Featured on "Portraits of the World"

Every so often I post some of my pics on Flickr which is kind of an online photo community/sharing/networking site. Portraits of the World is a blog that posts one photo (portrait) from Flickr each day. They kind of pick themes and one of the recent themes was smoking. This image was chosen for Sept. 22. You can either scroll down the main page of their site or go directly to the pic here.
This was a fun image to make. It was done for an assignment to make a portrait using a snoot. A snoot bascially focuses the light from a flash into a concentrated beam. A snooted flash was beside and a little behind me aimed where I thought the smoke would go. Another flash was in an umbrella aimed at me but set very low to make sure the emphasis was on the smoke.

Women Build: Media

As I follow Pam through the Habitat for Humanity process, my goal is to accurately represent her experiences through images, and eventually audio. I have a few ideas in my mind as to how I think the process will unfold, but for the most part I am just along for the ride, using a camera to place others in the shoes of a Habitat homeowner.

I kind of knew that homeowners end up in the spotlight, but the media presence at Saturday's build stood out as a part of the experience worth documenting. I hope this series of images will give you, the viewer, a little glimpse into one aspect of being a Habitat homeowner.

Pam is tracked by a news videographer as she carries some construction debris to the dumpster.

Pam speaks with a reporter from Channel 10. Sets of the ICFs can be seen in the background.

A videographer from another station gets a shot of Pam driving screws into a window box frame.

A third news videographer interviews Pam while the rest of the volunteers take a lunch break.

After eating, the volunteers return to work. Pam finds a moment to grab some food while discussing siding options with Jamie, Pinellas HFH's Communications Director.

There probably won't be many "Women Build" posts for a while. Future posts will mainly be from the build site, but hopefully we will also get a glimpse into Pam's life when she's not in the spotlight.

Women Build: First Build Day

This Saturday was the first build day for the Women Build project (check out the blurb about Saturday's build here). From now on, volunteers will be working at the site every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday until the house is complete. I was there to capture some images and audio to document the experiences of Pam, the future homeowner. Pam worked alongside the women volunteers to build the house that she and her two sons will call home. You can learn more about this documentary project by clicking here.

Homeowner Pam is seen through one of the insulating concrete forms (ICFs). The ICFs replace cinder blocks in the construction of the walls. The ICFs are light enough to carry, and the end result is stronger and more energy efficient than traditional construction.

Three volunteers transport lumber across the build site.

Pam shares a laugh with Paula Van Law, the Chair of the Women Build Steering Committee. Since the HFH process takes several months or more, homeowners typically forge close relationships with staff and volunteers. Due to various setbacks, including permitting delays, this project has been in the works for almost a year. The first build day is a welcome achievement.

Pam holds a piece of the window box steady while a volunteer cuts it to the right length.

A major theme of Women Build is empowerment. HFH takes pride in introducing women to tools and jobs that some may view as intimidating. This photo captures that theme. I underexposed this image slightly to emphasize the flying sparks.

Pam takes a break and rehydrates with a few other volunteers.

Volunteers eat lunch as they listen to Pam and learn a little bit about her experiences in the HFH process.

There were plenty of opportunities to make a shot highlighting the back of the Women Build shirts. You can click on it for a slightly larger size, but it reads "As girls We Played House, As women We Build Them."

Pam carries some construction material past stacks of the ICFs.

In coordination with the Women Build project, Lowes was running instructional seminars for women throughout the day.

Plenty of media showed up to cover the event and I plan on doing a second post specifically on them and their role in Pam's experience. Look for that later this week! Click here to see Channel 10's story.

Women Build - Hammers and Heartstrings

As stated in the previous post, I have begun a project following a family through the Habitat for Humanity process. I am documenting this journey through the experiences of Pam Yauch and her family, the recipients of this year's "Women Build" home. So here we are at a fitting start to our journey. As you will learn later, Pam's journey started a long time ago, but this is a good time for me to begin the documentary process.

This past weekend, Pinellas Habitat for Humanity held the Hammers and Hearstrings Ball. This black-tie fundraiser included silent and live auctions to benefit the Women Build project. The money raised at this event will be used to fund next year's Women Build. Pam was a guest speaker.

Here is a wide shot of the event. This shot may look like a typical "scene-setting" shot from a wedding, but it serves a different purpose here. Habitat for Humanity conjures up images of sweaty volunteers hammering nails and painting walls, but there are a lot of "behind-the-scenes" things going on to make those build days possible. Mostly this entails paperwork sitting at a desk, but it also means black-tie galas to raise the necessary funds to keep the projects going. I wanted a shot that captured that "black-tie" feeling. The chandelier, the sea of tuxedos and the couple dancing all contribute to a successful shot. Many of those well-dressed folks will be sweaty and stinky come this Saturday.

Pam is invited up to speak. I had two different lighting schemes set up to achieve different looks. The first setup was two flashes up in a balcony used to evenly illuminate the whole room. This just bumps the light up a little bit while retaining the look and feel of the ambient light in the room.

Pam addresses the guests and talks about the importance of donations (both financial and labor) to Habitat's mission and some of Pinellas HFH accomplishments.

Here is the second lighting scheme I used while Pam was speaking. Basically, homeowners become default ambassadors for HFH and Pam makes the most likely representative for the Women Build program. I wanted to enhance the feeling of Pam being placed in the figurative spotlight by placing her in a literal spotlight. I snooted my flash (think cardboard tube to focus the light) but the light was still spreading too much. So I taped a few busines cards together to further limit the amount of light to get this result. The ambient exposure is light enough to see the guests looking at Pam, but dark enough to keep the emphasis on her.

And this is just too funny to not post. The MC handling the live auction was great at getting the crowd involved and kept everybody laughing.

The first volunteer construction day for this year's Women Build is this weekend, so look for some more pics some time next week!

Remember, this project will be going on for a year or more, so check back to see updates. A new link on the sidebar of this page will take you directly to all the Women Build posts, or you can save this link: http://ericvichich.blogspot.com/search/label/womenbuild

Women Build - Intro

I have started a long term photojournalism documentary project that will follow a family through the entire "Habitat for Humanity" process. Using both photography and audio recordings, I hope to produce a multimedia presentation that will successfully convey the feelings and emotions experienced by the homeowner. The final audio slideshow will be similar to those seen on newspaper's web sites. My first attempt at this sort of multimedia photojournalism can be seen here.

Many Habitat stories are worth telling, but some stand out. The Pinellas HFH web site describes Women Build this way:
"The Women Build project is part of a nationwide program that encourages the involvement of women in the construction of Habitat for Humanity homes. Women Build empowers women to actively address the problem of children living in poverty housing by building safe, healthy homes where children and families can flourish. This project also provides an environment in which women can feel comfortable learning skills they might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn."

I will be posting sample images throughout the project. A link on the sidebar will automatically return only blog entries related to the project. Or you can use this link: http://ericvichich.blogspot.com/search/label/womenbuild

The "Hammers and Heartstrings" event that benefits Women Build took place this past weekend so I will be posting a few images soon.

House Fire

Unfortunately, there was a pretty bad house fire a few streets over this past weekend. Smoov J was riding his bike over to hang out on the newly completed deck and heard all the commotion. He saw flames coming out of the windows and it looked pretty bad. It sounded like an event that might make for some strong images, so I grabbed the camera and we headed over. Luckily, the fire department had gotten things under control very quickly. We stuck around for a few minutes and I made a few quick pictures.

This situation presented me with a common photojournalism ethics dilemma. The family that lives in this house was in a neighbor's yard consoling each other. Obviously it was a very difficult time for them. The exterior doesn't look that bad, but I am pretty sure it was a total loss on the inside. I pretty much kept my camera pointed at the trucks and the house, but I kept one eye on the family because that is where the strongest moments are likely to happen. Some neighbors were helping them, bringing them water, etc. I noticed a little neighbor girl walking toward the family with a teddy bear in her hand. Seeing the moment start to take shape, I squatted in the street as discreetly as possible and waited for the action to unfold. Some members of the family realized that I was paying them some attention and it was obvious they wanted none of it. I gestured that I understood and made a point to throw the camera strap over a shoulder. As I walked away I peeked back at that little girl. She walked over to a young girl that lived in the house and handed over the teddy bear as a comforting gift. It was a very touching moment that would have made a very powerful image. Legally speaking, I had every right to photograph that situation, but photojournalists understand that sometimes a line must be drawn based on their perception of what is appropriate at any given time. Getting that picture would not have been worth upsetting members of the family after what they had already been through.

Neighbors comfort each other as they watch the emergency crews get the blaze under control.

I grabbed my mid-wide angle lens so I was forced to get a little creative in my composition since I could not zoom in on the house.

An emergency worker rushes to the house. Of course, I was walking around the truck as he came tearing around the corner, so I didn't have time to frame a shot. I just put the camera to my face and clicked a frame. Ideally, I would have been in the same spot as the above shot so the truck and the house would be featured prominently in the shot. Even as the crews got the fire under control, smoke continued to pour out of the windows.

A brief St. Pete Times article mentions that the Salvation Army is providing support for the family.

New Deck and Patio

Since the weddings sort of slow down during the summer months, I have taken advantage of free weekends to get some projects done around the house. Don't worry, this blog will not turn into a boring account of my non-photo related activities. And if it does, at least there will always be lots of pictures to accompany those boring posts. It took many hours, materials, sweat and even a little bit of blood, but it's (almost) done. My good friend Jordan (aka Smoov J) pitched in big time and his efforts are much appreciated.

The finished product. To keep this post photo-related: lit using three flashes; one on the ground to the left (visible in the shot), one on a stand camera left, and one high on a stand camera right lighting the deck. Waiting another 10 minutes or so would have been ideal, so the brightness of the sky would match the level of the interior lights. This would have given a nice warm glow to the house.
Entering the patio from the side yard. This was after completing the pavers, but before the deck. You can see our nice private forest and our hammock if you look close enough.

Karen peeking out at our day's work. Smoov J and I layed all these bricks in one day!

The finished patio. Our poor furniture is in that pile of junk somewhere. After living on a mix of mud/dirt/grass I am sure it was ready for a new home.

Closeup of the fire-pit that helps connect the patio and deck.

This is when the light is getting to be about right. The blue sky matches the inside lights. The shutter speed was still a little too fast in this image so the sky and interior are a little dim. I was kind of in hurry and just wanted to capture the patio and deck. Another real estate photography tip: get on a ladder.

There was a house fire in our neighborhood the other night. Keep an eye out for those pics tomorrow.