A new-media resume for a multimedia journalist

As part of my updating my resume for graduation, I’m exploring new media for ways to enhance my professional online presence.

The Portfolio Project

(Pot)Folio Photogallery

(Pot)Folio photo story – AON Media is going to pot (Linked)

Reflective Essay:

The biggest lesson I learned this quarter was contact information. I had the foresight to think of how others may want to contact myself, but at the beginning of class I neglected to get information from those I interviewed – something I remedied immediately.

It pains me, though, as I would love to do a project about some of the people I met earlier, but don’t have the ability to get ahold of them. Instead of feeling too sad about it though, I will learn my lesson and always get phone numbers and emails of the men and women I meet on the streets.

The second lesson is more like one refined, instead of one learned. I’ve been nervous about approaching people as I’m always expected to get a big fat NO and then be called bad things (there are a few choice words for journalists that always come to mind).

I’ve been trying to change my insecurities since I was given some rather good advice at Pacific Forest Rally. I asked a fellow journalist how he overcame his nervousness about approaching people. He replied with something along the lines of “You’re there to do a job and people understand that”. This quarter, I really tried to embody that mentality in all of my classes and projects. I was there to do a job and, dammit, that’s what I was going to do.

My third lesson from the quarter has got to be to always think outside my niche. I’ve really concentrated on a Auto’s, Outdoors, and a variety of News … Gee, I wonder where my business name came from… but I rarely venture outside of there. This quarter has been full of projects outside my normal purview of coverage and I’ve loved each minute of it; whether covering Ursulmas or marijuana.

Opening my available beats of coverage, will only help me in the future, too.

My greatest challenge with visual journalism is much the same as my greatest challenge with my written works – I am my own worst enemy. I am not the kind of person who thinks that all, or even some, of my photos are Pulitzer prize winners and I’m the best photographer in the world… instead, I think they’re all crap. Worth only the delete button and the trash bin.

Many of the photographers who I’ve met have said much the same thing – that my photos are nothing special or nothing that your average citizen photographer couldn’t accomplish. However, hearing from my teacher, Erika Shultz from the Seattle Times, and from others who came to the class and saw some of my work, made me feel hopeful for my visual journalism future.

Luckily, there are plenty of inspirational people in the area that have done just what I hope to do: take their niche media dream and make it into a successful reality. And hearing from some of those people, such as Daniel Berman and David Ryder, who have both made if big from starting their own businesses or brands, has given me the dedication and knowledge to keep going.

Not only have the professionals who have come to class to speak with us in class inspired me to pursue my dreams, but also the people I spoke to. I wouldn’t have come into journalism if I didn’t enjoy speaking with other people about what impassions them, fuels them to action, or makes them want to change society. And I got to see that while in the class, but through a new lens… literally, my camera isn’t that old. Plus, I looked for stories in new places, too. Seeing their lives through a new lens.

Hearing and showcasing the stories of those I encounter is always fueling me to learn more, listen more, and share more. It is why I got into journalism in the first place – to share the stories of those without a platform with the world.

Testing out the Xperia Z1s camera

At 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, the moon peaked through high altitude and fast moving cirrus clouds over the Northgate neighborhood. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the weather near Seattle is supposed to be mostly clear on Thursday with rain returning for the weekend.
At 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, the moon peaked through high altitude and fast moving cirrus clouds over the Northgate neighborhood. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the weather near Seattle is supposed to be mostly clear on Thursday with rain returning for the weekend.

I had recently upgraded my phone from the iPhone 4s to the Sony Xperia Z1s. For the last assignment for my visual journalism class, I wanted to test out the night capabilities of the camera and took a walk through my neighborhood for a bit of weather journalism.

The automatic setting really did do wonders. The camera was taking photos at night almost as though it was daytime, but they didn’t have that something special that raw photos have. The luster of life. These photos seem flat (though that could also be the fact that it’s 8 at night).

This photo of the sky looks as though the trees beneath the moon are the same distance as the moon itself, or even the clouds. There’s no depth captured by the phone cameras. I noticed this issue with the iPhone cameras, too, but to a lesser degree than with the Xperia’s.

As a non-journalistic comparison: The left photo was taken on Manual, while the right photo was taken with the HDR function. (The different camera angle is from my lost balance and placement.)
As a non-journalistic comparison: The left photo was taken on Manual, while the right photo was taken with the HDR function. (The different camera angle is from my lost balance and placement.)

One of the things I miss the most from a DSLR is the ability to automate my photo. Even in Manual mode, the cameras are just not… right. I cannot chose the shutter speed or aperture to compensate for the underexposure of the photo. Instead, I just get to chose ISO. And that stings. In order to get the most out of the available light from a smartphone camera at night (hey, news happens all day), one must use the HDR function, which isn’t considered professional in journalism when using a DSLR. The same should hold true for a smartphone photo.

I noticed that when the photos were taken off of the automatic setting, the camera seemed to get some distance in the photos. The foliage actually looks behind the sign in the left, whereas it looks to be the same distance from me in the right.

While the colors and the light received is better, these photos are still not considered ‘journalistic’ in a DSLR. Many newer DSLRs will have in camera HDR processing, just like your camera phone, so if HDRs are allowed in one set, then it should allowed in the other. It’s also an issue with ethics – is the photo on the right, truly representing what I saw on the street that day? Wouldn’t it be the same if I took 6 photos and merged them together myself from a DSR? It would look better. HDR’s also more accurately represent the visual spectrum you see – ever notice that you can see out sun-filled windows, but cameras can’t see both inside and outside? It’s from the exposure of the photo being inside, not out – but your eyes see both exposures.

There were a few positive things, though. It’s … ok, I was about to say ‘small’, but my Canon EOS-M has a smaller footprint in everything but width… If it were up to me, for size, I’d just as soon take my mirrorless camera than my smartphone.

Positives… I don’t have to carry both the smartphone and the mirrorless camera. Though, this bothers me more than it is a positive. I enjoy taking my camera with me because I see it as an extension of my eyes and imagination. To be constrained by the specifications of the smartphone is daunting.

A positive that I found in the past happened to be in the GPS location setting. During a drive-through of a photoshoot, I took rolling photos for areas I wanted to revisit. Same thing for where I’d like to take photos for pleasure. It creates an easy to use, interactive map on your phone for easy reference, however, it also means that if you’d like to publish these photos you have to go through and scrub the data in case you don’t want it published.

One positive that I really can’t complain about is the ability to take instant HDRs, which the EOS-M does not do. The EOS-M doesn’t have the power to create in-camera HDRs and when I take manual HDRs, I have to wait as long as the shutter stays open for the photo to write to the camera. For example, if I take a 60-second exposure, I have to wait another 60 seconds to use my camera for the next exposure in the HDRs series. Even with higher powered cameras, I’d still have to sit there for a few minutes to gather anywhere from 3-15 exposures, then head home to merge them.

However, while I am fond of my HDR photos because of the luster and feeling of life they have to them, the smartphone just doesn’t compare in quality to what a DSLR or mirrorless can do. All in all, I’ll take my Mirrorless or a DSLR over my smartphone  - my purse doubles as a camerabag, audio recorder holder, and notepad waterproofer 100 percent of the time, anyways, so I might as well take photos with a true, blue camera.

This HDR photo was created during the Fall quarter. It was taken in the Georgetown neighborhood of South Seattle at around 11 in the evening.
This HDR photo was created during the Fall quarter. It was taken in the Georgetown neighborhood of South Seattle at around 11 in the evening. This king of photo is known as a High Dynamic Range (HDR) photograph and is created by merging different exposures of the same image using computer software. 

AON Media went to Pot

No, it’s not that we’re closing down, but trying a new form of photojournalism. After a portrait-seeking photoshoot in Granite Falls failed, miserably, I thought about what I could do to get the required footage for my Visual Journalism portraiture assignment.

The Green Skunk, located on Roosevelt Avenue in Northgate, is a medical marijuana dispensary that serves patients with recommendations for medical marijuana use.
The Green Skunk, located on Roosevelt Avenue in Northgate, is a medical marijuana dispensary that serves patients with recommendations for medical marijuana use.

I decided to head back to a world I had covered before and after the passage of I-502, the voter-approved legislation legalizing recreational marijuana. Currently, there are no stores open to recreational users, luckily, I had some contacts from when I had worked a few stories before.

Success! I found a place that was willing to give me a place and a face to photograph!

The catchy and creative marketing is part of what has drawn me to this store. As you drive around Seattle, there are many of these dispensaries look bedraggled and seedy, but this place is warm and inviting – and, hey, how can a cartoon skunk be wrong? 

The clever marketing of this storefront only part of it though, the other was the reviews from the patients online – they love these guys for their product, their place, and their friendly personalities.

“Best place for meds!!!! Friendly budtenders that are very knowledgable! I recommend this to all patients,” wrote Skinztrh in an online review, titled ‘The Skunk is the best hands down’ in April, 2013. 

The reviews from patients across the web intrigued me to go and see why this store rose to the top in an area with over 200 individual dispensaries.

The Green Skunk is family owned and operated. The owner, Geoffery Johnson, 48, started the store and has since expanded business. Not only is there a storefront, but a ‘skunk runner’ that brings it to patients doors. 

I stayed for at the storefront for a few hours and snapped over 200 photos, the best of which are as follows. It was such a relief to speak with people that were welcoming and happy to have me there.

In the future, I hope to get in touch with more of this industry as it is not only growing (pun intended) and the journalistic coverage of the medical and recreational sides of marijuana may be another route to look into. Who knows, maybe AON in the future will be Autos, Outdoors, and ‘Nuggs.

(Note: AON Media will always stand for Autos, Outdoors, and News. What kind of news only the future will tell…)

UW Formula Photostory

The University of Washington Formula Motorsports Team has been designing, manufacturing, building, testing, and competing with a new racecar each year for over 25 years. The team has grown from only a handful of mechanical engineering students into a group that accepts students from all majors across campus, so long as they can fill a need on the team. The team’s students not only come to gain hands-on experience in their chosen fields, but many of them also come out for their shared interested in cars.

According to Sheena Kapur, team administrative director and student of human centered design and engineering, she spends over 60 hours a week in the area known to the team as “The Pit” in order to make sure the team stays in line and on track. For many, the only reason needed to devote this much time is “because racecar”.


This article was harder than I thought it was going to be. Since I’m so close to the team, I tend to look past the people to see what they are working on. I see them machining the hard steel into useable bits and I’m fascinated by that, when I should really be looking elsewhere to get some of the more human interest and story-telling photos – a guy machining a lump of steel may be cool to me, but its just a guy machining a lump of steel to many people. Having the input from other photographers helped me stand back. Lesson learned from this one: take a look the people rather than just their handiwork. It may seem obvious, but they make some pretty amazing stuff.

One of the other difficulties was a last minute change in gear. I had borrowed a Canon 5D from school in order to shoot video for another class and decided to use it for snapshots of the team. The first sign of trouble came when it took me almost 2 hours to get the photos on the camera, off. Luckily, it finally worked, but instead of having great photos from a high-quality camera, I also found out that the auto-focus wasn’t working properly, so out of almost 150 photos taken on Sunday and Monday, only about 15 came out in focus. I will never use strange cameras again.

Seattle plunges into the polar Puget Sound

There’s nothing quite like a brisk dip into 50 degree water on a cold January day – especially if the proceeds from said dip is going to a worthy cause. Such is the case with Washington Special Olympics’ Seattle Polar Plunge on Saturday Jan. 31st at Golden Gardens Park.

One of the difficulties I had at this event wasn’t only that the water was COLD…no seriously… but that my equipment was unprotected. My little mirrorless camera did great, but I was deeply concerned about getting too much water on it and so during the best moments, I had to hide my camera from the plungers. I got over this after the shoot by ripping the ziplock off a sandwich back and fitting it around my camera – yes, my camera fits in a sammich baggie. Water resistance for the rest of us.

One of the other issues I encountered was a foggy or wet lens. To solve this problem I went to Tall’s Camera later in the day and purchased a few fog-cloths and some more cleaning gear for the camera bag. Hopefully, with a water resistance barrier in place and some fog-cloths working their magic on my lens, I’ll be able to stay focused on the water-borne action.

I did get into the Seattle Times, too, but not in the way this aspiring journalist had wanted. I greatly appreciate this photo from Alan Berner, Seattle Times Photographer, and getting the time to speak with this award winning photojournalist. Seattle Times Photo, Credit: Alan Berner

At the end of the day, it was great to be part of the community and see what has inspired others to think big and bear the cold. Above is a gallery of the 90+ photos I took that day and let us not forget the few video clips I took, too. Those will be going into a video later this week, but for one lucky (but slightly late) law enforcer here’s a quick glimpse at the excitement from the Polar Plunge.


Time Traveling to Ursulmas: Medieval times in Monroe


Roads hidden in the mist

Anyone who drove through The Barony of Aquaterra on Sunday traveled back through the mists of time: medieval time.

The Society for Creative Anachronism brought a public demonstration to the Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe from Jan. 25-26, where event attendees were able to experience medieval fighting along with the arts and sciences of the time – anything from archery to period board games.

Unlike some other types of medieval fairs, the Society for Creative Anachronism doesn’t recreate historical events, but rather brings back the average life of the citizens from specific time periods. For the SCA, that time period is usually the pre-1600 medieval era. You won’t find any Joan of Arcs or King Henrys here. Instead, each member creates a historically accurate persona from their chosen time period.

The Known World

These personas are free to pursue any field within the realm’s purview, such as the culinary arts, bardic arts, martial arts, and more. Raymond Von Dem Löwengrab, Raymond Tripp in his mundane life, has never taken payment for any of the 6,000 coins he’s made for fairs over the years. Coinage is used for gaming or as prizes, and is created using period-specific techniques, even though dies are made out of airbrake shafts, shock absorbers, and camshafts.

According to the Lady Sabina di Zorzi, also known as Geri Terhune, this level of detail is achievable only because the SCA strives to recreate the periods, instead of moments from lore. They are able to study history to find out how to recreate it exactly, down to the thread-making and flour-grinding.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But the kingdom of An Tir, an area from northern California to parts of Canada, still has to deal with the tradition of kings and queens, though these royalty are kind. The best fighter at the championship is crowned king.

Drifinna Ulgarrdotir said it has been only a few years since she first came to a demo in a tunic that was 10 times too big. Now, she’s the reigning Queen of An Tir. Being royalty is still surreal to her and the hardest thing about her new post has been to allow others to serve her. In her modern life, she is a waitress at a Portland area brewery.

When court had been held, and awards received by tested and victorious combatants, the tear-down of Ursulmas began. It was Sunday and citizens of An Tir had to go to work the next day.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Through my visual and newslab media classes, I’ve been attempting to cover items not in my normal purview of articles – lectures about transgender rights, human interest pieces, and … Ursulmas.

Sunday morning, as the fog was just starting to break in Seattle, I packed up my bags and headed out on the road. As I drove down highway 2 from Everett, the fog encroached on the roadway and the fields that normally cover the valley east of Snohomish were drowned by a sea of white.

Only feet from the road the world sank away.

When I finally stopped and exited my car, I was at the Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe,… but medieval-dressed people were walking around, some carried swords! This was the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s (SCA) yearly demonstration in medieval arts, sciences, and combat, called Ursulmas.

I was met by my guide and translator for the day, the Lady Sabina di Zorzi, and we set off to see me through my medieval adventure. When I entered the fairgrounds main gate, I was welcomed by the ringing of steel on steel (though no combat, here) and the whisk of taffeta, silks, linens, and cottons.

Citizens of the Kingdom of An Tir, the area from Canada to southern Oregon and out to Idaho, are part of the largest kingdom in the known world – also known as the continents that participate in SCA activities. Within the kingdom there are lesser courts, such as the barony of Aquaterra – also known as Snohomish County – and the Canton of Bearwood, or southeast Snohomish County.

I spoke with everything from an armorer, to a coinmaker, to a kitchen recreationist, and each new person all said the same thing: They do it because the love medieval recreation, they love the camaraderie that comes with the community, and they can’t wait to share it with new people and old friends. 

When I got to speaking with those participating in the combative areas, they also noted that it wasn’t just about recreating a slice of life from history, but it was also how you do it. To those in the ring, a fight without chivalry is not a fight worth fighting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From those who came up through the ranks, the Society has been a place to refine respect and honor, to meet up with like-minded and equally enthusiastic anachronists, and to banish the misconceptions that many modern citizens have about the medieval era – such as that spices were to cover up rotten meat… if one could afford spices, then one would not be eating rotten meats.

I even managed to speak with a king and queen, and also see a baron and baroness hold court and mingle with the plebes. The current queen, Her Majesty Drifinna Ulfgarrdotir, noted that one of the hardest parts about coming into the 6-month reign from her mundane job as a waitress, at the Laurelwood Brewery in Portland, is learning to let others serve her.

It was a thrill to work this event and I look forward to pitching, and hopefully sharing, their and other stories with local outlets, but until then, here’s some pictures to entice you to attend the Society for Creative Anachronism’s next event. 

(P.S. Video coming soon…)

(Edited: This article has been edited to more accurately reflect the baronies and cantons of An Tir.)

Playing for the camera, Fudge Isaacs lazes away the day much like other cats - with sleep. When not destroying a roll of paper towels, Fudge likes to lay in the sun. (F/2.0, 1/800, ISO-100, 22mm)

Composure of Photos (With cats)

So, as many of you may (or may not know) I’m in a visual journalism class. This week’s assignment was to experiment with composure, lines, and more – really learning what the photo looks like through the viewfinder.

During the weekend, I stayed as far away from other people as possible (I’m not a football fan and everyone was geeking about the NFC championship), much of my weekend spent with my nose editing articles for print or reading news or books for class. However, as is always the case, my cats reminded me that there is much to life other than work.

While I was playing and cuddling with them, they gave me some great shots, but I found that I had the same problems with cats as I did with kids: They don’t do what you want them to. Cats and Kids have minds of their own – tell them to look this way or attempt to lure them with treats (or bells, mice-toys, etc) and they’ll figure it out. They’ll head the other direction.

Part way through, I just decided to snap my photos even though they weren’t acquiescing my attention requests. Seeing that I’d like to do more nature photography, cinematography, or coverage (in general) this was a good learning experience for me. That’s right, I’m not your average photo-snapping, pet-owner (these are some of the first photos I’ve taken of them with my new camera). And only Fudge knew what to do for the camera; Topher… was too interested in the crows pecking at my lawn outside.

For my desired nature photography, I know that I won’t need to lure the animals for pictures, for kids I’ll need to try a different kind of lure, and for cats… well, there’s always a tasty treat to help them see my way.

This packed house at Najmabadi's lecture on Wednesday evening sat entranced on her every word. Afterwards, several in the audience were given the chance to ask questions. (f/2.4, 1/20, ISO-160, 4mm, iphone)

Professing Selves With Photography

Wednesday night had me on UW campus until pretty late at night, as I covered a lecture given by a guest from Harvard. Professor Asfaneh Najbamadi traveled to share her new, upcoming book.

The room was well lit, but for my camera, I still couldn’t get a very low ISO. Most of my photos came out too dark and, since there wasn’t much ‘action’ many of my shots are slower shutterspeed. Today, I’m going to try some roaming photography while on my way to an interview and while my interviewee and I are chatting. It will be during the day time (something it hasn’t been for the last three sessions!), and there should be ample sun/softboxing – luckily no rain in the forecast.

Where Autos, Outdoors, & News collide… But in a good way!!