Archives for posts with tag: 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, WordPress.com 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.

Parkour athletes train on the decorative stone benches and walls beneath the opulent Shelby Engineering Center at Auburn University. The ruins of recently demolished Dunstan Hall lie in the background.

Parkour athletes train on the decorative stone benches and walls beneath the opulent Shelby Engineering Center at Auburn University. The ruins of recently demolished Dunstan Hall lie in the background.

First among the rules of photography I’ve emphasized in Multimedia Journalism is the Rule of Thirds, which I was studiously applying Tuesday afternoon after a day on campus as I composed an urban blightscape of the ruins of Dunstan Hall, which, along with some other buildings in the background and to the right in this image, is destined to become a parking garage. But then the unexpected happened. You’ll want to click the thumbnail to enlarge since it’s easy to miss at thumb size.

I had seen Parkour athletes training on utility boxes, stone walls by the parking deck at RBD Library, and other fixtures on campus. As the man in mid-somersault crossed along the bricks and pavement above the steps, I figured he’d just provide a sense of scale for the destruction behind him. And then, he began his run. About six strides along a loping curve led to his leap into the air, perhaps five feet high and 10 feet long, landing atop the oddly shaped stone bench from which he hurtled, tucked, spun tightly as if on a string, and stretched his arms to catch the top of the wall at the bottom of the frame.

It was a magnificent act, wholly unexpected, and perhaps as much a delight to me as to its executor. And it illustrated other key rules of photography beyond the Rule of Thirds:

  • F/8 and Be There: This saying admonishes us to not fixate so much on technical perfection so much as to be present and alert and mindful of the possibilities presented by the moment at hand. F/8 is the f-stop that provides optimal depth of field. OK, so my antiquated Droid2 smartphone’s camera has no such thing as f-stop settings. The key part, however is to BE THERE.
  • Capture the decisive moment: As the Top L Project blog points out, you have to be ready to capture the exact time when something great happens; without doing so, you risk losing your shot. Top L says to do this, you have to know your camera. In the moment, I saw our Parkour artist act abruptly. I knew from shooting baseball with low-grade gear that I had a split second to have a chance of capturing anything. I got lucky this time. But I have maybe hundreds of garbage frames from the Detroit Tigers at Spring Training last March and maybe two frames where the ball explodes off the bat or the ball is in the frame after a pitcher releases it. As Charles Bukowski wrote in a fight scene in “Barfly,” a guy gutted with a knife shouts at his attacker, “Damn luck, motherf*cker!” to which the assailant responded, “Yeah, but that counts, too!”
  • Use the light: I’m borrowing from Top L’s list here, but it’s so true: Photography is about the light. This shot didn’t have the greatest, on account of the cloud cover and the shadow of the massive Shelby Engineering Center buildings in which the action took place. I think the moment makes up for it, though, and being there. It could have been worse; it could have been harsh mid-day, overhead light. This was the hour before dusk when the photo took place, and the building shadows eliminated the advantage of shooting during the magic hour. And naturalistic documentary photography demands that you shoot things where they take place. No staging. Capture the moment, be there, and use what light is there. Available light is the key to being nonintrusive.

If only I had one of those sweet DSLR rigs that Canon so graciously loaned me at the National Press Photographers Association’s Multimedia Immersion last summer. I’m saving my pennies until the day comes to take the plunge. Suggestions for good gear are appreciated.

The audio slideshow was the first truly multimedia storytelling form in the world of online news. It originated in newspaper newsrooms at the beginning of the Internet era in the 1990s. As we work from learning to use the simple Web 2.0 story form (blogging on WordPress) toward the most complex (creating video stories), students in JRNL 3510 this week are completing their 10-picture photo galleries on their blogs, complete with captions. Audio slideshows are the logical next step after this assignment.

Our next major assignment in Multimedia Journalism will be an audio slideshow created in SoundSlides. An audio slideshow consists of still photos and audio. The highly recommended audio recording gear for this assignment is the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder. It’s lightweight, but it provides excellent sound quality and reasonably fine input control for the mobile journalist. AmazonB&H Photo and New Egg have them for between $95 and $100. I’ve had great luck with all three vendors.

As one might logically assume, photojournalists were the pioneers of the audio slideshow. Because they were mostly visual thinkers and not audio producers, photojournalists’ earliest audio slideshows typically used one continuous interview clip, a single linear narration recorded by the photos’ creator, or a song as an audio “backdrop” for their stories. This was an important step toward integrating visuals with sound. But in its early stages, the audio slideshow often consisted of two separate stories on slightly different tracks: one visual, the other audio. One complemented the other, but they didn’t tell the same story simultaneously. Our goal is to develop integrated stories in which the audio track speaks about or provided context for the visuals simultaneously visible onscreen.

Thus, the audio slideshows we create will use some of the logic of writing for TV. In a television voiceover script (or VO), producers use the SWAP method: Synchronize words and pictures.That’s what you’re going for here: The audio track could stand by itself. Or the sequence of photos with captions could stand by itself. But the voices and sounds in the audio track must be relevant to each of the images onscreen while the audio track can be hears. Sound and images sync together.

The best way to understand this story form is to view and listen to great examples. Here are a variety of them from major news sites, including the British Broadcasting Corp., The Guardian, Australian Broadcasting Corp., and the New York Times. They come from Maureen Fisher’s list of examples on a class blog at Temple University.

BBC
A Surgeon in Somalia

The Dog and the Whale

Down the Local

THE GUARDIAN (UK)
All Round the Houses: Confessions of a Milkman

Disappearing Acts: Turning a Bowl on a Pole Lathe

AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING COMPANY
The Mobile Nurse: Rebecca Wilner

Skulls, Strings and Philosophy: An Exploration into the Life of a Tattoo Artist

NEW YORK TIMES
Mulch Fest

Cut in Half

Burlesque Art

Kitten Rescue

I only really started to get interested in the techniques of photojournalism when I was at one of the great news organizations for visual journalism, The Santa Fe New Mexican. I won some news page design awards there, but it was really press photographers like Abel Uribe and Craig Fritz who deserve the credit for making it such a gorgeous and at times visually stunning paper. The light in their work was just spectacular. The following piece demystifies the process.
Jim Richardson on Photographing in Available Light — National Geographic.

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