December 22, 2011


I found Naomi while on a feature hunt along the lake shore on Wednesday.  She was looking out across the bay and I snapped this photo before she became aware that I was taking her picture.  It was her birthday and she was looking for an escape from the city.  I could relate and we talked for a few minutes before I continued on through the fog.


December 19, 2011

Big Wheel

Before the famous plastic tricycle took the name a "Big Wheel" referred to a logging apparatus invented and used in Michigan in the late 19th century.  A gentleman in Sanford recently assembled a team to construct one and once it was completed Moses Yoder drove it to the Sanford Historical Museum with his Belgian horses Amos and Andy.


December 16, 2011

Dropping some sweet beets

[okay.  HORRIBLE pun, I know.  but these are sugar beets that were spilled off of M-30 earlier this week.  no one was seriously injured in the crash.]

Farm media tour

From back when the grass was green...


December 12, 2011

December 6, 2011


Almost a year ago to the day I wrote this as an email and attached the photo to a close circle of friends.  Looking at it today, it still applies to me.  I know it's not a great photo, and it'll never be in any portfolio, but it matters to someone.


I was done.  I was mentally checked out of the game and was thinking about other things - like cold medicine and my bed.  Jasper lost the basketball game in the third period and by the fourth both teams had put in their sophomores.  I was sitting in the second row of the bleachers (which had started to empty), camera in my lap and was waiting for the last few minutes to tick off the clock so I could snap a photo of the scoreboard and leave.

"Are you Neil?"

I turned around and a woman wearing a gray sweatshirt with "Jasper" emblazoned in yellow and black across the front introduced herself as the mother of Jack, a 10-year-old that I had snapped a feature photo of the week before.  It ended up running in color on the front page.

"I just wanted to tell you how thrilled we were to see it," she said. "We've gotten a lot of compliments."

We chatted a bit more about her son and I told her the circumstances of the photo, how it came about, how I had Jack hold my camera as I shimmied up the basketball hoop, how my battery died after blindly firing 12 frames.  It was one of those slow news days and we needed a feature.  I also needed to print out some DVD labels for my portfolio and on my way to Dave's house to use his printer I decided to swing up a side street to see if anyone was outside.  It was a cold November day and I wasn't expecting much but sure enough, there was Jack shooting free throws in his driveway after school.  The entire interaction lasted about 10 minutes.

As I walked out of the high school tonight I thought how easily I forget what it means for people to be in the paper.  It could years before Jack has another opportunity to be featured in his home town paper.  Whoever I'm photographing, whatever I'm feeling at the moment, no matter how rushed I am, they deserve my best.

When I was a counselor at a small camp in northern Michigan the director had a phrase that he started repeating after the first few weeks had gone by and the exhaustion had started to show up in our faces.  "You've been here X number of weeks, but remember, it's their first week here."  In the same way, by now I've turned in hundreds of photos and met hundreds of people while doing this job, but for them it could be their first (or only) time in the paper.


November 15

During the opening week of deer season I spent a few hours with Zach and his dad, Rich, out in their deer blind for a story I was working on.  It was a unique experience being that still in the woods.  Listening.  Watching.  Letting your breathing fall into a pattern.  Stillness.  Seconds turning into minutes, minutes turning into hours.  I lost all sense of time, just being there letting my mind drift.  I lost myself in my thoughts.  Something I can easily do away, but being there, watching the shadows lengthen in the forest was good.  Calming.


December 3, 2011

Mobile Meat Processing


"Classic country tunes float through the crisp November air on opening day from a white trailer parked in the woods at a Sanford home.  Inside, two men work diligently shoulder to shoulder slicing venison.  A cut here.  A cut there.  Cut, slice, cut, slice, cut, slice.  They have the rhythm down.  “The whole secret is to know where your fingers are at,” one of them says about ensuring that they don’t end up sliced themselves.  “Don’t force it.”

The advice comes from Gary Giddings as he cuts up an eight point buck for Rich Hale and his fourteen year old son, Zach, who killed the deer. Giddings, a Midland man, started his business, Mobile Meat Processing, three years ago but he’s been working in the meat industry long before taking his skill to the road.  He’s worked as a butcher since the eighth grade and graduated from the National School of Meat Cutting in Toledo, Ohio in 1982.

Giddings is proud of his door to door service.  “When I leave it’s in their freezer,” he says.  As far as he knows he’s the only mobile processing unit in the state. A few hours later, the meat is packaged and turned over to the Hales and the white trailer rumbles off through the woods. This time of year, they process a lot of deer, but they have upcoming jobs with hogs and goats.

Back at Gary’s home in Midland, he and his business partner, Nick Moeller, clean the knives and spray out the blood from the white interior.  Gary outfitted the trailer himself.  His wife, Debra, found a trailer with a frame and he went to work putting in the insulation and equipment.  After finishing their day jobs, they load up and drive out to wherever meat needs processing."


November 22, 2011

6:18 a.m.

I woke up to my phone ringing. I thought it was my alarm and I didn't answer. When I looked at the screen I saw the missed call from Ralph (editor). Not good. At 6:18 it could only be spot news. I called back and got the report of the accident. "People still inside and climbing out of a car on M-20." "Alright, I'll check it out..." Often it's a wild goose chase. But you never know.

I drove by the scene it didn't look like much, so I didn't plan on stopping. On my second pass I saw a car on its side so I found a parking spot a few hundred yards up on a side road and carefully walked along the shoulder to the scene.  There was no ambulance and police officers were pretty relaxed. A good sign. I took this shot and was getting ready to leave when the officer in the photo told me there was headed to a fatal car/pedestrian accident across town. "Here we go again..."

I headed there, shot it quick, and headed back to the office to layout the page on deadline.



Bullock Crek Eq.

This is the final edit from the Bullock Creek equestrian story I did on the team earlier this fall. I followed the team through two competitions held at the Midland County Fairgrounds this year. The team was great to hang with and the access was good. I always looked forward to my time at the fairgrounds, even if it meant a little less sleep bone chilling fall mornings.


November 15, 2011


From a fruitless feature hunt in New Hampshire one snowy afternoon last January. Can you tell I'm going through the hard drive?


Snow on the mind

I'll miss New Hampshire's sunny winter days, but with a killer snow forecast this year we'll see what Michigan can come up with.

[NH. Jan. 2011.]

November 14, 2011

Living life

On Sunday I got to see Zach and Sarah, two of my best friends from high school. I stood in their wedding a few years ago, but lost touch with them while I tromped around the states on internships. I also got to see Matt, another buddy from high school. We shot a few clays and then I shot a few photos of Zach as he sighted in his gun for opening day.

I love Michigan.


November Sky


November 9, 2011

On the desk (round two)

A few more of my A1 layouts from the desk shift. I'm getting to the point where I can bang out a page in a half hour, but I've caught going to my 'safe' layouts when the pressure is on. Like with anything else, a little planning goes a long way.


October 26, 2011

Midland vs. Dow

Last week was the annual showdown between the Midland and Dow football squads. A good crowd turned out and our staff got out to cover the action. To see our edit from the night, click here.


October 17, 2011

The Middle Third

One of the first things I learned in photo class was the "rule of thirds." It's also one of the first things I unlearned. Here are the center of things from my three assignments today in the order that they were shot. A Dow Chemical media tour, occupy Midland, and Midland soccer. Looks like I need to get back to the basics.


October 11, 2011

Creek Equestrian

Ever since I started in Midland I had a gut feeling that I should call Jane, Creek's equestrian coach, to see if she'd be interested in a photo story. It took me awhile to pick up the phone to get the ball rolling, but once I did the team, coaches and parents invited me in. This weekend is the state championships which will wrap up my time with the team. I'm excited to see the photos in print, but a little sad that I won't be hanging around the barns much longer. Here are a few from tonight's practice.


October 4, 2011

On the desk

For the past two weeks I've been on the desk editing and designing. I did a stint in August but relied on my coworkers to help me as I fumbled around in inDesign. Nick was there to assist with the Alzheimer's pages for one of the Sunday sections, but the rest were done on deadline. Turns out, I like design. But with that said I'm glad to be on the night shift this week. Back to prep sports and small town events.