TT with HD: Burrill Strong
[Ed. note: The conversation below offers no explanation for the Michigan winged-pattern design painted on
the combat helmet that Burrill (a.k.a., Sgt. Wolverine)
is holding. This is further evidence
of HD's mastery of the art of leaving the obvious question unasked. It serves the important function
of giving readers something to
talk to Burrill about when they see him out and around.
But some readers are probably too shy to talk to strangers, or would just like a close-up
view of Sgt. Wolverine's helmet right
now. Burrill's photography ranges from sports to portraits.]
HD: Shall we climb aboard?
BS: We shall!
BS: Alright, it has been I-don't-know-how-long since I've been on one of these.
HD: Yeah, you know, it's funny, nobody climbs on the totter and says, Yeah, so this is like the totter I was on just yesterday. Or anything like that. First things first. [Ed. note: This means photography.]
BS: Of course.
HD: You know, I like the way the light is. Usually it's a challenge with the way the sun filters through the canopy. Ready? 1-2-3
BS: I'm used to being on the other end!
HD: And you're probably used to using better equipment that this little twinkie camera I'm using, right? [Ed. note: More photography ensues] Alright, ready to totter?
HD: This going to work for you?
BS: I think so.
HD: Welcome to the teeter totter!
BS: Thank you, it's good to be here!
HD: Yeah, you know, we totally lucked out on the weather. It's supposed to be crappy for the rest of the week after today, and it's been crappy up til now.
BS: It was supposed to be bad the whole week. I'm surprised that we got any good weather at all.
HD: So there's a point to your wearing the Chelsea football shirt.
BS: Yes, that is pretty much what I spend my whole fall on.
HD: Yeah, from looking at your blog, it's a chronicle of the season.
BS: It's sort of morphed into that. It used to be mostly non-sports, and it kind of morphed into being the Chelsea football chronicle.
HD: Yeah! Certainly if I were a Chelsea football fan, that's where I would go for my coverage, absolutely.
BS: I hope so! I know a few people do. I hope more people do.
HD: You know, what I like about it is--even though I'm not a fan of Chelsea football, because I have no connection there--what I enjoyed about reading it is that it's clear the author of that content cares about Chelsea football, is a fan, and is unabashedly partisan. It's not like the newspaper write-up that you'd find in the Chelsea Standard.
HD: Which is a Chelsea newspaper, and if anybody would, I think, be justified in editorializing a bit about Chelsea football, it'd be the Chelsea Standard.
BS: You'd think so! But they kind of go for the dry newspaper ...
HD: ... just the facts.
BS: Yeah, the dry newspaper account. That's where I hope I come in offering something other than that. I try to throw in a little humor.
HD: I was going to say, that I'm sure you've heard many, many times before that the photography you do is just exquisite, but to me, what I enjoyed even more than the photographic images were the cut lines, the captions. I mean, the captions aren't just a description of what's going on, they're descriptions with a perspective--a partisan perspective, with humor. And I wonder why can't we get that kind of thing in the regular daily newspaper.
BS: Well, I think they take themselves too seriously.
HD: You think that's it?
BS: They have to be serious, and journalistic, and balanced, and fair, and all that. I don't have that responsibility, I can just be a goofy fan.
HD: Yeeah, well, I dunno. I don't think 'goofy' is fair, I just think it's an actual human voice, where you can tell that there is a personality, that there is a voice to the content, as opposed to just being good J-school writing.
BS: You're giving me more credit than ...
HD: ... well, there's the picture of the three guys sitting on the bench and the caption reads something like--I forget their names--"So-and-so, and so-and-so discuss the current state of Michigan's economic woes."
BS: Ohhh, yeah, yeah.
HD: You know, that makes you stop, it might make you smile, it might make you laugh out loud, or not, but it certainly makes you reflect on that in a way you wouldn't otherwise--reflect on what were they talking about.
BS: Honestly, I didn't have that in mind when I wrote that caption. I was just trying to be a little bit off the wall. Obviously they're talking about the football game, but that would be too easy to say--"Jeff Adams and Nick Hill talk about the football game."
HD: Or, "They're sitting on the bench." Or, "Nick Hill is standing on the bench." That one you have something like, "Sorry Nick, the national anthem is already over." Okay, anyway, congratulations are in order for the Michigan Press Association awards.
BS: Yeah, that surprised me.
HD: First Place is not bad, huh?
BS: No, I was pleasantly surprised, although the picture I thought would get it, didn't get it.
HD: Oh, really?
BS: I thought the Third Place shot would get it with the ...
HD: ... that was like Number 10 of the Dexter basketball team ... ?
BS: It was Johnny Benjamin running down the court after he hit the game-winning shot in overtime against Chelsea--which is the big rivalry. Chelsea was 19 and 0--they were undefeated--and Dexter knocked them off the last game of the season.
BS: He ran down the court--I was standing right in front of the Chelsea student section--and he came down the court to tell the Chelsea student section what he thought of their team. I just happened to be ready to catch him. I thought with all the emotion in that picture, and the moment that it was, I thought that would catch the eye of the judge. But that's something about these contests, you never know who's judging, so you don't know what perspective they're coming from. And he happened to like the quieter one.
HD: Right, the pre-game huddle of the--was it the Michigan women's basketball team?
BS: That was Dexter, actually.
HD: Was it really??!
BS: Yeah, I don't shoot any college sports.
HD: Huh! I saw the yellow T-shirts in the background, and I guess I didn't look that closely. I just assumed that was the fan section of the U of M.
BS: That's the strange thing about Dexter, all the students wear yellow shirts. They have a great student section, but I would expect them to wear maroon or something. Half of them wear Michigan shirts, because they want yellow shirts and that's where you get yellow shirts.
HD: Okay, wow, and you know, they're huddled together there, so there's not a lot of detail, there's not an insignia visible ...
BS: ... it's just white uniforms, yeah. That's good, I hadn't had anybody make that mistake before! That's funny!
HD: Wow. Okay.
BS: I can honestly say, I've never shot college sports before.
HD: Actually, I was going to ask you, Why did this picture of the U of M women's basketball team show up in the Dexter Leader?? Alright, question answered.
BS: There you go!
HD: But you mentioned the judges and how they make their decision. From reading the awards section, they actually describe in quite a bit of detail what the rationale was, or why they picked it.
BS: They put more thought into judging the picture than I did taking it, put it that way.
HD: Yeah, I thought that was really nice that went to the trouble to say why they chose this one--it's because of the use of color, because it captures a quiet moment as opposed to the typical lay-up, dunking over someone, ...
BS: ... guy shooting.
HD: So where does Chelsea stand now in the football season? They're pretty well almost done with it?
BS: One more game to go in the regular season. They're 8-0. Just beat Pioneer last Friday.
HD: But that's to be expected, right? Chelsea expects their football team to go undefeated, or almost undefeated?
BS: Nowadays, yes. Over the last fifty years, maybe not as much, but since the new coach came in ten years ago, it's kind of become an expectation to go 7-2, 8-1, 9-0 and make the playoffs.
HD: So what was it like back when you were in school? You went to Chelsea High, right?
BS: Actually, I didn't. I was home-schooled.
HD: Oh! Really, no foolin?
BS: All my siblings went to Chelsea, but I did not. I was home-schooled. So I'm kind of the oddball. The athletic director actually introduced me as a CHS graduate once at a baseball banquet. I kind of laughed and said, Well, I'll take it! But no, I don't have a diploma from there.
HD: But you certainly identify with that school's athletic teams, that's who you root for.
BS: I've lived in Chelsea all my life, so yeah, it's become my home. Before I started taking pictures, my dad and I started filming the football games for the coaches. So we've been going to the games for the last 7 or 8 years anyway. Plus, two of my brothers played football, so there was sort of a natural allegiance. I happen to enjoy high school sports, because they're a little more accessible. I don't want to say 'casual', but ...
HD: ... it's not quite as 'professionalized'.
BS: It's not like going to Michigan Stadium where you're paying 50 dollars to get in, and there's security, and you can't get anywhere near the field, and you can't get anywhere near the athletes. This is just, they're high school students, just playing because they want to play.
HD: So do you watch this TV show called Friday Night Lights at all?
BS: I have actually never seen it. I saw the movie. But I haven't seen the show.
HD: I was just wondering, I have no sense of whether that's a reasonable portrayal of the culture or ...
BS: ... I've heard it's pretty good. Although that's Texas football. And Texas football is about as 'professional high school' as you get. They have 25,000-seat stadiums that they fill on a regular basis down there, so. We're a big game if we get 5000.
HD: How many will the bleachers hold?
BS: In Chelsea, 4500. It's built into a depression so there's a hill around it, too. You can sit on the hill and watch.
HD: So this is not the first time you've been to Ann Arbor, obviously. You have to come to Ann Arbor every once in awhile when Chelsea plays Pioneer and Huron--or do they even play Huron?
BS: They will be in a couple of years, they're joining the conference. They've been independent.
HD: And from one of your emails, it sounds like one of your primary questions whenever you plan a trip to Ann Arbor is, Where am I going to park?
BS: Yeah, that's always a 'joy' for me. I had several friends go to the U of M, I have one there now. And one of them lived over on Catherine Street. Parking there was always a 'good time'. There were multiple occasions where I would go to go visit him, and I would drive around for half an hour, not find anything, and just go back home.
HD: Really! You'd drive all the way back to Chelsea?
BS: It was either that or park a mile and a half away and walk the distance, which I didn't really want to do.
HD: Well, gosh, I feel bad. As a resident of Ann Arbor, I kind of feel like a poor host!
BS: Well, no, you have abundant parking right here with your driveway ...
HD: ... yeah, no, but the idea that someone would drive into Ann Arbor, have a specific place they were planning to go, not be able to find parking, and end up driving, what is it ... ?
BS: ... 15 miles.
HD: 15 miles back to Chelsea.
BS: Ehh, it's not too bad. It's just the whole U of M campus and surrounding area are not fun. I used to work for U of M and was paying 250 dollars a year just to park. And I worked out by the Stadium, so it's not like I'm working on Central Campus or anything. You'd think there'd be more abundant parking out there, but no. Two-fifty a year.
HD: So when you drive into Ann Arbor from Chelsea, do you take the interstate, or ...
BS: ... depends on where I'm going.
HD: Like today?
BS: Coming here, I took [I-]94, and got off at Jackson Road. Other times, maybe I'm going into Target or that area, Scio Church is a much more pleasant route. I live out near Scio Church. It's just a quiet road all the way in, there's only two stop signs, ...
HD: ... so you take Scio Church from where you are all the way in??
BS: Right, from where it starts at M-52 all the way in to--usually to the Ice Cube area there.
HD: Typically--during the summer, I should say, because I haven't done this ride in quite a while--I'll ride out Dexter-Ann-Arbor Road to Dexter, take a left at the root beer stand and then ...
BS: ... hit Dexter-Chelsea, yep.
HD: And that takes you right into the clock tower.
BS: That's a nice road. My brother lives on the end of that.
HD: It's an underrated ride. Cyclists around here will talk about Huron River Drive. To me, Huron River Drive is just really bumpy and you don't really get a great view of the river. It's real nice smooth pavement out Dexter-Ann-Arbor and then on to Chelsea.
BS: Yeah, I'll do that. That's a nice route sometimes if you happen to be in the area around five o'clock, because Dexter and Baker Road and everything is a mess. Because so many people work in Ann Arbor and live in Dexter. So it's just one big traffic jam.
HD: So what is going on with the clock tower? Over the summer there seemed to be construction, they seem to be trying to ...
BS: Oh yeah! The clock tower, the whole complex, there used to be a some sort of industrial complex. I don't know what they made, but up until a couple of years ago, it was a factory basically. That moved out, and they completely gutted it and renovated the whole thing. And now it's a bunch of little shops. There's a courtyard, there's the Teddy Bear Factory in back, which apparently is a big destination. I've never been there.
HD: Yeah, that seems kind of weird to me.
BS: There's a coffee shop, and I think an Italian restaurant going in, and there's one of those places where kids go to play--they have the things for kids to climb all over. It's a beautiful development.
HD: It looks very nice.
BS: I don't make it to that area too often. I live on the south side of town.
HD: So you don't get up there all that much?
BS: Most of the stuff I do is in the middle of town or going to the high school, which is on the east side of town.
HD: So, you know, when Ann Arborites think of Chelsea, I think one thing they definitely think of is the Purple Rose Theater and Jeff Daniels.
BS: [laugh] Yes, our claim to fame. Usually when you see people dressed up in downtown, they're going to dinner at the Common Grill and they're going to a show at the Purple Rose, typically.
HD: So do you think we've had maybe a little too much of Jeff Daniels? I mean, aren't we pretty much saturated, we've reached a tipping point? I mean, nuthin against Jeff Daniels, but he's sort of the go-to topic when Chelsea comes up.
BS: More or less, yeah. There's so much more to Chelsea than Jeff Daniels, but he's a big part of Chelsea. The Purple Rose does draw a lot of people to downtown and that's really helped the downtown. But.
HD: But don't you just get sick of hearing about Jeff Daniels, Jeff Daniels, Jeff Daniels ... ?
BS: ... yeah. [laugh] I can say that now that his kids are graduated and aren't playing sports!
HD: Did they play?
BS: Yeah, he had a son who played football and a son who played, mmm, hockey. And another child, I think. I don't keep up on his family too well. Yeah, there's more to Chelsea than Jeff Daniels, but, I mean, he's a celebrity, so it's kind of natural. To me the bigger part of Chelsea is Jiffy Mixes. To me, that's a little more Chelsea ...
HD: ... so Jiffy Mix and Jeff Daniels. Okay what else? [laugh] Actually for a town its size that's plenty, I guess, huh?
BS: Oh, yeah. Yeah other than that there's not a whole lot to talk about that's notable, it's just a pleasant place to live. It's gotten bigger over the years, but it's still small. And it's nice.
HD: Lemme ask you something about photography. I know in addition to the sports photography, you do portraiture as well.
BS: Yeah, that's actually one of the tough things. I've been trying to convince people that sports is only a small part of what I do, and I do quite a bit more than that. It's a tough road, because most people I meet see me shooting sports.
HD: So they know you as a sports photographer. See, every time I do a teeter totter ride, I have a portrait to take. And in some ways, it's easy, because it's supposed to be the same shot every time, right? I mean it's somebody on the end of a teeter totter taken from my point of view, that's the constraint. On the other hand, what I would like ideally is for people to wear something interesting, bring something interesting, or really do something interesting ...
BS: ... have you had anybody stand on the end of it for the picture?
HD: Not stand for a picture, but people have put their feet up.
BS: Yeah, I saw that, a recent one.
HD: Some people will sit cross-legged on the end.
BS: I don't have the balance for that, I can tell you that right now. You might have your first injury there!
HD: There've been a couple of people who have struck sort of flamboyant poses. But what I struggle with is telling people what to do. Telling people, I want you to do thus and such. Because I kind of feel like they're already doing me a huge favor by coming over and riding the teeter totter in the first place. And I kind of feel like anything extra would kind of be pushing it. You know what I'm saying?
BS: Well, no, you're not pushing it, if you're asking them to pose for a picture. As the person taking the picture, you have the leeway to say, Could you do this, could you do that, could you wink at me, whatever.
HD: Yeah, I guess I have the power to do that, but what I'm saying is that I don't really feel comfortable doing that.
BS: That's understandable.
HD: So I was wondering if do you have any phrases or ways of approaching it that you use to get people to do something without saying, Okay, I want you to take your left hand and hold it out to the side, and ...
BS: ... not really! It kind of depends on the subjects. I just did a portrait shoot on Saturday. They were the easiest people to photograph.
HD: They were good-looking?
BS: That helps, too. But they were relaxed, they were comfortable. I would put them somewhere, I'd say, Stand here, Sit there, whatever. And they'd just start interacting, normally. And that's how you get the best pictures, when somebody is just comfortable. I'm not sure how to make somebody comfortable in front of a camera. If they're not, it's a little more work. You can pose them, and you'll still get good pictures with good poses, but there's a natural quality you can't get unless the person is just comfortable. And I just try to be a relaxed person and make them as comfortable as I can. There are some people who just aren't ever comfortable in front of a camera and there's nothing you can do to change that.
HD: Right. Well, I guess to a certain extent, people who would be completely uncomfortable in front of a camera would probably not be willing to come ride a teeter totter, either.
BS: One would think not!
HD: So of the population I have to contend with, generally speaking, I'm getting folks who are generally comfortable in front of a camera, but still.
BS: I grew up in a family that took millions of pictures, so I'm used to it.
HD: So this would have been when you were growing up what, like the mid-80's?
BS: I was born in '81.
HD: So late 80's early 90's would have been your childhood. So I'm trying to think, what was the cutting-edge photographic technology in the early 90's? Digital was not ...
BS: ... digital was probably in its infancy. It was out there, but the cost was quite prohibitive, so it wasn't in the general populace.
HD: So what kind of gear do you have? You must have like the top, top end?
BS: No, not yet! It's a pretty new pursuit for me, and the top, top end has top, top prices. If you gave me the budget right now I could easily spend 10-15,000 dollars on things I would use--not just toys, things I would actually use. So it's an expensive thing. I have, I would say, mid to upper equipment. I have a good Canon camera with a good Canon lens, and a slightly-less good Canon camera with a slightly-less good Canon lens--that's actually what I started out with. But they're all capable of taking good pictures. The equipment helps, but the biggest part is who's behind the equipment.
HD: So shooting night football games, I would think, would be the one of the most challenging assignments?
BS: Oh that's a real joy! It wouldn't be so bad if we had lights like the Chicago Bears do, or something like that. But we're talking a local high school, they don't have pro facilities. I mean the lights are adequate, and when you're watching a football game, you think they're awesome, but.
HD: For photography not so much?
BS: For photography, they're a challenge. Most people, you'll see using flashes. Ann Arbor News guy uses flashes. I don't enjoy flashes. Flashes drive me nuts. They're too much work. So I shoot without a flash--which makes it a little harder. Nice thing is, with good digital files, there's a little bit of leeway, you can underexpose a little bit and come back and ...
HD: ... brighten it up?
BS: And brighten it up a little bit. And if I were using a flash, I couldn't take bursts, because a flash needs time to recycle ...
HD: ... and a burst is what, a quick sequence of ...?
BS: Yeah, I just hold down the button and click, click, click, click, kind of a thing. So if there's a guy coming in to make a tackle, or there's a receiver out about to make a catch, I could try to time it with a flash, which would probably end up not working out as often as it does for me. Or I can hit the button and see what I get out of it. Because I'm not going for the one or two shots you see in the newspaper. I'm going for 50, 60, 70 shots a game that I'll put on my website. Because my audience is the parents and the fans who want to buy pictures. So it's in my best interest to get more than just to get a few that really work out. High school gyms are the same way. Some of them are really dark. They're a challenge, too. So spring is my favorite time, because I get to shoot baseball and soccer. Which are all natural light.
HD: So typically during the daytime for those. What about cross country? I noticed that was a missing sport in the list.
BS: There are a number of missing sports! I tend to narrow down and focus on just a couple. Right now I'm just doing football. I didn't intend to do that, but that's kind of how it worked out--it's my favorite sport, so it makes sense.
HD: With cross country, I thought maybe the reason it was missing is that, you know, a picture of somebody running, that's pretty much all there is to that sport, right?
BS: That's the tough thing with like cross country, track, swimming--you run into that. Golf. I mean, with golf your entire goal is to do the exact same thing--over and over. You want to make the same swing every time. You want the same form every time. So there's only so many pictures you can get of a golfer before you're pretty well saturated. Football, everybody's doing something different all the time. I can shoot the quarterback throwing a pass, I can shoot him running, I can shoot the running back, I can shoot the offensive linemen.
HD: Well, you also I think get a sense from a football photograph, of what was happening in the game at that time. Whereas a shot of a guy hitting a golf ball, you don't really ...
BS: ... yeah, and well, the other thing is those are really individual sports. Cross country, track, I mean there's a team score at the end, but ultimately they're pretty individual sports, ...
HD: ... right, the performance itself takes place on an individual basis.
BS: I like team sports a lot more. I do basketball and hockey, baseball, soccer. And water polo, which I didn't know existed in Chelsea until last year.
HD: You guys have water polo?!
BS: We have water polo.
HD: What about synchronized swimming?
BS: That hasn't come in yet. Apparently, we're getting a men's water polo team in the near future, too. Water polo is best described to me by a friend as 'hockey in water'.
HD: Okay, you say you're getting a men's team, that means there already is a women's water polo team?
BS: Yep. Had that for, I don't know, close to a decade now, I think.
HD: You mentioned gymnasiums and how they're not really well lit. I'm trying to remember, when we first moved to Ann Arbor, there was some kid who played for Pioneer High who was a really highly-touted recruit. He ended up going to the University of Michigan, what was his name--mmm, Lavelle, um, Blanchard?
BS: Lavelle Blanchard, yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had a friend who went to school with him!
HD: Oh yeah? Well, you know this kid for his senior year of high school, first home game, we said, Let's go check it out, this ought to be fun! I walked into the gym, and I said, Holy Crap! I mean, I thought Pioneer was a big school!
BS: It's a cave, right?
HD: Tiny, tiny gym.
BS: Yeah, that's the amazing thing. Pioneer is a fairly old school now. It's been there a long time. Chelsea just built its school about ten years ago. Dexter, seven, eight years ago. Saline and its massive facilities down there. All those are fairly recent. And the old school gym, it's like [the movie] Hoosiers--I don't know if you've seen Hoosiers, but it's kind of a Hoosiers thing. New gyms, if you go to Chelsea's, Dexter's, they're huge. They have an elevated track around the outside, and you enter the seating areas from the track so you're coming top-down. And it's just a whole different world of gym construction.
HD: What's the seating capacity of some of these newer gyms?
BS: Four or five thousand?
HD: Four or five thousand, oh, okay!
BS: No, no, no, not even that. I'm sorry, two to three thousand.
HD: I was hoping it wasn't going to be four or five thousand. You mentioned Hoosiers--I grew up in southern Indiana ...
BS: ... oh, you did, okay, so that made sense to you.
HD: Yeah, what Texas is to football, southern Indiana is to basketball. So back in the 50's I think it was, they built a new gymnasium and, as best I can tell, they assessed everybody a tax to build a new high school gymnasium. I guess there were some people who weren't happy about it, but most people didn't care. They were happy to pay more taxes to build a new gym. And it seats 5200 people.
BS: Yeah, that's a sizeable gym.
HD: It's gigantic.
BS: That's a quarter of Crisler Arena here, so.
HD: And when you grow up with something like that, you just figure, Well that's what a high school gym looks like. So I walked into the Pioneer High gym and ...
BS: ... and it felt like a middle school gym kind of?
HD: Yeah, or like a primary school! I was like, Lavelle Blanchard needs better facilities, man!
BS: They really need to update, and the problem is, it takes money. And they're not going to leave that building anytime soon. Think about how much money they make off football parking! But if you go to Skyline, I'm sure their gym ...
HD: ... [??] ...
BS: .. will be gorgeous.
HD: Oh yes, Skyline.
BS: Much like Chelsea and Dexter, it'll probably be a beautiful gym.
HD: See now, when you said 'Skyline', I had to pause and try to figure out what you were talking about.
BS: I'm sorry, it's just sort of a normal thing, because Skyline is joining Chelsea's conference, too.
HD: Okay, so it's more on your radar than it is on mine. You know, to me, what you have to say is, 'the new high school' ...
BS: ... sorry, I've been talking about the high school for the last couple of weeks with people, so it's on the forefront of my mind.
HD: You can't just say 'Skyline'. For the next little while, you're still going to have to say, 'Skyline, you know, the new Ann Arbor high school'. Otherwise people are going to be a half a beat behind.
BS: See, Skyline sounds like a subdivision to me. They could have named the school a little bit better.
HD: I think that's the general consensus. That no one is really, really happy.
BS: Although the one they rejected was even worse, I don't remember what it was, but it sounded worse.
HD: Ah, I don't remember what the final ones were. They narrowed it down to a final two or three, ... ?
BS: ... yeah, it was two, and Skyline won out. [Ed. note: For the record, the other choice was Northcrest.]
HD: I think basically no one is happy with Skyline, but everyone is only mildly unhappy.
BS: They would have more unhappy with the other one.
HD: But I think if they'd gone for something interesting, like if they'd gone for Bo Schembechler High ...
BS: ... something that matters to Ann Arbor. That's kind of my beef with it. Skyline could be anywhere. Every city has a skyline.
HD: And really when you think of a skyline, you don't think of Ann Arbor.
BS: No. Ann Arbor's in a valley.
HD: You might think of anywhere but Ann Arbor. What I was going to say is that if you go out there and make a choice that's would be interesting, that would be evocative of Ann Arbor, if you went for something like Bo Schembechler High, then I think you're going to make a lot of people really happy, maybe like 70 percent of the people. But the people who'd be unhappy about it, they wouldn't just be mildly unhappy, they'd be fiercely unhappy. They'd be like I'm-going-to-picket-the-City-Hall kind of unhappy.
BS: But at least it's evoking something.
HD: This way everyone is just mildly unhappy.
BS: They're evoking apathy more or less. They're rather have people apathetic than excited.
HD: So listen, you got anything else on your mind? Halloween's coming up, you dressing up for Halloween?
BS: I shouldn't say I haven't dressed up in years. I dressed up a couple of years ago, but that was an anomaly.
HD: Well, you've got some 'material' to work with!
BS: Well, I was a pirate, so.
HD: [laugh] I was gonna say, you've got the facial hair going on, ...
BS: ... and I had an eye patch, too. I tried it, but I couldn't walk straight with it on. Had no depth perception, so I had to discard the eye patch.
HD: I'd think maybe you could get a patch that had a small pinhole through it or something.
BS: That's a good idea, I didn't think about it back then.
HD: So anything else at all on your mind? Anything coming up that you're looking forward to? Final game of the season and playoffs, huh?
BS: The end of the season is a good time for me.
HD: So they don't have to win the final game of the season in order to make the playoffs?
BS: No, but they'd be undefeated, and that's ...
HD: ... a big deal.
BS: In his post-game speech last week, that's something the coach stressed to the players that one of the hardest things to do is to go undefeated, so it'd be an accomplishment. So that's pretty much all I have coming up. Just that and trying to get non-sports work! The sports stuff is interesting. People are used to having other parents or grandparents or some interested party taking pictures. Maybe not the best quality pictures, but they're giving them away. Or they're charging a dollar a shot, or some little fee like that. So I'm coming in with a different approach. So I'm fighting with the idea that five dollars is really expensive for a picture.
HD: Ehh, yeah.
BS: So I'm trying to see if I can change the culture. But that's the difficulty in approach, and we'll see if it works out.
HD: I dunno, I'm thinking of this Big House Big Heart 5K Run that they did at the Stadium. I ran that, and they had somebody shoot the thing, and you could go and sort through all the pictures and find yourself crossing the finish line. I don't remember what it was priced at, but the shot of me, I was in this group, and I was thinking, Man, this group doesn't make me look very fast!
HD: So it wasn't the price point that mattered to me as much as the overall quality of the picture. Not the technical quality. The technical quality ...
BS: ... so technically it was good ...
HD: ... technically it was pristine.
BS: But not something you want to hang on your wall.
HD: Yeah. What bothered me was that they guy who was finishing maybe two or three strides ahead of me, if you just looked at him, he didn't look like he was fast. You'd look at him and go, That's a slow guy.
BS: You were not running behind the 98-pound Nigerian world-record holder or anything.
HD: No. He was the kind of guy I'd look at and go, Man, I know I'm faster than that guy! But the finish-line picture ...
BS: ... you're behind him!
HD: Yeah, he's ahead of me, so I don't want that picture. But in the past, I've seen the pictures from the professional photographer who's contracted with the race organization to take the pictures, and there's been some decent pictures, where I'd say, yeah, I'd pay five dollars for that shot.
BS: Yeah, well, high school sports is kind of the last stop for most athletes. The majority of athletes don't really play organized competitive sports after that, unless you're talking about Thursday night softball. So it's kind of the last stop. So people care about that, it's a big deal. Your kid's playing football, you're kid's playing basketball, or whatever. So I get a lot of: Your pictures are wonderful, I love looking at your pictures! I get a lot of that. And I appreciate that.
HD: But I don't want to pay five dollars for a picture?
BS: Yeah, sort of the valuing the picture in theory, but not enough in reality. Buy ten pictures, fifty bucks--that's what you pay for your cell phone every month, right? And here's your kid playing sports!
HD: Or that's what you're putting into your car every time you fill it up.
BS: Yeah, getting gas or whatever. In my mind it seems like it's not that much, so I'm kind of struggling with that. We'll see who wins at that one.
HD: Also, it could be that if you're showing it to someone on a computer screen and they see it there, they kind of feel like, Oh, I've seen that now, thanks. So you want me to give you some money so that I can get a higher resolution--why?
BS: Well, some people want prints, but you bring up a good point, seeing it on the computer. We're kind of in the MP3 world now, where MP3's are free, right? It's an MP3 you should be able to get it for free! It's the same kind of thing, when something is on the internet, you kind of look at it and go, I have to pay for that?? It's on the internet!?
HD: Yeah, why don't you just send me that file! I've got email, just send it, here's my address, thanks.
BS: I've gotten that a couple of times. And every now and again, I'll hear about a parent, she'll be talking to another parent who tells me this, and she'll go, I love those pictures, one of these days I'm going to go download those pictures! And I'm like, What? So you're going to walk into Meijer and just pick up a bag of chocolate and walk out because you like the chocolate?
HD: [laugh] No, no, she'll pick up a bag of frames to go around the pictures.
BS: [laugh] So I don't put high resolution stuff on the internet, they're all small pictures. But it's the concept, is still the same. They're walking out with my product, that's what I make my living on. Like I said, it's just a struggle to get it out there, but I've only been an actual business since March. So we're still fairly new.
HD: I think it'll be interesting to see how this stuff sorts itself out in terms of business models that turn out to be viable on the internet for things that have traditionally been print.
BS: That's the thing, I'm kind of learning as I go.
HD: But I think that everyone is. Anything that has traditionally been a print medium. Newspapers, a really good example. Newspapers, I think, have not quite figured out how to make the world wide web make them money.
BS: It's doesn't help that most newspaper websites are about five years behind the design curve. MLive is one of my least favorite websites.
HD: Well, MLive is kind of a complete disaster.
BS: MLive is ugly. It's more ads than content. Detroit News has gotten better, but still not a thing of beauty. You'd think they'd hire some professional web designers and they know what they're doing, but.
HD: Mmyyeah. MLive actually has issues above and beyond design, I think.
HD: Well, you know, MLive is the website for a whole collection of newspapers, not just the Ann Arbor News.
BS: Oh, yeah, I know, I was at the Jackson Citizen Patriot, they're on it, too, and I couldn't find what I wanted, obviously, because it was on MLive! [laugh]
HD: But I think that newspapers have this general sense that they've got to be doing something or other--that the future is connected somehow to the internet, and that they should be doing something with it. They just haven't sorted out how to incorporate it into their business model so that the resources they have in the way of staff are being allocated in a way that makes sense from the revenue side.
BS: They're still trying to figure it out. Like the New York Times tried the subscriber thing, and from what I hear, that was more work than it was worth. You had to be a subscriber to read the stuff on line kind of a thing. I've been told they went away from that. I don't generally visit their website, so I couldn't tell you, but. And then most [newspaper] websites, past a certain date, you have to pay to access stories, if they've been up there long enough. MLive doesn't even carry it past 14 days, which I think is absurd.
HD: Oh! Well, here's a tip that's not well known--it should be more widely known--the Ann Arbor District Library website, if you go there, under Research Tools, they have archives for the Ann Arbor News going back starting 2006 in July, I think.
BS: Oh! That's helpful.
HD: You do have to register with the Ann Arbor District Library, but it ...
BS: ... that's no big deal ...
HD: ... that takes five seconds.
BS: Well, that's helpful. Between that and the Google archive, I guess we're doing all right.
HD: Anyway, it'll be interesting to see with traditionally print-based enterprises, ten years from now, will there be viable business models for the internet? Because right now, I don't think newspapers have a viable business model as it relates to the internet.
BS: No, they haven't figured out that new-fangled thing, yet.
HD: Ann Arbor News actually launched something this week--was it Monday? so today would be the third day they've been doing it--an online video preview of stories in today's paper and the stories that are going to follow in the next day's paper. You know, it's puzzling to me what the value would be that a reader would attach to that, but I have to say, they're making some kind of attempt to connect to that medium and to be relevant ...
BS: ... well, they're trying. And it's YouTube-inspired, I'm guessing.
HD: Yeah, actually I think they are loading them though YouTube.
BS: Well, the nice thing about the digital medium for me, it's easier to have a sales pitch. My website is my sales pitch. I designed my own website, so it's not the most professionally done thing in the world, but I put my pictures online so if people want to hire me for pictures or whatever, some event, they can go to the website. They see examples of my work, so they know the style I shoot, they can see the prices, they can see everything. And that costs me 10 dollars a month for hosting and that's it. I don't have to have any printed materials. I don't have to mail stuff to them. So it helps there, ...
HD: ... and if you need to change something you don't have to say, Oh, My, God, I've got a thousand of these high-gloss print brochures that I no longer can use!
BS: Exactly. I can go home and change the price list today. The other nice thing is--now some people still really like printed material for a wedding for a proof book, but if they're not too concerned about the proof book--you can just given them online galleries, and they can look through all their wedding pictures. You don't have to spend a penny printing anything out. And it's easier for everyone, because they don't have to have a proof book sitting around the house if they don't want to. And you don't have to print anything. So it makes things easier and more difficult at the same time. Because like we were talking about earlier, when something is on the computer instead of in your hand, it seems a little less valuable. So it cuts both ways. It depends on the customer you're getting. You have to read your customer. Like I said, I'm learning as I go, that's the only way I do learn!
HD: Alright. Well, listen, thanks for coming over!
BS: Thank you for having me!