By M. Scott Morris
Mistakes have been made, even if there were perfectly good reasons for those mistakes.
This is the fourth year for the Daily Journal to give second chances to photographs that were taken during the year but didn’t run in the paper.
During the three previous years of the feature, photos have won awards at state and regional newspaper contests.
“Every year, two of us have won awards, so that’s six,” said Thomas Wells, chief photographer. “They have to run in the paper to qualify, so this makes them eligible.”
Wells, Lauren Wood and Adam Robison went through their digital files and each picked one for today’s viewing pleasure.
In October, Wells captured two kids running through a corn maze at the Lee County Agri-Center in Verona.
It didn’t appear in the paper because another photo of the maze showed a kid’s face clearly.
“You could tell who it was, and he stood out from the background,” Wells said. “He jumped off the page.”
The caption is the only way to tell who’s in Wells’ photo, and he identified just one of the subjects.
He spent about an hour and a half working to make the shot happen.
“It was 45 minutes just to find the right spot where the light was perfect,” he said.
The second 45-minute block was due to human nature.
“Believe it or not, it’s hard to get people to run by you naturally when you’re on the ground with a camera,” he said. “A lot of time, they would make the turn and see me on the ground, and then turn around and run in a different direction.”
Finally, a courageous pair ran by, and Wells took as many photographs as he could in order to capture the way light and shadow play on the kids and the corn.
“It’s real simple, real clean. It’s symmetrical. The two kids are placed perfectly,” he said. “When it didn’t run in the paper the next day, I knew I’d probably run it here. I kept that in the back of my head.”
‘Into the sun’
Wood, who joined the Daily Journal staff in January, chose a sunset, something that connects her to her dad.
“He would be so proud. He loves sunsets,” she said. “We have a cottage on Lake Michigan, and he always says, ‘You’ve got to see this sunset.’ I mean, always.”
Hatley High School was facing Smithville High School in August. Photographers are told to shoot feature shots, as well as action shots, when they go to games. There’s sometimes space available on the inside pages of the sports section, especially if people don’t call in their team’s scores.
“This was a week they all called in,” she said.
Wood took the photo before the game started, and the Hatley fans were facing the field and probably oblivious to the sun going down behind them.
“Sadly about Smithville, they don’t have a tree line around the high school because of the tornado,” she said. “That’s why the background is so clear. I wouldn’t have been able to get the shot somewhere else.”
The sun was dropping fast, so she had a brief window.
“Silhouetted shots, you have to shoot them just the right way because you’re shooting directly into the sun,” she said.
John Pitts, sports editor, complimented the photograph, but he didn’t have space in the paper for it.
“I understood,” Wood said. “I was OK with it. That’s the way it is in this business.”
Robison, a longtime stringer for the Daily Journal, joined the full-time staff in May.
His photo also took place at a football game. This one was Corinth High School against Aberdeen High School in September, when a member of Aberdeen’s color guard was caught unaware.
“She’s putting on her makeup, looking at her compact before the game starts,” Robison said. “I felt like I had to get it fast.”
He had a 400 mm lens to capture football action, so he immediately started walking backward so he could get the shot in focus.
“Having the long lens kind of helped me because I was so far away,” Robison said. “If I didn’t have the 400 and if she looked up, she would have seen me and might have stopped.”
It’s similar to the problem Wells had with the kids refusing to run by the man with the camera. Professional photographers would prefer to never tell someone to “Say cheese!”
“She never knew I did it until I went up there and asked for her name,” Robison said.
Capturing an unguarded moment is the gold standard, and it makes up for what could be considered a flaw on the photo.
“Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have something coming out of someone’s head like the rail is. If I posed it, the rail wouldn’t be there,” Robison said, “but it’s the moment. That’s what makes it worth it. At least, to me it does.”