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Boy oh Boy, who’s in charge, anyway?

November 15, 2007 by David Perry  
Filed under Behind the Photo, Blog, David Perry, Second Look


Well, this blog site is called Final Frame, so this is the last situation from a Backstreet Boys fan picture session before I was, ah, asked to leave. If you look closely, you can see the four Boys in that mix of people. Often someone will tell me how lucky I am to get access to photograph famous people. But it’s not that simple, or pleasurable.

But let’s back up a bit. The Backstreet Boys made an appearance for Make-A-Wish Foundation at Louisville’s Fourth Street Live on Thursday, November 15. They were interviewed and then posed, with about 15 fans at a time, for pictures.

I know that, especially with music performers, you always ask if a credential is needed for media coverage. That morning, I called Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Karrie, their PR person, said she would have George, of WXMA radio, who was going to conduct a live interview on stage with the Backstreet Boys at 5 p.m., talk to me. George said to just come to the radio tent next to the stage and he would fix me up.

I arrived an hour before the event. George said that “Troy” would get me in front of the crowd barricade so I could get a clear view of the stage where the interview would be conducted. (The Boys didn’t perform because their guitarist was unable to attend the event.) Troy, it turned out later, was inside a restaurant where some Make-A-Wish children were meeting privately (no, I couldn’t go in I was told) with the Boys, so George said he had told Troy of my arrival and George led me past security into the area in front of the barricade.

Nick Carter

The Boys’ appearance went well, with good photos of fans and the Boys on stage. (They even sang a short number without a banding backing them.)

But when the Backstreet Boys left the stage to pose for photos with fans beside the radio tent, someone asked me whom I was with. When I identified myself as David Perry with the Lexington Herald-Leader, she said I would have to go “over there”, behind another set of barricades, since “we can’t deal with someone at the last minute”. I then asked where Troy was, and she didn’t know, but I would have to get out of that area. In this era of kooks, I can see an issue, but I wasn’t asked for more ID (I have plenty, and I was wearing my H-L ID around my neck.) I asked her to identify herself, and I think she said “Bridget of Jive Records”, but it was a little hard to hear above the screaming fans.

Going over to a side area, I was, as you can see, still able to shoot the fans with the Boys.
But after a couple of groups posed, Bridget said, “you can’t be in there”. I said, “You TOLD me to go in there.” A man behind me said “You need to leave this area” and I asked where Troy was. He said “I’m Troy.” Wow! I finally found the mysterious Troy! I said George, the radio personality, had talked to him about me. He said, “George didn’t talk to me.” At that point I gave up and said, “I’m gone.”

The point isn’t if this mob scene shown at the top is a good photo op. It might not be. It’s about the organization of the event and the treatment of a legitimate news outlet.

So that’s the story about how Brian Littrell’s hometown newspaper was booted out of a Backstreet Boys appearance. By the way, the Courier-Journal and the Louisville television stations were not there. So the only media outlet that gave a hoot about this event was asked to leave.

And by the way, Backstreet fans, there will be better photos in Sunday’s newspaper (Nov. 18). And this episode in no way reflects on the Backstreet Boys. As far as I can tell, they are all genuine good guys. But me being lucky to photograph famous people? Nope. I’d rather photograph any average Joe or Jane than any famous person with “handlers”, bodyguards, or posse.

A new Dawn? Four years in the making

I knew that following Dawn Nicole Smith’s progress through Fayette County Drug Court could take more than a year. That’s how long it takes most addicts to finish the intensive treatment program, if they finish at all.


Well, more than 8,000 photos, 10 hours of audio and three years after we met Dawn in March 2004, we’re publishing her story. We’re doing it in a six-part series using 18 inside pages in the newspaper and with 130 photos in a six-part multimedia presentation online.

Her story was far more complicated than I ever imagined. It tested me in ways I never predicted. There were occasional access issues. There were ethical dilemmas. There were scheduling problems. (How do I do my job on a regular basis and still find the time to spend with Dawn? How many times do I have to apologize to my wife and family for being with Dawn on our anniversary or a birthday?)

Dawn’s life – victimized by men and under the grip of addiction – was one I could only imagine a few years ago. Now having witnessed many of her most intimate troubles in person, I can say I have a new understanding – and compassion – for her and others like her.

Many of us know someone touched by addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol. But what we don’t understand – unless we’re living with the person – is the true degree of destruction it can have on a life.


Photographing Dawn throughout this story, sometimes when she was at her worst, was never easy. Her life was always in some kind of turmoil or chaos. But she never even hinted that she might not want her picture taken at one of those down times. She was very unaware of the camera, which is evident in many of the more intimate photos we published.

That brings me to one of the more telling photos I took during the course of this story. It is a picture of Dawn and her mother, Brenda Raines, in their Nicholasville home; they were on the brink of eviction. You can see in the body language how much alike the mother and daughter are. Looking from the outside, reporter Mary Meehan and I could see the traits, good and bad, passed from mother to daughter. We often wondered how much Dawn’s children would be like her.


This photo says a lot on its own. But I shot a number of photos that I thought revealed different aspects of their relationship. You can see the tension, the anger and the love between them.


Mary and I would frequently have discussions about where Dawn’s troubles started and how they could have been avoided. She later admitted that her life may gone down a different path had she lived with her father after her parents divorced.

No doubt, Dawn’s mother has had a huge impact on her life. Dawn would often complain about her mother’s behavior, yet we would see some of the same behaviors between Dawn and her children. We asked Dawn more than once if she saw the similarities, the continuing cycle. She couldn’t see it. Or maybe she didn’t want to see it.


For more about the story, you can read the editors’ blog, Behind the Headlines. All of the stories are available on, and the six-part multimedia will be rolled out as the series is published this week.

–David Stephenson

Football photo day!

I blogged awhile back about having a two day span of shooting that I was excited about. A fashion shoot one day, and two of the top quarterbacks in the nation the next. As you may have seen, the quarterbacks were published on the front of today’s college football preview section. It is always a task thinking up good ideas for sports preview covers and then trying to organize the shoot, and get the people on board who I need to help me. This usually includes Sports Information staff at UK and sometimes other schools.The last few years Louisville has figured into my cover shoots with star quarterback Brian Brohm. I began shooting Brian when he was a senior in high school at Trinity. It was a fairly quick shoot that day and the photos I got from the shoot went over great. Brian loved the shot too and we got to be friends over the next few years. It always helps to have whomever you are shooting working with you, and being a part of the process. Whether it be a certain expression you are working to get, or pulling them to a location that is out of the norm.This may sound fairly simple but getting two of the nations top quarterbacks to get together takes a little planning. No school wants to go too far, or to the other school for example so some neutral ground is sought out. Luckily for me this was not a hard thing this year as the Governor’s Cup luncheon was in Simpsonville, Ky. this year so we all agreed the shoot would take place there.Soon after we were asked if we minded sharing time with the Courier-Journal who wanted to shoot the same thing. THEN we were told that ESPN was doing a shot of Brian Brohm that day too. I was not concerned about the extra photo shoots as long as it did not cut into my shoot time, which is usually limited to under half and hour. I took our intern, Tricia Spaulding, with me to help with the light set up, and transport, and since she was going our photo director, Ron Garrison, thought it would be a good time for her to shoot her first video. Here it is for your enjoyment as a record of a condensed photo shoot featuring photographers from other publications, some golfers who were at the site that day seeking autographs, and even the re-emergence of the old Crown Graphic camera I break out for special assignments!

Evolution of a picture

July 19, 2007 by Herald Leader  
Filed under Behind the Photo

Photos can be moving, inspirational, amusing, touching and heartwarming.

When you’re the photographer, they can also be dangerous as all get-out.

You don’t have to be in a war zone or a major metropolitan disaster area to put it on the line for that one really good shot that makes it worth it all. It can just be the beautiful fury of Mother Nature flying overhead.

Yesterday I was on my way back to Lexington from an assignment in Shelbyville when I ran into a monstrous thunderstorm just inside the Fayette County line. I actually beat the storm back to Lexington and wanted to photograph lightning along the downtown skyline.

We all know lightning is dangerous and I really wasn’t looking to get myself fried, but I figured that the storm would be far enough north that I would be reasonably safe. What I didn’t know was that another storm had popped up directly west and was barrelling right for me. I didn’t get anything from the first storm and ended up retreating into one of the lower levels of Parking Structure #5 on the University of Kentucky’s campus, whose roof is my favorite spot for shooting thunderstorms in Lexington.

Once the storm had passed, lightning was flying fast and furious, but there was too much light for an exposure with a longer time length and I didn’t have a tripod. Instead, I opted to just shoot a whole slew of frames and pray that lightning would strike in one of them.

After about 150 or so frames, it did. Here’s the original picture (click for the whole thing):


This photo really doesn’t look like what ran in the paper, though. That’s where editing and the imaging technicians come in.

The job of the folks on the imaging desk is to take a picture and make sure it’s properly toned. This largely applies to making sure the color settings are correct for the print edition of the paper. For online, it can also mean correcting for the camera’s natural color deficiencies and white balance problems. They can also crop the photo for maximum effect.

The end result?

Voila. Well worth the danger.


Technical details: This photo was shot with a Nikon D100 at ISO 200, F20, 1/60th of a second and at 35mm.

— Dariush Shafa |

Some Errors We Can’t Correct

June 12, 2007 by David Perry  
Filed under Behind the Photo, David Perry, Lighting



Note: It has come to the photographer’s attention that the light stand leg intrudes into the extreme right of the photo.  The photographer regrets the error, but won’t use the computer to remove it.

This wide-angle photo above was run in the newspaper June 2.  I was lighting room interiors with an on-camera bounce flash, and added a bounce flash on a light stand in the hallway.  The hallway was through the opening at extreme right.  I wasn’t too pleased when I discovered, back at the office, a light stand leg (top photo enlargement) poking through the opening.  Cropping tightly, I eliminated most of it.  But what I didn’t, and ethically can’t do, was to eliminate the intrusion with our Photoshop software.  The feeling at the Herald-Leader is, once we start with something “innocuous” as this, the public just won’t trust us not to alter photos.
(Canon 5-D, 16-35mm at 19mm;  400 ISO;  1/50th sec. at f3.5;  Strobes:  Canon 430EX at 1/4 power, on camera.  Nikon SB-26, 1/4 power, on stand.)

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