Daily Photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
J.D. Power watches harvesters work Thursday evening, August 2, 2012, as he helps with the corn harvest in a field along Lindsay Lane near Huntsville-Brownsferry Rd. A summer thunderstorm is looming up behind him as he waits on the last load of the day. The yields are down this year due to the extremely dry month of June and the harvest has begun about three weeks earlier than normal.
It is difficult to deny that our world of print journalism, which seemed so solid for so many years, is deteriorating around us every day. Circulation loss, declining advertising and the continual migration of readers to free web content are creating a less and less hopeful world for those of us who still bleed ink. The question we are trying to answer here is simple; what do I do to maximize my chances of staying employed?
Many of these things I have said before in other posts but they have never been more important than they are right now. I have said this before, photo departments are way, way too passive always sitting around waiting on someone else to bring photo assignments and then complaining about the quality of those assignments. That was never a great idea. It is now a horrible idea. We must be the most aggressive journalists in the newspaper out scouring around, not just for stand alone photos, but for stories, for people, for characters, and become the initiators of stories.
Some may be shaking their heads thinking, “I am already too busy to worry about doing anything other than making it through another day.” That certainly may be true on the surface but we have to dig deeper. Every day we are out in the community covering assignments and talking to people. It only takes another minute or two to ask one extra question. That one question may lead to a story for another day or help you develop a new contact who can feed you stories for years to come. If you have worked in a community for several years, you already have these contacts even if you have not given it much thought. Think about it now.
I came to work a couple of weeks ago with absolutely nothing on my assignment board for the day. I hate those days because then I am expected to chase traffic accidents and other breaking news events all over the place and look for stand alone art. Not my idea of a fun day. I did my thing and turned in a couple of stand alone photos. Some sporadic thunderstorms showed up in the early evening and I decided to drive toward one that looked promising. I didn’t really think the storm itself would make a picture but I hoped to find someone doing something interesting that I could juxtapose against the storm.
One key to finding good stuff is to, wait for it now, ready, look for it! The thunderstorm gave me a hook now all I needed was content. I drove toward Athens and then up Lindsay Lane still seeing nothing worth a photo. It was then I saw the corn harvest going on just outside the envelope of the storm. I drove past it, turned around, drove past it again, still not sure I could make a picture. When I turned back for the third pass I saw a guy standing on top of the trailer with the storm behind him. Glory! Of course, he climbed down as soon as I drove up but I had a workable idea now. I could just see him standing up with that big storm behind him and a lighting bolt striking in the background. Sweet!
It was a fine idea but lightning can be notoriously difficult to shoot when you can’t do a timed exposure from a tripod. Too much light for that and the guy was no longer atop the trailer. Still, I had a good situation with some potential and there was the storm and the early evening light. Anything could happen now. I hung around and talked and shot for about a half hour before the light was gone and the guys were finished. During that time I found out the drought in June had really hurt the corn crop. Now I had a news hook for my feature photos and my time was well spent and, even though I never got that stroke of lightning, I did leave with a nice set of photos from a job I didn’t have to shoot and no one expected.
In fact, it was too late to publish these in the newspaper so they ended up simply being published online only. I was not troubled. Feeding the internet beast is now at least as important as getting content in the printed edition. Truth is, I could have sat around in the office and done nothing, played on the computer or caught up on burning DVD’s for file. No one would have said a word and I would have gone home frustrated at a wasted day. Having a little bit of an aggressive edge will get you out the door like it did for me. If nothing else I would have enjoyed chasing the light even if it got away from me. That happens too! But no one ever made a great photo sitting at the computer desk in the photo department so get up and get out and find your own stuff.