Photography – Local Photographers are Better Suited to Document Disasters Like the Gulf Oil Spill

No photographer ever hopes to photograph a disaster of the magnitude of the recent BP oil spill near the Gulf Coast. While disasters like these are by no means desirable, these kinds of situations do present unique opportunities for local photojournalists.

Local journalists and photographers have an advantage over national journalists and photographers in situations like these. They know the area and possibly even the people involved. They have a unique local perspective to offer. In fact in the case of the BP oil spill, it was a local newspaper, the Courier in Housma, Louisiana, that was granted permission to accompany the fisherman to get their stories. So while all of the big papers were of course covering the disaster, it was a small local publication that was able to get the first real inside look.

At the same time this professional “opportunity” also complicates the workload of local photojournalist and journalists. They still must cover their local beats, while making an effort to address the colossal story at hand. In the case of The Courier, it actually spent the first week relying on AP photos like many pother publications. It wasn’t until later that they had the opportunity to photograph it first hand.

While Louisiana photographers are struggling to capture every end of the story, photographers in neighboring states are waiting for the story to come to them. It’s not until the oil washes up on their shores, that they will find themselves in the same situation as the Louisiana photographers. Until then, these photographers will wait, while those those at The Courier and other Louisiana publication continue to offer a fist hand look as this astronomical disaster.

Prepare for Disaster – Backup Your Files

In 1951, I was 8 years old and at home recovering from the measles. I heard what sounded like someone knocking at the door so I called my mother and when she opened the door our yard was full of black smoke. The sound I heard were the flames crackling on our roof which was fully ablaze. We got out of the house with nothing more than the clothes we were wearing, feeling our way through the smoke to a neighbor’s house. My mom ran back to get our dog who was tied to a clothes line in the back yard and asked the neighbor to call our doctor to make sure I wasn’t still contagious. When she got the doctor on the line she excitedly exclaimed, “Their house is on fire and Mrs. Anderson wants to know if it’s OK for Jimmy to go outside.” I laughed so hard tears wear rolling down my cheeks. I told my mom about the call when she returned and she laughed too and we shared a long hug. In that moment of panic and fear I first discovered the amazing ability of laughter to relieve stress.

We were living in a rented farmhouse in a rural area of southern Indiana and even though the fire department had already been called by the time they arrived the house was completely in flames and nothing could be salvaged by the firemen as it burned to the ground. My father raced home from work the moment he heard what was happening and was relieved to find us both safe, but then the sense of loss settled in and we realized we would have to start over again from scratch. My brother who was married at the time came to help my dad go through the ashes as soon as it was safe to see if anything could be salvaged. A photo appeared on the front page of the Evansville Courier of my brother in the middle of the ruins holding a porcelain piggy bank that had been on top of the refrigerator which was now an unrecognizable pile of misshaped metal. It was the only thing anyone could find.

Over the next weeks and months I saw first hand the kindness and generosity of people when someone they know needs help. My father worked at the Chrysler plant in Evansville and was an officer in the local UAW union, so most of the workers there knew him and they took up collections of money, food and clothing. We received so much clothing and used furniture that my parents took what we could use and donated the rest to a local charity. The small country church we belonged to also had a gathering to present us with even more things that we needed. I remember they gave me a baseball, glove and bat. They also gave me a Bible which I still have and cherish.

For years after that we would look for a photo or memento and then remember it was lost in the fire. Even though it has been over sixty years since then, I still miss those irreplaceable photos of my grandparents and parents when they were young.

In this digital age in which we live my photos and important documents are all saved on my computer and I’m sure most of yours are too. No insurance can protect them from loss when our computer crashes, but we can avoid losing them by simply backing up our files safely. I use a backup service that is very inexpensive, but protects my files with military grade encryption so that only I can retrieve them whenever I want and from any devise I choose. I now have complete confidence that I will not experience that horrible sense of loss again.

Shipping Guidelines: How to Send Small Gifts in the Mail

Gifts are important gestures of appreciation and well wishes and at times when you cannot be physically present to bring the gift or if you have attended an event and opted to ship the gift at a later date, there are many shipping or courier companies that can deliver the gift for you. These companies can ship locally, regionally or internationally depending on their capacity and service permits.

When sending gifts, most people like to ship smaller items primarily because shipping rates go higher as the volume, weight and size of the package increase. For small gift items, you can send special and unique items that can be found only in your local area. There are many items that you can ship in the mail, such as photo frames or small kitchen items. Things that come pre-boxed are usually easiest to ship as you usually only need to wrap the item in paper before sending it out as long as the box is sturdy.

Almost any small gift item can be shipped through mail. However, the difference lies in how you package the item because shipping companies have many guidelines depending not only on the size but on the type of gift you will be shipping.

Shipping companies have different guidelines when it comes to packaging but most major packaging guidelines are the same. When a courier company says that you should pack properly, what they mean is you should start with the choosing the proper materials.

Some companies have their own shipping labels that you should use. You should use sturdy boxes and seal them with packing tape. Packing tape is durable and is recommended over other types of tapes because regular household or office tapes can become loose when exposed to too much moisture or heat.

Small breakable materials such as vases can be shipped as well as long as they are double boxed. If there is an empty air space, you must fill this space tightly with packing kernels or crushed styrofoam. For items that have a tendency to spill or leak, including all liquids, gels or even items that have a small quantity of liquid in them, you should have them sealed in a leak proof container.

Remember that all these guidelines are there to protect your gift and the items being shipped by other customers. By following all these guidelines properly, you can be sure that your gift will arrive safely.

The same guidelines apply for large items that you want to ship. For other guidelines and reminders, you should check with the shipping or courier company. The last thing you will want is to find out that your package didn’t arrive or was damaged in delivery. To ease the burden on everyone and especially the person who should be receiving your gift, follow the guidelines whether shipping big or small items. No matter what the size, your shipping carrier can deliver these items for you as long as you follow their shipping guidelines and take the time and effort needed to package your item safely.

The Courier, the Freight Broker and Funny Frolics

The transport industry isn’t just about the haulage of stuff from ‘A’ to ‘B’. It’s also a powerful source of humorous stories that a freight broker will often share, given half the chance.

Here is a selection – judge for yourself whether you think they’re true or just the product of the over-active imagination of a freight broker one wet and grey day!

Handy with a fuel tank

The driver of rig once had to be rescued by the local Fire Department when he got his hand stuck in his tank. Ok, maybe not worthy of worldwide headline news but two things come to mind: how on earth did he get his hand in there, and why was he trying?

Now you see him, now you don’t

One courier was working with a partner on their way to make a delivery when the partner suddenly noticed that he was alone in the vehicle. Much as he admired his partner’s vanishing trick from behind the wheel, he quickly became pre-occupied with bringing the now driverless vehicle to a safe stop. The driver came running up frantically behind, fortunately relatively unhurt, having apparently ‘fallen out’ of the vehicle while turning a sharp corner. How do you fall out of a vehicle while driving it? It perhaps shall remain a mystery…

Round and round we go

One freight broker tells an amusing tale of a courier who was asked to take an urgent package to a fairly distant destination. Setting off early, he’d got more than half way there when he received a cell call saying that the shipper had made a terrible mistake and actually addressed the parcel to another office in their company rather than to the correct delivery address. He was then given the correct address – not only back in his hometown but actually his own personal home address. Yep, the package was, in fact, for his wife. Just how unlucky can you get?

Vous parlez fran├žais?

One freight-forwarding assistant had a great grasp of the French language, painstakingly studied over many years. Unfortunately his knowledge of geography wasn’t quite on the same level. This came to light when he bitterly complained that he couldn’t get an answer to his beautifully constructed emails in French to an overseas office. Unfortunately, he was trying to communicate with Hamburg – a city he thought was in France when, of course, it’s in Germany and a place where, perhaps unsurprisingly, they speak German. Did nobody, in the entire freight broker office, have a wall map of the world?

Super service

One driver arrived home one evening shortly before Halloween, to be told his freight broker boss had called and left a message that he should go into the office the following morning in costume for a team publicity photo. Putting on his skeleton costume, used with his young kids trick-or-treating, he duly reported in. The boss was less than amused. He’d actually left a message about the “uniform” (rarely used by the drivers on a day-to-day basis) not “costume”, as he intended the photo as part of a major advertising campaign.