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Archive for August, 2009

90ish days of summer

During coffee with Claire on June 25, Sen. McCaskill first welcomed everyone in the crowded conference room and then opened the floor for a few questions.

A woman named Hope Tinker introduced herself and asked a question.

I think Jeff’s ears must have pricked up, because later he said to me, “I wonder if Mary Beth is here!”

Jeff and Mary Beth Tinker are basically best friends.

Jeff and Mary Beth Tinker, in Sen. McCaskills office. Jeff usually looks this awkward in real life.

Jeff and Mary Beth Tinker, chattin' it up in Sen. McCaskill's office. Jeff usually looks this awkward in real life.

That’s right, the Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Mary Beth Tinker who wore a black armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War, was suspended from school, sued the district in defense of her First Amendment rights and won the case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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90ish days of summer

On June 25, 2009, Jeff and I had coffee with Claire.

L-R: me, Sen. McCaskill and Jeff. This photo was taken by an official Senate photographer and e-mailed to me from Sen. McCaskills office.

L-R: me, Sen. McCaskill and Jeff. This photo was taken by an official Senate photographer and e-mailed to me from Sen. McCaskill's office. Jeff does not look this awkward in real life... generally.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has 9 a.m. coffee with constituents every Thursday while the Senate is in session. Upon learning of this weekly meeting via Twitter and finding out that I would generally have Thursdays off during my internship at washingtonpost.com, I knew that Jeff and I had to visit with Sen. McCaskill at some point.

So we did.

Some slight exaggeration may be involved here, but I partially credit Sen. McCaskill for embroiling me into Missouri politics and, what the heck, political reporting in general.

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Today is Saturday, Aug. 29, which means that tomorrow, my good friend Darren leaves the States to spend the schoolyear in Jordan.

This is Darren. He uses Canon, just like me.

This is Darren. He uses Canon, just like me.

Darren, who is/was a photojournalism student at MU, will be studying Arabic and International Studies in Amman under the Council of International Educational Exchange’s program there. He also spent this past summer in Irbid, the northwest region of Jordan near the West Bank.

Of course, all of us are going to miss Darren a lot — especially since this is our senior year and some/most of us will be graduating in May, a week before he returns from Jordan.

Darren is also my oldest friend at MU.

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Today concludes the first week of my last year in college.

I’m proud to report that I’ve been present and on time for all my classes, completed two photo shifts at The Missourian and begun research on the rural recession project.

Because I don’t have a car (yet), all my assignments have been limited to wherever I can go on foot. I’m used to this — after all, how else did I manage while shooting as many as four assignments a day at The Maneater? Although I didn’t get to shoot the first day of school at various Columbia schools or Sen. Claire McCaskill’s health care town hall meeting in Jefferson City, I think I did all right for my first week on the job.

On my first shift, I ran to the scene of some breaking news. We’d heard something about a fatality over the police scanner, but when the reporter and I arrived, we saw it was a minor accident involving a bicyclist and motorist. The cyclist suffered only scrapes and bruises, which he shrugged off before explaining that he’d been hit by a school bus in the previous year.

That’s right. A school bus.

Call me sick, but I wish I’d been there to see that.

Cyclist Jeff Wainright talks with Columbia emergency responders after colliding with MU student and motorist Dan Marston on Tuesday afternoon in downtown Columbia. Wainright, who rolled over Marstons car hood, suffered only minor scrapes and bruises.

Cyclist Jeff Wainright talks with Columbia emergency responders after colliding with MU student and motorist Dan Marston on Tuesday afternoon in downtown Columbia. Wainright, who rolled over Marston's car hood, suffered only minor scrapes and bruises.

Although the accident was a minor one, it definitely spiced up my first shift as a Missourian photographer. As for the reporter, who was on her second day and second story at the paper, she learned that she had to be ready for anything that could happen on a given day. (Not that she was unprepared, though.)

The biggest lesson I learned? ENTERPRISE.

Due to some communication mishaps, today’s paper didn’t have any A1 visuals lined up. So yesterday when I had a half-hour left in my shift, one of the editors told me to skedaddle and do some enterprising. So I did, even though I knew that walking around and searching for photo material might prove completely unprofitable and would only further inflame the chronic pain in my left foot.

I got lucky with the first enterprise shoot I did. After I left the photo office, I headed downtown even though I knew there was very little if anything planned to be happening at that hour. But as I walked along Locust and crossed Ninth Street, I saw a trio of people carrying oddly-bundled instruments.

I paused. Then I decided to go for it.

“Hey, how are y’all doing?”

After they greeted me in return, I trotted alongside them and asked, “Mind if I follow you a little and take some photos?”

They were the Hooten Hallers, a local blues/country band that I’ve heard before in Speakers Circle. In fact, they had just performed there and were on their way to The Blue Fugue, which is where I followed them.

Hooten Hallers band member Andy Rehm plays a beat to the background music at The Blue Fugue on Thursday as fellow band member John Randall, Rocheport resident Richard Petty and Columbia resident John Thomas listen.

Hooten Hallers band member Andy Rehm plays a beat to the background music at The Blue Fugue on Thursday as fellow band member John Randall, Rocheport resident Richard Petty and Columbia resident John Thomas listen.

After I left the Fugue, I went on-campus to cover the Legion of Black Collegians‘ opening barbecue. As a former Maneater staffer, I’ve photographed many of the major campus organizations, including LBC. That said, I was almost wholly unprepared for the high-energy dance party going on in the main room of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.

Left to right, freshman Starsha Harris, senior Andrew Kelly, freshman Jacobi Ward and freshman Kielen Wilkins throw out some moves during the Legion of Black Collegians barbecue Thursday evening at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. The annual barbecue, hosted by MUs black student government, featured food, dance and music.

Left to right, freshman Starsha Harris, senior Andrew Kelly, freshman Jacobi Ward and freshman Kielen Wilkins throw out some moves during the Legion of Black Collegians' barbecue Thursday evening at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. The annual barbecue, hosted by MU's black student government, featured food, dance and music.

I returned to the photo office after taking a few more shots. I’d worked an hour overtime, was soaked to the skin (there was a gentle but steady rain after I left the Fugue) and felt relieved that my first stab at enterprising while on shift had been decent.

That last photo was today’s key A1 visual.

So yes. Enterprise is important. That’s what I learned this week.

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Classes and my senior year of college don’t begin until tomorrow morning, but I’m excited for this semester nonetheless. Today, I had two meetings that have determined how busy this semester will be — and it will be very busy.

The first meeting was the staff photo meeting at The Columbia Missourian, a morning city newspaper affiliated with the MU School of Journalism and staffed completely (except for certain editorial positions) by students. I’ve been a reporter for The Missourian for a year, during which I reported on now-attorney general Chris Koster’s general election campaign, the state budget and other such state political and economic news.

Now, I’m one of several staff photographers. I’m looking forward to this, mostly because I haven’t been on the field and behind a camera since freshman year, when I shot for The Maneater student newspaper. (In sophomore year, I was the Maneater photo editor, and last year I was doing political reporting for The Missourian.) I’ve talked to a few now-alumni who were also staff photographers at The Missourian. Among other things, they urged me to be enterprising and proactive in what I shoot.

“Take advantage of that press badge, and work your stories,” one told me (I’m paraphrasing — that conversation was several weeks ago). “Think of one story you want to follow all semester, and work toward that. It’s good exercise for you, good for The Missourian and good for your resume and portfolio.”

Which is exactly what the Missourian‘s new director of photography, Josh, said.

During the staff meeting, Josh reiterated the importance of being proactive, even if it means getting just a standalone photo published. He repeated his desire/the need to make The Missourian more visual.

“We die if we don’t have ideas,” he said. “The balloon deflates, and the reporters take over.”

Fortunately for me, I’ve already got a leg up on being proactive. Last semester, my Jefferson City editor Phill Brooks gave me a long-term article I never completed or even began: an in-depth look at rural poverty.

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90ish days of summer

Today was my last day as a photo intern at washingtonpost.com.

wapo.com

Today, I fielded photo requests and built photo galleries, edited and submitted some photos I took for a real estate project, turned in my security badge and Metro card… and that’s that.

That’s the end of these 90ish days of summer and my first journalism internship.

This is my pouty face. In this photo by Jeff, I am pouting for probably no reason whatsoever at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Right now, Im not pouting so much as Im sad this summer and internship are over.

This is my pouty face. In this photo by Jeff, I am pouting for probably no reason whatsoever at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Right now, I'm not pouting so much as I'm sad this summer and internship are over.

As I’ve blogged before, much of what I involved prepping photos for on-line use — to accompany articles and WaPo blogs — and building the many photo galleries. In addition, I worked on a few longer-term projects and shot two assignments.

But the vast majority of the internship was definitely sitting in front of a Mac and a PC and doing a lot of editing. Which is something I’m used to, having been the photo editor of The Maneater student newspaper, but that doesn’t mean I learned nothing this summer.

What I learned:

  • As my fellow intern Channing put it, being an intern means you’re there to do what you’re told — which means you do what other people don’t want to do. I hadn’t been on the absolute bottom rung of the ladder in a long time, but being there was a good experience. I quickly realized that that’s just how real life works and that my experiences at The Maneater, Philmont Scout Ranch and The Columbia Missourian aren’t exactly¬† reflective of that kind of corporate reality. (That said, the photo editors at washingtonpost.com are so friendly and helpful.)
  • Being an intern also means you should have a fast learning curve.
  • Multitasking is key. I’d like to think I was already good at working on three or four to-do items simultaneously, but fielding photo requests, editing photos, building galleries and researching for projects definitely put a more extreme spin on the art of multitasking.
  • Correcting white balance in Photoshop used to be the photo editing task I hated the most — and I’d always thought that having a background in color film printing gave me an edge on speedy, accurate color-correction. But after having to correct white balance, constantly and every day, I am so much more confident at this task. And I don’t dread it as much.

In short, I’m happy with how my summer internship turned out, although I do hope that, in future endeavors, I’ll spend more time behind a camera than in front of a computer. But whatever happens, I’m grateful and glad I had the opportunity to intern at washingtonpost.com.

On Monday, Jeff and I are returning to Columbia, where I’ll begin my last year as a photojournalism major at MU. This semester, I’ll be a staff photographer for The Columbia Missourian, as well as taking two linguistics classes (that I’ve wanted since sophomore year) and working on a long-term investigative/reporting project with broadcast student Theo Keith. (More details on that in a future blog post!)

It’s going to be busy, and you can expect a lot more regular updates to this blog than have happened this summer.

With that, I formally conclude this 90ish days of summer series.

Although, true to form, I still have a ton of photos to edit. Jeff and I have seen and done a lot in the past two months, and I simply haven’t had the time yet to edit all the photos. Among those takes are…

In the next few weeks, I’ll be editing and blogging these photos. The 90ish days of summer title will headline those entries, but apart from these backlogged posts, the series is officially concluded.

And now, for a weekend of packing and editing!

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90ish days of summer

ARLINGTON, Va. — Later this afternoon, Jeff and I are taking the bus up to New York City for a three-day weekend extravaganza in the Big Apple.

As was the case with our spring break roadtrip with Esten, we have a lot we want to do and see, but only so much time for everything. As was not the case with our spring break roadtrip, we’ve meticulously planned out EVERYTHING that we’re doing in New York — even down to the subway/bus/walking routes we’re using to get to where we need to be.

I haven’t been in New York since 2004, when my high school newspaper adviser took six of us young eager journalists there for the Columbia Scholastic Press Association‘s Gold Circle Awards. We spent spring break there and, as well as I can remember, stayed in Manhattan.

Before that, my mother has taken me to New York twice — once when I was probably four or five, and then again in 2001, three months before two planes flew into the World Trade Center and made their indelible mark on history and foreign policy. Each of those trips lasted at least a week.

Now, Jeff and I have three days to explore Central Park, wander Lower Manhattan and the financial district, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, take the Staten Island Ferry, visit the United Nations complex, walk along 42nd Street, take evening photos from the Top of the Rock, stroll around High Line Park, people-watch in Times Square, eat at Katz’s Deli (what did Sally order, anyway?), tour the Eldridge Street Synagogue and take a gander around Chinatown.

Ambitious? Probably a bit much. But we’ll make it work, and we’ll have the photos to prove it.

(Disclaimer: No promises on when you’ll get to see those photos. I still have yet to edit shots of the Capitol Building, the Basilica of the National Shrine, Eastern Market and our trip to the beach.)

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90ish days of summer

Leave it to me to find a rodeo in Maryland.

Sunset at the J Bar W Ranch.

Sunset at the J Bar W Ranch.

I was born and raised in Texas, where every child grows up knowing how to square-dance, wearing cowboy/-girl boots and learning about the great massacre battle at the Alamo.

For the vast majority of my 20-something years on this earth, I’ve denied the now-very-evident presence of Texas blood in my veins. My favorite joke was (and still is, actually), “What happens when you split Alaska in half? [Pause] Texas becomes the third-biggest state!” I rarely eat beef, a meat not unique to Texas but certainly an integral component of Texan history and pride.

But ever since I moved to the East coast for the summer, I’ve realized more and more just how Southwestern/Texan I am.

(I also have some Midwestern tendencies, but for the purposes of this post, let’s stick to the Southwest. Or Texas, which might as well be its own region and could very well be its own country.)

For example: I want cowgirl boots. I like country music. Talking to some people inexplicably draws a Southern accent from my lips that I previously didn’t know was in existence. When cars on the Beltway are closer together than two car-lengths, all I can do is grit my teeth, ask, “Why are there OTHER CARS on the road?” and yearn for long stretches of straight, empty highway.

And then I started hankering for a rodeo.

The No.-1 ranking cowboy at the start of the rodeo. I love cowboys. Thats a general statement.

The No.-1 ranking cowboy at the start of the rodeo. I love cowboys. That's a general statement.

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