Info for New Photo Students

HS Media Workshop 2009

Welcome to school.
I am always asked what gear and software students will need in the Point Park University Photojournalism B.A and Photography B.F.A. program. I’m also often asked about what a student can expect in the program.

I’ll break down your anticipated needs and expectations by class level.

35mm film SLR cammera
Yes, that is correct, film. Your first two semesters, and possibly more if you choose, will be film based. We use the traditional wet process to give you a solid foundation in the basics and historical relevance of traditional photography. Understanding the darkroom process will give you the vocabulary and skills you need to be a better digital photographer.

The university does have a few to loan out on a first come first serve basis. This is handy if you aren’t sure you want to stay in photography as a major.

I’d also stick to using the schools computers until you are sure of your preferences (MAC or PC)

By now you should be committed to one of the photography majors. Your education will begin to shift into the digital world quite rapidly. It would be my advice to spend your money on an lower end camera body kit and use the schools loaner lenses. We have Nikon glass. You will have the opportunity to try out a few thing before making a big commitment to quality lenses for yourself. You may also want to consider a computer that has the ability to be upgraded over the next year or two to keep pace. Bear this in mind that no matter the computer you buy now it will be obsolete before you know it. Consider a student version of the latest Photoshop Suite. You should be shooting for the student media and be looking for opportunities to lead and move up.

You are a serious student now. Your function now shifts from ‘learning’ photography basics to experimenting on your own with new techniques and bouncing the results off of your classmates and teachers. refining your skills and learing all that you can from others. You should be building your professional network and begin looking for an internship. You should be an active member or a leader in the student media and belong to an outside professional organization like NPPA or ASMP.
You should be investing in good glass for your camera, f2.8 or faster. Your first lens should cover a good range like 28-105mm. A second lens should be an 80-200. If you can swing a third, consider a super-wide lens for tight situations.
You will need the ability to process images on your own computer to meet class deadlines. It is also quite likely that you could land your first freelance assignment, you’ll need the flexibility of your own gear to complete the assignment. You’ll be learning multimedia and will need video editing software like Final Cut Express or Adobe Premiere.

Within a year you will graduate. You must enter into the business 100% and support yourself soon. Networking and portfolio building will be your mantra for the year. Knowing the right people will get you places, also you should be ritualistically checking the NPPA job data bank and others for opportunities. Shooting for the student media and the Point Park News Service should be a big part of your routine. Generating multimedia and shooting video should be things you are willing and able to do. Resistance is futile, this is the future. Position yourself to take advantage of it. Creating your own opportunities will be imperative to your success in the future. Ask members of the local chapters of NPPA and ASMP how they got their start and adapt that information to your own unique set of skills. Upgrading to to a more powerful camera allows you more freedom to create. You must have your own gear to completely take advantage of opportunities that come your way. You should also take the Business of Photography course and become interested in the ins and outs of conducting business properly if you choose to freelance. Being skilled, creative and meeting a deadline is mandatory.

Good luck to you. I look forward to helping your reach your goals.

Tilt Shift

Tilt Shift

For several years I have been playing around in Photoshop making fake tilt-shift photographs, with decent results, using the quick mask and gradient tools.

These images represent an experiment with the Nikon PC-E 45mm f2.8 perspective control lens. The lens offers a full range of tilts and shifts allowing the user to control the angle of the focal plane.

The applications for the lens could range from architecture and food. I will be incorporating it periodically when shooting news and people. I think using it sparingly will slowly introduce another authentic technique to my photography and teaching bag of tricks.

See more tilt shift images here.

Tilt Shift

Montour Trail

The Montour Trail runs from Coraopolis to Clairton totaling 46 miles when complete. Only 40 miles are complete to date. New sections are being completed each year.

The images and photos we compiled from a series of rides taken along the trail to support an article about the 20th anniversary of the trail in the October issue of Allegheny West Magazine.

The still images were taken with a Canon G9 point and shoot. The video was captured with a Flip secured to the bike handle bars with a GorillaPod. Adobe Premiere was used to edit the segment.

Epilogue: The Flip video camera is no more. On a ride yesterday the cameras batteries died. After I took the camera off of the bike to change the batteries the camera slipped out of my hands. The camera hit the deck of the McDonald Trestle and then tumbled off the edge and fell 40 feet onto the Panhandle Trail below. Luckily, no one was passing through when the camera fell. Unfortunately all of the video captured yesterday was lost. The camera was not recording when it fell.

Student News Services

Kevin, Kelly, Jessica
This month’s Society of Professional Journalists Quill Magazine features the Point Park News Service and a few of my photographs. The news service is coordinated by Andrew Conte of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The service consists of a writing section and a photojournalism section. I coordinate the photojournalists. Each student in the News Service has an opportunity to have their fresh new stories and images published in the Tribune-Review and beyond. Have a look and see how student news services are changing journalism.

PFDO 2009

PFDO 2009

These images are from the amateur division of the 2009 Pittsburgh Flying Disk Society’s Flying Disk Open held annually at Knob Hill Park in Cranberry, Twp and Moraine State Park in Portersville. The two-day open is qualifying event for both the United States Disc Golf Championship and The Vibram Open. The event draws amateurs and professionals from around the nation.

While shooting this event I chose a shady spot underneath a few pines at the edge of the course. I grabbed a seat and used a mono pod and a Nikon 300mm telephoto lens to stay out of the field of play while retaining a shallow, isolating depth of field. Every few minutes new players each bringing their own unique facial expressions and techniques would step to the tee and drive the disk down range.

PFDO 2009

Montour Trail

Montour Trail

A recent ride along the Montour Trail just near the Steubenville Pike in western Allegheny County.

I am photographing the trail for Allegheny West Magazine in advance of the trail’s 20th Anniversary in November.

The trail goes from Coraopolis to Clairton. I will ride and photograph between Mile 0 in Moon Twp. to Mile 18 in McDonald.

Stay tuned to the October edition to see the final spread.

Abandoned Turnpike

Over an embankment at the intersection of Tannery Road and the Lincoln Highway in Breezewood, Pa. is a nearly nine mile stretch of abandon highway that served as the a part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike from 1940 though 1968.

Abandoned Turnpike

The stretch contains two tunnels, Sideling Hill and Ray’s Hill, the 14th and 47th longest tunnels in the United States according to Lotsberg, The World’s Longest Tunnel List. It is also the only known abandoned superhighway in America as touted by the Pike 2 Bike organization that oversees the trail.

Abandoned Turnpike

The roadway remains intact in places, but is crumbling badly in others. No identifying markings remain that would indicate that the roadway was once the Turnpike. The remote nature of the roadway provides a surreal experience, allowing a bike rider to experience a futuristic view of what the world may look like after superhighways are no longer useful. Photographically speaking there are two or three vistas that provide nice glimpses incorporating the abandon roadway and tunnels into the surrounding landscape.

Abandoned Turnpike

Evidence remains that the highway had a use as a proving ground after it was closed in 1968. Rumble strips, paint and reflectors appear in random intervals near the Tannery Road trail head. Otherwise, plants, trees and the forest are slowly over taking the roadway, adding to the deterioration. The tunnel control rooms are open but otherwise are a royal mess filled with mud, water and litter.

Abandoned Turnpike

The ride is very easy and can be done with children. My son was fascinated by the tunnels. There are no extreme grades or hills. The most challenging portion of the ride is ensuring that you have enough light to see through the darkened tunnels. At Ray’s Hill the opposite ends of the tunnel can be seen from either portal. At Sideling Hill you must enter the tunnel blind. The tunnel arcs from one end to the other and crowns in the middle meaning the opposite ends of the tunnel cannot be seen from the portals. You must ride a significant portion into the tunnel to see the opposing portal. A light is an absolute necessity.

A word of caution, vandals have left their mark near the western portal of the Ray’s Hill Tunnel. Normally, the content of graffiti does not bother me. I do find it childish to deface public structures, however, what I found is truly disappointing and cowardly. There is serious racist and anti-Semitic graffiti marring the walls and roadway near the western portal of the tunnel. On this particular day I had my three-year old son with me. I am thankful that he can’t read yet. I really didn’t want to have the conversation with him about what all of those words and symbols mean.

GigaPan Magazine First Edition

© 2009 StartPoint Media, Inc

GigaPan Magazine

Check out the first edition of GigaPan Magazine featuring GigaPan images created by Point Park University Digital Photo Editing students. The students used the GigaPan robot camera as a tool of reportage to create articles and imagery in a new interactive way.

The student produced GigaPan images will be on display at the Point Park University Library during the fall 2009 semester. The library is located at 414 Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh.

In this edition I was given the honor of writing the ‘About’ section. Thanks to Dror Yaron, Outreach Coordinator of CMU’s CREATE lab who partnered with my Digital Photo Editing class on this project and for the opportunity.

UCP Pittsburgh

UCP Pittsburgh, originally uploaded by StartPoint Media.

© 2009 StartPoint Media, Inc

Production shot from my recent shoot at the United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsburgh. Here, I am photographing program directors with a two light set-up. Both lights are Nikon SB-800’s. The front light is bounced into a Calumet umbrella, the rear light is direct. The exposure was made for about 1.5 stops under ambient light.

Iva Provias made this photograph with my Canon G9

The result is linked here.

Father Ryan Arts Center

Father Ryan Arts Center, originally uploaded by StartPoint Media.

I recently was assigned to photograph HDR images of the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks where I am the contract photographer.

This image was shot normally as a 9 stop HDR. I processed the 32 bit file in Photoshop, saved as a TIFF. Next I open the image in the Photomatix stand alone program and process the image there. I usually use the Photoshop plugin. The image was then tweaked in Photoshop. I like the results, they are comparable to what I have been able to achieve with the plug-in.

I learned this process from a student in my HDR program which was presented to the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).

Get 20 professionals together with a copy of Photoshop and you are bound to learn something even if you are the teacher.