Spending a few years dashing around town photographing people and places involved in news events has generated a side benefit for Explorer photojournalist Randy Metcalf.
He has a photography show at Ventana Medical Systems Inc., in Oro Valley that runs through Jan. 4.
The photography exhibition features the work three local photographers — Metcalf, Alan Magazine and Laurie Larwood. There's also an exhibit of local and national artists showing original photography entered in an abstract and contemporary art competition.
Metcalf was asked to exhibit photographs that demonstrated a photojournalist's point of view of happenings on the Northwest side during the past year. The choice of photo subjects was his, but Metcalf had to winnow his vast collection of images down to 20 photos that he considered representative of the topic. A photograph that Metcalf entered in Ventana Medical's People's Choice Award contest category — of the San Xavier Mission at night — also is on display with his work.
"It's really bizarre to see my photographs in frames because I'm so used to seeing them in the newspaper," Metcalf said, "so to see them hung on a wall behind glass is pretty unusual."
Metcalf noted he was surprised at the amount of work that went into preparation for the show.
"The preparation wasn't something I was expecting," he said. "There's a lot to be done with the matting and framing. I'm used to putting a couple of thumbtacks on the wall."
Metcalf said some of his favorite photos in the exhibition include a shot called "Night Bloom" depicting a night-blooming cereus opening up at dusk at Tohono Chul Park.
"I shot that same flower for four years and this time the sun was setting behind it and the flower was opening up perfectly," Metcalf said.
A photograph of a prescribed burn of buffelgrass on the west side of the Tucson Mountains south of Picture Rocks — "Buffelgrass Fire" — offered Metcalf a new experience.
"It was the first time that I had seen a fire whirl, where the fire whooshes and swirls like a mini tornado," he said. "It made a lot of noise, and it was exciting to be that close to the heat, with the smoke blocking out the sun and the sound of the crackling fire."
Metcalf was doing a ride-along with Northwest Fire Department paramedics earlier this year when they were dispatched to an auto accident. The resulting photograph that Metcalf shot — "Saving a Life" — captured paramedics administering oxygen and performing CPR on a patient while a stunned bystander looks on in the background. The paramedics were able to reverse the patient's heart seizure and bring him back to life.
"That still sticks with me," Metcalf said, "seeing somebody come back to life."
Another photograph, of Canyon Del Oro football running back Ka'Deem Carey leaping defenders to cross the goal line and score a touchdown, was simply a matter of good positioning, Metcalf said.
"A lot of a photojournalist's job is that you have to anticipate things and that means being quick and ready, and in the right spot," Metcalf pointed out. The resulting photo catching Carey in midair as he crossed the goal line attests to Metcalf's knowledge of being in the right spot at the right time.
One of the most reflective photos in the exhibit is called "One Last Look," a black and white shot of Carlos Rivera, the former caretaker of Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley. After the town bought the property, Rivera, who lived in a caretaker's home at the ranch, was no longer needed as an employee. The photo catches Rivera leaning against a wall and looking out over the ranch he would no longer oversee.
Why is the photo in black and white?
"He's a cowboy, it's a rustic place and it simply fit," Metcalf said. "The shot didn't work in color. We ran it as a black and white photo on the front page of the newspaper for that story and I don't think we've ever done that before — or since. Ironically, he died a short time ago and I wrote his obituary for the paper."
Metcalf said timid individuals generally don't make good newspaper photographers.
"You can't be shy and be a photojournalist," he said. "It's very easy for me to shove a camera in a person's face and take a picture. Sometimes you have to have a bluntness about you in doing that or asking a question."
Ventana Medical Systems Gallery is at 1910 E. Innovation Park Drive in Oro Valley. The Gallery is open to the public Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. weekly, through Jan. 4.