The Reuters news service has a gallery of pictures called “Testify”. It features 33 pictures taken by their photographers of people testifying in front of congressional committees. It shows that interesting pictures can be found during humdrum assignments.”

At-the-microphone” assignments make most photographers cringe. They tend to have limited potential for creative or exciting pictures. Often times it’s bad or boring light with people who are stiff, their heads down as they read from a prepared statement. Many times they’re expressionless and bland. Recently I had three assignments that raised the podium pics beyond the level of the ordinary.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 170mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 3200)

Dr. Gary F. Dei Rossi, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at the San Joaquin County Office of Education, moderated the super quiz of the 28th annual Academic Decathlon held at the Scottish Rite Temple in Stockton. The venue is big enough to hold several hundred people, but the lighting is best described as dismal. There’s not much of it and the quality is poor. There was literally one shining light in the darkness. A lone bulb glowed brightly at Dei Rossi’s podium. Although he is of about average height, the light cast a giant shadow against the wall behind him. It gave him a commanding presence as he read the questions and answers for the decathlon’s signature event.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Actors Felix Justice and Danny Glover performed their show, “An Evening with Langston and Martin” to a packed house at the University of the Pacific’s Faye Spanos Concert Hall in Stockton. Justice walked on stage to a podium and recited a speech once delivered by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He spoke with dignity and authority. It was almost as if the audience was transported back in time to hear King himself speak

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Justice left the stage and the more famous Glover walked on to rousing applause. Then he recited poems from the author Langston Hughes with a hip coolness and exuberant passion. At the microphone, Glover swayed and moved as he became the poet, author, humorist, playwright, biographer and historian.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 32mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/3.2. ISO: 800)

The Lodi Unified School District budget advisory council held a public comment meeting at Hutchins Street Square theater in Lodi. Educators, parents and students got up to speak on behalf of their respective programs to keep them from being cut. I got a number of standard shots of people speaking and started heading toward the door at stage right to get back to the office to meet deadline. Then parent Alina Stanciu walked up to the podium, located at stage left. With her was her 5-year-old daughter, Andreea, who playfully climbed about the speakers’ stand. I hustled down to get a shot, using a telephoto lens from across the theater. I got several shots but wasn’t satisfied with them. I needed to get in closer with a wide-angle lens to get a more intimate photo. As discreetly as possible, I moved within a few feet of the podium. I was able to shoot one frame before the kindergartener got bored with what she was doing and sat down in a nearby seat. The moment was fleeting, but it was all I needed to get a meaningful shot from some limited potential.

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