Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Classmate portrait

Here's the portrait I shot of Lilli Kelly, my partner for the classmate assignment in Advanced Techniques. We had some fun while getting comfortable with the studio, and hearing her talk about her grandmothers' cooking made my mouth water.

I picked this picture because Lilli's a very earnest individual. She seems very confident in who she is, and she is wholeheartedly involved in the assignment at hand...very passionate about photography (a quality than can be seen in the way she's attacking MPW. Ask her to show you her airplane picture some time; it's great). She's modest, but at the same time she has professional experience in photography and journalism, and she probably knows something you don't. Hence the Mona Lisa smile.

Broken teeth and Friday Night Fights

This workshop is getting better and better. Yesterday my Rangefinder duties required me to go to Lam's Garden Chinese Restaurant in Crystal City to sample the food and write an article about it. Not only was their honey chicken exceptional, but I also met this interesting 18-year-old kid there named John McWherter. He's been working at Lam's for the last three weeks after getting fired from Walmart for filming himself breaking a Sobe bottle over his head while in uniform. He was on his way out the door with a buddy who was heading to buy a pregnancy test.

They also mentioned to me that they have fights on Fridays, a la "Fight Club." So I got their numbers and am hoping for good pictures come Friday.

We put out one of our best Rangefinder editions yet tonight. We got a lot of positive feedback, and I'm really glad we made the decision to kind of turn tradition on its ear and redesign the publication to a broadsheet format instead of the stuffy newsletter layout of the last several years. I feel like it's a more interactive read, plus it's a fun throwback to the dying newspaper industry. Heh. To check out Tuesday's Rangefinder, click the front page in the upper right.

Tonight's presentations were pretty phenomenal. The amount of talent, passion and hard work that these photographers (and faculty) are putting into this week is boggling, and it makes me jealous of their skills and accomplishments. I only hope that one day my writing will move people as much as MPW's photography is impacting me. It's certainly a big honor to be here, and I can't say enough good things about this project and what it's doing for storytelling in the Midwest. I wish there was one of these for writers.

CAPTION: John McWherter shows off the tooth he broke while trying to separate a piece of pipe with his teeth.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

61st Missouri Photo Workshop

I'm in Festus, Mo. all this week working on the crew of the 61st Missouri Photo Workshop. With my partner, Ivy, I'm writing and editing MPW's newsletter, "The Rangefinder." We're already off to an incredible start; I followed around a photographer named Mustafah Abdulaziz on Monday and just watched him start conversations with people. It was impressive.

CAPTION: Mustafah Abdulaziz pitches his story ideas to National Geographic's Dennis Dimick, left, and George Olson, right.

We were driving around Crystal City in search of a story when we spotted a guy sitting outside his house, so we decided to stop and talk. Pretty soon, we find out that both he and his wife have cancer, and five minutes after we met him, he'd already told Mustafah he was ready to die.

Mustafah knows how to talk to people, and he’s smooth as silk. In two and a half hours, he and I drove around the Twin Cities and talked to a pawnshop owner, an ultra conservative conspiracy theorist, a postman and the ailing couple. Each time, he piggybacked off a single opener to launch an extended conversation.

When Don (the sick man) asked why he was so interested in Crystal City, Mustafah showed some pictures on his iPhone to give him an idea. Shortly afterward, Don and his wife, Bertha, were talking to him about their health conditions.

“If you can find one reason why you need to talk to that person, then the rest of it is being quick on your feet,” Mustafah told me. “You just need a shred of a reason and then sell them on it.”

At one point, that reason to talk was to bum a light off a shirtless teenager, even though Mustafah had a lighter in his pocket. That spark led to a phone number and an invitation to be shown a “good time” later in the evening.

Mustafah’s pack of American Spirit cigarettes – 100 percent tobacco – has opened plenty of doors for him. “They’re the healthiest things you can kill yourself with,” he joked.

But being quick on your feet won’t automatically get a story idea approved. During his first story pitch, Mustafah was told to go flesh out his ideas and learn more about his potential subjects. Half the battle is locating a compelling situation, but it’s not so easy to find one that is visually captivating, said Dennis Dimick and George Olson, the faculty editors of Mustafah’s Team C.

Instead of trying to find a completely new story, Mustafah was planning to flesh out the two ideas he suggested. But like others who were sent from the story pitch to find more information, he doesn’t have a lot of time to satisfy his editors.

“I want to see where they’re going to point me,” he said. “I’m willing to go on their journey, but at the end of the week I hope I’ve reached the point where I’m happy with why I went on that journey.”

To read the other stories from Monday or check out the Rangefinder's design, click the front page.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Light use in a portrait

Assignment: Pick a portrait that uses light to effectively convey the photographer's message. Post it to your blog.

This photo won an award of excellence at the 65th Pictures of the Year International contest. It is used for educational purposes.

Alex Boerner Scripps Treasure Coast Newspaper
"CENTENARIAN" 101-year-old Marian Wardell-Qualey sits up in the hospital bed inside of her home in Hobe Sound, FL. An artist and former art teacher, Wardell-Qualey now suffers from many ailments, including macular degeneration, which, combined with her otherwise deteriorating state of health, has forced her to give up painting the portraits of flowers and nudes that hang on her own walls.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Copy test and meter calibration

Here's the first assignment from my Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism class. For this assignment, we learned how to copy other images the old school way – by taking pictures of them (just in case there should be a worldwide scanner failure). We also played with white balance settings...specifically tungsten and daylight. Booyeah.

The Final Countdown by Amit Lennon | The Sunday Times Magazine, May 24, 2009.
f/16 @ 1/8 s | ISO 400

Dr. Cornel West by Max Vadukul | Rolling Stone, May 28, 2009.
f/16 @ 1/8 s | ISO 400

A neighbor's carpark is illuminated by different light sources in Columbia on Sept. 9, 2009.
f/2.8 @ 1/20 s | ISO 1600

An usher surveys the crowd at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during the Royals' game against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday, Sept. 7, 2009. The Royals ended their losing streak against the Angeles by defeating them 6-3.
f/11 @ 1/180 s | ISO 100

In the future I'll be posting work from that class on this blog. (And at the same time trying to get caught up with Argentina business...uhnn.) Cheers.