Pictures worth a thousand words

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 16, 2008

As you may have noticed in the past few weeks, I have a new column “mug shot.”

To be honest I was more than happy to hear that I was going to have a new picture for my column. I couldn’t stand the last one as my co-workers have heard me gripe and complain how it should be taken out back and burned.

I know it’s not really something you can do with a digital file, but just the idea of the photo going up in flames made me smile.

It was taken within my first few days in the Roanoke-Chowan area when I was still a new, nervous employee to the office.

So now there is the photo displayed to the left. Definitely a little bit better than the last, but I was still nervous…as I am while being the subject of any picture.

Everyone has dealt with the nerve-racking experience of having their photo taken, whether it’s at a formal sitting, a candid family picture or a person like me trying to take your photo.

Here at the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, it’s part of the job description for most of us in the newsroom and even in the advertising department.

Now days, in the age of digital cameras, the photographer needs to know little more than to point and shoot the camera.

My Editor Cal Bryant will be shocked to know this since he’s the photography guru of the office, but I’ve always been interested in photography.

I assume it’s a natural interest. I’m always looking for some way to be creative through different mediums.

To wrap up my senior year at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego, I decided I wanted to take a digital photography class to complete my art concentrate.

Being a senior, I thought I would be a shoe in for the class as I had taken tons of art history and art classes, but as it was a prerequisite for many art students, it was known to fill up fast. There was also a scheduling conflict with a required journalism class, so the interest was never fulfilled.

About a year before that, my mom bought me a small digital camera for a birthday present. At the time I was still attending SUNY Oswego and an editor at the university’s campus newspaper.

My mom knew at the newspaper we were under funded, therefore we only had one (really old) digital camera for the whole staff of about 15 to 20. So, the camera she bought for me enabled us to have yet another camera/photographer on board.

The camera (and the fact I was leaving for North Carolina to begin my internship) inspired me to start taking photos of nature scenes around the campus, which sits on the shore of Lake Ontario.

One of the first times I took photos of these types of scenes, I was walking home from a long night at the paper.

It was around 6 a.m. (yeah, paper nights were really long for us) and the campus was near silent as it was near dawn. I decided to head down near the lake despite there being a strong wind.

I knew the lake would be stirred up with high waves, so I knew it would be a good opportunity for photographing. It was on the cusp of spring, the strong wind coming off the lake was still near freezing.

Even though my eyes were stinging from the cold I was able to get a few pictures of the waves as they rolled over the flat rocks below.

When I look back on those pictures now I’m not so impressed, my eyes were too blurry to see what I was taking photos of and I probably shouldn’t have been standing on the edge of a cliff at 6 a.m. in a windstorm in hypothermic conditions after 12 hours of work.

In my house I have a few photos on display that I have taken over the years, including a series of pictures taken in New Orleans one year before Hurricane Katrina hit.

We there visiting my cousin who was (and still is) battling breast cancer. Ten months before our visit she had given birth to a daughter and at the same time found out the cancer had reoccurred.

Though it was a tough time for her and there were even tougher times to come, things seemed a lot lighter in the presence of her daughter.

The photos include a mule getting a nose rub from a little girl near the French Market, historic buildings draped in colorful baroque vines and my cousin playing with her then 10 month old daughter.

When I look back on those photos I see a sense of calm before the storm.

I’m still not a pro at photography, as anyone who has seen me on assignment knows that I typically take millions of photos, but I like to think I’m beginning to get an “eye” for it.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.