For the month of May, I will be honing my photojournalist skills at a weekly newspaper in the Bay Area. On my first day on the beat, I worked on three assignments ranging from photographing a house for sale, food at an upscale restaurant, and former President Jimmy Carter. How’s that for variety? I’m looking at this month as an excellent opportunity to gain some good experience in the photojournalist and newspaper trade.

The day started off with a simple task of driving to South Palo Alto to take a picture of a house that’s being featured in an article on median home prices in Palo Alto. I would think that the median price of a home in Palo Alto is well above the national average, given the community’s affluent citizens. Photographing a house might sound simple and boring, but they are a lot harder than you might think. You only get one photograph to illustrate the story, which means composition is very important! The fact that the object being photographed doesn’t move or talk only serves to ratchet up the pressure!

I left the office around 2:30 pm to head over to Le Soleil Restaurant at the Westin Hotel along El Camino. Dominique Faury, the Executive Chef, was very helpful in preparing the two dishes that I photographed. The seafood panache and the lobster medallions, along with a glass of chardonnay, looked absolutely delicious. It took all my strength to stop myself from devouring the dishes right in front of Dominique!

It was nice speaking with Dominique, who is from France, about the recent French elections. I’m really glad that the voters turned out en masse the other day to soundly defeat Jean-Marie Le Pen. It is important to note that many of the voters weren’t voting for Chirac as much as they were voting against Le Pen. I remember reading about Le Pen’s Front National (FN) party while a student in Paris in 1995. It gave me the chills reading his xenophobic and racist viewpoints.

My last assignment was to photograph former President Jimmy Carter, who was at Stanford speaking on US-Sino relations. I had heard about the speech the day prior, and when I brought it up with Kate, I found out that they had no one assigned to take photographs. I guess I just volunteered, eh? The speech was open to the public, and that meant the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center was packed. Because of my shoot at Le Soleil, I arrived at the center about 15 minutes late. Fortunately, President Carter was just stepping to the podium when I entered the building. Fortunately being a member of the working press meant I didn’t have to stand outside listening to the speech over the loudspeakers. Hmm… the 1D does have a sound recording feature, but I don’t think that’ll work very well in a newspaper!

The photographers were situated at the far end of the fall, to the right of President Carter. As a result, we were only able to take photos of the side of his face. Fortunately for us, he has a distinctive profile! Long lenses were the norm at this shoot. I counted an 80-200 and a couple of 300’s on a variety of Nikon film and digital bodies.

Carter’s speech was part of the new Oksenberg Lectures, sponsored by the Shorenstein Forum for Asia-Pacific Studies. The annual speaker series was created to honor Political Science Prof. Michael Oksenberg, a senior fellow at the Asia/Pacific Research Center at the Institute for International Studies, who died in 2001. Because Carter’s administration normalized relations with China in 1978, he was seen as the perfect candidate to launch the lecture series.

After the speech, I drove my car across campus, parking at Tresidder Union. I checked the mail at the post office and went into the library to see if anyone has bought the book I worked on. Alas, it was still there on the bookshelves, gathering dust. Sigh. Sometime this week, I’ll be donating a copy to the Bing Library in the Alumni Center. Hopefully, someone there will find a use for it and learn how to develop web clipping applications for the Palm OS!

Finally, I met up with Rae on campus, whereupon we had dinner at the Treehouse (formerly Pollo Rey’s). Those burritos were quite filling!

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