ASSIGNMENT: Event Coverage

Due on eLC by 12 noon on Tuesday, March 19, is a package of three to five images. The images can come from either a calendared news event or be related to an ongoing issue in the community.

The event or issue needs to be something the community must know about, something that will empower them to make decisions about their community.

You should be reading the local news publications (the Athens Banner-Herald, the Red & Black) and listening to local news media (WUGA) to know what’s happening in the community, that will help inform you and guide you to a newsworthy topic. You can also cover this wherever you are over spring break, we’re not going to be fussy about geogrpahic location.

How else could you handle this crosswalk safety story?

At The New York Times, George Etheridge has a nice package of photos about a food cart operator who is trying to connect with high school kids. This goes beyond just a food story.

Even better is this Caitlin Ochs (and others) piece about what makes a New York City kid – this gets to who kids are and how they see themselves in society.

Think about what’s going on locally – concerns about decisions being made in Washington, access to local politicians, building and grounds maintenance as the winter months end, the impact of construction projects on students or local residents. The UGA calendar is full of things that can work.

What Do We Lose? And a Deadline Change

We had some discussion at the end of today’s class about being a staff photojournalist, mostly from the point of being a staff photojournalist. There’s another side to that equation, though – how does the loss of photojournalists impact communities?

There’s been some research on that, studying the types of images that were published by the Middleton, N.Y., Times Herald-Record from before and after they laid off their photography staff.

In looking at the weather, I’m not confident extending through the weekend will make a huge difference, but I’m going to extend the 36 Faces deadline to Sunday at 8 p.m. You may need to scramble during breaks in the weather.

ASSIGNMENT: Depth of Field and Lens Compression

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Four photographs with the same composition, altering the focal length and the aperture as follows:

  • Widest focal length, widest aperture (~ f/3.5)
  • Widest focal length, aperture between f/11-f/22
  • Longest focal length, widest aperture (~ f/4.5-5.6)
  • Longest focal length, aperture between f/11-f/22

In the wide angle images, you need to have a primary subject within four feet of the camera. (Generally speaking, in a horizontal image, your primary subject would be shown from their waist to just above their head.) If you don’t, you may not see the full effect of lens expansion and compression. Remember that you need to physically move yourself between the first two and the second two so the primary subject stays the same size in all four images.

Captions count, don’t forget to collect that information while you are making the images.

Due on eLC as a compressed (zipped) file by 12 noon on Friday, February 22. Full resolution (no need to run through the resizing routine), full captions and the captions will be identical on all four.

If you’re still struggling with the effects of aperture and shutter speed, take a look at this Canon simulator – you can play with ISO, aperture and shutter speed to see the effects.

I have a podcast I’d like you to listen to, this one from Rob Rosenthal’s HowSound series. Rosenthal works for Transom, an organization dedicated to making better radio stories. He travels around the country doing week-long workshops that are insanely good – we’ve hosted them twice and, hopefully, will again next summer.

He is brilliant and comical and self-deprecating and insightful … I’m a fanboy, I’ll admit it.

He reached out to ask podcaster Ashley Ahern an uncomfortable question – about her appearance. Go listen.

And if you’re interested in audio storytelling, from public radio to podcasting, Transom.org is the place to start. The tutorials, the gear reviews and Rosenthal’s HowSound podcast are musts as you move forward.

Questions? Send them along, as always.

ASSIGNMENT: 36 Faces

Your next shooting assignment: 36 Faces. For this, you need to make mug shots (top of the head to the top of the shoulders, all verticals and filling the frame with them looking right into the lens) of 36 people you do not know. For each person you need their name, age, hometown, major or job title and one piece of contact information for them (phone number or email address).

You’ll break these into groups as follows:

  • The first 12 are to be shot at the telephoto end of your zoom (the highest magnification, somewhere between 55 mm and 85 mm usually). Four of them should be shot in bright sun, four in open shade and four adjacent to a window.
  • The next 12 are to be shot in the middle of your zoom lens range. Four of them should be shot in bright sun, four in open shade and four adjacent to a window.
  • The last 12 are to be shot at the wide angle end of your zoom lens – and, yes, you will be very, very close to your subjects. Four of them should be shot in bright sun, four in open shade and four adjacent to a window. (And, yes, that is going to put you very, very close to them. That’s the point.)

These are due on eLC, in one zipped folder (you won’t have to resize them) by 12 noon on Friday, February 8. Budget your time accordingly – while you will not be cropping these images, you will need to write captions for every one of them.

I’ve created a downloadable PDF you can fill out as you go along to simplify your life.

In class, I mentioned this Amy Cuddy video on how to boost your confidence – it’s well worth the 20 minutes.

As always, tell me how I can help.

Setting Up Your Camera

Now that you’ve been playing a bit, let’s dive into the menus on your camera and change a few settings. Since we have different camera models in use, you may need to hunt around for some of these.

(This order is based roughly on what you’d find in the Canon models.)

  • Quality – You want this on the highest JPG quality you can get, which will usually look like smooth piece of pie.
  • Beep – The quickest way to find an amateur is to listen for the beeping camera. Turn it off.
  • Shoot w/o Card – I love Canon, I really do, but their default is for this to be On. Set it to Off. If you leave it on, you can spend a full day making pictures without a memory card and you won’t have a single pixel to show for your efforts.
  • Review Time – Set this to Off. The screen is the biggest power draw on your camera, having an image pop up immediately every time you make one will cut down on your battery life. You can still see your images by hitting the play button.
  • Color Space – You want this on Adobe RGB, not sRGB which is a smaller color gamut. Computer screens and mobile devices work with the smaller sRGB color range but you want to capture as much as you can and convert it later.
  • Date/Time – Make sure you have the right date and time on your camera. Most of them will have the input in military (or 24 hour) time, so 2:00 p.m. will be 14:00.

Look for the formatting routine in your manual. DO NOT DO THIS NOW as you’ll wipe out your images, but after you’ve downloaded your card you’ll want to do this. You do not want to delete images from the card, either through the camera or your computer, that causes all kinds of problems with the file allocation tables the camera creates to index the card.

On the side of your lens, you should find two switches. One of them is to turn the autofocus mechanism off and on – set that to off (or MF, for manual focus). For the first few assignments, I want you manually setting the focus on your camera. Later on, we’ll talk about using autofocus properly.

The second switch is for image stabilization, I’ll recommend you turn that off for now, as well. (If you have a Nikon, it may be tabled as vibration reduction.) We can do a deep dive on what image stabilization is, how it works and when it’s useful. As a general rule of thumb, it’s not super useful for journalism – it’s designed to help cope with camera movement at low shutter speeds but has no effect on subject movement. And since we tend to photograph people who move, it’s not going to help and will put a drain on your battery.

ASSIGNMENT: Nouns and Verbs

So, a bunch of things for you to work on this week …

Let’s start with this New York Times piece by Jessica Bennett on failing. A big chunk of this class is about making mistakes – big ones at first, little ones later on – but then learning from them. You will make hundreds, if not thousands, of mistakes – and that is both okay and fully encouraged.

(Aside: While your reading that Times piece, look at the portraits – what do you think of the work Lauren Lancaster did there?)

Done with that? Okay, let’s watch this short video about Randy Olson, an amazing visual journalist …

Intrigued? Go check out some of his work now, spend a few minutes learning about the work he does with Melissa Farlow and then come back here.

Now, let’s jump back in time. Photojournalism has had a couple of Golden Ages, and one of the most prominent would have to be during the Civil Rights Movement. Charles Moore was one of those who was on the front line and made many of the iconic images you’ve seen in history books and documentaries.

This video, titled, “I Fight With My Camera,” will give you an understanding of why he did what he did.

But not everything is always as it seems … Bill Hudson made another of the iconic images of the time, similar to one of Moore’s images of a German Shepherd attacking a protestor. Hudson’s was turned into a statue, but the story behind it, as told through the Revisionist History podcast, will have you questioning what you believe to be true about images. Put that on your phone and listen while walking to class one day.

So, that was a lot of stuff to get through before getting to your assignment. Your first one, are you a little nervous? Don’t be.

This is an exercise in exercising your fingers, your brain and your eye. The only way to do this wrong is to not do it. You have to get to a point where your fingers just move without you having to think about them. It’s like playing a piano or running hurdles – so much of those are about muscle memory. And the only way you develop that muscle memory is by practicing.

So, here it is – Nouns and Verbs.

Between now and next Wednesday, January 23, you need to shoot at least 400 photos – more is better. Shoot all of these (and all of your assignments this semester) on the manual exposure mode using manual focus. If you go into the auto modes it will show up in your metadata. I strongly recommend that you set your ISO to 400 and just leave it, trying to think in three variables is much harder than two.

The first 200 or so should be nouns – just objects. Trees, fire hydrants, food wrappers – doesn’t matter what it is, this is a chance to practice. Pick a subject and try it at maximum aperture and f/16, at the wide end of your lens and the telephoto end. Shoot with the light at your back and behind the subject. Try to think of as many ways to photograph an object as you can.

Once you’ve got your first 200 frames, move on to verbs – motion, action. This will be tougher as objects in motion don’t wait for you to set your focus and exposure, but so much of what you’ll shoot later in this class will be candid photography.

Here’s a tip for the verbs: Your camera defaults to the single-frame mode, meaning you press the shutter it takes one frame. Look for the continuous mode in the manual and try that. What happens?

Don’t try to shoot these indoors or at night, the low light levels will wreak havoc upon your exposure settings and neither you nor I will get much from this experience. Carve out a little time each day to play.

If you run into any issues or questions, let me know – by email or in person, whatever works for you.

Focusing tip: It’s easier to focus at the telephoto end of your lens than it is at the wide end, so try zooming in, setting the focus, then zooming back out for the composition you want.

Exposure tip: Many of you will try to set your exposure on the display screen of the camera – don’t do that. Set it while looking through the viewfinder. Part of this assignment is learning how to manipulate the controls without looking at them. But the larger issue is if you’re holding the camera so you can see the screen, the lens (and meter) are not looking at your subject – your exposures could end up being way, way off.

You will need to watch the tutorial on Adobe Bridge (below) to learn how to batch process your images – they will need to be renamed and captioned. We will discuss some of this in class next week, but you need to watch the video first.

To submit this assignment, you will need to compress (zip) the folder of images and upload it to ELC by noon on Friday, January 25. You will get some additional instructions on how to resize and compress your images next week. (ELC has a file size limit and this first assignment will massively exceed it – this is a one-time issue for the class, all your other assignments will come through just fine.)

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Send me a message or stop by, I’m here to help you get through all of this.

ASSIGNMENT: Week One Work

First off, welcome to the Photo Cave. It’s a magical place.

Second, you need to spend some time with the syllabus, please make sure that you read through all of it and the policies page so you understand what’s expected of you. It’s possible you’ll be quizzed on it plus it’ll give you a clearer vision of what’s ahead.

You have some other reading, watching and listening to do, as well:

  • Please read your camera manual. Yes, the whole thing – it has great details but not much of a plot. You need to understand everything that’s in there, that camera must disappear in your hands, become an extension of your hands and eyes. (If you don’t have your manual, most manufacturers have PDFs posted online.) Pay close attention to the sections on controls, manual exposure and how to set the three main inputs (ISO, aperture and shutter speed). There may be a quiz on your camera some day, be prepared.
  • This Michael Johnston piece has little to do with photojournalism but much to do with learning to see and make images.
  • You also need to carve out an hour to watch this Amy Herman talk on Visual Intelligence. One of our struggles will be in how we talk about images, how do we develop a visual vocabulary. This will help.

  • Lastly, this podcast interview with Karen Kasmauski is just wonderful. In it, she talks about her start in photojournalism and rising up to working for National Geographic. There’s a segment in there about photographers and their “style” – especially the current shallow-depth-of-field-portraiture-in-the-middle-of-a-place that’s all the rage of late. Listen to how she talks about her work with NGOs, as well – we’ll come back to that later on in the semester. (You should be able to find that podcast on most of the popular platforms, though I do encourage you to listen to it with intent and take notes – you may be asked to read from your notes next week.)

Make sure that you’re checking back in here from time to time as anything that’s posted more than 24 hours before class you’re responsible for.

I’ll be sending out a survey later this week to help me help you, keep an eye out for that.

Good things ahead.

How to Survive JOUR3330

I’m guessing most of you have heard some rumors about this course, I’m guessing some of you have significant concerns about what you’ve signed on for. In class, we discussed some of those, but let me give you some tips on how to survive this class.

As you’ve probably guessed, I take this stuff pretty seriously. I’ve been committed to photojournalism for a really long time. I never did it to make money (truth: there isn’t much money in it), I never did it because it was cool (truth: it is not cool, no matter how it looks in the movies). I did it because it’s a calling, I did it because it was the thing I felt I could do to help my communities. I’m not smart enough to be a doctor, not brave enough to be a police officer – but I can analyze a situation, I can ask questions, I can listen really well and I can assemble what I’ve observed into a cohesive piece of visual communication.

To me, there was nothing else in the world I ever wanted to do. (Well, okay, I really wanted to drive race cars and, while I have driven some, I knew early on I couldn’t make a living doing it. Also, not sure driving race cars was a path to saving the world or, at least, helping my community.)

My passion for this can be overbearing at times, I’m okay admitting that. You’re here because you chose UGA, you chose Grady and you chose journalism. We live in a phenomenally visual era, you are bombarded with photos and videos every moment of your day – you need to learn how to both make them and process them. I’m here to help.

That’s a little on how to survive me, but I’m not the class. (Really, there is a difference – I am not as interesting as the class. Just ask my kids.) How do you survive the class?

There’s a short list of things you need to understand and do.

  1. There’s no way around this, you have to be willing to fail. A lot of things are going to go wrong, that’s okay. I’ve built the class so you can fail, a lot, so long as you learn from those failures. Almost everything is redo-able.
  2. You also have to be willing to work. This is not an easy class and if you expect it to be about just making pretty pictures, someone misled you along the way. I don’t like pretty photos. I like images that make me feel something, that help me build knowledge.
  3. You need to understand that shortcuts will kill you. You may think you’re smarter than me, but there’s a reason why I teach you to do things in a certain way. If you don’t follow the processes, something will eventually go wrong – and those errors can be academically fatal. You probably are smarter than me, but I’m just a little bit wiser.
  4. You have to put yourself in positions to succeed. You can’t wait until 11 p.m. the night before an assignment is due, you have to think critically about both what you’re going to report on and when. The majority of the work in great images is done before
  5. You have to be present. That’s a physical attendance issue, a mental attendance issue and an intellectual attendance issue – for both the class and your assignments. You may be used to making photos at random moments, you may believe you can squeeze off a few frames between other things and get your homework done. But this takes a massive amount of intellectual energy to do well, you have to be intentional about this work. You have to be focused on the people you are documenting as well as the camera in your hands.

The last thing, and this is maybe the most important thing to surviving this class, is you have to communicate. There’s a lot of technical stuff, if it doesn’t make sense you have to ask a question. If you’re struggling, you have to ask a question. I don’t care what the question is, ask it. Photography, workflow, composition, light, interpersonal interactions, automotive concerns, ethical worries – all are perfectly legitimate topics for discussion.

I’m here all the time, my job is to help you learn and succeed – let me do my job.

ASSIGNMENT: Multimedia and Portfolio

For the final version of your multimedia project, the redo will come in with your final portfolio. Prior to the last class, I’ll send you the format for graphics (titles, IDs, end credits) and you’ll be able to import them into your Premiere project.

Please make sure that you are exporting according to the handouts – H.264 and either the YouTube HD or Vimeo HD presets. Once you have exported your file, click on it once and do a Get Info (or look at the Properties) to make sure it’s showing a resolution of 1920×1080. If it’s not, go back and figure out why. It should have a .mp4 extension on it – if you’re seeing something else, again, go back and figure out why.

You want to edit with headphones on – not your computer speakers – and you want to watch your audio meters. Many of the initial projects came in far too quiet, you need to be peaking between -12 and -6 db. I also recommend you listen to your audio (through headphones) with your eyes closed. Listen for cadence, listen for gaps, listen for sudden audio changes.

On your images, make sure every one of them is sharp and well exposed. If it’s not sharp, it does not belong in your piece. Make sure the transition from image to image matches with the audio – wherever you would have a period, comma, colon or semicolon is a natural place to transition from one image to the next.

You should have straight cuts in your story with the exception of the final image, which can fade into your ending graphic (with your name, copyright and contact info).

Your final portfolio is due on eLC by 12 noon on Monday, December 10. That is an absolute deadline – at noon, eLC will stop taking in work, even if you have started the upload before then it has to be finished by then. Please do not tempt fate on that day – get your portfolio in early.

Your portfolio is ten images that you made this semester, fully captioned, cropped and appropriately toned. They should show a variety of image types (long, medium, closeup, portrait, news, feature, etc.) to demonstrate the competencies you have mastered. Look for great light, good moments, clean compositions and storytelling.

That last part – storytelling – means a lot. It also means images without stories don’t belong here, so nothing from the Nouns & Verbs, 36 Faces or Depth of Field assignments.

You may have packages of 2-3 photos from the same subject (each image will be considered as one image), but those photos need to work as a package. You can use images from your multimedia project so long as they are not the same or substantially similar.

Do not, under any circumstances, submit images that bring your ethics into question. No friends, no family members, no fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, no one from clubs, churches or other organizations you’re a part of. An image with a provable conflict of interest issue will result in a grade of zero.

To submit, create a folder titled LastName_portfolio and inside that put your ten images plus the final version of your multimedia project, compress it and upload it.

Things to watch out for …

  • Not saving files as true JPGs – We’ve seen many images come in as Photoshop (.psd) or raw files, make sure you are doing a Save As out of Photoshop and setting the Format pull down to JPG. Just changing the extension will not work. Images not saved as a JPG will not be accepted.
  • Errors on your captions – Have someone proofread your captions. Refer back to the handout from earlier this semester, all you need is two sentences, to style, with your credit info and their contact info properly formatted. This is a bad place to be giving up points.
  • Having your caption in the wrong field – In the Adobe software, your caption goes in the Description box. Don’t put it in the Keywords field as that will be considered a missing caption.
  • Not properly naming your images – Double check to make sure the coding is right: six digit date code, your initials, story or assignment name, sequence number. We’re still seeing some images coming in with camera-assigned or improperly formatted file names. Improperly named files won’t be accepted.
  • Not having ten images – Silly, but it happens.
  • Turning in images that are not sharp – By now, you should be able to recognize an image that is sharp or not sharp. Look for fine detail, if it isn’t there it isn’t sharp.
  • Turning in images that are not properly exposed – Same thing, if it’s significantly under or over exposed, it doesn’t belong in your portfolio.