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2009/06/29

Phoenix was REALLY hot...!


The temperatures in Phoenix topped 100 F for the second half of our time at the Cronkite School. Wandering around in a sweat-soaked shirt and wondering why people lived in this crazy place I decided to take a photo that said "hot."

To me, plam trees imply warm weather, but California and Florida have pleasant places with palm trees, so I went into Photoshop and using the basic Hue/Saturation tool shifted the sky from blue to red. Now to me it says blazing heat.

It is so nice to be able to editorialize and not worry about every photo from my camera being real.

2009/06/23

Multi-Media learning

Part of my experience this week has been dabbling with video and sound, and learning to use the powerful piece of editing software: Final Cut Pro. We divided into groups to shoot a short package on dealing with the heat in Phoenix, and hit the streets. We shot some video, I shot still photos (also part of the assignment) and we wrapped it up.

Our adviser had the computer lab open on Saturday and Sunday, so I decided to take Saturday to run some errands (like doing laundry) and then Sunday I went to the lab. Group member Mark Salvatore was in working on the video when I got there. Turns out he also spent a good deal of time in the lab Saturday and he had pretty much wrapped up the editing issues for the clip. I feel bad because I did not contribute more to the back-end of things... but he said he wanted to really learn the software and he was fine with doing the bulk of the work.

Anyway, we are not going to win any awards for our video package, but if you care to view it, this is the link to the ASNE/Reynold's Institute blog where it is posted.

2009/06/22

Racism: Intentional or ignorance?

The topic of the day was diversity. During the discussion of being aware of race representations in the media Sharon Bramlett-Solomon (at left) spoke her ideas and opinions about the issue.

One of the initial comments she made was that she examined the representation of blacks in The Arizona Republic and found that in eight out of 10 photographs they were shown in an unfavorable way - being in need, or underprivileged. What Bramlett-Solomon did not share during the conversation was how often the white people in the paper were also shown as being in need. I say this not to try to discredit her statement (as her statement is factual and the issue does need addressing) - but to give some comparison. After all, newspapers are full of stories about the problems in our world.

Conflict sells. But I ask if the majority of the photos of white people are favorable? Or, is there a bias in the paper to show ALL people in an unfavorable light? Bramlett-Solomon said she had a discussion with the photography higher-ups at the paper and things improved. Certainly showing the majority of the photos of black people in unfavorable ways is not a good thing. But is it really an issue of a certain race being singled out, or is it the nature of the news industry to show the majority of all people in bad light? Does the newspaper simply have an issue of reporting unfavorably about many people and topics?

I do not have answers. I did not talk at length with her about the entire study she did. Maybe the conclusions need to be beyond "look how they are portraying black people" and instead need to be "look how they are portraying all people."
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A second item I want to mention briefly is that perhaps I am far more ignorant of how mean and petty other people can be, but I do not think that the majority of news photographers consciously lighten the skin color of successful people of color to make them more palatable to the general white audiences. I personally have been taught many times that when color correcting photographs for printing, and when learning lighting techniques for photographing people, adjustments need to be made to allow for the darker skin tones to be reproduced with some detail when the ink hits the news print. (And for light skinned people - Scandinavians for example - skin tones need to be darkened).

The human eye can discern from more than 11 levels of lightness and darkness in a scene. A good camera can handle about seven increments (called 'stops'). Then we get to newspaper printing. The paper that many newspapers print on these days are at least partially recycled and are very porous. When black drops of ink are splattered across the paper as the drums and plates roll at high speed the result is the dots of black ink spread (This is called dot gain - the size of the dot of ink spreads - it gains area). Shadows and dark colors lose detail and become murky. Newspaper presses are not run (at least as far as I know) with a concern about super high quality images that will look good framed on a wall. The images are printed to give information. So to keep the details of a person's face recognizable and within the reproducible range their skin tones get tweaked.

Color correction is very subjective to begin with, and then to add in variables such as mixed colors of light sources, the potential for the computer monitor not to be profiled and calibrated properly, and variants in the printing process itself and color is a tough thing to produce accurately.

Just to make things even more interesting, many newspapers now do not use people to tone their images. Instead they have autmoated software that is supposedy smart and corrects the colors and scenes for the presses tp "optimal levels." I'll leave optimal up to your own imagination to define.

Now, having explained a bit about why it happens - my standpoint is that I never considered it as being a problem (this is where I show my own insensitivity/ignorance). Getting photos to be clear in a newspaper can be tough. If the presses are all in registration and the color is halfway close I was generally pretty happy (colors shift during the press run, depending on how much of each color of ink is going onto the plate... the process is so much an art rather than en exact science it is amazing at times the papers look decent at all -- a good press operator is vital!)

If lightening or darkening skin tones is truly a problem that is being overlooked by people at the newspaper, then it does not matter that it is happening because it makes things easier for the printers. If there is really a problem then the results need to be changed.

I think so many times people give members of the press, and us middle-class white people too much credit. We do things not because we are trying to cause harm (or at least I don't) but rather we do things out of ignorance of the things being an issue.

There are absolutely issues of race and and culture inequality in this country. They absolutely need to be addressed. Sometimes they are not meant to happen. Sometimes people blunder along blindly believing that things are fine, and it takes people speaking up to tell us there is an issue.

2009/06/19

Light Rail blur

After our session of the High School Journalism Institute concluded we all hopped onto the lightrail train in Phoenix and went to have dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory two rail stops away.

After the meal we all made our way back to the Cronkite school building, also via rail, to watch "All the President's Men". So the train was coming, the sun was setting, and my camera was ready.

2009/06/15

Missing it - finally

The first day of the ASNE (American Society of News Editors) Reynolds High School Journalism Institute has started and the first day is done. This is an amazing event, not only that the event is running so well, but also the care they are taking of us. Meals, hotel, and great people!!!

I tried to put away the role of photojournalist and just be a participant, but when things like this happen, and knowing that the blog needs input I turned to my stronger suit and out came the camera.

Now, today's events are simply talking heads giving speeches - you know, the old reliable podium shots. Still, it made me miss the challenges of newspaper work. In almost a year since I left the newspaper I have never really missed it. I needed a break, a way to recharge? Regardless, it is time to move on from what I used to do and focus on what I am doing. I don't want to end up like the people in the Bruce Sprinstein song, singing about "glory days."

So, back to the events - multiple students already posted their impressions from the events of today. I simply posted a few images and extended captions rather than make things too repetitive.

To read what they wrote, and see the photos:

Reynolds High School Journalism Institute blog