A New Kind of Story Telling

Lexi Huber and her mom (Rosa Huber) get ready for the Hot Chocolate 5k through Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.
Photo credit: Parish Huber

The idea for this interview hit me over spring break, when I was with Lexi in Glenwood Springs. We were staying at her grandparents house and I was struck with how close Lexi was with her grandmother and this town where her mom grew up.

I asked her about it- about the bond between her and these women in her life.

“Well my mom is my best friend!” She laughed.

Coming Home
Lexi Huber poses on the old railroad tracks that run through Glenwood Springs- the town where her mother grew up. She says Glenwood is like a second home.

Interview her! Screamed the slowly growing mini-Journalist I’ve been raising inside me this semester. And I listened to it. We sat down at the kitchen table late that night, just finishing a viscous game of Rummikub with her grandparents, and I attempted to conduct an audio interview.

It was easier than I was expecting, and also a lot of fun. I enjoyed the stronger conversational, unscripted aspect of it, something I found interviewing for a print story lacking. I used the same audio recorder I do for my other interviews, so I was familiar with the technology.

The portrait picture (left) was fun to take. Exploring Glenwood Springs was like exploring a little bit of Lexi’s personality. It was just a matter of time before something special popped up!

Of course, then came the audio editing part. I was nervous for editing, especially after opening audacity and seeing the complex tools. It took me a long time to edit (note: a very, very long time), but I was surprised to find myself enjoying it! Most of my edits took place after Micah Schweizer and Erin Jones spoke in class, and I really took Erin’s advice to heart. I tried to see the audio file as a story, one that I was molding and creating.

As a story-teller at heart, I found this new medium of story telling exciting and full of possibilities. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found the perfect ending dialogue. The technical side was much more difficult, and wrought with frustrations. I stayed mostly in the simple edits of cutting, copying and pasting. (Although I did venture once into the Envelope tool and quickly scrambled for my undo key.)

I honestly don’t think I would do anything differently because everything was a huge learning experience. Yes, I wish I had stayed quiet during interview, or prepared better questions, or maybe not have rushed for that undo key quite so often when I played with the more advanced features of audacity. But, because of those mistakes, I learned a great deal. Even though I know this audio piece isn’t perfect, I’m proud of it! I’ve never done anything like it, and the learning experience was invaluable.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed conducting and editing an audio interview. Enough so that I am excited for the future implications. I’m a huge fan of podcasts, and I think it is still a growing field. I could see myself starting my own podcast in the future to supplement whatever my career is at the time. (Because let’s be honest- I have no idea what will happen.) For example, if I go into the mental health field, I could start a podcast where the main focus is interviewing people who have overcome mental illness.

I hope to continue building on my skills in audio interviewing. It is a unique and growing field that I would like to become more adept in.

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Fighting for Accessibility

UW revamps their disability support system.

By: Alli Mann

A few years ago, students with disabilities faced a long uphill battle when attending college. Today, it is still a battle. However, students have more tools in their arsenal than ever before.

“The stigma around certain conditions have gone down so more of students with those conditions enrolling has gone up,” Amanda O’Brien, the director of the Disability Support Services (DSS), says. To support the students chasing their dreams despite less-than-ideal odds, the University of Wyoming has revamped their disability support system.

The Disability Support Services

Legally, the DSS fills the requirement set out by the American Disabilities act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Both acts fight to prohibit discrimination based on disability and gives more rights to people struggling with a disability. O’Brien says recent amendments have granted her team newfound power in creating a universal learning environment.

“Our hope is to provide equal access for people with disabilities. That can be physical, mental, emotional, cognitive. Anything that significantly impairs a major life activity for a period of time can be qualified for a disability,” O’Brien says.

Working with academic accommodations is the bread and butter of the DSS. Traditionally students were limited with their choices for academic aid. However, O’Brien says in the past five years, new power given through the amendments has allowed the DSS the room to think creatively with students and faculty.  

“We make it work. It might be thinking creatively. It might be asking other departments to help chip in for it because it might be something that benefits all of their students,” O’Brien says.

She explains making classes universal would benefit everyone. The DSS has helped the university meet UDL standards (Universally Designed for Learning) for anything from constructing buildings to installing pianos.

“We see a lot of students coming to college who use to maybe not feel comfortable coming,” O’Brien says about the diversity campus is enjoying.

It is a diversity reflected in the range of disabilities the DSS is now able to help. From an Autism Spectrum Disorder or Social Anxiety to crippling Migraines and surgery, if a student as the proper paperwork, the DSS will do their best to find accommodations. O’Brien jokingly says they always know when ski season starts because there is a surge of students who ask for note-taking help.

The Disability Support Services
The DSS finds it’s home in Night Hall, where the Counseling Center is also located.

The Psychology Clinic

For years, the Psychology Clinic has provided affordable mental health assessments and therapy for UW students and the community. Run by graduate students, the clinic offers hour-long counseling sessions for five dollars. They are excited to begin promoting new groups and teams designed to address a broader range of disorders.

“Oftentimes, it’s just really nice to have someone in your corner,” Ryan Kozina, the Graduate Student Director of the Clinic says.

With new faculty recently hired, Kozina says they are now able to offer expertise in eating and sleep disorders. They’ve also added a team to address the growing need for relationship and marital therapy and revamped their ADHD training in the fall.

“I think it is very important and a lot of people don’t know they have these options,” Kozina says.

He stresses that if money is a barrier to getting help, the clinic is happy to work out a plan. They do their best to accommodate every student, but with limited time and staff, resources can be stretched thin and priorities have to be made. The idea of hiring a staff psychologist has been passed around, according to Kozina. For now, the clinic focuses on seeing as many students as they can while recruiting more staff and graduate students.

Kozina also advocates for students to call in if they are on the fence about seeking help.

“There’s no real negative outcome that could have,” he says.

WIND and WATR

Assistive Technology for All
Ryan Rausch (Occupational Therapist, WIND) displays a common AT set out for demonstrations later today. Behind him, rows of technology are ready to be checked out by students.

The Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) works to further develop rights for people with disabilities. The Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources (WATR) is a branch of WIND looking specifically at Assistive Technology (AT).

“It works like a library,” says the Occupational Therapist at WIND, Ryan Rausch.

Students can loan AT for free or close to free. Unlike the DSS, they don’t require documentation. It’s partly for these reasons that the DSS and Psychology Clinic will write referrals to WIND when the need arises.

So, what exactly is AT? Rausch says its main goal is to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities. AT maximizes a person’s participation in academics, social life and general functioning. Many students find use in the rows of technology they can check out.

One program WIND is hoping catches on is Zoom- a telehealth service that could reach the many rural places of Wyoming.

“With Wyoming being so large in landmass and far between, it’s one way we can connect to rural communities,” Rausch says about the program. “I would love to reach out to those small places.”

With the growing support for disabilities, a universally accessible Wyoming may not be far away.

A Picture Tells a Million Words

As a rule, I try not to use my phone when I’m out and about. Exploring on my own, talking with friends and family, or going to a planned event is always more rewarding to me when I see it through the eyes of a participator. This week, I tried something different. I tried seeing the world through the lens of a photojournalist.

It was difficult, a little exhausting, and entirely uncomfortably. I decided I am much happier typing at my computer in sweatpants with a steaming mug of tea than I am asking a stranger their name and if I can take their photo. But, I also discovered the unique beauty of seeing a potential story and potential shot in every scenario. These are the 5 shots I have deemed worthy (or, acceptable) to be viewed by you all.

 


Celebrating the Arts
Friends, family and art enthusiasts gather to honor the work of UW art students. The
Student Art League Annual Salon des Refusés Reception was held in the UW art museum Friday the 22nd.

It was snowy, cold and after a long week, I really just wanted to see the movie a friend and I decided on. Half way to Studio City, she asks if I would mind stopping by the Art Reception real quick. It piqued my interest, and I figured I should stay true to my vow to see the world through a photo-journalistic view.

It was inspiring to see the crowded art museum. The lights were warm and friendly, and the happy chatter pulsed through the room with life. Seeing the student’s pride as their art pieces were called out and recognized one by one gave me a sense of purpose as I took my pictures. These were students who deserved to be recognized.

I wanted to photograph the energy of the room, so I manipulated the viewpoint by backing into the far wall and snapped a few action shots. 

The Curious Hiker
On the weekend of February 16th, Markus (last name not given) inspects a naturally occurring earth bridge at the Lava beds, just off the southern border of Oregon.

My photojournalist viewpoint was first tested during a rather impromptu family trip to the tiny, isolated town of Klamuth, Oregon. We decided to drive down to the Lava Beds just into California’s territory. Lava flowed over the landscape about 100 years ago and created a diverse landscape of caves and earth bridges. It was frigid and snowy, but it didn’t stop curious hikers from exploring.

I was entranced by the beauty and otherworldly landscape, made even more prominent by the falling snow. A man standing on one leg to get a better view of the structure didn’t seem out of place at the time. I found it difficult to get a sports shot, from lack of skill or simply an untrained eye. Fortunately my phone was out at this point, so I snapped a picture before he could walk away. Because it was a reactionary shot, I didn’t really have time to set up any creative devices. 

Snack Time
The Boulder County Fairgrounds held the annual Alpaca Extravaganza this February. The numerous alpacas occasionally walked up in search for a free snack.

“Do you want to go to the Alpaca-“

“Just stop. You had me at Alpaca.”

And hence began the journey to Longmont, Colorado, in search for alpacas. My roommate and I drove down Saturday the 23rd. The small festival was hosted by the
Alpaca Breeders Alliance of Northern Colorado (ABANC).

The smell hit us first as we walked into the small barn. Animal, hay and the mud people tracked in permeated the air. Yet it was strangely homey. It was endearing to see the pack animals and their owners, so excited to show them off. The animals, however, were not so eager. They rarely came close enough for the people crowded around the edges to pet them, so when one finally did, I snapped a quick photo.

It doesn’t make use of any creative devices, and the positioning is awkward. Honestly, it’s not a great photo, but the opportunity was so rare and the gentleness of the act makes it a worthy photo.

Alpacas and Us
February 23rd, people crowd around a group of alpacas as they try to get a glimpse of the animals at the annual Alpaca Extravaganza in Boulder.

Perhaps it’s bad form to feature more than one photo of the same event, but it’s alpacas.

Towards the end of the walking market, one enclosure had 7 alpacas in it. None of them wanted to be touched, but they were charmingly close to each other. My thoughts when taking this were how alike they were from a human ‘pack’. Just from the few minutes I spent trying to pet one (a failed expedition), I could tell which ones were the overprotective leaders, the anxious but loyal ones and the chill, independent ones. You could see the same personalities in the crowd around them.

In my attempt to capture this similarity, I thought the girl in front of me had hair the shade close to an alpaca’s. I tried using balancing elements to give both alpaca and human the same space in the frame, and highlight the pack-animal nature both species share. 

Rest for the Weary
Students and faculty enjoy a lunch break in Rendezvous cafe Friday, February 22.

Call me an uncultured UW student, but I have never actually had lunch at the Rendezvous cafe. It was more chaotic than I had thought. There were more people hanging out and actually taking a break than what I was doing- scarfing down bites in between textbook readings. It gave it a bright, cheery feeling, which I tried to capture by letting the light in through the windows. I used the Contrast to bring more attention to the people in the photo.

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My time as a photojournalist was short lived but eventful. The next time I try capturing stories in pictures, I’ll try to be a little braver. I wish I had singled out more individuals and asked for their name and permission to take a photo. Instead, I stuck mostly to crowds. It worked in some instances, but not so well in others.

Emotions through the Lens

Creative Devices are tools photographers can use to create the best picture possible. Here, I demonstrate the use of 5 different creative devices and how they are used to evoke emotion in pictures.

Most of the pictures used are from the UW conservatory. Check their website here.

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Secret Treasures 
Graffiti sprawls under the bridges of Laramie, providing a unique and appealing twist to otherwise hard architecture.

I used framing to draw attention to the unique graffiti. Framing makes use of the already interesting contrast between grey, cold metal and the brightly colored art. The metal beams and dirt below draw viewer’s eyes to the art. Since the graffiti is already colorful, it adds to that Wow! factor.

If the shadows weren’t so bold on the art, color would be another creative device used. As it stands, the red paint has been dulled because of the shadows.

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The Awaiting Path
Along the Laramie river is a bike path with beautiful views of the sunset.

Leading lines draws the viewer’s attention down the road and into the sunset. It creates a sense of journey and action in the picture, like the viewer is actually walking down the path to the sunset beyond.

Framing and viewpoint are also seen here. The sunset is framed by the bushes and the road, making it appear bigger than it actually is. The viewpoint is unique because of how close to the ground we are. It makes the road appear bigger and- to an extent- more desolate. It evokes a silent type of awe.

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Small and Mighty
A plant with fine hair covering it’s leaves. Water droplets drip from the plant.

When most think of plant they think of smooth, green leaves. Maybe some have a rough exterior. This photo demonstrates texture by revealing the fine hairs that cover the plant’s leaves. It looks almost fuzzy and is at odds with what most people assume a plant is. The curiosity for the unknown makes this photo memorable.

Rule of Thirds can also be seen here. The plant takes up the two right most ‘thirds’. In this case, the rule of thirds simply makes the picture organized and pleasant to look at. There is nothing particularly jarring about the placement of the plant in the photo, so viewer’s attention can remain focused on the strange texture.

Cowboys and Plants
A sculpted cowboy head and plant sit side-by-side in the UW Conservatory

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This photograph uses Balancing Elements to give a unique and almost jarring viewpoint on a sculpture. The green plant and bronze sculpture are immensely different from each other, yet they take up the same room on the photo. This produces a strange picture that captures viewer’s attention. The differing aspects balance each other out to create a visually appealing photograph.

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The Yellow Beauty 
The UW Conservatory has many deep green plants. This flower is a splash of color.

This flower is an excellent example of color. It stands out against the monotone green with bright yellows and reds. The contrasting colors makes it pop and adds to the depth of yellow and red.

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It’s amazing how the little, seemingly mundane things can become extraordinary with the right creative devices. Human emotions play a huge part in the success of a photograph. Creative devices are the tools in which to manipulate them. An empty road becomes a yearning for adventure, or a plant evokes curiosity.

Next time I take pictures, I’ll be sure to focus more on the emotions that the picture is creating and how to use creative devices to manipulate those emotions.

Only Up From Here

I like to tell myself that anyone can change the world. Too much weight is put on talent, or the aptitude for talent. Especially within writing circles, too many people put down their pen because ‘it wasn’t for them’, or ‘there’s better competition out there’.

I call BS.

Talent will get you through High School and maybe Freshmen year, but after that, passion and hard-work take the spotlight. I believe this is true for most majors, but in writing especially.

The world is constantly changing, and because of that, talent will get you nowhere if you can’t adapt. I’m hoping this class will teach me not only how to adapt to the roaring tide of Journalism, but how to ride the tide to a successful career.

The future does not fit in the 
containers of the past.” 
Rishad Tobaccowala

There are two things I hope to take away from this class.

  1. How to tell a story using media that is not strictly written articles.
  2. How to reach a larger audience.

I’m the first to admit- I’m not good at getting people to pay attention to me. As a natural introvert, I shy away from the spotlight. So this class will be instrumental in teaching me techniques to build my brand and broadcast that brand for the world to see.

As I said earlier, I believe anyone can change the world. I also believe the most efficient way to make an impact is to go to the people you’re writing about. Human interest stories have always interested and moved me.

My career inspiration is Brandon Stanton, author of the Humans of New York blog. Stanton started his career trying to honestly capture the people of New York. His project was so successful he now brings attention to social justice and human rights movement all around the world by interviewing the people most directly impacted by it. He’s covered wars in Iraq and famine in Africa, just to name a few.

In a previous class I’ve interviewed nonprofits in Laramie, and even had the opportunity to talk with a client of the Interfaith Food Pantry. Good journalism cuts to the heart of issues in society, and I believe people are that heart.

I hope to continue interviewing sources that are close to the issue at hand and ask them about their personal experiences and hopes. Organizations like the Laramie Foster Closet or Feeding Laramie Valley are possible sources. I have a lot of interest in the mental health field, so I also hope to use the Wyoming Association of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Centers (WAMHSAC) as a source.

The last possible source I am excited to look into are the guest speakers the university brings in. Events like the Days of Dialogue are excellent opportunities to talk to unique people.

I’m not sure where this class will take me, or what I will learn. I certainly have a lot of room to grow, so wherever this path leads, it’ll only be up from here.