Monday, October 20, 2014

Owens photojournalism students visit Blade, 13 ABC News studio

  There was no school at Owens today due to teacher training, so a small group of the Intro to PJ class/Owens Outlook student staffers took advantage of the free time and went on a field trip.
   We piled into an Owens van and first headed to the Toledo Blade. I gave a tour of the historic building, including the photo department and the newsroom, where they met Dave Zapotosky, the photography supervisor (and my boss).
   Zap briefly outlined how we transitioned from B&W film to digital, and explained the pros and cons of photojournalism in the digital age.
   We also bumped into Blade sports reporter Rachel Lenzi. Rachel, who covers UM football and was on her way to Ann Arbor, offered this great advice, which I paraphrased:
Don't forget to photograph the emotions of sporting events. After all, your not just shooting action, you're covering people.
   Next, we toured the 13abc newsroom. The tour, led by 13abc news anchor Diane Larson (who is also a student in the Intro to PJ class), included watching a live noon newscast from within the studio and control rooms.
   They met many of the morning news crew, including anchor Jeff Smith and Blizzard Bill, who sported a suit/tie and wore tennis shoes. In fact, we stood less than 10 feet from Blizzard Bill as he pointed to a blank blue screen and warned us that rain was coming. It was pretty surreal.
   I'm glad I took them to the Blade first. I have to admit that a messy newspaper newsroom, with desks piled high with aging newspapers and news releases, doesn't even slightly compare to the bells and whistles of a modern TV news studio! Even the TV cameras were automated!
   But nobody was more excited than starstruck Katie Buzdor, the editor of the Outlook, who actually had tears in her eyes when she was handed an autographed photo of Chief Meteorologist Jay Berschback! I wish all students were that enthusiastic over news!
   It was a great morning, and bonus points were had by all! 
   Here is a Tweet posted by Diane after the tour:
13abc reporter Kelly Heidbreder, left, talks to the Intro to PJ class during a tour of the newsroom. (Cell Photo by Lori King)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Teaching Multimedia class photo critique a teachable moment

   These photos, shot by the Kent State Teaching Multimedia students for an assignment, were chosen not because they are great, but because they aren't.
   One of their first assignments was to shoot at least 100 frames, and then select their 40 best frames from the 100. For some of the students, it was the first time they used a DSLR on manual mode. 
   I definitely expected problems because they aren't experienced photographers. But rather than simply grade their assignments and move on,  I am taking advantage of the opportunity to let them learn from each other's mistakes.
   I chose one photo from each of the students to critique. I also picked the worst photos for examples of what not to do. The following photos deal with bad focusing, wrong ISO choices, backlighting, centered subjects, and distracting elements; all issues that are typical for beginning photographers.
   The critique might seem a bit harsh, but there is no better way to teach than to point out the problems in a direct way.  So, here goes:
Meta Data: ISO 3200 /fstop 2.8 /ss 1/60. The camera settings are near where they should be... for the back wall. So the main lesson here is to properly expose off the subject, which wasn't accomplished because the subject is too dark. To properly expose the girl, the photographer needed to either increase the ISO or slow down the shutter speed even more. Increasing the ISO is the better option, because a slower shutter speed would have made this out-of-focus photo even more blurry. You really don't want to shoot slower than 1/60th when subjects are moving.  Bottom line: Sometimes you just need a flash.
Meta Data: ISO 400 /fstop 5.6 /ss 1/200. This photo is overexposed (too much light). The ISO and f/stop are fine, but the shutter speed should have been made faster, to around 1/1000. By increasing the shutter speed you are taking away the access light. The key to properly metering is expose on an area that's not white or not black, which is referred to as 18% gray. The camera meter exposes light that reflects off your subjects. In this case you want to do an exposure reading off of the area where the people are walking. The green plants could be a good thing to expose off of, or gray tree bark, or preferably a gray card. Gray cards are perfect for beginning photographers who want to expose correctly, and to also compare the gray card metering results with other subjects in the frame. Another problem with this photo: the photographer cut off the feet of the people, which probably happened because the heads were put in the center of the frame. Try not to cut off body parts (feet) or put your subjects in the center of the frame. Employ the Rule of Thirds.
Meta Data: ISO 800 /fstop 5.6 /ss 1/200. Again, this photo is overexposed. When you have bright daylight you don't need a fast ISO. A slower ISO at 200 or 400 is better. Take the comments from the above photo and apply them here: faster shutter speed, slower ISO, etc. Meter off the shaded part of the tree if you primary subject is the scooter, which is in the shade. Again, the main subject is smack in the center. Rule of Thirds! One more thing: This photo is back focused, meaning the main subject, which is in the forefront and center, of out of focus. Make sure you focus on your main subject! Focus manually (except when shooting most sports).
Meta Data: ISO 100 /fstop 5 /ss 1/1000 / lens 135mm. This photo employed the Rule of Thirds correctly, but the main subject (the woman) is out of focus. What's in focus is the water in the background. When shooting with a telephoto lens and a rather wide aperture, focusing is critical. Lenses will auto focus in the center, unless the shooter moves the focusing point in the camera, which I often do when I'm having a hard time focusing manually.
Meta Data: ISO 200 /fstop 5.6 /ss 1/2000 / lens 75mm. The settings are correct for the light source; low ISO, fast shutter speed to stop the action. However, this photo certainly lacks composition and substance. The subjects are in the center of the frame, and they were shot in the shadows. This is when noticing where the light hits the subjects really matters. Beginning photographers don't really SEE where the shadows fall.  It's also common for new photographers to shoot the back of people; there's a comfort zone they have a hard time stepping out of. The background is also distracting. If you are going to shoot a photo, make sure you understand why you shot it; preconceive what the photo will look like once you hit that shutter. Is it a photo you would be proud of, or would you rather drag it into the trash bin? That sounds a little harsh, but now is the time to understand what makes a good photo, and what doesn't.
Meta Data: ISO 1000 /fstop 5.6 /ss 1/2000 / lens 205mm. These settings were very common amongst most of the students for this assignment. For some reason, the average settings were f5.6 @ 1/2000.  In this case the photographer was close to being right, accept the ISO was way too high. But because the camera mode was set on Action and not manually, this could have been fixed by metering off the gray bricks in the background. As you can see, the photo was overexposed. The camera auto metered for the dark dugout and automatically overexposed the photo. A calculated guess for a correct setting would be  ISO 400/ f/4 @ 1/8000.  Another problem is too much space in front of the batter, and not enough space behind him ... the end of the back was cut off. Also, the focusing was on the dugout and not the boy. I'm assuming the photographer auto focused, and let the camera do the thinking. Remember, the camera is pretty good, but not as good as a photographer who knows how to properly meter and focus.
Meta Data: ISO 3200 /fstop 5.6 /ss 1/4000 /Lens 60 mm. The first problem I see in this photo is the tree in the background. It's very distracting, which takes away from the bowling pins. Simply move to the right to get the tree out of the frame. Another problem is the high ISO. Remember, you don't want to shoot above ISO 400 during a bright day. You have too much light. The background is completely blown out, although the subject, which is in the shade, is probably exposed, so this was metered correctly. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Kent State graduate students brush up on their multimedia skills

    To teach is to know, and to know is to teach.
    But what if you're expected to teach and you don't know?
    Short answer: go back to school!
    You might find it unbelievable that some teachers, particularly high school journalism teachers, know less than their students, but in this 21st Century high-tech, do-more-for-less, save-a-penny world, that's what's happening in too many of our American journalism classrooms today.
    It is becoming commonplace that teachers, particularly English teachers, are being tapped to instruct journalism and yearbook courses despite having little or no journalism experience. Unfortunately, schools aren't willing to hire specialty teachers for specialty skills, like photography, news writing, broadcasting and newspaper/website layout and design.
    It isn't fair to the teachers, and it's a huge disservice to our students. Journalism is a multifaceted niche subject that covers a lot of ground: First Amendment issues; interviewing people, reading and writing; photography; print and web layout & design; yearbook; broadcasting, etc.
   Journalism also takes a healthy dose of skepticism. But how do you teach students to question the government, and even their own administrators, if you're not trained to do so or believe in it yourself?
    I don't expect English teachers, or other non-journalism teachers, to be effective in passing on  journalism skills to their students if they've never been taught those skills. There's Shakespeare and the MLA; and then there's Bob Woodward and the AP Stylebook. Apples and oranges.
    To counter this national trend, Kent State University created an accredited, online Master's  Journalism Education (JE) program. The program is geared for high school teachers, or any teacher for that matter, who are tasked with teaching journalism or advising student media and want to learn how to teach those skills. It is also available for people like me, a professional in the journalism field, who want to learn how to teach it.
    As a 2012 graduate of the JE program myself, I was thankful for the opportunity to learn. The JE program made me a much better instructor. The classes are two prong: 1) teach the skill, and then 2) instruct how to teach it.
    I am currently teaching a course in the JE program called Teaching Multimedia. This semester I have seven students from seven different states. They are a mixed bag of experience, but all want to learn more about multimedia, and how to use it in their classrooms.
Let me introduce you to the teachers:
  • Mary: I am a journalism and debate teacher at Alta High School in Sandy, Utah and I am also an adjunct public speaking teacher at Utah Valley University. I have 4 classes and one project left between me and graduation in this master's program, and I hope to finish all of that by summer. I have been teaching journalism for 7 years, and find technology and therefore a lot of multimedia challenging. I look forward to conquering a few of those issues here in class.
  • Peter: I teach English, advise the yearbook, and coach the speech team at Bosse High School in Evansville, Indiana. I'm 24, and this is my third year of teaching. This semester, I'm taking classes six and seven of the master's program. This class should be a lot of fun.
  • Jennifer: I teach English and advise both the yearbook and journalism at Arroyo High School in El Monte, California. This is my eighteenth year teaching, which I cannot believe. I am in the last year of the master's program. Every class I have taken has been valuable.
  • Nate: I teach Interactive Multimedia at a public high school in NE Ohio. I am beginning my 3rd year teaching. I am taking this class on my way to obtaining my Master's in Career Tech Education. I have worked in the television/media industry for the past 13 years. I have traveled all over the country shooting live sports for ESPN, ABC, CBS, Golf Channel, HBO and many others. I have since cut way back on the traveling but do still shoot Indians, Cavs and Browns in the Cleveland market. I have also worked as a news videographer, news reporter, and commercial producer/editor in the Youngstown, OHIO market for 8+ years.
  • Katie: I teach Journalism at Phoenix Military Academy in Chicago, IL. I graduated from Saint Mary's College in 2009 with the intention of teaching History, but after an interesting few years with CPS I found myself starting the Journalism program at our school. Our school is 10 years old and has sporadically had yearbooks. Four years ago I started the yearbook program and last year added an online newspaper. I wanted to get my master'ss in Journalism because I feel like I've taught my students everything I know and need to learn more to improve our program. Before starting the program, I had only been the editor of my high school yearbook. Luckily I was an ASNE fellow at the University of Nevada, Reno a few summers ago, which helped me kick off the newspaper program at our school.
  • Aimée: I teach English, journalism and, new this year, speech at Holy Rosary High School in New Orleans. I also advise the newspaper and yearbook. We handle students with learning differences. We aren't special ed, but we aren't regular ed, either. Our kids all have ADHD, dyslexia, Asperger's, or some combination of the above, plus other high-functioning learning disabilities. As you can imagine, it makes journalism a challenge to teach, but it helps the kids in so many different ways, from written communication skills to interpersonal communication skills.
  • Jenn: This is year 19 for me, 16 at the same school of approximately 1300 students in Missoula, Montana. I teach yearbook, newspaper, beginning broadcast, Spartan TV (our weekly show), and three semester-long dual credit classes--Writ 101, Lit 110 (full classes), and Intro to Audio/Radio Storytelling (independent study without an actual section). I also have a masters in English. I won't receive any monetary gain with this degree, but what I have learned the past couple years has improved my teaching immensely. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I look forward to this class. I dabble at all of this, but I'm not proficient by any means. I'm hopeful this class will force me to RTFM--as I tend not to do that--and it usually bites me in the you-know-where!
   I applaud these teachers for going back to school to become the best they can be. They are proof positive that you never know too much and always need to learn more, no matter how seasoned or experienced you are!