Friday, March 30, 2012

Twitter allows me to escape from my isolated hometown bubble

Twitter comments by PHO245 student Aaron Gonya.
   The other day I was surfacing Twitter and discovered a new blog about journalism ethics called Ethics Matters (thanks for the link, Dave Cantor). I also learned that the investigation of a recent Maumee, Ohio fatal apartment fire continues, and looked at Wall Street Journal photos of the day.
   Sounds like a lot, but it's only a tiny fraction of links to national and local stories, websites and photos that are available at any given time on Twitter.
   When I tell students they will tweet as part of their course work, their reactions are all the same: they don't like it. Why? Because they don't understand it. The most common complaint is they don't want to hear what people had for breakfast, or any other insignificant banter. But that's not what Twitter is about. It's more for professionals, and that is what separates it from Facebook.
    Like it or not, tweeting is a part of journalism that's here to stay, at least for now. It's a quick and easy way to
  •  stay in touch with your community, including classmates, educators, colleagues, photographers, news sources, etc.
    •  receive and disseminate news tips, stories, photos, etc.
      •  learn about journalism-related information, like tools of trade, websites, training, etc.
        •  advertise your own or someone else's stories and photos that run in newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, etc.
          •  keep connected to whatever field you're interested in.
            A few of the journalism profs and orgs I follow.
               Those are just a few reasons why I like Twitter as a collaborative way to stay connected to people, organizations and news outlets.
                Twitter, launched in 2006, is an online social networking service that limits you to 140 characters. So there's yet another benefit: it forces you to be concise, which, as you know, is a key ingredient of journalism. 
               I wrote this post about Twitter because I am amazed at how much information is available at my fingertips. 
               I think of it this way: I am only one person, so it would be unfair to my students if I only offered them what I know about the business. Twitter allows me to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom.
                I no longer feel I am confined inside this tiny Toledo bubble. As a PJ instructor, I must ensure that my students don't live in their own tiny bubbles, either.

            Sunday, March 25, 2012

            End of semester means community project is near

            Photo by PHO245 student Mariah Teet
            Photo by PHO245 student Shalisha Russell.
               Wow. That's all I can say when viewing the sports photos taken by the students. They would look fantastic in any newspaper. Nice job!
               Tomorrow they will be working on their portrait assignment, which is the final regular assignment before we dig into the photo stories.
               Speaking of photo stories, I'm happy to announce that the class is doing their group community service photo story at Sunshine Home, a special place that services people with disabilities.
               Carolyn Miller, the Sunshine Home's communications coordinator, is coming into the classroom on Wednesday to talk about the shooting opportunities the students will have. The community service project is one of my favorite assignments because everyone involved benefits: the organizations we cover get fresh photos, and the students get to shoot a real-world photo story as a team. It's a win-win situation.
               The students will be divided into teams: sound, writing and editing, but they all shoot. It's a total collaborative effort. The end result is a Soundslides project that the organization can put on their website, if they so choose.
              In the meantime, view their great feature and sports photos by clicking on the student blog roll above.
               (UPDATE: The class will be going to the Sunshine Home April 9)

            Monday, March 19, 2012

            Learning to capture motion and moments through sports

            Intro to PJ student Paul Murray, front, shoots his first basketball game...EVER! He shot the Lady Rockets as they blasted Cincinnati to advance to the 3rd round of the WNIT. (Photos by Lori King)
            Aaron was excited to use his new camera on motor drive, though he admits he has to get used to shooting JPGs. 
                 I'm looking forward to reading what Paul has to say about covering his very first basketball game tonight. He's not a fan of sports, so I wonder if the few thousand screaming fans at the University of Toledo Lady Rocket's game influenced his lack of love for sports. Guess we'll find out when he posts his sports assignment on his blog. He's a writer, so he'll probably enjoy expressing his view on the matter than actually shooting the game, and I hope he's candid and honest.
               Aaron, on the other hand, was totally in his element when he shot a basketball game and a hockey game last week. He had the right equipment and the right attitude. Though he won't have as much fun editing his thousand (not exaggerating) or so photos down to the three required photos for his blog. Despite the work that still is to come (editing and caption writing), I could tell he was having a great time and would love to do it as a living.
               PHO245 students don't shoot sports for the sake of shooting sports. The assignment actually is a good exercise in capturing motion and moments. You know the saying: if you can shoot sports, you can shoot anything.
               Sure, it helps to have decent equipment, particularly a fast 2.8 long lens. But ultimately, sports shooters should have a basic understanding of the sport so they can anticipate the moments. But is that always absolutely necessary? Not too many of the students are sports fans, so that theory will be tested this week.
               Shooting sports is also a good lesson in storytelling. There's more to a sporting event than just a bunch of players in action. There are the fans, coaches and reactions.
               In the end, it's a LOT of work to cover sports. I hope the students had fun, too.

            Monday, March 12, 2012

            Intro to PJ student conquers his fear of feature photography

            Mages gather for Friday Night Magic. This is a strong overall shot of the gaming scene. (PHO 245 photos by Paul Murray)
            Nice detail shot to compliment the feature story.
                PHO 245 student Paul Murray is the shy type who admits he doesn't really like people. That's a pretty bold confession considering his major is journalism.
               "I was never very thrilled about photos that involve people," he wrote in his most recent blog post.
               "I think the world is a beautiful place, but I tend to dislike most people in general. The thought of approaching a random stranger with a camera is probably one of my biggest fears."
              For Paul, taking this Intro to Photojournalism course took a lot of guts. Most of my Intro to PJ students come out of Black and White 1 and Digital PHO 1, where they hone their camera control skills on inanimate objects. I can't tell you how many railroad and tree photos I've graded over the years. Taking photos of complete strangers opens up a whole new world to them. Some will love it and some will hate it, but all photoj students have to at least experience it.
               I have no grand illusions that PHO245 students take the course because they want to become photojournalists. Most of them have hopes of becoming commercial photographers, though, which means dealing with people. So this course is probably the first one that forces them to meet strangers and visually document their stories.
               It's easy to sip cappuccino at a coffee shop and criticize the photos in the local paper, but until you walk in our shoes, well, let's just say it's harder than it looks. And that's why I've chosen Paul as my  blogger of the week.  This week he posted his essay about feature photography, and I have to say his feature photos were good. He tried hard not to let his fear of photographing strangers inhibit his creative side.
               Visit his blog to see his other photos, and read about how he stepped out of his comfort zone. I also encourage you to read the blogs of the other PJ students. Their blog links are in the Student Blog roll above.

            Sunday, March 11, 2012

            Capturing famous politicians and media frenzies

            Media frenzy captures glimpse of Newt Gingrich as he exits a campaign speech at BGSU. (Toledo Blade Photo/Lori King)
                Sometimes it's a dog-eat-dog world out there in the media, especially when it comes to covering famous people.   
               It's no secret that the lower you are on the media chain, the harder it is to get close-up views of the well-known athletes, celebrities and politicians we are tasked to shoot. But I wonder just how important it is to get a photo that's shot within a pack of crazed photographers.
               The photo above was taken at a recent political event at Bowling Green State University. I didn't shoot this particular photo for my newspaper because I seriously didn't think they would have ran it. I shot this to demonstrate to my students what you sometimes have to do to get close to a subject.
               On this night, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum spoke separately at a Republican dinner. To get the the job done right, it took a 300mm lens with a 1.4 extender on a monopod. Using a long lens for the podium shot enabled me to get a nice, clear view of each speaker's face.
               But there is always more you can and should do. You also need to document them shaking hands with supporters and holding babies. You basically have to capture just about every move they make while they are in your viewfinder.
               To get the above shot I needed to get a little creative. I noticed a  row of empty chairs that were near the rope that separated the speakers from the masses. The chair occupants were standing in hopes of shaking hands with the famous as they passed by. I asked one of the occupants, an older gentleman, if it was alright if I stood on his chair, and promised I would wipe it off when I was done. He was happy to oblige, so I stood on his chair. That higher angle allowed me to document the media frenzy.
                I initially had to push my way through the supporters and media to get to that chair. A TV photog was chiding me to lead the way, so I did. Bottom line is you have to be a little pushy to get close, even if the shot you got (Newt shaking the hand of a supporter) wasn't used, after all. Believe it or not I was the only one who stood on a chair!
               Yes, you absolutely need to shoot what the other photogs shoot just in case your boss demands you provide it, but the challenge is to also find other angles that's unique to you. Separating yourself from the pack is what can make you special and marketable. I should heed my own advice.