Sunday, February 24, 2013

THON Things and Poster Fronts

Stacia Hollingsworth cries as she reads a letter 
during mail call on Saturday morning.
Shooting anything as long or expansive as THON is fun for me because there are so many possibilities and I like having time to get into an assignment.  Since THON takes place over an entire weekend, it was pretty much like camp for me - I'd edit for a while on press row with my favorite people, then whenever there were floor passes open, I'd go shoot whatever was going on.  Sometimes this would be in the wee hours of the morning, but there would always be something going on.  Since the majority of the Collegian photographers were associated with THON in some way, only nine of us could shoot this weekend.  Therefore, like 15,000 other people, I sacrificed my sleep and shot as much as I could both for the Collegian or COMM 469 - whichever had an open pass.
Stacia and her sister, Ebony Hollingsworth, laugh at a letter
 during Mail Call on Saturday at THON.

I was only on the floor for a little while on Friday, since I was trying to edit through some video and write a paper on Uncle Tom's Cabin.  If you've ever been to THON you'll understand why I didn't get very far with either.  I still shot a little bit, and it was a good time to get in the THON shooting groove.

Saturday morning was productive.  Mail call happened, which is when dancers get letters and packages from their various supporters.  These can be as practical as snacks and deodorant or as emotional as letters from kids with cancer.  I found one dancer, Stacia, who was an emotive person and I followed her through opening her packages.  She laughed, she cried, I shot it all.  It's great to find people who don't mind you quietly documenting them, and fortunately THON creates an environment that lets you shoot just about anything without surprising anyone.  Occasionally people will spot you and pose, but there's so much going on that in a moment they'll go back to whatever they were doing, and you can delete those shots and shoot something candid and infinitely better.

At noon on Saturday afternoon, after a pep talk from Bill O'Brien, the THON kids' fashion show happened.  While it was a great way for the dancers to get familiar with all the kids, the photo possibilities mostly consisted of little kids standing awkwardly at the front of the stage, so I hung around the back of the stage.  

Earlier in the day I'd shot a little kid in a lion suit playing with squirt guns.  His name was Layn Burger, and he was a Four Diamonds kid who had been treatment-free for five years.  As a matter of course, I got his name, age, hometown, and a nice quote from his mother ("Without THON he wouldn't be here").  Over the weekend I reached a point where I'd photographed so many kids so many times that taking names was redundant, which was useful for situations where I wasn't able to get to the family to take their name.

Layn Burger, 7, hugs the Nittany Lion after his appearance in
the THON fashion show on Saturday.
In his turn Layn went onstage for the fashion show.  I was watching him, and when he turned around to go off, he ran into the Lion's arms.  My heart skipped a beat - big lion hugging little lion - and I shot a few pictures of the hug before he left the stage.  I hadn't really anticipated the hug, so I was still zooming in as it happened and the focus wasn't tack sharp, but it turned out to be a pretty good moment anyway.  It was turned into a meme, which will probably be the zenith of my popularity as a photographer, and it made the front on Monday.

I stuck around the Bryce Jordan Center until 3:00 Saturday afternoon, when our editor realized that a group of THON kids had gone across the street to the football facility for a Make-A-Wish excursion with the football team, and we didn't have a photographer there.  So I snatched up my camera, sprinted through the Pegula Ice Arena construction zone, and found about 25 kids working out where a week earlier I'd filmed an open workout.  I shot a few frames - kids working out, kids trying on uniforms, kids playing with football players - before Bill O'Brien arrived and Jeff Nelson kicked us out.

Beta Sigma Beta’s THON child Sam Creasy, 5, of Harrisburg, tickles Penn State defensive tackle Derek Dowrey (53) during a Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Building on Saturday.

Penn State fullback Andre Dupree helps Trenton Sullivan, 2,
of Hanover, do a pull-up at a Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch
Football  Building on Saturday during THON weekend.
When I tried to get back into the BJC, the line stretched a quarter mile down Curtin Road.  I had a four-hour shift at 8:00 that evening, so rather than stand in line for hours, I got dinner and changed.  These lines continued to grow for the rest of the weekend.  Lots of people gave up on getting inside, and some of the stalwarts got hypothermia for their efforts.  When I checked back in at around 8:00 the next morning, there were people in gym shorts and hoodies stamping to keep warm.  The wind whips around the BJC sometimes, and the line wasn't in a particularly sheltered place.  People were clumped by the one operating entrance in everything from gym shorts to snuggies, fog rising up from them like heat off a herd of cattle sticking out a cold snap on the prairie.  A gallon of iced tea and some water bottles on the ground beside the line had frozen rock solid.

Anyway, it's probably as exhausting to read about this as it was to cover it, so without much further ado, I present people crying, the Nittany Lion taking a baby powder bath, and Mike the Mailman.

The Nittany Lion receives a 10-second massage as part of THON 2013's Slides of Strength at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.

Morale captain Dredeir Roberts and Mike the Mailman dance before THON's mail call on Saturday morning at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Left to right, Meghan O'Neil, Kevin O'Connor and Janine Patton, all Rules and Regulations captains, watch a video memorial for Bella Rinier, a THON child who died in August 2012.

Four Diamonds Co-founder Charles Millard reads 5-year-old Austin Lightner's sign during Family Hour on Sunday at THON 2013. Mont Alto's THON child Lightner, on his father Dan Lightner's shoulders, had a sign that read: "1125 days down: 37 'till no mo' chemo."
So finally, Layn hugging the Lion went over pretty well at the office, so they blew it up for our first poster front in... a while? and now I have a foot-high stack of Collegians in my dorm room.  It was a lucky shot to make; I wasn't planning on it, I barely had enough time to zoom in and focus, and I was only standing there because I wasn't shooting what THON wanted me to shoot.  But I was shooting THON for 20 hours, and I was in the BJC for 40, so good things come to those who wait, I guess.

Hillel child Layn Burger, 7, of Elizabethtown, Pa., hugs the Nittany Lion after walking down the runway of the THON 2013 fashion show on Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.  This is Layn's seventh THON, and his fifth treatment-free.

Images are property of The Daily Collegian. Don't steal, give us credit.  Also thanks to Penn State College of Comm for lending me a D800 and some wicked shahp lenses, to John Beale for letting me take out the gear I wanted, and to the editors at the Collegian for continuing to like me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Penn State Football workout

Penn State Football Open Workout from The Daily Collegian on Vimeo.
The Penn State football team held an open practice early Friday morning at the Lasch Building, and The Daily Collegian went along to check out the team's progress.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

#TBT Marina's Soundslides

Throwback Thursday?  I don't know if this will become a thing, but people throw First Annual events all the time and I'll be darned if thrown-together craft festivals or ceremonies have a monopoly on optimistic naming conventions.  So welcome to the Second Weekly Throwback Thursday (the first one was on a Friday).

This is a Soundslides supplement I did for the video I posted earlier.  I've been rooting through some old projects, so I thought I'd throw it up here.

The audio here is from an interview I did with Marina in 2012, when I made the video, but the images are from 2011, when she was playing Clara and I was taking pictures of "The Nutcracker" for the director.

I've been in a lot of stuff with Jeremy, and while he hasn't yet inspired me to do ballet, he is a hilarious person and talented dancer and he got me the gig to shoot his sister's wedding, so I'm contractually obligated to speak highly of him.

Fun Fact: all the hyperlinks in this post go to the same video!

Monday, February 4, 2013

People Helping People

Diane Quinn, of Boalsburg, helps Jacob, 6, of State College, find a pair of shoes that he likes at St. Paul's Methodist Church's weekly shoe bank, which distributes over 500 pairs of shoes per year to children in the community.
Last Saturday morning I got to hang out with a bunch of church ladies, which I haven't done in a few years.  The assignment was to shoot people helping people: a church in town runs a shoe bank every weekend, so I hung around there and photographed the morning.

Diane Quinn, of Boalsburg, checks the fit of a new pair of sneakers for Jacob, 6, of State College, Pa.  Quinn is a volunteer for the St. Paul's Methodist Church's weekly shoe bank, where children from the community are free to pick a pair of new shoes every six months.
This was surprisingly fun to shoot.  I wasn't sure how the people would react to me, but they were all very friendly and talkative.  Jacob's mother, a Russian immigrant, wasn't sure what to make of me and wouldn't provide her last name, but everyone else was very cooperative.  

Samuel Martinez, 11, of Bellefonte, struggles to fit into a pair of Air Jordans at St. Paul's Methodist Church's shoe bank, as volunteer Lynn Phillips of Bellefonte looks on. In addition to his shoes, Martinez took home Shiloh as his free book.

I had completely forgotten what an ordeal shoe-buying was as a child until I shot this: having a battery of helpers pinching your toes, deciding which colors would show dirt the least, battling with your mother over cool vs. sensible shoes, and how tremendously difficult it used to be to pull off boots.

I still have trouble with boots.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Getting a Tattoo

As part of a P.S. (weekend magazine) feature about tattoos for the Collegian, I went with a reporter to a tattoo shop in town, where I was really lucky to be given unfettered access to film someone getting a tattoo.  This was Cristin Mitchell's tenth tattoo, but it was my first.

Getting a Tattoo at Tattoo Marks from The Daily Collegian on Vimeo.

This was a fascinating assignment because tattoos are naturally a visual medium, and because I'd never seen someone get a tattoo before.  I'd had a faint idea that there was a vibrating needle involved and it stung, so it was extremely cool to be able to get right next to Cristin getting tattoed by Tim Sellers, of Tattoo Marks.

This was just a supplement for a longer story, but I'd really like to do more video about tattoos, mostly because filming them from a foot away is so rad.

Sugarplum Fairy with a Bum Knee

Marina is a junior in high school who dances at a community theater, and she was preparing to appear as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker when I made this video. Marina planned to go to Point Park University, a performing arts school, until she snapped her IT band during her high school musical, an injury that seriously hindered but didn't end her dancing career. She talks about what it's like when your passion causes you pain, and the razor focus you need to dance well onstage.

Sugar Plum Fairy with a Bum Knee from Kelly Tunney on Vimeo.

I did this video for my Comm 481 final project last semester (December 2012). I learned a lot about shooting dynamic video here - mainly how tough it is to shoot wide-open on a homemade steadicam that's a monopod with a brick duct-taped to it.  Later in the lab, I stared at it for about six hours straight when it was 97% done, unable to tweak the final sequence, until Erin Ryan, a film major/lab tech, helped me out with matching action.