On Saturday I headed down to Clinton, Mo. with my old friend Kevin and my new friend Jean.

Kevin and I met back in 2011 when we were both photographers at the 63rd Missouri Photo Workshop (Go Team W!), and he was eager to go back and see the town, see what had changed, etc. We met up with the family Kevin photographed for the workshop – Dan and Kathy Miles, the owners of the Clinton Daily Democrat.

It was so great to revisit the place where my journey to Mizzou began. In the fall of 2011 I was just cutting my teeth in photography, but somehow I got accepted to the workshop. My incredible faculty that week gave me the confidence I needed to make a change and pursue my goal of working as a photojournalist, not as a crime reporter. Even though I didn’t get to see Kathy, the woman who let me hang out with her for a week to tell her story, I’m so glad I made that trip back “home.”

The Newsroom Bar & Grill where I photographed my story for the 63rd Missouri Photo Workshop

The Newsroom Bar & Grill where I photographed my story for the 63rd Missouri Photo Workshop

Dan Miles, the third-generation publisher of the Clinton Daily Democrat

Dan Miles, the third-generation publisher of the Clinton Daily Democrat

The old King Press at the Democrat

The old King Press at the Democrat

Stacks of inserts

Stacks of inserts

On the press

On the press

Paper

Paper

Mascot

Mascot

The daily paper is generally about 14 pages, laid out by hand, and not a single inch of wire copy

The daily paper is generally about 14 pages, laid out by hand, and not a single inch of wire copy

Downtown

Downtown

4 SALE - so many businesses leaving the town square for the bypass

4 SALE – so many businesses leaving the town square for the bypass

The Newsroom was closed, but I wanted to make a photo anyway

The Newsroom was closed, but I wanted to make a photo anyway

Jean, our intrepid pilot for this journey

Jean, our intrepid pilot for this journey

Kevin and his Leica

Kevin and his Leica

Jim

Jim

It felt nice to be behind the camera again. For a picture story class (and for the Missourian), I spent a day hanging around with Bill Easley, a candidate for the first ward seat on the Columbia city council. Gaining access was a bit of an issue as he was pretty reluctant to let me into his personal life, but I was fairly pleased with the set of images I was able to make in those conditions.

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When I think about Thursday, one word comes to mind: teamwork.

One thing I’ve been trying to stress to our photographers and staffers this semester is that we’re all cogs in a big newsroom machine. We all have a role to play, people to report to, work to produce…we depend on the efforts of others to help us do our best work, and others are depending on us so they can do what they need to do. When we all play our parts, we can do some quality journalism that really serves our community well.

Thursday had a lot going on. There was a memorial and procession for a firefighter who died in the line of duty last week. There was the start of a huge international documentary film festival, and a late-night basketball game.

Our usual staff on a Thursday is three photographers, two photo editors, the Director of Photography and an assistant DP. That’s 7 people on a normal day. But Thursday we had probably twice that number, all working in unison to produce some quality work.

Photo editors and staff photographers not on duty came in to help out. Our team produced live photo galleries of the procession and memorial. Our team of photographers helped cover the procession route so we could gamble by putting a photographer on a fire truck (reminiscent of Paul Fusco’s 1968 photos from RFK’s Funeral Train). Without that team, we would’t have been able to attempt that sort of coverage. Our team worked together to collect audio, video and stills throughout the day, then a team spent a few hours editing a video, which was touching and powerful and really resonated with the community we try to serve (a normal Missourian video might get 100 views. This one from the memorial has been viewed more than 11,000 times, and counting…)

Our teamwork in the morning helped those of us on the nightside do our work. When the morning folks left in the afternoon, they didn’t leave any tasks undone for us to finish. That kind of teamwork meant we could focus on putting out the print edition, and covering the nighttime events. It may sound small, but having things buttoned up on the day side was big. It was one less thing to have to manage throughout the evening. Any night in the newsroom is an exercise in hitting a handful of moving targets, and it was because of our team that we had fewer balls to juggle (to mix metaphors) at night.

On the nightside, our team worked really smoothly. Having colleagues you can trust to do their work is so huge. I knew I could trust Alex, the photo editor, to handle the incoming photos from the film festival and the basketball games. I knew I could trust Peter to deliver on a multimedia piece from the film fest. That freed me up to work with our design team to produce a print edition that would be meaningful for our community. The bad thing about having such talented teammates working on the multimedia from the memorial in the afternoon, and knocking it out of the park, was that they set the bar…our executive editor challenged us to try to produce something as effective as the video, but in print. No pressure there…

All in all, looking back at what our team accomplished on Thursday, I’m very grateful. We set out to do the best journalism we could, to serve our community who was mourning a fallen firefighter. Based on the feedback we’ve received, we did so in a tasteful, respectful, touching, professional manner, and that’s a good feeling.

It’s amazing what a team can accomplish when we all work together.

And what’s more, it’s amazing what knowing you have a competent, professional, knowledgeable, hardworking team allows you to attempt, and execute.

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The Last Alarm from Columbia Missourian on Vimeo.

Last night was a busy night in the Columbia Missourian photo department.

We had a few late assignments, and only one photographer to cover them all. But then that one photographer got a call about a big story we’ve been working on, which meant she had to drop what she was doing and respond to the open window of access we’d been granted. That meant the late assignment would have to be scrapped, were it not for the photo editor on duty springing to action.

First, a mea culpa: sometimes our DoP (Director of Photography) gets an idea. Sometimes these ideas are grand. Sometimes these ideas are moonshots. Last night, I was in no mood for a moonshot. I heard a discussion about multiple cameras and all these sequencing type things, and this “idea” was starting to sound like a major headache for me. He’d get to leave and we’d get to stay to make sure this idea came to fruition. It’ll take too long to turn, I said. It’s too complicated, I said. Let’s aim for something small and simple, I said. Let’s be in bed by midnight, I said.

But Peter Marek, the nightside photo editor working with me, seemed eager, and off he went. The assignment was to interview a local folk musician about his thoughts on the passing of Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer. For those of you who actually read this, and you don’t have a ton of newsroom experience, this is what we call “localizing.” We do that a lot. We take some big national story and try to find some local nail to tie a piece of string to. Anyway…

Peter (not Pete) came back around 9pm (the interview didn’t start til 7:30) with some really great audio, and some cool video of Lee Ruth, who played a Seeger song and reminisced a little. This was good stuff.

All of a sudden, going to bed at midnight didn’t seem so important.

We figured out the sequence, added some file art, and made a decent little multimedia piece…all within a few hours. Earlier in the week it had taken our newsroom 12 hours to post an article and photos from a breaking news story, so the quick turnaround (while still producing something worth watching) was big for us.

Anyway, here it is. It’s pretty simple. Hope you enjoy it. I love when he talks about Seeger’s influence: not so much in style of play, but in trying to “get it right, get the feeling of it, get the heart of it.”

Lee Ruth Seeger Tribute from Columbia Missourian on Vimeo.

Henry Josey dives touchdown

Work isn’t supposed to be this much fun, is it?

I’m very grateful to Brian Kratzer, the director of photography at the Columbia Missourian, for giving Amy Stroth and me the opportunity to travel to Arlington, Texas last week to shoot the Missouri Tigers in the 78th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. Amy and I were the photo sports editors for the 2013 season, and after watching every game from the press box or newsroom, we finally got the chance to shoot a game ourselves. And what a game it was! For 4 hours and 19 minutes we ran up and down the sidelines trying to make pictures of the team we’d been following all season. At the end of the night, the Tigers raised the silver trophy as the confetti rained down, and nothing could have wiped the grins off both of our faces. It had been nearly 18 months since I’d last shot a college game, and I was just happy it didn’t take too long for the rust to come off.

You can see Amy’s coverage of the game on her blog. Someone should hire her quickly!

A few weeks ago we got pretty busy at the Missourian, and we had more assignments than we had photographers. So, I picked up a camera, and after checking to make sure I remembered how to use it, I headed out to shoot something that sounded interesting.

Because of volleyball being played in the Hearnes Center, where wrestling meets are usually held, they had to move the dual meet against Ohio University to Jesse Auditorium. As far as anyone could tell, it was the first time there was wrestling on the theater stage in its 120-year history. I figured the light had to be better than in the old gymnasium, so I was happy to head across campus and see what I could get.

The light was amazing, and I wish they would hold all future wrestling events under theatrical stage lighting. My buddy Tommy at the Abilene Reporter-News told me an old quote from one of his j-school teachers: “When God gives you good light, don’t f$%& it up.” The light was good, and any f-ups are my own.

Missouri wrestling
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Another home football game. Another ranked SEC opponent. Another win for the Missouri Tigers.

This weekend our football coverage staff was back up to full speed. I was based in the Missourian “photo bubble,” and fellow sports photo editor Amy Stroth was in the press box at Faurot Field. We had three photographers on the field to cover the game…all we needed was some good action.

And even though the Tigers were ranked 14th coming into the matchup, they were considered by many to be the underdogs to the No. 22 Gators. The story of the week building up to the game was how redshirt freshman Maty Mauk would fare in place of injured starter James Franklin. He wound up with 2 touchdowns and over 300 yards combined (through the air and on the ground), and at the minimum, he didn’t do anything to cost his team the win. The Tigers’ defense absolutely pestered the Florida QB all game long, which made it easy to pick our main image for the doubletruck.

Overall, I felt like we did a good job capturing the main elements, and the main players, from this week’s game. We’ll see how long this streak keeps up…

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Shot for a class project. Fun times, nice people. Don’t go if you pee your pants easily.

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On Saturday, the No. 25 Missouri Tigers upset No. 7 Georgia on the road in Athens, Ga.

And it was one of my favorite days in the newsroom. Ever.

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Several things conspired to make it so: a great game, great pictures, and a great staff.

Editing sports photos this semester has been challenging at times, as most (if not all) of our photographers are shooting sports like football and volleyball for the first time. They’re learning, and improving week to week, but sometimes pulling together images for a layout is less a matter of picking through the best images, and more a matter of finding those that simply meet the technical criteria for publication. The Missourian is a learning environment for all of us, and we’re still working on some of the finer points of photojournalism.

Yesterday, one of our more experienced photographers — Kevin Cook — was in Athens to cover the game. The Tigers were undefeated heading into the game, but most of their opponents had been less than stellar. Heading into Athens to face the Bulldogs, a team talked about as a possible BCS champion this year, would be their most daunting task. But then went in there and, as one sports writer put it, “punched them in the mouth.” I watched the game on TV, because to me, the photos we choose to publish on our pages have to tell the story of the game. We’re not just throwing pretty pictures up there. So I knew we had to find a way to encompass the outstanding offense, the impressive defense, the injury to the Missouri QB, and a special trick play that everyone would be talking about for days. Thankfully, Kevin was able to deliver images to cover all those bases.

Once the game was over (thank the universe for 11am kickoffs!), the print designers and the photo staff met to discuss our options. This monumental upset was obviously the story of the day, and we knew our readers would be all over it. Hell, we were excited, too…it’s more fun designing pages after a W! The design folks, Erica, Gwen and Gregory, were all on board to do something special. And thankfully, we had the freedom to do it. At my previous paper, all the page designers and graphic artists had been fired years before I got there, and all the layout work was done at a “central desk” some 400 miles away. Separated by such distance, the best we could usually do was beg for a photo to run a little bit bigger, or for it to be re-toned because it was looking really dark on the proofs. But here, with our design desk 5 feet away from the photo department, we were all able to collaborate very closely, picking the images that both told the story of the game, and served the beautiful design we had in mind. It was truly a team effort…everyone offering their opinions, asking questions, tweaking here and there, in order to put out the best possible product. Even the headlines were brainstormed and picked apart by the team. I love the one we ran with for the doubletruck: it’s a triple whammy that included the win, the trick play, and a jab at the “old-man football” controversy from last year.

And, because our designers are incredibly skilled, there were no qualms about blowing up a previous design for the sports front. Gregory wanted to try something different with the “BITTER/SWEET” angle, so he did. And it worked. And that’s what we went with.

Flexibility. Freedom to take chances (based on trust in our ability to do our jobs professionally). Collaboration. Skill. It was a beautiful thing.

Yesterday was a great day. I got to the newsroom at about 9:30am to work on some early morning fan feature stuff from before the game. We were able to serve up some fresh photos on our website for our readers before the game started. I grabbed a little lunch around 11:15, right after the game got underway, and when I left the newsroom at 10:30pm, I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner, and I hadn’t missed it. We were all so caught up in making a great paper.

There are bad days in the newsroom, where infighting and interdepartmental bickering seem to dominate, or when news isn’t happening, or we have less-than-superior work to display.

And then there are days like yesterday.

After my grueling summer research class, I took about a month off to relax, visit friends, eat some great Texas food (and gain about 10 pounds) and get ready for the upcoming semester.

In the spring, I was a staff photographer for the Columbia Missourian. I entered the graduate program at Mizzou with my mind firmly set on returning to newspapers as a staff photojournalist, and was excited to have the chance to work in this role.

But, one of the electives offered is a class called “Newspaper Photo Desk Management.” It’s the picture editing class. Everyone I talked to said the class would be helpful, because being an editor makes you a better shooter, and vice versa. So, I signed up for the class hoping it would help me as a photographer.

I did not expect, however, that I would enjoy the class as much as I do. Being on the other side of the picture desk is an entirely different experience from being a photographer, and rewarding in its own ways. I’ll have more to write about that as I gain more experience, but I’ve already learned a few things about myself. As much as I enjoy taking photos, I really enjoy working with the photos of others to tell stories. Beyond going through their “takes” (what they shot on any given assignment), there’s an opportunity to coach and teach which is incredibly rewarding. More about that below…

My role at the Missourian this semester is as a sports photo editor. I work Friday and Saturday (Game Day) and work with another photo editor to guide the paper’s coverage of prep and college sports. This past Saturday was our first real outing as we covered all that surrounded a Mizzou game day. We had two photo editors and three staff photographers at Memorial Stadium, and our job was to decide on the images for both A1 and B1 (the front-front page and the sports front page) as well as decide on all the images for a “doubletruck” inside sports. You can see what we came up with below. We also had to create a “linear edit” for an online slideshow. Picking images for a two-page spread is very different from picking them for a slideshow, where they’ll be seen one at a time.

Anyway, I know I have a lot to learn about photo editing in general, but I’m having a blast so far…and we havent’ even gotten into SEC play yet.

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The headlines make more sense when you learn Mizzou won by 44 points, and that the Murray State team is the Racers…

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I was also thrilled with the work our shooters turned in. I was nervous going in that we wouldn’t have good raw material to work with in designing our covers and doubletruck, since it was the first college football game for all of them. For some, it was their first time ever shooting with long glass like a 300mm or 400mm. But we got great action shots and fan features, and were able to produce some interesting pages, I think. The challenge was following the story of the game as it unfolded (for instance, the lead image and headline wouldn’t have worked if the game had ended like it started, when Mizzou was down 14-13…) and finding a nice mix of action and crowd stuff. Since we had two good action shots on the covers, we felt like we could feature more crowd and fan photos on the inside.