News Columns & Blogs

Frequency delinquency

As a photographer, I'm always paying attention to the light. Even if I'm not working, I always note the amount, direction and quality of light when I enter a new place. It's an automatic reaction analogous to many other professions. I'm sure contractors can't help but analyze structural integrity and firefighters must note the location of exits. When I'm working, I pay more attention to potential problems like competing light sources with different color temperatures or unwanted reflective surfaces.

Our re-entry into video production at the Herald has presented a few bends in my learning curve, and one of the biggest has been handling audio.

The biggest facepalm for me is when I botch the interview. I've had to adjust how I talk to people for video interviews, leaving extra pauses between my questions and figuring out how to elicit punchy sound bites that work well in a concise video. I try to talk to these subjects away from loud areas when possible, but I've pushed it at times and overestimated the abilities of my microphone.

Most recently, I made the trek down to the Umatilla Army Depot with reporter Annette Cary to see some burrowing owls that would soon head north to help bolster a breeding program in British Columbia. The wind was howling and I knew most of my audio from the field would be unusable. KEPR's Jennifer Wilson offered some tips, but said that it's really hard to handle that level of wind even with her better equipment.

Luckily, the wind lulled enough to get an adult owl's alarm call for the video, which is linked above, and I planned on having the voice overs dominate the audio. But after finding a nice quiet spot for Mike Gregg's interview, I pushed my luck with Paul Williams and his voice has loud competition from all the conversations going on at the same time.

It's a lesson I should have already learned several times, most recently while covering Vera Selfridge and Margaret Walker's free rides on a vintage biplane. It's the other video linked at the top of this post. Pilot Darryl Fisher's voice is nearly drowned out by the surrounding cacophony, and at one point, you can hear somebody in the background talking about what time the story will air on KNDU. I cut that out of the final edit, but here's the outtake:

A funnier version of this extra hurdle comes courtesy of photographer Paul T. Erickson while he filmed Matt Murphy's ultra-light flying boat:

It's just another wrinkle to be aware of as people are always hamming it up for the camera and making excited observations about media presence. In a way, dealing with interviews is similar to the challenges of successful portraiture. When you're in control of the situation, distractions glare that much brighter, but just like shooting with the microphone off during astronaut Ellen Ochoa's visit, I hope to learn from these mistakes.

For a real pro's take on not screwing up...

David Burnett talks about "being lucky and not screwing up" when he captured the iconic image of Mary Decker at the 1984 Olympics. The Contact Press photographer also shares his experiences from covering seven Summer Olympics.

Check out Reuters photographer Joseba Etxaburu's intense experience while covering the running of the bulls. Maybe his health insurance is better than his equipment policy.

For somebody who intentionally puts his gear through adverse conditions, marvel at Ben Von Wong's underwater studio.

Thanks to Kristin M. Kraemer for passing along this cool look at D.C. night life. I used to be a low-light junkie before diving headfirst into strobes and such. Maybe it's time to get back and embrace the darkness.

I'm not sure how I missed this sweet tossable panoramic camera that was announced last October, but I do know I want one.

And happy second birthday to my new love, Instagram. Care to guess what the first post was? Hint: it's not a meal in most countries.


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