Capstone – Selecting a Subject reading reflection

I feel like I’ve always had this underlying struggle when it comes to finding a subject to photograph.  The advice from the reading of choosing a subject matter that interests you and something that you can invest yourself into over a long period of time has always clashed in my brain with the idea of subjectivity and being impartial.

Early classes in the j-school planted the idea in my brain that journalists need to remain objective and provide fair and balanced news.  I probably take that too far and have interpreted it along the lines of if there’s something that I have an active interest in then the way I document it is inevitably going to have a bias toward the positive outlook I have on it.  This struggle of trying to remain impartial and not pursuing subjects that I have an interest in, I feel has actually had a detrimental impact on my photography and the way I view and critique my own work.  I can definitely see when there is a disconnect between myself and the subject and the lack of passion results in forgettable images.

I’ve heard many times before, and this is my rough quotation, that journalists have to have a curiosity and interest in the world around them.  If I’m going to be honest with myself, this introvert just cannot bring himself to have a curiosity and interest about everything in the world.  When I tried to force myself out of my comfort zone for the sake of remaining unbiased and impartial, I only set myself up for failure by making it impossible to invest in a situation I was uncomfortable in.

Luckily I find myself slowly abandoning the concept that I can’t photograph things I’m interested in and invested in.  I’m slowly coming around to the idea that the things I’m interested in, I’m already knowledgeable about and probably have connections with subjects or resources to find subjects.  I just need to work out the internal balance of documenting a subject matter I’m invested in, while remaining cognizant of my biases and making sure to keep those in check. 

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Capstone – Story Idea

I know in previous classes I’ve brought up my interest in the Columbia drag community and I’ve heard time and time again that it’s a topic that has been beaten to death in this community.  But really, a community with a school of journalism, what hasn’t been covered to the point of being beaten to death.  

So I set out searching for work done on drag performers and came across Leland Bobbé and his portrait series Half-Drag.  I am mainly interested in the subject matter that he explored.  His work is a portrait series exposing the male and female character persona side by side.  I like the idea and juxtaposition, but that’s just were he ended.  There’s no real depth or story he goes into, it’s just scraping the surface of beauty and femininity ideals. 

I think it would be interesting to either do an essay inspired by this series that explores more in depth what the motivation was for each individual to get into drag performing.  These could be done as a series of audio interviews, or included as written text in caption information. 

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Fall semester on the Columbia Missourian

So from August 2011 to December 2011 I had the grand honor of working for the Columbia Missourian as a staff photographer.  I met lots of new people, around the news room and in the community.  I had successful photo assignments, and then some other assignments that I feel I totally bombed on.  But, like everything in life, you learn from your mistakes and hopefully grow.

Here you can see the compilation of everything I shot during the fall semester, and any newer content that I might contribute to the paper after my official stint as a staff photographer.

For the sake of having an image in this post, here we have me being all super intense, shooting the MU Miami (Ohio) game.  Photo by the lovely, and inspirational Rachel Coward.


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Oh beautiful, for spacious skies…

Obligatory post-fourth of July firework photos.  And I experienced every photographers nightmare.  I got out there and was setting up to take the photos when I realized I didn’t have my tripod.  So I spent the night bracing my camera on my knee hoping that it would stay steady enough to get some good photos.  I think a few turned out decently.
My favorite fireworks are the long glittery golden ones.  They remind me of palm trees for some reason.
So fireworks are pretty.  Here’s to hoping the rest of my summer has good things in store.
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30 Day Photo Challenge

So the other day I came across one of those 30 day photo challenge things, and I don’t mean one of those facebook-esque ones.  Normally I would have shrugged it off and not thought twice about it, but seeing as I’m not doing anything else so far this summer, why not.  So here’s to hoping I actually keep with this and follow through the next month.

Day 1 – Self-Portrait

Self-portrait on a bluff overlooking the Piney River on Ft Leonard Wood, MO.  I had underestimated how hot it was, so the hike left me slightly perspiring.  Plus I got to enjoy the orchestra of cicadas chirping away in all the trees.

Day 2 – What You Wore Today

One day at breakfast a friend sat down at the dining hall table with me and frankly, he smelled amazing.  I asked what body wash or deodorant he wore, and he replied that it was his cologne.  I had never worn cologne before, but that morning I knew that the only type I wanted to ever wear was whatever he had on.  Today I wore, in addition to mundane clothes, my Acqua Di Gio.

Day 3 – Clouds 

So today was a clear day with no real clouds, but granted my intention was to avoid taking pictures of regular clouds anyway.

Everybody cut footloose!  Dust clouds billow underfoot while Curtis danced around the entrance to Miller cave on Ft Leonard Wood.  Curtis studied modern dance in school, and has previously auditioned for the popular show “So You Think You Can Dance.”  He might not have made it on the show then, but “maybe next year!”

Today turned out to be a two photo day.  Both are an interpretation on the cloud theme, and I couldn’t really pick just one.

Clouds of fog roll over the creek at Stone Mill Spring on Ft Leonard Wood.  Families came out to celebrate the end of the work week by fishing for the freshly stocked trout in the spring.

Day 4 – Something Green

Roasted asparagus spears completed a delicious dinner of mesquite marinated steak and baked potato.  Compliments to the chef, my dad!

Day 5 – From a High Angle

Struggled a little with a concept, vision, idea, whatever for todays picture.  And the final product, I don’t know if it’s quite a high enough angle.  It’s more like a medium-high angle–maybe.

Little Legolas snuck a peak at the final chapter of the J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Admit it, everyone has skipped ahead and read the last chapter of a book at some time in their life.  Though it is horrible to ruin the plot spoilers in any story, I will go ahead and admit that I did it with a couple high school assigned readings.

Day 6 – From a Low Angle

The Northern Fence Lizard is a forest dwelling species native to southern and eastern missouri.  They’re also common around country homes, rock gardens, and firewood piles.  Sadly these suckers aren’t quite big enough to keep this swarm of cicadas in check.

Day 7 – Fruit

A cluster of young black berries is just starting to bud.  They’ll plump up and continue to ripen over the coming weeks before becoming the berries I remember eating right off the bush growing up.

Day 8 – A Bad Habit

In my boredom I find myself snacking.  Excessively.  For the time being, mostly on cheese sticks and granola bars, but as those stores dwindle I’ll inevitable turn to more hardcore, unhealthy foods.

Day 9 – Someone You Love

What do kitties dream of?  The worlds largest ball of yarn, all you can eat buffets of fish, big piles of warm blankets to burrow in, who knows.  All I know is that my beautiful kitty Lily is one of the loves of my life!

Day 10 – Childhood Memory

Two command wolves from the Helic Republic conduct recon operations in the forest of planet Zi.  These two models are part of my extensive Zoid model collection–based on the anime show Zoids which I watched when I was younger.

Day 11 – Something Blue

A Great Blue Heron stalks fish along the bank of the Roubidoux Creek in Waynesville, Mo.  This blue heron originally flew off when I first stumbled upon him, but it slowly stalked back down the creek along the distant shore line.

Day 12 – Sunset

Unless you’re in some cool or exotic location, sunsets are just sunsets.  Nothing too special.  However, learning the technique to layer drinks and recreating a sunset in a glass almost makes me want to take a bartender course to learn to make cool drinks.

Day 13 – Yourself With 13 Things

Can you ever have too many ties?  Can you ever have too many paisley ties?  I say you can never have enough of either!  The past couple years I’ve sequestered a descent stockpile of my favorite accessory, neck ties.  I’ve given some thought into branching out into bow ties some time, seeing as bow ties are cool.

Day 14 – Eyes

This little Three-Toed Box Turtle peeks out above the grass with his amber-brown eyes.  Just a couple days ago I had to stop the lawn mower for a minute to let this little guy scoot out of the way of me mowing the grass.

Day 15 – Silhouette

Who doesn’t like dinosaurs?  Who doesn’t like robots?  Who wouldn’t want a robot dinosaur that could shoot a giant ray gun from its mouth?  Day 10 had me dig my old zoid models out of a storage box, and as nerdy and embarrassing as it is I really enjoy photographing them.

Day 16 – Long Exposure

The Pulaski County Fair came to town just in time for me to get a nice long exposure of a carnival ride.  And even though I love amusement parks and thrill rides, I think I’ll pass up the rickety carnival rides and wait till I can make it to a real amusement park.

Day 17 – Technology

The process of developing film and printing photos which used to take hours in a darkroom, under red photo paper safe lights, has been reduced to a mere hobby by the digitalization of photography.  The old developing process can now be done in minutes through wires and photo programs on a computer.  These developments have made photography more accessible to general people, but it is my (probably biased) opinion that buying and owning a camera does not make you a photographer.

Day 18 – Shoes

Yesterday I did a nice float trip on the Piney River on Fort Leonard Wood.  I wore my ever so comfortable vibrams (toe shoes in street lingo), at least till I got out in the river when I was able to strap them to the side of my surprisingly comfortable river tube.  Who knew that a head rest and mesh bottom would make a world of difference compared to a black innertube–oh, and since the tube isn’t black it doesn’t melt your skin off anytime you move and touch a new spot of the tube.

Day 19 – Something Orange

Oh hey look, an orange flower.  I don’t really have much to say about this one.  I’m going to leave it up to you to admire and interpret the picture how you will.

Day 20 – Bokeh (from wikipedia – the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light)

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, written by JK Rowling, is a collection of five magical fairy tales covering everything from magic fountains to the age old debate of following your head or your heart.   If I ever have children maybe I will be able to indoctrinate them with a nerdy love of Harry Potter from a young age by reading them these stories.

Day 21 – Faceless Self-Portrait

The view from the entrance of Miller Cave is quite amazing–looking out over a valley along the Piney River.  Though I’ve only been back into the cave spelunking once, it has become one of my favorite places to visit and take pics.

Day 22 – Hands

Elephants have always been one of my favorite animals, and although I’m not particularly known for story telling, shadow puppetry is an ancient form that was popular in many cultures.  Maybe if I keep practicing someday I can do the entire cast of The Lion King.

Day 23 – Sunflare

A crystal hanging from my rear view mirror swings back and forth as I drive around and it flickers little rainbows around the cab of my truck on nice sunny days.  The crystal acts as a prism–refracting and dispersing the light through all the different facets.

Day 24 – Animal

I already have a couple pics of random animals up, and sure I already have some pics of my nerd-tastic zoid models, but I can’t help further display my nerdiness and photograph the models.  So, here we have the iron kong, who with his shoulder mounted energy canon and missile pod, would give king kong the fight of his life.

Day 25 – Something Pink

The motorcycle world is inherently a masculine domain, but female riders might come up with their own ways of maintaining a feminine identity while still being a part of that world.  For instance, after being referred to as “sir” one morning, my mother now has all pink riding gear.  From helmet to vest to leather boots, now there’s no mistake from any distance if she’s a “sir” or a “mam.”

Day 26 – Close-up

I don’t really wear jewelry too often, but in my summer boredom I recently got into some beading supplies my mom has and I put together a simple strand of seed beads for a cross necklace that originally had an extremely cheap looking chain.  Photography isn’t my only outlet of creativity–in addition to said bead work, I can color some mean looking dinosaurs.

Day 27 – From a Distance

Sure it’s a little dark, but don’t be afraid.  One of the things I really miss up at school is being able to see the stars.  All the light pollution in columbia blots them out, and all you see is an orange haze.  I’m no astronomer or anything, but I’m pretty sure this is the constellation orion.  It’s one of the only ones I can identify, besides the simple ones like the big and little dipper.

Day 28 – Flowers

I kinda regret the photo I used for day 19–would have been perfect for today.  But, these little violet hosta blooms will do just as well I guess.

Day 29 – Black and White

This chest likely didn’t hold any pirate booty, probably more like the clothes and linens of a respectable, hard-working pioneer family.  Regardless, this weathered antique has seen some wear in its days, and probably traveled some exciting places.

On another note, I need to rant for a minute.  I am absolutely not a fan of digital pictures that are simply turned black and white post production.  I started my photography with black and white film in a 35mm camera.  There’s a HUGE difference between shooting black and white film, and shooting digital and simply editing the file.  Similar to my rant on day 17, editing a photo to black and white does not make it a good photo!

Day 30 – Self-Portrait 

Over the last decade the Harry Potter series has been an integral part of my life.  Next month, the installment of the final film will close out the journey I’ve been on for nearly half my life.  Sure, it’ll be sad that there’s no new books or movies to look forward to, but I still have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that I can visit some time down in Florida.

So closes out my 30 day excursion.  I may be a day late and a dollar short, but I'm thoroughly satisfied with (most of) my photos from this last month. 
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Velvet Lined Cases and Camera Straps

So after a year finally in the photo sequence of the journalism school, I’m actually surprised at how much I’ve actually learned.  My initial eye opener at the beginning of the year was that I wasn’t as good of a photographer as I originally thought I was, but I quickly learned that I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone else in the class and just focus on my own improvement.

When I got back down home for the summer I came across some old photo gear that my parents and grandparents have loaned to me, as if they’re going to use any of it anymore.  Looking through the gear I realized that I now know how to use all of it, even the incident meter that I didn’t even know what it was before.

Twin lens reflex (is that the proper name for it?) and an incident meter, that I now know how to use!  I have yet to use the 120mm camera, I have film, just haven’t shot with it.  I want to consult someone who actually knows how to use it first, and I need to figure out where I can either develop the film myself, or find where I can get it developed.  Also, I think that all camera gear should come in brightly colored, velvet lined cases.

And, here I have the 35mm that I cleaned up back in high school and have shot some.  And there’s a small tripod and an old flash.  Hopefully I can use this flash to do some multiple light set up work–just have to see what opportunities this summer presents.  On a side note, I think these camera straps need to make a comeback.

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Final Project

For the final project in advanced techniques we worked in groups and produced multimedia pieces related to the Civil War sesquicentennial–150th anniversary.  My group composed of Dak Dillian, Jeremy Jardine, and myself.  We attended the weekend reenactment of the Camp Jackson Affair in St. Louis.  Our story covers the reenactment life of Frank Aufmuth, who organized the reenactment for the weekend and portrayed one of the generals that weekend.

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Painting with Light

In the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series, contemporary authors such as J.K. Rowling have rejuvenated the fantasy genre in literature. This renaissance has helped spur childhood and adolescent reading and literacy rates over the last decade. These books are also beloved and well read by adults of all ages.

After a couple of hours, soggy shoes and soaked socks, I think our group produced quite the phenomenal painting with light photo.

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Multiple Flash

Alex Vaenberg and Geoff Stumbaugh practice various ballroom dance styles at Studio B Dance Center Monday afternoon.  They’ve been dance partners for six weeks and are training up to help be instructors.  Stumbaugh says that he wishes there were more dance opportunities here in Columbia though “Mizzou does have a ballroom dance club, and they always need guys!”

So this assignment was a fun challenge.  Chasing the couple around the dance floor was enough of a challenge, let alone having to worry about your light placement and the relative angle to my partner.  Oh, and there were two walls of mirrors that I had to make sure didn’t get my partner or myself reflected in.

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Video Interview

I have conquered final cut–more or less.  But really, for my first experience working with final cut, after some minor help I’m fairly satisfied with my final product.  So, enjoy Jon talking about a couple great photos he took of Guy Jones.

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