Archive for February, 2011

28
Feb
11

One-Day Story: Bar-to-Bar Golf Classic

So Jacksonville’s annual “Bar-to-Bar Golf Classic” isn’t really about the golfing. It is more about the socializing and drinking than about showing off one’s miniature golf skills. Plus the money all goes to a charity, which changes annually as well. Here is my take on the event.

Sarah Frye follows her shot up the ramp while friend Christine Yates waits her turn to tee off at the West Morgan Depot during the Bar-to-Bar Golf Classic in Jacksonville, Ill. Each February nine downtown bars in Jacksonville each host a miniature golf hole and patrons make their way through the course as part of a charity fundraiser. Costumes are optional but Frye, Yates and about 12 other friends decided on a cowboy western theme for 2011.

Golfing patrons move from the Irish Toad to their next hole on the course. The golfing starts at the hole after the bar where a foursome registered for the event and proceeds through nine holes until the golfers finish the day at the bar where they originally registered – if they make it through all nine holes/bars.

Golfers wait their turn to take on an especially difficult hole at the Bowl Inn while other patrons use the lanes for their intended purpose.

Tyna Klopfer celebrates a hole-in-one at Bahan’s Tavern.

Golfing is secondary to the event but successful putts are greeted with cheers from teammates. Several bar owners claim this to be one of the two biggest days of the year for alcohol sales, often trailing only New Year’s Day in revenue. Jill Whitmore (right) gets a high five from her teammate Carolyn Eilering after sinking a putt. The team that turns in the best scorecard after their nine holes gets $100 – the cost of their initial team registration.

An unidentified man (who declined to give his name) relieves himself in an alleyway after a long afternoon of miniature golf (and drinking) while his teammates hurry on to the next hole on the course.

28
Feb
11

POYi reaction

I watched the newspaper feature picture story category. There was a host of good work and things I wish had been discussed more. Some of this judging is quite confusing until the final rounds when the judges are hashing out the places. I would have liked to hear was was wrong with a few of the stories that were thrown out. (A story on migrant farm workers comes to mind, as does a quirky piece on Santa Clause School) I guess that is just the way judging goes.

One thing I noticed was that redundancy in the edit is not tolerated. Those seem to be the first to go. This redundancy hurt what eventually became the third place winner. Had there been one less sleeping soldier picture I think it would have placed first instead of third. One of the judges said as much aloud.

One complaint that the judges voiced about two stories that made it to the final round (one on Amish in Southern Colorado & another on Haiti) was the lack of intimacy. With the Amish story there was no intimacy in the photos, no exploration of the relationships between the subjects. There were no photos inside any of the Amish houses. Granted this would be tough to do given the subject matter, but the judges felt the story was all about process – what the Amish community did instead of who they were.

Contrasting this was the eventual third place winner “A Grunt’s Life” by Damon Winter of the New York Times. One judged remarked that it looked like the photos had been taken by a fellow soldier because they were so intimate and access so complete. This project is the one that has created some controversy since they were shot with an iPhone using the Hipstamatic App. This in turn led to a response from Winter and eventually a chat discussion on Poynter.

I won’t rehash it all, but I think what it comes down to is the iPhone & Hipstamatic App is only a tool that Winter decided to use. When I saw them on screen during the judging I knew there was something up with them. The vignetting and desaturated colors. I just figured he shot them on a Holga or Diana or some other “toy” camera and then did a bunch of post processing work. The imagery behind the technique is solid and that is what counts. Winter claims he wouldn’t be able to make those photos with his pro camera because the soldiers would scatter as soon as he lifted it. The iPhone kept them at ease and produced the results he was after. I don’t think much noise would have been made had he done this with an above mentioned “toy” camera. Why does it matter that it’s an iPhone?

On the adoption of the Chinese albino boys, the judges only complaint was that there was no interaction with the public. I’m not sure the photographer can be held responsible for the family deciding to home school these boys. Plus there was one photo at summer camp. Perhaps that didn’t show enough public.

The story that won, the aftermath of a stray bullet that hit a child, wasn’t really discussed much. Either positively or negatively. It was just kind of nominated for first and then voted on. It is Barbara Davidson’s work for The Los Angeles Times, I believe (names still haven’t been posted for all the categories). Her work was solid, and highly awarded, throughout the contest.

21
Feb
11

Reading Reflection: Lamott – Character, Plot, Dialogue, Set Design

Character – The obvious answer for this section as it can be applied to documentary photography is get to know your subjects! This entails them getting to know me as well. People are more apt to open up their lives to someone they trust. Concealing my life does not lead to trust.

This getting to know the subject will lead to greater understanding and help the photographer anticipate their actions in any given situation. This will lead to better storytelling pictures I believe. This knowledge will help me anticipate their reactions.

I also like was Lamott has to say about showing everything about the subjects – their faults as well as their good points. This leads to better story and that ultimately is what will connect with the viewer. I’ve worked with print reporters who have struggled with this battle of “writing for the subject.” I have also questioned my photo edits asking myself if I was just choosing pictures that subjects would like or whether they were truly the most storytelling images for whatever I was covering.

Plot – “Plot grows out of character.” While this may be true in the fiction world I’m not sure it is true of documentary photography. I need to have an inkling of what the plot will be before I start a project. This takes shape in the initial interview (either formally or informally) when I’m deciding to cover something.

However, “… something must be at stake or you will have no tension and your readers [viewers] will not turn the pages.” This is the “complication” that Rita speaks of. It is the payoff for why I am spending my time and energy and why the viewer should spend theirs.

I like what she says about having a disinterested party look at the work. Having an objective, and respected, voice in the editing process. Someone who can metaphorically “kill the cats” that I have become too attached to.

“Drama is the way of holding the reader’s attention.” “setup, buildup, payoff.” – Keys to great storytelling whether in words or visuals.

I found the ornaments-with-no-Christmas-tree analogy to re-enforce the five-cents-of-string concept for holding photo essays together.

Dialogue – This one I had the most trouble relating to documentary photography. I think it comes back to getting to know your subjects. Not asking about process or what they do but rather who they are and why they do it. I suppose it can also refer to recognizing and writing good quotes when I hear them.

In the multimedia landscape, I think it refers to audio. In this way subjects can tell their own story and their voice can add power to the visuals. Again this depends on interviewing techniques to get subjects past the “process” of what they do and into the “why.” Subjects describing what visuals show is extremely boring.

Set Design – On the most basic level this is about scene setters/overall photos – where the action is taking place.

But beyond that, environments in photographs can be extremely revealing about the subjects and their motivations and character. Details can speak volumes. I’ve always believed in the axiom that five minutes in someone’s house tells more about them than hours of conversation.

09
Feb
11

Readings reflection for Feb. 9

At first glance these reading seem to contradict each other. Hurn & Jay are suggesting a very narrow focus for photographic subject matter and really zeroing in on a subject. While Lamott introduces the idea in the Polaroids chapter of going to cover something and letting the story emerge as one is immersed in the environment – going through the actions of reporting/taking notes on what one is witnessing while not fully knowing what the final product will be. This is a central theme of Lamott – in commercial foot ware parlance “Just Do It.”

However, Lamott is advocating “doing” in a very organized fashion. She has confined her subject matter just as Hurn & Jay advocate. Lamott is covering the Special Olympics or in the chapter School Lunches confining herself only to what she remembers about her own school lunches. And from that “shitty first draft” she is then editing and refining what she really wants to write about. Granted she is from a creative writing/fiction background but I think much of what she says still applies. Narrow focus, write (shoot), get it down. Then edit and refine. But narrow your subject matter and idea to the smallest, most direct storyline. Once there, explore it and learn more and it will expand.

To be honest, I enjoyed the Hurn & Jay reading immensely. There were several nuggets that I gleaned from it, things I had heard before, from different people, but that really sunk in while going through that reading.

“You are not a photographer because you are interested in photography.” – David Hurn

This is huge. I got into photography because I liked the act. I liked the mix of science (optics/physics) and art. I of course also romanticized the lifestyle. I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer – travel, experience exotic locales, have great stories to tell the grandkids of my adventures. I went to photojournalism because it was the training ground for the Geographic as far as I could tell.

These illusions have since been wiped away. The life is only glamorous in the public myth. The pay is poor comparative to other professions. But the experience can not be matched!

But they have been replaced by new heroes. People like Jim Richardson (granted he is now a National Geographic photographer, but he made his name covering rural Kansas and other “simple” stories long before he got to the Geographic), Brian Plonka, Jaime Francis, Torsten Kjelstrand (sp? – I can’t recall from memory). People who have “styles” and “visions” (more on this later) but who got where they are by immersing themselves in their subjects.

I have come to realize what Hurn says: “… [P]hotography is only a tool, a vehicle for expressing or transmitting a passion in something else. Not the end result.”

It is not the act of photography I enjoy. It is the communication.

Curiosity is key.

This affects subject selection. If I am not interested in the subject matter, I will not make compelling images and they will not communicate to others – the whole point!

The two go through all kinds of steps to find subject matter but I won’t rehash all that right now. I do like some quotes in particular:

“… just wandering around looking for pictures, hoping that something will pop up and announce itself, does not work.”

“The narrower and more clearly defined the subject matter at the start, the more quickly identified is the ‘direction in which to aim the camera’ … and more pictures are taken. The more the shooting, the greater the enthusiasm and knowledge for the subject. The greater your knowledge, the more you want to do it justice and this increases the scope and depth of the pictures. So the process feeds on itself.” – both David Hurn

The final point that really resonated with me was this one of “style” or “vision” of a photographer. The authors seem to advocate for diminishing one’s own self in their work and being rooted in the subject.

Photographers who use the medium as psychotherapy, about the way “they” feel or interpret the world, often end up with work that appeals to an audience of one (themselves). Rarely will their images resonate with a wider audience.

For me, this defeats the whole purpose – I want to communicate! I don’t want the work to be about me, other than the subject selection – what I think is important. After that it is the subject’s expression, their story. I want to be the medium through visual storytelling.

“If the images are not rooted in ‘the thing itself,’ to use Edward Weston’s term, then the photographer has not learned anything about the real world. He/she can only justify the images by reference to self: ‘This is how I felt.’ Before long, this leads to incredibly convoluted psychoanalysis in a futile effort to justify the most banal, superficial work.” – David Hurn

This striving for “style” or “vision” is futile.

“A unique style, which is what we are talking about, it the by-product of visual exploration, not its goal. Personal vision comes only from not aiming at it … By starting with self, it is missed; ignore it, and it becomes evident.” – David Hurn

Taping into universal, visual communication is easier said than done and I think Bill Jay put it best with:

“The best pictures, for me, are those which go straight into the heart and the blood, and take some time to reach the brain.”

07
Feb
11

Editing Exercise & Layout

So here’s my selections on the race-car-dad-turned-pageant-father story.

I focused the story around the fact that most pageant enthusiasts are the mothers and he is obviously different. The photos I chose reflect masculinity. I did put in the tickling picture because it seems like the only unscripted moment in the take and clues the viewer in to their relationship. I also liked the closer because it does show that the mother is present in these endeavors even if she isn’t taking the lead role. Plus the closer shows the outcome of their efforts.

I had a real problem with playing up the “race car driver” aspect in the headline (although I did put it in the sub-head) because this other life is nowhere in the visuals. Granted he has long since given up his race-car life but he is a truck driver. There is nothing visually to show his current vocation. I wish there was since that would make “trucker-turned-pageant-dad” story more complete. Alas. I worked with what was provided.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

04
Feb
11

After the Storm

So here’s a smattering of what I’ve been up to the last three days that Mizzou has canceled classes (the first time in the school’s 172 years it has been closed for three consecutive days due to weather).

First we’ll start off with some before & after diptychs (and one triptych – before, during & after). Then some photos of the beauty of the snowstorm. And finally some pictures of Columbians (Missouri, not the nation state 😉 enjoying the white stuff. (This should actually be three separate posts but since my mom will be the only one reading this … I don’t think she’ll mind.)

Since my house is near a big park in CoMo (local abbreviation), and I haven’t been able to get out, I’ve been on the natural beauty/recreation angle of this storm. I’ve been emailing my best into the office. Go to the Columbia Missourian to see what they’ve published and the work of the other staff members. I have no idea what has made it in to he print edition.

I’ll find out tomorrow when I walk, 2 miles uphill both ways in the snow (no joke), for Friday’s classes.

Path to Reichmann Pavilion in Stephens Lake Park, Jan. 31 & Feb. 2, 2011

Boone Hospital Center from Stephens Lake Park, Jan. 31 & Feb. 2, 2001

Intersection of East Broadway and Old Highway 63, Jan. 31, Feb. 1, Feb. 2, 2011

A crack in the ice of Stephens Lake Park mimics a plant hanging over the lake Mon., Jan. 31, 2011. This storm started with a layering of ice on Monday night followed by about 18 inches of snow.

The sun lights up the freshly fallen snow Wednesday just after dawn casting long shadows in Stephens Lake Park.

Early morning light illuminates an edge of a snow drift near Reichmann Pavilion in Stephens Lake Park, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. The highlight on the right side of the drift is sunlight reflecting off one of the windows of the pavilion.

Evidence of high winds is shown in the ridges of snow in Stephens Lake Park on Wednesday morning, Feb. 2, 2011.

The harsh beauty of winter is echoed in the silhouetted thorns of a tree against freshly fallen snow Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011.

Young trees stand out against the snow near Reichmann Pavilion Wednesday morning, Feb. 2, 2011.

The sun sets over Stephens Lake Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011.

Some folks made it out on Wed. following the storm to play, more on Thurs., but still fewer than I had imagined. I guess everyone was still stuck in their neighborhoods. Residential streets have the lowest priority for plowing.

Michael Lising takes of photo of his wife Danielle Eldred and their two dogs, Hugo a golden retriever and Mugen a whippet, as they walk around Stephens Lake Park Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011.

Two sledders walk toward the sledding hill through Stephens Lake Park Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 3, 2011.

Clara Strathausen, 8, takes off down the sledding hill at Stephens Lake Park after a push from her neighbor Scott Southwick Wednesday afternoon. Clara was at the hill with the Southwick-Rymph family including Catherine Rymph and their children Polly, 8, and Linus, 6, Southwick.

Haley Dingfelder throws a frisbee for her yellow lab, Bear, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 in Stephens Lake Park. The dog waited eagerly for each through, charging down the hill - sometimes avoiding sledders, sometimes plowing into them - and dutifully racing back up the hill. The two played fetch for almost the entire time they were at the park, more than and hour and a half.

Grace Uptergrove (white hat) and cousin Taylor Huhmann get a push down the sledding hill from Grace's mother, Verlin Uptergrove, while fellow sledders, and brothers Brett Meers (from right) and Craig Meers make their way up the hill for another run Wednesday afternoon at Stephens Lake Park.

Cameron Hall gets some air off a sledding jump and clears Lance Billion lying in the snow Wednesday afternoon, February 2, 2011 at Stephens Lake Park. The two had brought shovels to the hill to construct the jump.

Rusty Fox drags his two-year-old son Dexter back up the sledding hill after one of their several runs Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011.

A surprising number of sledders brought out "vintage" sleds to the hill at Stephens Lake Park.

Brice La Fond bails out after a hitting a large jump, realizing he won't land it, during a run at Stephens Lake Park.

Brice La Fond signals to fellow sledders that he is OK after a crash landing at the park sledding hill. (*** OK, this was a different run than the previous photo. I can't change lenses that fast and I only have one camera body. But it is the same kid and they pair together nicely, don't they? ***)

Jason Reuster (from left), Phillip Donnelly and Valentina Bezmelnitsyna react to a fellow sledders crash landing at the sledding hill Thurs., Feb. 3, 2011 in Stephens Lake Park.

Michael Effinger, 8, rests on his innertube after an exhausting afternoon of sledding Thurs., Feb. 3, 2011.

I’m tired.

I’m sure you’re tired of looking too. There may be a multimedia piece coming put out by the Missourian but I’ll have to post that link later. It’s not done yet.

02
Feb
11

Snowpocalypse: Day 1

So here’s the best of my take from the first day of this potentially historic winter storm. I am shooting for the Columbia Missourian as part of a class and covering my neighborhood. To see the best coverage from the entire staff go to the Columbia Missourian.

I’m located right next to a huge park in Columbia, so I’ve got the natural beauty/recreation aspect to cover from this storm. No one was out today, predictably. It was nasty – officially 17 inches so far at the Columbia Airport. It is expected to let up by morning and once it warms from the single digit temperatures I’m guessing then people will come out to play. Tomorrow will be a busy day.

I’ve got more. Lots of “before” pictures that I will pair with the “after” pictures I shoot tomorrow. I’ll post those later as diptychs, once they’re done.

A long exposure makes the headlights and taillights of cars into streaks of light as vehicles make their way up and down the hill near Boone Hospital Center Monday night, January 31, 2011 at the intersection of East Broadway and Old 63 in Columbia. Due to icy conditions before the expected snow storm authorities warned motorists to stay off the roads as much as possible. © Clayton Stalter, 2011

Manual Harvey walks back home from the grocery store during Tuesday's snow storm while cars pass through the intersection of East Broadway and Old 63. Harvey said he enjoys the quiet snowstorm days and like to get out and think and praise God. Harvey just took the walk to Easgate Foods for "a little bit of candy," he said. *** Same intersection and view, looking west down Broadway as above picture. *** © Clayton Stalter, 2011

Buoys in Stephens Lake signal that the lake is frozen and quickly piling up with snow Tuesday afternoon in Stephens Lake Park. © Clayton Stalter, 2011

Visibility in the Stephens Lake Park, and throughout the Columbia, is limited as the snowstorm continues Tuesday morning. © Clayton Stalter, 2011

© Clayton Stalter, 2011