Friday, March 27, 2009

Liveblogging J-Week
Photojournalism Panel

Jim Lavrakas, former ADN photographer:

Some tips for shooting in the cold:
  • Keep your batteries warm. When he buys a new parka, he gets extra pockets put in to store batteries next to his body.
  • Rotate warm batteries into your camera regularly.
  • Use pocket handwarmers to keep your spare batteries warm.
  • If your LCD screen freezes, you just have to stop chimping and trust your camera. If your shutter is firing, your meter is working, even if it doesn’t seem to be.
Some of his favorite photos are from the Iditarod; it was freezing and he slept on the trail with his camera in his sleeping bag. “At the finish line in Nome, the mushers are cold, the photographers are cold. I always wanted a really good snot-sicle photograph, but I never got it.” Be aware of snow conditions and avalanche possibilities. Cold can be your friend, though, if you use the light right; steam and light can create a holographic effect.

When working with a pilot, use a professional commercial pilot. They know the territory, they can handle the weather, and they can put you in the right spot for the perfect shot.

On wildlife photography: “Telephoto is the way to go when shooting big, scary animals.” Keep your distance.

Spot news is extreme, too. People can be unpredictable. Stay back. You need to sort out what your best place is going to be so you can be safe and let the police do their job. It helps to build relationships with police officers who will let you get into position to get your shot.

Click here to see a gallery of Lavrakas’s favorite shots, compiled for the ADN

Clark Mishler, Anchorage: Life at the Edge of the Frontier

Mishler is sharing photos from a trip he made to the North Slope, including shots of the Bering ice shelf, a village preschool/high school graduation, and the products of a polar bear hunt.

“When I’m in these situations, I’m just keeping my eyes open for whatever’s going on in the community,” he says.
“I’m always looking for frames” — other objects to look through in order to see his actual subject.

A touchy connection is giving Mishler’s projected photos a bluish tint, but he’s not letting it bother him. “This is my world, actually; seeing things in blue is sort of the way I see.”

“Dressing warm is real obvious for this kind of thing. Don’t mess around. Buy the best possible clothes. It takes years.”

“Any effort that you as a photographer or journalist — any effort will be richly rewarded, because nobody else is doing it.”

Scott Jensen, KTUU-TV

Dealing with the cold is simple: Get a good down coat, a good shell, and good pants. He uses polypro glove liners and handwarmers in his pockets and finds he’s usually hot on the trail.

Video has a different challenge: There’s so much time to fill (up to three minutes) and so much editing to be done. Before GPS, he spent a lot of time on the trail just waiting. He’s always thinking about motion coming into the frame. He looks for where the action isn’t and then follows it into the frame, which means he has to remember to roll before the action gets there. He’ll take his wireless mic and set it up 200 yards up the trail so he can hear the dogs before they run into his shot. You can’t have your hands in your pockets waiting; you always have to be ready.

This year he sat on the trail, in a snowbank, for an hour, waiting for a team to come around the corner. As soon as he hears them coming, he has to maximize the amount of time the dogs are in front of him.

“There’s a lot of patience in video.”

He lost mic battery outside Shaktoolik this year — “I’ve never had nine-volts die so quickly.” He had to go without sound on those shots, which made it a lot tougher.

He didn’t do much editing on the trail this year, but he spent more time actually on the trail this year than he has before. Most of his Iditarod responsibility this year was shooting footage for the recap show. KTUU uses a portable satellite uplink and bases coverage out of Willow, McGrath, Unalakleet, and Nome. The crew will fly out to more remote locations to shoot stories and then back to one of the bases. Next year he’ll probably spend the race on a snow machine, which is his “dream” for Iditarod.

“Every year we’re weathered in somewhere, and this year it was McGrath.” As a result, they missed Lance Mackey’s Takotna-to-Angvik run, which was the race’s key moment. It was hard on the team to miss that.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, Portland:

Bowmer is sharing photos from Gaza and the West Bank. He worked with a bulletproof vest and a “brain bucket,” but not a gas mask; some photographers in the mideast carry onions with them. When tear gas is released, they bite the onions and hold them next to their eyes so they’ll tear up before the tear gas hits them.

He shot the Branch Davidians in Texas; he expected to be there a day or two but ended up spending 54 days in Texas. His last day there, after the compound burned, he was chased by helicopters and dogs and finally arrested for sneaking into the compound. He’s also dodged gunmen and been slapped with a machete.

“I’m now living in Portland, and it’s a good place to be. There’s no one shooting at me ... and everyone speaks English.”

In Utah, he was taken two miles down into a mine that had collapsed. It was dark, it was wet, and then he’s stuck underground — and a tremor hits. He looked to a miner, and the miner said, “Aw, that’s nothing. Just relax.” He found out later it was the first mine tour that had been given to the media.

He covered the ValuJet crash in the Everglades. He and another photographer took turns shooting out sides of a helicopter. One time he leaned too far out and the door blew open. Now he travels with his own harness.

Question from the crowd: Are you lucky in other stuff, too? Like picking football winners?

Answer: Well, I got in on the last plane yesterday.

— Maia Nolan

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