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Chris McGathey

Photojournalists are mysterious creatures.

We keep irregular hours and eat a lot of our meals from the comfort of our vehicles.

Over the years, and after many assignments, it is not unusual for people to approach me. It’s generally at high school sporting events, like football games, basketball games or soccer games. People will ask, what kind of cameras I use, or what lens is that?

I am not much of a gear guru. I don’t have the latest and greatest to do my job on a daily basis. I want to let everyone in on a little secret. In fact it’s not about the the gear at all, but it’s who is using the gear that makes a great photo. A camera to me is merely a tool I use to obtain a final result. So there are some myths I want clear up right off the bat.

A few questions I get on a regular basis include how come you didn’t take our photo? We posed and everything. When I’m on an assignment, I will ask subjects to pose, only if I need them to or the assignment calls for a portrait.

Another is why is my camera making this funky sound? I don’t know to be honest. I have never even seen the inside of a camera. I have a general idea of how they function and what makes them tick, but no idea of what is inside if I were to take one apart.

Some things I do know for sure is that digital cameras do not like water or heavy rainfall. So this is more of a see I told you so.

I have lost at last three cameras, because I was shooting out in the rain. Even though manufacturers will say cameras are weather sealed, I now know not to test out that claim.

Another misconception is that we want to take your photo with your cell phone. I may oblige sometimes, but this not our favorite thing do. Why? Because essentially it may hinder me for getting the photos I need or want from an event. It’s nothing personal or snobbish. I think people tend to forget that while at an event or an assignment, photojournalists are there working, making a living. It will only take a second people say. I like the word second. Most assignments take me at least an hour to get something worthy, or something I am satisfied with.

It’s weird. I don’t know how to word this but, we rarely analyze our own work.  I don’t look at my own work very often, I would much rather see what others in my field are shooting.

Another misconception is that we carry our gear everywhere. My wife is also in the newspaper business. But even I get tired of seeing the world through a camera everyday. After putting in more than 40 hours during any given week, even we need to put the cameras down for a bit to recharge.

I am not a camera expert. People will ask. What kind of camera should I buy? I don’t know it depends on what you intend to shoot. Landscapes? Portraits? Sports? Certain cameras are better suited for certain situations.

So what is my best tool or asset for any job?

Anticipation.

See I can teach people everything I know about photography, but what I can’t teach people is how to anticipate. When I am out shooting, it suits me best to know who or what to focus on. Anticipate in your mind when the best photo will emerge.

Anticipate where to be or where to stand. Some photojournalists show up early to assignments or events just to map out these very instances. We like to be where other photographers are not. Why? Because we then come away with very different photos from the same event. For me personally it’s so cool to see how some photojournalists captured a certain angle or different photo that I did even though we were shooting the exact same thing. And in some ways we are just competitive in nature.

All of this of this boils down to anticipation. And that is where the preparation comes in. Anticipating emotion, on top of how much time we have also plays a big role. Maybe I have to be at another assignment in 15 minutes. I then have to ask myself, have I given this subject enough quality attention to convey to readers what the story is about? I say all this because anticipation comes through repetition and shooting over several thousands of hours. Because anticipation in my mind trumps the latest and greatest in camera gear and technology any day of the week.

Chris McGathey is a reporter for the Rockwall Herald-Banner and Royse City Herald-Banner. He can be reachedvia email at cmcgathey@heraldbanner.com.

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