Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Website Has a New Look

The folks at Big Black Bag have been allowing us users to experiment with a new template for some time now. I of course have been slow to react to this, and haven't toyed with the new template much at all.

Of course I also failed to realize that my old site would cease to exist on a given date IF i had built a site with the new template. At least this is what appears to have happened.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

A worthwhile read on video editing

I just read a great post by Robin Rowland on his blog The Garret Tree.

Robin is a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher who has been watching with interest the progression of newspaper still photographers into multimedia and video.

His thoughts on editing are worth a read, especially for editors and/or managers who continue to push the agenda of one person who does it all. Not a good idea.

Have a look at his post called The newscutter.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Lightning's Last Dance

While I haven't been overly vocal, at least publicly, in the ongoing debate about the merits of newspaper multimedia, and specifically video as a tool for photojournalists, I have been consistent about one point.

The opportunity for photojournalists to step up and accept a greater role in our newsrooms, as journalists - storytellers, has never been greater.

For years many of us have struggled to be accepted as journalists and have fought against the "just a photographer" label. Many newspapers today, more than ever, seem more willing to give photojournalists time to work on stories because the new potential home for our works - the web - has limitless space, and papers are motivated to fill that space with content. The discussion about the quality of work we provide, and/or papers demand, and in turn the resources they are willing to commit to these efforts I'll save for another day.

Enough said.

My latest story, which was shot primarily in video, with some stills - I also wrote the story - was posted yesterday on theglobeandmail.com and ran on the GlobeAuto front, and inside on page five.

Much of my work in recent years has tended to be documentaries about social issues, but I felt I needed a break from the norm and thought I would try my hand at something completely different. Perhaps not completely, since it still deals with overcoming challenges, but it is certainly a "lighter" story than most people are used to seeing from me lately.

The two parts of the multimedia story, each a little over five minutes long, tell the story of a low-budget stock car team competing in the Nascar Canadian Tire Series.

Finally, a word about luck. This entire story seemed to be lucky for me, despite being about a #13 car. Many aspects of the story just fell into place, and then there was simply the odd "lucky" moment.

I was once told, and I firmly believe, that photographers make our own luck. We anticipate something happening, prepare properly, and if our instincts are correct we are rewarded with the image we'd hoped for - or better. You'll see what I mean if you watch Part 2 to the end.

Thursday, 15 May 2008


It is mid-May and I've been struggling with the idea that I have yet to make any "memorable" photographs in 2008.

Contest season has come and gone, the winter snows have all melted, and by now I would normally have a few images filed that have stood out in my conscience. The fact that I can't think of any as I write this tells me to think otherwise.

Like many of my colleagues, my energies lately have been on producing multimedia; mostly video stories. The problem is, that the times I feel I am producing work for the newspaper seems to be the exception and not the rule. And even then, the assignments seem to read, "will need a video for the web, and some stills for the paper." Then of course there are the issues of when to do what?

It seems that everybody is so focussed on the "future of newspapers" and "where the industry is going" that the newspaper itself threatens to become an afterthought because of our very own efforts to the contrary.

I've been hot and cold on video for some time, but I think I'm starting to enter another "cold" period. That's not to say that I'm feeling any less enthusiastic about multimedia, but that I'm debating the pros and cons of doing multimedia with video or stills and audio.

Newspaper managers want multimedia because that's where everybody perceives the future lays. That's fair. But I honestly don't think that the multimedia we provide them needs to be video. It's exactly the same as when editors used to ask for the cheesy images of Christmas shopping, and we as photographers would do our best to give them anything but. They didn't care in the end as long as they had something for their pages, and we were happy because we were able to get real quality images into the paper instead of the old standard.

Times haven't changed that much. If our managers want multimedia, then we are certainly qualified to give it to them. But I think the choice does, and should, remain with us, how best to present our work. It should still be part of a visual journalist's job to determine which methods will best communicate the story.

The struggle now is to continue to produce great stories, while still being able to feed the beast which has an ever increasing appetite for our work. Everybody wants a part of the multimedia buffet, and who can blame them, but now the reality has to be driven home that more and more work requires greater resources. Without these resources the very quality of the multimedia which has given us early success will suffer, and we will no longer be able to maintain the standards to which we have so stubbornly held.

I hope that as we move forward in our industry, we will remain able to make quality decisions on a story-by-story basis of how to best visually present our work. I think in the end every story will be strongest if told using the most fitting techniques for that story. But as is historically the case, with this visual battle, I fear we will find ourselves fighting with managers and editors who are of a different opinion.

Years of experience have shown me that it is easier to make convincing arguments without any words at all. Do the work, do it well, and the strength of your stories will do the speaking for you. I think that when our direction changes, and the budgets begin to sag, the evidence will be more than apparent to everyone. Let's just hope that doesn't have to happen anytime soon.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Pictures of the Year

I just got back from Washington, D.C. where I spent two days at the annual Pictures of the Year International Education and Awards Program.

It was a fantastic couple of days with the first day's events held at The Newseum, which just recently opened to the public. Day two, which included the presentation of awards, followed by a reception and dinner, was held at National Geographic. Here is a complete list of winners from the POYi 2008.

Before booking my trip I had to decide between attending the News Photographer's Association of Canada's (NPAC) annual National Pictures of the Year (NPOY) awards presentations and educational program in Vancouver, B.C. but I didn't want to miss this opportunity to go to Washington.

Here is the complete list of winners from Photojournalism 2008. So far I have heard nothing but good things from the weekend in Vancouver, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend both functions. I'm sure there are some who will want to rake me over the coals for going to Washington instead. From the looks of things NPAC's POYs are beginning to gain the recognition they deserve.

I'm sure a few of my friends enjoyed a drink or two for me as I requested. It would have been nice to spend the time with some old friends, but I have to say that it was also a great pleasure to meet some photographers in Washington whom I have only ever know by name, reputation, and their photographs for years. Photographers are an excellent group everywhere you go, and the gathering down their certainly made me feel welcome. I certainly appreciated their hospitality. My short, but brutally early 6am flight back to Toronto, delivered me safely at home with a pocket-full of new business cards, a pile of great memories, and the knowledge that I had made some new friendships that will last a long time.

Congratulations to all of the winners, both NPAC POY, and POYi. The images are all deserving, and inspirational.