Mizzou Relay for Life 2012

I had my first experience photographing for an official event this past weekend — Relay for Life.  I received an email sent out to our Fundamentals of Photography class and although no pay was offered, I jumped at the opportunity!  Half of me did it because I need more photos to add to my portfolio and the other half of me did it out of curiosity — I’ve always wanted to participate in Relay for Life as both of my dad’s parents died of lung cancer when I was younger, however, I’ve never had the motivation to stay up all night from 6pm to 6am. Although it’s an absolutely great cause, I know my limits when it comes to sleep…

I enjoyed having the freedom to take photos of anything and everything. I definitely got my people-watching fix in for the week. It was a little overwhelming at first, trying to incorporate all the skills I’ve learned in class to real life because someone was actually counting on me to capture a summary of this event.  I looked for honest emotion, interaction, details, scene setters, humor, and images that gave context information. Once I finally got the aperture and shutter speed right, the rest of it became easier as the night progressed.

I wish I had stayed longer, but I also had to attend the Opera ‘Cenerentola’ and support my GPT (Grand Pause Tonic, a small a Capella choir) friends. After the opera, I went back to the rec center where Relay for Life was held, got a few more pictures and then called it a night.

Here’s some of my favorite photos:

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It’s just the beginning

I did it! I finished the video! After all the phone calls and scheduling and finding a car to borrow and driving and shooting and interviewing and skipping class and checking out equipment and losing my headphones and freaking out about the annoying white noise and figuring out how to get rid of the white noise and clipping and editing and editing and EDITING and meanwhile studying for a midterm and finishing a photography assignment … I’M DONE! And I think it looks pretty good.

Sure, there’s some problems, but I can’t expect my first one to be perfect. I wish I had more ambient sound, more b-roll.  The interviews turned out well, though. I made sure to create different settings for the interviews and add a variety of shots throughout the video.  The kids did great.  They were well spoken and enthusiastic.

It’s exhausting, but that feeling of putting hours of work into a viewable 2 minute video is amazing.  I feel like a real journalist.  I documented something.  And I can’t wait to make another one!  Let me know what you think!

A critique on society

I sat down in the Journalism library today flipping through the photobook “Girl Culture” by Lauren Greenfield.  I was mesmerized by the photos.  Greenfield was able to capture the obvious reality of our society — a reality most people choose not to see or don’t pay attention to.  Through her photography, she forces people to see the details they often don’t even think to look for.  It’s clear that she had a great deal of access to the personal stories of some of the women she photographed, yet her work appeared unbiased.  It was true.

I think these photos particularly interested me because they were taken in the nineties — the first decade of my life.  It brought me back to my eight year old self, reminding me of the images of society I was exposed to at that age.  I saw photos of girls I would have admired back as a child, but looking at that nineties hair and awful fashion I just laugh at myself how.  I remember being concerned about the way I looked and always comparing myself to other girls at school.  At one time I wanted to look like these girls Greenfield photographed, and today I’m looking at photos of the same type of girls who were clearly doing the same thing — comparing themselves to their friends and trying to look like the popular kids, too.

I would love to do a photography project on something like “Girl Culture.”  This is the type of journalistic work I can see myself really enjoying.  I’d like to take a broad social issue and critique it by exposing the reality of life.  It would be so much fun to take a road trip across the country photographing people and the way they live, showing how diverse America is as a whole, yet how similar people are who live within the same city or state.  I love picking out those mannerisms that automatically give away a person’s hometown; for example, in Minnetonka, MN, we’re called cake eaters — you’ve got the trophy wives and the boat dads and the kids who are involved in EVERYTHING and get 4.0s and everyone wears UGGs and Northfaces.  The girls from Chicago suburbs are the type who will text on their phone when they’re hanging out with other people, who always have to have the latest fashion, and who can’t help but cause drama.

These critiques are generalizations, but I admit I haven’t paid critical attention to realistic characteristics and patterns of different places — that’s my goal though — to take a summer and document America as I see it.

29 Expressions of Advice

I like to keep those random chain emails …

you know the ones that are usually really corny and go straight to your trash because, let’s be honest, who has time to read them when we have fifty other emails waiting to be opened?!

But i wanted to share this one because i completely forgot that i had saved it until now…

  1. Walk for 10-30 minutes every day, while smiling
  2. Sit quietly for at least 10 minutes every day, in isolation if necessary
  3. Upon arising in the morning, one must immediately say, “My goal today is…”
  4. Listen to quality music every day.  This is real nourishment for the soul
  5. Live with the 3 E’s…energy enthusiasm and empathy
  6. Play more games than last year
  7. Read more books than last year
  8. Look at the sky at least once a day, appreciating the majestic of the world that surrounds us
  9. Dream more while awake
  10. Eat more foods that come from trees and plants.  Eat less manufactured foods
  11. Try to make at least 3 people laugh every day
  12. Don’t spend your precious time immersed in rumors, things from the past, negative thoughts or things beyond your control.  it is better to invest your energy in the positive present
  13. Life is a school, and we are here to learn.  problems are lessons that come and go; what we learn from them will serve us for the rest of our lives
  14. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar
  15. Eliminate clutter in the home, the car, and the office.  let a new energy enter your life
  16. Life is too short to waste time hating someone
  17. It is not necessary to win every argument.  One must accept that the other person is not in agreement, and learn from his position.
  18. Make peace with your past, so as not to ruin your present
  19. Don’t compare your life with others.  You have no idea of the highways they have traveled during their lives
  20. Nobody is responsible for your happiness, except yourself
  21. Remember well that we have no control over what happens to us, but only what we do
  22. Learn something new every day
  23. Appreciate your body and its marvels
  24. Whether the situation is good or bad, it will change
  25. Work will not take care of us when we are sick.  Our friends will.  Keep in contact with them.
  26. Don’t lose time.  We already have all the things we need.
  27. The best is yet to come
  28. Each day before going to sleep, say: I am thankful for _____.  Today, I succeeded in _____.
  29. Remember that we have too much that is good to be stressed

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I have several more of these stored away somewhere, so when I find them I will post them on my blog … perhaps on more nights like this when my mind is too awake to sleep at 2:30 a.m. …

Learn how to speak English (loving the info-graphics)

How I wish I could create info-graphics like this.  They’re perfect for visual learners like myself. I just want to post them all over the place! They catch people’s attention and provide important facts that people may not otherwise pay attention to.  So, today’s blog post features an info-graphic published by copyblogger.com

I would hope this is not new information to the general public.  Is the education system really doing its job if we can’t retain simple grammar rules from years of drilling us in elementary school? Sometimes, I feel like fifth graders really do know more than us. Well, for all of us who either never learned it correctly or simply forgot, and then slipped into these bad habits of sloppy English, take a look…

So we’re adults now. We’re not graded weekly with regular grammar tests. Who’s holding us accountable?  We have spell check, but spell check won’t judge us if we spell compliment the wrong way, and spell check doesn’t know the difference between a man “literally” dying of shame and a man literally dying of shame.  We have become accustomed to the text lingo (lol, sup, thanx, jk, luv; or my worst pet peeve, the lower cased ‘i’ … come on people, give yourself some credit!  As the only capitalized pronoun, you better OWN that ‘I’!) and this casual-language infestation is contagious.  It’s spreading faster than you can correct it.

With so many ways to communicate these days, people are getting lazy.  Writing or typing (can you really call it writing anymore if it’s done on a computer?) on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails, etc. has become so natural for us, we often don’t think twice about how we’re saying what we’re saying.  I mean, our friends don’t care if we capitalize our ‘I’s or misuse an apostrophe. Theyknow what we mean!  Here’s the problem, though. You’ll learn the hard way if you demonstrate improper grammar in a professional email to your boss.

My theater directors always used to say, “you’ll perform like you practice.”  As much as I believed screwing around during rehearsals wouldn’t affect my final performance, because I knew that the moment the curtains opened, I would act my best… they were right.

The majority of our writing is probably just a Facebook wall post or tweet, but we need to bring back respect for the English language in even our most trivial conversations!  So memorize that list and make the world better one sentence at a time.

Reflecting on POYi 2012

Issue Reporting Picture Story

I volunteered at POYi reading captions for the Issue Reporting Picture Story, so after being there several hours I started to get the hang of what the judges were looking for.

At the beginning of judging, I noticed a few key factors that usually determined whether a story stayed in or out.

  • The submissions with only a few photos were kicked out at the very beginning.
  • The stories with strong connections between the compilation of photos stayed in.
    Most stories shared a common theme or issue, but if the theme or issue could not be clearly identified, the story was out.
  • Some photo submissions didn’t tell a story at all; rather, they looked like a random compilation of the photographer’s favorite pictures.  These did not survive long, either.

Some photo stories really sparked discussion amongst the panel of judges…

In one story about a family hit hard by the effects of the recent recession, the entire panel of judges ended up changing their mind after one judge pointed out an important detail.  Everyone loved the story at first, but this judge said she felt it was missing something.  She made her case that a few of the photos were repetitive.  For example, there were three children included in the story, but one child had more photos than the others for no reason at all.  This possibly unintentional use of repetition unfortunately cost the photographer a chance of winning.  A greater point the judge made was that the story of the recession was no different than she had already seen in the past.  Many photographers cover the recession, and while this specific photographer seemed to have a great deal of access to the subject’s personal life, the photographer’s photos were not unique enough.  The one judge also said she would have liked to see more photos outside the home or at least in a different location than the motel the family was living in, perhaps of the mother looking for work or the family grocery shopping.  Through this discussion, I learned the importance of balance of photos and the importance of approaching a story from multiple angles.  I understand that these things require time and creativity; time getting to know the subject and time planning out the direction of the story, and creativity to figure out ways to photograph the story in a new way.

First Place: Craig Walker, The Denver Post

First-place-winner, Craig Walker, and his incredible access to the story especially impressed the judges. They said over an over again, “you can tell the photographer spent a lot of time with the subject.”  It was clear that his subject – a war veteran with PTSD – trusted Walker, allowing him to see a side of him that most people, even his closest family, may not completely recognize.  These emotionally charged photos revealed the darkness in the veteran’s life.  In only twelve photos, I felt I was provided with significant insight into the pain and anxiety this veteran goes through on a daily basis.

Second Place: Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times

Again, for the second place winner, the judges saw that the photographer had a great deal of access into the famine story – capturing the life and death of those experiencing hunger.  They pointed out that while it is a horrible story, the photography was stunning.  In a dark situation, the photographer made the photos appealing by bringing out bright colors in the landscape and clothing.  There are hundreds of photo stories about hunger and famine, but the judges said this one was different.  The images did not make them cringe with pity and disgust, rather – each photo was beautifully composed and illustrated the loving connections among the people.  The image that really stood out to one of the judges was one showing a pink folder of some refugee camp personnel standing above a child’s corpse wrapped up in a cloak.  He said anyone could have taken this photo – it was so simple – but he will never forget this striking image that is so commonly seen by those at the African refugee camp.

Award of Excellence: Ross Taylor, The Virginian-Pilot

The story that won an award of excellence also focused on the recent recession.  The judges liked how each photo portraying a different person, group or situation was well composed and could have stood alone, but together they created a well-rounded look into the effects of America’s economic hardships.  This was a type of story I would like to see myself photograph; instead of focusing on one individual or situation, I’d be interested in taking an issue that affects the larger population and showing it’s effects by highlighting several individual’s personal stories.

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After seeing what it takes to put together a great picture story, I actually started second guessing my dreams of doing documentaries.  At least in this point of my life, I’m not entirely comfortable following around a subject in their most personal moments and for long periods of time – I feel as though I am invading their space.  I greatly admire those photographers who have the patience and will to get such private access to people’s lives, I just need to feel confident in my own photography skills before I can reach that level.  I also learned that as a photographer, you have to take chances and experiment with the camera angles.  If I’m photographing people, I could focus just on their feet or zoom in on their eyes, or let the setting tell the story and keep the subject in a shadow.  Great photos are not accidents and require more than good luck.

For More photos from POYi, click here!