Behind the Curtain: "How We Got the Picture"
When I saw my assignment for a story on Elgin honoring Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn as a successful black-owned business, I racked my brain trying to visualize how to photograph it.
My original plan was to make a nice photo of the owners in the store with their proclamation from the city. That idea went out the door when I walked into the store, met the owner Chris Sumner and saw the awesome colors and decorations.
Sumner is outgoing and great to work with. We tried a few different pictures, which were OK, but seemed too typical. Then, I suggested that he throw some popcorn in the air while I take the photograph.
We must have tried at least a couple dozen times with him throwing the popcorn and that just wasn't working.
Then I tried dropping popcorn on him as I took the photo and at first, that didn't work well either.
It is really hard tossing popcorn while holding a camera and getting the framing and timing right.
I was getting all sorts of cool pictures but nothing that really popped, as it were.
So instead of dropping popcorn on him from above, as we had been doing, we changed direction and I threw it at him. That caused it to look as if the picture were exploding with kernels of popcorn.
All in all, we took at least a few hundred photos and I had a blast.
Finally we got what I think was an excellent photo.
In fact, it was recognized in the National Press Photographers Association central region clip contest, taking first place in portrait/illustration for February.