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Taking a shot at it

April 25, 2010

I’ve been taking photo odd-jobs for The Daily recently to supplement my learning in my photojournalism class. I might not be the best photographer, but it’s damn fun. I shot the spring football scrimmage this weekend, and I just gave the photos a first look-over. Some thoughts:

  • Shooting football is hard. It’s hard to isolate the action, capture full bodies or at least not decapitate enormous football players and get the focus on the right player, because there’s so many people milling around the field.
  • But it’s fun, because if photography is about capturing moments, sports photography is REALLY about capturing moments. Eloquent, I know, but the action combined with expressions and feats of athleticism make sports photos pop like nothing else.
  • It’s a little bit of dumb luck. I’m not going to lie: At least half of the good photos I got were out of sheer coincidence that my finger hit the shutter at the right time.
  • Because of all the people on the field, the photos are interesting. There’s so much depth of field — even if it’s just created by a ref butt smack dab in front of everything. And yes, I accidentally got smacked in the face by a ref.

I’m starting a photo blog soon. I’m really excited. I love love love all the photos I’ve taken so far. It’s hard work, and all of my pants are covered in dirt from kneeling and crawling on the ground everywhere I go, but it’s extremely satisfying.

Workin’ 9 to 5

April 22, 2010

I could get used to this.

I’ve been shooting photos for The Daily Northwestern recently, and going out on assignment has really reminded me how much I love working in the world of journalism.

I like driving to and from events, thinking about leads and important details throughout the ride. I like devoting my day just to work. I like talking to people and really getting into what I’m covering. I like waking up early to work, even if it means I develop a mean coffee addiction.

As a college student, I live such an easy life that it’s hard to think of not having breaks between classes. It’s hard to think about being in “go” mode all day long. But this got me out of the newsroom, putting the spotlight back on what hooked me to this job in the first place.

Flashback to the start

April 9, 2010

I stopped for coffee this morning while running errands. It wasn’t on the to-do list, but I think it’s always an implied item. Or really it’s just assumed I’ll be scanning the horizon for a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Starbucks while I’m driving.

As soon as I stepped into the Dunkin’ Donuts (my iced coffee and home brew of choice) on Dempster, I had a bit of a flashback to the moment of my demise.

You see, I didn’t always drink coffee. And while I tend to attribute my rapid descent into a world dependent on caffeine jolts to my entrance into college, I really can’t tell a lie.

Journalism did it to me.

I started drinking coffee during my internship at the Cape Cod Times, when there was a Dunkin’ Donuts literally around the corner. It was probably closer to walk to get coffee than it was to walk to my car in the parking lot. All it took was one person asking if I wanted to grab coffee, and I fell into the abyss of delicious iced coffee spiked with a touch of milk and sugar. Let me tell ya, there’s nothing like crunching on the gritty bits of sugar at the bottom and coffee-flavored ice when you’re trying to crank out a story.

I was hooked. And then I went on to the harder stuff: straight-up, steaming hot black coffee. Cups and cups and cups of it. Every day.

I’ve weaned myself off it a bit at school, where the living’s easy and I have the luxury of sleeping in or taking frequent naps. But every time I step back into a newsroom, it hits me. I’ll have a cup of coffee at home with breakfast, I’ll walk into work with a travel mug seemingly permanently attached to my hand, and I’ll grab a cup if I’m out in the afternoon.

The subconscious link was solidified early. I think this was the part of me that first showed a propensity for being a journalist.

But as I’ve gotten older, coffee has become less and less about me. Honestly, there’s nothing I like better than buying someone a cup of coffee. It’s easy, and in my opinion it’s probably the nicest gesture someone can offer. It’s small but appreciated. And meeting up over coffee — that’s the perfect reunion, the perfect get-together, the perfect first date. So simple and so delicious.

More on how my coffee addiction morphed into a penchant for buying drinkware later. I have more coffee mugs than a college student with no true permanent residence should ever have.

Sunday blues

April 4, 2010
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I want to like Sundays.

Sundays have the makings to be the best day of the week. It’s the day of rest, and the day of football. But for some reason, I find myself really dragging my feet on Sundays.

You’re clinging to the weekend on Sunday, but it’s already gone. Sunday is a day of homework. The day never seems nearly as long as you’d like it to be, but at the same time, just ridiculously too long when you’re facing a night of readings.

Sunday is a day of dilly-dallying, which quite frankly I can’t stand. I can’t stand doing a lot of nothing without doing something. I rarely feel accomplished on Sundays, no matter how much I really do get done.

Sunday is a lazy day. Turn on the TV and think about all the things you should be doing. All the things you could be doing. And all the things you probably, no wait — definitely — will not do.

People don’t answer their phones on Sundays. They don’t check their e-mail. That confuses me.

Meh. I’m in a Sunday funk, but I guess it’s almost over.

See you next week.

A new kind of ambition

March 29, 2010

Every quarter I set goals. For the last two quarters, and for many quarters before that, it was to contribute to producing some 50 issues per quarter of The Daily Northwestern, a student publication covering the campus and Evanston published five times weekly. Hone my skills. Help others work on theirs. And that’s just on top of all the book learning that has to happen in three-month spurts.

But welcome to the last first day of classes. Welcome to the last three months I’ll wake up as an undergraduate. Welcome to the last Northwestern quarter before the rest of my life begins.

The priority now is to enjoy the end of my college career. It’s to make the most out of the time I have here, surrounded by my friends, my thoughts and a whole lot of opportunities for fun.

But the ambition lingers. I ran into a friend today on campus and chatted for 15 minutes about Spring Quarter. As we said goodbye, he called after me, “Good luck with all your new hobbies.”

You can change the goals, but you can’t change the girl.

My Spring Quarter list starts: Hit the gym more often than not. Build my own Web site — from scratch. Pursue side projects at The Daily, you know, the ones I always wanted to do. Explore campus and the city with a little more perspective tucked under my belt. Spend time with the people I love before we part ways. Make good use of my roommate’s new grill.

It’s a little sad. It’s a little tough to get ready to say goodbye. But there’s so much to look forward to, this quarter and even after that. It’s that nervous kind of excited, and I hope I make these last weeks count for something really good.

College vs. Real Life

March 27, 2010

With constant reminders about my college graduation coming up in June, I keep referring to this concept of Real Life, which I enjoy putting in capital letters to denote its general largeness. But then I realized we often only unnecessarily capitalize things we don’t understand or are intimidated by, and so the witty edge and branding I use for this looming unknown became subconsciously ironic.

Imagine college like a ball of Play-Doh. It’s colorful, shapeable, fun, approachable and really just downright easy to make into whatever you want it to be. We craft ourselves into the sorority girl, the industrious student, the easygoing jock, the overachiever. And as the idea of my favorite preschool activity would suggest, college presents itself in a nurturing, closed atmosphere. It’s like those playgrounds surrounded by the spongy foam that helps kids bounce back from falling off the monkey bars. Yeah, you can take a tumble, and it might be a nasty one, but the mechanisms are there to keep you from any fatal mistakes. College is like taking a big blob of unknown in this safe little bubble and finding out what you want yourself to be.

But then you’ve got Real Life. It’s like a lump of hard red clay sitting on a pottery wheel, waiting for you to pump away at the pedal to mold it your own way. It’s messy. You splatter rust-red water on everything within a two-foot radius. The clay has more structure, less of a squishy glob and more like a hard rock. Instead of taking nothing and making it into something, you’re taking a dense handful of rules and responsibilities and shaving it down into something that reflects a little bit more of your personality and lifestyle. And from what I’ve seen in movies, it seems like it might take a few tries to make it into something recognizable.

Since my art skills peaked at my fourth-grade diorama of The Borrowers (that thing was magnificent), you can understand my apprehension toward working the pottery wheel of life. First of all, I’m worried I might choose the wrong art studio to work in. What if I don’t like my job or career path? This, of course, assumes somewhere will let me in and give me a job.

Second, what if the clay is too hard for me to work with? What if, for all my wheel-spinning, the clay refuses to do what I want it to do, and I just can’t make anything out of it?

And what if, when I finally make some kind of discernible ceramic ware out of this stubborn, scary hunk of clay, I don’t even like what I have in the end?

Extended metaphor exhausted, though my anxieties still loiter in the back of my mind. One consolation is my brother, who at the ancient age of 24 is nearly three years past his college graduation and seems to be surviving somewhat successfully in the Real World. And he was always less artistically inclined than me.

Generating opinions clicks

March 24, 2010

Boston.com just created a new section for its opinions content. “The Angle” is clearly geared toward the average Web surfer, with catchy features heads (you know, the kinds that intrigue you enough to click) and prominent displays of blogs.

From a few clicks, I’m interested enough to keep coming back. I like the way it packages topics, but I wish there were clearer labels for where the content originally appeared (online-only, in print, in response to something, which section), when it appeared and maybe some general categories — all just to put the links in context. Otherwise I feel like I’m blindly surfing through stories without knowing what I’m reading.

But I love the way Boston.com continually updates its look and works to stay on top of the ever-changing world of online journalism. Even though I don’t always enjoy all the content or how it’s presented, it’s still my news site of choice.