This Labor Day weekend i job shadowed CMU almuni and 9-year staff Grand Rapids Press photographer, Katy Batdorff. I jumped at the chance to follow her on her Saturday assignment’s in Holland, Michigan. She would be shooting Hope College students whom were to participate in a day of volunteer work at 30 different locations.. and the best part- Katy was to cover the USA v. Canada yacht races of the 2011 Canadian Cup from a press boat in Lake Michigan. Spend an afternoon shooting sailing yachts from a press boat off of beautiful Holland on a warm sunny Labor Day weekend- wow. I had to wake up at 6:30am to drive to Holland, but it was worth it. Friday i got to spend all afternoon with the CMU PhotoJ’s on the ‘Betsea’ Kent Miller‘s beautiful sailing boat on the east side in Saginaw Bay, Bay City, Mi- so it just made sense to spend my Saturday of Labor Day weekend on the west side of Michigan in Holland ( a city I’ve never been to) covering a prestigious sailing race on Lake Michigan. PURE MICHIGAN.
The Canadian Cup competition is 115 years old. The trophy on the line is the original from 1896, a highly decorated silver Tiffany of New York original. The first challenge was won by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club on Lake Erie. Since then, 22 match races have been held, with Canada winning 9 and the United States earning 13 wins.
More on the races later.
I had a blast following Katy around for the day. The sail races had been delayed due to lack of wind. So we started our day by picking out the best location to get the volunteer photos- the critter farm! i hopped in Katy’s car and with help of her navigation ‘Natasha’ we were off.
This was going to be quick, just a couple photos and off to the next location. I watched Katy work, introducing herself and saying she worked for the Grand Rapids Press, “Is it alright if i just take a couple photos of you guys?” Katy warned me that the Dutch community in Holland often opposes photos being taken of them due to the Dutch-Amish culture towards photography. These were students however and everyone nodded their heads. She took a look at the scene and started shooting. After a couple minuets she did some “chimping“, in the professional use- by reviewing photos on spot, then going to go get the name and information she needed for her best image. I did the same with the photographs i had taken.
On the way to the second location i asked Katy a couple questions about her work at GR Press. As the new photo editor for GCMAG.org i had a lot of questions about how the office worked together to publish its content and other PhotoJ questions:
- Names for Captioning: if it is a group of 5 of more it is considered a crowd. 4 or less you need info for each person. Often they have to utilize the right to photograph anyone of public property is they are unable to get names, like in a parade situation. Example: During the shoot-out that happened recently in Grand Rapids that were only allowed so close to the scene, so they had to use long lenses. And could not reach the persons photographed to get info.
- Photo Galleries: should be 5 or 6 photo at least not more than 9. Everyone loves photo galleries and they acquire a lot of clicks through them which is obviously very important in online journalism.
- Portfolio: You need to have sports in your portfolio, 2-4 good sports images. Both action and portraits, it is important because at newspapers you shoot a lot of sports- and you need to have the ability to shoot all aspects of photojournalism. Fun Fact: Katy won an award in a sports category for a skateboarding photo!
- Job of Photo Editor: Grand Rapids Press does not have a photo editor. The paper’s Copy Editor handles what photos get used once their best are turned in. I asked Katy if she thought a non-photo person did a good job. She said yes and that he/she actually fights for the photographers for space in the paper.
- Interning: interning is a way to get out there- and experience shooting for a publication. It will teach you how to tackle different assignments and help you improve on those areas of shooting you lack. Example: Katy interned at the Observer of Plymouth, Canton, Livonia (my home area actually!) she worked on her sports shooting while there, an area which she lacked in her portfolio. But she didn’t like how community based it was and realized she wanted to shoot more news on a large scale. She wanted to go cover a story about a car that had crashed into a living room of a home, but they wouldn’t run it. After the Observer Katy spent a year interning at the Grand Rapids Press before joining the staff and has been there ever sense (this is her 9th year at the Press). She explained how it is a lot harder to get a staff position in these ‘uncertain times in journalism’. She watched the Press photojournalism drastically shrink- she said a lot of older photojournalists were layed off. However this did make room for the excited and motivated next generation of PhotoJ’s to come in.
I’m really happy i shadowed with Katy, not only was she a CMU alumni- but she also concentrated in both fine art photography out of Wightman and Photojournalism. It was nice to talk with someone else who has struggled with the contrasts between the two and merging both interests. She explained that she started off as a fine-art photography and worked her way over to photojournalism, just like i have.
Also, she also wasn’t a sports shooter when she started off. She had to learn to shoot different sports through her first internship. She even won an sports award for a skateboarding photo of hers. I never really thought about the alternative sports i could cover. For instance sailing races are clearly a sport- one that i have now learned to truly appreciate, the chess-like game these boats play in the water, jiving (jibe) and quick sharp tacking maneuvers to cover the other boat and steal their wind.
Katy had to leave at 2 to get back to Grand Rapids to meet deadline. She had to leave before the first race even ended. The MTYC members allowed me to stay on the boat for the end of the first race and watch the second one. They offered to take me back to my car later. Katy said stay-stay you don’t always get this opportunity to shoot something like this- sport sailing. I did spend the afternoon on the press boat learning about the sport, shooting photos and just kind of hanging out. At the end of the second race, Mary the coordinator, told me to take her car back to my car downtown and just lock the keys in it. Wow clearly she felt so comfortable with me that she let me take her brand new Nissan, “don’t worry it’s fully insured,” said Mary. she also handed me a nice team Heritage, USA long sleeve shirt through the window as I drove away. I was just astonished by the hospitality of these people I had just meet.
I guess that is another reason I love photojournalism- you get to know people you would normally never meet. You get to either have a nice quick conversation with them (volunteer photos) or get to spend an afternoon learning something new. You always have the best seat in the house, a press boat that is allowed to get closer than any other spectator boat. You get to attend events for free. And the best part—you get to make awesome photographs and have so so much fun doing it!!
These daily experiences of a shooter you cannot teach, you can’t teach that feeling, that rush of being in the the situation. Speeding to the race zone on lake Michigan covering your long lens from the water spray, trying to not get a black eye from putting the camera to your face while riding through the waves. In a classroom you can only teach technique but you will not meet numerous new people, learn all about someone else’s passion, & not be able to witness amazing events and inspiring community projects first-hand.
Sailing Photo Gallery
Vodpod videos no longer available.