Archive for the Smiley Category

Working (harder and) together

Posted in Also removing lens caps (or pen caps), Hess, Matthews, Smiley, University of Kentucky on December 11, 2007 by lenscapremoved

We are on our way to major accomplishments.

I’m very proud of how far Ed, Elliott, Jim and I have pushed UKPJ in the past month. Through several exclusive meetings between us (and once Keith), entire staff meetings and two open houses for new photographers, we’re discovering ways that will help launch the program. We’re not only developing new ways to help the photographers we already have, but drive the a process to bring in (and retain) others.

Through working together in UKPJ, and not separately in the Kernel and the Kentuckian, we will be more efficient in our work, but we can’t be alone. We need the support of those other senior photographers (senior in the sense of leadership, not class year)*. I hope that never again will our groups bail on something as important as Atlanta. We should be a dominating presence when we travel, and can be if we have the support of our staff, and friends.

Our upcoming workshop will be a chance for our photographers to produce some amazing work, but hopefully everyone will realize that if you can find these stories in tiny Evarts, you can find them anywhere. People bring good stories, not location. But we will need to be united and have a presence to really get back on the right foot after Atlanta.

People ask me if I’m glad to get a break this Christmas. No. I don’t enjoy not having work to do. I don’t enjoy being useless. That’s why I have crammed my schedule as full as possible. In three weeks I can make a lot happen, and that’s something I hope the rest of our UK PJers are thinking about. Many of them have told me they have thought of projects they will work on over the break.

I’m closing in on my break. Health care ethics and linguistics finals are breathing down my throat and all I can think of are the following:

  • How many ways can I come up with to advertise the fact that UK not only has a yearbook, but a good annual documentation of this campus?
  • Am I going to be able to stay on track over break? I have so many projects and goals that I’m not sure where to begin or how to get all of this accomplished. What I do know is I will get it finished.
  • How can I make Kernel Mixed Media the most appealing multimedia site on the internet? Despite hating, I will have to start using it again to daily update the Kernel business page that I created (but haven’t pulished) today. To those of you I was friends with on facebook: I will not be using my old sign-in name.
  • Brainstorming ways to make a successful bi-annual photography book that will drive competition between the UK PJers and art studio students.
  • Will today be day five of going home to find dirty dishes and moldy, stagnant, nasty water in the sink at my house? Most likely.
  • What am I doing with my summer?
  • I’m going to make a portfolio story next week Evarts, Ky. I hope we have a great turnout to make it up to Jim, but most importantly help build our program. We have to be well represented.
  • If I had one story left to tell, what would it be?

Most importantly, I’m wondering how I will tell the story of how coal mining has changed my life without ever having to use a headlamp. In my head it’s all floating around and slowly coming together, the way deadline reporters do when trying to find a place to type. With two tests left, I feel like they’re just in my way and keeping me from doing what is really important, which is good story telling.

Two days from now I’ll be jumping full speed into completing all my goals listed above and probably rediscovering a few that I’ve managed to let slide along the way.

Between the lines:
We need the support of those other senior photographers (senior in the sense of leadership, not class year).”

Please check out these photo blogs. Many of them are new, and I am proud to be working with people who are trying so hard:



A preface to the beginning and an end

Posted in Also removing lens caps (or pen caps), Hess, Matthews, Smiley, University of Kentucky on November 16, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Blogger note: You may be noticing a pattern of my college history and my “flux” through this year and photography in my past few blogs. I know, I know. You’re tired of it, and probably want my blog to go back to what it was before (which now that I think of it I can’t remember what that is). But follow me through this one and I’ll get you a fully established and exciting blog. But this is necessary first:

OK, go. I think I had this all wrong.


Start: freshman year, college. I dove into the first place I found myself comfortable: Kernel. I found myself comfortable taking photos and thought I had something figured out. Wrong.

I wasn’t doing journalism. Randomly pointing my lens, I wasn’t a documentary photographer. I was more like a child with a disposable. Aimlessly shooting my eye, and our viewers, to pretty pictures. Much of my first year was spent learning photography. Photojournalism is deeper than pretty pictures.

Second semester, freshman year, college. I fell into being assistant photo editor along with another photographer. Looking back I can see I was in no way prepared for that job. I remember being nervous to edit photos in front of my peers. Who was I, a photographer for only a few months, to say what work of theirs would run, and what wasn’t enough?

After a semester, I had developed my skills at editing photos through the help of older Kernelites like Keith Smiley and Hilly Schiffer. And of course, Dave LaBelle was always around.


Are you seeing what I am seeing? Not yet? OK, go again.

Up to speed: Second semester, end of freshman year, college. I apply to become the next year’s photo editor, and fell into the position. Terribly excited I remember getting the phone call and pulling over to the side of the road. It was a huge accomplishment for me.

Summer following freshman year, college. Academic intern at the Lexington Herald-Leader. I still was taking pictures that seemed pretty, but I was more likely to apply my Journalism 101 ethical code to my analysis of my situations. My lack of understanding of my responsibility at hand hurt me at the Herald-Leader. It came across as apathy. My stomach turns to think about how apathetic I probably was.

Fast forward: sophomore year, photo editor, college. I shot pictures. A lot. Then fell into doing the job I had been so excited to do. Be a picture editor. To edit. My sophomore year I tried to manage my team of college photographers as a professional staff. I think that probably got the best of me. Some of my friends recall how unhealthy and miserable I seemed by this time last year. Only sleeping 3-5 hours a night (every night) and working 45 hours a week, photo editor is a hard job, and still is for those who are in that position.

Second semester of sophomore year, college. The burden weighed in. It was too much. I couldn’t take it anymore, and just wanted to have my life back. I cracked. Which is easy to do if you’re not prepared for what comes at you. I was weak. But it’s OK, I still learned. I maintained a position as an editor, but was no longer running the show.

Through sophomore year I produced a few portfolio making stories. They will eventually get worked out of my portfolio as I shoot more.

But there lies the problem.

Through all of these editing positions I have felt more comfortable doing what I have mostly done since being at this school, which should be more clear to you now than before. I have been a photo editor through college, even before I should have been. So back to my question, “Am I a better photo editor than a photographer?” Yes. But I have made myself that way.

Scene change.

I’m out of the Kernel now. Moved to the Kentuckian. I thought they were two separate entities at first. I even presented it that way to our photo staff when I started here. All in all, that may have been the best way to start. To make it evident that they are not one in the same. They have different motives, paces and consequences.

But starting next semester we’ll all be working harder. Together.


Curtain close. It’s the intermission.

Since you can’t tilt the earth, move your camera

Posted in Photo lesson, Smiley on August 31, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Blogger note: Over the past week I have been trying to help a friend learn a few things about basic photography for a job position he’ll be taking soon in Germany. He’ll be writing and taking photos, the latter he’s not familiar with. So while I have been digging back into what was some of the first things I learned I thought it would be good to bring a few of those to the blog. Enjoy.

While quality of your camera is very important, this technique is something that can dramatically affect the outcome of your pictures without ever having start picking up cans on the side of the road to turn in for cash for a new camera. If you keep this in mind, even photos taken with disposables or your point and shoots will stand out from your friends (on sites like myFace).

When most people take pictures, they shoot from eye level and from about the same distance every time. Greg Cooper explained this rule in a way that was very original. “You’re using the six foot six rule,” Cooper said. I hope I explain this as well as Cooper did. He says that we need to break eye level by getting higher or lower than we normally see things. Get farther away or closer to your subject to break that standard in which your audience sees things every day. Hence, don’t shoot things six feet high and six feet from your subject.


I don’t think this photo ever made it from our trip to Reagan Library, but while searching for photos for example in this blog, I found it to be exactly what I was talking about. Instead of putting my subject right in the middle of this photograph, I got low and gave it an interesting angle. I’ve gotten mixed responses for this picture, love and hate. To me, what the low tilt did was give you all that sand with the shadows, making repetition. The repetition in the foreground quickly gets you to the subject, the surfer. Opinion plays into whether or not you actually like this photo, but there is no doubt this is better than having a horizon that runs through the middle of the frame and there is an equal amount of sky and sand.


To make this interesting composition of the Ojai Valley Museum, I had to lie on my stomach on the sidewalk with traffic whipping by and people yelling at me. It didn’t make for an amazing picture, but it does look better than just slowing down the car while we drove by to take one out the window. This photo is a good example of how to take what would have been an average picture of a building and make it unique by getting low and showing it fresh.

 Getting higher could mean more than just standing on a step latter or walking up a hill or stairs. It could be that you just need to get closer and above your subject. In this photo by Keith Smiley he made the shapes and lines more interesting by standing above our dinner of nearly frozen wienies.

Keith also made this shot of a Ronald Reagan painting a bit more unique by standing to the side. Don’t strictly think in lowering yourself or moving closer.

The main point of thinking this way is making your picture different. If you have time, walk around to find the best composition possible. In all of the pictures I have shown you there is no doubt what you are supposed to see. The authors of these photographs saw their subject, and found an angle that represented how they saw it.

Be creative. Be unique. Show us what you really see.

In the middle of medium

Posted in Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers on July 27, 2007 by lenscapremoved

This appears set up but it’s not. I was playing music tonight and looked around and realized that I had four instruments strung out on my bed. I set up a camera in my shelf and just documented what I have been doing all day. I’ve been learning a few O.C.M.S. songs on that banjo that was a gift from my grandfather and falling back in love with my old Jaguar-copy electric guitar (that I’m playing in the pic) that  is probably twice as old as I am.

I’ve always been an artist. When I was in third grade it was drawing. In seventh grade I bought my first bass guitar and then learned to play guitar. In high school I learned that I love to write. My interest in photography came my freshman year in college. Throughout my life I’ve fallen in love with art through its many medias. The most likely reason is that it’s always been the only thing I’m good at. I was never a starter in any sport, always kind of smart but never a stand-out student and previous to my junior year in high school I wasn’t exactly very good with people. The only outlet for any skill I was withholding seemed to be through my hands.

I kind of owe it to Elliott for getting me back into my music. He used to ask me to come teach him how to play guitar before I really even knew who this kid who had been to Alaska was. Honestly, he didn’t need me to teach him how to play, he’s not bad. But he did revive it in me. After going to his loft a few times we were playing together quite often. Then a writer and friend from the Kernel, Josey McCoy, came into play and I’m looking forward to jamming with these guys when I get back. Josey can rock the piano, guitar, harmonica and probably a few other instruments that I don’t know about. All of these come on the side to his amazing voice. He’s an excellent musician.

I had all of this in mind when I picked my room in my new house (not the one in the picture…that’s in Middlesboro). I have the entire upstairs and plenty of room for jamming. I guess I wont be seeing Josey until school starts but I’m hoping to get a few nights of playing in with Elliott before we’re back slaving every day of our lives for the Kernel. As much as I love to complain about being under-paid, over-worked and unappreciated (as all Kernelites are) I am in love with the place. That basement is home to me. Besides providing a few measly dollars a month it has provided me with some of the best friends I have ever had.

Like we’ve said time and time again, the Kernel giveth and the Kernel taketh away.

This summer was a musical fiasco. My head has experienced eargasm after eargasm. I found out that Ed played guitar in Guitar Center where Elliott bought a beautiful guitar. This was news to me. It was fun playing at Grandpa Mac’s with Elliott, Pete and Susannah. Keith has one of the best music taste that I’ve ever, um, heard? Allie’s is great but I think Keith and I are almost right in line together. He brought in a few bands that I love. And I coerced him and Elliott to see an Incubus concert with me. Elliott was listening to their new CD when I got into his car the other day.

The trip may have been to learn photography but who says you can’t bring in other hobbies and experiences? I told the guys it’s probably the best thing for me that I can’t sing. If I could I may not even be in college because I would have been perfectly happy making a few measly dollars a week playing in bars and other small shows on the weekend. I guess minus that lifestyle, I’m still still going to make as much as an average musician’s salary, maybe a little more. I’m OK with that. When you’re only good with art, and art is priceless, you can’t expect much money, or at least that’s the easiest way to cope with being broke. As long as my art is leading me to great friends and trips like the one I had this summer, I’ll keep making it, no matter the medium I have to use. I’ll just be buying a few less utensils along the way.

Kernel came a callin’

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Ventura on July 26, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Note to readers: Kernel duties came knocking at my door, or ringing at my phone if you want the truth. I doubt they would have driven 130 miles to ask me to write a column to fill space for today’s paper. Shannon Mason, the summer editor-in-chief, said I could write about whatever. I didn’t know what else to write about besides this trip. I took the ending from a blog post I had already written, but only because it had a good point that fit the lead I had used. So here is what you could find on the Kernel Web site. Or if you want to find it for yourself, click here.

            If home is where the heart is then I should be scanning through the classifieds for an old Airstream trailer to move into. 16′ of class to tow behind me, complete with a single bedroom, couch, television and microwave. 
            This summer I found out something about myself that I have always claimed but can finally attest. I love to travel. Even more specifically, I just love driving. I can’t think of too many experiences better than having a few good friends, a case of CD’s, two or three bags of animal crackers, a full tank of gas, an atlas and all summer to do what you want. I’ve lived and relived this scenario all summer.
            Three friends and I set out for California to spend the summer there shooting photographs for a stock photo company one of our professors is starting. The idea was to shoot photos that books or magazines would purchase, which translates to really generic photos. After two or three weeks we were released and told to have a good time. We spent the next three or four weeks exploring California in all of its beauty, which totals out to only be about 30 percent of the state. The other 70 percent turned out to be barren, dreadful and scorching desert.
            My friends and I had made a home out of my car, minus the Airstream. For 10,000+ miles this summer I relied on my Volvo to house my clothes, toiletries, cameras, sleeping bag and other things you bring along for road trips only to later find out you don’t need, like fireworks, two-way radios and fancy light stands.
            It took us two weeks of camping and 5,000 miles to reach our destination, Ventura, Ca. With minimal showering and a week of below or near freezing nights, it was nice to get a break. But it wasn’t long before we were off to see a few of California’s own attractions. The biggest tree in the world is just that. Yosemite is every bit as beautiful as Ansel Adams’ photos depicted. L.A. traffic inspires road rage just badly as every movie I have ever seen portrayed it as. Death Valley is so blistering and desolate that by the time you drive through it you’re delighted it’s 2,000 miles away from where you reside the other 10 months of the year.
Elliott and I left Martha’s more excited to do what we love: drive. I was nearly in tears a few steps prior to this high one.
Photo by K-Smiles

            On the way back “home” it was only one of my friends and me. The other two traveled back separately. So Elliott and I had planned on driving the 2,300 miles in the normal three days but things changed a bit once we got to our scheduled exit. I asked my buddy if he wanted to stop in Flagstaff, he said no. Once we got to Albuquerque I asked again and he said, “Let’s just go onto Lexington.” So we did.
            In a day and a half we drove across the entire country. In 31 hours, we saw the Pacific for the last time this summer and crossed from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and into Kentucky.
            We didn’t’ stop for more than 15 minutes, and most stops averaged about 5 minutes. We only had two meals on the road. Most of our diet consisted of beef jerky and Doritos. The second morning’s McDonalds catered to my hunger but came along with a bit of a side effect. Symptoms included nausea and constant word vomiting which mostly pieced together as complaining. Elliott diagnosed it as the whines and I treated it with biting my tongue for as long as possible, at least until someone new called. Then a new symptom came about when I began regurgitating the situation to my new listener.
            Aside from the severe stomach ache that lasted a week after I got home, I’m glad we pushed through. On the way back that we had one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. One that makes it easy to take residence in a car for an entire summer.  
            The sun went down somewhere near the end of Arizona. The same sun that set behind us would be rising in a few hours in front. Elliott traded off with me and drove through the night. I took back over somewhere in Texas only to watch another beautiful sun peaking over the horizon. For two hours it was a spectacular view.
            If you ever get the chance to drive across the country I beg of you to plan your trip so that you can drive through the night just once. It’s an influential feeling you wont soon forget to see the sun go down and know you’ve been pushing on the whole time it was lighting the rest of the world when it gets back around to you. I can’t think of a bigger way to realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. But when I was driving and seeing it peek back up over Texas at 5 AM, I still felt like it was rising for me.

It’s how you deal with it

Posted in California, Hess, lexington, Martha, Mary Margaret, Matthews, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 24, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I’m not sure that Ed, Elliott and Keith would agree with me on this but since I’ve been home I’ve felt like I was one of the celebrities that we were accused of taking photos of this summer. Every time I have been spotted for the first time it comes with points of fingers, shouts and commotion. This kind of attention doesn’t interest me at all and honestly the reactions are quite surprising, despite happening over and over. The reuniting of friends and family has been as overwhelming as I would have expected if I had gone abroad for a semester. I’m sorry to be a bummer to all of this, but I feel like if I had just gone to Middlesboro for the summer and holed up for the same amount of time that it would be less climactic.

I hate to even write this blog post because I feel like this will surely come across as ungrateful but I’m nearly certain it’s an abstract road trip and transcendental appearance of Southern California that brings attention to the four of us, not what we’ve gotten out of it. Take any four students and 10,000 miles and I believe you would have a good story. But for every story I have to tell I feel an underlying moral that I learned, some of which I told you about after only two weeks on the road. One of my good friends from home said “I’m sure you feel different” and I told him this summer has changed my life. When asked how, I can’t figure out how, or even why. And not being able to assess it immediately kind of angers me at first, but it’s just too hard to take in all of it at once.
The stats are out and it’s eight thumbs up for this trip’s impact on our lives (despite only seeing five).

I was talking to Elliott about telling stories. People ask to hear about it, and it’s hard to think of anything specific. We both agree that we are more likely to tell stories if we’re just sitting around talking. It’s simple things that remind me of stories. For the first few days I was home I couldn’t stop talking about Martha and her house. I was afraid I was talking about California so much it would be tiring to my family. I was also afraid of seeming ungrateful to be home. I’m starting to figure out it’s OK to miss Ventura, and that liking some parts of it more than home is OK because there are some things about Kentucky that I like more than California. Nowhere is perfect.

My grandfather is doing much better. I don’t want to spill too much about that. I feel like it played such a part in my summer and leaving Ventura that I may do a blog about it. But I do want those of you who have been asking to know he’s much better.

I really need a tripod. This picture only shows you that I in-fact did see fireworks. I probably couldn’t have done much more though since my neighborhood isn’t exactly the most beautiful street in Lexington. More like one of the biggest eye sores in town.

I was finally able to see Mary Margaret last Friday. She met me at my house in Lexington, which sits behind the Red Mile racetrack, and I told her had she gotten there just a bit sooner, fireworks would have gone off right as I kissed her for the first time since I left (there must have been some kind of festival there this weekend, as they shot-off fireworks twice that weekend). My weekend with her went really well. The only thing I really want to tell about it is that the same guy that threw a going-away party that I met her at was throwing another one (officially) before he went back home to London. So Mary Margaret and I were at the same house we were the night we “met”. Ed was there with Alice and Keith was there with Chris Miles…no they’re not partners but Chris was more than excited to see Keith. It was kind of sad that Elliott wasn’t there but he was tying loose ends. I hope all went well for him.

I’ve been back I’ve noticed that I’ve missed out on the bonding that happened between my friends back here in Lexington. I don’t even mind it. My trip was nothing but perfect and one of the best summers I’ll ever be able to enjoy. Two summers ago I went to Spain, Italy, France and Hawaii all in a few months. This summer still beats those two trips. When I left, I was going with three guys who were more like coworkers than anything. Now I feel like we’re carrying something together. This is as best as I can even think to put together how I feel about this. I feel like this year is going to be different for a lot of reasons. I’m interested to see how previous friendships change and three of my new ones keep developing.

I guess you’re noticing this blog post isn’t going anywhere. I’m feeling it too. I thought by now I would have my final post about California up, or at least my recap of the trip. But I’m still not ready. I have one sentence typed of it, and it’s more of a fragment than anything.

Help, I’ve driven to Utah and can’t get out

Posted in camping, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 18, 2007 by Keith Smiley

(Whiny) post by Keith 

My plan all along was to take it slow on the way back from California, to make some detours to national parks in Utah and heading to Salt Lake City to visit a friend before swinging through Denver. But the pace has been a little slower than I’d planned: Since Monday afternoon, I’ve driven less than 70 miles.

For the last two nights, I’ve been stranded in Panguitch, Utah (pop. 1623), waiting for car repairs. The Color Country Motel has been home:

See the painting on the wall? It’s a jigsaw puzzle. Seriously.


Saturday night was my last at Martha’s; I packed the car Sunday morning and drove through California and Nevada and into southwest Utah. The air conditioner in my car was barely cooling in the 110-degree desert, so I mostly just used the vent.

I stopped for the night in Zion National Park, paid for my camp site and grabbed my tent from the car. And that’s when I realized the poles and stakes were still strapped to the side of Ed’s backpack — in Lexington. I took my tent out of his pack when we returned from Yosemite, but never thought to get the poles from the outside. It had just finished raining and was threatening to start again, so frustrated, I turned around and drove the short distance back to town to find a motel.

It’s not a good picture, but it shows you that a Utah sunset beats a California sunset, no contest.

The next morning, I picked up a cheap tent at Target so I could spend Monday night in Bryce Canyon National Park. I went through Zion, stopping once to shoot a few touristy pictures in bad light, and headed toward Bryce, but never made it.

The check engine light came on a couple minutes before I stopped at a scenic pullout to shoot more touristy pictures, this time of Red Canyon (which I can attest is quite red). When I started the car again, I was without power steering, along with a few other niceties like an alternator. And my cell phone had no signal.

My car sits half dead at a scenic pullout. I obviously wasn’t thinking straight, as I didn’t shoot any pictures when I bright yellow and blue tow truck pulled up in Red Canyon to haul the car away.


Two cars that were caravaning pulled off as I started looking for someone with cell phone reception. I’m pretty sure they only stopped so the driver of the first car could talk to the driver of the second for a few moments, but I managed to interrupt them and find out that one of them had a phone with one bar of reception.

So for 30 minutes, the occupants of the car stood around and alternated between chatting among themselves and staring at me while I tried to get AAA to send a tow truck. The people in the first car made the short hike up to the top of Red Canyon and returned. “It’s nice, you should go see it,” they told the people in the second car, including the lady who’s phone I was using. So they hiked up the hill and back down, while I stood in the driver’s door of their truck, scared to move because I might lose the signal. The phone was running out of battery, but if I leaned into the truck to use the charger, the reception would drop. I got lucky; the last words I heard from the phone before it died were, “Alright Mr. Smiley, I’ll go ahead and send that tow…”

The clouds really were amazing Tuesday night, though they started to rain on me right after I took this picture. I suppose I should have seen that coming.

It turns out my air conditioner wasn’t working right, and when it finally died, it dragged the rest of the car down with it. The clutch on it seized up and snapped the serpentine belt, so the car was drivable but not very far.

Panguitch, about 10 miles from where I broke down, was the nearest repair shop, and by nearest I mean my other option was to tow it two hours to Cedar City. The shop was closing down as I got to it on Monday, Tuesday was spent waiting for parts, and on Wednesday they spent five hours putting the compressor, which is conveniently buried under the rest of the engine. And in the end, the air conditioner still doesn’t work; no one in Panguitch has the equipment to charge an AC.

So now I’m spending the night less than 70 miles away in Richfield, hoping to get to an AC shop as soon as it opens in the morning so I can get on the road toward home.


It’s unfortunate that I had to see Panguitch under these circumstances, because it really is a nice small town. Tourism seems to be all it has going for it anymore — it has something like 14 motels that do decent business, considering the town’s proximity to so many national and state parks — but it has a great view in every direction, and the people at the auto shop and the motel were extremely helpful.

But the delays and expense of the car repairs have left me frustrated with the whole trip back and have made it difficult to enjoy the scenery. I’m not going to bother with any of my stops now; I would rather just go home. Seeing Bryce canyon and Arches National Park will just have to wait; those rock formations have been hanging around for a few thousand years, so surely they can wait one more.