First up. Bird by bird.

My book has 19 flags in four colors hanging out the side. We’re only four chapters in.

Each one of those flags marks a place where Anne Lamott wrote something so perfectly about the creative process – well, in her words, the writing process. But take out the word “writing” and put in “photograph” and we’ve got a manifesto, folks. Even in just the introduction, from her admission to seeing your name in print to the desires of her students to get published, but not necessarily to write, she’s nailed it on the head. All I could think about was my first day of class in Fundamentals, thinking, “Why am I in this class? I already HAVE experience. Can’t I move on and shoot for the paper already?” (Yes, I thought this. David Rees humbled me by the end of that first week.)

And I find it quite fitting that I’m so full of words and love for this book that it took me quite a while to sit here and actually write about it. All these words are just flying around my brain, trying to process everything that she writes about and I can’t quite make sense of it all. I bookmarked all those pages to try and remember pieces, but I think the most resonant idea that I can take away so far is that to write well – or in our case, to take good photographs – is to practice. To start small. Like our one day story project. Something simple to get us into the rhythm of making photographs that tell a story, so that by the time we’re faced with the final project, we’re already feeling the groove.

She likens the process to musicians. “What’s real is that if you do your scales every day, if you slowly try harder and harder pieces, if you listen to great musicians play music you love, you’ll get better.” (p.14) If we take photographs every day, if we try for more and more complex storytelling, and look at some amazing photographers’ work because we can’t get enough, we’ll all get better at telling the stories we need to tell.

And she tells us flat out – there will be shitty first drafts. We need those rough edits and first day’s takes to know where we are in a story and where we need to go. In order to kill our puppies, we need to have a brood to kill first. (For those of you who don’t understand that phrase, it has nothing to do with real killing. It’s more about editing out your most loved photograph because it doesn’t help the story along.) No photographer goes out on assignment and comes back with an entire take of portfolio quality images. It takes a first edit, and a second edit, and many times three or more edits to really discover the beauty in the full take.

The final chapter we were to read was on perfectionism. She writes, “Perfectionism means that you try to not leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.” (p. 28) I need to learn to embrace this idea that a little bit of mess can be a very good thing. I can get so nitpicky, so anal, so . . . perfect-obsessed about assignments and photographs and stories and portfolios and websites .and ohh, yeah. I need this. “… we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.”

And photographing.

Next. Langton.

I have to laugh here. The book on photojournalism makes me want to gouge my eyes out, and the book on writing has me dreaming about adventures. Not that Langton writes anything truly dull or incorrect, but that he’s writing about everything we hear, day in and day out, at a journalism school. Real people don’t talk about photojournalism like this. Yes, we talk at length about the importance – or the existence – of objectivity and symbolism in photographs, but outside of these walls, it’s just not so academic. He brings up some great points for discussion, how money drives the business while passion drives people, how editing can change the context and content of a story wildly, and how photographs can become icons and symbols out of context. I just wish it didn’t sound like a dissertation.

(Oh wait. I think it was one.)

And finally … the podcast.

Short, sweet and right to the point. Talent can only get you so far. You gotta put in the effort behind it to be really great. And when you start to reach that point, or at least understand it and work towards it, you’ll be noticed. Or we hope so. Do we put in enough hours in our program to get us on our way to really thinking about what we do and why we do it? What makes it good, and what makes it suck? Have we really devoted our lives to our craft, or are we coasting by on so-so grades and so-so effort?

But as we’ve seen on so many bad photographer’s websites – there needs to be a baseline of talent. That’s what will make you stand out among the crowd of time-investing enthusiasts. That little spark of brilliance we all know and see in each other every day.

After many days and hours of trying to find the right theme, then tearing apart its CSS to make it look exactly how I wanted it with colors and fonts and such . . . I have moved my blog to my own server running WordPress! YAY!

Update your bookmarks and RSS feeds to:

This blog will still live here, most likely dormant. The new site will be the source of all things new and shiny for my next semester. I may eventually pull the old posts from here about the last semester, but for now, it’s a blank slate. New year, new semester, new blog.

Oh, and main website, too. Be sure to stop on by to see the newest iteration. It’s also powered by WordPress, but has not been fully populated with work yet. There’s a few tidbits, and a lot more in the works to be posted in the upcoming weeks. has been a wonderful home for the last year and a half, and I’m happy to continue the relationship on my own server, as I’ve wanted to do for quite some time now.

So yeah. Movin’ on up!

day319 :: year three

My first semester as a graduate student is complete.

Holy moly and little fishes, it’s complete! It’s hard to imagine almost, remembering how I’d sit around all day long – when I wasn’t in class – reading article after article for class, falling asleep while reading said articles, and writing papers every week on what I read. Or how I’d have a photo assignment due every week or so and how nervous I’d get finding subjects but end up with fantastic situations.

But many hours, projects, papers, readings and naps later, I’ve come out on top. For one of the few times in my life, I am a straight “A” student – and it feels good.

In addition to all the classwork, I also managed to staff the 61st Missouri Photo Workshop and be on the volunteer reporting team for the 2009 APME Conference. Oh, and I sang in a choir through school with three performances throughout the semester.

No wonder I’m thoroughly enjoying my few days off by cleaning, baking, archiving and website building. Counting from the end of the semester on Friday, I have five days here of nothing, then Scott and I are off to Seattle to visit his family for the holidays for six days. West coast, here we come!

On our return, I will start work at the Columbia Missourian as a staff photographer for three weeks . . . and then semester #2 begins! Oh, how time flies.

But for now, I’m enjoying spending a lot of time right here.

day333 :: year three

day304 :: year three

While this mess has since been cleaned up (mostly) and the paper handed in (I got an A-), it pretty well illustrates how my semester has been (and continues to be).

Right now I’m waiting for 162 RAW files to process to place into a time-lapse of contra dancing. I hope it works. I’ve never done a time-lapse before. I’ve also never done an audio slideshow this in-depth before. Sadly, I’ve done stories before, and this project isn’t really turning out to be one.

I don’t know why I’m getting so worried about this project. Maybe because I feel that a final project should be stellar. Or maybe because I’m just a perfectionist and can’t settle for handing in a “draft.” I took a look at a previous project some by some convergence students – which I didn’t want to see, but now I’m glad I did – and even in it’s baby stage, my project just looks better and sounds better. Maybe not better, per-se, but cleaner for sure. (Okay, I’m going to be honest. It’s way better.)

What I need is an editor. Thank goodness we have a work day tomorrow in class. I hope to get some feedback on the photos and perhaps some of the audio bits too. I’ve edited down a few nice chunks that I can play. Maybe I just need one more point of view about the dancing. Saturday’s it. Crunch time, last dance before the due date.

(I think I can, I think I can, I think I can … )

day307 :: year three

(one of my favorite photos from the second shoot.)

there's no way I'll read all this crap.

Yeah, I think I fell behind a little on that Google Reader experiment I tried earlier in the month. Maybe I can get this cleared by the end of the week. Or maybe I’ll just hit ‘read all’ and start over.

Anyone out there have good system of keeping track of their news reader on a regular basis? I always seem to forget to check it.

I’ve decided that for professional reasons I will need to move my website (and possibly my blog) to a more capable server system than using my free hosting (that hasn’t been upgraded since ’02) and wordpress.

Sorry guys.

Anyways, I’ve gotten as far as setting up the new blog function at the new site and it’s totally not working. I found a theme that matches my website idea – unheard of, right? – and then I found out that it hasn’t been updated since ’07. YARG!

I’ve got a few other options that I’ll think about, but I kinda [read: very much so] fell in love with this design.

Can anyone help me out with the CSS styling? There’s a few functions and colors I really want to change, but I can’t seem to figure out the stylesheets. No web design background for this designer.


A play on CPOY


day289 :: year three (CPOY Fake)

(original photo by me, CPOY graphic treatment by me and Jeff Lautenberger)

I came home at 10pm tonight from volunteering at the CPOY judging going on all week at school. During that eight hour shift, I saw some really bad photos and some mind-blowing amazing photos. Take a look at the winning photos from sports portfolio [screencast only for now] and portraits, and if you really want a good laugh, tune into the semi-final round of the portrait session to hear me read off the entire set of captions.

Anyways, it reminded me that I should post some fun photos from the last week or two. I do have assignment images done – somewhere – but I haven’t uploaded them yet. I’ll share those when I can actually think about writing something witty. My wit left the building hours ago.

day283 :: year three
The fall colors were spectacular this year. I hear it’s not a regular thing out here, so I feel pretty lucky.

day286 :: year three
Also spectacular were the sunsets in St. Louis during the APME conference. This view was the best part about the strange hotel.

day289 :: year three
Our next class assignment – sports. I can’t wait to showcase the good shots. I took over 1,100 frames between two sporting events, and ended up with quite a few winners. How the hell did I shoot sports for the paper so long ago on a D1/D1X with 512MB and 2GB cards?

day295 :: year three
Yes, I’m a jersey girl. I know my bagels. And we managed to find some in town that could vaguely pass as being a decent bagel. So we bought some. Okay, more than some. But hey, they were half off!

Enough of this non-witty banter. I need sleep, and I’m uninspired by my own photography today.

(and hopefully both time-saving and informative)

Val Hoeppner lead an APME session on free and cheap training and management materials available online, and I had the pleasure actually listening (instead of taking photos) to her discussion. I’ve yet to go through her entire list of goodies, but one that stuck out in my mind as a handy tool was the Google Reader.

I gave the reader a go a while back and promptly gave up after adding just a few feeds. For one, it was ugly. And being an image-based thinker, plain text just didn’t cut it. And a few blogs I followed were ‘friends-only’ and didn’t allow me to see the posts in my reader.

So off it went into oblivion . . . until today.

I spent a good chunk of this morning and evening setting up feeds – photoblogs of colleagues and friends, industry related links like NPPA and PDN, news sites like the Washington Post, Washington Times and the AP, and guilty pleasure sites like xkcd and PostSecret. Topping off the feed-blitz was the addition of the Better GReader 0.8 add-on for Firefox to make the reader less ugly. (Automatic previews are slower, but much prettier. I like reading the stories in their original format.)

Hopefully all this time invested in getting everything set up will help save time in the future while enriching my knowledge of the world around me and keep me up-to-date with awesome photography.

Or it’ll just encourage my incessant procrastination.

let's see how long this lasts.

also, note the use of the helvetireader skin. i love helvetica.

Last week seems like a blur.

One minute I was running around my apartment making sure I had A. enough clothes and B. all my photography equipment while trying to finish up a Fundamentals project, go to class, attend meetings and apply for next semester assistanships. [more on the Fundamentals project later.]

Then I found myself driving out to St. Louis, checking into the hotel, and starting coverage of the APME conference via Twitter and through photos.

Whirlwind doesn’t even describe it. Not quite frantic, but definitely intense and fast-paced. From one session to the next, our team blanketed the convention with coverage for those members who could not make it this year. It’s a shame they didn’t – the sessions were fantastic.

Wednesday night, I was scheduled to cover the opening reception at the City Museum.

The place is incredibly beautiful – and massive. This is just the first floor area. There’s so much more. I can’t wait to go back.

There was a tank with turtles. Lots and lots of turtles. They got a lot of attention throughout the night.

A joke was made about being able to brag about attending a conference where they served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, in light of the current economic landscape of the news world. The really did serve little sandwiches.

No reception is complete without a silent auction. The best part was the live auction, when the caller was trying to get people to bid on a $6,000 vacation. See above photo caption for irony.

Then Wednesday, I photographed two other sessions, the Associated Press Report and the APPM’s Community Journalism and Innovation.

Members of the audience reacted to the playing of Julie Jacobson’s video and audio diary of the situation when she took the controversial photo of the injured Marine who later died.

The panelists watch a presentation on some of the AP’s most innovative and exciting storytelling work.

In the APPM session, attendees were asked to write out the core principles they believe in as journalists.

Yes, we even watched a segment of The Colbert Report to illustrate just how far the Commercial Appeal’s story on public records (gun licenses) went. The clip is at that link.

So yeah. It was a blast to cover, and fantastic to meet some inspiring people. Don’t listen to those naysayers out there. Journalism is NOT dead – it’s just changing.

And from what I saw at this conference, there’s a bright future ahead. We just need to make sure we can get there.