How this reporter became a photo journalist

When I originally got my freelance journalism gig with the Island Dispatch in 2007, I was told that, not only was I to write articles, I was also to take my own photographs. Oh, I wasn’t sure about that. When I went to the journalism school at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, I tried my hardest to avoid photojournalism. I didn’t want to have lug around a heavy camera and take lots of pictures and change rolls of film. And then, there was the darkroom. I was sure that I would spill stuff and create chaos and end up with bad photographs.

Until 2007, it was never necessary for me to submit photographs with my articles. When I was the copy editor/reporter for the Buffalo Alternative Press (Alt Press), there were plenty of volunteer photographers who were eager to take any and all pictures. I thought that photography was a bit mysterious and definitely beyond me. If I wanted to do visual stuff, I could draw and paint. But photography? Nope!

Over time, however, things change. Digital photography became popular. Newspapers and other publications now prefer for photographs to be sent to them in a digital format (usually JPG). Cameras are now lighter and, unless you are a true professional, you’ll probably never see the inside of a darkroom. I actually would like to experience developing film in a darkroom so… here is something to add to that bucket list!!! But I digress. Anyway, I had to equip myself with a camera so I bought a little point and shoot, which was very nice for a starter camera. I began taking photographs for the newspaper. And I became an all-round journalist (reporter/photographer).

I also worked on building my photography skills by doing challenges, such as the 366 day photography challenge (2015-2016).

Eventually, the point and shoot camera stopped working so I started using mirrorless cameras, which is just one step down from a digital single lens reflex (SLR) camera. I acquired a camera that had a micro four-thirds system. That describes the size of the lens mount. The advantage of a micro four-thirds lens is that, if your camera dies, you can buy a camera body of a different brand and, as long as it has a micro four-thirds lens mount, you can use your old lenses on your new camera.

Unfortunately, my camera died last October. It happened while I was in the middle of taking photographs at a political event. All of a sudden, the camera went dark and I couldn’t take any more pictures. I quickly grabbed my phone and kept taking pictures. 

As the months passed, I had no camera. A friend of mine said that she had a camera that I could borrow. So I did. It was an old point and shoot that had not been used in a few years. I charged the battery and started taking… well… something… The pictures were dramatically over exposed. 

“Oh, yuck,” I thought. “I can’t use this!”

And then, the battery pronounced itself to be dead. I had taken six photographs. The camera went back to its home, and I continued to look for a new camera. Then I found a beautiful camera online, and I purchased it! Unfortunately, that camera did not suit my needs. But, fortunately, I was able to return it for a refund. 

So, that was two bad camera choices. One more bad camera choice and I strike out, I thought. I decided that I needed the advice of another photographer, so I spoke to the editor of the Island Dispatch, who recommended a camera body for me and an online store, where I could get used camera bodies for a good price. The online store is called KEH. I ordered a camera body and a macro lens (for photographing flowers and insects!!!). And I hoped that I had not managed to strike out.

Yesterday, the doorbell rang, and I signed for a package. I opened it up and there it was… my new camera. My new lease on life as an all-round journalist! And I started practicing with the macro lens.

Wow, what fun! There really aren’t many flowers or bees or butterflies around at this time of year. Instead, I took pictures of the inside of teacups and beads. I also put my old lenses on the new camera body and, yes, they fit. 

Starting next week, I will be out again, taking pictures of… everything. And I think that I will start a new 366-day photography challenge. Stay tuned for weekly updates of the photographic adventure!

5 thoughts on “How this reporter became a photo journalist”

  1. How wxxir to get your new camera! I've always enjoyed viewing your photos. I had an old 35mm camera and when the digital world came about I bought a new body that my lenses would fit. I'm always toying with the idea of getting a new digital camera

  2. Where do you want to go today?

    I have learned a few things about cameras from this post.
    The pictures you have been posting on your blog have been pretty good. I am interested in what micro four thirds lenses must have been using.


    I used to have a darkroom. (I started out as the photography editor for my Yeshiva more than 5 decades ago.) And, stuck with Minolta (from the HiMatic to the SLR to the DSLR) and now… It's SONY! No, I haven't switched (yet).
    Enjoy your new camera.

  4. I have never owned a SLR or DSLR. I wanted so to have a SLR when I was a teenager but it was just too expensive for my Dad's limited budget (raising me as a single Dad). So, as an adult, I used point and shoots for several years and when I got my first iPhone in 2012, I switched. Got my second iPhone in 2016 and still using it. I do need an actual camera, I suspect, if I ever want to get serious about photography. (In addition, I had never heard of a four thirds lens. More learning to do.) My iPhones don't do macro photography well and that is one of my interests. Hope your new camera works out!

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