I won multiple awards during my three decades at the Chronicle in a lot of areas but photography wasn’t one of them.
Unless the category was “Best Spot News Photograph of a Government Building,” I just didn’t have a chance.
You’re likely not surprised by this, considering the parade of photos with Just Wright Citrus blogs that carry an uncanny theme:
If it can’t move, it’s Page One photo material for me.
My photo-taking “skills” were always a joke. The general rule was to keep me away from anything that could end up in the newspaper.
Even from my early newspaper days, cameras and I didn’t play well together. I flunked news photography in college because I couldn’t figure out how to get the film on the spool in the darkroom. Which, if you’ve never been in one, is truly dark. Like can’t see a thing dark.
I’d love to give you the chemical reasons for developing film in the darkroom, but then I’d have to know it and I don’t. Any decent photos I got in those days were entirely by accident.
Other than some oddball reporters who enjoyed taking their own photos, most of us gladly stayed away from it. And for a long time, that was just fine.
I worked with exceptional photographers at the Chronicle. Folks like Matt Beck, Brian LaPeter and the late great Dave Sigler showed me what I best contribute to the creative process is to get out of the way of the camera.
In time, though, staff cuts necessitated reporters to start taking their own photos. And, my, what a load of fun that was. That’s when my appreciation for stationary things really took hold.
My specialties were buildings, parking lots and signs. I later expanded my repertoire to empty crumbling streets (I’m looking at you, Citrus Springs), waterways, the occasional deer in my front yard and “action” shots of the county commission.
You’d be surprised how little interest editors have of those types of photos on Page One. My pictures were often relegated to the jump page, or as far deep into the paper one could get.
But then something interesting happened. Online has a much different view of my types of photos. Websites often used canned photos to illustrate the story in a general way, not specific to the story itself.
Example: Any story or blog about the county commission can feature a photo of any county commission meeting. Online photos are used more as a placeholder to attract readers to the story or blog. I can get away with using an exterior photo of the library because certain blog topics are tied to the library.
So here’s what to expect photo wise on Just Wright Citrus:
– Building exteriors. Government buildings especially. Courthouse, city hall, landmarks, that kind of thing. I literally spend hours driving around the county taking pictures of buildings.
– Parking lots. I actually have a parking lot story I’ll share one day about the Lecanto Government Building. I have an affinity for parking lots.
– Signs. Street signs, warning signs, construction signs, business signs. I have two sign photos from the Pirates Cove area in Ozello.
– Scenics. This is a new one for Just Wright Citrus and, frankly, it’s a little underwhelming. I’m just being truthful. I’ve got a few shots of the Crystal River, and I live on Big Lake Henderson in Inverness so I have potential right close by. I think I need to up my game here.
– Action county commission photos. Probably the only photos I regularly take with live people in them. The county commission chambers are perfect for my type of photo-taking, meaning that anyone can do it. The room is wide enough for multiple angles, and my favorite is standing behind the clerk, to the left of the lectern, where I can really see the speaker and crowd.
There are other images I lean on as well. Maps, logos, the occasional screenshot all work for what we’re doing. Here’s what I won’t do unless absolutely necessary: use a canned photo of something not from Citrus County to illustrate a Citrus County blog.
Of course, since we’re all friends here, feel free to email me photos that fit into one or more of the big four: building exteriors, parking lots, signs and scenics. I’ll add them to the Just Wright Citrus photo collection and of course give you credit if we run it.
In the meantime, if you see me in an empty parking lot aiming my phone at a dull, drab building, just know that I’m on the job. If the Pulitzer committee calls, that’s where I’ll be.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.