Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shutter speed controls motion. Class dismissed.

Dear B&W 1 students:
   This week's lecture in class was on how shutter speed controls motion.
   It seems like a fairly simple concept, until I actually begin to explain it. When I wrote on the whiteboard how you can control motion three different ways, many of your facial expressions gave me that "I'm so confused!" look.
   The same expression was evident last week when I taught you how to control depth of field three different ways: aperture, proximity to the subject and lens length choice.
   And that same expression was there the week before that, when I showed you how to use a gray card to expose for a scene.
   Relax! That 'look' is perfectly normal for the first half of this class (and sometimes for years to come), which mostly consists of beginner and amateur photography students like you who know very little about using a camera on manual mode.
   Because I think the best way to teach is to show and do, we all marched down to the SHAC gym, where I gave my body up for science. Not really. After helping you set their camera controls properly, I looked like a dork and ran back and forth so you can learn how to pan a subject. It was exciting to hear 15 cameras clicking as I ran past you. I also did jumping jacks for the slow motion concept.
    To recap today's lesson:
  • Panning - set your camera on a slow shutter speed, around 1/15th of a second, follow the subject and snap the photo as the subject passes you by. Results = the moving subject will be in focus but the background will be motion blurred.
  • Slow motion - set your camera to a slow shutter speed and shoot a moving subject without following the subject. The subject will be motion blurred but the background will be in focus.
  • Stopped action - set your camera to  a fast shutter speed, from 1/500th of a second or faster, set your f/stop accordingly. and shoot away. The subject will be in focus, and the background will a shallow depth of field since you'll most likely be shooting at a wide f/stop.
   Remember that you always have to pay attention to your inside camera meter, which measures the light reflected off your gray card.
   Since this is a film class, you will have to wait until lab on Thursday to see if you nailed the two concepts of panning and slow motion. I, too, am anxious to see your results. But from what I've seen so far, you can relax. I'm sure it'll be fine!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Toledo Blade reporter instructs News Academy candidates

Toledo Blade reporter Alex Mester holds a mock press conference during a writing exercise. (Photo by Quinn Hatfield-King)
   There is a distinct difference between writing English papers and news stories. 
   This became quite evident when the Owens Outlook student staff participated in a news story writing exercise during Session 3 of the News Academy on Thursday.    
   This is how the exercise went: 
  Guest speaker Alex Mester, a Toledo Blade reporter, pretended to be an animal shelter supervisor. She held a 10-minute mock press conference about a feral cat whose tail and one foot was frozen to the bottom of a dumpster and saved by a Good Samaritan (a real story she recently covered).  
   Students posed as media and asked her questions, and then were given 15 minutes to write the story on deadline.
   It was a thrill to watch them labor over MAC computers, and write their first news stories. Alex and I took turns reading every lede sentence out loud, and then broke each story down to what worked, and what didn't. I hope it was a valuable learning experience for them!
   This exercise proved to be a practical way to teach them several things:
  1. Ask the right questions, and make sure the 5Ws and the H are answered. If you don't have the information you need, it's hard to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
  2. The lede sentence should be short, concise, and most importantly, interesting enough to get the reader to read the rest of the story.
  3. Write concisely, directly, while pulling interesting details from your notes.
  4. It's hard to write under deadline pressure!
  5. There's a lot more training to do, most of which will be learned on the job.
   The students will continue to hone their writing skills throughout the rest of the semester, and I can't wait to watch them progress as their confidence grows.
   The Owens Outlook is in the process of switching to a new website, so they still have a few weeks before they make initial contact with their beats. In the meantime, the News Academy sessions will continue for another five or six weeks.
   The training agenda includes the following  remaining topics: photography, videography, law and ethics, and social media.
   Guest speakers, including the Great Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg, are scheduled to attend many of the remaining News Academy sessions, and I'm very thankful for their help.