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|| News Item: Posted 2009-09-03

Sports Shooter Destination: Living and Working in Honduras and El Salvador
Tyler Orsburn keeps telling himself to always do his best for his family and himself.

By Tyler Orsburn

Photo by Tyler Orsburn

Photo by Tyler Orsburn

Local soccer players in Copan Ruinas, Honduras.
I wish I had a dime every time someone asked why I was living in Honduras and El Salvador because I am pretty sure I could have bought a new camera by now. Instead of responding with a longwinded explanation of how fresh tortillas saved my life I just answer with a line from one of my all-time favorite Ben Affleck movies Good Will Hunting: "I had to go see about a girl." And it was as simple as that.

I had just wrapped up a five-year photographer's mate enlistment with the U.S. Navy; attended Sports Shooter Academy II; studied photojournalism for three semesters at Western Kentucky University; had a couple of really cool photo internships under my belt and BAM! there she was - the love of my life, Frida. You see, Frida is from El Salvador and as the old saying goes love has no boundaries or limitations: only solutions, possibilities, passports and visas. So I sold my used Saturn, packed up my camera gear and bought a one-way ticket to San Salvador.

Upon arrival I knew there was going to be a lot of smoke belching transportation, a few early morning greasy stomachaches and plenty of cheap beer but other than that the cultural differences would be minimal because I am half Honduran. On the other hand I new this trip was going to be different for I finally had direction in my life. I had a game plan.

The first thing I did was contacting Dario Lopez, the AP photo editor in Mexico City. I told him I was spending a lot of time in Honduras and that maybe he could use a stringer. Dario responded comically, "We had to pull our photographer from Honduras because there is never any news coming from Honduras!"

Feeling the concern in my voice he continued, "Maybe you can help us with the World Cup qualifying Mexico vs. Honduras game." Now I was living the dream: Taking pictures at an international soccer game!

I wish this story had a happy ending but it rained cats-and-dogs that evening and my un-insured camera gear sank like the Titanic. Several months later Honduras was making breaking news as their military kicked their Venezuela-loving president to the curb and I was seeing wire photos all over the Internet.

Although I was spending a lot of time in Honduras it would have taken me 11+ hours on questionable transportation to get to where the street riots were. Haven spoken with Frida I decided it was not worth my time to be away from my new family especially since I did not have a bulletproof vest or camera insurance for my repaired waterlogged cameras.

About this same time La Prensa, a Honduran newspaper, manipulated a photo from an anti-coup demonstration. The original image was of a dead man wearing a bloody shirt. The printed version showed the same man with a clean shirt. The paper responded several days later, "Oops! Sorry about that. We don't know how that happened but it won't happen again."

Photo by Tyler Orsburn

Photo by Tyler Orsburn

Plates ordered by friends and family in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Disheartened I knew I could never contribute to a newspaper that showed zero ethics and that was so politically entrenched. So then I was like "How in the frig am I supposed to make a living down here?" I felt like making a t-shirt reading "Have camera/will work."

That is when you know you found the right the person in your life. Frida, my world-class graphic designer wife, suggested that we help small businesses with image makeovers: Logos, photos and web design.

We have been very successful with the jobs we have been given but they have been more logo and graphic based. People are not as willing to open their pocketbooks for good images when they have their own point-and-shoot cameras at hand.

Once, for example, an architecture firm from San Salvador contacted me to take pictures for a magazine spread of buildings they had been working on. The photo project, if done properly, sounded like it would take two or three days. So I told them, "A full day's work and a CD full of images for $100." They never responded. The going rate for a professional photograph for a corporate client is about $150.

A small business will pay $30 per photo. So that was when I said, "Screw it! I have my own 7-megapixel cameras. I am just going to start taking pictures of whatever crosses my path." So that is what I have been doing with my eight-month-old son Yax (pronounced Jacks) every morning as we go for walks around the neighborhood. I take pictures of old cars sitting on the side of the road or of birds resting on telephone wires.

Sometimes I take pictures of the newspaper stand down the street or of plates of food when we go out for lunch. Once I even documented local fishermen reeling in juvenile hammerhead sharks. I like to call these point-and-shoot photo events in my life My Little Projects.

I know they do not really mean much to people or have monetary value, but somehow they have helped me to believe once again in the simplicity and beauty of an image or moment. Searching for validity I e-mailed friend and former Riverside Press-Enterprise staff photographer Caitlin Kelly. Caitlin had been living in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the past two years and I was wondering if she ever felt the same way.

"Photography is 90 percent business and 10 percent shooting and that is the key to being a freelancer anywhere," said Kelly. "You just have to keep networking and shooting." Networking has been difficult because of language and cultural misunderstandings but the beauty of living abroad has been allowing myself to experience with unhindered senses and expectations.

At least this is what I keep telling myself: Do not be afraid if I do not own this or that by age this or that; do not live to someone else's expectations; always do my best for my family and myself. Feeling the photo love I have once again picked up my SLRs and started shooting some portraits. As Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones say: "Time is on my side…yes it is!"

(Tyler Orsburn work can be viewed at his member page:

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