Beyond photographs

As a photographer it is important to also have other interests besides photography. Actually, it’s crucial.

Let me give you an example. Hypothetically, I want to be a public speaker. I mean I really want to be a speaker. Talking to a crowd of 80,000 people really gets my pupils dilated. So, I read books on delivery technique. I watch other speakers and study their skills. I talk with other speakers and take classes on speaking. I practice speaking to my mom and dad and dog and cat. It is all I do. Then one day I get an offer to talk to the local rotary club. It’s a dream come true, right? But what do I talk about? I have done nothing other than eat, drink, sleep the idea of speaking. What can I draw from my own experience to talk about?

As a photographer you need to have an interest in something. It could be an issue, a political party, a group of people, a city, a state, an organization or practically anything. Having an interest in that topic and learning about that subject will give you a better grasp of how to make images of it.

Curiosity is a wonderful tool, also. Asking why. Or how does that work. Or what makes that person so energetic. Beyond asking the question there is the follow-through. The follow-through is the ability to answer the question or at least explore the possible answers.

There are other tools that make a great photographer like patience and people skills. But what tools have been the most helpful for you? And what tools would you imagine would make a photojournalist better?

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Alfred Eisen…who?

I am excited to have recorded learning a few things during week two. There are fifteen creative elements in photojournalism. Can you name them??

1. Diagonal Lines
2. Introduce color into a monochromatic setting
3. Introduce order into disorder
4. Linear lines
5. Silhouette
6. Juxtaposition
7. Unusual angle/perspective
8. Framing
9. Panning
10. Dominant background/ assisting foreground
11. Rule of thirds
12. Depth of field
13. Lighting
14. Reflections
15. Decisive Moment

This week I was faced with shooting an important story. I was standing in from of a scene and couldn’t find the image. I went back through the list and one jumped out at me and within a few seconds I was able to use framing in a way to add content and interest to a frame. I have known of these elements intuitively, but never have I actually taken the time to list them out and make them conscious. I think that will help me when I get stuck finding a frame at times.

Alfred Eisenstaedt is a famous photographer from Germany that lived most of his life in the United States after World War II. If you are having trouble remembering the German genius of photojournalism think no further than the Times Square sailor’s kiss on V-J Day. We were asked quickly in class for his name and there was a silence. Therefore we have been assigned three photographers a week to do research on. This week was Eisenstaedt, Mathew Brady and Sam Abell. I sat down and looked at work from each of them today. Sam Abell’s The Photographic Life was a great book to page through. It was such a fun time with great images and engaging story. Can’t wait to actually meet him. Also, emotion was the subject of three images that we will turn in Wednesday.

I am slowly learning Adobe InDesign CS5. It is painful to learn software like this so quickly. But if it hurts, you know it’s working. Atleast that is what my dad said about the ointment he put on self-inflicted gashes. This week we are turning in a design on an InDesign tool bar guide. I am going for the simple look at this point. I wish I could call it sandbagging.

Besides trying to nail down my personal schedule this week and create some semblance of a routine, I will be looking for a sports assignment to shoot. I am also going to take some advice and try to visit with my faculty during office hours if for nothing else to say hi and get to know them.

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First week in the bag….part 2

Let’s start with a tip I got this week that is small, but powerful. For Microsoft Word, the default setting on the spelling and grammar is set to casual. To change this up a level and make it more stringent, go to Preferences settings and then into the “Spelling and Grammar” area. There you can change to formal where it will attack passive voice sentences and other more casual ways of writing. This seems to be a great tip for me since I love passive voice too much.

Editorial photography is another class I am taking twice a week. We will be shooting stills in this class and it seems like a direct relation from my newspaper assignments. My first task is to shoot two images. The only requirements are that a person needs to be in the image and that one image is wide angle and the other with a long lens. We will be shooting assignments each week. It will be like shooting for a weekly paper. This will be a class where I will get out of it exactly what I put in.

Lastly, Picture Editing is a class where I will learn the skills of a good photo editor. Using the correct verbiage, articulate ideas effectively and understanding assignments are part of the information I will expect to pick up in this class. We started the class by learning some basic words like tabloid, broadsheet, dead space, double truck and sidecut gang cutline. We are also going to be tested on current events regionally and nationally. I am a news hound. I will find this part very agreeable.

Beyond these classes, I did have another on the agenda, but I think Audio/Video class is leaving my schedule. It is an intense class consuming hours of time that I am not sure will fit especially in my first quarter. The goal is to push my quality high and with that in mind I intend to spend hours on my skills as opposed to just getting by.

I wrapped up the week getting my student ID finally and taking care of finances. Rates on subsidized loans are great right now. I delayed accepting the money until I actually need it. Going in debt further is not part of my plan, but accruing debt might be a necessity. I am in need of a computer and photo gear. Sadly, buying this gear now does not make for a good financial investment in my opinion. It may however be a necessity.

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First week in the bag

The first week did exactly what I heard it would. It flew like a teenager from chores. I am going to work hard at making the second week a bit more scheduled and find a routine. I need to fit in normal things back into my life like laundry, working out and shooting.

My first class of the week and year and degree was Graduate Seminar. It is a meeting. There is not much homework in this class. It is a weekly hour-long session between the department head and the new grad students. The objective is to help keep us together, focused and on track for our degree. We are going to be meeting faculty again and will hopefully be able to decide which two we will request to be part of the committee to review our final projects. It seems this will be a great session to help keep our weeks grounded and remind us of the end goal.

The next class I had on Tuesday was Intro to Publication Design. Not let me explain that I know very little about design. Design to me is like women. I think I know a little bit, but reality screams that I know nothing at all and should just generally keep my mouth shut. In Design is the piece of software that I will be learning this quarter and this course puts it right in my face as a big priority. Required reading is the Non-Designers Design Book and Non-Designers Type Book. We are to read 90 pages in the first book. We also need to design a page in In Design. It needs to use several tools including pencil, color, text box and rectangle. We are to create a design around our name and two truths and a lie that pertain to us individually.
This is just a simple assignment to get our toes in the water of Design.

The follow up to this class on Thursday was a review of our work and explaining the basic principles of design. I love acronyms by the way and this is a good one.
C
R
A
P

That’s right. CRAP.

Contrast
Repetition
Alignment
Proximity

These are the timeless anchors of basic design principles. Learn them and love them.
I assume I will begin using these principles here in the blog. For now, hang in there with my poor design and layout and let us grow together. Shall we?

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Orientation to Grad School

Grad school is starting to feel very real now.
I am lucky because I have been keeping close contact with some second year students. They have filled me in on all the little tips and tricks to get me through in a less painful way. Maybe for you, my wonderful, yet non-existent reader, this will serve as your second year student.
It seemed that all the new students had the same idea with all of us arriving early for our mid-morning meeting. Fifteen minutes of strangers staring at each other making small talk. It felt like a large version of a sit down elevator. Two years together with these people. This was my thought and I am sure all the rest. The head of the department came in and we were soon engaged with our introductory talk.
It began with a congratulations for in the face of a struggling industry with little hope of current employment, we were going to be the ones striking out in potentially a new path or at the very least a much different landscape from what we were all accustomed. The face of photojournalism and journalism itself is facing major flux and potential devastation. It was meant to be uplifting, but was quite daunting in the same respect. It seemed like something akin to that pat on the back after volunteering for the front lines. Through it all we were encouraged to have fun. Strive to have fun through the stress and weight of the work. Fun.
Next, we were introduced to our faculty. They spent about 15 minutes doing self-introductions. The vast amount of experience in time and quality of work is astounding and enviable. Many of these people had obviously worked in some of the best of times and were now huddled together in this current chaos to introduce the next wave of shooters into the world.
Afterwards, the students got to say hi and say a few words about themselves. We have people from Europe and Asia. More than twice the number of students applied, but only about 20 will embark on graduate studies with us. Some were shooters, some were not. Some have worked for papers, some didn’t. It is a motley collection of experiences, cultures and people. It will be interesting to see how the quilt will be constructed from all these parts.
Another interesting moment was the surprise test. We were given a multi-page test covering technical issues like color compensation, exposure equivalencies, photo identification, color temperature, and creative techniques. We were told that last year’s test passed only 2 people out of 14. Daunting. I felt good taking the test over the course of 35 minutes. A failed test results in a remedial class to remind/teach students technical aspects of their future careers.
As a group we registered for classes together after we were assigned an advisor. I am confident that my advisor is helpful and knowledgeable. He made a point to tell me and us that grad students were his highest priority. Our time as a grad student is short and we are very determined and what we are doing.
Lastly, we helped organize new inventory. Nikon has donated a bunch of gear and Canon may be following with the same idea this year. It is very exciting as I have to make a choice on getting new gear soon.
I left orientation with my roommate telling me that if I had a chance to get out of the town for the holiday weekend to do so. It might be my last chance for a while. Things are about to get interesting. I have four classes, which may go to five as I pack in a little bit more in my first quarter. With a pending graduate assistantship on the horizon and still the need/desire to make some income I am already wondering how it will all get done.
My first quarter will consist of classes including Graduate Seminar, Intro to Publication Design, Audio/Video, Picture Editing and Editorial Photography.I will be posting more information on these classes and more on my coming experiences.

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The Process of Acceptance

It began with a phone call to the head of the visual communications department to find out about the program. The program length: 18-24 months.
The cost: thousands
Would I be able to get a job afterwards? Who knows.

But I do remember a staunch declaration that news is not dead. The outcome for newspapers isn’t really clear. Images will continue to be needed, but the business model to pay the photographer is crumbling and a new one hasn’t emerged. However, something will emerge.

So with that little glimmer I started my application process. Only 20 grad students permitted and there would be people turned away. I turned in my portfolio as a website. It was a site I created for potential employers and felt it showed what I knew fairly accurately. I wrote an essay, completed the application and waited.

It was a long wait but worth it. I sent in all my financial aid paperwork and waited on costs. I then set out to save money. The program pays half the tuition of each student accepted and more if there is funding. Without surprise there isn’t extra funding for me. But I am grateful with the program covering half my tuition. Amazingly so.

As September 3 draws closer, I have secured an apartment with another grad student. He is in commercial photography and will be a good counterpart. I have saved all the money I could and have made plans on how to earn more during school. Anyone need a wedding shooter? Anyone? What about raking up all those leaves in your yard? Whatever it takes.

So the next stage is packing, traveling, moving in and orientation. It will come and go quickly. I will save the boring details and try to pass on more meaningful details.

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The Beginnings

On September 3 2010 I will become a first year graduate student in photojournalism and multimedia at a notable university in the field. I have been a photojournalist since 2006. I have been a stringer for AP, UPI, New York Daily and a few other papers. I also worked as a staff shooter at a mid-sized daily and also a small twice-weekly.

The idea of going back to school came in 2009 after I seemed to exhaust my job search after becoming unemployed December 31, 2008, three hours before the new year. I spent the next several months showing my portfolio, hitting the various short courses and networking as much as I knew to do. Nothing.

I am hoping that by going back to school I will remain or maybe regain relevance in the field. I already know that the degree will not help me in the newspaper industry. I am counting on learning more skills to make me indispensable. I also hope that the higher degree will open doors eventually to teaching opportunities.

My hope in doing this blog is to document for others in the field what is being taught. I want to help provide a window into the changing times of photojournalism. One great method of learning is to show someone else what you have learned. So I hope this can help you as much as it will help me.

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