Archive for the ‘On Assignment’ Category

Minnesota beekeeper

A recent assignment with Minnesota Public Radio News called for photographs of honey bees and beekeepers. Now, I like honey and I generally believe bees do important work in our ecosystem. However, I wasn’t too sure about the part of the assignment that would require me to be in such close proximity to so many bees. If you’ve never photographed bees from inside the confines of coveralls, which are taped at your wrists to rubber gloves and at your ankles to hiking boot, and a wide-brimmed hat with veil and netting, it’s an interesting experience.

More photographs from the assignment are featured online here. Also, the audio and written versions of “Hive Health: Beekeepers closely watch population, productivity” are online here.

Enjoy! – Ann

P.S. In case you were wondering, I was stung once during the outing with the beekeepers.

Minnesota beekeeper

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

The flooding situation in and around Minot, N.D., made national headlines a couple weeks ago. Dramatic aerial photographs showed homes surrounded by and then inundated with flood water. The Souris River [known locally as the Mouse] reached levels never witnessed in the area. Mandatory evacuations forced roughly a quarter of Minot’s 40,000-some residents to leave their homes.

The river’s crest came and went in late June. However, the flood’s impact continues. Areas of the community and hundreds of basements are still covered with water. People remain displaced. Minot officials recently announced the cancellation of this year’s North Dakota State Fair. [Minot has hosted the fair annually since 1965.]

Late last week I accepted an assignment with The Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] to document life at an emergency pet shelter on the south side of Minot. The shelter is currently home to 450 or so dogs, cats and birds as well as one rabbit and one iguana. A group of HSUS volunteers – and many others – are caring for the animals.

For reference, Minot sits 300-some miles northwest of Fargo. I spent the better part of Thursday as well as a portion of Friday morning at the pet shelter. Nearly all of the animals there have owners who brought them to the shelter.

Before returning home [I would have stayed longer if family and other assignments weren’t in the mix], I spent one hour photographing in just a few accessible areas in Minot. Travel in town remains a bit difficult due to road closures. I’m sharing a few photographs here.

The citizens of Minot – especially those directly impacted by the flood – have a long road ahead of them. They need a lot of resources, a lot of support and a lot of money. That much was obvious from my brief time in Magic City.

Here’s to picking up the pieces. – Ann

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Flood 2011 Minot, North Dakota

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Spring flooding is a pretty common event here in the Red River Valley. The region has been on the national media’s radar since the 1997 flood, which devastated downtown Grand Forks, N.D., and other areas.

I missed that flood. In fact, North Dakota wasn’t even on my radar back then.

Three years ago the entire valley and Fargo, in particular, drew heaps of media coverage due to the severity of the flood fight.

I was here in 2009 and those memories remain vivid. Flood preparation ramped up just a few weeks after my full-time position with the local newspaper ended. I was a freelancer without an outlet. I contributed reporting to a wire service and photographed whatever I was able to access. Our street felt something like a war zone – I can’t say for certain since I’ve never been in an actual war zone. Black hawk helicopters overhead. National Guard trucks in droves. Calls from the city declaring, “Code Red”. Clay dikes and more clay dikes. You get the picture. The experience wasn’t much fun professionally or personally.

Last year’s flood event was pretty standard as floods go – at least here in Fargo-Moorhead. I photographed daily for Minnesota Public Radio News. My contribution to the organization’s website and Minnesota Today project spanned seven consecutive days. I remember feeling proud that I was now regularly freelancing for a reputable news organization.

For the most recent flood event, I again contributed photographs to MPR News and Minnesota Today. I was able to apply lessons learned during past years [hit key areas early and often, flash my media credential at check points, convert the car into an office complete with a veritable snack bar, wear comfortable rain boots and warm socks]. My contribution spanned 10 consecutive days. I photographed a lot of wonderful people and remain grateful for those meetings.

One particular assignment marks a sort of milestone. On April 11, I climbed into a small airplane to photograph flooding from above. The Red River at Fargo crested two days earlier, but the river remained high. Meanwhile, overland flooding had forced the closure of Interstate 29 and left dozens of rural roads under water. The next day, 14 aerial photographs were published by MPR News. I posted that link on my facebook page and promised to share a bit of the back story here.

It’s important to note that the aerial images would not have been possible without news editors willing to support the endeavor.

That said, I planted the seed for the shoot weeks before flood coverage began. I followed up on that concept a couple times and continued to make the case for it. I checked the weather, thinking clear skies would lead to more dynamic photographs. I called everyone I could think of to ask for help in locating a pilot and plane. I found a pilot and a plane. I called an editor – as I was literally on my way to meet said pilot and plane – to confirm the assignment.

A couple of things worth noting:

1] I don’t like flying and I really don’t like small planes.
2] I don’t have extensive – or really any – experience photographing aerials.
3] I’ve never come back from an assignment without publishable images.

I figured the best thing to do was to have two cameras, fully charged batteries, fresh memory cards, shoot at a fast shutter speed because the plane isn’t really in a fixed location, open the windows to avoid reflection and distortion, pull my hair back so it wouldn’t get in my photographs and shoot a lot.

I spent an hour in the sky. I shot 700 frames.

I’m rarely -if ever – satisfied with my photographic efforts. Those who know me well – my husband, book club friends and a handful of colleagues – would agree with that statement.

When my time in the sky came to a close, I was filled with a huge sense of satisfaction. I knew I had done my job well. The aerial photographs have been very well received. I recently finished a second edit of my effort and am sharing some of those photographs here.

It seems a lot of folks are enjoying them. I hope you do as well. – Ann

P.S. Several of my images from this year’s flood will be featured as part of a “Discovery Dock” at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, Minn. “The Raging Red and the Mighty Mississippi” will be on display May 19 to Sept. 4. Many thanks to Andy Maus, the museum’s executive director, for the invitation to contribute to the project.

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

The Flood Boots

I’ve spent much of the past 10 days photographing flooding and flood-related activities in and around the Red River Valley. It’s been a busy, busy time. My new yellow wellies [pictured above] were an important addition to my flood kit.

River levels in Fargo-Moorhead are steadily dropping now and life is returning to normal around the river. Many of my photographs have been – and are still being – published online with Minnesota Public Radio and Minnesota Public Radio News. When life permits, I’ll share a sample of flood-related photographs and some of the stories behind them.

In the meantime, feel free to check out this selection of aerials, which were photographed a couple of days ago.

Best, Ann

Along Highway 83 in Western North Dakota

I spent much of last week – more than planned – in Western North Dakota on assignment for an editorial project. Thanks to a blizzard and poor road conditions my time in and around New Town, N.D., was extended a bit.

Normally, I welcome whatever Mother Nature offers. Fog can be fun to photograph. Rain brings out umbrellas. You get the idea. However, this particular weather system really was a problem. Highways throughout the state closed. Travel – at least in my location – was very dangerous. Everything – and I mean everything – I had lined up over two days was either cancelled or postponed. There wasn’t much I could do with my rental car trapped in a hotel parking lot. Even if I could have gotten my car out, I don’t think I would have made it very far.

As with all things, the storm passed, the roads re-opened and pictures were created. Driving home Thursday I kept two cameras within easy reach. The photograph above is a grab shot along Highway 83 between Minot and Bismarck. I came across it while editing this morning. Consider it a gentle reminder that winter continues on in North Dakota.

Enjoy! Ann