Comment

Relaunching the Blog

It has been eight months since my last post here - and for that, I am sorry.On the banks of the Hiwassee River in the Hiwassee Ocoee State Park in Polk County, Tennessee.

With the London 2012 Olympic Games coming up, I feel that I need to keep up with this blog.

A few sneak peaks at some posts that will be coming in the next few weeks.

- Gear guide - getting started

- London 2012 (planning international coverage out of a backpack)

- Football preview

- Five Years and Counting (My career in journalism hits 5)

I hope this renewed energy will continue throughout an insane rest of the year.

- Steve

Comment

3 Comments

"Don't be a weenie"

When I was a freshman at the University of Florida, I was trying to figure out a complex world of adjusting to college life, figuring out a career path and a slew of personal and professional problems.

I did my best to stay involved and participate in as many professional organizations as possbile. SPJ, NPPA, Advisory Councils and many more.

North Floirda Herald Nov. 27, 2011. This may be the final issue of The North Florida Herald, the one that is in the stands now.

These were not very productive, in my humble opinion, for an individual to grow. You are exposed to many facets of the industry and occasionaly inspired. 

In October of 2008, I attended a meeting with the College of Journalism and Communications Advisory Council for the department of journalism. As a freshman, I sat in a room with my older classmates, friends and present and future colleagues. We sat silent after our introductions.

But one man in the room wouldn't have this.

"Come on guys. Don't be a weenie!," was yelled from the corner.

We laughed, and then began one of the most productive two hours of my college career.

From rants on slow registartion to poor professors, curriculum and the state of our aweful student lounge, the council listened - and so did Ron Dupont.

Ron was not yet the editor and publisher of the High Springs Herald (soon to become the North Florida Herald). But he was a passionate journalist who knew the positive effects local journalism had on its community.

I was already interning at The Gainesville Sun when I met Ron, and he immedietly told me how important it was that I work for the Herald.

I foolishly got caught up in a furry of freelance work and never got around to interning for Ron.

This decision is one I will regret for quite some time.

As an editor, Ron would challenge his interns like no other I knew. He and I had lengthy discussions on the importance of making writers take photographs and making photographers write. Ron was the first to tell me that I needed to learn how to do more than "just take pictures."

At the end of our advisory council meetings I walked up to Ron, upset at his accusations of weenieness.

"I'm no weenie," I exclaimed.  

He laughed, and we talked some more.

In editing this post, it looks more like a eulogy than a friendly compliment to a mentor I respect.

It is a eulogy in a sense.

This week, the North Florida Herald will be closing its doors after over a half century of providing a service to its readers that can never be replaced.

The Herald understood the importance of forming a relationship with its readers. No story was too small, and every reader had a voice.

I had the pleasure of being published in the Herald twice. Once while I was working on a seperate project in Alachua County and stumbled across a brush fire, and the second, when Ron called me to cover a high school prom. I learned more about local journalism and the impact on its readers that night than I could in any university classroom.

I can't imagine how differently my career path might have been if I spent a week, a semester, a year with Ron and the Herald. My career would have been changed for the better.

I am forever grateful of his passion for local journalism and the Herald's dedication to its readers.

Let's hope there is some way to save the Herald or another form of quality journalism that can come out of this incredibly sad situation.

If anybody wanted to help, even in small way, you can always mail a check to P.O. Box 745, High Springs, FL 32655. The checks should be made payable to The North Florida Herald with a note that the money is a gift. 

Facebook Group

Facebook Page

3 Comments

1 Comment

Back at the Races

Daytona International Speedway is like a second home to me when it comes to making pictures. It's where I learned how to shoot big events, isolate and find a story in a sea of visual elements and work with a team of photographers to tell a story.

This time it was a little different. I was given free reign.

Rarely do I get a chance to shoot for myself at a sporting event like the Coke Zero 400, so this was a treat in itself.

In the media frenzy that surrounded the Fourth of July weekend, the Casey Anthony trial, shuttle launch and Eric Plancher trial, a NASCAR race was not on the top of the priorities in the newspaper world.

Normally, I would be assigned to one spot on the track and shoot with a team of photographers to cover a race, but with declining budgets and interest in race coverage, the need for a dozen photographers from one news organization to cover one event has passed.

So I ran, literally.

I started the race on the roof of the Sprint Tower, just above the start/finish line, then ran over to the grandstands to shoot pit row, then back up to Robert's Tower to get a different angle of the track, then jumped on a four wheeler to the infield, shot in pit row until about 20 laps left in the race and, finally, made my way to Gatorade Victory Lane to shoot the finish and celebration. After a few miles of walking with all of my gear, I was ready for a beer and a hotdog with the rest of the photographers on the track after the race - a tradition kept up by John Raox of the Associate Press.


NASCAR will always be near and dear to my heart, it is where I spent many weeks developing my shooting style and met many good friends in the business.

My Best,

- Steve 

 

1 Comment

6 Comments

Final Cut Pro X - Initial Thoughts

I just picked up a copy of Final Cut Pro X and have finally had some time to work on a few projects with the controversial update to the industry-leading editing software.
This will be the first of a few blog posts about FCPX, and I hope it helps some of you with your decisions on upgrading.
Prosumer: FCPX is only $300. The days of the "elite" $1K program of FCP7 is over. Apple definitely upset a lot of professionals (including me). But, the more I am using FCPX, the more I can see what Apple was thinking when they were tired of so many editing suites doing the exact same thing. But, a lot of what we needed in these other programs can now be easily done in FCPX.
Workflow: Completely throw away your entire way of working with FCP7 when you come to FCPX. It will make your life much easier to just go in with an open mind. After spending about four hours today trying to get my file structure import into FCPX, it was a dream. (Make sure you uncheck the box that copies your files into the FCPX "event" structure). I can not keep all of my raw photos and video in Apple's Aperture and drag them into FCPX. No exporting, no MPEG streamclip, no importing. This is huge for me. I can make a "smart album" in Aperture, rate my photos and videos and drag the files into FCPX that I want and run.
Timeline: The magnetic timeline is actually a very good idea. FCPX makes it nearly impossible for you to screw up your audio/video syncing. You can take a series of clips (A roll and B roll) and "connect them to the primary storyline." This allows you to move blocks of your package without screwing up what you highlight and move like in FCP7. The compound clip feature is also a great way to keep a finished part of your project in tact. (See Pictures)
Exporting: While this may be a little consumer grade. The export settings make life very easy to get your files to various social media outlets. You do need to buy Compressor ($49) if you want the more advanced settings that TV stations would need to run on air. Again, FCPX was only $300, so I'm not too upset about this.
Looking Ahead: FCPX is pretty darn powerful. There is a noticeable speed difference with the 64-bit architecture, and once Apple gets there act together and works out the bugs and adds a few of the old features, I can see this working very well in collaborative environment. I still have a bunch of questions for the Apple engineers next week. If you have any more, please let me know, and I'll relay the message.

 

My Best,

- Steve

6 Comments

3 Comments

Final Cut in Florence

For the month of May, I've been living in one of the must culturally rich places on Earth.

After a day of travel and a seemingly endless traffic jam from Rome to Florence, I finally made it to my apartment on Via del Inferno (The Street of Hell).

My roommate, Steven Gallo, on Via del Inferno.

Myself and about 100 other Gators from the University of Florida have taken over this historic city as our home base for an action-packed month of travel throughout Italy.

I will be teaching a Final Cut editing with one of my great friends Professor Norm Lewis. Lewis also teaches at the University of Florida as an editing and ethics professor.

So far, the trip has been absolutely amazing and the schedule has been relentless. So much, in fact, that I have not updated my blog in the first two weeks that I have been here.

Between shooting upwards of a thousand photographs a day, taking and teaching a class and enjoying the rich supply of red wine that Italy has to offer let's just say blogging has not been on the top of my list.

We have an amazing itinerary for the month, including weekend trips to Venice, Sorrento, Capri, Pompei, Mt. Vesuvius and Rome.

I will do my best to update the blog each day this week with photos and video from each of our adventures.

Cheers,

- Steve

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, commonly referred to as the Duomo, acts as the city center and landmark for Florence.

3 Comments

7 Comments

2011 FSPA Convention - Orlando

Each spring I am afforded the opportunity to spend three days with some of the most passionate, intelligent and motivated journalists in the world - high school students at the FSPA State Convention.

This year, we took over Orlando, Fla. and with over 1,000 students, there was plenty of fun to be had.

Usually, I teach a myriad of classes, from 'How to Freelance' to 'Multimedia Reporting,' the students are eager to learn and even more eager to get to college.

We had a special guest, and one of my best friends, Miles Doran, join us at the convention as a keynote speaker and lecturer for the weekend.

Miles and I combined forces to teach a special session on getting into the business of journalism. It was a fantastic experience to meld the print/online world of journalism I work in and Miles' extensive experience in television with CBS News.

CBS News Digital Journalist, Miles Doran, lectures on how to pack for 'backpack journalism.'

After going through both of our interesting career paths and speculating where our industry is heading, we got to sit down with students and talk about their experiences, classes and what they think journalism is. 

Miles and I were able to share some great experiences with the students and give a little dose of reality to what they think they want to enter into. 

I always enjoy teaching at FSPA and can't wait until more workshops with some of the best student journalists I've ever worked with.

My Best,

- Steve

7 Comments

4 Comments

Austin Rivers Light Painting

Light painting is about as far from 'the norm' that I call my work environment as possible. I shoot in football stadiums, arenas and all over the world. Light painters spend upwards of 14 hours at a time in a completely dark studio with only a small flashlight and some customized lights to make art.

Aurora Crowley has been light paining for over a decade and has spent the better part of his adult life in a darkrooms and a dark rooms. Using customized lights, varying in size, shape and texture, Crowley can literally paint his subjects during an exposure, resulting in a mind-blowing image that can never be recreated.

When ESPN RISE asked me to produce a video on a photo shoot with basketball star Austin Rivers, I knew it was going to be a fun experience, but I never expected this.

 

You can find more of Aurora Crowleys work at his website.

My Best,

- Steve

4 Comments

2 Comments

Black and White

Look into the eyes of a wrestler and you will see a primitive hunger for competition that defines champion.

There is no sport with such a definitive winner and loser as wrestling.

And on the biggest stage, the NCAA Wrestling Championships, the stories are in the faces of the winners and losers.

The name of the game is to defeat your opponent in the most dominating way, breaking them down physically and mentally to a point of exhaustion, a point of complete helplessness where you are constrained by someone better, faster and stronger than you are.

It is as clear as black and white who is the winner and loser of a match.

They say the tournament eats wrestlers alive. If you make it to the top, in just three days you will have to wrestle five of the toughest matches of your life.

Blood, sweat and raw power grace these mats for 640 matches to determine who is the ultimate winner in a tournament that will break a man down to their lowest point.

In other sports, a winner can thank his teammates, coaches, trainers and even the play calling; in wrestling, a loser has been defeated by himself. Sitting alone on the mat, in front of thousands, as the opponents hand is raised high above his own. There is no last-second shot, bad snap of the ball or wrong play calling to blame. In wrestling, you take the loss in its entirety.

But just as a loss in wrestling can bring you to your lowest of lows, a win takes you to a high experience by few.

Looking at the faces of the competitors, you can see the raw emotion that comes with wrestling. As you walk through the guts of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, you can pass a split face pouring a mix of sweat and blood down the chinstrap of a wrestlers headgear, and only a few steps away, the tears of defeat set in as a competitor leaves the floor for the last time.

As competition closes, winners are chosen and, ultimately, the individual points won are tallied and a team goes home with a championship.

There are faces of pain, sorrow, victory and defeat, but one thing stays constant as the mats are glazed with blood and sweat, there is passion behind every moment and emotion left in the ring.

My Best,

- Steve

2 Comments

3 Comments

"The Mothership" - ESPN Bristol, CT

"The Mothership," "the center of the sports universe," "the really cold place in Connecticut where everything you know in sports is created."

This is ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, CT.

I have been fortunate enough to be a small part of the ESPN family since 2007 and have had a blast every minute I have been with them - even when I am branded with the nickname "boy wonder" within the company.

As I took this trip up North, I knew it was going to be a mad dash from newsroom to TV studio. On planes, trains, subways and taxi cabs, I raced across five states and ESPN was my second-to-last stop.

I was already feeling the effects of my travels by the time I made it to Bristol, but when I stepped foot onto campus everything changed.

The town of Bristol is just a part of ESPN - not the other way around.

Bristol is a town while ESPN's headquarters is a city. The campus spans dozens of buildings, housing some of the most advanced television and radio stations with the most impressive infrastructure I've ever seen.

Adam Richman, who is part of ESPN's IT team, works with almost every aspect of the company in Bristol. Improving the infrastructure between the many branches of the company, Adam's extensive knowledge of the workings of ESPN made this trip ideal.

When you have nearly 5,000 employees working on one campus, communication can be difficult. ESPN has mastered internal communications with terminals around campus where you can enter your employee ID and see your schedule on a flat-screen TV right in front of you. There are also various Cisco monitors across campus broadcasting information to employees throughout the day.

Visiting Bristol has been on my to-do list for years, and the trip was everything I hoped for. Working with so many talented people over the years has allowed me to grow as a professional and expand my business. When you have the four letters of ESPN attached to your business, in any way, doors can open and hard work pays off.

My first editor, Lynn Hoppes, at The Orlando Sentinel has since left the paper to work for ESPN in Bristol, running "Page 2" of their website. Lynn has offered invaluable advice in the past and it was great to see an old friend after a few years of e-mailing and Facebook posting.

Everyone at ESPN, from broadcast to public relations to the online team has been a dream to work with. It has been an incredible journey as "boy wonder" with ESPN, and I cannot wait to see what exciting project we will work on next.

My Best,

- Steve

3 Comments

1 Comment

NYT Visit

If I was in New York City and in search of newsrooms to evaluate and bring back to UF, I had to stop by The New York Times. 

The Times opened their new building in November of 2007, and since then, it has been a landmark of journalism.

Gone are the days of grandiose newsrooms, marble entranceways and 40-foot ceilings. Newsrooms like The New York Times simply don't exist anymore, they are a dying breed because of the economy and the nature of our industry.

The need for a large newsroom is virtually obsolete for almost every smaller news outlet and many of the large organizations are not building new facilities.

Like the University of Maryland, The New York Times had a clean slate to work with when planning their operations. Utilizing internal stairways, natural light and planned open spaces, The Times newsroom is not only inviting, but efficient.

David Frank, a videographer for The Times, was kind enough to show me around for the day. David visited the University of Florida last year to come speak at the College of Journalism and Communications. 

A lot has changed in the news industry since the opening of the building in 2007 and since the planning of the building almost 10 years earlier. The darkrooms have been turned into offices and video editing bays and the structure of the newsroom has been changed to allow web content editors to be more centralized to keep the online content a top priority of the paper.

As a journalist, The Times is the holy grail of newsrooms. Again and again, everyone I have visited on this trip has been so inviting and open in sharing their thoughts on how a newsroom should operate. It is amazing how interested our industry is in improving the way we share the news with the world.

My Best,

- Steve

*Here are a few more photos from my visit.



1 Comment

4 Comments

CBS Visit

Miles and I on the set of CBS Evening News.

In college you're supposed to drink more, study less and make work a second priority. Well, my good friend Miles Doran and I never really saw it that way - and it paid off.

Miles graduated in May of 2010 and now works as a digital journalist at CBS News in New York. We never got a chance to hang out much in college because of our schedules, but now, our paths cross across the country and what can be some of the most stressful trips have now been turned into welcoming reunions.

As I was touring the east coast in search of the perfect newsroom, Miles invited me to tour the CBS studios and take a few notes. While CBS is one of the smaller national network news outlets, it competes with the big boys at ABC and NBC with a much smaller staff - and they do it well.

Because of the digital journalists like Miles that CBS has created, they are able to travel lighter, be in more places at once and get stories back to NYC faster than many other networks.

The CBS newsroom in New York City.

What excited me the most was the implementation of DSLR video recording in their news operation. At UF, we have just begun to work with Canon 7D cameras and creating "fly-packs" to outfit journalists to report across multiple platforms on a single assignment. This is comforting to know that even the bigger operations have seen the value in the one-man-band approach to journalism and the use of DSLR video recording.

I can't wait to see what Miles will do next with his already impressive resume at CBS, I'm sure our paths will cross again soon.

 

 My Best,

 - Steve

4 Comments

4 Comments

Bloomberg Visit

The outside of the Bloomberg offices in New York City.

While venturing the east coast I was able to stop by Bloomberg's NYC offices in Manhattan to tour their facilities and see what they have done to run a more efficient newsroom.

Their burro chief was more than welcoming and gave me what seemed like a hour-long tour in about 25 minutes.

To put it simply, Bloomberg has their act together and at the highest level. You can converge newsroom this and cross platform that all day - Bloomberg actually does it.

From the "cool" factor of a New York City office to the guts of a working newsroom, every aspect of the glass sculpture of a building was planned with meticulous detail. Probably the most important planning done during the construction of the offices was the ability to change. Almost every desk in the newsroom was a terminal. Anyone can work anywhere at anytime. More importantly, they can adjust their layout and numbers according to the news. For example: for the past few years, the real estate market has been a hot topic, so they  shifted their reporters and added space for that section of their operation, now foreign affairs is taking center stage again and, once again, the workspace can be configured to accommodate the story.

Bloomberg has taken the Apple-esque minimalist approach to their studios to a whole new level. There is no fancy desk, no big sign and no permanent floor plan, just a raised floor, screen and a small podium for a laptop. The working newsroom serves as both a backdrop and secondary studios for corresponding editors to be on camera.

The newsroom was a working set at all times. As we would walkthrough the building, crews with wireless network cameras were setting up the next shot or robotic cameras were positioning shots to air in a segment.

Once we completed the tour of the studios and newsroom, I was fortunate enough to learn about the ins and outs of managing a staff of 1,000 and at the request of Bloomberg I will leave that portion out of my writing.

As I continue my search for a perfect news operation, I think Bloomberg has jumped to my No. 1 spot and will stay there for quite some time.

Efficiency is the name of the game in New York City and the media industry and from their print, television , online and mobile news outlets, to even my tour, was conducted in the most efficient way possible maximizing their output of over 5,000 stories a day and one very impressed journalist. 

A special thanks to Bloomberg's NYC Bureau Chief and everyone who was so welcoming in the longest 25 minutes of trip.

 

My Best,

 

- Steve

4 Comments

4 Comments

UMD Journalism

I cannot thank the faculty and staff at the University of Maryland enough for their hospitality at the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism.

Knight Hall on the campus of the University of Maryland on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

As we begin our ambition plans at the University of Florida to expand our news operations, we sought out Knight Hall at UMD as a prime example of how the workflow should be structured.

Their building was stunning and their students were equally impressive. Trying to teach the future of journalism at a time when the professionals are still trying to answer the same questions as the students may seem impossible, but at UMD, they have used their facilities and resources to their advantage to give their students a taste of the real world before they leave campus.

Students work in the 24/7 "News Bubble," on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

From the garage band lab, where students can learn in a collaborative setting, to the 24/7 news bubble, where, at anytime, students can use the facilities to master their craft.

Students work in the main entranceway to Knight Hall on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

UMD has created a very open and transparent college that allows students to work both collaboratively and focus individually - something that is very difficult to achieve while designing a workspace.

I am truly grateful for the warm welcome I have received at UMD and cannot wait to invite them to our new facilities at UF.

My Best,

- Steve

4 Comments

4 Comments

A Front Seat to History

In the midst of an east coast binge tour, a 15-day seven-city vacation/business trip, I found the time to take a few hours off in Washington D.C. to visit the Newseum. No not a new museum, as the rest of my family has asked when I am speaking on the phone, but a museum dedicated to the great journalists that bring us the news every day in every medium.

A panoramic view from the top of the Newseum in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

It felt more like a modern history of the World than it did a museum of news. From the Berlin Wall to 9/11 to Katrina, the Newseum covers it all.

Even more impressive than the stories, photographs, radio and television broadcasts were the amazing people that, at some points, risked their lives have a front row seat to history.

The Newseum in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

I am so fortunate to have worked with many of the brilliant journalists featured in the Newseum and proud to call myself a colleague of these amazing people.

If you are ever in Washington D.C., the Newseum is a must on your list of things to see. I can’t wait until they add a section for the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010 to see the amazing work of the friends I made while covering that story last summer.

I also got to meet up with my good friend Lesley Clark for lunch and visit the McClatchy offices in D.C. while I was in town. It’s always great to share the “war stories,” that Lesley and I experienced while cover the Gulf oil spill together.

Next is a train ride to NYC for a visit to ABC, Bloomberg, CBS and The New York Times.

Lesley Clark and I on the streets of Washington D.C. on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.My Best,

- Steve

4 Comments

2 Comments

The Future of Journalism (Oh My)

If I didn't have enough on my plate as we enter the spring, I was asked by the University of Florida to join their task force on their expansion project for Weimer Hall (College of Journalism and Communications).

I happily joined.

Weimer Hall is near and dear to my heart. As a journalist from the University of Florida, I would do anything that could better my school. I have been discovering my career in that building since I was in high school.

So as the weeks of meeting ran by, the big one was coming up. A two-day marathon of a session with our builders (AJAX) and our architects (ROWE). There was one problem, we didn't know what we wanted.

 Executive Director of Multimedia Properties at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, Randy Wright, holds preliminary outlines of the building expansion project.

As the meeting creeped closer, I scribbled faster. Finally, the night before our big meeting and after a long day of traveling, my good friend and producer Reed Erickson and I started scribbling in a more permanent and professional fashion; with plates from IKEA and CDs to use as protractors.

Primitive, but it got the job done.

Never did I think that my job as a journalist would entail drawing on blueprints of planning what I thought is the future of journalism. This newsroom will encompass multiple radio and television stations, along with a news service that will be using students from all mediums of journalism. Try fitting all of that into one room!

It was a late night working on the preliminary drawings. This photo was taken at about 2 a.m. in the early stages of our drawing (and eating).

We just wrapped up day one of meetings and after 8 hours of discussions, there is a pretty cool concept being formed for the new expansion to Weimer Hall.

As this process progrsses, I will be sure to post as many updates as possible.

Always on the move,

- Steve

2 Comments

1 Comment

Spot News

Rarely do I get to jump into the action of spot news. This is because, one, Gainesville does not have a lot of spot news and, two, I am usually working on other projects and contract work that doesn't allow me to cover the daily news.

Luckily, or unfortunately for the homeowners, my director, Brad Noblitt, and I ran across a brush fire in Alachua while filming "Our Town." We immediately turned around and raced toward the smoke, grabbed our camera (Brad was shooting on a Panasonic 500 and I was shooting with a Nikon D3s).

It was amazing to shoot side by side with two completely different technologies. We are in the process of testing DSLR cameras for video production and feature television shows but did not plan on using it for spot news for quite some time. This was a giant leap forward in our work to showcase the possibilities of DSLR video.

The fires were eventually put out and no homes were destroyed.

One amazing ability of shooting news with the Nikon D3s was the ability to quickly switch between still photographs and video. Below are just a few photos taken during our time at the scene. I was also able to shoot about 15 minutes of video. Because we had to run to our next location for "Our Town," we did not stick around for interviews, but this would have also been possible with the DSLR.

It's exciting to see the potential of DSLR video as a tool for spot news to get photographs, video and audio out as soon as possible.


1 Comment

1 Comment

Producing

Filming has begun for a new series on PBS affiliate WUFT called "Our Town." Each one-hour show will feature two small towns in Florida. I have been fortunate enough to be asked to produce this show with the team at Creative Services with WUFT.

We have a staff of 22 not including myself, director Brad Noblitt and producer Ken Pemberton. When I sat down with Brad and Ken to begin planning the show, we decided to hire journalism students instead of telecommunication students to do the bulk of the reporting which has turned out to be a fantastic decision.

We've almost wrapped up filming in both Alachua and High Springs, the towns we chose for this first show, and we will air at the beginning of March.

The stories that have come out of these small towns have been both surprising and a breath of fresh air. After getting caught up in so many sports and news stories, it is nice to go out and work on some feature stories.

Producing is an odd change of pace for me; I'm usually the one behind the camera and planning each stage of any production. To manage  20+ journalists has had its many challenges, but in the end, the ideas formed as a group and stories produced will make for a fantastic television show.

More posts will come as we edit trailers and commercials and finalize the graphics.

Always on the move,

- Steve

1 Comment

1 Comment

Balancing Success

Every freelance journalist's goal is to stay busy. To have enough work to pay the bills, yet still have the flexibility to make your own schedule.

With this success comes a downside. That "freedom" desired by so many staff journalists will fade away in conjunction with your success as a freelancer.

Going back through every photograph, video clip and project of 2010, I noticed a steady decline in personal work. While oil spills, sporting events and commercial work kept my calendar filled, there were few days where I took a camera out for me, instead of a client.

While the mix of work and pleasure will always be a factor; every photo shoot is pleasurable but still work at the same time, there are few times where I can go shoot to just shoot.

One of these rare occasions was at the conclusion of my internship at The Miami Herald. I was already in South Florida and Key West was only a few beautiful hours away on U.S. Highway 1.

Four days at the Blue Parrot Inn did a world of good for my eyes. After watching the cities on the Gulf of Mexico slowly drown in a sea of oil for months, I needed a happy reprieve and Key West was the answer.

I've been asked if my job is ever lonely. The constant travel. Changing cities weekly, or daily at times, can have ups and downs. By the end of my tenure at The Miami Herald, I wasn't as much lonely as I was needed a break. Not a break from photography, but a break from assigned work.

Photography is not, and should never be, work. 

Too often do I come across photographers that complain about how terrible their job is. I understand times are tough and we all can't be shooting the front-page photo of the paper or the exclusive story, but to truly make this "job" enjoyable, you have to make every shoot the most important one.

But as success creeps in, you can pick and choose your assignments, especially as a freelancer, to make your job as enjoyable as possible. Yet, even if you got to work the biggest and best stories every day, you still need a break.

No one should ever complain about success, and this blog post is not, I'm simply stating that it is increasingly important as your business grows to take time to work for yourself. To go shoot that sunset and not get paid for it.

Looking forward, I can see that 2011 is going to be much busier than 2010, just as 2010 was much busier that 2009. Any freelance journalist who has growing business must make sure to make the best out of each assignment, but take out time for their own well being. You can take care of your health, your house, your cameras and your family and friends; but rarely do we focus on taking care of your mind. Time off for your mind is just as important as icing your knee after that extra tough football game or bandaging the latest work-related injury. 

All of this talk of well being has time and time again made for better work.

Some of my favorite pictures were shot for the most important client I've ever worked for.

Me.

 

Always on the move,

- Steve

1 Comment

2 Comments

Transition

When I started my own business in high school taking sports photographs I always thought, "this is what I am going to do for the rest of my life."

I began working for the Orlando Sentinel and fell in love with a career that has taken me, and will take me, across the globe to tell stories.

Photography was it. Nothing could change that. I was never really that interested in video, television news did, and still does, make me nauseous, and I never really saw myself as producer. Then Canon and Nikon began putting video capabilities into their cameras and, like many other still photographers, the lightbulb went off.

The capabilities of using premium Canon and Nikon lenses combined with full-manual control of shooting video has completely changed the career path I so naively though was going to be only still photography.

For the first time in my career, I have done more production work than still photography in a month. As 2010 came to a close, it also closed a chapter in my life I will never forget.

2011 was my transition. A hybrid year, between still photography and DSLR video.

Flying over Alabama in an HH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter.

I was so fortunate to be guided by the incredible staff of The Miami Herald over the summer to produce daily videos on the BP oil spill and continue my still photography. 

Going back, I shot over 200,000 still photographs in 2010 which will eventually be edited down to around 20,000. More importantly, I shot over 2,500 video clips, produced over 50 short stories and changed my business from "Steve Johnson Photography," to "Steve Johnson Media."

As corny as it may sound, I feel that each year marks a specific chapter in my development as a multimedia journalist. 2007 was the beginning; my first NCAA football game, starting my business, first internship and first job with ESPN. 2008 was the a year spent developing my eye and network. 2009 was my year of writing, I took multiple reporting classes at the University of Florida, had my first articles published and started this blog.

2010 was my transition year and as 2011 begins it has proven to be one of the best years I have ever had.

I cannot thank the friends, editors, coworkers and family enough that have helped me to get where I am today.

Always on the move,

- Steve

2 Comments

2 Comments

Farewell Coach Meyer

It is difficult to write about a coach you have photographed for so many games in so many cities and in so many scenarios when you know they are not truly leaving the game of college football.

Urban Meyer made legendary status in Gainesville, especially by the journalists who cover him, in such a short tenure. It is odd thinking that his six years as a Gator has a record that is comparable to other coach's entire careers.

I am no sports writer. For anyone that follows my spastic blogging knows that my writing is filled with pictures and videos, because that is the best way I know how to tell a story. So writing a blog on a person who many professional journalists find difficult to write about is going to be a stretch.

I met Urban Meyer for the first time in the dreamiest of fashions. I was a freshman at the University of Florida, and it was my first day on campus before summer classes had started. On my way to the parking office to pick up my parking pass for the semester, I saw a man in a gray T-shirt and blue shorts jogging toward me. It was Urban Meyer, and I had no idea what to say. So I instinctively reverted to the cheesy commercials I saw on TV about UF, looked Urban in the eyes and said, “Go Gators,” he then repeated the phrase.

For coach Meyer to be the first person I run into on campus as a freshman was a treat. I felt special, and despite how he will be remembered as a hard coach, difficult to work with or even a pain in the ass - Urban Meyer has a way of making you feel important. This has been said by his players, recruits and anyone affiliated with Gator football.

Two-and-a-half years later, I watched a family walk off a football field after one of the most difficult wins I’ve ever seen while covering the Gators. It was a family of Meyers, players and staff.

Coach Meyer stepped down from his coveted position to spend more time with his family, and I could not agree more with his decision. In the past year, I have traveled over 50,000 miles, spend countless nights in random hotels working far from home. This is minuscule compared to the year Urban Meyer has had.

Anyone who knows college football knows of Urban Meyer. They also know of his health problems, resignations and returns to the game. 

Covering Gator football is a roller-coaster ride that seems to never end. Each time my iPhone goes off it could be a friend calling to meet for lunch or a new breaking story from the Gators. Both are normal in my life; especially when it comes to working with coach Meyer.

It will be sad to see him leave Florida Field, but like all programs, there will always be another game no matter who is leading the team out of the tunnel.

So as coach Meyer jogs off into the sunset and Will Muschamp takes on one of the most rigorous coaching jobs in the country, I will continue to work, learn and enjoy the time I have covering college sports. Urban Meyer will never leave college sports and I don’t think the passion shared by the media that covers it will leave anytime soon.

2 Comments