Monday, 30 April 2012

the competition

The Butterflies get ready to go on the ice at the Quispamsis Figure Skating Club's year-end ice show at the Quispamsis Memorial Arena in this photo from March, 2011. Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal

Well hello. It's a big weekend coming up in the east coast news world. The Atlantic Journalism Awards are happening in Fredericton, NB this Saturday, May 5. It's a really fun weekend of eating, drinking and sharing crazy stories with fellow reporters and photographers from print, radio and TV.

This year, I am nominated for Best Photojournalism Feature for this picture I grabbed of some little figure skaters. It's funny - I would never have considered entering this picture. My colleague, Noel Chenier, suggested it, and I'm glad he did!

This was for a youth sports assignment. Every Friday, the sports section runs a full page of pictures of kids playing sports. Most of the time it's pretty standard. Straight-up shots of a kid in action. So this picture was a little out of the norm. Thankfully, the editor ran the shot, or else it would not have met the qualifications for the awards. It's funny how things work out. Youth sports assignments are definitely not my favourite thing to do. I pretty much cringe when I see them on my sked.

It's weird because I wouldn't consider it to be my best work. I mean, it's colourful, and has certain design elements like strong pattern and anomaly with the one girl looking off to the right...but really...why did the judges think this worthy of a nomination? Slim pickings this year perhaps? To compare, I entered this next picture last year, and nothing.

Hazel Kartoe Barclay, centre, and her daughter, Nelly, left, originally from Liberia, were two of the 62 people who received their Canadian citizenship on Wednesday, October 20, 2010. Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal

See what I mean? Beautiful subject, perfect light, compelling story. This woman lived in a refugee camp for 10 years before immigrating to Canada! The second I spotted her I knew she was the shot I wanted to get. The building that the citizenship ceremony was held in had skylights, and there was some really strong light coming in through them. I stayed for the whole ceremony, 2 hours, until the light finally landed on Hazel. Man, I was so excited about this picture. It ran on the front page of the paper.

I have been told that judges normally favour feature pictures that were a captured moment, meaning something that was not set up. The above two meet that criteria. The next picture is a feature that I won an AJA for in 2008...very staged, but in a very creative way...

Ron Turcotte sits in his home near Grand Falls. In the foreground is a statue of him on Secretariat, the fastest horse in the world. May 21, 2008. Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal

Ron Turcotte is a famous jockey who won the Triple Crown with Secretariat over 30 years ago now. There was a Disney movie made about it recently starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich! I LOVE John Malkovich. Who doesn't right? Anyway, I didn't see the movie. But I did get to spend an entire day with Ron at his beautiful home in Grand Falls, NB. He lives on a huge mass of land...rolling hills and green fields, and he still owns horses.

Some years later after winning the Triple Crown, Ron was thrown from a different horse and fractured his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

It's not often that I get to spend a whole day with one subject. It's not ever, actually. And it was worth it. Getting to know Ron helped me get this picture. It took a while for him to warm up to me. He's very quiet and reserved. But by the end of the day we were friends.

**Fun Fact - Winston Hurry, the heart surgery patient from my last post, told the reporter and I a story about his first heart surgery 10 years ago. He said he didn't get any sleep the night before the surgery because he was sharing a room with this guy who ended up telling Winston his life story. They talked all night. It was Ron!

Well, thanks for reading! Ciao.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

heart surgery

A team of doctors and nurses take part in an emerging new heart surgery known as trans-catheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), at the Saint John Regional Hospital on March 23, 2012. Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal

Hey there! The pictures you are about to see are from a heart surgery I photographed at the end of March. There is a bit of blood, but nothing extreme. Just wanted to put that out there first in case you're the queasy type....

So this was definitely one of my favourite assignments to date. I am not the queasy type, and get really excited about surgery footage and pictures. A few years back, I had the privilege of shooting an open-heart surgery, which was also amazing. This surgery is fairly new. It's actually still considered 'experimental' by Health Canada. It's known as trans-catheter aortic valve implantation, or TAVI, and it involves inserting a collapsible valve on a catheter and then guiding it through an artery in the leg and up to the heart. This is a picture of the's made out of bovine tissue!

The patient's name was Winston Churchill Hurry. Seriously, that was really his name. Awesome. His problem was that his own aortic valve had a large build up of calcium, a blockage, which meant his heart was having a hard time pumping blood through it to the rest of his body. So this valve is actually inserted into his own calcified valve, and it just takes over. Crazy.

This is the small incision in Winston's leg where the catheter holding the valve is inserted.

And there he is! Winston just 3 days after the surgery, feeling great and going home.

What an inspiration to see these doctors in action. The energy in the room was electric and exciting. Everyone in the room went out of their way to make sure that the reporter and I understood exactly what was happening. I had free reign to walk around the room to get every angle possible. And I took full advantage. I shot about 1500 frames in approximately 3 hours, the entire length of the surgery. In the end I managed to edit down to around 60 pictures.

The reporter and I had to change into full scrubs, including booties, a mask and a cap. We also had to wear robes made of lead because of the x-ray equipment in the room. It weighed 30 pounds! That, combined with holding my camera gear, which weighs around 20 pounds, and having to be on my feet for 3 hours, was challenging. But once the surgery was underway, I was so consumed by all of the visuals that I didn't even notice the extra weight.

This story was published in the Telegraph-Journal this past weekend, April 21. To read the story and see more photos, check out I have to warn you though, the website is now behind a paywall, so if you're not a subscriber, you won't be able to log in.

Also, check out to donate to The Give campaign. This year the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation is raising money for the heart centre. They need our support!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 16 April 2012

creepy bunny

Two-year-old Ayden Gallant got a scare from the Easter Bunny at the Cherry Brook Zoo on Saturday.  Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal

Oh hey! Thanks for being here. This is my very first blog post. After years and years of putting it off, I've finally decided it's time for me have my work online in a more personal way. I'm pretty excited about it, actually, and I hope you like it. Please leave comments!

The blog will not be wordy...just pictures and the story behind them. My trials and tribulations, I guess.

So here we go...

This is Ayden. The Cherry Brook Zoo invited families to visit the animals, eat chocolate, make crafts, and of course, see the Easter Bunny. After shooting some pretty boring pics of kids getting their faces painted and making sheep out of cotton balls, it was time for me to get to my next assignment. But the Easter Bunny still had not made an appearance, and that was the money shot! I needed it real bad. The reporter had talked to Ayden's mom, so we wanted to get a pic of him with the Easter Bunny to go along with the story. Luckily, on our way out, we found her hopping around the entrance gate. The second Ayden spotted her, he put his hands over his face. When the bunny crouched down next to his stroller, he started wailing, and that was the shot. HILARIOUS! Why does the Easter Bunny look so creepy?! Half of it's mask was sort of caved in, which accounts for that mean looking eye. Oh man...sometimes things really just work out so perfectly.