Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Varying Emotions of a Standalone

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Standalone. It’s a word that sparks a range of emotions in photographers from fear, to desperation to elation. Quite often, you experience all three is succession.


There are different words for this term. You can go hunting for pictures. Go shoot a drive-by. Or even cruise for features.


Someone has even written a book about the art of looking for standalone photos. It’s called the “Great Picture Hunt” by photojournalist and professor Dave LaBelle. The book is now in its second printing and was one of the “textbooks” for photojournalism students when I was in college.


For those outside our newsroom, a standalone is a photo that doesn’t come with a story. It may have an extended caption and can be more than one photo on the same subject. It can happen any day of the week and can be centered around an event. Or it can be something totally random.


At the Chronicle, we have been known to have Standalone Tuesdays, Standalone Wednesdays and Standalone Weeks it seems.


Usually, you’ll find these pictures on 2A in the Chronicle. Somedays, you’ll find them on our Metro front and even on 1A. They can even appear in our Sports section.


The reasons why we take standalone photos? Sometimes, it’s because we don’t have any photos to run with the stories in our newspaper. Sometimes, it’s because we don’t have enough stories. And then there are the occasions when we just find an interesting photo subject.


Shooting a standalone can be time intensive. As soon as you’re assigned a standalone, this is when you feel the fear. The hunt has begun. 


The first thing you do is check the events calendar to see if something falls within your schedule. This is the easiest way to find a picture subject. 


Next, you go through your list of popular places to find photos: the Riverwalk, Riverview Park, the canal, (during summer) the splash parks and Brick Pond Park. You’re looking for anyplace where you can find people.


After you’ve exhausted your popular spots, the desperation starts to sink in. You’re now officially cruising for features. This is also the time when our mileage reports start creep up.


But eventually, you reach that point of elation. You’ve found a standalone. Your stress level returns to normal and everyone in the newsroom rejoices. We have a picture for tomorrow’s paper.


I went through the range of standalone emotions this past Saturday. I had three assignments and had to find a standalone for the Metro front. And I had to find it between 2pm and 5pm.


Since I knew about this ahead of time, I checked the events calendar the night before. There were a few promising options but they were all out doors and in the morning. As soon as I saw the weather forecast, I knew they wouldn’t be well attended. Scratch those.


Next came the usual suspects. Since I was on the Hill, I drove around the GRU campus. No luck. Next came downtown - nothing happening because of the cold. Brickpond Park - Nada. Lake Olmstead - nothing there either. North Augusta Greeneway - possible but would be better if the leaves had changed more (Save this one for another day). I had exhausted the majority of my go-to places when I thought of a picture I had been saving for a day just like this.


I drove down Riverwatch Parkway and stopped my car just as the road crosses over the canal. It was late in the day and I knew the sun would be casting long shadows. I waited. Sure enough, some bikers and joggers made their way down the dirt road next to the canal, the sun creating dark outlines of their bodies on the dirt. I had my picture.


Cue the elation.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Journey to the Center of Kyiv

Obolon Station

The weather helped me decide to take a new photographic approach on my recent trip to Ukraine. It was cold and a little rainy at times and most of the trees had lost their leaves.

Not the best conditions for taking photos.

So, I decided to head underground.

I had become enamored with the Metro stations in Kyiv on my previous visits, each one seemed to be unique and beautiful in its own right. Even the Soviet-era themes had a simplistic beauty to them, from the mosaics of the Princes of Kyiv at Zoloti Vorota to the sculpted busts of famous Ukrainian scientists and writers at Universytet.

As my friend Olena worked, I grabbed a handful of metro tokens and my iPhone and set off.

Kyiv's Metro is a bargain compared to US subways. For 10 Hryvnia, you get 5 plastic blue tokens. Entrance to the Metro costs one token. When you consider the current exchange rate is 13 Hryvnia to $1, my three day journey to the center of Kyiv cost less than a Magic Snail Latte. (Magic Snail is my Ukrainian Starbucks where a large latte costs less than $2.)

The Metro consists of over 50 stations on three lines: the Red, the Green and the Blue. Constructed started after World War II and was the third rapid transit system built in the Soviet Union. It currently has the record for the deepest station in the world which is the Arsenalna station.

I didn’t make it to all of the stations. Some I bypassed due to the time of day, like the Dnipro station which overlooks the Dnieper River and has a beautiful view at sunrise. (Somehow I couldn’t get myself to get up that early.) Others, like the newer outdoor stations, start to look very similar in construction.

By any means, this project is far from complete and, luckily, I don’t consider this my last visit to Kyiv. Besides, work has started on a fourth line which should be completed in the next few years. And that means more stations to explore.

Lybidska Station

 Zoloti Vorota Station

 Pecherska Station

 Klovska Station

 Vokzalna Station

 Zoloti Vorota Station

Ploscha Lva Tolstoho Station 

 Lukianivska Station

 Lukianivska Station

 Arsenalna Station

 Vydubychi Station

 Druzhby Narodiv Station

 Palats Ukrayina Station

 Universytet Station

 Universytet Station

Universytet Station

Shuliavska Station

 Politekhnichnyi Instytut Station

 Zoloti Vorota Station

 Poshtova Ploscha Station

 Pecherska Station

 Minska Station

 Maidan Nezalezhnosti Station

 Livoberezhna Station

 Arsenalna Station

Minska Station

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ukraine Travel Journal

Check out my latest travel journal:

         Todd Bennetts Travel Journal03        

                     Todd Bennetts Travel Journal03                  

         By Todd Bennett                    
         60 pages, published 7/9/2014        
                 Find out more on MagCloud              

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ukrainians Shouldn't Talk to Strangers


Ukrainians should never talk to strangers on a plane. They'll get crazy ideas that you can never get out of their heads.


On the flight from Atlanta to Augusta, they chatted with a few of their seatmates. Georgia locals. When everyone learned they were visiting from Ukraine, all they could say is "You have to go to Savannah!"


Well, once you get something stuck in your head, it's hard to get it out.


We had the schedule for the whole week planned out. Sunday was the Morris Museum of Art and a Greenjackets game. Monday was training. Tuesday was training, a trip to the Columbia News Times. Wednesday was training and a cookout at Dana's house. Thursday was training and golf at West Lake. Friday was training and a music cruise down the Augusta canal. Saturday was a trip to the Augusta Museum of History and shopping. We had it planned out for about a week and it didn't include Savannah. 


So, Kim and I started trying to find a creative way to get them there since part of the group had never been to the United States. And most had never seen the Atlantic Ocean. We wanted to make their trip special. And if it meant going to Savannah, we were going to Savannah


As the week progressed, things started to fall in place. We were able to move a few things around and free up time on Saturday for a quick trip. 


Beach day finally came and I picked up everybody at the hotel. We made it to Savannah and quickly made a beeline for Tybee Island.


You couldn't have asked for a better day to spend at the beach. We just happened to be spending it with thousands of other people that thought the same thing. 


People were everywhere. What I thought was a crowded beach was nothing compared to Ukrainian beaches along the Black Sea. Everyone scoffed at my observation. Apparently, there it's hard to walk on the sand without having to step over someone. So much for my idea of a crowded beach.


We all managed to dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean that day, munched on some leftover snacks from the music cruise the night before and even took a few pictures. But the best part was great seeing everyone having a great time.


On our way back from Tybee, we had to make a stop for gas. For the record, $90 will not fill the tank on a Ford Expedition. This alone makes me glad I drive a Honda. 


Just like every gas station on the way to and from the beach, there was a produce stand next door and we were able to pick up a few Georgia peaches. But, before we left, I had to grab another southern delicacy for the group; boiled peanuts. After Anatoliy's first introduction to peanuts at the baseball game - I'm convinced he devoured the peanut, shell and all - I wasn't sure how these would go over. Most everyone tried some, but it seemed Anna and I liked them the most as we devoured almost the entire bag. We were even snacking on them well after they got cold several hours later.


All in all, a beautiful day to spend at the beach with friends.


Well, our Ukrainian friends have come and gone. We keep in touch via the World Wide Web.


Another group will be here in a few weeks. We can’t keep them from talking to strangers on the plane ride over, either. But if they do, I hope their seatmates suggest other places to visit. Maybe like Hawaii?



























Scratch One Off The Bucket List



During the Ukrainian visit to Augusta, Dana Atkins, president of The Augusta Chronicle, was gracious enough to invite everyone to his house for a barbecue, where we all gathered on his back deck for some awesome food and a little socializing.


After dinner, he quietly stole Anatoliy away and the two headed out to the garage.


To say Dana is a golf enthusiast is an understatement.


He started pulling out every golf training aid he had. There was a mirror, a weighted driver, a power swing fan and even a hinged training club. It was everything Anatoliy needed to become the Tiger Woods of Ukraine.


Dana worked with Anatoliy as I stood by, taking pictures and shooting a little video. This was history in the making. He gradually worked through the training aids to actual clubs. I watched as Anatoliy would take a few swings, often losing his balance and ending up on his tiptoes. But with each swing, the grin on his face grew wider and wider. He was in heaven.


Anatoliy had never held a golf club in his hands before tonight and talked to us about how it was dream of his to swing a club.


Golf hasn't taken off in the Ukraine like it has elsewhere. In a country where the average income is less than $400 a month, it's hard to find the disposable income to afford a golf habit. Plus, there are only a handful of golf courses in the entire country, where many people don't know the game. Just about the only golfer they recognize is Tiger Woods. The headline for a story in a Ukrainian newspaper on the US Open didn't proclaim Justin Rose the winner. It said Tiger Woods lost.


Such is golf in Ukraine.


We were going to introduce them to golf in America.


During their trip to Augusta, we wanted so badly for them to see Augusta National but knew that wasn't possible. The best we could do was take them to the main gate on Washington Road and let Anatoliy look longingly down Magnolia Lane.


But Dana had a special treat for our friends. He had arranged for the group to hit balls at the driving range at West Lake.


As luck would have it, it was raining that day. The same way it has almost every single day for the past month.


Anatoliy, though, wasn't going to be deterred. Having held a golf club for the first time the day before, he was determined to hit a few balls. And the monsoon that was upon us wasn't going to interfere.


As the rain poured, we all huddled under umbrellas to watch as Dana worked with Anatoliy on his swing. Anatoliy made a few whiffs and dug up some worms, but his dream finally came true when he made contact with the ball. This may have been the happiest time in his life.


When Kim and I were in Ukraine, everyone we met was introduced to us with a list of their list of sports accomplishments first and then what they did. Sometimes those came before we even learned their names.


Now, Anatoliy can add one more accolade to his list. Golfer.




















One If By Land. Two If By Sea. Three If By Delta Airlines.





We knew it had to come to an end. All good things do. Right? We just wished it wouldn’t. 


Friday came and it was time for Kim and I to get on that big ole jet airliner and start heading back to Augusta.


It was a sad goodbye. Tears were suppressed. Hugs were exchanged. But they say, “What goes around comes around.”


After all, in two weeks, the Ukrainians were coming!


It was a long two weeks. For Kim and I, it was worse than being kids waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, combined with the last week of school before summer break. And you might as well throw in those days leading up to the family vacation to Disney World.


We were excited kids and the day of their arrival couldn’t have gotten here fast enough.


Soon, the day we had been waiting for, had finally come.


Kim and I waited at the airport for their plane to arrive. We watched anxiously as the plane made its way to the gate and the passengers started deplaning. People filtered out as we waited for our friends to appear. And we waited. And we waited. Just when we began wondering if they had missed the flight, we caught a glimpse of Anna. The rest weren't too far behind.


They were finally here.


The area between the terminal and baggage claim is no man's land. It may as well be the area that separates North Korea from South Korea. While Kim and I could see everyone, we couldn't run to greet them. We had to wait some more. 


And to make the wait even more agonizing, there was one more stop to be made before they officially crossed the border into Augusta. 


Anatoliy, being Anatoliy, gathered the group for a picture. He chose the statue in the middle of the terminal of golf great Ray Floyd as the backdrop for his picture. Kim and I chuckled. After 24 hours of traveling, they, or should I say Anatoliy, were in no rush to get out of the airport.


But they were here. And another good thing was about to begin again.