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Blessed to learn and to love

It’s been five weeks, 35 days, 840 hours and 50,400 minutes. The whole trip, every single minute of it, was better than I had ever imagined it would be.

I’ve been thinking about how I was going to write this last blog post for the past 24 hours. How could I possibly sum up such a wonderful and impactful experience?  So to save you all from my rambling and incoherent thoughts, I want to share with you what I’ve learned from this trip:

1. Writing a movie script is different than any journalism story I’ve written. 

I’m used to telling stories using my words in my own style, letting others’ voices help me prove whatever statement I’m making. That’s what many journalists do, and that’s the privilege of being a journalist. You get to share stories, and it’s your job to tell the story to others. This experience has been different because instead of using our own voices, we help in another way.  We let our video and our interviewees tell the story. We rely heavily on them, while leaving ourselves out of it. Perhaps that’s what makes the best kind of story; when the subject is able to speak to a large group of others directly with only a little help from journalists.

2. I need practice shooting video, but hey, at least I know what all the buttons on the camera do. 

I can tell you how to set the ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance on a camera. I can tell you that when you don’t have time to set those features, shoot in Program mode. However, I’m not quite comfortable with a camera yet.  I hope to spend more time with a camera in the future (and maybe not with the thought of making an award-winning documentary in mind).

3.  Confidence is absolutely vital to a project like this. 

You need a lot of faith in yourself and in your team members to complete something like this. You need faith you’ll get the interview, faith you’ll get enough b-roll, faith you’ll find a good story, and faith it’ll all come together in the end. (I also learned I’m awful at hiding the times when I don’t have faith in myself; John had to remind me to be confident.)

4.  When you find a culture and a people as special as those in Bethel, you try to soak in everything you can.

I’m still trying to soak in all the lessons learned and the sights I saw. This culture is a welcoming culture, an open culture, a completely different culture than my own. Cecilia let us try on her parkas, pieces of clothing she hand-made and were a part of her culture and identity.  Nelson let a dozen people watch him cry as he told us how climate change is affecting the edge of the world and his life. If you’re blessed enough to be a witness to all of this, you keep a place for those people in your heart, knowing that truly good people, people who care, are out there.

5. Once you become aware of a moral evil or a social sin, you are held accountable for your actions. 

During our last lecture on Tuesday, we talked about social sins and modernity. We reflected on becoming aware of the social sin that has become climate change. Now that we are aware, we are held accountable to help make it right. As Nelson would say, we need to  find a way to say sorry to the land.

Carol asked us,”What is something you can do differently based on what you learned?”

I learned that climate change is not a hoax. I’ve seen the impact it’s had on people and on their culture. I’m now accountable for my actions. I can’t change the consumer society that is affecting climate change, but I can take little steps, like recycling and reusing items, and find out how to take bigger steps in the future.

6. It takes a lot to still love 19 people with whom you’ve spent five weeks, 35 days, 840 hours and 50,400 minutes. 

The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O'Keefe.
The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O’Keefe.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard sometimes. But, in all honesty, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend over 50,000 minutes with. This trip and my whole experience wouldn’t be the same without them.  I  walked out of the classroom today with a happy heart and a feeling of gratefulness.

So again, I’d like to thank Carol, Tim, John and the rest of my peers for a life-changing experience.

Storey sets her sights on multiple skills

Preparing to go abroad is a long process, but Claire Storey has memorized it. She goes abroad once almost every year.

She’s been to a dozen countries, not to mention various states. Bethel, Alaska is considered a close destination.

Storey sat outside of the Immaculate Conception Church in Bethel on a Thursday afternoon and tried to list all of the countries she’s visited as Scott Prewitt, an adventurer who would love to travel the world, listened.

“I could probably name them all,” she said. “South Africa…”

“I hate you,” Prewitt whispered. South Africa was just the beginning of the long list.

“Wait, I have to think about this in order, if I can,” she replied. “South Africa, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, England, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Canada, Mexico. Did I already say Germany? Italy.”

She laughed as Prewitt glared at her. She added, “And pretty much everywhere in the Netherlands. I think that’s it.”

Storey has been on many family vacations. Like every tourist, she brought along a digital camera on every trip. Snapping pictures at a very early age and watching her mother take up photography as a hobby, she grew to love photography as much as her mother does.

“There were always interesting things to take pictures of,” Storey said, reflecting on her traveling experiences. “From a fairly young age I had a digital camera that I could take pictures with so I would just take lots of pictures.”

Going on Creighton’s Backpack Journalism trip was vital to Storey’s future.

“My paranoid mind is like, ‘I’m going to go to some employer that went to Creighton and knows all about Creighton and was like ‘Oh, did you go on the Backpack Journalism program?’”

Saying no to that question was a big fear of Storey’s, so she signed up for the program and packed her bags for yet another adventure.

Instead of bringing her digital camera, she brought her professional camera and took her photography skills to the next level during the experience.

She had always naturally adopted the rule of thirds, the theory that the eye will gravitate toward an object of interest that is placed at an intersection point when the image is split into thirds. However, she had struggled with setting the aperture, which controls the brightness of an image, and exposure in the manual mode of the camera.

Storey snapped this picture of Zon, the son of one of the guides on her trip to a nearby village. This is her favorite picture from the trip.
Storey snapped this picture of Zon, the son of one of the guides on her trip to a nearby village. This is her favorite picture from the trip.

“I took the Video and Photojournalism class and then I took the Digital Video class and then I came on this trip,” Storey explained. “I knew the information from the first two classes but it wasn’t really until we were practicing for this trip that I realized that it was really clicking into place and I knew what I was doing.”

Although photography has always been a passion of Storey’s, she’s hoping to one day have a position at a publishing house.

“I’m studying photojournalism and I’m studying news journalism, but really what I have been able to see myself doing for a long time is being in some sort of editing of novels, like young adult novels,” she said.

She explained that a lot of people ask her why she didn’t major in English if she wants to edit novels one day.

Storey knew that if she were to major in English, she’d have to specialize in creative writing in order to edit novels, and at some point or another she’d have to write her own creative story.

“I basically have an inability to come up with a concept in my mind for a creative story idea and develop my own story, but I’m really good at helping other people flush out and develop and edit their stories,” she explains.

So she chose to explore photojournalism and news journalism to keep multiple windows of opportunity open and to develop her enjoyment of both skills.

“Photojournalism is something that I really enjoy so I think it’s a good skill to develop for myself to open up as a possible career,” she explained.

Even if Storey gets her dream job editing young adult novels at a publishing house, photography will always be a passion of hers.

At the rate she travels, she may have photographs from every country on the globe by the time she puts her camera down for good.