Telling a story - Tech Trek Fresno
I revisited my favorite camp, Tech Trek Fresno, this past week as a counselor as well as their photographer. Why did I enjoy it so much? Not only did I grow a little more comfortable in blogging (if you can't tell from my lack of blog posts, I am a little shy with blogging) and videography, but I got to immerse myself in photojournalism to capture the girls' excitement and week-long stories.
Just a little background--AAUW, which stands for the American Association of University Women, hosts Tech Trek every year. Tech Trek started in 1998 to encourage young women to enter into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field. It serves as a summer camp at a college campus for seventh grade girls to develop their potential passion in STEM. Girls get to live in college dorms (which is both fun and a reality-check), participate in various labs, go on field trips, and take college-styled courses for the week.
I attended Tech Trek as a seventh grader and returned this year as a second-year counselor. To this day, my week at Tech Trek is one of my favorite memories.
So I spent the entire week documenting their activities. Their parents got to see what their children were up to (and get photographic proof that they are alive and having fun). The activities range from classic icebreakers to dorm group competitions (open the link at the bottom to see and read about all of our doings).
This is where a camera, photojournalism, and a passion for who/what you photograph comes in--you tell a story through a pretty picture of reality.
For me, photojournalism is most enjoyable. I interned at my local newspaper in high school, and I learned early on that I do not want to be a news reporter--but I surely love photojournalism. One day, I had shared a photo with the editor of a singer at a farmer's market. It was an okay photo; I liked it three years ago because I had just gotten a zoom lens and could capture the Chains Required singer from far away.
I can think of ten different ways to improve the photo now, but at the time I did not see how much it was lacking. The editor then gave me the advice I now constantly revisit in my head when capturing an event--apply the basic composition rules we learn in photography but tell the story. In this case, he recommended backing up so we could see the rest of the band. Maybe even backing up more so we could see some of the crowd--the size of it, their energy, their demographics. Show what's happening in what context while making it an inviting photo. There does not exist a rulebook to photojournalism, and we could still tell it was the singer and her band on stage, but it was very handy advice.
I often worry about portraits being too staged. It is not that I never pose people when "photojournaling" or stop and ask them to smile with their friend for a photo; but these photos are not wedding photos or senior portraits that I would like to be absolutely perfect and wonderful for their printing or sharing uses.
Plus, I don't necessarily have to set up a location, time, etc. With an event, everyone acts natural according to an already set 'schedule.' Why is this easier? Because then I get to capture everyone's smiles and laughs within a larger picture. I don't need to worry a whole lot about certain things, such as lighting or clothing, because I want it to tell the truth in one moment--a moment that I patiently wait for.
Even if I want to fulfill certain tasks like showing everyone's faces, it does not have to be perfect. It is not expected to be perfect. I don't need to pose people for a photo I have in mind because they will already fulfill it on their own.
I can be a fly on the wall as well as a friend you can rely on to capture a great memory in the making. It becomes a photo that outsiders can smile at or have a sense of what is happening; and the subject can look back on the memory and remember why they were doing whatever it was they were doing. Or smile at not remembering what they were doing.
You can check out the Tech Trek Fresno blog by clicking here.