The Park In Vienna

The best blog you'll ever read about being an intern

chapter 9: publication August 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 7:39 pm

Just found this floating around on the desk…

look ma, I'm famous!

look ma, I'm famous!

That pic of the driver and ball on the left is mine!

The Web Communications intern, Shay, and I spent about a half hour trying to get that picture.  You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a good patch of grass in which to take a picture.


chapter 8: the downside

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 5:54 pm

It’s almost the end… oh boy.

It’s been a great summer.  I’ve learned a lot, about photography, about the politics of working inter-departmentally and about the ego and human nature.  It’s been a learning experience, but to be honest, being the photography intern here has been far more difficult than it really should have been.

Last Friday, all of this came to an unfortunate culmination.

I was set to photograph the opera (La Boheme) from up on the balcony at the explicit request of the Opera staff.  The angle was interesting and provided a good sense of the overall space.  However, when I stood near the bottom row of seats, I blocked the people in the second tier.  So, I sat down to shoot.

Unfortunately, after about 10 minutes, an usher came to tell me that per the higher ups, I was not allowed to sit and had to stand back an additional five or so feet.  This led to one huge problem – I now had people’s heads in all of my shots.

I would like to stop right now and ask what the point of having a photographer if their shots are not useable?

And it’s not like this was the first opera these folks had ever done, and it’s not like I am the first photography intern.  These people have been doing this for years, and one would think that they would have realized that the audience’s heads will be there and therefore, a great big waste of the photographer’s time.

Okay, so I’m standing getting crap shots.  And then lo and behold, I have the unfortunate bad luck to have the CEO of the company sitting in the box in front of me.  He tells one of the ushers to tell me no more photos.

Obviously, when the CEO says something, you do it.  But I figured he meant just stop taking pictures from there.  So, I moved down away from him and continued taking pictures because I was still there to take pictures for the Opera folks’ wishes.

But no more than five minutes later, he comes over to tell me face-to-face to stop taking pictures.

It’s been about three days, but the utter ridiculousness of this situation will not leave me.  Not only is it absurd for someone to tell me to stop doing my job, but it’s really humiliating to be talked to in that manner.

I went back to find my contact with the Opera who told me to take pictures and told her everything that happened.  She was very kind, but nothing she said really remedied the situation.

When it comes down to it, this experience has really solidified how this company doesn’t know how to communicate.  The opera wants one thing, the production folks want another, the patrons want something else, the photography intern wants a different something.  You can’t make everyone happy, and if you try, you just make everyone only a little satisfied and no one fully.  Wolf Trap needs to work out their priorities.

Oh well, Friday is my last day.  And then I’ll be back to working for The Eagle, who, at the very least, can get me pit access to photograph.


chapter seven: the perks August 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 3:52 pm

This internship has been extremely fabulous in the perks of the job.  I imagine most other internships you put in 40 hours a week and all you see is a credit on your resume.  Not so, here at Wolf Trap!  They’re very careful to give us exciting, fun opportunities as a reward for all of our hard work.

Here are a few of the coolest benefits of being a WT intern:

**We get complimentary lawn tickets to about 80% of the season’s shows.  Getting to see fantastic shows for free makes it all the more enticing to try brand new genres that you might not normally want to spend money on.  For instance, I’m not a huge dance person, but since we had comp tickets for Riverdance, I was more than willing to give it a go.  And when it’s a show you’re actually excited to see (like, ahem, Matt Nathanson) it makes it that much more exciting.

Also, when it rains (which it has done a LOT this season), if there’s room under the pavilion, they’re generally willing to upgrade our tickets so we don’t get soaked.

**Picnics!  Our second or so week, they had a staff barbeque that let us get out of the office for an hour or so and let us enjoy a seriously tasty meal free of charge.  Any time we don’t have to expend money is always a good time.  I think we’ve had three picnics/parties so far, and today we’re actually having one final picnic for the department interns… and Friday it’s an ice cream social for all of the interns!

**Access to industry-standard software.  I’m lucky to have not only a Mac to do all my photo editing on, but down the hallway is another Mac which has Final Cut Pro on it.  I used that yesterday to make my slideshow of season highlights – and let me tell you, it was so much better than having to use iPhoto.

And two other perks that are unique to being the photo intern…

**I get to go backstage every once in a blue moon and see how that side of things operates.  It’s pretty rare since they’re VERY particular about who is there, but a few weeks ago I shadowed one of the production interns and photographed her going about her duties.  It was really neat – not only did I get some awesome pictures, I also got to meet Chris Isaak!

**If I’m working, I often don’t have to worry about getting tickets for shows, and once I’m done shooting, I get to find a spot and sit and watch the remainder of the show if I so choose!  Granted, I don’t do this too often because I’m usually pretty exhausted by the end of the evening, but I have gotten to see The Donnas, Blondie and the Wizard of Oz (as accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra) via this method.

Well, time for me to go the yummiest perk… time for a picnic!


chapter 6: the daily grind July 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 10:18 pm

This is where I do my magic

What is that, you ask yourself, squinting at the photograph at the top of this entry.  A Mac?

Why, yes, it is.  But let me direct your attention to the important part of the photo – the bottom:

The important part

The important part

What are all those crazy sticky notes?  You continue wondering.

Why, I’m so glad you asked.

Those sticky notes represent the steps I take with every single show I shoot. I’m very Type A, so I need to thoroughly lay out my battle plan, or I’m lost.  And on days like today – where I’ve got a dozen things to sort and edit – these sticky notes are the only thing that keep me sane.

Here we go, step by step, with an explanation of what I do with pictures after the taking is done.

First, I upload them.  We use a program called Photo Mechanic, which I’d never used before I came to Wolf Trap, but it’s a pretty decent program to sort and tag photos.  I’m considering getting it for myself after this summer, since I’ve become very used to its easy interface.

When uploading, I generally stick them in a generic folder – “new stuff” and from there, sort them into more specifically titled folders such as “42nd Street – 2009 – TJB.”

Next step is to pick out the best of the best.  Inside whatever main folder I’m working out of, I create a folder called “selects” to place the most striking images in.  Photo Mechanic is a great help in this step because it has a little feature that you can rate each photo when you look at it with stars, and then at the end sort the photos by the rating so the best pics are all right there.

After that, I select all the best photos and head into Photoshop.  Now, coming from a journalistic background, I’m always VERY hesitant to edit photos.  I think the ethics of photo editing can be very tricky and confusing, so I always stay on the safe side for photos like this (fashion and art photography obviously being very different) and try to edit very minimally.  My next entry will be specifically on the mechanics of how I edit a photo – so I won’t bore you with that now.

After that, you’d think I’d just save it and be done, right?  Wrong!  I still have three more very important steps.

After saving the images in Photoshop, I go back into Photo Mechanic to tag the images.  Tags are simple words that users can go into Photo Mechanic and search for pictures by keywords – for instance, “picnic,” “performer,” or “theater.”  During this step, I also insert the metadata for each photo, an important step for any photographer.  By using the IPTC  Stationary Pad in Photo Mechanic, I can edit the file’s data so anyone who opens it in a photo editing program will see that the picture is copyrighted to me, with all my contact information, as well as Wolf Trap’s info, since they’re the proprietors of the photo.

Next, I select all the photos and re-save them as JPG photos.  I shoot in what’s called RAW, which allows me more flexibility to edit the photos without destroying the integrity of the picture.  But most computers can’t read RAW unless in Photoshop, and since not everyone has the Adobe suite, I’ll save each batch in JPG so anyone can open them.

After that, I will always transfer the photos to my external hard drive so I have copies of everything for my portfolio.  Super important.

Last, I burn the RAW images to a CD.  RAW images are huge – 10 MG compared to a JPG’s 3 MG, and so as not to kill the server with huge files, we burn them to a CD and archive them in a nice binder for anyone to find if they want to edit a particular image.

It’s not a particularly hard process, but as you can see, there are several steps, and to keep myself on track with what photo set is in which stage, I write each event on a sticky note and move it along the little path as I complete steps.  Dorky, I know, but when I’m juggling 9 different photo events that all need to make it through each 6 steps, it’s the only way.

And there you have it!  Go forth and be organized, like me!
Next up in the blogosphere will be that entry on editing photos.  I’ll take you through, step by step, and show you how to make photos look better.  Tada!


chapter 5: how I spent my summer vacation July 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 6:54 pm

So, as promised, here are some photographic offerings to the numerous readers.  All of these photos are copyright to Traci J. Brooks and property of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.  Do not steal them.  I and all the wolves will kill you.

Matt Nathanson

Matt Nathanson

This is my favorite musician of all times, a gentleman named Matt Nathanson.  My portfolio already contains several shots of him, but when I found out he would be playing Wolf Trap this summer, of course I couldn’t pass up another chance to shoot him.  It’s funny how easy it was to shoot him – I’ve seen him about 8 times in concert and photographed him about half of those times, so I have a pretty good guess at when/how/where he’ll move.  No, I’m not a stalker.


Wang Chung

Wang Chung, masters of the 80s.  This shot was taken from the upper balcony, featuring some really awesome lighting design.  So pretty!



What a fantastic band!  These guys, aka DeVotchKa, opened for David Byrne, of Talking Heads, earlier this season.  They featured a female on bass – and by bass, I mean upright bass.  She also played the tuba, which was pretty fantastic.

The Filene Center

The Filene Center

I have a list of shots to get over the course of the summer, and architecture is one of them.  The Filene Center is an iconic building, with very striking architecture that is immediately recognizable to anyone that has ever been there.  I took this picture after a rain storm during the Indigo Girls – the sky turned this beautiful purpley blue that I thought was gorgeous against the lit Filene Center.

The crowd at Wolf Trap

The crowd at Wolf Trap

The Wolf Trap Experience is something we’re always trying to capture in our photography.  This is a good shot because it shows both the architecture of the Filene Center, but also the picnicers, a huge part of Wolf Trap.

Interns at work

Interns at work

Part of my job is also to capture what it’s like behind the scenes at Wolf Trap.  These are the Education interns, working on the newsletter.  Here’s a secret – this picture was entirely staged.  I stood on a chair above them and told them to point at the paper, use the pen, etc., to get an interesting shot.

Romance In the Air

Romance In the Air

What a cute couple.  Before the shows, I often lurk up on the balcony overlooking the lawn to get candids like these.  It’s pretty crazy the things people do when they think no one is watching them… little do they know, there’s a short Asian creeping with a telephoto lens getting their every move!  But sometimes, the people are observant – the frame after this one has the gentleman giving me the “hang loose” sign.  Guess I’m not as sneaky as I thought!

So there you have a look into what sort of assignments I get as the photography intern here.  I really love the variety – and it definitely has made me a better photographer, having to deal with many different lighting situations and scenarios.

Next up: What I do when I’m not shooting, i.e., how to edit a photo!


Chapter 4: Glass Half Full July 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 6:00 pm

Midpoint Evaluation time.

Let me say, this has been a really good internship thus far.  When  I think of all the amazing opportunities I’ve had – and gotten PAID to for – I know I’m extremely lucky.  Plus, my work environment and my fellow interns are basically the bomb – lunch breaks are always a blast!

I really can’t believe it’s been almost seven weeks… and I have only about five left to go.  If this could be my job, I would literally be set for life!  

This doesn’t mean that this job hasn’t been without its challenges.  There have definitely been some not so awesome parts of the internship, but I’ve realized they’re things I’m grudgingly glad they did happened, since it definitely taught me something or at least, eventually didn’t suck as much as I thought it did.  They’re also issues I know I’ll have to face when I get out into the “real world” so I might as well man up and start figuring out how I can best deal with them, because they’re not going to go away.

So, to any future interns out there, here’s a bit of advice.  Always keep your attitude in check.  Having restrictions on how to best do a job is a pretty good reason to feel belligerent, but even that doesn’t mean you should.  As long as you can accept your limitations and still do your best, that is the key to success.  The attitude and perspective is EVERYTHING, no matter who you are or where you are.

That’s my Deep Conclusion to this entry.  Next few entries, I’ll get to the good stuff – I will be posting some pics that I’ve taken over the past few weeks!


Chapter 3: I don’t hate other photographers, really June 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 7:55 pm

I am a photography snob.

I have nothing against people that take pictures, let me just start with that.  To me, one of the reasons to do photography is to capture the ordinary moments that would otherwise be forgotten.  How else (other than video) can you so perfectly freeze a moment, with all its’ emotion and life in tact, than in a picture?  It’s the most beautiful and frustrating thing in the entire world.  Because no matter how good your camera is, no matter what angle you’re shooting at, no piece of machine will ever be able to recreate what our eyes can see and our heart feels.

And yet we photographers keep trying.

So the hobbyist shooter, the party kid who brings his point and shoot, those aren’t the people that drive me crazy.  I sort of approve of them, really, because they’re doing photography for essentially the same reason I do.  So they don’t make me angry.

It’s the ones who buy themselves a DSLR and then automatically think that makes them special that make me want to take my camera and bash them over the head with it.

I think the real photographers can just tell when they’re working next to a legit photog.  I remember one night at AU while reviewing a show at Katzen, I saw two kids taking pictures of the play.  One of them I could just tell had no idea what they were doing.  The other, though she had more equipment (which can be seen as showy) simply seemed natural at what she did.  (I ended up “hiring” her to be one of AUSG’s photographers – and she was fabulous).

But I digress.

I am a photography snob because photography – good, creative, dramatic photography – is HARD.  And no one seems to believe me! Or maybe the people who don’t believe me are just the ones who bought their D40 and think they’re The Shit.  That they don’t need a class, that they can suddenly do band photography at any outdoor concert, and it’s Good.

Let me be honest with something I’ve tried to deny for a while – Good Photography is sweat and talent and knowledge, but every now and then – It’s also pure, unadulterated LUCK.  This drives me CRAZY.  But it’s so true.  Luck plays an important role in life – and photography is no different.  Granted, the moments of luck that fall in a photographer’s lap are generally moot if the photog doesn’t know how to use their camera to take advantage of said luck.  But I think a lot of people just think about the luck and forget the work, buy themselves a pretty camera, and think they’re going to be the next Ansel Adams.

THIS IS FALSE.  Say it with me: a good camera does not equal good photography.

My time here at Wolf Trap has taught me this in a whole new way.

Let me be egotistical for a moment – I think I’m a Pretty Good photographer.  I’ve taken classes.  I read about it.  And I have a fantastic camera.  Plus, the fact I got this internship must mean I’ve got some talent, right?

Well, I had a dose of Unpleasant Surprise my first show.

Wolf Trap has some pretty strange restrictions.  The three song one is pretty standard across venues, but Wolf Trap also says its photogs have to stand roughly 30 feet away from the stage at a place we fondly refer to as “third fin” (named because of the unique architecture of the Filene Center).  I’m almost never allowed in the pit, the area right in front of the stage, where virtually every other club lets its press people stand for the first three songs.  There is no other venue I can think of that is that rough on their house press.

So needless to say – when you’re 30 feet away, even your best zoom lens isn’t going to really help.  And when the show is an intimate, songwriter circle style show and the lighting is dim and moody… your photography is going to suck.

I overcame these problems.  Through a variety of solutions including sneaking up closer and changing my ISO (which isn’t always a preferable way to go, but you do what you have to), I figured things out.  And that’s what makes me a photographer.  Not my camera, but my experience and knowledge about how a camera works that saved my ass and let me produce a handful of shots that were at least decent.

I bet you a million dollars one of those hobbyist shooters with their D40s couldn’t have gotten crap out of a situation like that.

So basically, this whole post is to notify the world that PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT EASY.  Everyone can take a picture, but not everyone can be a photographer… and the distinction is paramount.

At least to me.