Month: February 2010

Rewards of being a professor

Sometimes we go through life wondering if what we’re doing is worthwhile, or if what we do makes a difference. The enormity of the universe can sometimes simply be overwhelming when we consider how small we are in comparison. But, occasionally moments arrive which bring clarity to what we do and we realize we have been a part of something good. Such was the case this past weekend.

Several years ago while I was teaching photography at the Art Institute of Colorado, I had the pleasure of having an exceptional student arrive in one of my studio classes. He had just recently served in the Marines and he didn’t fit the stereotypic role of college students. He was driven to excel and that he did very well! As he neared graduation, he talked with me several times about his desire to study photojournalism and attending grad school. I wrote a few letters of recommendation and eventually he was accepted into the PJ grad program at Boston University. That made me very happy!

Nearly three years ago, after he completed all his course work, he set off to pursue his graduate thesis project, which was a lengthy cultural photo essay, in China. He’s had many adventures living, working, and photographing in mainland China, specifically in a city called Jiujiang. In order to immerse himself in the local culture, he accepted a teaching position at Jiujiang University and has produced an excellent book. So when he sent out an email stating he was coming home (in the St. Louis area) for a short vacation, I was excited when he agreed to take time from his hectic schedule to have lunch with me! To be able to sit down and share a meal with my young friend and listen to his stories and his excitement as a photographer was one of those sublime moments in my life. It made me realize why I got into teaching photography and that indeed, being a professor is absolutely worthwhile!

You can see his work at his website, by clicking here. His book, Jiujiang: 九江 Nine Rivers, can be reviewed and purchased by clicking here.

In this photo, Chad Owsley on left, and Terry Ownby. © 2010

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Star Trails & Bonfires

Last night was fun! We all need a break from the grind of our on-going routines and a cold night of photographing star trails and roasting hot dogs in a bonfire was the perfect ticket. The Photo Society here at the University of Central Missouri has been very engaged this year in various activities and this event was one of them. The society had invited my colleague, Prof. Wilson Hurst, to share his experience and knowledge of shooting star trails, which he readily did. Fortunately for all involved, one of our students has a 156-acre farm not far from the university and she volunteered her place as the site for this nighttime experience. But wait! Not only did she let over 25 students and faculty wonder through the pastures, she and her husband provided a great bonfire for roasting hot dogs and s’mores!

I was the first to arrive before the sun slipped over the horizon, so I managed to pull off a few shots of a small frozen pond on the south side of the farm. It was so peaceful there; I laid down in the matted grass, pulled my parka hood over my head and almost fell asleep. But before I knew it, about 20 folks showed up at the very spot I had found for myself and tripods were lined up like opening day of trout season at Bennett Springs! All joking aside, it was a great evening to be photographing stars and enjoying the warmth of the bon fire with students and faculty alike. Sometimes we need to engage our students outside of the classroom, and this was one of those perfect opportunities!

This was only my second time to attempt shooting star trails and fortunately, I managed to get Prof. Hurst to help me with his secret methods of post-processing these types of images. I’m much happier with this result than my first attempt!

© 2010 Terry Ownby

© 2010 Terry Ownby