The Lady in Antlers!

October 19, 2009

This week I decided to step outside of my comfort zone (and neighborhood) by shooting the Denver Marathon. The theme for our photojournalism shots that I chose was excitement. I knew that I would be able to find that at the marathon, but not in the athletes. At mile 22.2 there is little excitement in the faces of the athletes, but the aid/water stations always have encouraging members cheering and yelling for the runners! This is where I was sure I’d find my shot!

At the Rocky Mountain Road Runners water station, I found a very excited person, Lis Shepard! She was wearing antlers and yelling her heart out! She was there volunteering and cheering on her teammates that were running in the marathon. As a race walker (for two and half years), she knows how much encouragement is needed, especially at the end of the race, which is where their water station was located. By talking with her I was able to see that she is a very passionate person. She is not only a race walker, but also involved in Team Challenge, a fundraising group for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and racing in the Las Vegas Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon in December!

Visit: http://www.active.com/donate/lv09rockymountain/vegas09EShepar to donate. Every little bit helps! Please also visit Lis’s blog at: TeamShep.wordpress.com.

Lis told me that the Rocky Mountain Road Runners station and volunteers stayed the entire race, from 6:30am to after 12pm, when the race officially ended. She said, “We waited until the VERY last person came through – even after the course was officially closed and people were being diverted to the sidewalk.  I’m not going to let anyone feel like they’re not a winner because they’ve come that far!”

I found this experience very impactful. Lis’s excitement was very contagious. I found myself cheering for the runners as they came through the water station as well! I had a lot of fun with her as well!

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I went out on my first adventure as a photojournalist this week. I had been worrying about where to go and what to shoot and how to ask random strangers to be a part of my assignment. After I was finally brave enough to face the streets with my camera, I found that there are many people just in my neighborhood that I never seemed to notice. Most of them were kind enough to talk with me and allow me to take photos of them.

I first met an older Hispanic gentleman, Perfirio Perez, who works at a couple of nearby restaurants. I was able to really connect with him and help him feel comfortable by using my Spanish so he could understand me, although my Spanish is a little rocky. I think I really like the shot of Perfirio because it was my very first photojournalistic experience!

A little farther from home, I talked with a small group of kids and their supervisor, Amy Tapor (a volunteer grandma), on a field trip of Downtown Denver. I have a couple of shots that I enjoy from my time with them. One is Isaiah working on mapping out the locations of the capitol building and Union Station. The other is of Isaiah, Dylan, and Isaias making crayon rubbings of a small monument. I did find that after I started talking with the boys that it was hard to get them to be more natural. I was still able to catch them more relaxed in a couple shots.

I, later, encountered a pair of construction workers working on 14th and Broadway and Ray, guy that owns his own hotdog stand, outside of the library downtown. With adults it was a little easier for them to appear more natural in the photos that I took after talking with them. I think it was also helpful that they were working, so that kept them in their natural swagger, rather than feeling like they needed to pose for my camera.

I really stepped outside of my box taking the photos that I did this week! I enjoyed meeting new people and am surprised that I like some of the photos I created without the planning that normally goes into my shoots. I hope that I’m able to continue to feel more comfortable walking up to people on the streets the more that I embark into the wild of photojournalism. The idea of finding the shots in some unplanned scene will help me in my practice of photography by making me think outside the box and use problem solving when something goes askew.

It has a ring to it… Although I have to say that I’m nervous to start such an intimidating adventure that will last the next 11 weeks. The assignments sound simple enough to complete, but the difficult part will land in the fact that it has the title photojournalism. I love shooting people, that won’t be a problem.

I think photojournalism is intimidating because I will have to simultaneously create photos while developing a relationship with my subject. It’s not unusual for me to converse while I’m shooting or to think of ideas while I’m engaging my subject, but usually I have met and learned something about my him or her before we begin. If that were to happen with this style of photography there could be a change in my subject’s behavior. The real emotion or the possible moment that I am trying to find may not be conveyed the same way if it is known that I am recording the event. I am concerned that my ability to create an impactful photo ultimately depends on my stealth.

And after being stealthy enough not to effect the outcome of my photo negatively, how do I then approach this person or people and explain that I have just recorded their actions and would like to get more information from them?

I love shooting fashion and editorial photographs, this is what I hope to be doing with my photography after I graduate. I hope that my dabble in photojournalism this quarter will allow me to see the beauty in my subjects that is not directed, but is just present between them and their environment. I hope I will be able to use skills that I learn in this class during a shoot on the most scrutinized of sets in my future fashion photography career.