Thoughts on Reporting: What is the Hardest Part About Audio?

Audio is probably one of the more under-rated aspects when it comes to news reporting. It really shouldn’t be. Sound can take us to another place. Sounds are just like photographs within reporting, but instead of seeing the beach and the waves, you hear birds chirping, water crashing against the sand, and laughter. When you open your eyes, you’re not at the beach but your mind took you there with sound.

Thinking of sound, I and many others probably first think of music. Music is a great example when discussing the importance of audio. Now, just like the beach example above, everybody can think of a time where music took them elsewhere. Currently while writing this, I’m listening to the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep video game soundtrack. I’m being transported back to the first time I ever played the game. When I close my eyes, I can see the environments, the characters, but most importantly, I can hear it all.

This is why audio in reporting is important. It can make or break the story depending on the sounds. Along with a well written story and well taken photos, great audio can completely immerse an audience within the environment of a story. The story tells the audience what’s going on, the photo shows the audience where the story takes place, and the sound allows the story to come to life. In terms of reporting, it is very hard for these three aspects to survive on their own. They must gel together.

The hardest thing about audio is getting good audio. Utilizing sound recording equipment is a fun experience but it can be very tricky. When interviewing someone for an audio piece, you must be in a noise-controlled environment. If not, too many distractions and other noises will interfere with your interview. You have to make sure you can hear this person speak through the microphone. Of course, to do this on the spot, you’ll need headphones. Here’s a free tip: don’t forget your headphones to an audio interview. The interview basically becomes impossible without them due to the fact that you’ll be unsure of what kinds of sounds your recorder is picking up. Headphones allow you to double check what you’re receiving right on the spot.

I digress. Remember to also make sure you’re keeping good posture with your body and your microphone-holding hand. If you have the microphone pointing at a man’s shoes when he confesses to murder, guess what? You don’t have proof that a murderer just confessed to murder. This is the level of stress that has to be placed on the sound-people of America. You are the heroes of the news. Good sound can most definitely make or break a story.

Great sounds aren’t hard to come by, but they are hard to capture. As a journalism beginner, I’ve already had good and bad experiences with audio. It’s easy to be upset because some of your audio clips can be something that you didn’t think you got. It’s just a matter of technique and repetition like everything else. Audio is a field that can be mastered. If you can be calm, find a noise controlled environment, balance your natural sounds, and be a great interviewer, you can be a great audio journalist.

Sound is around us constantly. Reporting the sounds that effect our everyday lives is truly significant to journalism. As I said above, sound can make or break a story. If you miss the sounds of the story, you can ruin an opportunity to immerse the audience in their news experience. Audio must be recognized as one of the key pillars in news reporting. Without it, our imaginations can’t take us to where journalists need us to go.

 

~DS

Thoughts On Reporting: Remembering NPR Photojournalist David Gilkey

When somebody passes away, the thoughts of mourning and sadness tend to be the first emotions thought up. This, of course, is ok. Sadness is ok when we miss somebody. When someone passes, they never really leave us. Their memory and their work lives on post-mortem in the ones that cherish them the most.

This most certainly applies to NPR Photojournalist, David Gilkey. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Gilkey, he was tragically killed in Afghanistan this past Sunday while working to display the light within a country shrouded with the darkness of war. Being a photojournalist, Gilkey had an eye for things that are the world’s most precious gifts. Today, I will comment upon his style as well as comment on what a photojournalist can do for the world.

http://www.npr.org/2016/06/06/480866035/remembering-photojournalist-david-gilkey

In the link above is a story that NPR published themselves after losing one of their own. It truly is a nice piece. Gilkey explained before his death that photojournalism is “not just reporting. It’s not just taking pictures. It’s, ‘Do those visuals, do the stories, do they change somebody’s mind enough to take action?’So if we’re doing our part, it gets people to do their part. Hopefully.” Gilkey seemed that he wanted people to think for their own and do the right thing. That’s the way he saw his work.

His photos are simply magnificent. Within the article above, we see what NPR calls just “a small selection of David’s remarkable work.” His style is very relevant in each one of the photos we can see of his. There is a character in nearly every single one of the photos we see in the article above. Whether it be a human being or an animal, we are stricken with the wonder of what their deal is. Captions are a great thing in photography. They help push the story forward. But some of the best photos, shouldn’t require a caption.

If one can look at a photograph and truly feel the emotion or the moment that photo was taken place, there’s no need for a caption. The emotions and the thoughts live on within the viewer. The way Gilkey shot, he wanted his characters to not act for the camera, but for the camera to capture them telling their own story. In one of the photos, we see a Syrian refugee in Toledo, Ohio carrying his daughter down the street. I was sent back to a time where my father carried me in his arms when I was young. I looked at this photo not knowing the characters, but knowing the emotion of the scene. Granted, I am no Syrian refugee and those people have probably lived through horrors that I couldn’t imagine in my dizziest daydreams. But, a photo I have no emotional attachment to sent me back to a place in time where I could relate to it in some way. It’s truly remarkable magic.

Another style element Gilkey leaves with us is quite evident in many of the photos you see in the article. The eyes can tell a story more powerful than words when it comes to photography. Gilkey does a wonderful job in capturing the eyes and their radiant storytelling capabilities. In nearly every photo, you can pick out an eye. You can read the eye and sort of feel as if you’re there in that moment. Another magic trick of photography. Making eye contact with a still photograph can take you to a place you’ve never been before. Staring at a photo doesn’t make you crazy; it simply means you’re experiencing the photo the way the photographer wanted you to experience it. It’s just like paintings:

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Photographs, like paintings, put us somewhere that we are not. They put us in a moment and make us feel things that we wouldn’t normally feel. The world needs photos. The world needs photojournalism. Without it, we really wouldn’t know what was going on at all. We wouldn’t feel emotion towards peace, war, death, life, etc. It’d just be words on paper.

Thank You David Gilkey. You died doing what you loved to do. You will be remembered through your eye for the art of photojournalism.

In Memoriam:

david-gilkey-npr-photographer-at-kandahar-airfield-afghanistan-on-may-29-2016.jpg_custom-df6a1657abfe49d01676acb71de8e2aca90e767d-s900-c85

David Gilkey (1966-2016)

Muhammad-Ali

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

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Gordie Howe (1928-2016)

~DS

3 Photos Assignment

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Artificial Side lighting allows for a lot of facial features to be shown, but half the face is still in light shadows.
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Back warm lighting and artificial side lighting create a nice outline for the man in this photo.
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Spotlight warm lighting allow for the major features of the face to be shown but keep the identity of the man a mystery.

Thoughts on Reporting: Texas Floods 2016 Photojournalism

One of the most effective mediums in reporting is photography. Since the dawn of cameras, people want to visually see the news that they read about. Visuals can completely define a moment more than words can. For example, photos of firefighters on 9/11 or of John F. Kennedy’s son after the tragic death of his father have completely defined the emotions of an event taking place in time. Photojournalism has further extended the power of the pen. It has allowed a better understanding of the world because anybody can look at a picture to feel emotion.

In terms of this post, I’ve recently been taking a look at many different photos from the recent flooding down in Texas. Some of these photos have given me a complete understanding of feelings down there. The photojournalism work done by reporters have been great for this event and I’d like to discuss that. These photos are fantastic in terms of defining the situation.

http://www.nbcnews.com/slideshow/record-high-floods-leave-thousands-displaced-texas-n585451

Clicking on this link, you’ll see 17 photos from the Texas floods. You’ll see rescue teams, victims, destroyed roads, destroyed homes, animals, and lots of water. In the 17 photos, a lot of them are scene-setters to sort of display the magnitude of the floods. As I said, there are really some brilliant photographs here. The colors and lighting are all worked with effectively. To take effective daytime photos, the ISO on the camera was low and the aperture was high which creates a vibrant effect on nature. Nighttime photos are the opposite.

But if I wanted to get picky, which I’m about to do, I’d say that there is a lack of portrait photos. Now, there can be an explanation for why that is, so let’s explore that.

A reason why there isn’t a portrait photo here is due to the fact that the story tellers decided not to focus on one person. Some of the shots of families or of rescue workers could be considered portraits, but there are no tight-faced shots. This story by NBC News from the link I posted above seems to focus moreover upon the overarching deal rather than one person’s matters.

This is still an effective form of telling this story. I really can’t get over some of the details in these photos. My absolute favorite photo out of the 17 is definitely number 6. You see two men outlined by the back-lighting of a car’s headlights. They are standing in the rain and are looking at another car that was stranded out in the water. This photo is quite powerful and intriguing to look at. You understand the magnitude of the flood and can feel what these men are feeling. Really, the only thing we don’t know, is who they are.

I think this article could have been more effective maybe if it had some portrait photography. When we’re hammered with photos of the flood, it’d be nice to hear from a victim and see them personally. I’m not saying that the article needs to feature somebody, but in my opinion, it could use it.

When talking about photos from 9/11, we’ll see ash, rubble, firefighters, and the American flag. Which are great photos at the times of the attack and even now. But here we are nearly 15 years after the attacks and it’s like we want more from what already happened. This is where the portraits can become important. Somebody’s 9/11 story 15 years later is a very effective story now because you’re taking a memory and bringing it back to the mind. Her story becomes a bridge off of the photos from stories 15 years earlier.

So what I’m saying, once this story ages like a fine wine, the portrait photos will become a much more effective way of telling the stories of victims individually.

For now, I think this story is told effectively through scene-setters and detail shots. You’re putting focus on the overall emotions of people and the overall situation rather than individuals.

Again, photojournalism can display so much more than words can. We learned that portrait photos and scene-setters are almost necessary to tell a story about disaster. Story telling goes a long way and has many different branches. Photojournalism’s branch has grown thick with some incredible shots of our world. Pictures last forever and that’s an important aspect to take away from photojournalism.

~DS

Experiences In The Field

When it comes to going out in the field for journalism, things can very difficult involving your sources. People aren’t as eager to talk to you as you’d think they would be. In terms of my experience in the field, I’ve had some pretty interesting encounters. Looking back, there are a lot of learning experiences and things to take away headed into the future.

In terms of shooting, you always have to make sure you’re getting something interesting and relevant to the story. Following the rule of thirds is so important. Shooting a news story should be the same way one shoots a movie. Lighting, frame composition, character placement, and sounds all need to be taken into account when shooting for films as well as shooting for the news. It seems like like a lot to take into when sitting down for just a few minutes, but they’re important aspects of filming. If you don’t follow the basic rules of film, you can have a broken broadcast that will lose viewers. People will notice shaky cams and poor editing. The audience will notice all the bad lighting and all the bad character placement. As a film connoisseur, I study all when it comes to film. The knowledge I’ve gained in film classes and watching a lot of movies have extended my viewpoints on news and TV as well. As I said above, if all the elements are taken into account, you don’t have to worry about doing it right. The information you film becomes better when shot correctly.

My abilities in interviews don’t scare me. I’m very confident when it comes to reporting. I’m not scared when it comes to talking to strangers. But when it comes to strangers, they’re scared of talking to you. When you see a big fat confident guy walking towards you with a camera, notepad, and messenger bag, it can be a little intimidating. I get that. Long before I wanted to become a journalist, I was definitely scared about talking to random people. Hell, I was uneasy about speaking to my family members sometimes. But I turned a corner. Sociability is one of the best traits one can have. If you know how to work with all kinds of people, you can go places with reporting. I knew I wanted to be a reporter when I realized I could combine my writing with my emotions and my ability to connect with others.

In my “journeys” as a reporter, I’ve learned that you can’t always be the confident fat guy. Sometimes, you’ve got to be a timid fat guy. You almost have to make the subject become the interviewer in a way. Meanwhile, you’re in total control. They think they’re dominating the interview by just talking about what they want to talk about, but you’ve forced them to do so. You have to be able to tell how an interview is going to be before you get yourself into it. You have to get somebody to be emotional towards the subject of the interview. An emotion carries the importance of the a story.

That’s all I really have from experience. But, my experience may differ from others. It’s all a matter of comfort level. To be a reporter, you have to be comfortable with exiting your comfort zone. Also, to create a great visual story, you have to use all the right aspects of film. That’s all I’ve got this week.

~DS