Horse Sense: What a man in Northern Michigan and His Horses Can Teach Us

Driving down Old White Road in Lake Ann and hour southwest of Traverse City, the dust rises up around the car tires as the faded crimson barns, wearied by father time, create monolithic shadows across the ground. At one of these barns myself and my riding companion hope to find Outrider Horseback Riding.

Upon entering the property the antique barn is accompanied by a white farm house and more than several inquisitive pairs of eyes. The horses of every shape, size and color are not shy when we meander around the property, joined by several chickens, sheep and the occasional broken drown tractor. The smell of hay and horses encircles us, it’s a smell I would assume hasn’t changed in the past 100 years, unlike the world encompassing it.

Just like his home and his horses, the proprietor Doug Walters could step from the pages of well-known westerns.

A subdued character Mr. Walters greets us with a handshake and a slight lift of his stetson. The hat, worn comfortably on his head seems like an extension of his persona rather than a separate article. The cowboy boots on his feet show signs they were once a deep mahogany but have been worn to a dusty brown from miles on foot and horseback. A low ponytail of tawny brown and grey hair rests down his back and a mustache adorns his upper lip. The leather holders and belt around his waist Walters fashioned himself as working with his hands is instinctual to the laid back stable owner.

We quickly fill out the required forms “because lawyers,” says Walters. Next we meet two beautiful and healthy looking animals. Dennis Walters, Walter’s brother lends us a hand, so we may (somewhat) gracefully climb into the saddle. Heading away from the stable into the sun the horses start off at an easy walking pace. Outrider is not your typical trail ride nor Walters your typical guide. The pace quickly becomes “learn as you go,” with various terrain, some steep, some bumpy and all stunning.

During various points of the ride, I am pulled away from the stunning scenery, to listen to Walters and his many colorful anecdotes.

Walters, who at several points during the afternoon I expect to start speaking of his time spent with Doc Holliday or Sitting Bull, has guided thousands of rides, interacted with people from around the globe and trained over 1460 horses.

If you ask Walters, there is a reason people are drawn to the idea that is the wild west. “People are searching for a sense of simplicity that comes from being in nature and carrying on in a simple manner,” he says. Walter's parents gifted him this knowledge. Both were in the horse business.

Walters’ father and mother settled in the Benzie County town decades ago. Lake Ann is located 12 miles west of Traverse City, Michigan and was first settled in 1860. Described as a “heavily timbered wilderness,” by the Lake Ann Property Owners Association. In 1892 a railroad was constructed and an influx of new inhabitants arrived in town.

Before a massive fire scorched Lake Ann in 1897, it was competing with Traverse City as the main metropolis of the area, says the Property Owners Association.

Roving through the wooded trails on horseback, I can understand why many chose to stop and establish themselves in Lake Ann. Drifting into a state of meditation, my body warmed by the sun, the breeze touching my skin and the extreme calm of the animal carrying me, I’m startled when Walter’s takes off and suddenly my horse, Harley, follows suit. The sheer bliss and exhilaration riding fast paced on horseback can only be experienced and not expressed. Decelerating from our breakneck speed we arrive back at Outrider with the soreness and awareness of being on horseback for several hours.

Climbing down from the saddles, less exuberant than when we started the day, Walters with several more decades of experience under his belt, has a final excursion in store.

He walks us over to his stables through a maze of turns, dimly lit by the occasional single uncovered lightbulb. The maze opens to several stalls, almost all are empty except for a beautiful chestnut colored mare named Sugar and her young fowl Dancer, standing close by. Seeing new life is a magical experience but in this setting with the mother carefully watching her fowl, her fowl nuzzling our hands and Walters grinning widely, it’s truly remarkable. Asking Walters if he has plans for retirement or another life for himself he easily shakes his head, No. “The creator must think I have some more horses to train, because the devil has had more than enough chances to take me.”

Even if for an hour Walters offers an escape from the mundane. An escape from the fast-paced, consumer obsessive carousel we all seem to be riding. Walters offers a simple, sometimes uncomfortable but authentic reality. He will happily hand out advice along the way, like how to avoid drunk driving, “take a horse.” Tell how he and his horses greet all walks of life on the trail, and give you his open and honest opinion about what he thinks of the times we live in and the difference between “people and human beings.”

Despite his wardrobe, his lexicon and his demeanor, don’t call him a cowboy. Doug Walters is a horseman. How different life would be if we all took a lesson from him.

Here... Take This Gift: Is Black Friday Worth It?

For this photo story assignment, I found that I was able to obtain a great deal of content. I thought I would struggle to capture cohesive photos that showed a timeline of events. I chose to cover America’s famous holiday pastime- Black Friday shopping. I wanted to cover this issue because I do believe photojournalism can bring about change. With compelling stories and photos people can see an issue for what it is, or in the case of Black Friday what it is not. For this photo story I researched how other media have covered Black Friday and the strengths and weaknesses of their stories. The majority of the information I found was in relation to Black Friday sales and their effect on the economy and the effects of cyber Monday on the brick and mortars.

When creating this photo story, I based my content off of researching which stores would most likely have the most Black Friday shoppers. This assignment has enforced the significance of being prepared and trying to plan ahead for curveballs. This information has not only helped me in continuing photojournalism but in my day to day. For this assignment we were also tasked with interviewing subjects and adding audio. Interviewing skills can always be improved upon. Learning to work with tools like Photoshop and Audacity were challenging but thank goodness for Youtube. This assignment tested me in many ways but was a valuable learning tool. I was able to experience an event in which so many Americans participate and gain a perspective contrasting my own.

Black Friday. Across the U.S. Black Friday has become a phenomenon. Well known as the busiest shopping day of the year over 100 million people set out to stores in the 2017 season. Thirty percent of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas, writes, Why do so many of us participate in this frenzy of consumption. This year in 2018 many stores opened their doors on Thanksgiving evening. Many Americans chose to leave their homes and their families to stand hours in lines to purchase goods. It seems counterproductive to show someone how much to love them by leaving them to buy a “thing.” If time is our most precious resource, why are we spending a holiday standing in line at Walmart next to people we don’t know.

Do we need Black Friday? My answer is No. I think there are many items we choose to consume rather than need. Like many others I fall victim to catchy advertisements and attractive marketing, but I have to train myself to remember where my priorities lie. Which is with the people in my life. What would you gain if you chose to stay in during those Black Friday sales? Less stress, more time with family? For me these are worth not scoring that 99-cent poinsettia from Home Depot at 5 a.m. I don’t view shopping as criminal, but I do feel our holidays would be happier if we all focused more on the sentiment rather than the stuff.  

The Unexpected Athlete: Techniques Sports Photographers Use to Create History

Nothing quite matches the intensity and passion that is an athletic event. Whether you are an avid sports fan or cringing on the sidelines, humans are attracted to competition. It’s ingrained in our biology. Sports bring this out in us and sports photographers must capture it. According to Photojournalism a Professionals Approach, “Sports photographers are like athletes. They need the aim of a major league pitcher, the reflexes of a basketball guard, and the concentration of a tennis player.”

To work as a sports photographer there are some skills one needs. You have to be ready for fast paced environments. Some of the greatest sports moments happen within a second and you have to be prepared and ready to shoot. Sports photographers also need to be punctual. Readers don’t want to see or hear about sports moments a week after the event has occurred. A mature sports reporter also keeps up with the stats of players and the game, knowing this info could mean capturing a record-breaking moment.

 Before this assignment I did not consider fans being such a huge part of sports photography. Fans are a pivotal part of the game and can depict in which direction the game is going even without viewing the direct action. Another aspect this assignment taught me was the necessity of captions in sports photography.  Captions should include the 5 W’s plus the H: Who, What When, Where, Why and How, according to Photojournalism the Professionals Approach. Being prepared with caption information allows the photographer to not lose photos in the shuffle of hundreds taken during the game.  

 Sports Photographers use several techniques when shooting sports. The most common is freezing action. Freezing action is doing just as it describes stopping the action in that moment of time, so the athlete or athletes are completely clear. Another technique used in shooting sports is panned motion. Panning allows for the showcase of movement. The subject is in focus, but the background is streaked. In this case the goal of the photographer is to convey the motion or play of the sport, such as a track star running across the finish line.

 Whether you choose to shoot sports by stopping the action or allowing for the view of movement sports are exhilarating to shoot. Some of the most recognized photos in history were shot by sports photographers, from Muhammad Ali knocking out George Foreman to the images of the “Miracle on Ice,” when an underdog U.S. team toppled the USSR powerhouse during the 1980 Olympics. Being a part of a historic moment in sports for players and fans allows people to exist completely in a moment, without the thought of personal or outside struggles. People of various backgrounds are together in an extremely passionate way to support their team. In the blink of an eye the action can end, and these moments are what a sports photographers strive to capture.   

Facing a New Kind of Feature

This assignment taught me that feature stories are everywhere. It taught me the importance of being prepared as a photojournalist and if you aren’t it will most likely cost you the shot. In our age of constant contact and media photojournalists have several ways to stay informed. First by monitoring scanners and police reports photojournalists have the ability to hear about breaking news as it is happening and get to the story. A second form of news is the straightforward radio and television broadcasts, while radio and tv may seem old school in our hyper-digital age they can offer contact live coverage updates, letting a photojournalist know where to go. Taking advantage of social media twitter and Facebook are also valuable ways to stay alert of what is happening in the news locally and aboard. Lastly, good photojournalists know the benefit of obtaining and maintaining contacts in the field. Having contacts allows a photojournalist to get onsite information and stay ahead of the news.

This feature assignment allowed me to explore my community and taught me to look for stories in places I wouldn’t expect, such as stopping for vendors on the side of the road or staying more aware of local political events. I found that feature assignments are something I truly crave to create. I enjoy going below the surface of a story to where the substance lives. I also find myself gravitating toward feature stories when I am browsing news feeds or educating myself on current events. Feature stories allow for the reader to be entertained while subtly being made aware of an issue and I feel that is a powerful tool.

The night of Tuesday, November 6th, off of 8 Mile rd. in Ferndale, 11 p.m. after the polls closed, a billboard illuminates the sky, reminding citizens to vote.

The night of Tuesday, November 6th, off of 8 Mile rd. in Ferndale, 11 p.m. after the polls closed, a billboard illuminates the sky, reminding citizens to vote.

This all being said I found this assignment more challenging in ways I was not expecting. First, it was difficult for me to find events that I thought would be deemed newsworthy. I feel I sometimes fall into a mindset, “if it’s not catastrophic then it’s not news.” This thought process is a product of the news that I consume and that fact that most news we ingest is sensationalized. First I covered the November midterm elections. These elections were being highlighted across the country, on every news channel and I feel people are taking a more active role in politics. For my second feature, I was able to find a local event held in downtown Rochester celebrating the holiday season. I was apprehensive to photograph this event because it seemed to “happy” to me. After attending the event and walking among the hundreds of people in downtown Rochester, that night I realized there is great value in creating news of the joyous moments. Without documentation of family friendly, community events people may have a more tragic view of the world than they already do. I found this assignment challenging for a second reason, being it was difficult to speak to people at a crowded event and many people were shy or apprehensive to speak with me. While the challenges offered some obstacles it’s important to test your limits.

Along with forcing me out of my comfort zone this assignment taught me the benefit of waiting to get a shot. As a photojournalism student I have learned patience but especially with feature photography if you want to depict a well-rounded perspective of the event you have to have patience and capture moments that connect with your audience.

The Benefits of Shooting: DSLR Edition

Amateur photographers are everywhere. They are seen all over social media and some are now gracing the glossy pages of well known magazines. But how did these people learn to use that cumbersome clunky camera.  With a camera you learn by doing (and Youtubing). In today’s media culture where everything is photographed and recorded having the proper skills means knowing how to use your equipment well. Over the course of this week we have navigated the various settings and components of the camera. Some aspects I found straightforward and obvious, others were a bit blurry.

Let’s start with the basics. What is the difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. A DSLR or digital single lens reflex camera uses a single lens that light travels through to a mirror that alternates and sends the image to the viewfinder or the image sensor, according to The Digital SLR Guide.

In contrast a mirrorless camera completely lacks a mirror mechanism, “which means that the light passing through the lens always ends up on the imaging sensor. Since light is no longer reflected on an optical viewfinder mirrorless cameras typically rely on electronic viewfinders and LCDs that basically project what the imaging sensor sees. Because of [the] lack of a mirror mechanism and an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras can be made simpler, lighter and less bulky when compared to DSLR cameras,” according to PhotographyLife.

Now that you know how to distinguish between the two, how do you use them? Both DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are equipped with multiple focus features such as manual, portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, etc. which allow the camera, with your help, to focus on the subject and take beautiful photographs, however knowing a bit more about the features will truly set you apart.

First, ISO or International Organization Standardization according to Photojournalism: The Professional’s Approach by Kenneth Kobrè, is an acronym for the light sensitivity of your camera sensor. The most common ISO camera speed settings are: 100, 200, 400 and 800. Depending on your digital camera you may have settings in the range of 64, 100, 160, 200, 400, 640, 800, 1600 and higher. The lower the ISO number, the slower the speed. The higher the ISO number, (for example 1600) the faster the speed.

Use an ISO of 100 or 200 when taking photographs outside in brightly lit conditions. In contrast if the sky is overcast or in a lower light situation use an ISO within the range of 400 to 800. At night or in cases of extreme low light you may need to set your camera ISO to 1600.

Another important function of the camera is Shutter speed, or digital reaction time. This is the delay between the time you press the shutter button and when the shutter opens to capture the image.

Lastly, a third function of the camera is the F-Stop or camera aperture which controls light and your depth of field. This is simply how close or far something appears. Aperture is measured on your camera in fractions so the smaller the number say F2.8 the larger the opening to let in light, and in opposition the larger the number like F32 the smaller the opening for your camera to let light in.

Once you have the basic concepts you can hone your abilities to shoot Bobby’s soccer game or the riot that breaks out in Venezuela. Through the course of this lesson I learned for photojournalists this knowledge is paramount. Those in the profession have to think on their feet and adjust their cameras and sometimes lenses on the whim of lighting that can change in a matter of moments. I also learned that in today’s climate photojournalists need an inquisitive nature and be constantly learning about new technologies. Many photojournalists now capture images on their smartphones and some are using drone technology. Like print and broadcast, photojournalism is experiencing a transformation thanks to technology.

Indelible Rights

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” - U.S. First Amendment

In contrast to other countries the United States First Amendment offers an expansive range of security for press freedom. As a collegiate photojournalist, I was surprised to find out the numerous rights of photojournalists to document and publish news. To me this is what defines a democratic society and what encourages progress, by promoting contrasting thought and opinion. Without the platform of student or college newspapers many minority voices on a campus would not be heard. Student publications like the one here at Wayne State, The South End, are a bridge from student perspective and opinion to administrations’ ears. Often changes in policy are made due to student activism. As a student of photojournalism, I see the value of press freedom not only on a local level but on the grander scale as well. Universities are where ideas develop, cultures meet, and where students set the foundation for their future endeavors. Without the First Amendment, college campuses across the United States would not promote progress or inclusion that contributes greatly to the idea that is democracy.

It is the job of the photojournalists to bring information to the public but those in the profession wrestle with moral questions daily. One way to combat these moral dilemmas is to consult the Code of Ethics but photojournalists still have differing opinions on which path of the moral compass to follow.

Some photojournalists take the utilitarian approach which in summary is, “the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” According to Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach by Kenneth Kobre. The utilitarian photojournalist would publish a tragic photograph with the thought of informing the public, to possibly mitigate a similar even in the future. who else can make a better decision or cause a better effect?

A photojournalist who carries an absolutist approach would value the individual or families’ right to privacy over the benefit of the photograph to society. Photojournalists who practice this approach would find it intrusive to photograph a subject’s grief, for reporting benefit.

A third and final opinion is the golden rule approach. This is the feeling of, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This approach conflicts with both the utilitarian and absolutist views. This is takes a personal view as all photojournalists have different cultural backgrounds and moral scopes. What one photojournalist would publish another may not due to individual beliefs.

In the law and ethics chapters of Kobré’s textI learned there are standard practices and rules photojournalists must follow. It is important to be comprehensive and accurate when representing subjects. It is also imperative to be transparent and give the public as much information as possible. Treating subjects as humans providing them with respect is also a key aspect of being a good photojournalist. Regarding accuracy and maintaining credibility photojournalists should not manipulate photographs for hard news stories. There are some exceptions to this rule and that is where the categories of portraits and photo illustrations reside. The public has common knowledge that portraits and photo illustrations are staged and or altered and do not view them the same way they do a photograph depicting a hard news story.

There are many photojournalists who committed fraud to stand out among their peers, some of them losing their careers in the process. Norm Zeisloft of The St. Petersburg Times and Allan Dietrich of The Toledo Blade are two infamous examples.

Photojournalists and journalists in general walk a tightrope when it comes to morals and ethics in the media. To be a medium of information we must learn to keep our balance and not topple to one side. If we do, we fail to promote democracy. Withholding or downplaying stories does not create a well informed public, but we must also regard the humanity of our subjects. Learning and accomplishing rationality and empathy is a foundation for anyone in the field of disbursing information. And if we choose this field, we have chosen to believe in a higher standard of ethics and morals, that we ourselves must subscribe to.