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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