HUD visit / how to not cover a press conference

•June 16, 2009 • 1 Comment

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan visited Cedar Rapids last week, and I followed him and his entourage of local/state dignitaries through the day as they toured Time Check, downtown Cedar Rapids and Veterans Memorial Building, and ended the day with a press conference.  Going into the day, I knew we’d only have room for one or two photos, and that the press conference is really just my last chance / just-in-case to get something — we almost always prefer something active over guy-at-podium.

So, here, then, is what we ran with:

HUD secretary visit

The expression on Donovan’s face, his position in the framing of the house and the light falling on him set him apart from Gov. Culver and Paula Hinzman Mitchell (Community Development Coordinator for Cedar Rapids), making the photo mostly about Donovan and the house.  Now compare that with this photo..

HUD secretary visit

…which is in our archive for posterity/history’s sake, but it’s certainly not the most interesting or storytelling image from the day.




•June 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 The prodigious amount of fireflies in my backyard tonight was just to amazing to not set up the tripod and try to get a photo. -Cliff


‘It always rains for Fun Days’

•June 12, 2009 • 1 Comment


.. or, so said a fellow journalist as I prepared to cover the North Liberty Fun Days parade. I had already been to the carnival, which was understandably quiet due to the late afternoon rain showers that started up about 30 minutes before the festival’s start.

Typically “cute kid photos” aren’t what I look for when I go into an event. (Yes, everyone loves cute kid photos, but, it can get boring after awhile, and we do strive for diversity of images in the paper — too many kids/puppies/flags, for instance, and it starts to look stale.) But this was event FOR the kids. And when I saw the parade route lined with umbrellas, I pretty much knew what my shot would be. Kid, somewhat restrained by umbrella, trying to take in all the action. Introduce self to parents, hang around until kid starts to ignore me, then shoot like mad when the right moment appears. Et voila.

north liberty fun days


Tennis novice

•June 11, 2009 • 1 Comment

Somehow, in my ten years as a photographer (two of those at the Gazette) I have never photographed tennis.  So when I was assigned to shoot the girls state tennis team tournament, I walked in a bit nervous and completely clueless about scoring and how the game is played, aside from “hit the ball over the net.”  Luckily, there were plenty of coaches and parents around who were more than willing to explain it all to me, and I left somewhat more familiar with the game.  First up, a few singles matches (still working on my terminology, forgive me if it’s actually a game or a set or something else).. The serve is a pretty easy way to get the ball in the photo. (In sports photography, you generally want the ball in the photo — which can be difficult in fast moving sports like tennis).  I shot this photo from the viewing area, above the court, with a 300mm lens, all of which helped clean up the background.

girls state team tennis

I moved down to the court, where the background is a little messier but gave a perspective that spectators don’t really get. I incorporated the viewing area to give a sense of environment.

girls state team tennis

Back up to the viewing area for doubles.  I left the second racket in the frame for that extra context – a way to show that it’s doubles, without having to show the second player.

girls state team tennis

Another important aspect of sports photography is to show conflict. Not easy with a sport like tennis, where there’s no tackling or blocking or fighting. So, just a hint of the opposing player helps give that sense of competition, and gives the Kennedy player a place to look in the frame.

girls state team tennis


Gert and Geneva Tower

•June 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

ramblin' geneva tower

Photos of relatives, including 33 great grandchildren, fill the wall of Gert Steele’s Geneva Tower apartment in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 28, 2009. Steele has lived in same unit in the building for almost 31 years and, at 97, is the oldest resident of the building. “This place saved my life,” Steele said of the support she received after her husband passed away shortly after they moved into the building.

Dave Rasdal and I spent a couple hours at Geneva Tower a few weeks ago for this week’s Ramblin’ column. The tower, whose residents are a mix of elderly, disabled, full market price and section 8 housing, was evacuated last June as floodwaters rose in downtown Cedar Rapids, and, after months of renovation, is now at nearly full occupancy again. Gert in particular was such a delight to talk to. She brought a sack of pancake flour with her when she and her husband moved to CR during the Great Depression, just so they would have something to eat — her generation’s Ramen Noodle equivalent, I suppose. As we were leaving, she made a remark that Nile Kinnick was one of the cutest quarterbacks to ever play at Iowa — can’t find the notebook for the exact quote, and wasn’t recording audio, unfortunately.

ramblin' geneva tower

Deb Dufresne, far right, laughs with other Geneva Tower residents James Marugg, far left, Julie Fishel, center, and Katie Howrey, back to camera, on Thursday, May 28, 2009, during a coffee meeting in the building’s dining area in Cedar Rapids. Residents gather three times a week for coffee, and this week was Dufresne’s birthday, so another resident brought her a birthday cake.


Signs of the Flood

•June 8, 2009 • 2 Comments



I shot this photo of Linda Seger hugging Nick Duffy, one of her many grandchildren, after a birthday celebration in Seger’s rebuilt Time Check neighborhood home for a flood anniversary special section published by The Gazette. Meredith, one of our reporters, actually gave me a heads-up on a handwritten sign in Seger’s home marking the water level. As the one-year anniversary of the 2008 flood draws near, it got me thinking about how people chose to “commemorate” the height of the flood water in their homes and businesses. I like shooting detail photos. I think they add to telling a visual story. They also bring visual variety to an edit.




They could be a small, professionally printed sign affixed to the wall of a business.




Or they could be handwritten on a 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper taped where a wall meets the ceiling of a home.




Others, like different colored window blind slats, are incorporated into the design of a rebuilt building.


So, let’s see your high-water marks. Send them to I’m hoping to get a photo gallery at to display them. It would be great to get a little back story on how it came about too.

Thank you for looking



10th installment of MyStyle

•June 6, 2009 • 5 Comments

The tenth installment of MyStyle ran in this week’s Hoopla. Lovar Davis Kidd, founder of MOvMNT Dance Company, put his talent to use in the shoot. Visit to read his interview and watch the video of L.D. discussing his style. -Cliff

Lovar Davis Kidd

Lovar Davis Kidd

Lovar Davis Kidd

Lovar Davis Kidd