Two Distinct Parts of being a Multimedia Storyteller

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/25

At the end of a very packed week of the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Bucharest, Romania we showed the projects to our hosts. While not all were complete we showed the works in progress.

A few were pretty much done with just minor tweaks that might be needed.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

In this photo James Dockery, lead video editor for ESPN, is interviewed by Jeff Raymond.

I too was interviewed about my perspective on the workshop. These clips along with others will be used to help promote Storytellers Abroad in the future.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

Anthony [Tony] Amorteguy has his own communication business was the one capturing all the footage during the week.

As we talked there are two things I think stood out the most.


The first skill that must be mastered is understanding storyline. We believe that the best students for the workshop are those like journalists who understand story.

The one student who excelled beyond most everyone else wasn’t a journalist but a creative director. He was used to directing the capture of stories, but had never actually done the hands on camera/audio/video editing himself. He had always directed others.

Those who didn’t have this background were struggling the most with their packages.

While you do not have to have your storyline in this exact order to work, the basic elements need to be present.


The second skill needed to produce these packages is the capturing of the content using still images, audio, video and the ability to edit this into a timeline.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.3, 1/100

Here you can see Jon Franz, senior creative director for Kimberly-Clark, working with Jeff Raymond, media missionary with Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, fine tuning his project on missions in Romania.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G,  ISO 720, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

We worked around the clock shooting and editing our projects. Here is Keziah Khoo working through her lunch to get her edits done.

Which is more important?

So which is more important the understanding of storyline or multimedia? Really they are equally important. If either one isn’t executed properly then the story never reaches their audience.

Third major Element

The biggest mistake in communication is forgetting your audience is not there with you.

You need to constantly be thinking of the audience. Why should they even care about this story? What would be most interesting to them? After they hear the story what actions should they be taking?

If you are interested in putting all these skills together I can tell you that while all three are equally important there is learning curve and steps necessary.

I would highly recommend you first learn what is a storyline and how to tell one. This is just you learning to how to tell a bedtime story for example or a campfire story.

My recommendation for those wanting to be storytellers is to read The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. You can get this on Amazon for $14.88 as a paperback. Here is that link

Christopher Vogler is a veteran story consultant for major Hollywood film companies and a respected teacher of filmmakers and writers around the globe.

After reading this book then start practicing.

A simple thing to do is start practicing by telling bedtime stories. If making things up is difficult then tell the story of how you got your job. The key is that these stories are not timelines of events, but there is a crisis and that crisis forced you to look for help.

Here are some basic guidelines for interviewing a subject:

1. Prepare carefully, familiarizing yourself with as much background as possible.
2. Establish a relationship with the source conducive to obtaining information.
3. Ask questions that are relevant to the source and that induce the source to talk.
4. Listen and watch attentively.

After you gain the skill of storytelling then you are ready to capture their story using multimedia. This is when you are ready for the Storytellers Abroad Workshop.

Use light to direct your audience

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 25 sec

We are progressing through the multimedia workshop here in Bucharest, Romania. Last night we went out on the town to get some b-roll for the student’s projects.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2200, ƒ/4.5, 1/500
Bucharest has canals and water fountains that it is known for. I wanted to capture the reflections at night time in the water and capturing the car lights blurred as well.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/6.3, 1/200
You want to make your photos better, then don’t light everything evenly. Shooting at night is one of the very best ways to shoot and make your photos more dramatic since only where you have street lights, car lights or anything since the sun isn’t lighting the scene help you grab people’s attention.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/500
Notice here in the daytime scene how the light being more even on everything means your eye has trouble being directed as in the top three photos.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/500
Here to make this photo work of the group selfie you get physically close to direct the audience where to look.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500
I am only inches away here from the subjects here with my AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens. This helps me be sure you know to look at the photographers. Now if it were pitch black I could be a bit further back and just have light only on the subjects and then you would go right to them. However, with the light even all through the scene you must rely heavily on composition and not the light to make the photo work.
Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/500 
Now in the last photo we are inside where the evenly fluorescent lighted classroom makes it difficult to use light to direct your eyes. So here I used a Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 lens to isolate the subject through framing and using the shallow depth-of-field to help you force the audience to the student and teacher as they work on a project.
I think it is quite apparent that the first three photos are more dramatic and grabbing the audience’s attention than the other photos and all of this is due to not lighting the entire scene evenly.

Shooting in a Romanian village

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Shooting in a village with 10+ photographers drew a lot of attention in a village outside of Bucharest, Romania.

It was difficult to really get moments where the people were unaware of me. So I just shot some images to capture the village as they responded to us.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 560, ƒ/5.6, 1/500
In these situations I really love shooting either with super wide-angle lens or telephoto. Here you can see that the guys at the table thought I was shooting the wall, but I was capturing them at this table.
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
Here I zoomed in with the AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR on my Nikon D750 to capture the smoke from the cigarette swirling around the woman.
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
With this couple I was in a car as we were passing. We stopped and I shot a few frames after asking permission to take their picture. 
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
I also shot some portraits where I am interacting directly with the people. Here I shot it with a telephoto lens and then I switched camera and lens to get a different look with the wide-angle.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 720, ƒ/5.6, 1/500
I like this photo because I see more context, but this doesn’t mean it is better. I like both photos for different reasons.
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
While all of this was about discovering moments I was also enjoying those bonus moments like this of the guys coming towards me on the cart. I just looked down the street and saw them coming our way, so I was able to just zoom and compose the photo.
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
I love just showing these villagers in context of where they live.
Tips when shooting with group of photographers. Try and separate yourself a little from the pack. Shooting in a pack doesn’t get you the best of photos.  However, there are moments where shooting in a pack might work.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/9, 1/320
Here the guys got their accordions and were performing for the group. This was easier to capture photos because this would be like shooting a concert–it was a concert for us.

Storytelling is more than ƒ/8 and be there

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 280, ƒ/14, 1/30

ƒ/8 Be There

The quote “ƒ/8 and be there” is attributed to Weegee who was a famous street photographer during the 1930’s, 40’s and beyond. It represents a philosophy to keep technical decisions simple and be where your vision takes you. The quote has been the mantra of photojournalists, travel photographers and even nature photographers.

This says you just need to anticipate and be technically ready to capture “the decisive moment.”

Be careful not to treat your interviews as just got microphone and recorder levels set and just hit record and I am done.


In interviewing you are not just listening and capturing what you hear with the microphone and recorder. You must listen and see if what you are hearing could be said more effectively.

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 2000, ƒ/10, 1/250

You need to be actively listening. This is after they talk you summarize their thoughts and ask if you are tracking with them. If they agree and your summary is shorter and getting to the points very effectively then ask them if they mind saying this so you can capture it.

Your goal is to shorten their comments down so that the audience will not doze off. They will stay engaged because the subject is now more engaging because you helped them to tell their story more effectively.

Very seldom will you ever capture someone that all you need to do is rearrange their sound bites into a story. You must also help them say what they are trying to communicate better.

If you do not do this during the interview your editing in your software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X will not make the content better. Get the content edited without the technology by just helping someone tell their story and then use the technology to deliver the message to the audience by putting the icing on the cake.

Bottom line your editing is done as much in the actual interview by you and the subject as later with the software.

Storytellers Abroad workshop in Bucharest Romania

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500


This week I am helping teach storytelling with Jeff Raymond and James Dockery in Bucharest, Romania with seven students.

Yesterday I went with Liz Ortiz as she interviewed Nicoleta a children’s teacher in a small village outside of Bucharest, Romania.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

 To do the interview we had to have Edith Mihaiciuc to be our translator for Nicoleta.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 250, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

The hard part was keeping everyone around us to remain quiet while Liz interviewed.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

Here before we leave they had a prayer, but Liz needed to get b-roll of the prayer for her project.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 250, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

Liz also got some b-roll of Nicolete playing a game with the children. They passed the ball as she sang and when she stopped whoever was holding the ball had to say one way God shows us he loves us.

This was the first time ever that Liz had done an interview or shot video b-roll. We all can’t wait to see what her video turns out like later in the week, so stay tuned to see the final project.

Why are some people so resistant to learning?

Photo by Korinna Waggoner

I really love teaching. I have been told that I am really good at teaching. However the one thing that lets me know there is still room for growth are the results.

I just love to pick apart something to a level that quite frankly is annoying to some people. I will obsess over for what seems forever to examine what could be done better.

This photo of me looking at some of the Union Students work is what I think captures my intent. I am thinking a long time before I open my mouth to give feedback. Even after thinking I still could have used a healthy dose of tact in my delivery of those thoughts.

photo by Dennis Fahringer

There are three main things that many would say are contributing factors to the resistance in learning:

  1. Motivation – There are many things that impact this from needs and desires to the environment that can create motivation. I have watched training at Chick-fil-A and noticed that by making something a game there seems to be more motivation. People can see the reward for their learning.
  2. Intelligence – We all are blessed with strengths and weaknesses and sometimes certain subject matter is beyond our capacity. Often we talk about Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Quotient and other descriptors that get to the core aptitude. 
  3. Teaching – There are good teachers and bad teachers. The best teachers do a great job of presenting their material in ways that engage the different learning styles. 
Here are those The Seven Learning Styles:
  1. Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
However there is one thing I continue to come up against that creates a resistance to learning. 
#4 Resistance to Learning: Psychological Cost of Learning
The largest obstacle I continue to come up against is asking adults especially to “change their ways.” A great example of this within my profession was those who resisted switching from film to digital capture.
With film some photographers were extremely competent and the switching to digital was a major blow to their world.
What I am finding when teaching storytelling is that often the student thinks they are already very competent in some areas, when in reality they are just like those who were shooting film before they switched to digital.
There are three ways people will go through this:
  1. Crisis – For some it was finding out that film wasn’t all that available or the expense was too great.
  2. Hitting Bottom – Just like an Alcoholic who loses everything and is on the verge of death. Just like those who then go to a rehab facility some of them do change.
  3. Learning Environment – This is like a workshop where people are exposed to the learning curve and do not have to change, but often due to the safe environment to learn.
I wrote about this a little in an early post: Education and Journalism have a lot in common

This is similar to a great storyline as well. The only thing is if you think that where you are is because of your competency and in reality you are resisting the inevitable change necessary for survival in this field you are soon going to hit rock bottom or have a crisis.

My constant prayer while teaching:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Good teachers care enough to evaluate their teaching, but also realize that the student is responsible for their learning as well. While teachers do their best to make learning as entertaining as possible and engaging to the different learning styles resistence is still there many times.

There is the point that the teacher allows for the failure of the student, because while we try to create a learning environment some students will only learn from a crisis situation or when they hit rock bottom.

The wisdom in knowing when the success of the student is more their issue than it is mine is really about not giving up on them, but letting go of it being totally my problem. My life coach tells me this is not OVER thinking things. 

Want better pictures? Find better light

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1.1 sec

Early in my career I took a Maine Photography Workshop class with Steve McCurry. I learned a few things during my week.

One thing that was quite frustrating no one was really helping me get over the hump with my work. This is how it felt. I would show my work and ask what I could do that would have improved the images.

Over and over I would hear you just need to shoot these places at a different time of day. I can imagine I probably was rolling my eyes at these comments.

For a chunk of the work I showed when on assignment I had to shoot it at that time of day. I would not be back and therefore this is the best I could pull off.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/6.4, 1/500

Therefore my work continued for a while look like the difference between these two images.

Now look at what makes all these photos pop.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 20 sec
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/320–off camera flash
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60
Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/90
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250–Off camera flashes
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 125, ƒ/14, 1/250–off camera flash

You have to be willing to get up early or stay up late and look for the best light, or you have to create your own lighting as I often do today. You see photography is writing with light. You need to learn all you can about light and when it occurs naturally to take advantage of those moments or when the light just isn’t all that good bring your own light to help improve the existing light.

There are basically two things you need to remember, it is often easier to plan your photos to coincide with the time of day that the light will look the best and when necessary know how to add light to improve an existing condition.

Annual family reunion photo

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/60

Our family reunion at Emerald Isle Beach in North Carolina this year was memorialized with the family photo of those who are able to make it.

Here is the setup I used for the photo:

To fire the Nikon D750 I used the Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote Control (Infrared) to trigger the camera. I just had to go into the menu on the camera to set it up for triggering remotely.

Here are those instructions for you:

Here is an older blog post I did on doing these photos on the beach.

Here are some photos from another year at the beach:

While posed family photos are great to have I love capturing spontaneous moments even more.  Here is that blog post where I talked about doing this.

Key to good reflection photos

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1100, ƒ/16, 1/100

The key to getting dramatic photos of reflections is to get your camera as close as you can to the ground.

I am using the same technique I mentioned earlier when photographing mushrooms in my yard. I am using LIVE VIEW with the Nikon D750 and flipping out the LCD screen so I can compose my shots.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 2200, ƒ/16, 1/100

I also used this same technique to get photos of the shells on the beach. I set the aperture to ƒ/16 and focused on the shell closest to me.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/16, 1/100

The beach was just wonderful this evening and I was able to capture the clouds catching the last bit of sunshine as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/16, 1/100

I kept playing with the horizon and what to include or exclude in the photo.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 2500, ƒ/16, 1/100

Here I eliminated most of the sky and just captured the reflection of the sky with the waves in the background.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 900, ƒ/16, 1/100

Here I brought the camera up a little so the reflection isn’t quite as good. Now I am just getting the hint of the sky in the reflections off the water.

Now you know.

Looking for moments that trigger nostalgia at the beach

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/6.4, 1/500

Whenever I go to the beach I am looking for those moments that are timeless and just make me connect to years gone by. Honestly it is so difficult to do, but each time I try and try again.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/9, 1/500

The way I do this is just looking and seeing if there is an emotional pull from the scene. I try to isolate objects and try different angles.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/9, 1/500

I think sometimes the silhouette helps to make objects and people become more symbolic.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/9, 1/500

For an image to really create a mood that is timeless it has to be pretty awesome use of light. The reason is you have to grab people’s attention and pull them in.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/800

 Sometimes the activities are more timeless and can bring back those memories for us.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR,  ISO 100, ƒ/9, 1/250

One thing I am noticing is that middle of the day shooting on a beach rarely is the light dramatic enough to really do it for me.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4.8, 1/2400

I do have some new memories capturing our family enjoying the beach, so these will be cherished by us, however to communicate beyond our family and have impact that must be more universal in their language of imagery.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR,  ISO 110, ƒ/14, 1/100

I guess you will have to stay tuned to see if I finally find the images I am really hoping will want you to pack your bags and head to a location.