Guest Blog: Story is King!

Robin Rayne is an Atlanta-based photojournalist for international and domestic magazines and newspapers. Robin is also producing a documentary film on people with significant disabilities who have been mandated to relocate from state hospitals into community.

It was only 96 hours on an island in the middle of the Pacific, but the joy and rewards that came from leading a class of young, passionate student storytellers will rank high on my list of life experiences — even though I learned as much for myself as I likely taught them.

I was apprehensive when the University of the Nations first asked if I would consider flying to Kona, Hawaii to teach for a week at its School of Photographic Communication (SoPC) on the Youth With a Mission campus. I was one of a handful of journalists recruited as instructors.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I know some photographers for whom teaching, coaching and counseling seem almost effortless. They are full of knowledge and experiences that just cry to be shared.

I’d never taught a photo class before. But I pushed through my anxiety and said yes anyway. For weeks I pondered what I’d have to offer.  What could I share that was different from the others?

What kept coming back to me was ‘the story.’ Because what we do is really is all about the story, or narrative, or whatever we’re calling it these days.

Without journalistic depth, all those creative, artful and technically brilliant images in the world will remain nice pictures for a gallery or photo magazine, but they fall short as real journalism.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 4000, ƒ/8, 1/100

In 2015, our culture has become one of viewers – on our laptops, iPads, tablets and smartphones – than readers of the printed page.

As journalists, we need to use all the tools available to communicate: still photos, cinema, text, audio and design.

Photojournalists are first of all journalists. The world is brimming with photographers,  but it’s our job to tell stories. Sometimes we have editors who direct us to specific people or situations to capture, but much of the time it’s up to the photojournalist to find someone that moves a story forward.

Everyone has a story if we dig deep enough.  Too often we take the easy way, the low-hanging fruit. We don’t dig. We don’t get names, or if we do, we only get the top layer.  We often don’t get the rich story because we don’t ask the right questions, or we don’t know how to ask questions and really listen to the answers.

Students interview coffee grower in downtown Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. [photo by Robin Rayne]

So that’s what our class worked on for several days. As an exercise, I asked the students to pair off and interview each other, digging for something  that that was interesting, curious, unique — or that had conflict.

We split into two production ‘crews’ and talked about a common narrative that had conflict. The students shaped and refined their questions for a handful of  prospective subjects and then left the campus in search of a multimedia story that could be told in two minutes.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 180, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

A few learning moments quickly surfaced as the crews approached their mission.

Rule Number One: The story is king.

Other things to remember:

2. Do your research and think hard about what the story really is. Answer the question: What’s the conflict? Why should the viewer care about your subject or the story?
3.Don’t fall in love with your original idea. Have a “Plan B.’ and a ‘Plan C, D, E and F’ if necessary.
4. Be willing to dig for the real story and follow wherever it goes.
5. Look for emotional, spontaneous moments, establishing shots and appropriate b-roll.
6. You can never have enough b-roll.
7. Know your equipment. f4 at 125th sec. outside on a bright day is probably going to be overexposed. And make sure the record button is ‘on’ when it is supposed to be.
8. Watch your monitor. Know your camera, microphones and cables.
9. Always bring a reflector, tripod and fresh batteries.
10. Listen to the subject’s answers. If they’re stiff, ask the subject to say it a different way.
11. Delegate responsibility so each crew member knows her/his job.
12. Watch out for things other crew members might have missed.
13. Mediocre images can be forgiven if the audio is solid and clean. Bad audio will lose viewers even if the images are stellar.
14. Kona coffee is awesome.

Students learn how to use microphones with their DSLRs to interview subjects. [photo by Robin Rayne]

Watching the crews learn by doing was the best way to teach. All the things I knew to be true were hammered home to me as we watched the final pieces together. We learn from screwing up more than we learn by our successes.

I hope the students learned some things they might not have known before. Sitting among them rather than in front of them was a great equalizer. Because none of us has ‘arrived’ and knows everything. We ought to be learning until the day we die.

Students talk to a local shop employee in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. [photo by Robin Rayne]

Now I have a few more friends who will go on to do amazing things in their lives.  I’m deeply blessed to know them. I really liked what we accomplished together that week.
They all rocked, and I hope we’ll stay connected.


robin rayne nelson

Storytelling?–I don’t think so

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/250


I don’t think portraits tell stories but are part of the story. For the most part, most portraits are the nouns of a sentence. For a complete sentence, you need a verb.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 280, ƒ/5.6, 1/250


Yes, this photo has a subject and a verb that makes it storytelling. However, one image often lacks all the elements in a complete story. This is where caption can help make up the missing parts.

Most storytellers agree you need five elements for a story—five main elements of a story: setting, plot, characters, conflict, and theme.

Subject vs. Author

Great storytelling is when you never notice the author/photographer. However, today I would say too many people think they are doing storytelling. It is all about the author/photographer.

I love this photo of my wife and me with the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy. I love telling the story of how Truett’s son Bubba asked me to give him my camera to take the photo.

Too often, the photo is what I think our generation over-emphasizes as storytellers. As a result, the story becomes more about looking at who I am with and what I am doing. Don’t you wish you were here?

Sure take these photos and even share them on your social media, but don’t let these replace storytelling where you tell the subject’s story.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/5, 1/100

This young lady is peaking in and seeing does she want to be a part of this brand new Young Life club at the Rancho el Paraíso located in the Agalta Valley of Honduras. Inside the room, Daniela Tereza Perez is talking to the other youth. HOI helped bring Young Life to their campus to help reach the child in the area.

If I do my job just right, I had you clicking on HOI to learn more. So I am pulling you into the story.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/8, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger

In my opinion–Don’t confuse a lovely portrait with storytelling. It is a noun that needs help to make a story.

Think of it this way: if you are telling a good story, everyone who sees it will take away the same story. The story impacts audiences differently, but they will be able to tell the story. Likewise, looking at a person’s portrait allows each person to make up what they think the story is about. 

How good are you? Ask those you impact.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/9, 1/100

While in Honduras, we interviewed some of the dignitaries to put later into a larger video package.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/25—Off-camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800. The flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and triggered by the Mini TT1 on the camera with the AC3 to control the flash’s output.

Suppose HOI, the organization I was working with, went on camera and said that the community loves its work. In that case, it doesn’t have the exact authenticity that interviewing the local mayor would add to the package.

So, I interviewed the mayor at the grand opening of the new school that HOI helped to build. Listen to his interview here.

The key to documentary work is letting each person speak for themselves as much as possible.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/160

Meet Honduran Chicken Coop Entrepreneur Claudio Cesar Aguirre

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 160, ƒ/8, 1/100

I met Claudio Cesar Aguirre, an entrepreneur in Honduras. He was one of a few families that came together. They started a chicken coop with a small grant from some organizations, government agriculture department training, and a few other entities.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 220, ƒ/8, 1/100

What is the big deal with a chicken coop? Didn’t everyone have chickens? Before they started their business, there were no other chicken coops in the area. A family had enough chickens to get eggs, but most families did not have enough chickens to count on eggs.

The chicken coop is actually about solving a problem of more than just having some eggs around. It is a nutrition issue. Most kids going to school in the area would go off without protein and just some tortilla, beans, and rice at the most.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/8, 1/250

Just imagine your household; you buy the eggs at the grocery store and have them in the refrigerator. But, then, imagine being so far away from grocery stores that there were no eggs to buy.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/8, 1/100

Here you see Claudio’s wife, Blanca Aparicio, gathering the eggs from the chicken coop. They live in the small community of Santa Anna, Olancho, Honduras.

Nikon F4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5, 1/250

Claudio is part of a community development committee, and they brainstormed many ideas considering the resources they had in their community and what they didn’t have for starting businesses.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 560, ƒ/8, 1/100

With enough eggs every day from the chickens, the development committee is now thinking of a new startup business that the community could use. They now believe a bakery would be great.

It only takes a pebble dropped into the water to affect the entire pond. The ripples seem to sustain themselves for a while from that first drop.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/160—Off Camera Neewer TT850 using the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel to control the flash

Dr. German Jimenez works for Honduras Outreach and says that prevention, like good nutrition, is making a huge difference. Celebrating 25 years in Honduras, the President is honored next month for their service. The President believes that HOI embodies his purpose of a “Better Tomorrow.”

Storytellers know thy purpose

The shortest distance isn’t always the best route

Know Thyself

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu

We are familiar with the saying to “Know Thyself” because you can accomplish so much more through understanding yourself. You learn your strengths and limits, which will help you navigate life.

Storytellers need to know the purpose of a story. Why were you hired to tell a story?

I have been driving many times in the Atlanta traffic when suddenly my GPS will alert me to traffic and alternative route to my destination.

Knowing your destination, the GPS helps you navigate and get you to your location in the quickest amount of time.

Great Teachers

One of the best examples I experienced over and over growing up was when a student would ask my teacher a question. The teachers I have the fondest memories of are the ones who could take almost any question and use it to engage the class on the subject. My worst memories are of the teachers who, like in the top illustration, use that red-line approach to everything. They somewhat answer the question but are quick to say something like, “now let’s get back to …” and shut down the class in the process.

The difference is that great teachers know their subject well and know their lesson plans. They see the goal and purpose of the lesson that day. They are willing to take a question and, like the GPS, use this alternative route, which is better than proceeding into what will be a traffic jam.

Great Storytellers are Great Listeners

I have traveled with some of the best writers and loved learning from them. These were all journalists, and we were working together on stories. I was capturing the still images and video while they were responsible for the text.

I have also watched too many writers who are so self-absorbed with where they think the story should go that they kill the story. I remember more than once with more than one writer where they asked a question and didn’t listen either with their ears or eyes and missed the traffic jam taking place and hearing the subject helping to redirect them to an alternative route.

Chick-fil-A Cow out on Marietta Street in front of the new restaurant adjacent to the College Football Hall of Fame. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 800, ƒ/8, 1/800—Off-camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash]

Today I am sent by news outlets and corporations to capture stories for their audiences. For example, just this week, I was covering the grand opening of Chick-fil-A at The College Football Hall of Fame. My audience was the internal staff and franchise owners. The Associated Press photographer covered the story, and his audience was the public.

Associated Press photographer Dan Goldberg interviews a couple. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/140]

How the new Chick-fil-A restaurant impacted, those audiences was my assignment. The AP Photographer and I were covering the same subject. Still, because we knew our purpose, we could adjust throughout the story as the subjects in the story helped inform us of new content relevant to the story.

My primary concern in all my storytelling is the subject. If I aim to please the subject and the subject would be happy with the story, then the accuracy is much greater than focusing on what someone else told me about the narrative storyline.

Just like the teacher who knows the purpose of their lesson plan can adjust to bring the class along, I, too, must adapt to be sure I capture how this new restaurant will impact my audience.

Dan Cathy is with one of the staff members from the College Football Hall of Fame reading the story of “A Better Way Ministries” person who built the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/200]

As you can see in this photo, I needed my dancing shoes when Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A, crawled under a table and started talking to everyone from under the table. Just like when the teacher gets a question from a student who can help engage the classroom even more in the story, this was my question moment.

The plaque on top of the table tells the story of the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/160]

You can read about the table in the photo above. Dan Cathy talked about how this partnership with A Better Way Ministries was similar to their new coffee company Thrive Farmers. The process of picking Thrive Farmers was the realization there was a story there of the farmers. The artisans who made the table have a story, and Chick-fil-A asked them to take a Sharpie and write their account under the table.

The artisan’s story. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/500]

This unexpected detour helped me reach my destination better than without the detour. You see, the story of how Chick-fil-A was interested in impacting the lives of the artisans and coffee growers by buying their products is how they were impacting those communities. It did a great job setting up the story of how this restaurant will impact the neighborhood near the College Football Hall of Fame.

Highways vs. Back Roads

Great storytellers know that those detours compare the interstate highway to the back roads. Of course, interstate highways are like the straight line from point A to point B, but rarely are they as scenic as the backroads.

I know that when I am the passenger on a drive on the interstate, I am much more likely to take a nap than on the backroads.

The lesson here is simple. If you know why you are doing the story, you will learn how to navigate and take advantage of the opportunities the subjects give you, making your account success.

To grow as a photographer you need constructive criticism

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/210

Team Photo Story?

Today I saw the work of seven teams assigned themes and had to find a story on the Big Island of Hawaii to do as a team. I have never seen this done before. Usually, in photo schools, they give each person a story and work on it alone.

This class’s purpose is to give young people a Discipleship Training School, where they spend a month preparing to go to another country to work on a project. These projects include orphanages, sex trafficking, and other social justice issues.

To help teach everyone how to engage with people cross-culturally, they are using the camera to help guide this skill. However, most of these Discipleship Training Schools do not use photography.

Paul & Suzi Childers [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/160]

Paul and Suzi Childers had this vision of using photography for a DTS. Suzie is a professional portrait photographer by trade and saw this would work to help teach cross-cultural skills and help the students make connections.

I taught this week how to get permission in cross-cultural settings to take photos and how using photojournalism techniques would help them get to know people.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/250

Working as a team, they could potentially shoot different angles and let one person concentrate on doing most of the talking. Then, another person could take notes and gather content using a recorder or video on their camera.

One group let the subject tell their own story, and they used photos that they set up to help illustrate some of the concepts.

One group used an illustrative/conceptual photography approach and combined this with reading the story to the group.

A few groups wrote captions, put those up on the screen, and then put the photos in a more photojournalistic sequence.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/220

After each group presented, their peers then gave feedback. Finally, the leader asked them to provide some positive comments and things they could improve. Please don’t say you don’t like the photo; tell them what they could have done to improve it.

Earlier in the week, I put up coverage of mine, which I didn’t tell them until we were quite a ways into the critique. I asked each person to look at a photo and tell me what they saw as something wrong with the picture. Each person commented that the others had not done earl8er.

Manny, one of the students, said one of my photos looked amateurish. Well, the point of the critique session was to teach them how to give constructive criticism. So I didn’t let him off without him taking the time to tell everyone why it was amateurish and what he thought would make it better.

Some of the students at first thought we were arguing. They all learned that sometimes you must ask someone to clarify their comments. Even when they are saying your photo is crap. Why is it crap?

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/3.2, 1/500

I would offer to them if they paid my expenses and make up for all the income for the next two months to join them and critique every day, but that isn’t practical. What made much more sense was to help them understand how to look at photos and discuss why a photo worked or didn’t work.

What they were learning was how to listen to feedback in life. Hopefully, this process will teach them how to build community and grow in maturity as they know how to serve one another.

I can’t wait to see their work from around the world. The group splits up to go to Panama, Turkey, Germany, Thailand, and China.

How using portrait in a photo story

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 125, ƒ/1.4, 1/100

I made three quick photos of a student yesterday in class to help the students see two things they can do very quickly to introduce a character into the story.

We preferred not to have a posed portrait but rather something of her in action. Therefore, I did not take a photo to illustrate that point but did want to explain lens choice and aperture.

The first photo has a shallow depth-of-field of ƒ/1.4. Again, the emphasis is all on the lady.

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/14, 1/100

I then just stopped down the aperture to create a greater depth of field so that the map was much sharper.

Now I told the class that my purpose was to show the student in a class with photo students, and they would then leave the course and do stories around the world.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/14, 1/100

For the last shot, I changed the lens to a wide-angle and then had the class behind her. We talked about how we can then introduce her in our story this way as well.

All three are good photos in their own right, but the question was which one does the best job of helping tell the story.

Today I will show them another technique, so stay tuned for that example.

Lisbon, Portugal Scene Setters

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 800, ƒ/9, 1.3 sec

Who, What, WHERE, Why, When & How

We teach in Journalism 101 the five Ws and H as the questions whose answers are considered essential in information-gathering. Importantly, none of these questions can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Last week while teaching Multi-Media Storytelling Workshop in Lisbon, Portugal, we covered getting images that help give context to their stories.

You can visually capture the Five Ws and Hs. Conveying a complex idea by a photojournalist with just a single still image is what the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is all about. It also aptly characterizes one of the visualization’s main goals, allowing it to absorb large amounts of data quickly.

The power of a single image is why visual storytelling can be compelling. You can convey a lot of information to the audience in a short time.

While one image can capture “Where,” a series of photos in multimedia can do even more; depending on the sequence, some music and the human voice can pull you deeper into the story’s context.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/13, 1/180

Here is a photo of Nazaré, Portugal, where I am at Sítio (an old village on top of a cliff) overlooking Praia (along the beach). This photo is an example of how you, as a tourist, give context. Shoot too tight, and you could be anywhere in the world. But don’t make that mistake; you could have stayed home and taken photos in your backyard.


Context photos are difficult when you use a shallow depth-of-field. Compare these two photos by changing the aperture to give a greater depth of field.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/3.7, 1/1000
Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 640, ƒ/10, 1/500

Wide Angle Lens

I prefer to get close with a wide angle versus using a longer telephoto lens, but here in these photos, it does work.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/500

Remember when you travel, and you want to take establishing shots that capture where you were, not just photos you could have taken anywhere.

Storyline involves a Plot

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/250, custom white balance with ExpoDisc

A plot “ensures that you get your character from point A to point Z.”

The shooting of the story is often not in the order of telling the story. It is standard in Hollywood when they are making a movie to shoot a story all out of order for budget reasons.

You may need to go ahead and shoot the ending because it takes place in the spring, and you are now in the Spring time.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/45, custom white balance with ExpoDisc

Yesterday I was working with my intern/photo assistant. I sat down for a few minutes to talk about what I was doing and why. He is going to Lisbon, Portugal, with me and will be shooting his own visual story.

One thing I talked to him about was how every situation I shot was as if it were a stand-alone story.

Fujifilm X-E2, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4 D AF, using Nikon G to FX adapter, ISO 500, ƒ/1.4, 1/60

Yesterday I photographed a Georgia Tech Management student. I followed him around for the day. While in the classroom with him, I photographed each situation as if the whole story had to come out. I was shooting stills and videos. I shot an overall shot of the classroom, some of the teacher and some of the students, and everything else you could think of in between.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4 D AF, ISO 1100, ƒ/1.4, 1/250 Custom white balance with the ExpoDisc

I shot each situation as if it were a stand-alone package because it is easier to sequence the overall package with the best photos to tell the complete story.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/6.3, 1/500, custom white balance with ExpoDisc

If you didn’t shoot the variety, you might end up with all close-up shots when you finally were editing. Then the array of the photo starts to work against you by shooting to get good tight, medium, and overall pictures and varieties of each of those; you then are picking from each situation and then putting these into a sequence that moves the viewer through the plot of events to tell the story.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/4.8, 1/250, custom white balance with ExpoDisc

Unlike fiction writers who can create their content, the visual storyteller who captures the story must grasp it before it is sequenced and told. The writer can design and make it work and not worry if they have images to move you through the plot. They create it.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/10, 1/500

I even did the environmental portrait as a safe shot of the student in front of the Georgia Institute of Technology sign.

During our interview with the subject, he mentioned that he would be working with Wells Fargo Securities this coming summer. So just to have something we could drop in for a visual, we found a sign to put him in front of for the story.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/10, 1/180 and -1 EV on the pop-up flash

The bottom line is that you need to have a storyline in mind while shooting. Then for each point of the outline, you shoot it like it will be the complete story. Then, you create another sub-outline of the design that makes this a full report.

It is almost impossible to overshoot for a visual storyteller. Those who undershoot will have to rely on other communication like text or audio to help tell the story.

The best way to tell a story is to show the audience rather than say it to the audience. Don’t be caught without enough visuals when putting the final package together.

Storytelling Involves Characters

Here is one way to introduce a character running straight at the audience.

The show, don’t tell.

When introducing your character, sharing an experience of the essence with the audience is essential. With the football players, this is an easier way to introduce a character into the story. But, again, the action helps to tell us about the character.

Student Omar Yougbare in Koudougou, Burkina Faso.

While this might be a lovely portrait of the story’s character, you can see that because the man is just looking at the camera, it does little to tell the audience about the man. So now the story must rely more heavily on the storyteller’s telling rather than showing to introduce the character.

Paul Tiendeno is a student at the theology school in Koudougou, Burkina Faso. They teach theology and farming to help the pastors feed their families while they minister as bi-vocational pastors. 

Contrast the photo of the man just looking into the camera lens with this one, which shows the man working in the field and tending his crops.

Which photo helps to establish the characteristics of the person?

Just Coffee Cooperative

Here is the matriarch of her family pouring hot water over coffee grinds to make coffee. Showing her working in her kitchen is an excellent way to introduce the mother and wife of coffee farmers in my story on a coffee cooperative.

Just Coffee Coop in El Aguila Adan Roblero

The theme of the story I was working on about a coffee cooperative is how the cooperative’s success depends on the coffee drinkers getting to know their coffee growers. One of the Arizona coffee drinkers plays with a coffee farmer’s son in El Aguila, Chiapas, Mexico. Here, I am telling a small story within the photo, introducing the character into the storyline.

Doug Parkin, a volunteer pediatrician from Arizona, sees patients during his two-month service at the Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu, Ghana. (Photo by: Stanley Leary)

Here is a doctor who donates some vacation time to serve in the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. The story tried recruiting doctors to become full-time missionaries in this hospital. Unfortunately, when I visited, they had only two doctors.

Surgeon Danny Crawley is in theatre doing a hernia operation, and Comfort Bawa, the theatre assistant, helps him at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. (Photo by: Stanley Leary)

Danny Crawford is one of those two doctors and the only surgeon. So, this was a way to introduce him into the storyline.

Just Coffee Cooperative

Pushing the boy is one of the coffee farmers with his grandson in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. I think this is a great way to introduce the coffee farmer and show the value of family to the people of the coffee cooperative.

Recording artist Soulja Boy poses for a portrait at his Atlanta Buckhead Penthouse on Thursday, April 23, 2009.

While you may have a lovely portrait of a person like this, a shot of Soulja Boy does little to introduce the character compared to if he was doing something.

Just Coffee Cooperative

The people can even have beautiful smiles, but you still know little about the characters when you have them stop and look at the camera.

Kalyn Wood

The portraits can be pretty powerful, but they are not the same as introducing the character when they are doing something. So yes, they can be powerful images that capture your attention, but what is the story?

State and Lake In-Line Rob Meier, Operator

Don’t you think this photo of the two guys competing on who can move the Oreo Cookie from their forehead to eat is a much more exciting and character-revealing photo to introduce a character?

The Archbishop of Atlanta, His Excellency The Most Reverend Wilton Daniel Gregory, S.L.D., presides over the Eucharist during The Mass of Canonical Installation of His Excellency The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, S.L.D. at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, Georgia on January 17, 2005.

This moment during the celebration of the Eucharist in Mass is a great way to introduce Archbishop Gregory into the storyline.

Clayton State University Campus Scenics

Only as a last resort should you use the posed portrait to introduce your character. Let the visuals tell the story—SHOW, don’t TELL!

Photographers: The Best Of Times Are Often The Worst Of Times

Nikon D3S, 14-24mm, ISO 320, ƒ/13, 1/180

My oldest step-son Nelson Lalli [he is in the center front row], chose to go to The Citadel, a military college. Unfortunately, he decided to go to a school where for the most part, students are paying to be yelled at and pretty much humiliated, as I saw it for most of their entire first year. At The Citadel this year, they are called Knobs.

We all know that they teach this to the military because they learn to follow orders, which is critical to the success of the military.

Later Nelson decided in his Junior year to try out for the Summerall Guards. Now, if you think being a Knob was hard, the comparison is like thinking of your Knob year as a cakewalk.

Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/6.3, 1/320

The Summerall Guards must do all that the rest of the Corp of Cadets is doing plus all the extra physical and psychological torture [well, to an outsider] they do. He had to listen to orders while someone was yelling into his ear just inches from his ear.

Do you know what they talk about as Seniors? They tell all the stories from Knob year, and if they were a Summerall Guard, they also tell those stories.

Great storytelling requires tension. It would help if you had something to move the story along. What is great about a good story is it is memorable.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/45

The students I have been teaching in Hawaii have instructors sit with them and pour their wisdom daily.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/3.6, 1/110

However, years later, many of these students will remember more about their kitchen duty than from a devotional that someone led because of the stress that comes from dealing with difficult situations and overcoming them.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/8

Late into the evening, you see students all over this Youth With A Nation campus studying and trying to get everything done for their assignments.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/110

Here you can see three students in my class working together, trying to grasp how to set up three lights: The Main, The Fill, and the Background. Of course, each morning had to be set for a different power, and the Main and the Fill light needed to be one-stop different.

Not only did they have to get the lights set, but they also had to get a custom white balance. So now, when they had all this technical stuff, they still had to work with a model and get a good expression and composition.

They were stressed. They continued to come to me. Rather than giving them a quick answer, I often asked them questions. The stress you could see going up on their face. Then as Keziah Khoo experienced, there was a eureka moment where they got it. The joy on her face made all those struggles worth it.

The difficulty of the class and then mastering the subject made her feel good about what she now knew how to do that she could not do before.

I wrote this today to let those of you who are experiencing a lot of stress know that these times are memorable, and as you make it through these tough times, the fact that you survived alone makes for a great story.

When your life is boring, it is because you are most likely not challenging yourself and growing in knowledge.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/500, Exp Comp -1

While many people love an incredible sunset, I love an amazing sunrise. I love the fresh air and the fresh start to each day.

Funny how sleeping on something insurmountable yesterday is not so bad the next day.

Look at your challenges as opportunities that make your life one exciting story to read.

Thanksgiving is really special this year for a few reasons

Jachai Wilmont, the Chamber orchestra freshman violist, is surprised at The Varsity with a brand new viola from the Mark Wood Foundation. It was a blessing to our family to deliver this to Jachai today, the day before Thanksgiving.

“This is the best day of my life,” was Jachai Wilmont’s response to receiving a new viola. What prompted the gift was this fall, Jachai’s viola was stolen out of his relative’s car.

Jachai started playing the viola in fourth grade and hasn’t had any formal lessons. However, his dedication is something that his classmates know all too well.

Jachai, Chelle, and Ari enjoy each other as best friends who all play the viola.

For Jachai, music has changed his world. Here is the photo of the invitation to Jachai after a workshop he did with Mark Wood to perform in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mark Wood asked Jachai to join him on stage for the MuzArt World Foundation’s concert event called “We Are Hope” in early November in Salt.
Lake City. The all-expenses paid trip included a performance on stage by 10 of Mark’s students with The Mark Wood Experience.

Mark Wood visited Elkins Pointe Middle School and heard Jachai play, and invited him to that camp this summer.

I think it is better to see Jachai’s expressions and hear what this means to him in his own words.

By the way, my daughter Chelle helped to film part of this project.

Left to right are Dorie Griggs, Jachai and JaVair Wilmont, and Chelle Leary at the Varsity with Jachai’s new viola we brought to him from Mark Wood Foundation.

The other Thanksgiving is for my daughter’s favorite band Late Nite Reading. I posted on my Facebook yesterday how someone stole a band’s gear at a mall parking lot in Orlando. Well, friends all chipped in, and they look like they found out they have many friends.