Chelsea’s Woolly Mammoth: October 2015

“A woolly mammoth is being dug up at the Bristle farm near you. Could you get pictures and details?”

That was the question I got the morning of October 1 from Lisa Allmendinger, the journalist who runs our local news website Chelsea Update. How do you say no to a startling — and likely once in a lifetime — question like that? You don’t! I certainly didn’t.

The story is widely known by now, but here’s the brief overview: Jim Bristle and Trent Satterthwaite were digging in a field when they found an odd object they first thought was an old fence post. When they realized they were finding something a bit unusual, they made a call that brought Daniel Fisher from the University of Michigan to the farm. They started to excavate the mammoth, and when Lisa got word of the dig, I got the irresistible inquiry that took me to the Bristle farm.

Before we get into the photos, here are links to all the Chelsea Update stories on the mammoth:

Possible Woolly Mammoth found on Lima Township farm
Woolly Mammoth photo gallery by Burrill Strong
Not a usual Sunday afternoon for Lima Township farmers who found Woolly Mammoth bones
Lima Township farmers spend Sunday afternoon talking about Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth artifacts cleaned before they head to U-M Museum of Paleontology

A few of my photos also appeared in the Daily Mail.

Okay, on to the full set of photos!

The skull was just becoming visible early in the afternoon.


At that moment they were taking a photo; the sticks are there to provide scale.

As they were working to uncover the skull, they were also recovering a number of other bones.

20151001mammoth-126 Continue reading

Almost but not quite life-size

Back in early January, Editor Terry, the fearless commander of the Chelsea Standard and Dexter Leader, floated the idea of having Sports Editor Don write a feature article on me and my business.  Both my business and I thought that was an excellent idea, so Don sent me a few questions to answer; I sent back my answers and a few of my favorite pictures, and then I waited for my moment in the ink-stained spotlight.  After a few weeks of waiting, I finally got to see the finished product in the Standard this week:

(The photo of me was taken by my good friend Joshua Krieger.)

Don did his best to cast me in a highly positive light early in the article:

Like Eisenstaedt, and many other world-renowned photographers, Strong relies less on the technical and mathematical aspects of photography, and more on the instinctual and intuitive nature of the craft.

“When you don’t have to think about the mechanics of shooting and the basics of photography, you’re free to react in free-flowing situations,” said Strong, who has won first-place sports photography honors the past two years in the Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.

He also surprised me by getting quotes from two of the coaches at the high school:

Chelsea Hall-of-Fame baseball coach and Bulldog Athletic Director Wayne Welton said Strong is truly a professional when it comes to photography.

“He’s very client driven,” he said. “From parents, to athletes, to coaches, he will do anything. Service is what the Strong family has always been about. He’s a joy to work with. Burrill is a friend to the whole athletic department.”

Welton said Strong has captured many lasting moments with his camera while covering his ball club through the years.

“He’s followed us to the Final Four (state semifinals) and throughout the seasons,” he said. “Those (photographic) memories last a lifetime.”

Chelsea football coach Brad Bush said he’s amazed with Strong’s skill as a photographer.

“People don’t realize how talented he is,” he said. “Some of his photos are unreal. Burrill puts so much time into taking photos. He gets a lot of unique shots. He has an uncanny way of capturing the moment.”

The rest of the article follows in that vein; I think Don did a great job on it.

Along with the very thorough article, they decided to include six of my favorite photos: five on the front page and one inside.  These were the fortunate front-page photos, along with the captions I provided:

One of the reasons I love sports is its incredible depth of emotion; I have a number of compelling images following big wins and big losses, but this one still stands out to me.  The Chelsea baseball team had just completed an improbably seventh-inning comeback in a playoff game, and in the resulting bedlam, I caught the look of pure joy on Adam Connell’s face as he celebrated with Dan Augustine.

I’ve been going to the Chelsea demolition derby as long as I can remember, and this was the most spectacular fire I can remember.  I happened to have my camera aimed at these two cars in order to catch their impending collision; obviously, it was more than just another collision.  The most common reaction to this picture: “It looks like something out of a movie!”

Over the last two years, I’ve made two trips to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA; this image features the interior of the university’s Packer Memorial Chapel.  The entire campus is stunning, but this picture remains one of my favorites.

This is a picture of the grave of Amy Schnearle-Pennywitt, an Ann Arbor firefighter who died of injuries she sustained while she was responding to a multi-car pileup on the highway in January 2006.  I was involved in that pileup, and her sacrifice is something I’ll never forget.

I took senior portraits for a Chelsea student who is a member of  the Chelsea House Orchestra; she wanted pictures with her violin, and along with some of the more normal shots, I decided to try something a little bit offbeat.  This image was the result.

And this photo had the inside all to itself:

Sports photography often is the pursuit of the right place and the right time; you never really know when everything is going to come together, but when it does, it’s so much fun … and sometimes a little crazy.  In this case, the athlete jumped to block a kick, and when the ball got past her, she spun around in midair to keep an eye on the ball; at that moment, the right place and the right time came together to produce an unlikely image of a soccer player running through the air.

Burrill Strong Photography: now with more award-winningness!

If you were reading this blog last October, you may remember the foofaraw about the Michigan Press Association‘s Better Newspaper Contest.  Specifically, you may remember that I was awarded first and third place for sports photography in weekly class D newspapers.  Well, the 2008 BNC results were just released, and I have continued my reign of terror in the MPA by taking first place for sports photography for the second year in a row.  (The sports photography category is on pages 14 and 15 of the pdf.)

The winning photograph was from a Dexter basketball game against Chelsea; like last year, the winning photograph ran in the Dexter paper.  This is remarkable to me because my work appears in the Dexter sports section a maximum of three or four weeks a year, and yet all my award-winning photos have come from the Dexter paper instead of the Chelsea paper, where my sports work appears nearly every week of the year.

Anyway, this is the winning photograph:

And this is what the judge had to say:

The cropping mentioned in the comments isn’t so much “cropping” as it is “where the camera was pointed when the picture was taken.”  The joy of sports photography — or any sort of photojournalism, really — is that you’re shooting dynamic subjects in dynamic environments, so you have to frame on the fly; that means your framing isn’t always going to be ideal.  But as the award shows, the framing doesn’t have to be perfect when the moment is compelling enough.

Do you have change for a dot-com?

A wise man once said, “Change is inevitable … unless you’re buying snacks from a vending machine.” And if a wise man didn’t say that, perhaps one will stumble across this post and decide to repeat it (but with extra frankincense).

In any case, I am not a snack, and this is not a vending machine. So, to quote Brian Regan, “Something changed!”

Specifically, the Burrill Strong Photography site has changed. The home page used to look like this:

But after hours of slaving over a stylish MacBook in an air-conditioned room, I am pleased to announce that the home page now looks like this:

The rest of the site hasn’t yet changed, but it will. And eventually, all the pages will look as good as the home page, if I have any say in the matter. Which I do, since I am the entire Burrill Strong Photography website staff.

Now, go spread the word! Tell all your friends! Especially the friends who might want to hire a photographer!

Update: The image on the main page has changed; I started using a different image for my business cards.  The main page layout is still the same.  This doesn’t really affect the world in any great way, but I thought it might be wise to update this post so you all know the image didn’t somehow change without my consent.

Detroit: One of the Nation’s Top-Ranked Big Cities

These are high times in Detroit.  In the last two years, the city has peaked at or near the top of three national rankings.  But don’t get too excited: the rankings list the nation’s best of the worst, so Detroit’s high rankings place it at or near the top of the bottom.

In early 2006, as it was preparing to host Super Bowl XL, Detroit claimed the title of the poorest big city in the nation; later 2006 rankings showed middling improvement, with Cleveland edging the Motor City for the dubious number one.

In June 2006, Detroit found itself second on the list of the nation’s most dangerous cities, just behind St. Louis.  (The state of Michigan took two out of three; Flint ranked third.)

In a more encouraging note, despite its recent top ranking, this area shows progress.  In 2004, Detroit topped Houston as the nation’s fattest city; in 2005, the city fell to third; in 2006, Detroit dropped all the way to 15th.

Coming soon: Detroit — the fittest, poorest, most dangerous city in the nation.

I’m gently tagging you in my mind

In another move to eliminate all potential sources of perceived harm to children, U.S. schools are beginning to ban tag. The game. The one that, apparently, has damaged millions of children in previous generations. But now, thankfully, we know better: physical activity that involves actual minor physical contact is deeply harmful to children.

Wait, no, strike that. Actually, schools are banning tag not out of fear of injuries, but out of fear of lawsuits spawned by injuries. It seems bumps and bruises scare school adminstrators largely because they may be accompanied by an angry parent’s lawyer.

To alleviate this fear of parents, administrators are requiring kids to develop a non-contact version of game. That’s right: non-contact tag. “What we require is that children do not touch each other,” said one principal.

In the wake of non-contact tag, other games are being altered for safety:

  • Baseball will no longer include bats or baserunners
  • Four-square players must first obtain permission from the other players before releasing the ball
  • Hide-and-seek will require hiding players to remain in plain sight
  • Basketball will feature baskets no more than 2.5 feet above the floor, and players’ movement and shooting may in no way be impeded by other players (per NBA rules)
  • Flag football will be replaced by Madden 2007

Happy Winter Festive Occasion For All People!

Windmill Point Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, Florida, canceled its Christmas pageant.  Why?  Because it could be associated with Christmas.

The pageant itself, A Penguin Christmas, had no religious themes, overt or subtle; its subject matter featured characters such as Santa Claus, Rudolph, elves and, obviously, penguins.  However, a district spokeswoman said many people associate those symbols with Christmas.

That, along with the pageant’s use of the word, was enough for the school to cancel the play on the grounds that its mention of the holiday may be offensive.

But take comfort: though both Halloween and Thanksgiving could be offensive, they are still safe to mention in school.

Highlights from the Palm Beach Post’s article:
“‘Any reference to a religious holiday has the potential to offend anyone who is not part of that particular persuasion.'”

“‘I feel like I have the principal that canceled Christmas.'”

“Windmill Point parent Heather Cowart, mom to third-grader Logan, said she was upset last year when Logan’s teacher demanded he not bring Santa cupcakes, candy canes or other Christmas-themed treats to a ‘holiday party.’ Even donations of canned goods to the needy had to be wrapped in newspaper, not traditional wrapping paper, Cowart said.”

“Last year Logan got in trouble for saying “Christmas” in class. Is that a bad word now?'”

“‘Everywhere in Florida, and probably the whole country, there is a heightened awareness to not be offensive to anyone,’ Karst said.”

Watch out, or I’ll collate you, too; also, insert obligatory Hot Wheels joke here

1)The victim was airlifted to the nearest OfficeMax for emergency treatment
Lawrence, KS seems to be an odd town.  Small-town police blotters tend to be amusing; Lawrence proved that larger towns can be funny, too.  From the 04 October blotter:

“Lawrence police responded to the 100 block of Indian Avenue around 3:40 p.m. Tuesday after a 22-year-old Lawrence man allegedly hit another man in the head with a metal tape dispenser.

“The man was eventually arrested on suspicion of aggravated battery.”

Officers at the scene said the victim was fortunate his assailant was not carrying a loaded stapler.

They expect to have no problems making the charges stick, since the whole event was caught on tape.

2)Also, it’s great for grilling at a tailgate
There is a new vehicle anti-theft device in South Africa: a flamethrower.  It produces a fireball tall enough to engulf any thief … yet it is neither damaging to a car’s paint nor lethal to humans.  Apparently it simply blinds the would-be car thief.  And it’s only around $650.  And “it has yet to be deemed illegal.”

The bad news?  It doesn’t shoot flames out the back of the car to convince impatient drivers to back off.