(Yes, this post is lengthy. I’m not sure if they’ll all wind up this long, but to quote Jerry Blank: “I’ve got something to say!”)
Our first assignment seemed simple: submit two photos that cover any two of the standard categories of news photography (general news, spot news, feature, sports action, or sports feature). We also had to put Associated Press-style captions on every image, and that included getting names from people in the photos.
Two photos!? That’s it? Easy as pie right? Uh, no. Especially if you want to turn in good photos.
There were two things hard about this assignment: determining what to shoot, and finding images that weren’t boring.
For what to shoot, I brainstormed a bit with Shan and eventually settled on trying to get into the Seattle Wedding Show for some general news photos and shots of the Light Rail No Pants 2012 ride.
On a rainy Sunday I packed up all my gear, headed to downtown Seattle, showed up at the convention center, and asked at the media booth for a pass to get in.
Denied. “You aren’t press, and no photography is allowed at the show unless you are press”. This would prove to be a regular occurrence during the class. Being a student in an editorial photography class is not the same as being an editorial photographer, and many places were quite happy to point out that distinction. Sigh.
I almost decided to turn around and go home but since I was downtown anyway I figured I’d walk around and see if something came up. Lucky me! I came across a vigil for victims of gun violence (I didn’t know it but that day was the anniversary of the Gabby Giffords shooting). Even better, there were people at the vigil packing heat! Members of the Washington Gun Rights association were standing there quietly with handguns on their hips. “Photo gold”, I thought! I photographed a whole bunch, chatted a bit with Erika Shultz, and left feeling really good.
Unfortunately the photos missed the mark. That one shoot made it abundantly clear to me that editorial photography is hard. Here is one example of a photo that didn’t work:
Protecting her candle, Odessa Stevens, a Washington Cease Fire board member, participates in a vigil remembering victims of gun violence at Westlake Park in Seattle, WA on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. Washington Cease Fire was founded in 1983 and works to reduce gun violence in communities across Washington State. (Photo/Neil Enns)
The photo is just a lady with a candle. It’s totally missing the context of the vigil. For an example that does work, check out the image that Erika captured for the Seattle Times.
The one success of the event was the practice I gained in asking people for names. I found people were very willing to provide names when asked (except for the guys with guns!). That actually proved true through every assignment and is something I will continue to do with all my editorial work going forward. Note to others: ask for names. It’s not that hard, and people almost always say yes!
The No Pants 2012 ride was far more successful. I wound up with several solid images, had fun chatting with participants, and got one of the two final images for the assignment:
Kissing couple Derek Covey and Amber Haworth ride a SoundTransit train during No Pants Light Rail day in Seattle on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. In its third year in Seattle, No Pants Subway rides were started 10 years ago in New York City by Improv Everywhere. (Photo/Neil Enns)
I knew from looking of photos of prior No Pants rides online that it would be easy to get images of people without pants on, but hard to find something that showed an unusual situation or moment. When Derek and Amber kissed towards the very end of the event I quickly grabbed this shot and knew I had a winner. It’s not my favourite composition (I’m not wild about the amount of space at the top), but the elephant underwear, the guy looking away, and the kiss all combine to make a photo that’s definitely unusual.
My second photo for the class was a bit of a cop-out. I had a curling game on Monday night and knew I could take my gear to get some sort of sports action shot. My challenge was to get something that wasn’t the same boring shot of someone sweeping or a skip yelling.
After shooting during the evening’s early games I was sitting in the bar, unhappy with the images I had, when I noticed a rock measure about to take place on sheet 2. I ran down the stairs with my camera, raced onto the ice, and got this:
Measuring her stone, Kris Ikegami of Team Schreiber confirms red is shot rock while Thomas Brandt of Team Gale-Seixeiro observes at the Granite Curling Club in Seattle on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 during round one of Monday League playoffs. Founded in 1961 the Granite Curling Club is home to more national champions than any other curling club in the United States. (Photo/Neil Enns)
The photo makes me happy. It’s an unusual view of a curling game that most photographers can’t capture. You have to be there, know the club, and get out on the ice to capture the moment. Shooting from the sidelines or the rink end just won’t cut it.
So that was assignment one. Two photos from three different locations (four if you count the wedding show attempt).
The next assignments did not get easier!