Archive for April, 2007


Today is my birthday.For some reason, I woke up at 6am this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I got up and after checking the news and all my RSS Feeds, I decided I might as well go for an early morning walk, cause that’s what I’ve always imagined people who wake up at 6am do.

Prickly

So I went down to the dykes and walked around and took some pictures. It was nice, very relaxing. The weather has been awful lately, but today has been beautiful, so that didn’t hurt.

Shoes

Someone left these shoes sitting on the…boardwalk? pier? I’m not really sure what to call that thing. But there were shoes, red ballerina shoes (To me they look like ballerina shoes at least). Very random.

So anyways, I figured it would be a good idea to take a self portrait today, since it is my birthday, no better time I figure. So I took this:

22-Day One

Didn’t really come out how I had envisioned it, but I still like it. Different. And I cross processed it in Photoshop to give it a different feel.

But on to the point, I’ve always kind of wanted to take part in the 365 Days project over on flickr, but have never really gotten around to starting. So, as of today I am. In a nutshell: Every day for a year you take a self portrait and upload it to the group. Why? why not. Actually, I have a few good reasons. First, I’ve always thought it would be fun to do something like this, but lacking any coherent starting point, it’s always been easy to just put it off. Second, I find I haven’t been taking many photos simply for the sake of taking photos anymore. This will help me change that, since I’ll have to take at least one photo a day. Third, I’m getting my Strobist flash system soon, and a book on lighting technique, so I’ll have a lot of inspiration and the technical ability to pull different things off. It’ll be a fun experiment. I won’t post them all on here, cause that would just be annoying, but I will be uploading every day to the set on flickr. Technically I won’t be uploading one every day, for example, I’m going to Mexico at the end of the month and won’t be bringing a computer, so I’ll upload all the pics from those days at one time after I get back (I think I’m only bringing the film camera for that too, so that should be fun).

I hope I can pull it off.

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Well we got more snow. It has now snowed 3 times in April, which is definitely 3 times too many.

With the newspaper done, I haven’t really been taking a lot of photos. All year I’ve just been taking the photos I need to take, so the process of just coming up with ideas on my own for photos has been eroded a bit. So, I guess I have to get back into the habit. But because of the snow and general awfulness of outside, I didn’t want to go far. So I just took a few from my porch.

I experimented with a new technique to convert these to black and white which I learned from Journal of A Photographer, which is an excellent blog by a guy in Vienna who used to work for Magnum (talk about an awesome job). It gives them a bit of a different look, so I don’t know if I’d use it for everything, but it doesn’t hurt to know a new technique.

In other news it is my birthday in 2 days. For my present, my girlfriend went halfsies on an off camera lighting set up recommended by Strobist. If you haven’t seen that site before it’s definitely worth checking out. I can’t wait till it arrives.

This is not your average blog post; it’s actually my submission of my term project assignment for my Politics of the Mass Media course. I chose to submit it this way because we are, after all, talking about the mass media, and therefore it only makes sense to submit my project using the mass media; in this case, my blog. For those of you who aren’t Dr. Pyrcz, this was the assignment:

Shoot a portfolio of 7-10 photos and submit these as a portfolio, with a 1000 word commentary regarding the role, nature, and standards of photojournalism, and defending your portfolio in this light.

The video that I’ve attached is the portfolio of images, each with captions as well as spoken annotation about the choices I made for including/taking each photo. I promise I don’t sound like that in real life. The introductory video is the time lapse video I shot during the event, which you can see in full here. Underneath the video you’ll find my 1000-ish word commentary, complete with hyperlinks to most of the references. Enjoy, particularly if you are Dr.Pyrcz.

The video quality is not perfect, you can click here for the full version over at Google video

 

 

 

 


Photographers have the unique ability to show people what is happening in a way that no other medium can. A single moment, frozen in time, can express what words and video never could (e.g. this photo[1] of a young Vietnamese girl screaming after being hit by napalm). Armed with this power, it is the role of the photojournalist to inform the public, and in so doing, invoke action from them. As James Nachtwey[2], renowned photojournalist for the VII photo agency[3], expressed at a recent speech[4];

“Photographers go to the extreme edges of human experience to show people what’s going on. Sometimes they put their lives on the line because they believe your opinions and your influence matter. They aim their pictures at your best instincts; generosity, a sense of right and wrong, the ability and the willingness to identify with others, the refusal to accept the unacceptable.”

From this perspective, photojournalists act on the behalf of the audience to deliver them with a true account of what is going on, and what can be done to change it. Photojournalism is not, however, audience centric. It does not give the audience what they want to see, but rather what they need to see. This perspective sees the photojournalist as having an inherent socially responsibility; a photo of something that is prescribes how it should be.

Not every event though requires the photojournalist to prescribe change, but every photograph can inform the viewer about the unique experience of a particular place and time. For example, covering a sporting event[5] does not require a photojournalist to make efforts to inspire action from the audience, but they can still capture the unique emotions experienced during the game.

While this role of photojournalists to inform and inspire action from citizens has remained constant since photography was first used for news purposes, the nature in which photographs are shown to their audience is changing dramatically. Traditionally bound to appearance in newspapers or magazines, photography is now more and more viewed online. Furthermore, online photojournalism has transformed from the single shot of an event coverage typical of newspapers, to multimedia presentations involving photographs, sound, and occasionally video (for examples, see The New York Times[6], The Washington Post[7], and Magnum in Motion[8]). This shift from single frames on grainy newsprint to in depth multimedia coverage has numerous implications for the field of photojournalism.

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan proposed that media could be either hot or cool[9], with this distinction influencing both the form and content of the media. Hot media speaks to its audience, without much room for interpretation or debate. On the other hand, cool media speaks with the audience, allowing individual interpretation an analysis. Traditionally, photojournalism appearing in newsprint has been cool; the image quality is sub par, forcing the viewer to fill in the gaps of what the photo is depicting. Furthermore, because newspapers traditionally only run one photo along with most stories, the rest of the event must be inferred by the audience from that one photo (as well as the accompanying story).

This has changed with the development of online multimedia photojournalism. Because photographs are displayed on crystal clear, backlit monitors instead of newsprint, the audience is no longer required to make any inferences about the physical content of photographs. In addition, because multiple photographs of a single event or story are now used instead of a single photo, the audience is afforded a more complete view of any event; at the cost of the ability for individual interpretation based on a photograph. In this way, photojournalism is shifting from a cool medium to a hot one, a transformation which could radically transform the scope of photojournalism. If McLuhan is right that “the medium is the message”[10], then a shift in photojournalistic medium will alter the message of photojournalism as well.

In light of these changes to photojournalistic practice and distribution, the need for strong journalistic standards is more important than ever. At a time when digital cameras have eliminated film cameras from most of the professional world, and digital technologies are rapidly replacing traditional practices, ethical standards are imperative in order to maintain the privileged position journalism holds in democratic society. This is of particular importance because photographs taken with digital cameras, or processed digitally, are “[susceptible] to easy, unlimited, and virtually undetectable manipulation.”[11]

Using Adobe Photoshop, or any number of other photo editing software, photographers can easily erase parts of images, input data from other photos, adjust the tonal range or colour of an image, as well as a multitude of other adjustments. While this ability has opened up a range of creative potentials for the artistic photographer, it poses a serious risk to the credibility of the news photojournalist whose photos are only effective if they tell the truth. It is with this danger in mind that photo agencies, organizations, and individual newspapers have devoted considerable effort to updating and enforcing their ethical codes. Reuters, for example, published a list of acceptable uses of Photoshop earlier this year,[12] which clearly states that there are to be “no additions or deletions to the subject matter of the original image.”[13] The decision on the part of Reuters to publish this type of document is likely influenced by the fact that a Reuters photograph taken over the summer was exposed as being heavily manipulated, resulting in the firing of several Reuters staff.[14] Other groups, however, are also publishing updated ethical codes, including the National Press Photographers Association[15], and the Toronto Star[16].

Ultimately, however, it falls to each individual photojournalist to develop and uphold their own sense of ethically acceptable behaviour. The guidelines offer a starting point for each individual to decide what they are and are not willing to do to in order to fulfill their role as a photojournalist. Personally, I refrain from all digital editing outside basic levels adjustments and black and white conversion when working on news photographs. Furthermore, when taking photographs I strive to remain unobtrusive, observing and documenting the action but not interfering with it. This includes never requesting for people to change their actions so I can ‘get the shot’ or using photos were people have intentionally posed for the camera. The photos from Relay for Life illustrate these standards.

In keeping with the new practice of online multimedia presentations seen throughout the news media, I decided to submit my portfolio of images from Relay for Life in this manner. This style of photojournalistic presentation lends itself well to this project; I needed to submit multiple images together, and the multimedia format allowed me to incorporate both video and audio content in addition to the photographs.

While my primary role as a photojournalist at this event was an informative one, there is a prescriptive element to these photos as well. By showing the efforts of regular university students to raise money for cancer research, these photos call on others to do the same. These photos, to paraphrase Nachtwey, are aimed at your generosity[17], they call on you, the viewer to help in the same way these students have.

 

 


[1] Ut, Nick. Associated Press. http://pictopia.com/perl/get_image?size=520_art&provider_id=38&ptp_photo_id=124512 (accessed April 6, 2007).

[2] Nachtwey, James. “Witness: Photography by James Nachtwey.” http://www.jamesnachtwey.com/ (accessed April 6, 2007).

[3] VII Photo Agency. www.viiphoto.com (accessed April 06, 2007)

[4] Cohen, June. “2007 TED Prize winner James Nachtwey.” TED Blog: Ideas that matter in technology, entertainment, and design. April 04, 2007. http://tedblog.typepad.com/tedblog/2007/04/2007_ted_prize_.html (accessed April 06, 2007).

[5] Dineen, Gary. “New Orleans/Okahoma City Hornets v Milwaukee Bucks.” Getty Images. April 03, 2007. http://cache.gettyimages.com/xc/73800200.jpg?v=1&c=NewsMaker&k=2&d=17A4AD9FDB9CF1934AEA4ECF4B436E7755B15D9903BE452A (accessed April 06, 2007).

[6] Fremson, Ruth. “Amazing Girls.” The New York Times. 04 01, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2007/03/30/education/20070401_GIRLS_FEATURE.html (accessed April 07, 2007).

[7] Steinmetz, George. “Exploring Antartica.” The Washington Post. 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/science/interactives/antarctica/index.html (accessed April 07, 2007).

[8] Pellegrin, Paolo. “Guantanamo.” Magnum in Motion. http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/essays/guantanamo.aspx (accessed April 07, 2007).

[9] McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 1964.

[10] McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 1964, p.7

[11] Wheeler, Tom. Phototruth or Photofiction? : Ethics and Media Imagery in the Digital Age. Mahwah, NJ, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., 2002, p.28

[12] Schlesinger, David. “The Use of Photoshop.” Reuters. January 18, 2007. http://blogs.reuters.com/2007/01/18/the-use-of-photoshop/ (accessed April 07, 2007).

[13] Schlesinger, David. “The Use of Photoshop.” Reuters. January 18, 2007. http://blogs.reuters.com/2007/01/18/the-use-of-photoshop/ (accessed April 07, 2007).

[14] “Reuters drops Beirut photographer.” BBC News. August 8, 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5254838.stm (accessed April 07, 2007).

[15] “NPPA Code of Ethics.” National Press Photographers Association. http://nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/ethics.html (accessed April 07, 2007).

[16] “Toronto Star Photo Department Code of Ethics.” Toronto Star. January 12, 2006. http://www.thestar.com/article/145048 (accessed April 07, 2007).

[17] Cohen, June. “2007 TED Prize winner James Nachtwey.” TED Blog: Ideas that matter in technology, entertainment, and design. April 04, 2007. http://tedblog.typepad.com/tedblog/2007/04/2007_ted_prize_.html (accessed April 06, 2007).

 

[edit- Ok I managed to get the video a bit bigger, but it still only posts into the blog at this size, you can see the bigger version here]

Finally. I’ve spent the last 2 days trying to put this video together; apparently loading 4000 photos into almost any program will result in a crash. Who would have thought…

First, an explanation. This is a time lapse video of this year’s Relay for Life at Acadia University. I set a camera up in a corner, with my laptop attached, and had it take a shot every ten seconds for the entire 12 hour relay. I was also around taking pictures of the actual event with another camera, those photos will follow shortly. My computer’s processing power has been taken up by this project and I haven’t wanted to mess around with searching through Lightroom and exporting other photos while I ran the video software. All in all there were 4020 photos, equalling over 11 GB. Cool. The final video is admittedly quite small, and the quality isn’t great; I was frustrated with the constant computer crashing and just wanted to make it as easy as possible to get the thing exported. Anything larger and the computer just wouldn’t export it. The idea is there though.

To make the video, I had originally planned on using Adobe Premiere, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to set that up to make a web sized video, it wanted to be exporting videos that were 100GB…not very practical. It also had a hard time loading up the saved project after it had crashed. So I abandoned computer snobbery and went to Windows Movie Maker. Trying to export the whole thing at once wouldn’t work, so I decided to split it up into 4 parts. No dice. 8 parts: now we’re talking. I then took all 8 exported video clips and added them to a new project. This made an 8 minute video, way too long. Sped each video up 4x, and I had my 2 minute video.

A few things about the video itself; you’ll notice that around 30 seconds people stop walking, this was when they did the luminaries ceremony. Also, I think the funnest part of the video is people’s reaction to it, every few frames you see a group of people posing for the camera. As I was walking around the track I would see people hear the click of the shutter and stop to pose, only to realize that it didn’t go again for a few more seconds. It was pretty funny to watch. There are a few people who appear to have stopped to pose every time they walked past it.

If I could do it again next year, I’d like to build some sort of rig to allow the camera to be positioned in a place where you could see both the track as well as the arena (where people hang out), and also the scoreboard clock (to get a better sense of the time that’s elapsing). That would be really cool, but I’m not sure if it would be possible. We’ll see I guess.

 

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