The Pictures Tell the Story – Sardis Raptor Center

Walking up the the entrance of Sardis Raptor Center in Ferndale, Wash. Saturday, May 20, 2017 on rare and sunny day in the Whatcom County. (Photo by Sandra Rees-Bowen)

The assignment – to go out in the world (or at least Whatcom County) and take photos, but not just any type of photos, but photos that tell a story.  I began to wonder what stories did I want to tell? What type of stories interest me, and that just might interest others?  After submitting several photo story ideas to my instructor, we agreed that the best choice was to do a photo story on the Sardis Raptor Center, located in a lovely and lushly green area in Ferndale, Washington.

Ben Hayes (19) filling the water container as the skeptical American Bald Eagle watches within his enclosure at the Sardis Raptor Center in Ferndale, Wash. on Saturday, May 20, 2017. (Photo by Sandra Rees-Bowen)

It was there I met, Ben, a quiet, thoughtful and very efficient volunteer at Sardis. He allowed me to follow him like a puppy and take photos of him doing his morning chores, such as: cleaning the raptors water dishes, removing the uneaten food, feeding the birds and giving tours to visitors. Ben has been volunteering at Sardis for a while now and it seemed that he and the raptors in the enclosures, the various hawks, eagles and owls have developed a kind of mutual respect toward each other. Ben told me that any feathers these birds shed are collected and sent to a Native American tribe in Texas to distribute to other tribes. (I looked up the law on this later and discovered that it is indeed illegal for anyone, other Native Americans, to collect, keep or even move any part of an eagle and doing so and can result in a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.)

Sardis Raptor Center volunteer, Ben Hayes (19) walking into the enclosure to feed raw chicken an extremely shy Golden Eagle named Wind Dancer on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Sardis is located in Ferndale, Wash. (Photo by Sandra Rees-Bowen)

Ben Hayes (19) wearing a hooded sweatshirt while cleaning the water dish of an overly amorous Red Tailed Hawk at the Sardis Raptor Center in Ferndale, Wash., on Saturday, May 20, 2017. (Photo by Sandra Rees-Bowen)

I also photographed Ben giving a short tour of the Center to a small family and was able to take a couple of photos of a couple of visitors. His talk was interesting and refreshingly candid about the story’s regarding the reason’s the various raptors were now a part of the Sardis Raptor Center.  At the end of the hour and a half, I had taken quite a few photos, thanked Ben and left.

Ben Hayes (19) giving a tour at Sardis and talking about the American Bald Eagle in the enclosure. Elizabeth Walsh (23) and Conor Walsh (5) are the first visitors of the day at the Sardis Raptor Center located in Ferndale, Wash., on Saturday, May 20, 2017. (Photo by Sandra Rees-Bowen)

Ben Hayes (19) giving information regarding the injured eagle in the enclosure to Elizabeth Walsh (23) at the Sardis Raptor Center located in Ferndale, Wash., on Saturday, May 20, 2017. (Photo by Sandra Rees-Bowen)

The next day, Sunday, I was a bit disappointed that Ben was not there, but did meet a couple more of the very friendly and helpful volunteers who allowed me to take photos inside the clinic.  Unfortunately, the photos did not turn out well at all as I had not adjusted my camera correctly for the lighting conditions inside the building.

On the third day of the shoot I was at Birch Bay Park where Sardis was giving a Raptor Show at the Birch Bay Amphitheater. The Sardis crew pulled up to the Birch Bay Amphitheater in truck pulling an extremely large van/camper which held the birds, crew and such.

Unfortunately, Ben was not with the crew. But, I did meet two of the volunteers who I met on Saturday and talked with them a bit. As the show began and volunteers started bringing the raptors out, a wild crow had decided that he was not happy at all with this and began crowing loudly and dive-bombing the raptors and owls as they were standing on their caretaker’s arm. This made a very large American Bald Eagle very nervous and he wrapped his large wings with its deep brown feather around his handler’s head to keep himself and her safe.

This American Bald Eagle is feeling a bit insecure as a few minutes before he was dive-bombed by a wild and obnoxious crow at the Sardis Event on Saturday at the Birch Bay Park, in Birch Bay, Wash. on Saturday, May 27, 2017.

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Photojournalism and Strongly Modified Images

In today’s electronic world of Adobe Photoshop, PortraitPro, and others have been used extensively in modifications of photographs in both magazines and online. You see these photo-modifications every time you stand in line while waiting to pay for groceries. Tabloids with obviously altered cover photos with captions like, “My Mother Married an Space Alien,” and then an photo of a young woman next to what looks like the alien with large eyes from the movie, Close Encounters of the First Kind.

This is called by some, art or marketing; but it definitely is NOT photojournalism.

What photojournalist does is quite different. A reputable photojournalist endeavors to tell a “story” or “message” their photo. it is strictly forbidden to falsify a photographed scene and many a photojournalist has been fired for doing just that.

Below are a couple of examples:
Brian Walski, former staff photographer of the Los Angeles Times was fired when it was discovered that he combined two of his photos showing an American soldier gesturing toward a man carrying two small children.

Brian Walski, photo 1

Brian Walski photo 2

After the  LA Times discovered that Walski falsified his photo (which had been placed on the front page of the paper, he was fired.

Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Nicarso Contreras was fired from the AP when it was discovered that he removed the image of a fellow journalist camera from before submitting his photo to the AP. Click (here) to see photo.

So, budding photojournalists, beware of the urge to sharply change/modify your photographic images, the job you will be saving is your own.

NPPA Code of Ethics (click here)

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The Feature Hunt was On

Studying in Wilson Library

Today our instructor assigned our class to “go out and shoot a feature picture on deadline with a very short turn around” of people studying, enjoying the weather or participating in a campus event.

Nervous, I dashed outside with my fellow classmates and searched the area around the WWU Communications building for photo ops. There were several great photo ops within sight of the building, but several of my fellow classmates were already taking photos of students studying next to or upon the grassy green near the unique art thing entitled, I believe, “The Stairway to Nowhere.”

This was not good, I needed to be “far from the maddening crowd” of student photojournalists and headed toward the infamous Red Square to ferret out unsuspecting students. My first victim, I mean photo-op, was of a young female student sitting on a bench with her notebooks, laptop and books spread all over the top of the table in front of the bench. From then on it became, for me, more like a game as well a great way to meet people I would not ordinarily meet.

Studying on a bright and surprisingly sunny day in Bellingham.

What I learned today in today’s feature picture deadline as is that I love the thrill of going out and finding photo ops. Also, it is fun and exciting (yes, I live life in the fast lane) to download my photos and make adjustments using Adobe Photoshop to make my pictures “pop!”

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Adobe Photoshop and Me


(c) Sandra ReesBowen

This was quite the interesting project. I learned to use Adobe Photoshop; how to crop and lasso areas I wanted to delete. Learned layering in Photoshop, erasing unwanted images, typing text and adjusting text shape and size, and moving my layers around to obtain a more or less pleasant balance of my project.

HOWEVER, I also discovered that when one uses a Mac Computer in one of the campus computer labs, that the Mac or Mac mouse may or may not work. Fortunately, at some computer lab locations there are lab techs available who can help those unfortunate students for whom the Mac or mouse is misbehaving.

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Photojournalism Resources and more…

(c) Sandra Rees-Bowen

One can learn the basics of photography and photojournalism in a class, but once that class is over your education as a photojournalist/photographer should not end there. There is always a new or different photo-technique to discover, new photographic equipment to check out, and perhaps an unusual photographic technique that could be helpful in having giving your photo that little bit extra for you to make your photograph positively memorable.  Below are a few of the photojournalism and photographic websites of note:

The New York Times Blog – LENS, Photography, Video and Visual Journalism   In this blog, photojournalists/photographers tell their story behind their photos and what happened after the photo was taken.

Petapixel – Here is where you can find an amazing amount of information about photography in regards to: Equipment, Inspiration, Photographic News, Reviews…and to me the most important, Tutorials and Archives.
– Informative and interesting articles with helpful tips and techniques such as “9-tips for Breaking into Photojournalism.

There are many, many more blogs and websites, even podcasts out there to help the neophyte photojournalist. But, from what I can see, the most important thing for a photojournalist to know is:

1. Is the scene they are contemplating photographing tell the story they want to convey?

2. What is the best camera angle, light, and setting for the story you want your photo to tell?

3. KNOW  YOUR CAMERA’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. To take a great photo, you need to know your equipment. As for the best camera to use? To quote, “There is no ‘best camera’ for photojournalists. Or, to put it another way, the best camera for a photojournalist is the one in your hands right now, or when breaking news happens.”





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Honest Emotion Rules!!

This week’s class assignment was to show two photographs of showing emotion and have the pictures tell a story.  So, on Saturday, I drove into Bellingham, Washington, thinking to check out the Farmer’s Market again, but on my way I began to wonder if there was going to be another protest parade and if so, than that would be rather exciting – Sure enough Bellingham aka “The Land of Subdued Excitement“ was experiencing a march protesting the POTUS’s desire to remove environmental controls. I quickly parked my car and literally ran to State Street and Holly to take a series of photographs of the protest.

What I learned this photo shoot was that I needed to calm down a bit when taking photos and to check and make sure that the picture I was taking was not slightly askew as one was. Also, I realized, belatedly, was that parades move and though I might have a fantastic shot, that I should have used a faster shutter speed in these photos. And…not to get so wrapped up on the photo shoot to forget to get the person’s name in the photo.

The next day I went to the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley and shot some photos in the tulip fields at Roozengaarde Gardens in Mount Vernon, and later on in La Conner. (I really need to invest in a telephoto lens as well as a wide-angle lens, but that is another story.)

With these series of photos, I learned that I need to get closer to my subjects, to be ready for an unexpected photo-op at any time as there were a couple of  scene that I was just not quick enough to shoot. All in all, it was an exciting and colorful photographic experience weekend!

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Climate March, Bellingham, Wash.

“We are the Red Line Salish Sea” environmental protest march up Holly Street in Bellingham, Wash. on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 1:13 pm. (Photo by Sandra Rees-Bowen)

Today, Saturday, April 29, 2017 at around 12:30pm a protest march had begun. The protesters were gearing up at Marine Park with several motorcycle cops looking like they would rather be anywhere else but there. IThe Salish Sea environmental protest was regarding our current administration’s lack of care or concern of environmental protections.

The protesters of varying ages and ethnicities were excited and well behaved. The protest march looked much like a very large family outing with people carrying very imaginative protest signs, friends marching and talking with each other, husbands and wives smiling as each held their own protest signs about the importance in protecting the earth, mothers holding the hands of small children, college students walking their dogs as they marched along with the rest and one small confused Chihuahua whose whose owner had dressed him up as a bumble bee.


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