Exploring a New Arena

I am not great at embracing new technology. I am a professional photographer working in the digital age but I cling to my traditional ways of doing things even as I slowly move further and further into the new possibilities that digital offers. This has been especially true when it comes to the wonderful world of video. Both here at the Daily Inter Lake and at my old newspaper, the Prince George's Gazette, there has been a clear move toward greater web content - specifically video. And in both cases I have done an impressive job of dragging my feet rather than embracing this new form of storytelling. "Why should I have to do this?" I ask. If I wanted to be a videographer I would have gone into television. I love being a photographer - a still photographer. And I have stuck to this mentality basically wishing that the video fad would simply dry up and go away. Three years in and I've seen video move from fad to new trend to unshakable reality. Welcome to a whole new world. With an incredible amount of new stuff I have to learn.

Over the years I have done a few videos at work. Nothing major and certainly nothing I would want to put into my portfolio. But recently I began working with a local sculptor. His name is Sunti Pichetchaiyakul. His work is stunningly beautiful. He does these incredible bronze sculptures that combine extreme accuracy and detail in the face of his subjects with a much more impressionistic base. His wife Erica took this picture of Sunti work on the sculpture of Crazy Horse. To make this sculpture Sunti worked with the descendants of Crazy Horse to come up with an image of the man that is genuine and historically accurate. Accuracy is one of the things Sunti values most in his art.Currenlty Sunti is working on a commissioned statue of the Buddha for a temple in Michigan. This is where I come into the story because he and his wife are interested in adding some videos their website. My immediate reaction to their request? I said no. I said I can't do that. I am an amateur videographer at best. They need to find someone more qualified. But that someone was not available. So they decided to have me give it my best. And now I am glad they put their faith in me and gave me this opportunity.

Sometimes it seems that video and still photography are radically different. But really, that's not true. The rules of composition are the same. What makes a good shot for film works for video as well. The editing program is different, and that has been a stumbling block for me, but once you get past the programing issues videography is still a visual art. And I've been doing this stuff for more than a decade now.

Actually, what I have begun to realize is that big difference between photography and videography is the sheer volume of what you must shoot in order to tell the story. In newspapers space is always at a premium. There is never enough room for all your shots. That can get depressing. And it can lead to certain amount of visual laziness. Why should I go on assignment looking for ten great shots when I know there will only be enough room for two, or if I am really lucky three? Can't do that with videography. The shots have to keep changing. You have to find as many details as you can. And it all has to come together in an interesting way otherwise you'll lose your audience. As I've been working on these projects with Sunti and Erica I've realized, I actually like video. It's a new challenge. And it's certainly got me up on my toes.

And then, as if video wasn't enough of a challenge for me, the stakes in the game just shot way up. Sunti is being considered for an honorary doctoral degree of fine arts in sculpture from Rajamangala University of Technology Isan in Nakhon Rachasima, Thailand. And this video, is one of the things Sunti will submit as evidence of what he has achieved as an artist. This video, and the next that I am already working on, will in part determine whether or not he gets this honor. Also, Sunti is being considered for the David Letterman Show. But before they can proceed, they want video. Guess who's doing the shooting... Actually the shooting is done. I filmed Sunti doing a 19 minute quick sculpt in the snow and freezing cold last weekend. When I finish this blog entry I'll go back to editing that video and I'll post it sometime here in the next few days. But for now I want to share what I have already done.

I got the nod of approval from Erica and Sunti tonight. They were both so enthusiastic and encouraging. I am beyond pleased to know that they are happy with the work. And, more than that, I am really happy with it. This is the first video project I've done that I am honestly proud of. When you get all the way to the end there is a video by clip. Video by: Brenda Ahearn Photography Copyright 2011.

I have no idea where all of this is going to lead. Who knows what doors are going to be opened by exploring this new arena. What I do know is that I am being challenged to become a better visual story teller. And I am so excited about what I will get to learn next.

Ok... So, to see the video check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWx_m8ZLRx0

And now the second video is up and running. Sunti at Brew Fest doing a Quick Sculpt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SGQ71mt6pg