Draft One: Columbia’s MKT Nature and Fitness Trail

This morning I showed my Picture Story class what is really my first draft of a video and photographic essay the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail in Columbia, Mo.  The nine-mile trail connects to the state-wide Katy Trail in McBaine, Mo.

This is in rough form, unfortunately, because the past couple of weeks have been consumed by my proposed project to fulfill the requirements of the M.A. program here at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.  Before I begin work on that project, which will take me back to Lake Michigan, I will be working to improve this essay.  Foremost, I plan to speak with Brett Dufur, author of The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook, as well as Columbia’s former mayor, Darwin Hindman, who was a champion of projects like the MKT Trail and Stephens Lake Park.

That said, if you have any other suggestions for people to talk to whose voice would strengthen this piece, I am all ears, so to speak!


Why I should have worn quick-dry pants…

Flat Branch Creek, MKT Trail, Columbia, Mo.

Flat Branch Creek, MKT Trail, Columbia, Mo. | Canon 5D Mk. II and 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens; exposed 2.5 seconds @ f/18, ISO 100.

I was out this evening, working on some more pictures and video for my project on the MKT Trail that runs through Columbia, Mo. and connects to the Katy Trail in McBaine, Mo.  I’ve been meaning to get into the creek beds, and wore quick-dry pants and sandals with that purpose in mind the other day, but wound up staying dry because many of the creeks are precarious to get down to when you’re laden with camera gear.

Today, however, while walking along a stretch of the trail near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Garden off of Stadium Boulevard, I found great access down to Flat Branch Creek.  Now, my jeans are hanging up to dry, because the only way to get an appropriately low angle was to kneel down behind my tripod, which was only inches above the running water.

As always, comments and criticism welcome!


Unintentional-turned-Intentional Blur on the MKT Trail

Panning blur on the MKT Trail

Panning blur, MKT Trail, Columbia, Mo. | Canon 7D and 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens; exposed 1/6 sec. @ f/8, ISO 400.

Yesterday, while gathering some video and making images of the “real” nature offered to the people of Columbia along the MKT Trail (vis-a-vis the artificial nature at Stephens Lake Park), I made an unintentional panning blur.  Hand-held.  And it didn’t suck.  As Artie Morris would say, “you gotta love it!”

Normally, the trick to and panning blur is to have the camera on a tripod and to slowly pan downwards.  This is hard to do on a ball head, but easy to do if you have  a big lens mounted on a Wimberley or other gimbal-style head, or if you’re using a video head.

Usually, the hardest part is going slowly enough on the pan that you get the effect that you want, but not so slow that it just looks out of focus!  Start with a shutter speed of 1/15 second and slow down from there.  In this example, my exposure compensation in aperture priority brought me to 1/6 sec. before I even realized it–I just heard the slow shutter and cursed under my breath.  Only when I looked at it did I jump for joy.  Then I tried making more blurs, and they all failed!  Again, you gotta love it.


Broadway: Is it Finished? (Yes, yes it is!)

Well, just when you think you’re finished with something, people remind you that you aren’t.  Yesterday, while I was choking on the seeds in some home-made bread, my picture story class attempted to watch the last draft of my essay on Stephens Lake Park.  I say that they attempted to do so because, as much as I love my hosting provider (BlueHost), I don’t have access to a streaming server, and the process of loading the minute and a half video took close to ten minutes.  Yikes.

A lot of people in my program have been posting their final videos on the hosting service Vimeo.  For a while, I didn’t understand why: the video is great, yes, but there are ads for Vimeo all over it, and the only way to watch the videos in High Definition is on their Web site–it cannot be embedded.  No one told me an account where you don’t have to deal with any of its (few) shortcomings was available for only $60 for a year!

In any event, I received some very good feedback, particularly from David Rees, Calin Ilea, Lillian Kelly, and Vivian Esparza.  While I’m fine with other people introducing textual information into their documentary presentations using “text slides”–black slides with white text–I’m usually trying to avoid it for my own work.  However, with some healthy dialogue and also a touch of arm twisting, I was convinced that the introductory sequences of the video needed to be changed.  I think that this is, finally, “it” for the Stephens Lake Park piece.


Breaking Bread

Bread from Colin Spitler

Bread from Colin Spitler, before we dove in... | Olympus PEN EP-2 and Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens; exposed 1/100 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 400.

Fellow Picture Story and Photographic Essay student Colin Spitler, who is separated from our class by the distance between Missouri and California, sent us a care package with two loaves of bread that he had baked earlier this week.  It was very nice to munch our way through our Friday class…until a seed got stuck in my wind pipe.  Ouch.

David Rees sclices the bread before class

David Rees, with his trusty towel thrown over his shoulder, slices the bread before class begins. He said that he always cooks with a towel. | Olympus PEN EP-2 and Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens; exposed 1/40 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 400.


Rediscovering the world of the small

Violet Wood Sorrell, MKT Trail, Columbia, Mo.

Violet Wood Sorrell (Oxalis violacea), MKT Trail, Columbia, Mo. | Nikon D700 and 105mm f/2.8 G ED Micro Nikkor lens; exposed 1/125 sec. @ f/3.5, ISO 800, hand-held.

Over sixteen years ago, when my dad put a camera in my hands, I began to explore the world of the small.  Macro photography continues to be one of his specialties, but it’s something that I didn’t feel that I had the patience for.  At the time, I was right.  Who knows, that still may be true to some extent–I was hand-holding, after all–but as I begin the process of bridging documentary photojournalism with nature photography, a need to enlarge the world of the small has arisen.

In another day or two, I should have a new Canon 100mm macro lens, but in the mean time, I am working with one of the university’s Nikon D700 bodies and a Nikon 105mm macro lens for the close-ups for on a new project on the MKT Trail.  The trail runs through Columbia, Mo. to McBaine, and then connects to the Katy Trail–a large trail that runs where the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railway used to have its tracks.  While it is conceptually similar to the piece I made on Stephens Lake Park, it is because I remain curious how people in urban environments connect back to nature.  For some of them, parks and trails may be the closest they ever come to experiencing something truly “wild.”


Third Draft: Stephens Lake Park – A Green Oasis on Broadway

While I was “officially” finished with my contribution to the class’ Broadway project on Wednesday when I turned into my professor, David Rees, a disc with my “second draft” of the video, I was still not quite satisfied with it. The timing of a few things was still off.

On Thursday, I posted another version of the video, and received some more feedback from it both in person and through a comment on the post, and took those into consideration. I was also unhappy with the color of certain clips in the video, and adjusted those within Adobe Premiere. Finally, I went back to Stephens Lake Park for one more “walk around,” which was also my last opportunity to experiment with the Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens. The result is a little tighter, with better matching between audio and visual components.

I consider this a finished piece, but am still more than happy to hear comments and suggestions.


Stephens Lake Park: A Green Oasis on Broadway

In late March, I posted a “draft” of my contribution to my Picture Story class’ project on Broadway, one of the main arteries of Columbia, Mo., which was a “think piece” about Stephens Lake Park.

This Monday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve Saitta, Parks Development Superintendent for the city of Columbia, and ask his thoughts about the relevance of Stephens Lake Park for the community, and the significance of the park’s location on Broadway.

I believe this to be a significant improvement upon my original idea, and I hope you’ll agree. Comments and criticism always welcome!


2nd Thirty Days – Day Thirty

 2nd Thirty Days - Day Thirty - Elizabeth looks out onto her yard

Elizabeth looks out onto her yard (completed drainage on the right), Durham, N.C. | Panasonic Lumix G1 and Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens; exposed 1/160 sec. @ f/3.2, ISO 100.


Elizabeth | Panasonic Lumix G1 and Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens; exposed 1/50 sec. @ f/4, ISO 100.

Completed French drain

Completed French drain, with drain-pipe re-covered with landscape fabric and clay soil. Fescue grass seed will be laid this fall to fill in the (expansive) work area that destroyed the previous grass.