Photojournalism Blues

Five Questions Photojournalists Get Asked

and How to Resolve Them

Lately, I’ve been working as a freelance photographer for my local newspaper, mostly covering high school events. It’s a great gig and I get to learn something new from some talented people everyday. But I’ve also had some bad days where I didn’t get the shot I was looking for and just wanted to get the cutline info and run.

Either way, here are five questions that need not be asked of photojournalists and what you, dear photojournalist, can learn from them:

 

  1. Did you get any good pictures?

Well, of course I did! I’m a brilliant photographer! Can’t you see that by the big press pass I’m wearing?

DSC_7409Joking aside, this is a question that either can rub a photojournalist the wrong way or simply be irrelevant. For example, as a sports photographer, I don’t get a lot of time to review my work in the field. I’m so focused on the game because I don’t want to miss anything. That being said, when I do occasionally check a photograph while in the field, I’m merely doing it for autofocus accuracy. That tiny LCD screen really doesn’t give me enough detail to know if I’ve got a real winner until I’ve put the pictures on my laptop.

Some photojournalists might beg to differ (mostly because they’re usually on a tighter time crunch than I am), but my point is that I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch. If you really want to know if I got a good photograph or not, go grab a paper and see for yourself. The thought of an image being a “good picture” usually doesn’t hit me until 30 minutes before deadline anyway.

What to Learn PJ: Suck it up and let your big ego take the fall or politely say yes and pretend that you are the best photographer in the world. Either way, this isn’t a question to lose your cool over.

 

  1. Can I have those pictures?

No. Period.

Look, as an up-and-coming freelancer, I try to please everybody and make as many profitable acquaintances as I can. But when you are working for someone else, the photographs go to them. There are exceptions to this, like if the paper you are working for actually recognizes you as a freelancer and says that it’s okay for you to sell photos to other people. But if you are a freelance photojournalist, the best habit to get into is to tell others that they can’t have it until it’s published. That way your newspaper doesn’t get angry at you for giving away their scoop, you have ample time to edit, and the potential clients on the other side aren’t hounding you at the same time as your actual boss.

What to learn PJ: If you are a full-time photojournalist, it’s no until they are printed. If you are a freelancer, it’s no until you’ve finished editing them.

 

  1. Can you please (__________)?

Really? You are asking me to do this now?

This is usually a really open-ended topic that can cover a multitude of things that can come up. The point of it is that the photojournalist’s job is to take photographs. He’s not there to do the meet-and-greet with everyone who walks into the event, chaperone kids, do clean up, DJ, take shout-outs from another group, etc. His job isn’t to provide favors. He’s there on the job to create photographs, whether he likes it or not.

I hasten to add that last part because I am currently working two jobs to provide for myself. That is certainly nothing new to any working photographer, but when you come off of a full shift from your other job to do photojournalism, you want to do just that. It’s not that you can’t do the task the subject asks for or that you don’t want to, it’s just that it’s not the reason why you are at the location. I’ve learned to turn down the offer or bring about another solution that doesn’t involve detracting me from my work.

This also involves paying for things. If the venue you are assigned to photograph asks you to pay for an entrance fee, kindly remind them that you are working (and basically giving the contributing parties free advertising). If they still insist, don’t make a scene over it. The photographs come first. So, simply pay for it and get some kind of receipt so that your boss can reimburse you.

DSC_8479

However, this works both ways. Sometimes, it is a real kind gesture that could be in your best interest. Like, when someone with more experience than you offers up an angle that you hadn’t thought of. In this case, the kindness of strangers can work to your mutual advantage. Just be sure to thank them in case the photograph actually makes it in print.

What to Learn PJ: Glean the habit of every single politician: deny, deny, deny.

 

  1. Why are you asking this question?

Well, it’s because I moonlight as a serial killer and I like to keep my options open.

Look, most photojournalists know what they are asking and if it’s an acceptable inquiry within the parameters of the story. However, if there is any doubt about a question, asking this same question to yourself about the line of questioning you just brought forth could bring about the answer. For instance, here’s a couple of questions that can be modified to get the same result but appear more professional:

  • Can I have your phone number?

This is an easy question to ask and an even easier one to get a rebuttal. If they ask why, simply state why: “Oh, I may need to follow up for more info”, or “Just in case there is something more you would like to add”. An easier way of getting the answer for this is to ask for a business card. It is the most professional way of getting a phone number and correct spelling of their name as quickly as possible. If there isn’t a professional reason for this one, then you should probably be looking into another line of work.

  • Are you single? (or similar, more personal questions)

A great question if you are doing a survey designed to target a certain demographic. Otherwise, there are better ways to pick up chicks. If you need to ask this question, lead with the “why” out front. It will put both parties on a level playing field and give the recipient peace of mind.

  • What was that experience like for you?

This is a tread lightly question. If it’s asking about someone’s day at a carnival, it’s pretty self explanatory. If it’s to ask a victim of domestic abuse, the ice is razor thin. This question obviously depends upon the occasion, but one thing to note is that you can usually get all that you need by working around this question with a series of other questions. “Did you like the cotton candy?”, “How was the Ferris Wheel?” “What was one of the attractions that you would recommend?” By being specific, an overall picture can be formed. The danger, however, is when photojournalists (or reporters for that matter) make conclusions based upon assumptions. That’s why being specific with specific questions is as important as being general with general questions.

Another thing to factor in with this question is time. If you are covering a sports event and a player is injured, don’t ask them about it while they are hollering in pain. The information can be reached from another source, like an athletic trainer (God willing), or when the athlete can function on their own a couple of days later. Then a question that appears like an apathetic stab in the back at the time can become an inquiry of genuine concern in the eyes of a victim.

The point is to have reason backup a line of questioning rather than mere curiosity.

What to Learn PJ: Personal vs Professional. Look up the definitions and define your questions in this light before asking them.

 

  1. What is your opinion?

Well, Pat, I think our President should win the highest award available for turning our economy around and Making America Great Again!

Yeah, you really don’t want to hear my opinion. It’s not that photojournalists don’t have opinions (because we do) or that we don’t want to contribute (because we really do!), but keeping our jobs are more important than stewing in the latest gossip. We stay objectified so that you can draw your own conclusions upon the facts.

My thoughts on the matter during an event aren’t much help either. Again, rather recently, I was coming home from a basketball game when I ran into a police barricade. The information I got from the first police officer was that they were searching for a wanted suspect. That is all I had. Suffice to say, that didn’t stop people from asking me a myriad of questions: “What was that explosion? What’s going on? Do you know who it is? When did this happen?” I mean, it’s nice to know that people do recognize when there is a reporter/photojournalist on scene and would like to be informed. In this particular instance, I think that giving out any such information would be more vital to the safety of the readers than the potential scoop the next day. But I still had nothing to give them. I was as clueless as they were.

So, in this moment, all I could offer was opinion. I will admit that I did slip here and input some speculation into my rhetoric as I talked with a couple of people. When caught up in the moment, it just happens.

But this is why we even have the term “fake news”. Whether it’s a time crunch, a slip of the tongue, or just plain journalistic laziness, we screw up and misinform the general audience. Not only do the facts walk out the door, but they take their good friend integrity with them. This is why it is so important to leave all opinions and bias out on the windowsill when you first bake them. Give them time to cool, and a delicious editorial can spring from the end product. Throw them away, and you’ll give your audience a healthy meal of news. But if you jump on them right away, all that you will accomplish is getting burned.

I know this all sounds like something only a reporter would need to care about, but the photographs I took of the event were just about as lackluster in information as the story. Simply making sure that you don’t add your own twist to the story through your image, which is a massive discussion altogether, is what’s most important.

DSC_9062In this instance, simply choosing a shot of the police officer in blue light instead of red gives a more objective view. Not only does the blue light offer more light on the subjects, but it also gives the subliminal impression that the officer is helping the pedestrian. It’s a cool, calm color. Red, on the other hand, could mean anger and violence. If the red light from the police car is used, some people could interpret the event as a confrontation rather than a helpful conversation (which was the fact of the event).

So, the next time someone asks for something you don’t know about, kindly remind them that your job is to report “just the facts, ma’am”.

What to Learn PJ: Kill the canary before he confesses the family career. Hold the tongue, and keep your opinions to yourself!

Well, I hope that helps you have peace of mind, dear photojournalists, the next time you happen upon these sorts of inquisitive bystanders. Regardless, I hope my experiences in the field have given you a chance to reflect on your own encounters and learn from them.

(DISCLAIMER: Though this is meant to help photojournalists, it’s mostly satire; so please don’t stop asking us questions! We do appreciate the interest.)

Belles and Chimes Eugene Video

Below is a video I created to highlight the Eugene chapter of Belles and Chimes. It was originally created for my class, Video Production 1, and turned out great. The Eugene chapter of Belles and Chimes is a great way for women to learn about and play pinball. Come visit the team on Tuesday nights at Blairalley Vintage Arcade in Eugene OR to learn more or visit them on social media.

A Video About Computers

So I ended up getting this idea about computers and what they would say to us as a species if they were sentient/could communicate with us. After bouncing ideas off of a few people in class, this idea kinda ended up hitting me and I just felt really really compelled to commit to it.

I’ve always really enjoyed stories involving technology and how it integrates with humanity itself and the good and evil technology can be used to foster/spread. Be it ideologies/messages. Cyberpunk stuff especially has always been really rad and appealing to me. Stuff like Ghost in the Shell and it’s ideas of the human experience and what exactly it means to be truly human. Not saying this video is on par with something like Ghost in the Shell at all though haha.

Personally I feel like if a computer could really talk to us, it’d be pretty subjective on what it would say depending on the user using it. So maybe mine here is speaking due to the way I use mine? How would yours speak to you? How would someone else’s speak to them? I just really really like the idea of that. Computers are by design made for their user to manipulate to an extent, especially dependent on the OS used. So the concept of what it could say to people is really interesting to me.

Creating this project wasn’t too bad in terms of the production part, but post production became incredibly hard for me to finish on time due to the amount of other finals I had to worry about this term. Thankfully I did get it done, but my need to finish videos/my  perfectionism might’ve hurt me a little bit in the process. Just like to have my projects done and me happy enough with them before I fully give them to someone or upload them. I should really curb that habit at some point.

I really tried to go for more editing/after effects type stuff which I’ve only really used and experimented with in Time Based Tools. I feel like I could’ve and should’ve done more with it like maybe experimenting with more Z-Axis stuff but unfortunately ended up running out of time before I could really experiment or do anything with it.

I hope one day I can make more stuff like this in terms of themes. One of my personal dreams is to be able to make stuff to communicate ideas/themes to people, though I really wanna work on my writing a lot more as I feel a lot of this was very on the nose. But hey learning lessons and all that. I’m sure I’ll get there as long as I just keep trying and working on creating good scripts and content for people.

Thanks for watching and I really enjoyed my time with everyone here 🙂

Hopefully we can create more stuff in the future if any of you continue into media arts!

Weekend Colorado Adventure

For this assignment, the goal of my video was to capture the experience of my weekend trip to Colorado. I wanted to film it in a way that the audience felt as though they were coming with me on my adventure, and seeing it from my point of view. Before going on the trip, I compiled a list of activities and places that I would want to go and film. I would be seeing my brother for the first time in over a year, seeing my girlfriends family and attending a high school graduation. The video started out with the beginning of the trip, from the drive we (my girlfriend and I) made up to Portland, through the airport security, and onto the airplane.

When we finally made our arrival in Denver, it was time to start filming. I went out the first night with my brother, where he showed me around his new neighborhood and took me to his favorite pizza parlor, followed by a night of beers and dancing at the bar. Due to some events that transpired at the bar, I reinjured my knee which put a damper on some of the places and activities I had planned to go do on my trip.

Despite the injury, one day we managed to make to the Denver Botanic Gardens, a large garden with different varieties of flowers and plants from around the world as well as art and sculpture, where we got to see an awesome art display called Pixelated, which was a bunch of structures representing pixelated video games. There were lots of summer camps and people out enjoying the nice and sunny weather.

The video ended when we headed back home to Eugene. I was tired and exhausted and ready for my knee surgery, but I was also excited to create a video that would show everyone that fun trip I had just had (despite the knee injury).

Music: @jamesrodgers91

“We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat”

Coming into this class as a student just about half way through the Multimedia program I decided to try and focus on getting better at the things I want to do that I haven’t had the chance to do in my other classes. One of these skills is stop motion animation. I have had dreams of possibly making stop motion films down the road, and it’s something I have always wanted to try my hand at. With our final project being as open ended as it was I decided it was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at some stop motion work. I knew that I did not want to have to worry about a lot of the creative aspects of making original content for this project, so instead I looked for something that I could recreate using stop motion rather than live action. There were a lot of considerations that went into my decision of recreating someone else’s work rather than making my own completely original material. The biggest being time and attention. I knew that I had very limited time when it came to the actual creation of content (something that takes an extraordinary amount of time when working with stop motion). Secondly I wanted to be able to devote absolute attention to the process of making a chunk of stop motion footage. I love working with audio and creating sounds, and I really enjoy being creative with camera work. But I knew that if tried to do all these things, AND stop motion I would run out of time. I limited myself to only the re-creation of an original pice, and used the original clips audio in hopes of giving myself maximal time to hone to skill I was focusing on for this project.

I have mixed feelings about my final product. On the one hand I learned so much about what goes into making a pice of stop motion media. It takes and extraordinary amount of time, and it can be very frustrating. I requires very precise actions, and acute attention to detail. Additionally the gear and especially the amateurs (in this case toys) are vital to making a good project. Moving forward, if I were to make this project again, I would start with better puppets. The toys I used looked great at first, but there are very old with loose joints and are anything but stable. I would use puppets with wire frames that would allow to control their movements precisely and with intention. It is also very important to have a reliable way to fasten them to your world. Each time one of these figures would fall over I would have to reset everything. And the figures falling over were only one of the many problems I faced in my approach. On the bright side, however, I learned so much. Next time I try to tackle stop motion I will have a lot more knowledge under my belt, and will be ready for many of the road blocks I faced this time around.

 

Thank you all for a great term, and I can’t wait to see you all next year as we work our way through this program!

Best,

Andrew Johnson

Bittersweet Obstacles

The goal with this information is to make the disability department CAR (Center for Accessible Resources) more reliant on students’ abilities to achieve the work in college. Instead of them trying to justify the need to support the disabilities only. The purpose of anyone going to college is to be as independent as they can with the skills that they are willing to learn and achieve to be able to be employable from the college.

The goal with my education is to know my ability to overcome  obstacles with any work I may be asked to do professionally and use those skills to do a cost effective job for future employers. For any employer, I don’t want to be a frivolous employee.  Also I want to make sure I am giving my best effort to that work. This is why I believe in studying at a college. If I didn’t want to do the work, I would have quit a long time ago on my own if I didn’t think I can do the work or didn’t care about it.

The disability department should be able to stand by the work that any student can do within the boundaries of the education. If there is a problem with the work, it can always be solved since the student is working on accredited work. For example, during the last few weeks I have been trying to resolve a problem with a program I have been trying to learn but mistakes kept happening with that program and I blame my disability somewhat for those mistakes because I kept hitting a wall with the mistakes. However, I did find a way to resolve those mistakes by finding a different way to do the work that is still productive and reasonable for keep on doing the assignments.  I had to change my mouse to a trackball to avoid making the mistakes or errors with the assignment. That problem-solving methods should be a part of the department because most of the time the participation with the work is going to be little adjustments to make an assignment accessible, if the student is willing to do the work.

I had no desire to be a stereotype for a dropout rate. My desire was to know my abilities to do my part until there is no option to find I can’t do the work. The people that should make that call is the student and the instructor because the work can be shown on a professional level within the academic boundaries.

CAR should not be in a position to show problems with the work to enforce a dropout rate stereotype with students. Their dependence needs to be on the students’ abilities to overcome obstacles with any assignment. If the student has a love and passion for a particular study than the Department should be more practical about how serious the student is willing to participate in the assignments because they are willing to do their part in going after their dream with the degree.  The department is not realizing the harm they are placing those students into for desiring to dropouts as a stereotype to save funding.  The department should never want any student to give up on the work to complete a class. Professionally they should never look for ways to get out of work. Their desire for a dropout streak should be alarming but they are not breaking any civil rights laws; they are getting out of professional work that students need.

 

 

 

“Bittersweet” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Weight of Words

This project was, by far, my favorite! I had some hiccups in the beginning, like figuring out my story, but once I did, everything went pretty smoothly. I wanted to do something that had meaning, a metaphor about life, something pertaining to a struggle people face. I tried brainstorming about everything which moves me. I decided to do a video about women, because I am a woman, and touch on some of the everyday struggles we face. From catcalling, to snarky comments, to prejudices, and more. I wanted to convey how the idea of a “perfect woman” can weigh heavy on us, as well as how some of the negative things we hear have become a societal norm. I wanted to symbolize breaking those stereotypes at the same time as showing a metaphor for how women can cope with hearing them most, or even every day.

The hardest part of this project was coming up with an idea. It took a lot of holding my head in my hands fearing I wouldn’t think of something in time. Then it hit me and the rest of pre-production went fine. I was able to map out my storyboard and outline and I felt pretty good about it. I had a pretty solid plan. Luckily, I have had plans work poorly before, so I knew not to totally lose it when, as I got everything ready, had my actress at the location and was pulling out my camera, I realized I had forgotten my camera battery nearly an hour away at my house. I was a bit upset by this, don’t get me wrong! We had to reschedule production until the next morning, which worried me because I was running out of time and didn’t know what else might happen to throw off production.

I’m happy to write the next day went smooth. Desiree, my actress did an amazing job, and because she works night and had just gotten off work, it kind of fit the storyline anyway. At that point we just did every shot a bunch of times from different angles and I tried to make sure I had enough footage to choose from.  I ended up being very happy with most of the shots we got, except I wish I had gotten some clearer shots of the words. It was somewhat hard to shoot the words on the mirrors because of the reflection, but the mirror was key to my metaphor. It shows how she isn’t willing to let negative words and phrases she hears throughout her day, mirror herself. I hope I was able to deliver the idea, even with the somewhat blurry lettering.

Editing went pretty smoothly, as I really enjoy this part of the process. I’m still figuring things out with the Adobe programs but have been watching a ton of youtube videos, and with the help of everything I’ve learned this term, I think I will enjoy videography very very much.

Thanks for watching “The Weight of Words.” I hope you enjoyed it.

 

Amateur Cooking…

Over the course of this project I really struggled with what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to make a video that was funny yet cringe-y. Originally, I had thought of doing a sort of cooking show but as the editing process continued I realized squeezing in more than one person into a clip with a maximum of three minutes was going to be impossible. I had already filmed another “contestant” but decided to take a different route and make more of an at-home cooking segment using the lovely Hailey Cowlthorp.

Filming was quite an experience. Hailey continuously made me laugh or made someone in the background laugh and then we would have to reshoot that scene. Wasn’t the end of the world but it definitely extended the process. At least we got some good laughs out of it. I must say, there were a lot of improvisations (if you can’t tell) which was the style I was going for. I wanted the character Charlene to be ditsy and air-headed and Hailey was able to convey that perfectly. The entire video was supposed to be somewhat ironic and not make a whole lot of sense and I think that was accomplished.

Originally I envisioned an interview portion with each contestant in the style similar to the popular show “The Office” because I enjoy the fact that they are breaking the fourth wall. The interview at the beginning was supposed to be an introduction to give the audience an idea of what each character was going to be like but instead ended up with just Charlene introducing herself and although it did give the audience a sense of personality, it wasn’t what I had initially thought of. To be honest though, I think it works perfectly.

Overall, the video was turned out to be something that I didn’t initially expect but ended up being a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about the organization of the filming process as well as the tedious parts of the editing process which will be useful for future projects.

Francis and “The Chord”

 

Up to this point in my media arts classes I have been focusing on one aspect of a project at a time. This was my first attempt at creating my own video utilizing all the editing techniques I have been learning. This was by far the most enjoyable project I have worked on seeing as I had complete control of the story, casting, filming, music selection, and editing options. These steps were broken down into 3 stages including pre-production, production, and post production.

The Pre-Production stage of this project was the most difficult for me to get past. I was flip-flopping back and forth between different ideas for my video. It wasn’t until I had typed out my pre-shoot outline and detailed schedule for my project that I realized what I had settled on may have been boring to view, not to mention not all that fun to create. I decided to find some actors, present my overall idea, and let the improvisation begin. After many different takes, I had amassed enough footage to begin piecing together a timeline.

The actual filming or Production stage of this video was without question the most enjoyable. I had a good time directing the actors, expressing my story ideas, creating costumes, and filming the action. I was fortunate to find a cast of actors who were open to my story vision and who added their own flare to the overall experience. We did this all with very little rehearsal or mishaps. The only scary moment in the filming process came in the original take at the end of the movie where one of my actors was twirling around in a dress. This was filmed in a yard during the night with very little lireeght. She couldn’t see where she was going and accidentally tripped over a garden box and fell into a couple of large tomato plants. She was not injured however I cannot say the same for the tomato’s.

In the Post-Production portion of the project I had a hard time deciding which clips would remain untouched, which would be shortened, and which ones, unfortunately, I would have to exclude all together. This was all due to the 3 minute time limit for the film. I made an effort to edit in footage that corresponded with the narrative. This helped with the time restraints and seemed to give the story a better flow. My soundtrack music was chosen to give the story a feel of creepy mystery while the narrative was meant to be sarcastic yet possibly believable.

After I finished with the final Post-Production touches, I was already starting to plan out my next video shoot. More time will definitely be dedicated to the Pre-Production portion that I had such a hard time with on this particular film.

I found the creepy music called “Dead People Play” here> https://www.dl-sounds.com/royalty-free/dead-people-play/