Friday, September 22, 2017

In Pictures: WSU and Owens students learn about motion, depth of field

Owens Community College students  learn how to properly hold a camera. (Photo by Hanssel Martinez-Guerra)

Talking about the relationship between shutter speed and motion. (Photo by Hanssel Martinez-Guerra)
Wayne State University students learn about shooting for shallow and wide depth of field during class.
The Wayne State University Digital Photojournalism class of Fall 2017.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Changes are aplenty for the Owens Outlook online student newspaper

    Last semester the Owens Outlook online student newspaper was dormant.
    That happened because my Visual Storytelling class (which is basically the student newspaper staff) was cancelled due to low enrollment. Since I wasn't teaching at all on campus (the first time that’s happened for me at Owens in 12 years),  the Owens Outlook didn’t have an adviser (I was the adviser), and without an adviser (or the Visual Storytelling class) there was no newspaper.
   Thus, the Owens Outlook website was frozen in time. The last article posted dates back to Dec. 7, 2016, and it's still there.  
   Now I’m back, with a small class of six. But there are a few changes to report.
1. I am no longer the adviser to the Owens Outlook. In fact, there won’t be a primary academic adviser at this point. The responsibility for student media will be shared, though I have no clue of the details.
Our first published photo this semester from Visual Storytelling student
Cameron Reef. Each student will now be able to upload their stories and
photos onto the backend of the website. 
2. The Owens Outlook office is being moved from its current space, Room 156 in the SHAC, to across the hall, in the Block Student Government and News Center. Yes, you read that right. That office used to house both the student newspaper staff and the student government, and there is a huge banner sign saying the Block Student Government and News Center above the office door to prove it. That phrase “sleeping the enemy” comes to mind, though the student government is certainly not our enemy…. but you get the point.
   When I became the new adviser to the Outlook about four years ago, I fought like hell to break us up. So we were moved into a spacious office in the Law Enforcement building across the street. Loved the office but hated the location ... for two reasons: Again, we shared space with an entity we report on; and we were detached from the Center for Fine & Performing Arts building, where the Visual Storytelling classroom is located. 
   Then a year ago we were moved into the former Student Activities office across the hall from the Block news center. Now we are currently moving back into our original office in Room 156, but student government is now gone, and broadcaster technology majors are moving in with us. The Outlook office has gone full circle.
3. The man who has spearheaded the new Broadcast Technology major, Dr. Michael Sander, was then the chair of the fine and performing arts department. This summer he became the interim dean for the School of Liberal Arts.
   He recently told me that he plans to remain in charge of the Outlook Student Media Center. He has his ideas of how he wants the media center to run, but I don't know what those ideas are yet. This semester could include a few game changers. But one thing is for sure, Sander is committed to keeping the Owens Outlook alive, and I am very relieved about that.
   I was also relieved that he decided to retain the Outlook name for the media center, considering the Outlook has been a part of campus student-produced news coverage for decades, and now will remain so. Yes, changes are certain, and I hope that's a good thing.
   So, with my little staff of six Visual Storytelling students and broadcast majors to help produce the content on the Owens Outlook student newspaper, we will soon be back in business.
   However, we can’t do it without the assistant of Katie Buzdor, the former longtime student editor-in-chief. Katie has graciously agreed to train the student staff on the backend of the website, as well as be an editor in some capacity. We need to soak up as much information from her as possible this semester since it’s her last … she graduates in December!
   We will all figure out how to handle the production of the newspaper moving forward, so stay tuned.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Taking the Wayne State COM 2280 Digital Photojournalism course?

Then read this Q & A ...
Q:  Why do I have to take this course? I’m a journalist/PR specialist, not a photojournalist.
A:  This course is necessary because at some point in your career you probably will be asked to take your own photos. Unfortunately, staff photojournalism jobs are dwindling each year, leaving journalists to pick up the slack with point and shoot cameras and cell phones. Despite their lack of photography experience, journalists are being tasked (and sometimes forced) to produce their own images. The only way to combat poor photo quality and legal/ethical issues is to offer courses like COM 2280, which is designed to prepare you for the inevitable.
Winter 2017 COM 2280 class
Also, even if you never take another photo for your job, this class will help you understand the photographers you will work with, for, or who will work for you.

Q: How hard is this course?
A:  Moderately difficult. This course is designed to give you basic photojournalism skills to prepare you to work in 21st Century journalism newsrooms and public relations offices. It is a practical-skills driven course, meaning you will practice what you learn. 

You will be introduced to camera operations, and a few of the industry standard software used in the field, like Photo Mechanic, Photoshop and Adobe Premiere CC. So yes, expect a steep learning curve on a few assignments and exercises.
   The two most important tips I can give you are to pay attention and keep up. Please be fully engaged in every lesson, even if you’ve already been exposed to photography and some of the digital editing tools. After all, practice makes perfect (I never say perfect in this course) precision. Once you think you know it all, you stop learning and improving.

Q: How can I get an A?
A: I understand most students expect an A in every class they take. That’s human nature. But it’s not realistic. If you don’t earn an A, don’t fret. Remember that you are learning the building blocks of a very technical profession. Practice and opportunity in the field are what truly matters, not an A in a single class. Trust me, editors don't care much what your grades are when hiring; what matters is your portfolio of work and social media presence.
That said, here are several ways that will NOT earn you an A:
·       Tell me you need an A because you have a perfect GPA so far. If you want an A, you have to earn it with great attendance; zero missed assignments; good class participation; and a willingness to climb out of your comfort zone.
These are what I look for when determining good grades:
·       Nearly perfect attendance
·       No more than one missed assignment and zero missed quizzes
·       Willingness to help your classmates
·       No fear of asking questions when you don’t understand something
·       Pay attention to the little details, like spelling, AP styles, blog design, etc.
·       Redo less-than-stellar assignments
·       A good attitude

Warning: It is possible to get a D or flunk this course. Believe it or not, one or two students flunk every semester; not because their work sucks, but because they give up! It's true! They simply stop showing up, or stop shooting. Seriously, all you have to do is miss a lot of classes and homework assignments to earn Ds and Fs. 
Of course, I don’t like dishing out Cs and below, but I won’t give credit where it’s not due. It’s only fair to those students who worked hard throughout the course.

Good luck this semester! 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sharing the pros, cons, photo stories of the hybrid Wayne State PJ course

  Another semester has ended at Wayne State University, and it was one of the best classes I’ve had the honor of leading.
   As I do for most semester endings, I’ll highlight a few positives and negatives. This is a good way for me to collect my thoughts so I can improve next semester.
   This particular Digital Photojournalism class earned a collective A. Rarely did a student miss any of the three quizzes, attendance was very strong, and though they had a tendency to turn in assignments late, they eventually turned them in.
   On the negative side:
  • We, meaning university, experimented with a hybrid course format. The course typically meets once a week (on Thursdays) for 2.5 hours. But this semester we only met for 1.15 hours, cutting class time in half.
   This didn’t work for me, or the students. I found that I couldn’t fit in important lecture time, particularly on teaching technical issues on software like Audacity or Premiere Pro CC.
  •    I also didn’t have time to critique their homework assignments, which are posted on their blogs each week. Homework involves shooting real photojournalism assignments: features, portraits, sports and a photo story.
   This class definitely goes beyond theory, thus they practice what is preached. For example, after a lecture on shooting sports, they’re required to attend a sporting event and shoot it. This entails them to get rosters for athlete identifications, and shoot action, reaction, fans and coaches.
   When I critique their work in class, they are collectively learning from one another what to do and what not to do on assignments. So not to critique their work in class is a missed learning opportunity.
   However, because I use Blackboard, a lot, and my own course blog (which you are reading now), they still had all of the lectures available to them.  I also created a few how-to YouTube videos as supplements. But, bottom line, I don’t like the hybrid approach for this course, so it’s back to full classes next semester.
   On the positive side:
  •     From the negative came to the positive. I began creating instructional YouTube videos using Camtasia Studio, which records my computer screen, allowing me to show them how to use Audacity and Premiere Pro CC. 
   The videos allow them to view the content at their own pace, and soak it in. They can follow along with the videos while doing their own projects.
  •    I am also convinced that allowing them to turn in late assignments is a good thing. I’m more concerned that each student learns the content at their own pace, rather not doing it at all. Yes, deadlines are critical in the journalism field, but they’ll learn that soon enough. At this point in their scholastic environment, they need to learn before they do.
   Now is the time I'm proud to present three of the photo stories they shot and produced. They are all different, and showcase how talented Wayne State students are.
   I present to you final projects by Taylor Lutz, Lucas Bell and Janika Green:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Adobe Premiere Pro CC training for still/video production

   Wayne State students: If you feel like this final project is a bit daunting, you’re not alone!

   There is a lot of work that goes into a big project like this, so it’s important to concentrate on each step of the process as you go along. 
   Be systematic:
  • Find a story that lends to visual variety.
  • Pay attention to your camera settings as you shoot. Remember that there’s no need to constantly change your settings while shooting. As long as the available light doesn’t change, the settings don’t need to change (unless you want to change your depth of field or motion). 
  • Don’t shoot under 400 ISO, or slower than 1/60th of a second.
  • When shooting the story, collect caption information as you go. 
  • Record at least one interview, possibly in a quiet place. However, if you are collecting audio at the scene, like during a parade, just keep the audio device close to the subject so we can hear them.
  • If you are shooting multiple days, keep your photos in a single folder as you go.
  • When finished with your shoot: drag your working folder into Photo Mechanic; make a final selection via color coding them; isolate those color-coded images; select all photos at once and drag them into Photoshop to edit them.
  • In Photoshop, only crop, and fix color balance and exposure issues.
  • When saving each image, hit Save As and rename the pic so it doesn’t overwrite the original.
  • Select only the edited images and copy or drag them into a final folder.
  • Now write your captions. First do a skeleton caption for all photos so your meta data information is tagged to all pics. Then finish the captions per individual photo.
  • Next select the two photos you’ll use for the title and end slides, and edit in Photoshop. Directions are in this YouTube tutorial. Once you’re done with these slides, Save As: Rename them Title Slide and End Slide.
  • Edit your audio using Audacity (directions for using Audacity is an earlier post in this blog) and put that edited audio into the final folder. If you have audio from a video camera, then don’t worry about using Audacity. You can edit the audio in Premiere (directions are in this YouTube tutorial).
  • Once all of your working elements (edited/captioned stills; audio file(s); title/end slides; music file) are complete and in the final folder, then it’s time to produce your story. See tutorial below:
  • Review the workflow sheet for YouTube information, which is at the bottom of the sheet. You need to upload your story as an Mp4 to the course YouTube account so you can retrieve the embed code or URL code. You need the embed code to load the story onto your blog.
  • You can also view these tutorials if you need more training with Premiere: 
- Tutorial for Beginners 1

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Gathering photo captions: Practicing what I preach

   This is me, a working photojournalist gathering caption information on a photo I took during an Empowerment Zone meeting in North Toledo March 3 for the Toledo Blade. (Photo Credit goes to my friend Rhonda Sewell)
   As you can see, my cameras are dangling off of my shoulders as I use my trusty pen and notebook to take down this kid's name, since I photographed him during the event.
   My Wayne State Digital Photojournalism students just completed their caption writing block of instruction, which included clipping captions from newspapers and taking a quiz. Spending time on caption, or cutline, writing is necessary in a photojournalism course because it's the journalism part of photojournalism.
   Most of the time I write down names and other pertinent information in my reporter's notebook, but sometimes I record that information into my camera, especially when my hands are too full to write or the weather isn't friendly to notebook paper. Whatever the method, taking down the who, what, where and when are the active ingredients to a good caption.
   This post is just a visual reminder that you are learning about captions because they are a part of a photojournalist's job. It is also the part that is sometimes the most challenging: Taking the photo from afar is one thing, but going up to strangers and asking them for their name, age and hometown is another.
   Gathering captions can give shy scholastic photojournalists a panic attack.
   When you are out there shooting your final photo story in the next few weeks, remember that the later half of the word photojournalism is journalism, or the art of writing.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Audacity training: Posting an edited podcast from folder to Wordpress

   This is the Audacity training recorded during the Kent State Teaching Multimedia course chat March 5.
   It takes your through the steps for editing audio using Audacity.