Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: How we Met

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays, a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

This week we take a look at "How we met", a charming mixed media piece that combines animation, flip book photo photography, music and an engaging narrative.

Not photojournalism you say? Inspiration is everywhere my friend.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Old media using new media to cover the SoCal fires

If you visit Google Maps you might notice something new. A pair of little red text-based hyperlinks that map out all the important information on the SoCal fires engulfing San Diego, the southern border and parts north of and surrounding LA.

It's all there. Where to go to evacuate, where to take your animals, where the fires are ragging, where they are out, where the hospitals are, which roads are closed and opened and which areas are safe for residents to return to.

It's the infographic of new media, awesome!

The LA Times looks to behind the LA map and PBS radio affiliate KPBS created the San Diego map. What's interesting is that both are using existing technologies rather than creating them in-house (we can't all be the New York Times or Washington Post).

Google maps for data management and Twitter to feed the beast (hey, finally a use for twitter that makes sense), look to be fueling the pieces, very sweet.

This is something all the local papers should be doing, come on Orange County Register, San Diego Tribune and Riverside Press-Enterprise don't let the LA Times and some radio station show you up like that!

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Last night I dreamt of my portfolio

It's true... sadly.

I was actually dreaming of sitting in a room staring at a wall of images and there were earthquakes every so often and every time the walls shook, different pictures would fall off the wall and other ones would fly on to it.

It was crazy, like some Calvin Kline ad from the 80s, but without the gay men (zing!).

Obviously I've been thinking a lot about the art of the portfolio, maybe too much.

I always joke with people that I'm John Cusack from "High Fidelity," I keep changing it all the time. For instance I just sent off a packet not two hours ago, and already I'm wishing I could have it back to tweak with some more.

It's not something I haven't written about before, and you'd think doing it for the umpteen time would make it easier, but no matter how many times you do it, it's still a gut wrenching exercise that re-examines everything to the point where you start wondering what is real.

And after I woke up this morning, as I brushed my teeth I again was thinking, what is the proper balance for a portfolio?

I feel on one had that I want to put the pictures I like in, but then I get editors to tell me sometimes that I go "too off the wall" and I fear that going heavy with the more personal work, the work that I feel shows off my style and unique eye, might bring into an editor's head a question of my newspaper shooting ability.

And then other times I think if I go daily paper pics heavy, showing that if I am sent to an assignment they can feel confidant that I will bring something good back, I wonder if they are seeing that my eye is different than the next guy or not. That I'm just another also ran.

It's strange, the photographs other photographers like aren't always the photographs newspapers like. I look at some of the recent award-winning photographers that I've been fortunate to meet and what they like and almost always everyone will agree, "you'll never see that in a newspaper"... yet those are the pics we all love.

A friend once told me that at his paper that has always been something many shooters wrestle with, the idea of personal style and newsprint functionality. His editor had a metaphor for it of playing two piano with one hand fulfilling each desire, and that the goal must be to play the same piano with both those hands still doing their thing.

I like that.

Anywho, I've got to back to the portfolio, I just realized I want to switch up the order again and move some stuff around.

Thank goodness for deadlines, otherwise I'd never stop.


NPPA Flying Short Course at San Jose State University

I can't make it unfortunately, darn this actually working and getting paid to take pictures thing, but we worked real hard at SJSU to pull this off so if you make it, let me know what you thought.

Also, check out the new site we created for the short course.

To keep the theme of new media and embracing the change of our industry we started brainstorming months ago about how we as a campus can push that envelope, one of the simplest ideas we had was to create a website and post Flickr feeds, videos, blogs, podcasts and slideshows to it.

That came to fruition a few days ago when http://sjsushortcourse.wordpress.com/ went live.

Check it out and while there click on over to the local days events and national events links to get a run down of everything you can expect.

And if you feel like participating, (blog some? Flickr some? Video some?) be sure to hunt down Daniel Sato (he's the fellow in the video on the SJSU website) and he'll get you all set up.

Have a blast, wish I was there.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

What is my vision?

Over the past couple weeks, well 2, but 2 is a couple... unless your a weirdo, are you a weirdo... now where was I...

Over the past couple of weeks I've been sending e-mails and collections of pictures around to people I've gone to in the past, have worked with me, have had some role in my development or that I trust (you get the picture) for opinions on my new portfolio.

Through the process many of the folks started picking out the same pictures and made comments like "I like the way you see" or "This one shows off your vision" and "What were you thinking?"

Ok, no one said "What were you thinking," they're too nice for that, but the other two are real and those type of comments came from more than a few people.

So I started wondering, what's my vision? I didn't even realize I had a vision or unique way of seeing.

It's what every photographer strives for, to be considered a person with a unique vision. Like Alex Webb, Raghubir Singh, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Elliott Erwitt, Sebastiao Salgado or Man Ray.

All photographer we (or at least I) can look to and see a unique vision so strong that often we will know whose eye it was before reading the name of who took it.

That's vision in my mind, a unique way of seeing the world.

Do I have it? I don't think so. Not yet. I want to and I think I will some day, but at this phase in my career I think I'm still in that finding phase.

Still it's nice to hear other people say things like that, really nice. Perhaps the nicest thing you can say to a photographer.

I just wish I could see what they're talking about.

Lastly, to those people who have aided me in this process, you've gone above and beyond anything I could have asked for. I couldn't be more honored and I say this from the bottom of my heart, you guys are the greatest group of folks I could ever have had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure, that's for you Ivan :) of knowing and I am so filled with gratitude that you took time out of your busy days to look at my stuff.

You guys rock!

Ok... what? I'm feeling nice... shut up!... enough mushy stuff, back to our normal SLR. Fang sucks! (I have pictures.)


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: Sad Lamp

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays, a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

This week I'm very very busy so I've turned to an old favorite, the Sad Lamp.

I love this advertisement from Spike Jones and I go back to every few months to have a laugh and remind myself of the power of good editing.

The music, the harsh lighting and colors outside versus the warm light and colors inside, the slow tracking shots on the lamp outside or as it leaves its' corner in the nice home-- it's all editing done right to personify the lamp and give the commercial an emotional quality, and it's all done without saying a word.

Showing not telling, a cornerstone of good journalism (see, inspiration is everywhere).

There's even a decisive moment, where the women touches the lamp after turning it off, that is the final tug at the heart strings the moment when most viewers go from thinking, "am I feeling bad for a lamp?" to saying "I am feeling bad for a lamp!"

It's mostly a fun piece but I love it and there's more going on then it first looks like.

I can go on and on, but I'm pretty sure you wanna watch it again now... so enjoy.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yo Canon fools, where my rebates at?

Ok, I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for Canon to start up their fall rebate program so I can pick up some much needed gear and still nothing.

I seem to recall them starting it up in September in the past, but when that came and went I figured maybe October. They did start up the Spring program a month late, maybe they're doing the same.

But now we're more than past the midway point of October and still nothing.

They did however quietly drop the price on the 5D by $200, not a ton, but that's a sweet hunk of gear. (Maybe once the rebates start up that'll drop another $600- sweet!)

Or maybe this is Canon's move toward introducing a new 5D?

My prediction: The day after Nikon releases the D3, Canon will announce the 5Dn, a new camera that comes in at the old 5D price point and incorporates the new goodies that have found their way into the MarkIII, Rebel XTi and 40D.

Update: Just before hitting publish I decided to check just once more and look at that, the program has begun- but with no bodies included! WTF?! Lame Canon, very lame.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Newspaper's biggest failure and for some reason we continue to ignore it

The biggest failure of the newspaper industry has been failing to change and adapt with its audience.

We all say that readership is down and that newspapers are dying (a moment of silence for our brothers and sisters at the Dallas Morning News) and frankly subscribers are dying (old age) and we aren't getting new ones.

At the same time we run stories about how the youth market is watching, reading and buying less traditional media (TV, newspapers and CDs) and is instead turning to new-media (YouTube, GoogleNews and iTunes), but somehow while we are writing these stories and recognizing these trends we are not actually applying the lessons to our bussiness models!


Why am I bringing this up? Because apparently it's not as obvious as I thought it was.

And I'm getting fed of of trying to convey this fact.

The newspapers of the future are Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites. Because think about the function of a newspaper. Newspapers have always been meant to serve as a central hub of information for a community, to document, report and investigate the daily goings on and inform the people with a balance of the "want to know" and "need to know."

Where is that happening today in the desired 18-35 market today but on social networking sites?

It's not too late, we can still save newspapers, but we have to stop living in denial and embrace the change.

No one can do this better than newspapers, let's get out act together before someone else learns how.

The wake up call has been ringing for years, maybe it's time we stop hitting snooze?

I have some ideas on how to start fixing things, but I've been told I write to much, so I'll save it for a future post.

Rant over.

(And yes, this may quite possibly be one of the shortest posts on SLR ever.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: Love in the first person

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays, a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week, I've decided to start this new feature.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

Matt Eich showed us a piece of this back in Portland during the NPPA Immersion Workshop weekend and I'm now pleased to be able to share it with those that weren't able to attend.

It's a subtle presentation that doesn't quite fit the conventional norm, but as a personal journal that employs the tricks of long form documentary film making it works.

It is very much in the vein of the New York Times wedding-how-we-met series, but whereas those feel like feature-y profile pieces, this goes more in-depth and digs to create the intimacy and personal connections that all shooters with documentary aspersions hope to have.

Watching this, you feel as if you're a part of their journey.

I won't call it brave (that word has lost all meaning anyway), we're photographers, this is what we do, but rarely does anyone do it this well.

Now granted the main photographers are the subjects so of course the intimacy is there, but that doesn't mean the same can't be done with an unfamiliar subject. Afterall isn't that the point? As my old PJ instructor Dennis Dunleavy used to say: intensity, immediacy and intimacy. This one has it in spades and despite first appearances it's not as easy as it looks.

Speaking of looks, let's not forget the sound. It's not often I find a piece that exemplifies the crucial necessity of audio to a piece's success.

Listen to this one again with the sound off and you'll notice it isn't nearly as effective. The low ambient score with the touches of sound effects from tapes being rewinded or camera clicking at the wedding add a lot to the immersion and draw you in to the story further. Plus sounds have an emotion quality. Every click, beep, footstep and pause carries with it storytelling.

Than again, you can pretty much look to any presentation from MediaStorm for excellent attention paid to the ears. That's just one of the perks of realizing the production house model can and will work and hiring the right people. (Seriously, why is no one else picking up on Brian's model? It's not hard folks, it's just the Hollywood system. If I had the capital I know I'd be doing it.)

Matt's personal story may not seem like the most obvious choice, but I'm looking to it this week for my inspiration.

While there take a look at "Evidence of My Existence" from US News & World Report photojournalist Jim Lo Scalzo. It plays as a companion piece on the topic of fatherhood and balancing family with profession.

Also as a slight aside, kudos to Kainaz Amaria, who for a brief time went to SJSU with me before high-tailing it to Ohio for grad school, for shooting some of the video and pics for the project. (Yes, my friends, it's a small world. Play nice.)

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

I got lead art (on the web)

Well, I may not have gotten front page (yet... oh yes, it shall be mine...) but I did end up scoring lead art on the paper's website. Which I just happened to visit by chance and was pleasantly surprised by.

Not so much that my picture was there, but because the website actually looked pretty nice. A few weeks ago I suggested to my editors that we create a special section for the Balloon Fiesta online. The idea was kind of foreign so I described it as putting the special pull out section online and taking advantage of the web by incorporating multimedia, blogs, user generated content, a daily calender, Flickr and other goodies (more details in another post). I even created a web page for the project and offered to maintain it during the week.

Long story short they didn't go for it, but it was a marginal consolation to see that some of the ideas I was suggested showed up on the front page of our website. "Above the fold" to boot, bravo web guys!

Now, I have no way of knowing if these were ideas they'd already had in the pipeline or if word of my pitch had gotten to the web team, but I'm glad to see that we're thinking this way at the paper. It's promising.

Meanwhile, the balloon fiesta is finally over and not a moment too soon, I was really getting burnt out on the 5am to 1am days all week. Why so long? Well, when you're only going to be here maybe, quite-possibly once in your lifetime, you don't sleep, you get out there on your days off, before work and after work to take in as much as you can. That said, Tuesday can't come soon enough, I've got sleeping to catch up on.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: Empty walls

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays, a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week, I've decided to start this new feature.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

This weeks post is a little different.

You might be wondering what a music video from the (former?) front man of "System of the Down" has to do with photojournalism. Well, take a look at the strong visual symbolize and frantic camera work. Without having to hit you over the head, the song presents the iconography of the war in Iraq... the same icons that we as photojournalist created... and lets you discover its message.

That's storytelling by showing and not telling, the exact same thing we strive for when creating multimedia in our newsrooms. I hope so anyway, if you're still of the opinion of that narrating your own projects is a good idea, I'd ask you to think again.

For one, do you think watching a bull rider makes you a bull rider (sorry, Rodeos on my mind today). Of course not. So then why do you think listening to the radio makes you a commentator? Most of us are not voice-trained, it's an art, trust me.

Plus, when you shoot do you relay on the caption to tell the story? Oh course not. So then why feel the need to tell someone something if you're also going to show them something for 45 sec to a minute? If you're project isn't clear to the viewer after nine seconds (yes, nine), you've got re-editing to do.

And that's this weeks Time out Tuesday. Visual storytelling, kinetic editing and style.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Burma protest

If you're a photographer and have paid even the slightest sliver of attention to world events, you've no doubt heard of what is happening in Burma and most likely you've heard of or seen images of Kenji Nagai, 50, the Japanese photographer who was working for Tokyo-based video and photo agency APF News, that was allegedly shot and killed by Burmese troops cracking down on anti-government demonstrations in Rangoon.

And to a lesser extent you may have read something about the German photographer, and the stories of reporters meeting a similar fate.

Why is it that journalist have become the target in recent times? In Lebanon a new trend of kidnapping journalist emerged and since then, in one world conflict after another it seems that journalists are behind the cross hairs on both sides?

I don't really know what the answer is, it's just what I was thinking about before, during and after a recent assignment in which I was covering a silent protest lead by a local group of monks.

It was a strange assignment, not so much in what I was doing but what I was hearing.

Random folks along the path the protesters walked were making comments that weren't the most culturally sensitive or enlightened.

One of the lighter ones: "What is this, the Dharma inisitive?" Which was followed by laughter from a table on the patio at Starbucks.

That was one of the lighter ones.

But it reminded me that people like those at the table do still exist and stories like this one in the newspaper will hopefully inform some of them to what is really going on.

I felt what we always like to feel as photographers, that our images make a difference. Perhaps they will see the images and in their curiosity read the caption and then the story and the next time they see one of the monks or protesters walk by they might say: "I understand you."

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: Conjoined Twins

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays, a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week, I've decided to start this new feature.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

This week I take a look at Conjoined Twins, a very detailed and intensive documentary piece from John Lehmann, the Canadian publication Globe and Mail's West Coast staff photographer.

It's clear that Lehmann has spent some time with the family and while the piece clocks in at just over eight minutes, the story moves at a brisk pace and condenses a large time line and many many events to keep you engaged. Plus, it's feature-length documentary sensibilities only help.

While you're checking out the video, be sure to poke around the rest of the site. The web team has created a nice subsection for the piece with all the stories, graphics and other pieces of journalistic multimedia goodness all in one place.

That's designing with you're audience in mind and you might think that's common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many people fail to grasp the concept (but I'll save that rant for another time).

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