Mandan News

Half a year as editor: discovering the art of photography

In the early morning hours of July 5, citizens of Mandan were still busy firing off what was left of their fireworks. The displays lit up the sky, forcing out much of the darkness. (Dustin White photo)

In the early morning hours of July 5, citizens of Mandan were still busy firing off what was left of their fireworks. The displays lit up the sky, forcing out much of the darkness. (Dustin White photo)

Observations of a News Editor
By Dustin White

It is official, I have lasted over half a year as the editor of the Mandan News. When I first took the position, I was not fully aware of what I was getting myself into, but in general, it has been a pleasant experience.

Besides having the opportunity to meet a number of individuals in the community, as well as becoming more familiar with the area through attending various meetings and events, one of the chances that I have enjoyed most is being able to capture both the landscape of the area, but also the history, through photography.

In the past, I had played around with cameras before. I had read a few tutorials on various forms of photography, and my wife had taken a photography class in college, so I was able to learn through her experience. What I lacked though was my own experience.

Luckily, the Mandan News had the talent of Rick Scharf to make up for the areas in which I lacked. I remember the my own first attempt at capturing a sports event. My shots continually came out much too dark. When one was bright enough, the scene was blurry. After having taken hundreds of photos, over the course of a couple of hours, I came away with only a small handful that were worthwhile. Even then, they were nothing special. The experience did make me appreciate the work of Scharf all that much more though.

The only thing to do though was to learn from my mistakes. Eventually, I learned how to more effectively manipulate the controls on my camera, and thus get the clear photo that I desired. However, good photography is much more than just being able to point a camera and press a button. It is about capturing a moment, and telling that story.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned over the last six months is that it can take time to capture the right moment. Granted, I could go to an event and just start snapping photos, and I would probably get some that turned out very well. However, there is an art form to the practice. There can also be a considerable amount of effort that goes into obtaining just that right photo.

That’s not to say that only one photo is taken at each shoot though. After a day of taking pictures, I can often come back with a couple hundred photos. Many of them are often discarded straight away, as they only served as practice shots. But there usually are still many photos that come out as imagined, and have to be weeded through. While the final product that winds up in the paper is only a couple of photos, dozens of others remain safely on my computer’s hard drive.

To get those shots, I have found myself in a number of difficult positions. From having hiked through wooded areas, to crawling on my belly to get just the right angle, being a photographer for the news has not always been as simple as I once imagined. Luckily, I have a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get me out of some of the muddier places.

Last week, much of my experience came to a culmination with the events of the Fourth of July celebration. With dozens of events going on, and the weather not always cooperating, getting the shots, that hopefully spoke a story, was quite a difficult task.

When all was done, I found myself with over two thousand photos, spanning a weeks worth of activities. There were many challenges, from shooting in the rain (and trying to keep my equipment dry), to getting just the right exposure so that firework displays would actually be visible.

Sorting through all those photos, and processing the ones that stood out has taken some time this week. Hopefully the effort was worth it though, and they actually relate a story. I also hope that in the next six months, my talent as a photographer continues to grow, and I find myself in more difficult positions.

Regardless, the last six months as being the editor of the Mandan News has been quite enjoyable. Even though it can become stressful from time to time, the outcome, a new paper each week, is very rewarding. And I hope that it is rewarding to the readers of this paper as well.