Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 8: Recap

Becky took Mataya to the neighborhood where her documentary was taking place for some sunrise b-roll.

I took Megan to L'il Dizzy's to do sunrise b-roll inside the restaurant--the prep chef; the dew on the windows; the waitresses arriving, etc.

Leaving Megan to continue gathering footage, I joined Becky and Mataya at the church to be the sound gal for her two camera operation. Becky manned the P2 Mataya set up in the balocony, Mataya roamed around cpaturing closer views, and I sat on the floor, with the Zoom sound recorder.

Leave church to retrieve Megan...take her to the hotel.

We heard back at the hotel that the Gay Pride Parade was going to be emanating very close to the hotel, so a few ran over to take pictures there.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with students getting their edits ready for the New Orleans Photo Alliance critique at 5pm....

We piled into the van and went to the Photo Alliance for our final critique, followed by a celebratory dinner at Juan's Flying Burrito.

Everyone followed Tony to the Howlin' Wolf's Den to capture the last of his footage on brass bands where he began: The Hot 8 Brass Band. The rest just went to enjoy the music.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 7: Cemeteries, Rivers, Interviews, Oh My!

As the time here grows shorter, it also seems to speed up for the students. More appointments, more urgency...but we still make time for our sunrise image making:

St. Roch's Campo Santo

McDonoghville Cemetery in Algiers

Then after a brief unsuccessful hunt for alligators on Airline Drive with Jorah, I dropped her at the hotel and picked up Devin and Tony. I dropped them at Bourbon Street, where Tony had an interview with a senior member on a brass band, and another brass band he'd already interviewed was playing. I joined them after an errand, and finding parking. There was also a corporate sponsored flash mob...from Popeye's. Don't ask.

We had a critique to cap the day, reviewing and making suggestions for Sunday night and the critique at the Photo Alliance.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Late Night Editing on the Patio

Prepping for our critique with the New Orleans Photo Alliance tomorrow!

Sunrise in the Cemetery

Day 6: Vacation Day!

Yesterday (Friday) we took a road trip out through Bay St. Louis along the Gulf of Mexico and on to the beach at Pass Christian. For two remarkable stories on this area - you can find the This American Life episode we listened to in the car online here: This American Life.

Colleen made friends with some fishermen:

All that relaxation was utterly exhausting:

After a few power naps we reconvened at the Blue Nile where Devin was filming local vocalist Mykia Jovan. (Fall in love with her online here: Mykia Jovan

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 5: Hump Day of our Trip

Our class is exactly half complete.

Sunrise at Lake Pontchartrain. Our numbers were few, but a force with whom to be reckoned. I took them to the jetty out by the yacht club on Lake Pontchartrain. We were virtually alone and the sound of the water was terrific. The sky was performing perfectly, as it has for most of the trip.

Becky left with Mataya to return to St. Katherine's for another interview, some b-roll, etc. They were out almost all day!

I took Megan and Devin out to pick up the talented chanteuse, Mykia Javon we met at Bullet's on Tuesday night. Devin has convinced her to be the subject of a mini-documentary. She got in the car, and we drove to Algiers Point for a backdrop of the French Quarter.

We had lunch and learned all about this terrific woman, and Devin did a great job with the interview...and we even met a young singer songwriter, who was out for a bike ride...he stayed and watched the whole interview, and then asked if he could hear Mykia sing, and she okay, and she just lit up the dirt parking lot we were walking through...then the kid sang back to her. It was magic.

more on the documentary progress tomorrow...

I dropped Devin and Megan at Three Muses for Megan's shoot and interview, and took Mykia home.

Picked up the two at Three Muses and headed in for the night.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 5: Sunrise at the Lake

Day 4:

We went to Holy Cross this morning. When I say, we, I mean Becky, Tony, Jorah, and Mataya...the rigors of our long days do take a toll...But generally the group has been an excellent early-rising sunrise force! Once the bugs starting biting up on the levee, I told the troops where the best spot up there was for looking back over the canal at the main part of the city, and high-tailed it for the van. Becky too.

After a quick breakfast, we all headed out once again for the Times-Picayune. Established in 1837, the Times-Picayune has maintained a strong and vital force in New Orleans in print and in an ever-expanding web version. For it's Katrina coverage the paper shared the Pulitzer in 2005 with a paper in Gulfport Mississippi.

The paper has at times had writers the likes of O. Henry and William Faulkner, but I am just as content to see current reporter, John Pope, always in a bow tie, a proper southern gentleman on my way in and out of today's newsroom.

But nothing can match getting to hang out with our friends in the Photography Department. They are all wonderful, and each time Becky and I have been down, they have been very generous with their time, and have allowed students (and us) to shadow them on shoots.

We split up in two cars this time, and Becky stayed behind and participated in the morning budget meeting. Mataya, Megan, and I went with photo-journalist John McCusker. Who was on assignment to cover the ground breaking of the new WYES tv studio.

We learned that sometimes the best pictures to be made are those that don't conform to the camera-ready moments created to be photographed. John made a great picture of the station's general manager in the doorway of the soon-to-be demolished original studio (built in 1957).
We also had the privilege of meeting Dave Walker (see photo of hands), who was writing the accompanying article.

After the assignment, John drove us to Gentilly, and walked us up on to the bridge over the London Avenue Canal (very near where one of my tree pictures was made on Warrington), explained the levee breeches to the students, how the levees were built and why they failed, and shared his own story from the massive failure of the levees in 2005.

We then rejoined the others at the newspaper and headed to lunch together. We switched up groups a little so a photographer was at each table.

Because John is also an accomplished music writer, I got Tony to join him for lunch, and he had some great advice. Not to be overly gushy, but Becky and I cannot thank the photographers of the Times-Picayune enough for once again showing our students what they do, and sharing so deeply in both their experiences on and off the job. It is an invaluable gift to not only hear about integrity in journalism but to see it demonstrated. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We dropped Mataya and Jorah off, so Jorah could get some photographs of the alligators being fed. Then we headed back to the hotel for a needed rest....not to mention catching up on the blogging and downloading of cards!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

Sometimes, in between all of the work, we manage to have a little fun...

Day 3: Recap

Sunrise shoot in the French Quarter. All, but Devin, made it out for this our second sunrise shoot. It was a smidge more humid than our first couple of days, but no humidity. Fogged lenses remained so by the time we reached Jackson Square. The only folks around were street cleaners, the usual array of characters snoozing on benches, a fellow strumming a guitar before work, and the lady selling the coffee and bignets at the Cafe du Monde. Bliss.

Back to the hotel for breakfast and some needed download and capture time.

We had a review of the film dailies--or rather, bi-dailies, I suppose. Some good beginnings, but much more work is needed. With Becky and Jorah hitting the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain and Insta-Gator, I had the film crew, and plans were set for the afternoon's driving schedule.

Everyone piled into the SUV and we headed to Little Dizzy's. We discussed shot set ups, based on earlier discussions in the critique, and we set about the task of creating some meaningful b-roll.

It's always nice when a student embraces the food culture of New Orleans as a topic, because we get to try some truly wonderful food. Little Dizzy's was epic in this regard. It was a buffer of friend chicken, red beans and rice, gumbo, potatoes, and everything in between!

Three words: Best gumbo ever.

After lunch, I left Devin and Megan to their work, and took Mataya to her location-St. Katerine's Drexel. She was setting up for an interview with the choir master, followed by a choir rehearsal.

Devin texted that Megan was done and they were ready to be picked up. So I hopped in the van and made my way back over there, picked them up, dropped them at the church with Mataya, and zoomed back to the hotel to pick up my laptop, so I could work while waiting for choir practice to end. But we all sort of ended up shooting, and it turned out to be a good think I'd cleared my cards. Mataya shot a combined 68GB of footage in one hour.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scouting the Hot 8 | Shooting the Mississippi

An excerpt from our scouting mission on Sunday night at the Howlin' Wolf Den:

Above: Sunday night, 2300hrs. Below: Monday morning, a 0520 call time to catch the sunrise on the Mississippi:

Day 3: Mataya Getting Ready for Her Choir Leader Interview

Mataya's project on St. Katherine's Drexel Catholic Church is going well. Next stop: Choir practice!

Day 3: Sunrise Walk in the Quarter

Another beautiful morning greeted us, albeit hot) about 80 degrees at 5:30am).

We walked to the French Quarter this morning and enjoyed the almost-empty and almost-quiet streets of the usually frenetic Vieux Carré.

Day 2: Recap

Becky gets up and leads some of the group on a sunrise walk to the ferry.

Colleen and Jorah head to Lafitte, LA for a swamp tour.

Becky takes group to act as film crew for Mataya's documentary on St. Catherine's Drexel Catholic Church in mid-city.

Group meets up at hotel to discuss the rest of the shooting day. Jorah decides to use the afternoon to download and edit photographs, and at 4:30pm the rest go to Three Muses in the Fauberg-Merigny for footage and interviews for Megan's documentary on restaurants, and for Tony's documentary.

After the pick up of the film crew from the Marigny, we had an end of day review of the plans for Tuesday, and looked at Jorah's photographs.

Whew! I was still really tired from our long first day, and was only able to read a few pages, before I dropped off to sleep.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 2: Continued...

After a harrowing 18 hour trip to Atlanta, Megan's equipment arrived at the hotel just in time to depart for her interview with the proprietor of Three Muses in the Marigny. See the below photograph by classmate, Devin Meierding, of Megan in action!

Tony is also working there tonight with the chef's husband who is a musician! Becky and I are really looking forward to the dailies on folks' blogs!

Day #2: Swamp Tour with Jorah

Becky and I split up to get folks to their various destinations today. She took the early shift to the ferry and Algiers Point, and I headed out to Lafitte with Jorah (project on gators) for the air boat swamp tour. And man did these guys deliver!!!

Day 1: The Recap

Arrive at airport

Find out we could have slept later

...much later

Arrive in Memphis and discover the gate at which we were deposited, a half hour later than anticipated, is two airport lengths from our already-boarding flight.

12:30pm Arrive at the hotel with Jorah, Mataya, Devin, and Tony, and some of their luggage. We decided to leave the rental car place with Becky behind us, otherwise the students would miss the tour--a very important overview of the city.

We boarded the tour bus, and had a great tour. Everyone was relieved we would be stopping for some quick takeout, as it had been some time since we'd eaten!

Arrived back at the hotel, and had a much needed break to unpack!

We went to Tippitina's Uptown for the weekly Fe Do-do. Bruce Daigrepont's Cajun beats filled the hall, and the 50 or so people who weekly arrive at 5pm to dance were already reeling around the dance floor!

Junior-High-dance-style, we all sat along one side of the dance floor in folding chairs. Everybody danced eventually, and Tony even discovered his true calling: washboard musician!

Dinner Break!

We left for our second musical epiphany of this loonnnnnng first day: to see tue Hot 8 Brass Band at Wolf's Den.

By now, dear reader, you may be questioning the pedagogy behind the music, but the first venue was to bathe in real local culture--one where cake and ice water are the prevailing vices, contrary to the NOLA first-timer's view that there is nothing beyond Bourbon Street. But the Wolf's Den was so our student Tony could meet up with one of his desired subjects for his documentary film on Brass. By this last late, but incredibly rewarding, musical wonderment, our numbers had dwindled to two students, Becky, and me. Becky and I were exhausted. But I'll tell you, there's a reason there's a brass band at every funeral. That music lifts you up.

Some late-night blogging and catching up via email with our mortal lives, we all probably had the most restful and sound sleep we can remember in recent history!

Fais do-do! (Cajun Dance Party!)

Making friends on our first day in New Orleans at Tipitina's:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day #1, Part II

Cajun Music. Tony has found a new avocation.

Day 1

Well, after a late flight out of MSP, a long wait to pull in off the Tarmac in MSY, and Becky sacrificing her tour ticket to await the rental van that wasn't cleaned yet--even though we were late....we are on the bus for the tour of New Orleans!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Don't forget your sunscreen!

See you bright and early Sunday morning! In the meantime, enjoy this link on fighting lens fog in humid climates!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Packing Tips #1


I thought I'd share the TSA link on traveling with batteries, so everyone has the actual information. But most importantly do not put any Lithium batteries in checked baggage. None. Click on the picture for more info:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Building the Visual Narrative

The Visual Narrative

When photographing a picture story, there are several important elements that you need to be looking for while shooting. These will help you to build a coherent story as you edit.

The Lead Picture:

All stories need a picture that sums up the essence of the message you are trying to communicate about your subjects. Keep asking yourself, while you spend time with your subjects, what is the story here? What, in a few short sentences, describes the arc of these people’s lives and how can I show that? Give your story a title, this will help you sum up what your story is about.

The Scene Setter:

We need to have a sense of place in every story. Where are we? Where is this story taking place? A farm, hospital room, a street a kitchen?

The Portrait:

If your story is about people, as most of them will be, we need to get a good look at their faces. A portrait can be something captured in the course of covering their daily lives or it could be something more formal with or without eye contact.


This is the meat and potatoes of most picture stories. We need to see spontaneous moments where your subjects are interacting with their families, friends, environments, pets, or even themselves. These should be telling moments that give further information supporting what you are trying to say about your subjects.


In all of your pictures look for moments. A moment is a place in time when the action in a photograph reaches some kind of resolution or peak. All the elements in the frame converge for a split second to reveal the essence of that particular situation. Look for moments that reveal the inner story of our subjects. How do they feel about their lives, their partners, friends and their situation.


You can add texture and visual variety to a story with a telling detail of personal objects, a pair of shoes, an old wedding photo, dirty hands, a tattered hem, a treasured toy, etc.

Shooting any idea or assignment as a picture story will give you an organized way to cover any subject. Even if ultimately only one photograph will be used from your take you will know your subject better and give editors more options which may lead them to run more of your pictures.

This technique is also useful if you aspire to do longer projects for magazines or books. Working to create visual narratives will help you organize your approach to a subject and you will begin to create a body of work that is about something and goes beyond a collection of unrelated single images.