Trying to Fix SPAM Problem

After months of being swamped with unwanted SPAM comments, I’m trying a solution offered from my hosting company. I hope to at least get back to making this site worth using – and occasionally entering new posts.

Buried by Spam

I am no longer responding to or posting any blog comments. This blog has been inundated with spam posts that overwhelm my ability to filter them out or make sense of any legit comments. Sorry to those of you who have sent me valid comments and ideas.

Summer Hiatus

I’m adding this post from Vienna, Austria, where we’ve perched for a few days to enjoy this city of music during a 5-week work/vacation trip to Europe.

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Apart from the heat wave we hit recently, this has been a wonderful time to reflect on creativity and the creative process. Vienna, in particular, is a city of sound. Tonight I plan to attend a Motzart concert and capture a portion of that to post here.

But most importantly, this time in Europe is giving me the opportunity to reflect on how I am approaching my creative pursuits and where I want to devote my creative effort. Europe holds layer after layer of creative output. It’s daunting. It’s inspiring. It can’t help but remind you that life is finite, and if its important to add to the collective accumulation then you have to focus, concentrate and commit to the effort involved. There’s not a large system to support artists now, but on the flip side it’s never been easier to distribute an artist’s work.

Elements of Story

Here’s a short film clip by Liam Thomson that illustrates how images alone can tell a story.
 


 

It’s interesting to dissect the piece.  In the first sequence (0:00-0:45), we have a character,  a setting, and emotion (some unidentified tension & conflict) — but we don’t yet have a story.  Only the second sequence (at around 1:25) — the backstory color section — do we have enough information to establish story.

Interestingly, the ending sequence reverts back to B&W (2:10) to continue the original sequence — but now we have enough information (character, setting and emotion plus backstory) to have a rudimentary story.  A full story?  No.  But just enough to have some story.

And importantly, the cinematographer Thomson has created one other element: questions.  You can’t watch this sequence without wondering more about the context of the struggle between these two characters.  We see how the given situation is resolved, and the resolution (death and mourning over that death) suggests a connection between those characters that would pull us forward into the next sequence.

One final note: above I said “images alone” tell the story.  But that’s not quite true, is it?  There’s also a soundtrack.  Ask yourself, what if Thomson eliminated the sound?  Or replaced it with an upbeat, chipper soundtrack?

 

The Character

In my most recent post, I noted that “I want to find a kid who will serve as a central character through whom we can all experience this football thing.” Why? We can shoot footage of football (or any other activity) and carefully edit that footage into a tight series of interesting images and sounds, but until there’s someone the viewer cares about the clip is not particularly satisfying. We need a character with whom we identify, and through whom we experience the activity.

Tomorrow I meet with Jesse, one of the Mullen players who — with luck — will serve as the character for this short clip. He’ll explain it’s significance in human terms — what he has invested in the football program, what it means to him, how he sees it unfolding. If I get the interview content I’m looking for (video to introduce Jesse as narrator, audio to build out that narration), I’ll wrap Jesse in the video, audio and still imagery I’ve captured so far.

Stay tuned.

It’s Sad to Revive This

Here’s a project I did a couple of years ago: Deer Creek to Columbine.  Unfortunately, in light of last night’s shooting at the Aurora Theatre (where 12 people died and 50 or so were injured) I thought again of this sad situation.  Why are so many gun-related shootings take place in Colorado, just miles from where I live and my children conduct their daily activities?

Do you think the frequency of gun-related shootings has anything to do with the easy access to guns?

This morning I awoke to read of the shooting.  My son wasn’t in his room — he had gone to the movie theatre at midnight to see the opening of the Batman movie.  A rapid sense of dread filled me as I realized my son might be one of these victims referenced in the news.  A quick browse around the house relieved my stress: my son was camped out in the basement with some friends.  But once again I’m too close to these shootings.  Scary.

360 Degrees Multimedia Project

The 360 Degrees Project offers perspectives on the U.S. criminal justice system via stories, links, data, and graphics. This is an ongoing accumulation of content relating to the topic of incarceration and its effects on families and communities.

Apart from the interesting content that you can find throughout this site (example: “The U.S. population comprises only 5 percent of the total world population; however, our prison population constitutes 25 percent of the total world’s prison population”), the Flash version is very spiffy and well-crafted. Clearly someone is dumping a LOT of time and energy into this project.

Despite all the labor dumped into this site, I’m not enamored with it. I WANT to really, really like it, but I just don’t. Maybe it’s a sense of too much information. Maybe it’s a sense of information being presented as data – I’m not finding the emotional connection to pull me through the content. Or frankly to keep me looking through all the information.

What Do You Care About?

This weekend I attended a workshop with Ed Kashi, a well-known and very talented photojournalist. The workshop format included a review of several of Ed’s projects (still photography and multimedia), followed by Ed’s review and critique of participant portfolios.

As Ed critiqued portfolios he repeatedly asked the photographer, “What do you care about?” In the context of a portfolio review, Ed wants to know what motivates the photographer — because that provides the fuel to drive that photographer to improve his or her skills. Ed explained his approach in a photo project: he becomes “maniacal” in getting his shots (and/or video or sound, as he also works with multimedia). “It’s mentally exhausting,” he says, to produce work at the quality necessary to succeed at Agency VII and National Geographic. You’ve got to commit to your project — sometimes for years — and employ all your skills and concentration to realize your vision. “You’ve got to focus, focus, focus,” he says. “Find an area of passion, and then do whatever you need to do to complete your project. If it means raising money, figure out how to get the money. If it means gaining access, tap into your resources to get that access.”

After I left the workshop, I reflected on a project I worked on in 2010: Deer Creek to Columbine. I’ve never been satisfied with the completed project, but I care deeply about the topic. In 2010 a man entered a local Junior High School and shot two students. The school is close to our neighborhood and the students are peers of one of my sons. Coincidently, the school is just 2 1/4 miles from Columbine High School, site of another school shooting a decade earlier. In addition, in 2006 there was a 3rd school shooting in a high school just 30 miles away. Three school shootings in the span of 11 years — all within a close distance. What was going on?

My idea was to walk the 2 1/4 miles between the two schools, interviewing people along the way to see if anyone could make sense or draw any connections between these events. I interviewed a Deer Creek school administrator. I also interviewed the father of a Columbine student who was killed at that school.

The project faltered because no one in that journey wanted to discuss the Columbine or Deer Creek shootings. I trekked back and forth between the schools several times. I spoke with numerous people on route, but all declined to be interviewed. Doors shut; people turned away. I managed to get some interviews at the Columbine memorial (erected in memory of the 13 students killed at the school). I pulled together a piece — but it’s never seemed complete. All questions, no answers.

Based on Ed’s advice, I’ve decided to revisit this topic this year. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll frame the piece, because there is inherent ambiguity about these events and what, if anything, may connect them. But these events share one very obvious thing in common: guns. Guns — and especially gun control — is a raw topic (especially here in Colorado), but there it is. That’s the core of this situation, and I care about this situation.

2012 Training Update

Here are some interesting multimedia training workshops I see coming up (in no particular order):

1. Santa Fe Workshops: Multimedia Storytelling with Carlan Tapp (Feb 6-10) $995
In this 5-day workshop, seasoned storyteller Carlan Tapp shares many of the inspiring and still underutilized web-based and multimedia features photographers can use as pathways to tell a narrative, a personal story, or a documentary project.

2. Santa Fe Workshops: Documentary Storytelling with Deanne Fitzmaurice (Mar 21-24) $875
In this four-day workshop, Deanne helps you venture into the Santa Fe community to create a photo essay or photo story of your own. Our goal is to document a cultural or human-interest story, one that is engaging, provocative, and told from our unique point of view. There are endless possibilities to choose from: Hispanic artisans, tattoo parlors, life at a fire station, authentic Santa Fe, or Santa Fe the “tourist town.”

3. Maine Media Workshops: Storytelling with HDSLRs with Richard Klug (Mar 11-17) $1095
Students in this workshop work directly with multimedia journalists who have first hand experience with Canon HDSLRs. Students learn the benefits and drawbacks of the camera through hands on demonstrations, lectures and daily critiques. Additionally, instructors work directly with students to help them use the camera as a means to better tell documentary stories. As a goal over the course of the week, students find, create and shoot short documentary projects. Instructors cover production workflow, file conversion, media management, and audio gathering. Students should have solid understanding of digital photography and a basic understanding of video principles.

4. Maine Media Workshops: Basic Cinematography (May 27-Jun 2) $1195
Through lectures, screenings, demonstrations, fieldwork and critique, students gain a basic understanding of how to control the motion picture image and the creative possibilities and technical characteristics of various film stocks and digital sensors. Students learn the fundamentals of lighting scenes, exposure, color theory, depth-of-field, camera angles, shot design, composition, lenses, filtration, and camera movement.

5. Maine Media Workshops: HDSLR Filmmaking for Photographers with Juan Pons (Apr 22-28) $1095
More and more Digital SLR cameras have the capability to shoot HD video, but many photographers are not familiar with the intricacies of shooting video. This workshop covers the technical aspects of working with HDSLR cameras such as menu settings, image monitoring, capturing good audio, lens choices, filters, exposure control, cine-style accessories, camera support, data management and workflow. Visual aesthetics are discussed with regard to composition, depth-of-field, shot design, camera movement, and lighting. Students shoot short projects and exercises to become familiar with the equipment and practice the art of developing a visual narrative.

6. Palm Springs Photo Festival: Demystifying DSLR Video Production (Apr 3-4) $650
This two-day workshop will serve as a serious introduction to how you can use your DSLR cameras to shoot broadcast quality motion & still projects for your clients. We’ll explore camera setup procedures, cinema lenses, stabilization choices, monitoring issues, sound options and card workflow. How and when to move the camera will be discussed as well as production strategies that optimize the budget and experience level of photographer filmmakers. Students will have an opportunity to shoot with a shoulder rig, fluid head tripod, and with a pocket dolly or slider. The workshop will also provide access to some of the latest gear and technology available for HDSLR filmmaking. Talent will be available and students will have the opportunity of shooting and directing the talent. We’ll discuss how to import your footage into Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, add sound and stills, and how basic tools in these programs can be used to edit and output projects.

7. NPPA: Northern Short Course in Photojournalism (Mar 8-10) $290 (non-NPPA member)
Ed Kashi, Benjamin Rusnak, Jeff Sedlik, Barbara Davidson, Andrew Geraci are speakers lined up to date.

8. NPPA: Advanced Storytelling Workshop (Apr 15-20) $700 ($850 after Jan 1)
During the week students will attend class and produce finished stories. There are regular assignment meetings where story ideas are evaluated and refined. Great emphasis is placed on developing a clear focus before shooting begins. Shooting, writing and editing are conducted under real world deadlines. Designed for experienced TV and newspaper photojournalist, reporters and video journalist – anyone who tells stories with pictures, sound and words.

9. Digital Journalist: Platypus Workshop (May 19-27) $1895
You will learn how to use your DSLR, along with tips and tricks to make it an incredible tool for you in editorial, corporate and filmmaking settings. We will teach you field sound recording, cinematic storytelling, the use of lenses, tripods, multimedia applications, and Apple’s latest Final Cut Pro editing software. All in an action-packed, exciting, entertaining, and informative 9 days.

New Topics Added to Resources Page

I’ve added a section to the “Multimedia Resources” page, covering a variety of websites and blogs of interest to multimedia creatives. I hope to build this out to a rich source of inspiration, technical knowledge, information on trends and gear and people working in this area. Check back periodically for updates.