The Park In Vienna

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

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.


chapter 2: one of the sexier internships June 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 4:55 am

Graham, the PR man for Wolf Trap, described my internship as “sexy” the other day.  A little awkward for the work place, but I can’t help but agree.

For anyone who is curious as to what it’s like to be a photographer, let me offer you this glimpse into the artist’s world as experienced through my internship at Wolf Trap.

First perk of being an artist, my office hours are limited.  While other interns work 9-5 Monday through Friday, I only come into the office on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10-4.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are dark (i.e., I’m off) unless I have to shoot.  Friday, I either work office hours 11:30-4:30 or if I’m shooting, 4:30 til I head over to the park around 6:30 to check in at Stage Door and the press office.

The whole sleeping in thing rocks, I will not lie.

Second perk, I get to be “special.”  I’m one of the few Wolf Trap photogs, so I get a special pass, I get to go to Stage Door (where all the tour managers and acts check in), I get to watch shows for free.  Granted, when I’m photographing it’s a whole ‘nother matter because when behind a camera, you’re not really SEEING the show– but that’s another matter for another entry.  

Third perk, I occasionally get to meet bands, as seen in my run-in with the drummer from DeVotchKa – who asked where he’d be able to see my pictures.  :O

But that’s not to say this job is cake.  On the contrary – what I don’t do in office hours I make up for in shooting.  Plus, I’m not guaranteed a regular schedule like other interns, mine changes almost every week.  And some times, I do office hours AND shoot at night -for instance, tomorrow I’m in at 1 and stay until the show that night, so I won’t get to go home til around 10pm.  Also, what other job do you have where you roughly have fifteen minutes to do all of your best work?  That’s all the time I generally get to photograph each act.  Talk about stress.

But despite all those cons, to me, the pros seriously triumph – if for no other fact than I get paid to do what I love.

And the sleeping in doesn’t hurt, either.


chapter 1: it’s not over til the fat lady sings June 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — acerook @ 3:23 pm

I started looking for an internship at the end of the fall semester in 2008.  Lesson # 1: this was almost too late.  I missed out on the incredibly prestigious Washington Post summer internship because they have a November/December deadline.  But the majority of internships I liked had deadlines around February/March, which gave me plenty of time to get my application together.

I picked four internships: USA Today, Washingtonian Magazine, Wolf Trap and The Connection, a local newspaper.  Washingtonian, I found out, canceled their photography internship.  USA Today didn’t want to set up an interview until AFTER I had accepted my current internship.   The Connection didn’t want me to APPLY until April, which would be a little too late for my comfort since I needed this class to graduate by Summer 2009.  So that left Wolf Trap.

Let me say, I will never place all my bets on one job again.  It was nerve-wracking, but there was really nothing I could do.  Photography internships are few and far between, unfortunately.  I could have applied for journalism internships, but I really wanted to pursue what made me happy, not what I “should” do.  Not that I don’t love journalism.  But after the past semester, I needed a break from writing.

Wolf Trap, however, would have been my top pick anyway.  Its job description included photographing theater and musical acts, which is what I enjoy the most.  Plus, I used to go to Wolf Trap when I was a little kid, and I go about once a year, since they generally book artists I enjoy (Ben Folds!  Patty Griffin!).

After several nail-biting months, I got the call telling me they wanted to set up a phone interview.  Yipes!  Phone interviews are rough because face-to-face contact is always preferable.  But it went pretty well, I suppose, since about two weeks later, they offered me the job.  One small step for mankind, one giant step for me!

So lesson learned- plan early, earlier than you might think.  But even when you think this are a mess (pinning my summer graduation on just one internship was NOT exciting), things always seem to work out.