ARCHIVES

ON STORYTELLING: IT’S NOT THE GEAR, IT’S YOUR SKILL

April 6th, 2012

With the release of the new Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark III, both amateur and professional photographers have new tools at their disposal. Questions abound: Which camera is better? Should I upgrade? What will it let me do? Should I go pure-video like a Canon C300 or a Sony NEX-FS700?

I am appreciative of the Canon 5D Mark II; I own two, and these compact DSLR’s have allowed me to shoot more video for my clients and for my personal projects. I’m enjoying the medium and how the combination of video, audio, and stills gives me more tools for storytelling, in spite of the increased complexity and greater workload. Will I upgrade? In due time, when it makes financial sense and there’s a need. For me, my main concerns are better ergonomics, audio capture, rolling shutter and moire.

The thing is, it’s just gear, and without story you’ve got nothing.
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FRED BECKEY’S AUTOGRAPHED NEW BOOK: 100 FAVORITE NORTH AMERICAN CLIMBS

January 10th, 2012

Fred Beckey 100 Favorite Climbs ManuscriptThere are many stories of Fred Beckey, considered one of the most prolific alpinists of our time. He is constantly in motion from one climbing trip to the next, the quintessential “dirt bagger” and master of living cheaply. He is an icon in the mountaineering community.

Nearing 89 years of age, he has established first ascents across the globe and authored, among other books, the definitive climbing guide to the Cascades; three volumes essential to any Cascade climber’s library. And now, Patagonia Books published Fred Beckey’s “100 Favorite North American Climbs.”

A hybrid of coffee table and guide book, it is large format, with narrative and climbing route topographic maps. It is meant to inspire and, as I heard last night, imbue pride in climbers when they see Fred included their favorite route. I also understand it was hard getting him to whittle it down to 100 climbs!

My Fred stories are limited. I’ve gotten lost by misreading his sometimes vague route descriptions (like “trend up and right past the white block to the second corner and onto the ridge”). While working outdoor retail, I’ve accepted his well-worn down sleeping bag for washing. I’ve successfully avoided his propositions for climbing and ski trips, I think more out of fear than anything else, as I understand they are enriching experiences in and of themselves. But with no shortage of Beckey Tales, I’ve been able to appreciate his endeavors from the safety of the published word and the stories I’ve heard from many others.

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KIVALINA WORK FEATURED IN WINk MAGAZINE

August 26th, 2011

My Kivalina work was recently included in a grant to the Open Society Institute by film maker Jenni Monet as part of her distribution plan. Subsequently, the photo agency Worldwide Image Navigation (WIN-Initiative), which holds an “image collection from the independent minds and unique creative perspectives of gifted photographers worldwide,” featured my work with a joint interview in their WINk Magazine, an online publication with a very attractive presentation. Click through to Page 75 to read the article.

The slow creep of things like climate change means stories created a few years ago are still extremely relevant. In 2008 I went to the remote Alaskan village of Kivalina on assignment for Germany’s Spiegel Magazine. My five days in Alaska was an amazing experience; having grown up in the northwest and having a librarian for a mother, I was exposed to many stories about native cultures. Reading about whale hunting is one thing, actually going out on the sea ice for a whale hunt is something I’d never imagined actually doing.

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NOMINATED FOR AN EMMY AWARD

July 27th, 2011

When I walked into MediaStorm, on my first day, I saw the golden Emmys resting on the window sill and decided I wanted one. Not because I covet a trophy, but because I wanted to have the opportunity to help create something powerful and important enough to rise above all the others. And have an impact.

“What do you know about Pakistan?” Brian asked.

“Well, that they’re complicit in the war in Afghanistan but they’re also nuclear armed and an important ally in the region?” I shrugged.

He nodded, then told me he likes to walk into projects with very little knowledge so he can digest the content with an open mind. I made a mental note.

I spent three months working on this project, through several reviews, then handed it off to Eric Maierson when I left; he went through a couple more reviews. Doing a crisis guide on Pakistan is complicated. During that time I sat in on several meetings with the Council on Foreign Relations team, explaining and sometimes defending the edits I’d made. I wanted powerful and dramatic, but also true and factual. I made both.

The script I was working with came from the Council’s team–some of the smartest, most knowledgeable people on Pakistan’s history and politics. And, if they wanted General Petraeus for an interview, they could get him (and they did). The images and video I sourced were from the world’s best photojournalists and news videographers. It was awesome, inspiring, and I wanted to do the story justice.

And so, a year later, it turns out this project was nominated for an Emmy. That very same golden trophy sitting on the window sill at MediaStorm.

In late September, we’ll see if it wins.

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COMMITTING TO LONG-FORM STORYTELLING

June 29th, 2011

I couldn’t help but write about another Tucker Walsh post at the Digital Naturalist because he interviewed Noah and Tim Hussin or America reCycled. I was one of the 103 backers who donated a (meager) sum to their Kickstarter campaign, and continue to enjoy their long-form storytelling as they bicycle across the country and document “people…finding innovative ways to come together and make revolutionary change on a local level, to regain control of their lives, rediscover independence, and recycle the American Dream.”

Along with their Kickstarter campaign, they won a $5000 grant from National Geographic, have a PayPal button, and manage to get by living simply on the road.

It’s definitely a commitment to a lifestyle, and having met Tim Hussin in the MediaStorm office (he’s another alumnus of the MediaStorm family…and another Tim) before he left on the trip, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of how the journey is unfolding. If you read the interview, you’ll find a lot of the MediaStorm ethos in the brothers’ words, as well as some insight in their process.

Say the brothers (and I agree):

“…it’s common that people hardly spend time producing their stories, so how can they expect people to spend the time to watch them? We spend months shooting and editing some of the longer stories in this project, so in the end 20 minutes of material isn’t really too much.

“We firmly believe that as long as a story is interesting and engaging, then people will continue to watch and listen. And it’s important to show and prove to people that the content you produce is in fact worth dedicating more than three minutes of your time to. Then, when people come to your site to watch whatever you’ve produced, they’ve already set aside enough time to watch it all. ”

Set some time aside, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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AIRING ON LINK TV: SREY NETH, CROSSING THE GENDER GAP

March 15th, 2011

Several months ago I entered the Link TV ViewChange contest, looking for another means of distribution for a story I felt needed to be told. As a finalist, I found Srey Neth’s story would see the distribution I hoped for. I think it is a great example of independent distribution leveraged by social media.

Yesterday, Link TV told me they’ve compiled half-hour episodes from the ViewChange entries. Srey Neth’s story will air in the “Crossing the Gender Gap” episode.

The film will air Wednesday, March 16th at 8:30pm PT/ 11:30pm ET and Saturday, March 19th at 6:30pm PT/ 9:30pm ET on DIRECTV 375 / DISH Network 9410. Srey Neth: Victim to Survivor will be part of an episode featuring inspiring stories of women fighting poverty, disease, and oppression in the developing world.

The film is also available to watch at Hulu.com/viewchange and Link TV is planning to disseminate my film through other outlets as well such as Snag Films, WGBH’s “World” Channel (which is carried on 150 PBS stations), and other international stations.

Many thanks again to Transitions Global and Srey Neth who offered me access and their trust to tell an important story.

www.linktv.org/programs/viewchange (where the “Crossing the Gender Gap” episode will be available online, starting later today)
www.viewchange.org/videos/srey-neth-victim-to-survivor (Srey Neth video on ViewChange.org)

@ViewChange (twitter)
@LinkTV (twitter)
facebook.com/viewchange
facebook.com/linktv

And don’t forget my Facebook Page and Twitter Feed!

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TIMELAPSE CINEMATOGRAPHY

March 3rd, 2011

Thanks to the Twitter Feed, I came across this time lapse work by Tom Lowe. Aside from getting in some climbing and canyoneering, I can’t thing of a better way to spend a summer than to travel across the American Southwest and shoot amazing footage with all this gear. Yes, I do like gear, and I can’t wait to have a shoot where I get to use such a long dolly shot or incorporate a crane! Here’s a behind the scenes video of this shoot.

TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

Says Tom Lowe (included in total because I know how important sponsors and assistants are!):

“This is production footage I shot over the summer for my debut film, “TimeScapes,” a modern portrait of the American Southwest. I used Canon and Red MX cameras.

“Follow the production of the film at: http://twitter.com/timescapes

“Also here: http://timescapes.org and here http://timescapes.org/blog

“A huge thank you to my assistants/Associate Producers who helped me film this, Dustin Kukuk (http://twitter.com/drkanab), Nilo Recalde (http://twitter.com/nilomr) and Chris M (http://twitter.com/visceralway). And, as always, my most sincere and humble respect goes to Ron Fricke, Mark Magidson, Terrence Malick and Godfrey Reggio.

“Thank you to my sponsors: Kessler Crane, camBLOCK Canon USA, Vinten, KATA & Cinevate.

“Music is by the film’s composer Nigel “John” Stanford: http://johnstanfordmusic.com Make sure to turn the volume and bass way up!”

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PRESS PHOTO CONTEST AWARDS

February 25th, 2011

This year’s photo contests, at least the major press photography ones, are wrapping up and I wanted to share some of my favorites. Definitely, there is a lot of strong stuff, and definitely, there are a lot of similarities to previous years and styles. One criticism I heard, and can’t really argue with, is that there must be a dead body in the image for it to win. While there are a lot of dead bodies, I do think it’s both gratuitous and representative of a reality, and necessary to show.

You could certainly spend a good chunk of time this weekend looking at the winning images and multimedia at World Press Photo and Pictures of the Year International.

There was also some discussion around the use of cell phone images, and the “apps” used to process the images; another discussion was about the unorthodox use of images captured by that Google mapping car–you know, the one with the cameras on top that creates the “Street View” images we use in Google maps?

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INTERVIEW WITH BENJAMIN DRUMMOND ON “HOZOMEEN” MULTIMEDIA

January 7th, 2011

I love looking at other people’s work, especially multimedia. Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele, a husband-wife creative team, recently produced a piece on chert. “Chert?” you might ask. Yes, chert. It’s a rock that’s easily shaped into stone tools historically used by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest, and there’s a stash of it in the heart of the rugged North Cascades.

Benjamin and Sara are using the new tools of today’s evolving media industry, and I was noting the techniques they used, the pacing, the music, and how the story gets told. Afterward, I wanted to know about the business end of it; how did they get the work? How did they budget it? How did they manage the multiple roles?

While it’s still a tough time for the editorial market (and commercial, too), it’s also exciting because of multimedia, social media, and the hardware and software allowing small teams to become full production studios.

It’s about tools, style, and…chert. Read the interview and learn about the tools from today, and days gone by.

Watch the video and click through the jump for the interview! Post to comments if you’ve more questions.

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PHOTOLUCIDA: CRITICAL MASS TOP 50, MY SELECTS

November 19th, 2010

Picture 1The selects have been out for a little while, but it took me some time to go through all the work and pick the ones I like. Some are journalistic, some represent an important story, some are oddly creative, and some just look beautiful. All are worth scrolling through to the end to read each project’s summary.

Last year I was selected as one of the 2009 Critical Mass Top 50, for my series on the Inupiat in the town of Kivalina, Alaska. One image from that series, the whaling boat, was kind of happenstance. I walked to the edge of the ice, stood by that lone boat beneath a moody sky and began making frames. I centered the boat and leveled the horizon, until it felt “good.” A few minutes later, the hunters moved their second boat to the water’s edge, disrupting the frame.

I am a self-taught photographer with no formal training, and I tend toward the literal and the journalistic…as is my line of work. When I make a photograph, I’ll think about what I see in the viewfinder, but I’m usually just going off what “feels” good.

It’s with that caveat that I present my recommended image sets from this year’s Critical Mass Top 50. The images just “felt good.”

Click through the jump for links to my selects.

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TIM MATSUI CONTACT INFO

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