plenty of “drama” to write about, to be sure, with then Senator Barry Goldwater in the spotlight but it wasn’t the usual stuff that I did for my weekly arts and entertainment section.

As a medical reporter for TIME  Magazine, I was recruited from the Los Angeles bureau, along with everyone else, to keep watch on election night and file the results, reactions and interviews to New York way into the wee hours of the morning.   On the night of President Reagan’s second election, I found myself on the floor of the Century City Hotel, where the President was to give  his victory speech, surrounded by thousands of noisy supporters and an army of media.

The excitement escalated as the evening went on, with everyone anticipating Reagan’s arrival.  The hubbub became so loud that it was next to impossible to understand what my assigned interview subject–then Senator Pete Wilson–was saying in answer to my questions.   And finally, the man himself stepped onto the stage.  The music boomed, the balloons fell and the crowd cheered as the President and his family waved and celebrated their victory.

I didn’t necessarily share their enthusiasm, but it was infectious.   However, as a reporter, I prided myself  in providing an objective interpretation and look at the event in my coverage and  set aside personal preferences and opinions  in order to provide my editors and readers with the accurate material they needed.

Watching last night’s televised coverage,  I was reminded of my long nights covering elections.  It is one of the major events of a journalist’s career.  Yet I find most of the television coverage today lacking.  I have my own theories as to why this is,  due, in part to the disappearance of the Fairness Doctrine which required journalists to give equal weight and time to both sides of a story.

Caleb Bronstein ran a campaign of his own when he was elected senior class president at Bellingham High School. It was his idea to take his senior portrait in the studio with the flag so that he would look “presidential.” 

I regret that much of the post-convention commentary has focused on actor Clint Eastwood’s speech.  While he’s a tremendous thespian and director,  his was not supposed to be the climax of the night in this arena.  His controversial appearance stole the thunder that should be reserved for the candidates themselves, especially at a Presidential convention.   Regardless of how you may feel about his presence there, as a former journalist, I hope that everyone, the media included, will get back on track in time for the upcoming Democratic National Convention.



In tribute to my uncle, Gilbert ‘Jiggs’ Crooks, August 1, 1911-August 21, 2012.

I made this portrait of my uncle, my cousin and his son during a visit to my family in Kansas last autumn. It will be a lasting memory of the joy he brought to all of us.

Along the Waterfront

One of the great pleasures of living in the Pacific Northwest, and Bellingham in particular, is being able to take advantage of our natural beauty on the water.   I went out earlier this morning before going in to work at the studio.

I was introduced to kayaking a few years after settling here and now paddle year-round as often as I can.  My paddling partner, Pat, and I  purchased our first kayaks together at least ten years ago and had been going out together ever since. Neither of us ever tires of taking the boats up and down the shoreline of the bay in either direction.  There is always something new to see.

The Pan American Fisheries building (left) sits on the Fairhaven waterfront, a reminder of a busy cannery era gone by.

From the water, you can better imagine Bellingham as it was in the early 20th century when sailing ships lined the waterfront loading lumber and fish and coal into their holds.  Pilings protrude upwards from the shallower sections of the bay where the canneries and loading docks once stood.  The “rock” of tin, as it is known locally, is a reminder of a time when the leftover material used in canning the fish was just tossed down into the water until it solidified into the boulder it is today.  At low tide you get a full view of its size.  Today only the Pacific American Fisheries building in Fairhaven survives from the once very prosperous cannery era.

The Alaska Ferry docks at the Fairhaven terminal on the waterfront coming and going on Fridays to and from Alaska.

At the Fairhaven terminal, just next door, the Alaska Ferry ties up on Fridays and, during the summers, every other Saturday. The ferry carries cars, trucks and people back and forth from Bellingham to as far north as Skagway on the Alaska Marine Highway.  It is a popular route for people travelling up the coast.  And the horn of the ferry can be heard all over Bellingham as it cruises in and out of the harbor.

For me, kayaking is a great way to relax and “destress”, even though you must always be careful and attentive to the conditions surrounding you on the water.   I manage to snag some good photos when I take a camera with me, tucking it safely into my life jacket to protect it from the damaging salt water.   With the  warmer, sunny summer weather, the lure of the water makes it very hard to stay indoors in the studio.    But grabbing a few shots during an early  morning or late evening paddle is  a wonderful way to start or end a summer’s work day.

The Graduate Goes Home

It’s always hard to say good-bye.  Seems like I’ve had to do a lot of that lately.  Last week, I bid farewell to my photographer’s assistant for the past two years–Ika Hirawan.   She has been by my side on location during photo sessions with high school seniors and families as well as having handled whatever I needed done in the studio.  I’m going to miss  her.

Ika, my photography assistant for two years, on the Western Washington University where she studied for two years.

But she graduated from Western Washington University in June with a bachelor’s degree in business and has a job waiting for her in her native Indonesia.  Having spent five of the last six years in the United States, I know her family was anxious to have her back again.

Ika first came to the States as a junior in high school and lived with a family in Iowa.  It was quite a  change from her homeland.  After graduating from her high school in Indonesia, she applied to and was accepted in a student exchange program and wound up at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.  Upon completing the two-year program at WCC,  she applied to WWU where she continued her college education.

She proved herself to be a diligent student, a delightful young woman and a very dependable photographer’s assistant!  I hope to see her again one day, whether here in the States, there in Indonesia or some other far corner of the world.  In the meantime, we’ll keep in touch via the wonders of electronic mail and Facebook.  It makes the distances between us seem closer and our worlds feel less far apart.

Many thanks, Ika, and best wishes for your future!

Primarily Primaries

Just wanted to remind you to vote in the primaries, in case you haven’t done so already. I placed my ballot in the mailbox this morning.  I’m sure you’re all aware how important it is to cast your vote and I hope you’ll do so these primaries.

I want to urge you to vote through the entire list of candidates.  Last, but certainly not least, on our local ballot are the names of those who are running for the position of judge.  Sometimes those names are overlooked because they do appear last or because people simply don’t know the people running for those spots.

Garrett is among those whose names appear on the primary ballot due Tuesday, August 8.

And yet, it’s been shown that of all those who serve in elected office, it is judges with whom people, like you and me, are mostly likely to come in contact with for one reason or another.  Judges can wield considerable influence in our daily lives by the decisions they make in cases that may end up effecting us even though we’re not the ones standing in the courtroom.

I learned some of this when photographing Deborra Garrett who’s running here for Whatcom County Superior Court Judge.  I was asked to make a studio portrait and to cover some of her campaign events for her campaign materials, website and Facebook.  I was honored to do so.  I’ve known Deborra personally for several years.  I took senior portraits for both her son, Frank, and her daughter, Joanie, and have gotten to know her through her work with the schools in teen court and the various other activities that she and her kids participated in.

Deborra’s son, Frank, pictured here as a high school senior, is a lover of the outdoors and made Eagle Scout.

Now, they are both grown.  Frank has been travelling following his graduation from the University of British Columbia, and Joanie is now studying at the University of Washington.  Doesn’t seem like that long ago since they were here in the studio.

Joanie is a lover of literature and wanted to include one of her then favorite books, “Catcher in the Rye” in her senior portrait.

If elected, she’ll be the Whatcom County’s first woman Superior Court judge.  And while that’s significant, it’s not the only reason, nor should it be, to cast your vote.   Your vote really does make your voice heard.  So please, be sure to get your ballot in by the deadline, Tuesday, August 7 and vote for the candidates of your choice.

A Knight in Shining Armor

While  Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps were racing for medals in London on the U.S. Olympic team, swimmer Richard Knight was winning them in Olympia.  Six to be exact.  All gold.  And breaking five records.  If that wasn’t impressive enough, even more impressive is the fact that Knight, who was competing in the Senior Olympics in Washington, is 79.

Richard Knight’s smile beams as brightly as his gold medals.

Knight was himself an Olympic contender back in 1956 when he swam in the Olympic trials.  As a member of the UCLA swim team, he competed as a breaststroker for two years.  But during the trials, a swimmer from USC, Olympic great Bobby Hughes, edged him out of a spot on the team. He left California in 1973 and moved to live on a ranch in Montana where he and his wife, Shelley, raised a family.  He went to work as high school counselor and set swimming aside.

But few years ago, a fellow teacher told him about the Senior Olympics.  “I hadn’t ever heard about it,” he says. After 36 years, he jumped back into the pool and started to train. Seriously.  He found “it wasn’t as easy as it used to be.”  But he began entering competitions again and winning them.  Every event.

To date, he’s won about 60  medals, including three bronze at the National Senior Games in Palo Alto and silver at the World Senior Games in Park City, Utah a couple years ago.  His made so many waves on the scoreboard that it  prompted one competitor at the National Games–where 10,000 participated– to ask him:  “Where did you come from?”

With six gold medals hanging around his neck, Knight is a serious challenger to his competition.

His performance in last Sunday’s Senior Olympics was among his best. He trimmed an astonishing 21 seconds off the record in his age division–75 to 79 years– to win the 100 yard breaststroke.  Another record fell when he cut 7 seconds off  the 50 yard breast stroke.  In the 25 yard backstroke, he shaved off another 2 seconds to win that event.  And in the 25 yard breast stroke, he swam 20.77 seconds, to pick up yet another gold medal and record.  He won a fifth gold in the 25 yard freestyle busting that record too. Trim and fit with a twinkle in his eye and a warm smile, he’s pretty modest about his incredible accomplishments.  Unlike some of this year’s Olympians who will retire after this year’s London games, Richard shows no intention of stopping just yet.  He’s looking forward to improving his breaststroke, to entering another competition,  winning more medals and maybe busting a few more records.

After the photo session with Richard. Gold medals hang around Richard’s neck; a light meter hangs around mine.