Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter break

   This blog is on winter break until Jan. 9, 2012, when a new crop of collegiate photojournalists begin their citizen communicator training.
   See you then.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The end of the semester is 'bittersweet'

   Tomorrow is the final day of class this semester. As one student wrote in her blog yesterday, it will be "bittersweet."
   My small class of eight gradually came together as a team. They did a wonderful job on their team photo story on the Cherry St. Mission. They also flourished individually.
   Please take the time to read their blogs, located in the tab bar under Student blog roll. They deserve readership. You can also follow them on Twitter.
   Go forth and prosper PHO245 students!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Me and my shadows: Owens students follow me around on the job

Owens student Cheri Guthrie shares the photo box with CatTrick at a Walleye hockey game Nov. 30. (Photo by Lori King)
   With only a week left in the semester, the pressure was on for photography students at Owens Community College to finish all of their homework assignments.
   One of the final projects for the Photo Seminar course, taught by Margaret Lockwood-Lass, was to shadow a photographer of their choice and create a PowerPoint on what they learned. I'm a little flattered that four of her students, including Cheri Guthrie, chose to follow me around during my 'day' job as a photojournalist with the Toledo Blade newspaper. Cheri worked on her panning skills, and I think she nailed it!
   I don't have grand illusions that any of the four students, or even my own PHO245 students, will go into the photojournalism field. First of all, the competition is very, very steep. There are so many so-called photographers out there, thanks to digital cameras with auto capabilities, that finding a good paying job these days is nearly impossible. Secondly, aren't newspapers supposedly dying a slow death?
   As dismal as that sounds, I still believe that my role as an Owens photojournalism instructor is vital because the students become informed citizens with photojournalism sensibilities. The education taught in that classroom helps them to better understand the basic legal, ethical and civic responsibility of the news industry.
   We can not survive as a free society without trained journalists and citizen communicators.
   Yes, modern journalism is complicated, but it allows non-traditional photojournalists to tell truthful stories via social media, which makes it possible for them to have a voice without a newspaper to print it.
   This my train of thought when I'm in that classroom, or when I'm being shadowed by eager students who think photojournalism is cool.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Students document despair and hope at the Cherry St. Mission

Amy, left, uses a digital voice recorder to interview Chantele Henry, chief operations officer. (Photos by Lori King)

Serena and Clay document life at the Men's Ministry at the Cherry St. Mission at 105 17th St. in Toledo, Ohio.
Jessica asks a 37-year guest of the Sparrow's Nest for her name.
Dear PHO245 students:
   I'm proud of you for stepping out your comfort zones to shoot your team photo story project yesterday.
   You witnessed true desperation on the many sad faces of homeless men and women at the Cherry St. Mission. Hard to believe that most everyone you met lost everything they had, for whatever reason, and their only possessions were a few trinkets they keep near their twin bunks.
   While some of the 'guests' refused to let you take their photos, others were happy to share their stories, like the woman who suffered domestic abuse and escaped to the Sparrow's Nest, a shelter for women.
  There's no doubt that documenting down-and-out people is difficult, especially when they give you dirty looks or hide their faces in shame. I know some of you would have preferred to shoot the back of their heads and not ask them for their names. Anonymous is easy. 
   However, the only way to properly illustrate this heart-wrenching story of the poor is to put faces and names on it. Unfortunately, that's the best way to prove there is a problem. Sometimes it takes the media to get the word out so people will respond.
   The Cherry St. Mission is the perfect place to learn about the human condition of poverty. It's the largest organization serving the homeless and the poor. It offers beds, warm meals, free education, medical treatment, and much more.
   You must understand that as scholastic photojournalists you should be learning more than just how to stop action at a football game. It's actually the media's social responsibility to give a voice to the segment of the community that otherwise wouldn't have one, like the Muslim woman at the Sparrow's Nest who claimed she has lived there for 37 years. I would like to know her story, and we should tell it.
   This is the media's civic duty. It's our job to show the haves how the have-nots live. It's also our responsibility to report how the community steps up and reaches out to the poor.
   That's what you did yesterday.
   (The photo story will be produced using Soundslides, and will be available on this blog in a few weeks. To see the the photos from each student, go to their individual blogs the end of next week.)
The PHO245 team prepare to shoot their final photo story project at the Cherry St. Mission. From left: Clay, Serena, Ashley Shaffer, communications director for the Cherry St. Mission, Cathy, Becci, Jessica, Amy and Cheri. (Not pictured: Jocelyn)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The end of the semester is near, but learning never ends

Genoa Comets celebrate their victory as Northwood's Samantha Solaru displays her misery. (PHO245/Serena Ortiz)

Peak action by Cathy Zeltner
    The end is near, which means the students are busy wrapping up their final assignments.
    Their last individual assignment was shooting sports. They attended a sporting event, mostly soccer and football, and were required to capture images of the fans, coaches and, of course, action. They did a wonderful job. There were a few problems with slow shutter speeds and lens length choices, but that's what learning is all about! I displayed a few images I felt worthy of sharing. 
   We also welcomed guest speaker Enoch Wu to the class this week. He is a Bowling Green State University grad and a photographer with the Bowling Green Sentinel. He shared his new website with us, and talked about his transition from being a music major to becoming a photographer. Thanks for the visit, Enoch.
   The students are currently very busy preparing for their team project on the Cherry St. Mission. They are using their sports images to learn Soundslides, and will learn to edit audio with Audacity on Monday.
   They will be divided into three teams for the project: sound, caption writing and photo editing. Every student will shoot, but the teams will collectively produce the photo story with audio recorded at the site using digital voice recorders. It's a lofty project done in a very short time, but this team project introduces them to many skills needed in today's multimedia world.
    Please visit the student blogs by clicking on the student blog roll at the top of this course blog.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

PHO245 student gets crash course in tackle football, but she's ok

PHO245 student Becci Okenka is nearly tackled on the sidelines while covering the Whitmer football game Oct. 28.
(Photo courtesy of a friend)
      I've been shooting sports for the Toledo Blade for 16 years now. That's a lot of basketballs, footballs, volleyballs, golf balls, baseballs and players that could have caused me harm.
      I've only had minor incidents. One time I was shooting a profile of a high school pitcher. I told him to throw directly at the catcher so I could capture the ball zooming right at me. I was confident the catcher would, you know, catch it. He didn't. The ball hit my fingers and I thought they were crushed.
     Another time I was standing behind the pitcher during a charity softball game. Again, I had faith the pitcher would field the ball to protect me. He didn't. I had the biggest bruise on my thigh.
      Sports shooters are always at risk for getting injured or killed because we are so close to the action, where anything can happen.
      I don't think Becci Okenka, a current PHO245 student, realized this when she went to the Whitmer football game Friday to shoot her sports assignment for this class. She said she was on the sidelines shooting the action, totally focused on the ball as it soared through the air, when it landed on her forehead! To make matters worse, she was nearly run over by two football players who were chasing down the ball.
     Fortunately, she and her camera weren't injured, though I bet her pride is a bit bruised.
     Getting run over during games or being nailed by a ball is a fairly common occurrence, and it could happen to anyone. However, I think I neglected to mention this little fact during the sports lecture. Sorry that you had to learn the hazards of the sports photography the hard way, Becci.
     Even though she was shaken up a bit, she still managed to complete her assignment! To see her photos from the game, go to her blog:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

PHO245 students participate in art show at Toledo Museum of Art

Opening reception for a student art show at the Toledo Museum of Art attracted lots of attention from family, friends, instructors and art lovers. The show is called 4 Art: Student Art from Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University, Owens Community College and the University of Toledo. (Photos by Lori King)
Former PHO245 student Kathie VanNess, left, with family members, shows her Ballerinas, a digital print.
Former PHO245 student, Katherine Cedoz, takes a photo of her photo, Toy Camera Triptych/ All in a Day. Holga C-print.
This great studio portrait is by current PHO245 student Amy Everett. This is what I'm talking about!
This digital photo, entitled Honey Pot, is by current PHO245 student Cheri Guthrie. It wasn't her favorite, but my mom
likes it!

    Congratulations to the former and current PHO245 students who were among 100 college artists chosen to display their photography in the new exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art.
   The free exhibition will be shown through Jan. 12, 2012 in the Museum’s Community Gallery.

So it's raining...that's what trash bags are for!

Reaction can be just as powerful as the action.

Southview vs. Northview in district semi-final Oct. 26.
Metadata = Lens: 300mm / ISO: 2500 / Aperture: 4 / Shutter: 1/500
   I stood in the pouring rain for nearly two hours shooting a soccer game for The Toledo Blade last night.
   It was cold and miserable, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying the game. In fact, every time I poked my head out from under the cover of a large trash bag that I used to protect my 300mm lens and Canon MarkIV camera, I marveled at the beauty of the fall colors that surrounded the field, and how the rain looked like falling snow in the stadium lights. I kept thinking how lucky I was to be there. 
   We are in Week 10, and it's time for the students to shoot their sports assignments. I gave them two weeks to find a sport and shoot the heck out of it, which includes covering the fans, coaches and players.  Because they have to produce a Soundslides photo story, they must have at least 20 photos that document the entire game, on and off the field.
   Their biggest challenge won't be what to shoot. There's plenty of exciting action at any game at any given moment: angry and happy fans; yelling coaches; injured players; winner and loser reactions; and, of course, the peak action. As long as they keep their eyes open and pay attention, they will have moments to capture.
   The limitation will be their lenses. All of them have decent Canon and Nikon bodies, but most only have a wide to medium variable lens. If they shoot football or soccer with a 55mm lens, there's little chance they will get the shots  displayed in this blog post. They are aware of this, and have expressed concern in class. I told them to make up for the lack of peak action with great fan coverage.
    Make lemonade out of lemons!
   Next week they will post three photos on their blogs: the best action, best coach and best fan shot, as well as produce a Soundslides project. Check out their blogs to see how they did!

A photojournalist's portrait studio is...everywhere

To overcome her fear of photographing strangers, Amy took a deep breath and began chatting with her subject, the owner of an optometrist store. "It's amazing how fast you can complete these assignments once you find your subject and overcome your fears," she said. Read her story about her portrait assignment experience on her blog:

   When my students were told they were going to shoot portraits for their next assignment, they probably imagined using a studio, where hot lights and background paper are standard equipment. It’s natural to link portraits to this controlled environment because that’s where many families and high school seniors often go for their portraiture sessions.
  Portraits are also a part of a photojournalist’s daily agenda, but instead of subjects coming to a studio, we go to them. This is called environmental portraiture because we, the photojournalists, capture the personalities of our subjects in their natural environment, whether that be in their homes, businesses, schools, sporting venues, etc.
  Shooting portraits is not easy. There are many factors to consider, like light and background, but the most important element is that the photo tell their stories. Who are they? Why are we taking their photos for the newspaper? What's their environment like?
  Students have a hard time with shooting portraits because it can seem so...intimate. To shoot a good portrait, you have to get to know the person a little bit in a short amount of time. Social people don't have a problem with people photography, but shy people do. Serious scholastic photojournalists who are in their junior and senior years accept this. However, community college commercial photography students, like those in this Intro to Photojournalism course, are just wrapping their brains around the "getting to know your subject" concept. They're used to shooting things like trees, stuff in their apartments, old buildings and their kids.
  I'm trying to coax them out of their comfort zones, to find people they don't know with interesting hobbies or jobs, but it's not easy. Some did, some didn't.
  Because of this dilemma, I've decided to add a new instructional block next semester on how to find stories on campus. This will force them to cover their own community, which is Owens. That way, the students will feel a connection to their stories, which will be available to our school online newspaper, the Owens Outlook: I guess the lesson learned for me is you can't expect a baby to walk without first teaching her how to make those first steps.
  I encourage you to visit each student's blog. I have faith they will all eventually stray from their own backyards, but at this point, I know they trying hard to stand on their own two feet, and that's what counts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's true...shooting features 'is hard'

This weather feature photo was captured by Jessica, a student in the PHO245 course. She conquered her fear of strangers and shot this photo without a panic attack! Read about her panic attack experience in her blog:
       Panic attacks. Excuses. Pictures of dogs, cats and decapitated toes.
       These are what the PHO245 students experienced or shot this week for the feature shooting assignment. One student summed up the whole experience in two words: it's hard!
       The working life of a photojournalist constantly consists of turning bad light and cluttered backgrounds into wonderful captured moments of time.
       Seldom do we show up on a scene where everything is picture perfect. It takes work. It takes knowing how to handle light, whether it be too much or too little. It takes being able to scan the area and instantly know which angle is best. It takes getting photo subjects to be comfortable enough to ignore you, and then get them to tell you their life stories. All of these things take experience and knowledge.
      Experience comes with time. Gaining experience is totally up to the will of the student photographer. But knowledge, well, that's currently my responsibility. It's my job as their instructor to give them the basic tools they need to go out into the community and tell stories with their camera. The tool kit includes, but is not limited to, knowing their rights, being ethically and legally aware, understanding how their camera works, and knowing how to shoot different types of assignments, like features, portraits, sports and photo stories.
      Doesn't shooting stories for a living sound like fun? Honestly, that depends on the photographer. One student admitted she suffered panic attacks when she had to approach strangers for a feature assignment. Another tweeted this comment on Monday: "I learned that when shooting in photojournalism...don't try to be creative."
     What? Actually, it's the complete opposite. You should be creative in photojournalism, but the integrity of the photo/story needs be the first consideration.
     Students, don't beat yourselves up. It will get more fun and a little easier as you add experience into your tool boxes. After all, isn't that why you took this class?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Addition of pages

   I just discovered blog pages, which are like chapters in a book! So, I've reorganized the class blog by adding pages in the tab bar. Now you can easily view the syllabus and the class blog roster without having to search for them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ready, set, tell stories!

One of my favorite feature photos I took years ago.

   It's finally time to pull out that camera and push the shutter button. You are ready to tell stories.
   You've been busy the past six weeks learning the journalism part, which concludes this week with lessons on how to write accurate, concise captions using the Associated Press Styleguide. Now it's time for the photography part.
   You're first shooting assignment will be hunting for features, an integral task of all photojournalists. What are feature pictures? Features document life around us in a positive way. They are the photos that make readers smile. They are the snapshots of people that end up on refrigerators and office walls.  Feature pictures also help take the sting out of the hard news photos, and that's why photojournalists like taking them - for the balance of good and evil.
   Keep these things in mind when I send you out there Monday to find people doing everyday things, like flying kites, fishing, enjoying an ice cream cone on a hot day, or fighting with a broken umbrella on a rainy day. Whatever the subject matter, try to remember that you're not just taking a photo for yourself, you're actually freezing someone's moment in time, and how cool is that?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Teaching what the heck reciprocity means

   We officially ended the law and ethics portion of study today with a fitting conclusion - a 40-point test. I'm happy to report everyone passed! So, with a basic understand of what news is and what their rights are, we are moving on to my favorite part of the course: explaining camera controls, exposure metering and compositional elements.
   This morning, when I asked the students what reciprocity means, I mostly got blank stares. I understand that, considering it took me a few weeks just to learn how to say the word. I know what they were thinking: what the heck is reciprocity? It's a math miracle! The concept of taking these weird sets of numbers (ISO, shutter speeds and f/stops) and making them work in unison is amazing stuff, and I love teaching it. OK, I admit the reason I enjoy teaching is because it makes me feel, well, smart.
   I started out as a journalist. I'm pretty good with words and have a knack for spelling. So, when I started taking photos for my stories (when I was a cub reporter), the camera controls were totally confusing to me. It wasn't until I was an assistant instructor at a two-week Army photojournalism workshop in the early 1990s that it clicked. I've had a yearning to be a teacher ever since.
   Maybe it's a good thing that a word person is teaching a numbers game...because I can sympathize with the blank stares and the resistance to memorize 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16 and 22. Brilliant.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our First Amendment rights

The First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

   The First Amendment is only 45 words, but among those 45 words are five personal freedoms that guide how Americans have lived since 1791. 
   This first amendment in the Bill of Rights is uniquely American, though I think this world would be a far better place if it was a document that governed every nation on the planet. Can you imagine if leaders in Iraq, Africa and Syria were committed to The First Amendment of the Planet Earth? 
   The freedom of the press is especially valued by our democratic nation because it allows journalists to report on our own government without fear of being arrested or murdered. This is not a right we should ever take for granted, which is why the PHO245 students dedicated this past week learning and understanding what the First Amendment means to them, as scholastic journalists.
   Check out their most recent blog posts to see what they have to say about this very important subject. Links to all of their blogs are available at the top of this blog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All blogs accounted for

  I'm proud to announce that all nine student blogs are available for your viewing pleasure. Just click on the links above. Thanks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Let the blogs begin

   It's already Week 3, and the students are busy tweeting and blogging. I couldn't imagine teaching photojournalism without social media.We must adapt and embrace technology as the delivery system of the news changes. And it is changing. In fact, a few days ago I received the Buckeye Guard Magazine in my snail mail box. It came to me the old fashioned way, but on the cover was the announcement that it was the final issue. The hard copy of the award-winning monthly military magazine is going online. This sentence in the article titled Farewell to an icon: Buckeye Guard in transition on Page 4 says it all, "Please join us and engage in our social media space at...Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Flickr."
   I'm keeping this issue because not only does it represent the future, it reminds me of my past. I was a military photojournalist for that magazine for 13 years.
   Social media is not the future anymore. It's the present. It's here right now, and students need to be prepared to share their photography, stories and experiences anyway they can in order to compete in a point and shoot world. This is my justification for teaching them to be engaged in social media.
   As of late Monday night, there are only two students who have their blogs listed in the blog roll, but there will be nine by the end of the week. I can't wait to see what they all have to say!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tip 2: shooting through fences

 This is the backstop fence at Fifth Third Field. String is medium thickness. 

    Tip 2: Did you know you can shoot through a fence as if it wasn't there? It's not a miracle; you just have to consider the following things:
  1. It depends what lens length you're using. Wide lenses, like a 35mm, won't work, even at 2.8. Long lenses are the key. I recently shot these photos to illustrate this point:
16mm lens shot @ 2.8, 1/2700 of a second, 400 ISO
300 mm lens @ f3.2, 1/1600 of a second, 800 ISO

   2. It also depends on the aperture. Using a long lens, set your f/stop to around f2.8 and put it right up against the fence and focus on the subject on the field. The closer you are to the fence, the more invisible the fence will be. (Don't forget to set the shutter speed accordingly.) If the lens is not close to the fence, you will end up with faint lines, like on the photo below:
      This was taken with a 300 mm lens at f2.8, but the fence was about 20 feet or so from the pitcher.
   3. It also depends on the thickness of the fence. A thick fence might not be completely invisible, so you'll have to look through the lens and place your subject in the middle of the fence lines.
   So, next time you think a fence is an obstacle, experiment with different lens lengths and f/stops to solve this problem.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tip 1: Grap that camera when you need it!

Sunset beyond the I280 turnpike (Photo by Lori King)
   Tip 1. This is a beautiful reason of why you should always carry your cameras with you. If you're worried about theft, keep the cameras in a camera case in the trunk, not in your front or back seat where they can be seen!
   Photographers never know when a moment will happen in front of them. For this shot, I was driving on the turnpike and noticed the sun setting rather quickly. I knew I only had a short amount of time to take this photo, so I pulled over and took the shot. Within minutes the moment was gone.
   Lesson here: Be prepared. This includes keeping a loaded, fully-charged camera nearby. That doesn't mean you have to have it hanging off of your shoulder every second. The trunk is fine, as long as you don't have vanity plates that give you away.
   Sunset pix metadata: Lens = 300mm  ISO = 640 / Aperture = 5 / Shutter = 1/1250  / Exp. Comp.: 0.0


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hear that? It's a tweet!

    It's a new semester, which means a new crop of students. There are nine enrolled in this course, which is nearly double from last semester!
    In a few weeks this blog will feature an updated student blog roll, as soon as they create their blogs. Believe it or not, not a single student has a blog they currently maintain. That has been the case for all four PHO245 classes.  
    In the meantime, yesterday they created Twitter accounts. They will have their individual accounts, but the primary course username is @PHO245, managed by me. All PHO245 tweets will be hash-marked with #PHO245. Have something to share with them? Drop them a tweet. 
    Next up:
  • How to manage social media, which includes being ethical and responsible with these public, power communication tools;
  • Learning about the history of journalism, and what news is.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcome back!

    Greetings scholastic journalists! 
    Prepare to be educated about the field of photojournalism and the growing role social media plays in our lives. Here are a few highlights from the course:
  • Learn how to shoot feature, portrait and sports assignments;
  • Know your law, ethics and photographer's rights;
  • Use social media to share yours stories and lessons learned;
  • Work as a team to document an event and produce a Soundslides story;
  • Build a portfolio.
    New to the course this semester is the requirement to tweet. Blogging and tweeting are essential skills to learn in a very competitive market. 
    I struggled with the decision on whether to add Twitter to the curriculum, considering this is only an intro class. Since my goal as an instructor is to prepare the next generation of citizen communicators, how could I not include it? But tweeting is not an additional lesson; it simply replaces the discussion board, which students were required to use last semester. The discussion board is a good tool to practice writing skills, but their comments were enclosed in a bubble. That changes with Twitter, a micro-blogging tool that is a nice addition to the storytelling toolbox.
    So, let's get to work, shall we?

Monday, July 25, 2011

My aha moment

Click here.  
This is for all of the past and future students who make my classroom experience so enjoyable.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The End

   The semester is over and grades are posted.
The new poster for the PHO 245 class,
designed by CRT student Brian White.

   It was a wonderful class. They all worked hard, yet seemed to keep their sense of humor. You need that balance of work and fun.
   This list sums up what they've learned in a nutshell (which is actually a journalism term):

  • What journalism means
  • How to write AP style captions
  • Learned press ethics, rights and the First Amendment
  • Created their first blog
  • Learned to capture live sound and how to edit audio using Audacity software
  • Shot sports, feature and photo story assignments

     Three of the students blogged about their overall experience and offered advice to the Fall 2011 class. There is nothing like learning from your peers.
     I hope these students continue to respect truth in visual storytelling.
     This blog will continue in the Fall with a whole new set of student blogs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holly and Teri edits sound using Audacity
   These photos of the students (and Dave Cantor) in the classroom demonstrate teamwork in action.

   I couldn't be prouder of the students as they worked on the Bittersweet Farms multimedia project together. To recap - they all shot at the farm, which serves autistic adults. Back in the classroom, they took on different duties for photo editing, sound editing and caption writing.
   The final Soundslides project was amazing. I will post it here as soon as I figure out how to do it. I need a website (I don't have one) to convert the Soundslides Publish to Web folder into an embed code. Once I get over that hurdle, I will post the show.
   This team project helped prepare the students for their individual final project. They also learned they are not alone in the world. Learning to work with others is as fundamental as learning how a camera works.
   There is only one more week of school. I will cherish it while it lasts.
   I also want to take this opportunity to thank Dave for his assistance throughout the semester. His photo editing skills are greatly appreciated by the students!

Dave Cantor, back, assists Kathie, Katherine and Dennis with their photo editing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Breaking News Pulitzer Prize 2011
This slideshow will not pass the breakfast test. In other words, watch it while not eating. Though grim and sad, these stories need to be told so the rest of the world can respond.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A thanks to those who came before you

    I want to take a moment to thank former PHO 245 students who took this class during its infancy. I also want to apologize to them, as well. There is no doubt this current class benefited from 'experimenting' on them with course content.
   The first class in 2009, initially designed by Margaret Lockwood-Lass, didn't offer blogging. It was more traditional by focusing on how to shoot different types of assignments, like features and sports. There were no quizzes or tests. They wrote very little.
   The second class (Fall 2010) was more modern. Blogging was introduced, but there was no team project like we did this semester at Bittersweet Farms. Still no quizzes. Tardiness and attendance were problems, but they wrote more, and NewsU courses were added.
   However, the Fall 2010 class offered great constructive criticism that I totally took to heart. Mentioned below are a few improvements this semester:
  •    One student said a group project would have been appreciated. Thus, Bittersweet was born. They worked in teams to produce a Soundslides project with audio that will be posted on their blogs next week (read previous post). 
  • Most of the students admitted attendance was a problem, and suggested I be more strict. So I adopted the sponge quiz, a concept I learned in one of my grad classes. Students who show up the first five minutes of class are given a simple 1-point quiz that counts toward their attendance. This works well because not only do they get credit for the day, I get to tap into their psyche a bit more.
  • Quizzes were added to make them more accountable for their reading, and mandatory Blackboard discussion board posts allows them to share their ideas with each other and me).
   As I watched the students work as a team on the Bittersweet Farms project this week, it occurred to me that I owe part of the success of this semester to the former students. So, thank you for helping me improve this course. It wouldn't be the same without your honest input.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Student teamwork a joy to witness

Holly, right, shooting Bittersweet resident Danny and recording live animal sounds - at the same time! 

   Okay. I'm going to brag now. Oh, not about myself, but about my five Intro to PJ students. They make coming to class every Monday and Wednesday morning enjoyable and inspiring.
Dennis in the woodshop
   Their latest shooting assignment was a wonderful example of student teamwork. It was a group photo shoot Monday at Bittersweet Farms, an 80-acre farm that serves autistic adults. Students roamed the farm and captured the Bittersweet residents making artwork, tending to animals, cutting and splitting wood, planting vegetable seedlings and decorating cookies.
   But this assignment is more than just photographing subjects and turning in their best work for grades. It's a multimedia project that requires teamwork. Though all students shot, they had additional duties: Kathie will captions for the chosen photos; Kathie, Dennis and Katherine are editing the photos; and Holly and Teri collected the sound at the farm and are currently editing the sound using Audacity.
    The Soundslides project will not be completed until next week, but when it's done, I will proudly post it to this blog.
   Good job, students!
From left: Kathie, Holly, Julie Horn, Teri and Dennis


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Slices of life

   I was once told that the difference between a good photographer and a great photographer is effort.
   It takes effort to learn the controls on a camera. It takes effort to take photos of total strangers. It takes effort to tell stories for the sake of journalism. So I applaud the effort put out by my PHO 245 students.
  I've chosen a few of their photos to share. The captions are attached to these copyrighted photos, which are posted on their blogs.
Feature photo by Holly Omlor

Sports photo by Dennis Oehler
Sports photo by Teri Birtwhistle

Photo by Katherine Cedoz
Weather photo by Kathie VanNess

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Foundations of scholastic journalism

Scholastic Journalism Foundations = poster material
Thanks to John Bowen, my Social Media class instructor, for posting this on the JEA's Scholastic Press Rights Commission blog. Great resource material for every journalism educator and student!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Social responsibility at work

   I think the weather photo assignment was a good wakeup call to the students about how hard it is to document real people in real situations. A common question in class yesterday: Do our photos have to have people in them?
   Well, yes and no.
   This week's assignment required them to turn in two photos related to weather. One had to be a scene setter, or a wide shot. The other needed to be tight, to show detail. As in all photography, the subject matter depends on the subject.
Photo by Holly Omlor
   Holly documented a new sledding hill at an area metropark. All of her photos captured happy people playing in the snow, so they were all willing to supply their names for caption information. On the other hand, Teri shot an electrical outlet box in a building with rain water  "gushing" over it. Is that a major safety issue? If so, I doubt the janitor would dare pose by it for obvious reasons. Teri thought this was a powerful photo that she was compelled to take, but was reluctant to turn it in because the photos should have included people.
Photo by Teri Birtwhistle
   I approved this photo because journalism is a social responsibility, after all. If she was working for a community newspaper, that photo would make a powerful statement about the dangerous mix of water and electricity. Who is responsible for the upkeep of that building?  What if the electrical box caught fire and caused the deaths of residents (if it's an apartment complex), or students (if it's inside a campus building)? This is a wonderful example of witnessing a problem and bringing it to light.
    This is social responsibility at work. Journalism's first loyalty is to its citizens, according The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. This photo could help save lives. But first we must verify that the electrical box is a fire hazard. If it's waterproof, then it would be sloppy journalism to assume danger when one doesn't exist. So the caption information she collects on this photo will be paramount to the success of this particular static photo.
    That photo makes for a great teaching moment.
    If you're wondering why these photos aren't posted here, it's because they aren't due for publication on their blogs until March 14. I will add them to this blog that week.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Photojournalism: Two skills, one class

   It's seven weeks into the semester and the students finally have their first shooting assignment. The timing couldn't be better. They are instructed to document the weather, so this weekend should give them lots of photo opportunities. Toledo is supposed to get up to nine inches of snow.
   This shooting assignment will challenge the students in many ways. First, they are tasked to approach strangers dealing with weather, like shoveling or sledding, document the activity and collect caption information. That's the journalism part. The photography part is knowing how to take photos in the snow. Knowing how to properly meter a white scene is key to accomplishing this assignment successfully.
   That's the complexity of this class: photography (math) + journalism (writing) = photojournalism. These are two distinct skills that are learned in one class. The wonderful writing in their blogs prove they are ready to use their cameras. Like one student blogged in her most recent post, "I am a photographer...I did not sign up for grammar."
   Yes, you did, Kathy, and you're doing a wonderful job.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More on Ethics

   I want to thank Madalyn Ruggiero for being our guest speaker yesterday.
   Madalyn is a local freelance photojournalist who has been published in the Detroit News, the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and the Toledo Blade (where she interned). She also is an Associated Press stringer. We looked at her website and her Denali the Dog blog. Both had wonderful examples of her work. It's important students see that news photographers can also have personal projects that keep them inspired.
   When asked what keeps her working in a weak economy, she said tenacity and persistence. The students need to hear that it's possible to be a freelancer these days, as long as they are marketing savvy, and ethically fit.
   Speaking of ethics, she did talk about her experience as "the legs." The students should know the harsh consequences of unethical behavior. Read about this story by going to this link.
   This week we started talking about ethics and law. Next week: caption writing.

Discussion board Comment of the Week

   Every week the students are required to post a comment on the Discussion Board in their class Blackboard. This adds to their communication skills in writing and sharing information. Every week I will pull a comment to share on their class blog.
   The question every week relates to their weekly lesson. This is a comment on blogging from Holly Omlor.
   "I think to a certain extent this class will be good for me. I have always been under the impression that bloggers were people who sat at home with nothing else better to do than talk about stuff that most people could care less about!
   "I know, it sounds kind of harsh, but that is how little I knew about blogs! Most blogs I was familiar with were ones people put out there to whine about things they didn't like, or business owners who bragged about how awesome they were.
   "From doing a little searching of other blogs, I am starting to see how a blog can be much more than that. It can give a cause a voice. It can bring attention to injustice. It can inform people about what is going on when they didn't know anything was going on."                                      

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blog URLs

   The students have finally created their blogs. They would be happy to have followers! Included in their blogs are essays on what they are learning about the news business, photos (soon to come), and a blog roll of their favorite photojournalism blogs.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Practicing patience

   It's been two nearly three weeks, and yet there are no photos to prove they're in a photo class.
Yes, it's by design. I'm keeping them busy learning what a photojournalist is before they actually act like one.
   By the time they snap that first feature photo for their blog, they will be soooooo ready to post it. And that's my intent. I want these students to appreciate that it takes more than capturing an image to be considered a photojournalist. It takes knowing their ethical and legal boundaries, writing accurate captions and having a growing sense of what news is.
   They have finally created their blogs. I will add their blog URLs tomorrow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The power of the pen, camera

   There is no doubt modern American media has tremendous influential power in our society.
   The press helps determine national and local election outcomes; can bring down shady corporations through its investigative efforts; can inspire change and action at schools and dog pounds, etc., and can even influence society to establish change in our military (Don't Ask, Don't Tell).
    Because of this 'power of the pen (or camera),' it is absolutely necessary journalists are taught the responsibilities of truth, accuracy, fairness, balance and conscience at the scholastic level.
    In this Intro to Photojournalism, comprised mostly of commercial and computer art photographers, students are made aware early and often about these responsibilities to their local community. In fact, before they even take a single photo, they first learn the history of journalism, the definition of news, and the legal and ethical rights of photojournalists. And that's just the first week.
    The second and third weeks are spent creating their own blog. It will only take an hour to create the blog, but three class periods to teach them to be responsible with their new social communication tool. 
   By this time next week, there blogs will be up and running, and I'm sure they can't wait. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A new crop of PJ students

   Classes resume at Owens Jan. 10.
   I'm very excited about this upcoming semester because this class is as progressive as the time we live in. The current curriculum is designed to give students a competitive edge in today's market.  Photojournalism students must be media social savvy, as well as educated in the traditional staples of the profession - shooting news, feature and sporting assignments.
   With that in mind, students will:
  • create and maintain a photo blog;
  • learn the legal, ethical and responsibilities of traditional and social media;
  • use current editing and multimedia software, like Photo Mechanic, PhotoShop CS5, Audacity and Soundslides;
  • shoot traditional photojournalism assignments; and
  • write AP style captions.
   I invite you to follow along throughout the semester. Individual photo blogs will not be posted until Jan. 17.