The other day I was checking in with one of Elyria's roving photographers who posts his pictures on line. Amongst the shots of folks around town, here's a photo of a lone fellow on a folding chair, staring down at the river on East Bridge Street. To the casual observer, he seems a little out of the ordinary and he's so still you might think that he's contemplating jumping, except that every now and then he slowly eases a camera up to his eye and snaps a pic. Then, after one shoot, he stares for a long moment at the screen on the back of the camera that shows him the color composition of the shot in a graph. If he's happy with it, he might fold up his chair and go home after taking only a single exposure. The form of this fellow is familiar to many of you, and you might have seen him around on one of his daily 5 mile nature walks, sitting out at SandyRidge patiently awaiting the perfect shot of a rare visiting bird, or poised in his car backed into a shady spot where he knows an animal to frequent. I laughed to myself when I saw the photo of this bridge sitter on-line. Although I couldn't see the man's face, there was no mistaking the cat in the hat! It was obviously none other than our own Outdoors Page Photographer, Dr. Tom Mahl.
With all my traveling around and time in the field, and with all the time Tom spends in the classroom teaching at LCCC, we sometimes go weeks without seeing each other. That doesn't mean he's been gathering moss, not at all. If you're one of the lucky few to be on his email list, he'll regale you with samples of his long hours of labor in the field and then even more hours adjusting the light and other settings on the computer until the photo is just to his perfectionist satisfaction. I have to admit, I'm a point and click kind of guy, and I have nowhere near the patience he has (and maybe that's why he has a PhD while I barely made it out of college alive) but in time I have learned to trust his instincts and his judgment. Going into a photo shoot, he has a vision of what he wants the final shot to look like, where he wants everything to appear in the shot, where the light should come from, and so on. When you're shooting a guy with a fishing rod in his hand, this is easy to arrange, except that I'd rather be fishing than standing so my reflection in the water appears just so. However, trying to get wildlife to appear in the frame at the right place with the right light at the right time, well that's a hot trick in a fleeting moment (if you're lucky and the weather cooperates) indeed!
I've always said that this page is “photo-driven”, and I truly believe that in the medium of newspapers it is the photographs and the photographers' skill that drives your eye to an article and gives the reader a reason to take note. The photos give the story gravitas and a way that the reader can really attach to what's going on. It's for this reason I want to tip my hat this week to Tom and all his Jobian patience, skill and passion for photography of wildlife and the outdoors. If it weren't for Tom Mahl, this page wouldn't even exist, in fact, and all the nice letters and emails you folks send me should really be addressed to him. He's the current in this river, I'm just some kid with a .22 rifle and a fishing pole.
That's enough space taken up by text. Enjoy Tom's photos and GET OUTDOORS!