Trials in Togo

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 800, ƒ/4, 1/4000

All the girls jumped into the back of the pickup to ride into the village. On the far left front is Liz Ortiz. This was Liz’s second trip with Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop. She first joined us in Romania.

Liz did a story on Gaglo who was there when the missionaries first came to Togo. He helped build the hospital and has seen first hand how the hospital has made an impact on the Togolese. Over 32 churches have been planted because of the hospital. Gaglo not only works as a physician assistant, but is also a pastor for one of the church plants.
We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop taking place this October 29th to November 5th. Deadline to apply is August 30, 2016. Click here to learn more.

Students first Missions Multimedia Storytelling packages

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

What a great week I have had in Kona, Hawaii teaching Sébastien Pannatier and Jessie Toney Multimedia Storytelling.

Dennis Fahringer, pictured above on the left, is the YWAM School of Photography 2 leader that invited me to teach.

Neither student had ever shot video on their cameras. They had never plugged an external microphone into their cameras. They had never done this type of storytelling before.

Now the subjects were not available whenever we needed them and we had to work around their availability and that in itself could have been the deal breaker for these stories, but through persistence they each were able to do formal sit down interviews and capture their stories.

Like everyone who has done a project like this and most of all our very first one we wish we all had more b-roll in the end. I told the students that I have never felt like I had enough b-roll on any project.

Rather than me making you read a lot here are their first projects. Please if you have some words of encouragement as they leave for Rio De Janeiro next week to spend a month there capturing stories around the Olympics let them know by commenting below. by Jessie Toney by Sébastien Pannatier

Multimedia coverage of a middle school service project

I drove up to Chattanooga, Tennessee yesterday to cover Roswell Presbyterian’s Middle School Youth Group on their summer mission trip.  They partnered with SonServents on their Work Projects that also partnered with Widows Harvest Ministry to include: building wheelchair ramps and landings, scraping and painting houses, putting new roofs on homes, or landscaping and yard work.

Technical difficulties

Two lighting problems are: 1) under porch in middle of the day the youth were in some major shadows and 2) when they are painting the house they are facing the house and are always majorly back lit. While the house maybe white and act as a reflector, it is still a major light fall off. (photo by: Knolan Benfield)

 My solution for this problem was to put two hot shoe flashes up on light stands to light under the porch and even out the light.

There is a Nikon SB-900 on the far left on a light stand with the PocketWizard TT5 to control the TTL output of the light. On the far right is a Nikon SB-800 on light stand using the same setup for TTL. I have on my Nikon D4 the PocketWizard Mini TT1 and AC3 to trigger and control the output of the flashes.  They output is set to 0.
This is my daughter being interviewed by me for the project. (photo by: Knolan Benfield)

You can see the two camera setup here for the video interview. (Photo by: Knolan Benfield)

Video setup

I have a Nikon D4 with 28-300mm lens as the primary camera. I have the Zacuto’s Optical Viewfinder on the back of the camera to help with focusing. The microphone on the D4 is the Rode Video Pro. My second camera is the Nikon P7000 and I have the Rode Video microphone on it.

To help with lighting I have the LitePanel Micro Pro that helps with the shadows. The house behind her is in the sun and she is in the shade of the trees.  The light helps fill her face and by having her in the shade she is able to talk without squinting.


All the photos are edited using Adobe Lightroom 4.  I love this software because I can easily edit all the photos from a similar situation together.

For video editing I used Final Cut Pro X. I enjoy the simplicity of this software to help do things like synchronizing two cameras. I don’t have to convert the files from the different cameras when I import them.

I really enjoy combining the still photos with the video interviews. I think the stills help the audience have a visual pause to absorb a moment, whereas a video blows right through these moments too quickly.

Start to finish on this project

Got in our van at 7:30 a.m. and drove up to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Was at the first location by 9:15 a.m.

We wrapped up shooting all three locations by 12:30 p.m.  Drove back to Roswell and stopped by a Barbeque place for lunch. Was home by 3:30 p.m.

Finished editing all the still photos by 5:00 p.m. and finished the combined project by 11:00 p.m.

Took a dinner break for about an hour.

I had Final Cut to crash and lost about an hour of time.

There you have a quick one day multimedia project.

Part 2: The exotic location might be your backyard

I am always looking for interesting visual elements.  While this won’t win a Pulitzer it is different and I think makes you take a second look.

On our local TV station Channel 11, an NBC affiliate, they are promoting doing random acts of kindness. I get goose bumps when I think of all the mission projects our church is involved in. A good number of the mission partners we work with were actually started by members of our church.

One that I go to often is the North Fulton Community Charities.  We donate clothing and things we are no longer using to the Thrift Shop. North Fulton Community Charities (NFCC) is a non-profit human service agency dedicated to preventing homelessness of individuals residing north of the Chattahoochee River in Fulton County (Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park and Roswell). NFCC assists families with basic needs such as food, rent and utilities, and clothing during short term emergencies.

The Roswell Presbyterian Youth group works on an older ladies home.  They scrapped the old paint off.  They have sanded the boards and also filled holes. 

If you are a professional communicator you can create your own blog and tell the stories of those in your community.  You can help educate those around you about the needs and opportunities for others to serve in their community.

You can see the places they sanded and see how the new fresh coat of paint will help the home last longer against the elements.

The age of service starts young in our church.  The vacation bible school had a competition last week. The kids all brought in pennies and see which class raised the most money to help with a charity.  They raised over $1,000.  This was children as small as the toddlers.

I am using a flash off camera to be sure you can see the youth as they work.  If i didn’t the faces would be primarily back-lit and the flash helps you see their faces.

The other cool thing about this project to me is you don’t have to have money to get involved.  You can give of your time.  Volunteer your elbow grease and make a difference.

Bill Silzle, chemical engineer and member of Roswell Presbyterian, donated his time to replace a garbage disposal on the same house they are painting.  I think he maybe over qualified.

I believe my gift in these project is creating compelling images that helps tell the story and inspires others to get involved.  This fall our church is going to have a display of photography up in what we call “Main Street.”  it is the major hall of our church that folks walk through where we will hang large prints (20″x30″) to help tell the story of our mission projects around the city, nation and world.

We will have captions to tell you where the photo was taken and what the church helped with the charity. After the exhibit runs for a couple months we will then take the prints down and put them in other locations through the church.

What are other ways you can use photography to help charities?  Leave your comments below.