Tyler and I were able to spend a month together in Italy, setting up our home and exploring our new city, before we had to part ways again due to a training deployment. We saw so much in the short time we were there — we know the next three years are going to be jam-packed with beautiful sights, amazing food, and quite a cultural learning experience.
Well, I have finally arrived in Italy and finally have Tyler at my side. This isn't the home stretch, though — we will only be spending a little over a month together until he has to go on a training mission and I will return home for a few more months. However, this time together has been invaluable and it's been so nice being an actual couple living in our actual place together with a sort of hologram of how our future will look. Right now, things are wonderful and stressful and overwhelming and lovely and then exasperating and I’m just adjusting to it all. We have days where we find an amazing bottle of wine and eat bread drenched in olive oil and fresh basil for dinner and then sit in our new poorly-furnished apartment and listen to the Italian neighbor kids play until it gets dark at 9:30, but the nearby stubborn and confused roosters are still crowing. And then we have days where we are met by Army gridlock and bureaucracy and awkward interactions at the store because we don't know Italian and just need someone to tell us where to find a mattress topper to fix our "adequate" government-provided bed and get overwhelmed with a plethora of questions we don't know how to solve or where to go to solve them and so we just lay in our lumpy bed together and laugh or cry or sigh and have another glass of wine (and thank goodness the wine is always good).
Sometimes I think we're crazy, and then other times I know we're crazy, but I'm just so glad Tyler and I are together. And even with all of the uncertainty with my future career since I left my job and all the insanity just adjusting to a new life, I just didn't realize how much we needed to be in the same place. I forgot about how it felt to just know that I could go home at the end of the day and have a conversation with him about everything going on in my brain, and how we consistently just know how to prop the other up and give the mutual support that we didn't know we needed. It's weird how you can go convince yourself being apart is OK, and then you get reunited and you don't know how you did it for so long, and all of a sudden, being separate for even 5 minutes seems like an eternity.
So, these pictures may seem like "travel" pictures, but really they're "adjustment" pictures. Because we're not traveling in Italy — this is not our vacation. This is our new life. And these are our first impression to our new reality of living in a foreign country as semi-newlyweds.
Living in Italy is amazing and we are so thankful to be here, but we also are doing it as a new military family and doing it as Americans who know so little about so many things. And that poses its own form of unique challenges. But we are young and in love and stupid and excitable and figuring it all out — together, finally, thank God.
Last year, I worked on a project about foxhunting in Virginia — something that was really new to me, culturally, as I had never seen anything like it in the Midwest. The season lasts from October until around March. I began my project last year sometime deeper into the winter, so I missed the opening hunt, which is also the "blessing of the hounds."
It's a tradition dating back to the 8th century, and is tied to St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters. A local clergyman comes out to the hunting stables, blesses the hounds, the land, the hunters and all the surrounding animals. Then, the hunters take a drink — wine was offered to the Middlebrook Hunt Club, though some also had grape juice.
I don't know how often I'll be able to make it out to the hunts this season, but it was nice to be there on a Saturday this year — I wasn't often able to see Middlebrook's formal attire, pink coats and all.
Summer's over, but that's alright with me. Because it's fall now, y'all. I took some pictures while stuff was still green, though. Hopefully the rest of my pictures for the next three months only depict the colors orange, red and yellow.
For the last few weeks, I've been super busy going through all my clips, writing cover letters, updating my resume. The hardest part of it all, though, was updating my portfolio.
The portfolio seems like such an elusive thing. So much of it is subjective and it's also so hard to weed out certain pictures that you're attached to. On top of that, you need to balance your portfolio with the perfect amount of variety (sports, moments, types of shots), plus put them in the right order. It's not so easy.
Recently, I applied to the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Arhus, Denmark. Eve Edelheit and Anjali Pinto studied at DSMJ in the past and another MU student, Will Lounsbury, is currently there. Eve and Anjali both seemed to change so much as photographers while they were there and had nothing but great things to say about the program. I have a scholarship to study abroad and wanted to use it at the best program possible. Denmark seemed right for me. Eve helped me so much on my portfolio, since she obviously knew what they liked. Andreas, MU's current exchange student from DSMJ, also gave me some input.
Right now, I'm still waiting for a reply back to see if I'm accepted to DSMJ or not. It's not fun waiting, but in the meantime, I working on other applications — for internships.
Internship deadlines for the upcoming summer of 2011 are approaching. It seems so soon, but I'm glad I went through so much stress putting together my portfolio and resume for Denmark, because now half that battle is over. Now, I just gotta get everything in on time and write some slammin' cover letters.
Recent MU graduate Chris Dunn posted a blog post on 1000 Words about other easy applications for online photo portfolios. I tried Simple Viewer initially, because I liked the way it was designed, but the program had a lot of downsides to it. I wasn't a fan of how I couldn't rearrange the images in the program, as it uploaded my photographs out of sequence. Also, when I posted it on my website, it didn't show the entire portfolio and part of the captions were cut off. You could only view the whole thing if you pressed fullscreen, because you couldn't scroll up or down in the normal view. It was kind of a mess.
I like Visual Lightbox's simplicity. It's really intuitive, both for the programmer and for the viewer. It doesn't take up a bunch of space and is really easy to rearrange photographs and place captions. I'm much more happy with it.
I'm glad I'm surrounded by wonderful students at MU for feedback on my portfolio and stories, among other things. I welcome more feedback in the upcoming months, especially as I apply for internships, but am also gladly here for those who need an extra eye — or ear!
As a photographer, there are a few opportunities that you just have to experience at least once for yourself, even if it is outside of your realm of interest. For example, bowl games and rivalry match-ups are included in this list, as well as at least one really good rock concert. Now, looking past the newsworthiness, visual appeal or story that may ensue from picking up an assignment such as these, there is one reason that reigns over all as the reason to pick up one of these stories.
They just make you feel cool.
Journalists don't get many opportunities to feel like a badass in the eyes of the general public. "The media" is typically hated by many people for a handful of reasons and to sources, we're just obnoxious, and we won't even try to dissect why people hate the paparazzi. However, when you photograph one of the aforementioned events, everyone loves you (if you're not standing in their way). They want you to take their picture, they think you have the coolest job in the world and everyone just generally loves you (although this may be due to the amount of alcohol present).
Another one of these events includes photographing the president, which I had the opportunity to do Wednesday in St. Louis.
Now, I might be hyperbolic when saying that everyone 'loves' you when you are covering a presidential event, but they are least are glad you are there. Why? So you can be used as their soapbox to tote their grievances or support of whatever political issue their care about most, whether it's gun rights, abortion, health care or general conspiracy nonsense.
After class on Wednesday, I travelled to St. Charles (a suburb of St. Louis) with a senior staff writer, Wes Duplantier, to cover President Barack Obama's tour about health insurance reform. The Maneater was granted credentials for two events, a speech in St. Charles and a reception in St. Louis. I was, to say the least, excited. This was the president!
Now, after experiencing this event, I realized it wasn't the president that was so interesting to photograph. After all, he mainly just talks, shakes people's hands, and makes gestures. Sure, it's neat, but after about 10 minutes of photographing his speech, I was bored. The important thing about a young journalist getting to photograph something like this is the experience.
I learned a lot during this assignment. Here are my words of wisdom from my experience:
1) The White House Press Corps are badasses and you will forever be jealous of how cool they look.
2) Be careful about what you say. I typically use the word "shoot" to talk about something I am covering. I had to watch my language for this particular assignment.
3) Kindness goes a long way. I made a point to be kind to the security team that checked in our bags, the media relations crew in charge of corralling the media, people who attended the event and other journalists around me. It helped me out in the end, such as when I was a few minutes late re-entering the place where Obama's speech was to be held (I left for a few minutes to photograph protesters). The security team recognized me because I had made small talk with them earlier in the day and let me in.
4) Don't be an idiot. All day, I was surrounded by other journalists making faux pas (and was so nervous I was going to be one of them on accident). For example, one broadcast journalist from a local St. Louis station started talking in the middle of Obama's speech because his sound wasn't working. The national journalists looked at him in awe, and others were angry for his discourteousness. Just play it safe.
5) Talk to people. Since I had time to kill, I took the streets to find out what particular supporters and protesters of the event were thinking. If you just go about doing your job with blinders on, your story or photographs will reflect that because you haven't actually interacted or learned about the people you are using to represent a group. If you make small talk with them, try and relate to their problems with health care or their excitement about seeing the president, then they will be much more comfortable when you stick around photographing them for five minutes or ask a lot of questions.
Although it was a long day (including travel, we were gone for 12 hours covering this event), it was well worth it. I gained a lot of experience about political coverage and, of course, felt pretty cool in the process. I encourage anyone who gets this opportunity to do so at least once!
To see more pictures and hear some sounds for the day, check out the slideshow Wes and I put together for The Maneater.
So, when my friend Theresa Berens approached me to take a picture of a few dishes for the cover of MOVE Magazine, I was ecstatic. MOVE is The Maneater’s arts and entertainment guide to Columbia, which Theresa has recently revamped and given it a face-lift. So, I felt a lot of pressure to make this picture really awesome.
The writer for the story, Emily Willroth, was looking at restaurants in Columbia that double as a galleries. My vision to supplement the story was food as art. I wanted a beautiful dish, showcasing the art in the background. I found out the restaurants she planned to profile and called a few to see what they had in their galleries this week.
Jackpot. I called Tellers, located on Broadway, and discovered an MU art student (whoo!) who had his photographs on display in the restaurant (yay!) and who also worked at Tellers as the kitchen manager (yes!): The perfect recipe for a perfect story.
I met up with the student, Frank Mendoza, and he prepared two dishes for me. One was a pork loin with a tomato fennel compote, parmesan risotto and green beans, and the other was Teller’s mixed green salad with oranges, apples and strawberries.
Now, I have not yet taken a studio or lighting class and am not used to doing shots that I have to set up myself. Going into Tellers was a fresh experience for me, but I was up to the challenge. Because I met with them around 3 p.m., the restaurant was fairly empty and I was free to move things around and look odd while I was photographing the dishes.
I had some troubles with glare from the lights up above, as well as the yellows in the restaurant and just the lack of lighting overall. Also, I photographed for so long the salad began to wilt after awhile. I hope that's not apparent in the pictures!
The cover came out beautifully. I’m eager to do more food photography.
It's a new year. OK, so I'm kind of behind on this "New Year's Resolution" thing, but I think resolutions are healthy, no matter when you start them! Plus, I just turned 20 yesterday, so it's like I'm setting goals to obtain before I turn 21.
Right? Yeah, OK. Let's do this.
1. Maintain a blog. I'm not into this whole "tell-the-world-how-your-day-went/your-feelings" thing. I have a Xanga when I was in middle school, and I have no idea how I kept that going. I've never been able to maintain a diary either (believe me, I've tried). But I think I could keep a photo blog going. It will keep me accountable for random pictures I take. Oftentimes, I'll take pictures, but if they aren't going to be used in a publication, I never look at them, edit them, or show them to anyone, and how will that make me any better? No, I will keep a photo blog (here, at Word Press!) and hopefully that will make me a strong, more accountable photographer (I'll even try to get names of people!).
2. Branch outside of journalism. I think journalists live in a journalism world. We have so many conversations about the news, AP style, ethics, voice, etc. that we get trapped in this bubble. Don't get me wrong; conversation in this industry, especially the way it's going now, is important, but I have found it is hard for me to talk to people who aren't journalists or think in terms of the general public. So I'm going to try to make non-journalism friends, get non-journalism hobbies and be able to talk about non-journalism things.
3. Become a better cook. I have picked up one non-journalism hobby - cooking! With my new apartment that I've been living in since August, I've explored the world of cooking. I've tried my hand at lasagna, brownies from scratch, meatloaf, stir-fry, you name it! However, sometimes my cooking doesn't turn out as well as I'd like. I never knew my mom was such a good cook until I tried to recreate her recipes! My meatloaf fell apart, my lasagna was bland, and I continuously set the fire alarm off (Whoops!). So, I'm gonna keep cooking from scratch, get a few dishes I'm really good at, and explore this cooking world!
4. Keep in touch with family and friends. Going off to college last year was hard. I was so wrapped up in making friends and building a portfolio that I left my family and friends hangin' back at home. Being home for a month has really reminded me of how much I love my family and that I don't want to lose touch with this as I get older. I feel like my parents aren't close to their brothers and sisters, and I really want to make sure that doesn't happen! So, I'm going to try to call more, send more letters, or at least text. I think I can attempt doing this at least once a week. The people included in this goal are my mom, dad, sisters Annie and Mollie, and my two best friends from high school Sam and Jessica. I think I can do it!
5. Create a storytelling piece. Last spring, I put together a multimedia piece called Transition about a transgender named Dakota Raynes. I really had a great time doing it. I researched the topic, did lots of interviews and spent a good amount of time with my subject. I tried to do another project this summer on a girl with cerebral palsy, but just did not have the motivation or the resources to put it together. Before 2011, I would like to have put out two good storytelling pieces, preferably multimedia, that I've done in-depth reporting on. I think that's a fair goal and hope that I can really get behind something and become passionate about it.
I'm really looking forward to this next year. I've got a great semester lined up ahead of me where I won't be taking 18 hours and will have a life, and already have an internship lined up for the summer with the Sun News. I hope during my second (and third) year of college, I can grow more as a person, become better prepared for my career and just have a lot of fun.
Wish me luck!
My family and I took a trip to Lawson Lake the other night. I had gone fishing with Tyler the night before and noticed an abundance of fireflies in a nearby field. I didn't have my camera or a tripod on hand, but really wanted to photograph them, so I came back and got these shots. The night was beautiful, even though Mollie's allergies started acting up. Summer has been really nice lately; it's not the normal Missouri humidity that I'm used to. I hope the weather lasts for a while!