Photos are the soul of a newspaper, our windows into the communities we cover and the stories we tell.
What might take a writer several sentences or paragraphs to tell, a photo has to capture in a mere glance. And getting to that storytelling moment isn’t just a matter of holding up the camera and saying, “OK, now it’s time to take a photo.”
A good photo isn’t “taken.” It’s made.
Good photography can seem effortless. But into each photo goes a multitude of decisions, all of which must inform how the push of the shutter button will serve the story, whether it’s on our website or in our weekly print edition.
At a time when pretty much everyone can take a photo by reaching into their pocket and pulling out their smart phone, news photos have to be something more than just a record that somebody showed up and did just that.
Here, then, is our retrospective of some of the photos we made in 2019, along with a bit of information about the thought processes and technical considerations that went into them.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Danika Michelsen hangs from a high bar at the Momentum Ninja Training Centre in Port Coquitlam. She’s one of 36 athletes from the gym who’ve qualified to compete at the Ultimate Ninja Athletic Association world championships in Minnesota in July. This local Ninja gym is chock-a-block with climbing walls and other apparatus that can quickly overwhelm a photographer, let alone create busy backgrounds. That’s when it’s best to keep things simple.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody’s Julia Budd is about to be joined on the Bellator MMA circuit by her stepson, Lance Gibson Jr. Budd will be defending her featherweight world championship in July. MMA fighters do their thing in a caged arena, so of course that chainlink cage has to feature prominently in telling their story.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Daniela Hammond samples one of the 60 or so olive oils and balsamic vinegars she offers at her new olive oil dispensary in Port Moody’s Newport Village. Popping light through bottles is a fun way to bring a shot to life.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Centennial’s Felipe Ruiz tries to knock a pass from a Carson Graham receiver during a recent controlled scrimmage at the Centaurs’ home field in Coquitlam. A controlled pre-season football scrimmage doesn’t usually produce dramatic pass receptions.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Reid Demelo accepts the high-fives of other students at Heritage Woods secondary school in Port Moody after his three-point shot at the buzzer of last Thursday’s Kodiak Klassic senior boys basketball tournament game between the Kodiaks and Kitsilano secondary went viral on the Internet. Principal Tood Clerkson said everyone in the school knows Demelo, who has Down’s Syndrome, and his moment of glory is testimony to the student’s sense of acceptance and inclusion. AS soon as I walked into Heritage Woods secondary to meet Reid Demelo for an interview about his sudden social media celebrity, I spotted the parting wave of well-wishers and high-fiving friends ahead of me and the enthusiasm never let up as we headed for the main office to extend our chat to the school’s principal.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Keira Cameron, from Ranch Park elementary school, is directed to victory in the Grade 4 girls race on the opening day of the 41st annual Como Lake Relays last Wednesday in Coquitlam. The Como Lake Relays is always a fun event to shoot as the kids are so determined and earnest in their efforts to do well for their school.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A worker prepares the entrance to Port Coquitlam’s new $132 million recreation complex for the installation of front doors. These preview tours of big new construction projects usually follow a similar script: The reporter and I start off together with our tour guides, then I inevitably fall behind as I look for interesting angles, light and features.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Zach Hamed, a 17-year-old student at Heritage Woods secondary school, begins his descent from the training tower. While I’m not afraid of heights, there are other places I’d rather be. So when I get to cover people doing things in high places, I’m always facinated by that moment they release themselves to gravity, such as this student descending from the tower at Coquitlam’s main fire hall during a junior firefighter camp.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody firefighters like Jeff Scallion will be serving up steaming mugs of coffee and hot chocolate at their annual tree chipping event on Sat., Jan. 4, and Sun., Jan. 5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Inlet Centre fire hall (150 Newport Dr.). For this photo, I wanted to play on the firefighters serving hot chocolate at their tree chipping event, so I blasted a flash set at full power from behind the firefighter to create a silhouette and highlight the steam from his mug.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Workers move the Terry Fox Library’s collection of more than 260,000 items into its new home at the new Port Coquitlam Community Centre next door on Tuesday. The move took two days and, the librarian’s manager, Kimberly Constable, said, everything will be in place, along with several new items and features, in time for the community centre’s grand opening on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 4 p.m. It’s not often a local library moves into a new facility. And when that move is just a short walk away, the toil of that move can make an interesting photo.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The Liberal MP for Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, Ron McKinnon, watches election night results come in with one of his campaign volunteers, Haley Hodgson. For all the buildup to covering election nights, they’re usually a visual let-down. The celebration parties are usually in dark, crowded halls, restaurants or pubs with lots of hugging and handshaking. So when Liberal MP Ron McKinnon decided to spend a little more time at his nearby campaign office to monitor the incoming results, I asked if I could tag along.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Media rogue, Nardwar the Human Serviette, negotiates with Conservative Party campaign officials for access to federal leader Andrew Scheer during a campaign stop at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam on Friday. Election campaign appearances by national leaders are usually tightly-controlled affairs designed to produce exactly the kind of moments and stories their handlers seek — until renowned rabble-rouser and celebrity interviewer, Nardwar, the Human Serviette shows up.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A worker is dwarfed by giant wooden beams at the new PoCo Recreation Complex that is underconstruction on Wilson Avenue. Back in the day when newspapers actually employed staff photographers who spent their whole shift doing just that, we’d often use downtime between assignments to check out things we’d spot in our travels that might make a good photo. Sometimes those photos — we called them “wild art” or “tour shots” would end up on the front page, and sometimes they’d help an editor plug a quarter-page hole deep in the paper. I made note of these magnificent beams being lifted into place at the new Port Coquitlam Community Centre, then did something about it when we did a construction update story.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Wendy Yates, playing a suspected impaired driver, tells “officers” to give her more space during a simulated traffic stop at Coquitlam RCMP’s Junior Mounties camp, last Wednesday at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex. This year’s RCMP Junior Mounties camp changed the script from the usual obstacle course around the mezzanine at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex, but what’s not to love about the animated expression of a volunteer playing a suspected impaired driver.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Andrea MacIntosh checks out one of the beers brewed by Tinhouse Brewing, which is located right off the Traboulay Trail in Port Coquitlam. The new Tinhouse Brewery in Port Coquitlam is located right on the Traboulay Trail near the PItt River. My challenge was to tell that story with a captivating image.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody professional hockey player Wade MacLeod, and his wife, Karly, are keeping a positive outlook he’ll be able to return to his career after he recovers from the third and fourth surgeries last summer to deal with a Grade 3 Glioblastoma tumour that has recurred in his brain. Wade MacLeod’s story of dealing with brain cancer that truncated his professional hockey career wasn’t easy to tell. But his resilience and determination are an inspiration.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Heather Wallace-Barnes and her husband, Johnny Barnes, check out the “ladies room,” one of the themed rooms in their Pinball Alley Vintage shop in Port Moody that sells clothes and all manner of curios from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, as well as old vinyl records. They’re selling the shop to move their family to Spain. Generally, I’m dismayed by mirrors. But I love the challenge of integrating them into my photos. You just have to be careful with your positioning so you don’t end up in the photo, and then think about everything else — like lighting and composition — backwards.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Jade Lee cried when she first started competing in Tae Kwon Do. Now she’s a Canadian junior champion. Suburban living rooms usually don’t make for the best photo studios. So that’s when you simplify by setting up a single light and zooming in.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Kelowna Owls defender Parker Johnstone goes high to try to block a shot by Terry Fox Raven Jaden De Leon, in the second half of their BC High School senior boys AAAA basketball championship semi-final game, Friday at the Langley Events Centre. I spent years covering the high school basketball provincials at the old Agrodome, and one year at GM Place. But last spring was my first opportunity to shoot it at the Langley Events Centre. The great lighting and beautiful fall-off at that light in the background, both in the main arena and the auxilliary gyms was a revelation and instantly trumped any nostalgic for the dim, funky-smelling Agrodome at the PNE.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Carola Alder, of CityState Consulting, that shares space in The Silk Gallery, removes one of the paintings left behind when two neighbouring buildings on Port Moody’s Clarke Street caught fire Sunday night. The gallery, which is run by Coun. Zoe Royer, sustained smoke and water damage but most of its contents were safely removed to a nearby storage container. It’s been years since many newspapers had the ability to monitor fire and police radios, but often the human storytelling shots of a disaster happen after the fact, as people try to understand and deal with their loss.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Llyn Lindo, a traffic controller on Kingsway Avenue at the site of the new Port Coquitlam recreation complex, said she loves the snow, but the sign she’s holding seems to sum up the thoughts of most people as a snow squall rolls through Thursday morning. It’s March and it’s snowing, just when everybody is thinking about spring. The key to capturing good snowfall photos is a dark background.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The canoe is carried into the gymnasium at the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s Healing Spirit Centre. It’s not everyday you get to photography a giant, 30-foot canoe, so it was important to somehow capture the effort it takes to move such a behemoth into the new First Nation’s Healing Spirit Centre.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Retired engineer Cosimo Geracitano has surrounded himself with paintings in his Coquitlam home by some of the world’s great masters, including Da Vinci, Renoir, Van Gogh and John Constable. But he’s not fabulously wealthy. He’s meticulously painted the reproductions himself. Every once in a while a story comes along that makes even the most grizzled journalist go “wow, that’s so cool.” Cosimo Geracitano dedication and talent to recreate paintings by master artists was one of those stories. Walking into his Coquitlam home was like entering a hall at the Louvre.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Competitors in a boys 100m race leap for the finish line. Shots of the finish line at a sprint race are pretty standard. Less common is catching all three top finishers in mid-air.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CIY NEWS Mandela Nsenga, the youth pastor at the new Riverside Church in Port Coquitlam, relaxes in the atrium with associate pastor Dave Jonsson. A story about a giant new church building in Port Coquitlam is really a story about the congregation staying relevant and contemporary.
Hang out at the “beach” at the annual Donkey Cross cyclocross race in Port Coquitlam long enough, and somebody is bound to go down.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Coquitlam’s Matthew Shanley, right, celebrates his seventh homerun wiith his teammates at the BC Little League Majors provincial championship tournament, Friday at Vancouver’s Hillcrest Park. Coquitlam defeated Layritz, 7-6, in eight innings. Heading into Vancouver to cover the local Little League team at the provincial championships, who knew this would be the start of a magnificent journey to the World Series for these kids.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Callan Morrison juggles oranges while his fiancé and business partner, Jessica Clark, loads the commercial juice presser that is installed in a custom shower enclosure at the back of their new Port Coquitlam juicery, Squish Juicery. The enclosure allows for quick and thorough cleaning of the juicer between pressings. Making juice from a large, industrial squeezer is not the most photogenic activity. But when that juicer is positioned in a huge shower stall and the subject is willing to play along with your suggestion to juggle, the result is a fun photo.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Heritage Woods’ Karosh Rafizadeh keeps a close eye on his opponent, Aiden Winterlik, from Terry Fox, in their 66kg match at the Lower Fraser Valley district wrestling championships, last Friday at Port Moody secondary school. I won’t sugarcoat it: wrestling is a tough sport to shoot, made even more difficult by the often dismal lighting in high school gyms. That means you usually have to use a slower shutter speed and higher ISO than you’d like, or wait for a quiet moment of intensity like this.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A young female red-tailed hawk that was rescued by Coquitlam city workers is released along the hydro right-of-way on Mariner Way by Carol Norris, of Outdoor Wildlife Rescue (OWL), last Wednesday. Bird releases are always a bit of a photographic gamble as to when the bird will actually take off, which direction it will take, and can my finger react on the shutter button quickly enough.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A passerby seems to invoke a sneer from a painting for a camel that is part of a new public art installation at Ioco Road and Barnet Highway in Port Moody. The project features works by artists that belong to the Esplanade Artists Studio and camoflouges a temporary parking lot required by TransLink to accomodate parking displaced by its construction of a new storage facility for 30-40 SkyTrain cars just west if Falcon Drive in Coquitlam. I’d been trying to figure out what to do with the art banners affixed to fencing near the Moody Centre SkyTrain station for several days, then just decided to stake it out one afternoon for about 30 minutes. The similarity between the passerby and the painting behind him was just a serendipidous accident.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody councillor Meghan Lahti gets emotional at Tuesday’s meeting of city countil as she speaks to a motion by fellow councillor Diana Dilworth asking Mayor Rob Vagramov to resume his leave of absence until his charge of sexual assault is dealt with. Lahti said “it’s our job to maintain the public’s trust.” Shows of emotion are rare at a city council meeting. At least as rare as bringing a camera to cover that meeting.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Wendy Swalwell, the chair of Port Moody Legion’s property development committee, admires the new branch on Clarke Street from its stage. As a background for a photo, the interior of the new Port Moody Legion is rather uninspiring. Except for the giant mural of a poppy field.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Chris Lancaster heads back to the barns at Fraser Downs after working out one of his horses. It’s been more than 30 years since I had the opportunity to photograph a horse racing story, so I relished the chance to soak in the atmosphere and characters at Fraser Downs while spending a morning with local trainer and racer, Chris Lancaster.
This story originally appeared in The Tri-City News.
Clay Stevenson knew everything was going to be alright when he made 39 saves and shut out the Surrey Eagles 3-0. It was his first game of the BC Hockey League season, and the second for his Coquitlam Express.
It was also his first time strapping on his goalie equipment since his mom, Holly, died by suicide just 10 days earlier.
Stevenson, in his third year with the Express, said that moment has helped propel him to the best season of his career. And his team has followed, all the way to the top of the league standings.
A middle child between two sisters, Stevenson grew up in Alberta and British Columbia after his parents split up when he was a toddler.
At 16, Stevenson finally made the decision to move in with his mom, who was living in Chilliwack at the time, as the Lower Mainland offered more opportunities and access to better coaching to pursue his hockey ambitions.
Stevenson said his mom was always supportive, even as she endured personal struggles with her sexual identity and navigated a challenging career change from dental assistant to paramedic.
When Stevenson left for 100 Mile House to play Junior B, his mom arranged to be posted in that community’s ambulance station so she could support her son and even catch some of his games between shifts.
Stevenson said her sacrifices to ensure he always had the right equipment and to get up at four in the morning so he could get to practice left an indelible mark.
“I wanted to do my best to show her that it was going to pay off.”
It wasn’t always easy, though.
After playing 25 games for the 100 Mile House Wranglers, where he posted a 3.12 goals-against average, Stevenson joined the Express for the 2017/’18 season. He won only four of the 23 games he played, and his GA average ballooned to 3.89.
Still, Stevenson said the foundations of fortitude and perseverance he learned from his mom pushed him forward.
“Everything she did, she wanted to do to the best of her capabilities,” he said. “That rubbed off on me.”
The next season, Stevenson won 14 games and cut more than half a goal from his average. The congratulatory texts from his mom and the proud postings on her Facebook page became more frequent.
“Honestly, it was a bit embarrassing, but that’s what she loved to do.”
Stevenson learned of his mom’s death after a practice.
He was watching TV with his “billet brother” at the Coquitlam home where he stays during the season when his younger sister, Brie, showed up at the front door.
Stevenson said he knew his mom had been having a difficult year, struggling with her mental health, but he never expected the news his sister delivered.
It hit him hard.
The next days were a whirlwind as family came to town and a funeral had to be arranged.
Stevenson missed a pre-season game. But on Sept. 7, he attended the Express’ regular season opener, watching his teammates from the stands.
“Going to the rink takes your mind off things,” Stevenson said. “When I come here, I know it’s going to be a normal day. Just go out there and play hockey.”
Express coach Jason Fortier said creating that sense of normalcy was key to helping Stevenson and his teammates get through the tragedy.
“We’re here to support the players in any way we can,” he said.
By Sept. 10, Stevenson said he was ready to play, saying it’s what his mom would have wanted.
“My mom loved hockey,” he said. “She wouldn’t want me to mope around.”
COURAGE & RESOLVE
Stevenson said he was nervous about how he would get through his first game knowing he would never see his mom smiling up in the stands again or receive one of her texts after a good performance. He pulled a chain through one of her rings that she often wore to twist away her anxiety and wore it around his neck.
Stevenson said that first game back after her death got easier as it went on.
“After the first period, I knew I had to be clear and present, and knowing what I had to do out there.”
He was all that and more. His shutout earned him recognition as the game’s first star. More importantly, he set an example for his team that has reverberated through the season.
“The way I was able to handle myself in that situation was a symbol of strength for my team,” he said. “We can get through anything and come out on top.”
Fortier said Stevenson’s courage and resolve to get through his first game became a bit of a rallying point for the whole team.
“It built confidence in themselves at how good they can be to help their teammate achieve something special,” he said.
The clarity Stevenson achieved in that first game hasn’t waned. He has posted 22 wins and just two losses. He has three shutouts and his goals-against average is a miserly 1.45. He was the league’s player of the month for November.
And while his mom may not be physically present at the rink or on the phone to share his success, Stevenson said he still feels her presence.
“I don’t know if I’m a spiritual guy, but I like to think she’s looking down and watching me when I’m playing,” he said, adding she may even have a hand when a shot he’s missed hits the post behind him.
There’s few things more aggravating to a newspaper journalist than getting beat to a story by TV. That’s especially true today, in this post-literal-all-social-media-all-the-time age when too many people get their immediate news high from quick-hit, superficial digital media; why bother taking the time to read a well-crafted story with context and nuance when you can absorb the big bits in a 30-second clip from YouTube? Last week I got burned twice, in 24 hours. The first story is one I’ve been sitting on for months, holding off because I was asked to due to its sensitivity. I was confident I would eventually get it, but I was also respectful of the situation. Then, it showed up on TV. The other was one of those viral moments that newscasts like to feature because they make people smile or gasp and absolves them of having a reporter or video journalist on the payroll who could otherwise fill that 30-second time slot. Usually I dismiss such stories, as they tend to flare up and then burn out quickly; such is the half-life of electronic news these days. But this one happened right in our backyard, and I sensed there was likely more layers to the story than the post on Twitter that lit the fuse could summarize in 140 characters. In such an instance, you’re playing catch-up right out of the gate. That the story caught fire late on a Friday and we don’t work weekends made it doubly difficult. Should I even bother? I wondered. After all, such stories inevitably become about the number of views the viral video got because viewers love that kind of data and it doesn’t require a lot of manpower or time to tell. But as the weekend went on, I burned to know the rest of the story. Driving to the office, I resigned to playing catch-up but I was determined to tell the story better, and in a way that would hopefully resonate with our own community.
Reid Demelo was excited to get the opportunity to take a shot in a high school basketball game.
But the Grade 12 student at Heritage Woods secondary school in Port Moody never imagined his moment of sporting glory would be seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. That it would capture the attention of local TV stations and national Canadian and American networks — including CBC’s The National and CBS Sports. That it would spark an effort by his schoolmates to get him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Demelo’s shot, arcing through the air just as time ran out in the Kodiaks’ opening game of their own ninth annual Kodiak Klassic senior boys’ basketball tournament last Thursday wasn’t a winner. (Heritage Woods beat the Kitsilano Blues handily, 79-45.)
It wasn’t Demelo’s only basket of the game — he had sunk another shot about 20 seconds earlier.
It wasn’t even the first time Demelo had come off the bench from his usual role as team manager to get a chance to play — he’d had a similar opportunity last season.
But that shot was so much more than all of the attention it’s getting.
It was, said Heritage Woods principal Todd Clerkson, a celebration of the power of acceptance and inclusion amongst young people.
“Reid knows everybody,” he said. “He brings people together.”
Demelo has Down syndrome.
His life revolves around sports. In addition to playing basketball, he swims competitively, participates in track and field and ultimate, and he’s on the Team BC Special Olympics training squad for speed skating. He also fills water bottles for his younger brother’s academy hockey team at Burnaby Winter Club.
Last year, Demelo took on a similar role with the Kodiaks senior boys’ basketball team.
In addition to keeping the players hydrated or handing them a towel to dab their sweaty brows, he’s also a tireless booster, said Kodiaks coach Greg Schellenberg.
“Reid is such a positive individual,” he said. “He’s got such a great spirit about him.”
So when the throng of more than 1,000 students that traditionally fills the bleachers for the home school’s lunchtime opener began chanting “We want Reid! We want Reid!” in the game’s waning moments, Schellenberg knew what he had to do.
He affirmed his notion with co-coach Roj Johal, then called a timeout with 35 seconds on the clock to talk to the Kitsilano coach, Sylvester Noel, who gave his blessing.
Demelo got the nod but, as a team manager, he doesn’t have a jersey.
So teammate Morgan Liski loaned him his #11, which Demelo pulled on over his maroon “We are Kodiaks” t-shirt.
Demelo, a point guard who has been playing basketball with the Tri-City Youth Basketball Association — where his mom, Jana Demelo, is also a coach — since he was in Grade 2 and takes every opportunity to shoot hoops with his high school colleagues during practice and at home in his driveway, said he was excited and nervous to get on the court.
“I came out flying,” he said.
Demelo got his first touch of the ball after Heritage Woods regained possession from the Blues on a rebound. He scored.
A few moments later, the Kodiaks were able to wrest the ball away again. Viktor Glogovac made a pass behind his back to Demelo, who corralled it then planted his feet just beyond the three-point line. As players from both sides watched in anticipation, he launched a perfect rainbow. The game-ending buzzer sounded just as the ball crested.
And then, bedlam.
The bleachers emptied in a wild celebration. Demelo’s teammates chased him to the opposite end of the court, where they embraced their manager in a bouncing, roiling dance of unbridled joy.
“That was the best moment,” Demelo said, adding he was thinking of his best buddy, former Kodiak star Zach Hamed, who’s sitting out his first year of basketball eligibility at the University of Victoria this season and was in the crowd at Heritage Woods last Thursday. And he said he thought of the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry, the NBA superstar he’d like to meet someday.
Clerkson said it was an apt moment because everybody at the school knows and loves Demelo.
“Reid is just so genuine. He supports all the events at the school and the kids appreciate that,” he said, adding Demelo was presented a special Spirit of the Kodiak award last year for his positive contributions to Heritage Woods and his fellow students.
“Nobody embodies that spirit better,” Clerkson said.
“It was an incredible moment to be there and experience it,” Schellenberg said. “It showcases what a great community we have at Heritage Woods that’s so supportive.”
Monday, with the principal handling a steady stream of media requests, Demelo was free to accept the smiles, high-fives and hugs of nearly everyone he passed in the halls between classes.
It’s “awesome,” he said, but the team has a game at the Langley Events Centre in the Howard Tsumura Invitational tournament on Wednesday, and he needs a ride.