Farewell Les…

Newsreel Cameraman Les Thomsen has left us. The above video is from a 2006 SFBAPPA meeting at his house, where he and other old timers discussed the early history of the club. Afterwards he gave a tour of his house – the basement is a museum of equipment used in movies, early television, and newsreels and includes a 29 seat theater, where he showed some early newsreels.


Serendipity on Sunday….

Love that assonance alliteration (blame my burned-out brain cells).

It’s been a while and a backlog has built up….and after resurfacing yesterday at the BAPPA digital day I guess I’d better post and dive again.

The afternoon workshops were just as good the am ones. Checked out the Canon and Nikon sessions on their gear w/o much interest (yeah, I’m a videot). Listened in on “Care and Feeding of the 800 Lb Gorilla in the Newsroom.” Pretty bland until RK Hernandez got up and let loose – what a surprise. I’ve never heard him blast or lamblast, so when he lit into the sales department at the Merc News about not selling/knowing how to sell multimedia (he says advertisors were asking to buy into the multimedia pages but sales didn’t know how to handle it)…wow. He kept reinforcing and repeating that what was happening to PJs and VJs was NOT THEIR FAULT. Now that brought some applause…and was sorely needed.

So of course I had to go to his Final Cut on Deadline workshop. He has the basics nailed – what is the minimum you need to survive? Well, first off – don’t go with Pro because Express will do everything you need 99% of the time. How to set the scratch disk – buy an external portable and put all of your media there. How to start a new project – save immediately. How to capture and basic drag and drop editing. Time ran out before he could finish – and he fielded questions as he went along.

Day ended with Scott McKierman (Zuma Press) and Jan Sturmann (Albinocrow) talking about making your way as a freelancer. Not quite a repeat of the am session, which was pretty general – more detailed and again (as many of these sessions are) motivating. YOU CAN DO IT.

On to more of the backlog. Some time ago I mentioned following up on rumors. Specifically a small valley town where the school district superintendent may have worked to get a book banned based on one parent’s complaint.

All along I’ve been in contact with some concerned citizens who feel that this wrong, considering it was only one parent complaining.

Time to go public – now that it seems to be over, although the dust has not settled and there may well be repercussions in the future. The town is Newman and the superintendent of the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, epicenter to this story, is Dr. Richard Fauss. Here’s a link to a story run in the Modesto Bee, plus an editorial. Please note the ironic reference in the last lines in the editorial to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. And the final editorial:

We strongly disagree with the decision of Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District Superintendent Rick Fauss to remove the book “Bless Me, Ultima,” by Rudolfo Anaya, from high school classes. Books should be removed from curricula only in rare circumstances — for pedagogically sound, legally sufficient reasons — and only after conducting a thorough, measured review process that includes evaluating controversial excerpts in the context of the book as a whole.
Banning “Bless Me, Ultima” sets a dangerous precedent. Which books will be next? “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman? “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley? The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling? All are on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged titles. And all, like “Bless Me, Ultima,” are highly recommended by educators across the country.
In our experience, controversies of this sort are best handled by expanding the array of curricular offerings available, not restricting it, and by including more voices in the conversation rather than silencing any. Individual freedom, democracy and a good education all depend on the right to read, inquire, question and think for ourselves.
Kids’ Right to Read Project, National Coalition Against Censorship New York

This story is repeated across our country. Ideas are scary, dangerous things and small minds are often afraid of those whose ideas tower above them.

Saturday slumming….

...we don't know jack about what's next...
...we don't know jack about what's next...

Two years ago I began blogging as a result of a workshop presented by Richard Koci Hernandez here at the SFBAPPA Digital Workshop…now renamed the Digital/Multimedia workshop.

Change was afoot back then. I’d put on a couple of video workshops for students and broadcast cameramen in the three years preceding and the last one was stuffed with still photographers trying to learn video. What a shock – why were THEY there?

Soon after the traditional still workshop began to offer video sessions and it took fire. The fire continues, but the industry, both in print and broadcasting, is changing beyond what I could ever have believed. Newspapers are declaring bankruptcy…both media are cutting and gutting staff.

Buddy Kathy Newell is with me…we can’t seem to fall of the learning curve and keep coming back.

Here’s a quick take on some of the morning workshops

SF State professor Ken Kobre (and author of Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach) introduced and explained his KobreGuide website, along with these thoughts:
1. Challenge your interview – too many newspaper videos focus on a subject and their story without any challenge or other voices – interview someone who has an opposing viewpoint (aka balancing the story). Kobre pointed out that photographers tend to tell a story from one side because they are usually paired with a writer whose story provides both sides
2. The industry needs to standardize material so viewers know what to expect…we’re talking familiar formats
3. KobreGuide is a place for discussion and exchange of ideas and great videos

Dai Sugano/San Jose Mercury News
Showed off some of his visual masterpieces. The man is an artist with a vision few can match.

Jan Sturmann/Freelance & Scott McKiernan/Zuma Press
Freelancing in a Multimedia World
Their message: We love to tell stories…getting into amazing situations and changing other people by what we shoot
The principles of being a good PJ VJ have not changed – it is story driven.
But to run a business…a bit boring, you have a price, a plan.
These guys focused on life outside of the walls of a newsroom. Can you survive if you aren’t on staff? And can you survive if you aren’t freelancing for a news organization?
The answer is yes – there are companies, non-profits, agencies all hungry for content.
But in order to survive you have to know what you’re worth. How long does it take you to produce a story or multimedia piece? What is your time worth?
Multimedia projects so weird, so complicated…how do you judge? You need go get a handle on how long it takes (on average) so you can project costs/profits and give estimates to your client(s).
Also remember to amortize gear and include the cost of buying supplies. Simple business common sense.
Differentiate between marketing or journalism – don’t do the job if you don’t really believe in it…ask a lot of questions
Be consistent
Simple things work
Don’t be afraid to let folks know you are proud of something

Manny Cisneros/Sac Bee kinda surprised me. His take:
Three years ago he handed in his Nikon and was raring to become part of the (multimedia) Crusade. Now he’s back shooting stills.
He isn’t sure what is happening…it’s stagnant…are the crusaders running out of energy?

Richard Koci Hernandez/now a Ford Foundation Fellow at UC Berkeley was all over the place, so I’ll just toss out the notes I took as I tried to keep up with him
Read “Don’t Make Me Think”
Silverback for Mac – usability software
Rule #1 – Learn em break em and then make em
This guy is off the wall
Creativity – what everything boils down to…
Steal…the first rule (it’s not where you take things from its where you take them to)
You need to be a TiVo…you need to watch/know what’s going on/watch music videos…other people
You need to have a journal (I have my blog) but the journal is where you write it down RIGHTNOW so you don’t forget the moment – the instant
Interactivity –
“Wreck this Journal” (another must-read) every page tells you something crazy to do
Failure…we are all afraid of it
You have to fail
Whatever you think/think the opposite (another book)
A whole new mind: why right-brainers will rule the future (yet another book)
Change doesn’t matter – it will be something else tomorrow
Remember why we’re here – if you can’t, move over
The future belongs to those who are willing to get their hands dirty
The future belongs to the creative people
Focus on one thing move to the next
Savor and explore a particular activity
Fail and fail again
Be the storyteller
Astonish me!!! Richard Avadon said this was the best piece of advice he ever got
There is no “I” in journalism
Collaborate share give back


And once again I am excited…rejuvenated…ready to rock and roll and travel the far roads…

What the heck is going on here?

Big shock…and a sense of impending doom. Just caught a news flash on KCBS/San Francisco that the publisher of the San Jose Mercury News is offering a buy-out to all 1,100 employees of that paper, the Oakland Tribune and more than a dozen other papers. Read about it here.

This site has more…the actual announcement to employees from President/Publisher John Armstrong.

Many members of SFBAPPA work at these papers. Some of the brightest and best…folks who lead the way into video for the Internet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for all of them…

SFBAPPA Digital Workshop

Saturday was a bittersweet day. More than a hundred still photographers jammed into the Journalism building at SF State, all excited about learning how to create stories using still images and video as part of the SFBAPPA Digital Workshop. From my perspective they were brilliant visualizers on a steep learning curve with a long path ahead. They can already “see” – they need to learn how to move from seeing in space to seeing in time, as most videojournalists do.

Until recently, still news photography was all about space – how much space on the page is allocated for the photos. How much space on a website. The new paradigm is time – how long can a story be and still hold the viewer’s attention. How long will it take to show the photos/video. How long should each visual remain on the screen.

The questions were almost shoved at me during my workshops. How to begin creating a story. Which software program is best for editing. Everything from technical to aesthetic.
The bitter portion: few television news photographers in attendance. The two media (still and broadcasting) are on a collision course with the final implosion destined to be on the Internet. Newspapers are already claiming the future, with the old “electronic” media trailing behind.

As readers shift from hard copy and television screens to computer screens and the Internet, the media must find ways to keep up and hold their audiences. The danger is not so much in losing readers/viewers as it is in the audience losing a reliable and trustworthy resource. The old ethics must shift to the new media or we will all eventually be living in a fantasy world where nothing is real and whatever we want to believe can be validated by lies.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑