Gems from the darkroom: Photojournalists practice visual editing |

Gems from the darkroom: Photojournalists practice visual editing

Tom Ross

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Steamboat Pilot and Today’s reporting team is blessed with some exceptionally gifted photojournalists.

John Russell, sports editor Joel Reichenberger, Matt Stensland and city beat reporter Scott Franz, have all won recognition for their imagery.

Russell has a keen eye for what we call “grab shots,” or “wild shots.” If the editor sends him out to find an image that isn’t connected to a news story, he often comes back with a compelling wildlife shot.

Stensland has undergone training to allow him to get within shooting distance of wildfires and comes back from the forest with frames of orange flames.

Franz, who is leaving the newspaper this week to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, will be missed for his eye for landscapes. We can’t wait to see what he posts to Facebook over the coming six months.

Photography has been a big part of my own career at the newspaper. The images I value most came from outdoor adventures; cattle branding, wild horse roundups, wilderness backpacks, and river trips.

Earlier staff photographers like Ross Dolan and Kevin Dougherty have also produced exceptional work for the newspaper. Dolan mentored me both in making portraits, and developing black and white film. Dougherty pursued action ski images with a passion.

All of us have been fortunate to work for a newspaper that didn’t just allow, but required reporters to improve their photography skills.

Photography, whether the subject is wildlife, fashion, sports action, architecture or human interest, is always an art form. I’ve always thought of photojournalism as a visual form of editing. The photographer decides what to include, and what to edit out of the rectangular frame.

At the Steamboat Pilot and Today, much of our best work has supported the content of a story whether it be hard news or a feature, by providing our readers  an emotional connection to the text of the story.

With the approach of May 2018, the staff of the Steamboat Pilot and Today is extra busy sorting through almost 20 years of accumulated  files, magazines, books and the good luck charms we keep on our desks. It’s also preparation for moving the newspaper offices, in early June to the former Yampa Valley Eelctric Building on Tenth Street in downtown Steamboat.

We’re also sorting through our archive of black and white prints, produced before the change to digital came about in 2000.

Stored in a dozen over-sized file cabinets packed with manila folders that are labeled by subject matter, are hundreds and hundreds of photographs. The majority of the images are mundane. Some  are simple portraits of  long-gone Routt County residents both well-known and others relatively anonymous, though no less significant.

There are some photographs that are special to me because when rediscovered, they take me back  to forgotten sporting events,  outdoor adventures and so many of the people across the decades who have made Steamboat Springs a special place to live.

We hope you enjoy revisiting some of these “Gems from the Archives” in the Sunday, April 29th  and May 6 newspapers (and of course, in digital form, at

*TheTread of Pioneers Museum sponsored a Ute culture festival during the annual Western Weekend/Chili Cookoff in June 1995. The visit from the Utes represented an all-too-rare opportunity for Twentieth Century Steamboat residents to interact with the native peoples who called the Yampa Valley home.

*Beatrice “Bea” Powell posed with her last group of reading students at Soda Creek Elementary School upon her retirement in 1984. Powell came to Northwest Colorado at the age of 2 in 1916 with her family, homesteading near Maybell. Bea began teaching second grade in Steamboat Springs in 1953.

Longtime Strawberry Park resident Daisy Leonard Anderson, pictured here in 1979, was famous for her magic touch growing strawberries and raspberries and charming the community. But on a national level, she was known for her connection to the Civil War. Daisy, who died at the age of 97 in 1998, was known as one of the last three Civil War widows. The math doesnÕt add up you say? Daisy was 21 when she married 79-year-old Civil War veteran, Buffalo Soldier and former slave Robert Ball Anderson, and lived another 76 years. She moved to Steamboat several years after her husband did in 1930 and wrote two successful books about her late husband.

Longtime World Cup and U.S. Ski Team Alpine skier Heidi Bowes, of Steamboat Springs, placed second to teammate Tamara McKinney, in the slalom event at the U.S. National Championshipsat Copper Mountain in 1983. It was the year McKinney won the overall women’s World Cup. photo: Tom Ross

Lower Elk River Rancher Ralph Guire holds a hybrid lamb that was the product of a “marriage” between a wild bighorn ram and one of his domestic sheep in 1981.

It came as a big surprise to residents of the Yampa Valley 38 years ago, that there were still wild bighorn sheep roaming the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. But the presence of bighorns in Routt County was undeniable, after a mature ram came down from the mountains in 1980 to mingle with domestic sheep on the lower Elk River Ranch of Ralph Guire’s. A year later, we all learned what happens when you cross a bighorn with a domestic sheep, when Guire cradled a hybrid lamb in his arms for a Steamboat Pilot photographer.

Actor McLean Stevenson of “MASH” television fame clowns with Flash, the F.M. Light & Sons horse in October 1981 while taping a syndicated holiday television program for the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Stephenson won a Golden Globe in 1973 for his portrayal of Lt. Colonel Henry Blake, the conflicted chief surgeon and commanding officer of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. Stevenson died in 1996. photo: Ross Dolan

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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