I started at The Ada Evening News (The Ada News since 2012) Oct. 24, 1988 — 30 years ago.
In that time, a lot has changed…
• In the 1980s and 1990s, all my newspaper photography was on film, most of it black and white.
• Most of those images were printed using a system invented in the 1950s, the Kodak Ektamatic processor, which used activator and stabilizer with photographic papers that had developer incorporated into their emulsions, like Ektamatic SC, which...
• ...was a single-weight, fiber-based photographic paper offering very fast turnaround at the expense of quality and longevity. Although there are literally thousands of Ektamatic prints within my reach as I write this, none are worth saving. Additionally, because the prints had only been stabilized, not washed and dried, they smelled like vinegar and began to turn yellow immediately.
• When I first came to The Ada Evening News, we had no capability to reproduce four-color images on our own and had to send images to Oklahoma City first to have color separations made, so having a color photo in the paper was relegated to holidays and special events. In 1991, we inherited a primitive color separator (its software was stored on a microcassette) and could then have a color picture on Sunday.
• A lot more of my shooting in the film era involved flash photography, for the simple reason that we couldn’t change ISO settings like we can today. Often I would shoot two or three assignments on one roll of film, usually T-Max 400.
• The digital era began for me in 1998, when my newspaper bought a 35mm film scanner (a Nikon LS-2000) and a computer (an Apple PowerMac G3) which had a floppy drive and a Zip disk drive, but no CD-ROM, so I was unable to archive scanned images from that era, though we still have the negatives on file.
• It was around this time that my newspaper got its first imagesetter, a device that printed the page-sized negatives of newspaper content, replacing the downstairs process camera and fundamentally advancing our layout, design and publishing methods.
• My first digital camera was the Nikon D1H, purchased by my newspaper in August 2001. Despite its 2.74 megapixel sensor, the D1H was a great addition to my toolbox, and despite having film cameras and scanners in my bag, digital became increasingly prevalent in my work. My last photographic negatives were made in 2005. The D1H died some years ago and now resides in our trophy case.
• By the middle of the 2000s, the scanners at my newspaper slid into obsolescence due to their SCSI interfaces, which stopped being supported by modern operating systems. Although I could scan with USB-based flatbed scanners, I was never able to get a true high-resolution film scan again.
• Since 2007, I have been teaching photography at the Pontotoc Technology Center. I hope being a news photographer has made me a better teacher, and that teaching has made me a better news photographer.
• We sold our press in 2012 or so and began printing our newspaper at our sister paper, The Norman Transcript, and delivering it by mail. With the departure of our press crew and our carriers, our building became more vacant. Portions of it remain closed off and used as storage.
• One of the best developments in these three decades has been my relationship with the community. The public is overwhelmingly glad to see me, impressed with my work and regards me as one of the faces of The Ada News, though once in a while I cover tragedies that are difficult to witness and photograph. I hope our readers understand the necessity of this.
• For more than half the time I have been at The Ada News, I have been with Abby, who has been my wife since October 2004. I regard her as a quintessential newspaper reader; she reads every word every day. Her view of how I do my job has been an important factor in shaping my work.
• According to a count by a few long-lasting co-workers and me, in my time at our newspaper, there have been eight publishers and 14 managing editors.
The news industry has fundamentally changed in the three decades since I came to The Ada News, and I hope my newspaper and I can flourish in the coming decades.