Archives for category: Photojournalism

The students in Multimedia Journalism voted on one another’s audio slideshows after we did a screening and critique in class last week. Winners got their choice of two versions of Auburn University College of Liberal Arts T-shirts as a reward. Around here, that means either orange on blue or blue on orange. Either’s a great option.

Hands down, the students’ favorite was Reese Counts’ piece on a Triumph Motorcycles shop not far from campus on Opelika Road, a place called Skinner’s. As you’ll see, Counts had free range of the place, and access means a world of possibilities when shooting still photos.

Kate Seckinger’s piece on Chick-Fil-A took second prize. You can see the rest of the audio slideshows by clicking the links below. Please enjoy!

They were produced by creating audio stories in Audacity, shooting, culling and editing photos using Lightroom and Photoshop, and blending the two media forms in Soundslides’ Demo version.

Unfortunately, blogs do not work and play well with complex projects that combine folders and files, so we used Google Drive as a host server. It’s not an elegant solution, and most of the students noted that following the upload steps in precisely the right order and some of the subtler aspects of Google Drive made the upload the most challenging part of the assignment.

But that’s the way journalism works in the online world in a time when many newspapers are shedding their dependence on paper and ink in favor of browsers and bandwidth: Everybody needs to know a little technology, regardless of whether we believe (or even want to believe) that we’re technology people.

Multimedia journalism uses technology in the service of telling a story.

As with so much in life, learning to do this using Google Drive had a learning curve. When you first do a thing, it can be frustrating. When processes break down, you have to figure out how to troubleshoot it. That’s what everybody in this course did together (and that includes me) for this assignment.

Gosh Almighty, I hope this is the problem ...

Gosh Almighty, I hope this is the problem …

A Google Drive problem has vexed a student and me for the last 24 hours.

After preparing a really nicely done Soundslides presentation, my student emailed to say she was having trouble uploading the files to Google Drive. She followed all the steps in’s fantastic Using Google Drive as a Web Host post. Yet it would not allow her to upload folders inside the publish_to_web folder; whether with drag-and-drop or hitting the upload files button inside Drive, it just wasn’t letting it work.

She brought her laptop in and we looked at her files; they looked in order. We noticed that in Drive, the icon for her folders looked different than the one for my folders. When she clicked on the 400_300 and 600_450 files, they would not open. Mine, however, did in my Drive.

After beating our heads against the problem for about an hour (and after she showed her beautifully done audio slideshow to me on her computer), I conceded defeat with apologies for not being able to figure out the problem.

And it just kept nagging at me. I wrapped up some grading and returned to the problem, replicating the steps with a test upload on my Drive. And when I hit the upload button, the same thing happened to me: It would not let me load folders, only files.

I backed up a couple of steps. And that’s where I think I found the problem.

When you hit the little upload button, it asks if you want to upload a folder or files. I think if you click on it without noticing that option, Drive assumes you want to upload files. This time, I selected folder, then uploaded the contents of the publish_to_web folder. Then I clicked index.html, then hit preview.

The thing worked. Here it is (and it’s just a quick-and-dirty to demonstrate how to upload these things to Drive). To test whether that explains the incomplete preview of the Soundslide presentation, I tried uploading to Google Drive by just clicking the upload file indiscriminately; when I did so, Drive assumed I just wanted to upload files. Drive will upload either a folder that contains a bunch of stuff (it could have a mix of folders and files inside) if you use the “Upload>Folder” option. If you use “Upload>Files” and you point it inside a folder (like the publish_to_web folder) and try to select all the folders and files inside it, it will only upload the files. The result will be something that looks like this shell of a Soundslides project that I uploaded to test this theory.

I really hope this is the solution for my student. After this testing, I am certain it is.

Incidentally, these are the directions I gave in class before spring break for how to upload the projects:


  1. In Soundslides, complete your slideshow and export it by using the EXPORT button. This creates a folder called publish_to_web that contains everything necessary for an online viewer to look at/hear your audio slideshow.
  2. Upload the contents of the entire publish_to_web to Google Drive. For directions, click through the galleries at the post “Using Google Drive as a Web Host” at this link:
  3. Write a blog post that explains the content of your story, including the title (this is the headline you gave it in Soundslides) and link to the publish_to_web folder you uploaded in Step 2 above. The link in Step 2 will explain what that link is.
  4. Email the link to the blog post containing the link to the audio slideshow to me at

UNC Multimedia Bootcamp is where I got my first taste of journalistic documentary video storytelling. Not that this was my first video ever; I will confess to having made some terribly sophomoric sketch comedy using a video camera rented from the local mom-and-pop equivalent of Blockbuster Video back in the day.

While it wasn’t a boot camp in the “drop your *something* and grab your socks” kind of way, it definitely was a crash course. Remember that scene in Wayne’s World 2, where they had roadie training, and the veteran roadie who had bludgeoned a sweet shop owner to death with his own shoes to get brown M&M’s in order to get a band on stage was introducing himself? And he said, “You will hurt. You will have aches and pains. But you will get good.”

We got … well, competent enough after one week.

Afterward, I got a LOT of practice shooting a road trip to ancient Navajo and Hopi ruins in the Southwest with my father, an interview with a fascinating lady who is a muzzleloader shooting champion with a passion for creating Indian beadwork, and a piece on a mixed martial artist in Syracuse. So come to think of it, given the demands of producing research for academic presses on a regular basis, I’ve gotten more experience at this game than I thought.

UNC Multimedia Bootcamp is what got me up and running.

In just a week, we learned best practices for online video shooting and editing, basic html coding, interviewing for video and audio projects, and how all the elements of soundbites, natural sound, room tone, and voiceover-less editing combine with video footage to let the characters tell the story while the reporters stayed behind the camera or off to the side while conducting the interview.

We learned to become, as I tell my Multimedia Journalism students, Men in Black.

Our only presence is the standalone answers and reactions from interview subjects that we prompted with our carefully worded questions and by biting our tongues, smiling, nodding, and using the “dumb dog” expression while keeping our mouths shut and resisting the temptation to say, “Uh-huh … interesting … go on ….”

My assignment partner Tom Salyer, a freelance photographer from Miami, and I hit up a dozen businesses in downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro, N.C., before we found someone willing to talk on camera and let us into their lives for a couple of hours of interviewing and B-roll filming.

This is the result.

Barry “Sid” Keith is just the best for letting us in. From one Tar Heel to another, thanks, Sid!

Barry "Sid" Keith's secondhand shop Sid's Surplus has been a fixture in downtown Carrboro, N.C., for decades.

Barry “Sid” Keith’s secondhand shop Sid’s Surplus has been a fixture in downtown Carrboro, N.C., for decades.

My friend Wasim Ahmad, who runs the Journographica blog, just shared a handy little piece on how misguided photographers often are in their use of flash and tips for how not to needlessly blind your subjects and waste your battery with it. I especially like the advice on using flash to keep from shooting useless silhouettes in backlit conditions and how to use flash to eliminate shadows in portraits. If you’re still learning to use your gear properly, it’s worth a look. Check it out: You’re Using Your Camera’s Flash Wrong.

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