Sunday, October 28, 2012

Features, portraits and sports, oh my!

This is a blog post by Miranda, who used a photo slideshow gadget.
   The PJ course is more than half way over, and there is still so much more to do!
  First, I want thank one of the students for creating business cards for all six students in the class. Each biz card has the student’s name and blog URL. Passing them out to their sources and subjects will help to spread the word and keep in touch. I also want to give Miranda kudos for being the first to try out the photo slideshow gadget on Blogger. Miranda is not afraid to try new things, and that will aid her well. Good job, Miranda!
   So the feature assignment is behind us; the portrait assignment is in progress; and next up is learning how to shoot sports. They will use their sports photos to learn Soundslides, which kicks off the photo storytelling lecture. That lecture includes learning how to edit audio using Audacity, editing photos down from many to a chosen few, and marrying audio with multiple photos to tell a story. 
Yep, we're pretty busy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Students learn about reciprocity and the power of display

Reciprocity is a lesson in camera control

Take note of the blurry background in this image of a moving vehicle. This
effect is achieved by using a slow shutter speed and panning my camera with
movement of the vehicle. (PHO245/Jen Hannum)
By Jen Hannum
   I learned a lot about cameras and how they work while studying camera operations in my photojournalism class this week,
   Did you know that a fixed lens isn’t defined by whether the lens zooms or not? It is actually a lens that stays at its minimum aperture no matter what focal length you set it to.
   We also touched on basic compositional elements, as well as a reminder of how to control our shutter speed, aperture and ISO to achieve the creative control of our images.
   Reciprocity is the process of setting all the controls on my camera to capture an image with my desired creative outcome, which should be determined in my head before I even put that camera to my face.
   Camera operations is really all about knowing my camera and how to achieve the look I desire in my images, and not letting the camera decide for me.
   The above blog post is from PHO245 student Jen Hannum. I’m proud to highlight the work of Jen, who flawlessly demonstrated a technique called panningI posted it in its entirety because it’s the epitome of what's expected from a typical student blog post. 
   Students are expected to publish short essays on their blogs each week,  forcing them to strengthen their writing skills. This is also where they will display their photographic work the rest of the semester. They will learn basic layout and design principles, which is just as important as the text and photos they display. If a display is bad, then readers will be too distracted to care about the rest. A good display exhibits attention to detail and an understanding of good showmanship.  
  These are basic layout and design principles to keep in mind:
  • No trapped white space
  • People and objects, like cars, should face toward the copy, not off the page
  • If a photo is on left, then use flush left or block text, and if photo is on the right, use flush right or block text
  • Photo captions are flush left or block 
  • Use photos LARGE
   From now on every student will display their photos on their blogs. These are their upcoming shooting assignments: feature, portrait, sports and individual/group photo stories.   
   You can find their blogs by clicking on the Student Blog Roll/Fall 2012 in the top menu bar. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New PHO245 beat system inspires critical thinking and fear

   In education we hear a lot about the term ‘critical thinking.’
   What does it really mean?  I know we journalism educators are expected to inspire students to be critical thinkers, but there isn’t a manual for that, is there? This expectation is always in the back of my mind. How do I get students to be critical thinkers in a class packed with so much dogmatic information, like learning camera controls and caption writing?
   Well, I think I’ve found an answer.  It’s called the beat system, and it’s a powerful way for photojournalism students to become critical thinkers.   
   The beat system is a common way for journalists to cover particular topics on a long-term basis. Popular newspaper beats are cops, health and fitness, politics, local school systems, etc. The main intent is for journalists assigned to beats to become familiar with the people of those beats.
   For the past several years I’ve been struggling on how to get the Intro to PJ students to care about what they are shooting. Typically, I’ll teach them what feature or portrait photography is about and then send them out into the wild blue yonder of Northwest Ohio to stumble upon something interesting. It was frustrating for them and for me. There was little focus or allegiance. I struggled with how to make it better.
   Then late this summer it occurred to me to use the beat system. I talked to a dean in the technology school, a professor in the culinary school, and an adjunct in the Emergency Management School. I asked them what they thought about students covering their schools for the semester. They loved the idea, and so did I.
   I finally introduced the beat system to the students yesterday. I supplied them with an explanation letter to share with their contacts, and told them to go to their assigned beats and make initial contact. You would have thought I told them to go jump off the big O on top of the Health Technologies Hall building! Many of them seemed fearful to make that first step on their own. Approaching deans and instructors can be pretty intimidating to students, but that's the point. It's time to shed those shells!
  Each photojournalist was assigned a beat they were interested in.
   This is where the critical thinking comes in: I told them their beats are their responsibilities. They should be the ones to introduce themselves to the deans, instructors and students, and then dig for interesting visual stories within their own beats.  
   This strategy forces them to step out of the comfort zone of Classroom 206. They will have to be critical of whom they meet and what they find. Will they settle with the first opportunity that comes their way? Will they know when to say yes and no when offered a good or bad idea? How aggressive will they be to find a good story? Can they get past their panic attacks? Will a budding photojournalist or two discover that this career is actually meant for them?
   This is a pilot program I'm anxious to see grow through time, and one I hope they appreciate it some day.