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Seattle Times photographers offer a glimpse into what inspires their best visual reporting.

December 30, 2013 at 3:10 PM

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2013 Pictures of the Year


LINDSEY WASSON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

THE BEST AIR SHOW

Aug. 3

Jason Sowka of Tacoma throws his friends' 2-year-old son, Alex Reed Brown II, into the air during the Formula One PROP Tour on Seafair Saturday at Lake Washington. Sowka was among many expressing disappointment that the Blue Angels didn't appear this year, which may be part of the reason for a 27 percent decrease in attendance..

Seafair's story this year was a lack of Blue Angels in the summer skies, and I was looking for a way to visually allude to what wasn't there. Particularly when shooting an annual event, I try to look for new ways to see the same things. After spotting the two playing, I chose to lie down on the grass directly behind the subject, trusting his child-catching skills and shooting nearly straight up to capture that sense of flight. Trying something different can often pay off. -- Lindsey Wasson

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MIKE SIEGEL / THE SEATTLE TIMES

THE EYES HAVE IT

July 13

Recruit Lucas Anderson pries his eyes open while taking a direct shot of pepper spray during police training at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien. "Pepper spray day" is part of a battery of physical and intellectual challenges recruits face during training.

When photographing news, whether in the courtroom or the classroom, my instincts are to capture telling moments. I look at people's eyes and facial expressions, as it is usually those elements that tell the story and make me press the shutter. -- Mike Siegel.

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STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

DANGER ON DECK

Sept. 12

Maneuvering crab traps stacked five high on the stern of the Arctic Hunter, Minh Vu, left, and Thuy Nguyen are nailed with spray flying over the bow in the roiling Bering Sea. As soon as they get the pots in the right order, they are dropped, in a string, into the sea.

Shooters sometimes have to put their feelers out -- especially when walking backward in traffic, looking through a telephoto lens from the sidelines at an NFL game, etc. On this crab boat, I had ALL my feelers out. The boom was lifting these 800-pound crab traps in minus-20-degree weather, the boat heaving side to side, waves coming over the bow. But it was the spinning traps high over my head that made me think about where I should go, if one broke free. Don't think I want to do this again. (The photo was taken in March for The Times' series on ocean acidification, written by Craig Welch.) -- Steve Ringman

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ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

CELEBRATING CITIZENS

July 4

During the 29th naturalization ceremony at the Seattle Center, Naomi Wachira of Kenya weeps for joy after taking the oath of citizenship, along with hundreds of other immigrants.

Every Fourth of July at Seattle Center one of the most special local, public and free events takes place. It's the swearing in of new citizens during the annual naturalization ceremony. This year almost 500 from 87 nations took the oath. The candidates are seated in rows facing a raised stage. Once the speeches began I had to kneel in front to not block people's views. Naomi Wachira was in the front row. She had a dramatic puff of red hair. I chose to be in front of her because, as the ceremony proceeded, it was clear it was a bittersweet occasion for her. When the oath was taken, tears formed and slowly rolled down her cheeks. Around her I could see a range of emotions, ages and faces. We all get to share in how special the moment is for all present -- and it's on the Fourth of July. -- Alan Berner

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MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

JUDGMENT DAY

Oct. 14

David Pietz is led out of a King County courtroom after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Nicole, seven years ago. Nicole Pietz's sister, Tonia Zurcher, points at him and yells, "You're going to hell, Pietz."

When the jury returned the guilty verdict, David Pietz showed no reaction. Across the courtroom, closer to me, Nicole's mother and sister responded with seven years' worth of emotion. Pietz had to walk past them as he was escorted back to jail, and the moment came when he passed close to them. An accusing finger and damning words delivered the message to the guilty man and helped me share that moment with our readers. News photography is a lot like sports photography. You pick a position and hope you don't get blocked or watch the action go away from you; you have to be ready because, sometimes, it comes right at you. -- Mark Harrison

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JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES

CAUGHT RED-HANDED

Aug. 24

The hands of Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger, photographed at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, show the toll the game can take.

I've shot many portraits of Seahawks in my five years of covering the team. But this was the first time I focused in on what is arguably the most important part of a football player: the hands. The idea was to take an intimate view of what the hands of key players looked like, and how they use them in their craft. We chose a good cross-section of players from different positions. Max Unger, the team's star center, had one of the most interesting sets of hands. When he walked into my makeshift studio on the team's practice field, I saw that they were weathered and rough, and that fingers on his left hand were taped. Using a football as my only prop, I asked Unger to grasp it with both hands along the top seam. It was a simple photo, but it spoke to the unique character and importance of this part of professional athletes. -- John Lok

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KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

ONE DEVASTATING DAY

March 25

Mark W. Mullan sits on a curb as police investigate the scene of a fatal accident in Seattle's Wedgwood neighborhood. The victims were later identified as Judy Schulte, 68, and Dennis Schulte, 66, both killed, and Karina Ulriksen-Schulte and her infant son, Elias, both severely injured. Mullan later pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, and was sentenced to nearly 18 years in prison.

When I arrived on this horrific scene, I had no idea if the man on the curb was involved. For all I knew, he could have been a witness. I also had no idea The Seattle Times headline a day later would say this about him: "Driver in fatal Seattle crash had string of DUI arrests, second chances." As a news photographer I arrive at horrible scenes, having little or no facts. I did not send a photo on Twitter for just these reasons: I simply didn't have enough information to report on or to be fair to those in my photos. Upset bystanders pleaded with me not to photograph Mark Mullan. Be sensitive and kind, they said, this man's life is ruined. They had not witnessed the accident, either, and were watching the scene unfold as well. A police officer wondered aloud if I needed to take pictures. I pointed out I had a job to do, like he did. "OK, but they will hate you for it," he said. I remember thinking, that happened already, when I arrived with cameras. One thing I don't do is decide whether such images should be published. That job goes to my editors. -- Ken Lambert

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ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

CHECKING OUT THE CHICK

Sept. 6

Flamingoes check out one of the new chicks at the Woodland Park Zoo. Six chicks had hatched in the previous days, and five more eggs remained. Once the chicks get their waterproof feathers, in about six weeks, they and their parents are returned to the flamingo exhibit for the public to see. Most of the flamingos at the zoo are more than 36 years old; they live about 70 years.

Working as a photojournalist opens so many windows to other people's lives. We see the best, as well as the opposite, that life has to offer: people who commit horrible crimes, some remorseful, some who don't seem sorry at all. Then we turn around and see a little boy grinning from ear to ear as he hands out daffodils downtown with his classmates on the first day of spring. No two days are the same; there are surprises around every corner, and we make a living seeing, sharing and learning about others. I can't imagine doing anything else. I've always heard that if you love your job you'll never work a day in your life. Not everyone has a job they love. I'm one of the lucky ones. -- Ellen M. Banner

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BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

THE KINDEST CUT

Feb. 5

Earl Lancaster, left, owner of Earl's Cuts and Styles at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street in Seattle's Central District, cuts Ron Brown's hair while barber Stuart Reed of Lynnwood works on Ben Heimerman's hair. Lancaster, who started cutting hair between classes at Garfield High School, has owned the shop since 1992. Brown has been getting his hair cut at Earl's since he was a sophomore in high school. Reed, 24, is the first and only Caucasian barber to work at Earl's, a historically black hangout. Lancaster said he considered the increasing diversity of the neighborhood when he hired Reed. "I wanted to reflect that. It's not just a black barbershop. It's a men's grooming palace."

How do you illustrate gentrification? Or explain the precious last moments of a sunset while sailing on Lake Union? Share the intangible connection to the music and atmosphere of Bumbershoot? Storytelling in images transcends the actual subject through visual cues like the mood of the light, moment of body language and our perception of the environment. This year I've tried to focus on making more intentional and interpretive photographs to highlight the subtleties in our storytelling. The information we convey means nothing if it doesn't make you feel something. Next time you linger on an image online or in print, think about how your initial emotional reaction drew you into it. -- Bettina Hansen

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GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

GETTING SLOSHED ON NEW YEAR'S

Jan. 1

Several thousand swimmers showed up at Matthews Beach for the 11th annual New Year's Polar Bear Plunge into the chilly waters of Lake Washington.

Almost every year we cover a "polar bear" swim somewhere in the Seattle area. I knew the one at Matthews Beach on Lake Washington has a big turnout. I always want to put you, the reader, into the action as I see it, causing you to say "Wow!" This time, I put waders on and positioned myself in the water. I knew there would be splashing. Then, just before the start, the sun came out to add side lighting and contrast. My one fear was getting knocked over by the crowd, soaking me and my digital cameras. I braced myself, and I got bumped a few times, but stayed upright. In my excitement, I realized I had backed up a little too far and lake water overflowed into by boots. I had to park several blocks from the beach; walking back, I could hear the slosh, slosh, slosh of the water in my boots. -- Greg Gilbert

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ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

A SHOW FULL OF SYMBOLISM

July 6

Neka Ton helps Tiffany Chin with her headdress while traveling with the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team. The team, composed of girls from the fifth to 12th grades, showcases precision marching led by a captain's commands. They wear replica Chinese opera costumes in red, signifying good luck. The team focuses on the values of education, community service, discipline, leadership and sisterhood.

Several summers ago, I saw the drill team on their bus from afar and thought the scene was absolutely lovely. It took several years, but I finally was able to ride with them to a performance last June. It was even more rich and beautiful than I imagined. -- Erika Schultz

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DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

DRAGGING IT OUT

Oct. 13

The Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch pounds the ball through Tennessee's defensive line and down to the Titans' 1-yard line -- an 11-yard rush in the 4th quarter.

The Seahawks have many explosive players on their roster -- and Lynch is certainly one of them -- but it's a different experience watching him. Usually when a receiver makes a great play it's over in an instant, but Lynch's explosive plays are more of a slow burn that build into a crescendo. You'll see him hit the gap and think, he's got room to run. Then you'll see a couple of defenders bounce off him and think, this is going to be a big play. Until finally he's dragging players, as he is in this picture, and he's still not going down. The play builds, your heart quickens, and there's an excitement that comes from seeing something become much bigger than anything you thought it ever could. -- Dean Rutz

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MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

DANCING LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING

July 29

The night is almost over, but Yana Viniko smiles as she is lowered backward by Timothy Shaw during the Dancing til Dusk event at Freeway Park in Seattle. The event concludes after the twilight blue sky fades into darkness.

Photography is a wonderful excuse to enter people's personal space, far enough for an embrace and close enough for a kiss. The combination of the soft luminescence of the fading dusk and the ebb and flow of the music made the pursuit of this cinematic moment a visceral way of seeing the world with your eyes closed, while dancing passionately on your feet. -- Marcus Yam

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ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

RISING ABOVE THE CROWD

March 27

Hip-hop artist Macklemore surprised the crowd at the We Day celebration at Seattle's KeyArena.

Over the past couple years, it's been amazing to watch the rise of Macklemore and collaborator/producer Ryan Lewis and how their music has been interwoven with major moments in our city's history. I'll never forget watching the "My Oh My" tribute to Dave Niehaus at the Seattle Mariners opening day 2011, as well as listening to "Same Love" when Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in November 2012. -- Erika Schultz

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DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

BREAKING NEWS

May 23

First responders look over the collapsed Interstate 5 bridge in Mt. Vernon while rescuers in a hovercraft search for survivors below.

I had just walked into the newsroom when metro editor Cathy McClain read aloud the flash that a bridge crossing the Skagit River in Mt. Vernon had collapsed into the river below. I stood for a moment as the magnitude of the event sank in, then turned around and walked right out the door. All the way I wondered, if I-5 is closed, how will I get to the scene? Photographer Alan Berner and I talked by phone as we both drove north. I knew frontage roads alongside the freeway would help me reach the river, and I studied maps on my iPad to determine where I could get onto them. To my surprise, I reached the river quickly. I scurried up the hill in the last fleeting moments of daylight, and this was what I saw first. I shot just a few frames, then transmitted one back to the newspaper before doing anything else.

-- Dean Rutz

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ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

TAKING THE LEAP

Aug. 13

Dillon Garnes, 11, jumps into Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend. The Garnes family, which lives near the recreation area, has been swimming at the 111-acre lake nearly every sunny day in summer.

A few days after this photo published, I received a text from Dillon's dad: "It brought me great joy to see Dillon in the paper," Doug Garnes wrote. "Thank you." Getting the opportunity to meet members of the community who allow us and trust us to share special moments of their lives is one of the best parts of the job.

-- Erika Schultz

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ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

NOW, THAT'S A SPRING CHICKEN

April 19

This big chicken has definitely been raised on growth hormones. It's so large it needs a cowboy to ride it around the grounds. Really, it's a trompe l'oeil at the Spring Fair in Puyallup. Bill Jarcho is actually walking on stilts, and the legs on the chicken's back are fake.

This situation has inherent possibilities beyond families taking photos with him. So I followed him until he took a break. I was hoping he might walk by the poultry barn. But, after 30 minutes, a groundskeeper with a broom-and-pan came by, adding the missing element.

-- Alan Berner

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See more from the Pacific NW Magazine

For more info on our yearly Library event featuring a behind-the-scenes of some of these photos, visit our Facebook event page.

For more photos, visit the gallery.

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