Pictures worth a thousand words

Published 8:36 am Thursday, October 11, 2012

Being a reporter at a small newspaper often requires photography skills; albeit they’re slim to none.

While I do not consider myself a pro or even an amateur, I’m pretty sufficient in taking a news photo and on occasion I’ve taken photos I’m proud of. But then again it’s not too hard considering most cameras are point and shoot digitals now days. If you do not like a photo, boom it’s gone with the press of a button.

Though my work with photography is limited, I’ve always had this secret dream to be a photographer or at least take photos that are appealing to the eye.

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 were 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.