Really good advice
Arrive early. Stay late.
I don't know which of my early "mentors" (we didn't really call them that back then. They were just the "older guys" - and most of them were guys) first told me, but it is one of the first lessons I learned in newspaper photojournalism, and its value still applies to this day: "whenever you can, show up early, and stay late."
That advice paid off for me on a at least one assignment this past week.
The photo above was made after a press conference with the mayor and the head of the William Penn Foundation to announce their award to the city of $100 million towards revitalizing the city's parks, libraries, and recreation centers. The photo below is from the press conference.
It's not a bad photo. I got the mayor and the foundation head, with their signage. Even following a personal rule not to highlight politicians unless THEY are the story, I used a frame where a neighborhood volunteer was at the podium, instead of them.
I shot many angles: loose, tight, from the side, from the rear, and from the front. I stayed as the event broke up and everyone mingled. Then, as they all started leaving, I followed some of the rec center's regulars, the kids who were invited to earlier stand up in front for photos. I figured they would be the ones to reap the greatest benefit of the millions spent on revitalization - not all those who spoke at the press conference. I followed them back to the gymnasium where they ran around, just like kids, on the empty court. It was't as run down as I expected (more good advice: NEVER make assumptions). The court had nets in the hoops, and floor looked good, even if the walls were in need of paint.
Then some ladies began arriving with basketballs, and I asked an adult - obviously their coach - with them who they were. She said they were the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School's girls varsity basketball team and this was where they practiced. As they warmed up, a gentleman began dusting off the court with a large broom. Figuring he was the rec center's maintenance man, I photographed him walking up and down the court. "He must really be a fixture here," as he was laughing and trying to get the players up and moving.
Then, just as he finished with the broom, and I started walking up to introduce myself and ask his name (I didn't; want to interrupt him as he "worked") he grabbed a bouncing ball - with one hand - and, all kidding aside, orders the players to begin their layups. He was their head coach (and seventh grade social studies teacher. Remember what I said about making assumptions).
Even if it wasn't all I thought it was, it is still a more interesting photo than the press conference.