The sled dog racing season may be nearing its end, but for the next few weeks, people will be able to sip a hot cup of java and enjoy a few of the highlights from the Kenai Peninsula's big race of the year -- the Tustumena 200.
In a collaborative activity, photography students from Kenai Peninsula College's A323 Color Photography class participated in the first ever Tustumena 200/KPC Photography Competition sponsored by the T-200 Sled Dog Race Association. An art opening for the student's photography will be held today from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Coffee Roasters in the Red Diamond Mall on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
"It is always a good experience when the students can work on a real life project, and the competition with prize money makes it more fun and motivating. Besides there is often a little more pride taken in a photographer's work when they know it is going to be displayed," said Jayne Jones, the instructor of the art class.
But she didn't just send the shutterbugs out to go snap-happy. Jones said the students were given an assignment to practice photojournalism in an attempt to explain what is was like to be in, or at, the race.
"The goal was to 'tell the story' of the event visually. Students strove to capture both images that identify the excitement and other moods of the race, the mushers and their dogs, volunteers, etc., as well as detail shots that give a flavor of this particular event. Photojournalism is one of the most challenging forms of photography requiring on-the-spot skill. Good photojournalists anticipate the action and are in the right place for a good composition before it is time to click the shutter," Jones said.
To learn the essentials of this particular art genre, Jones said the students received much preparation before taking to the field.
"Scott Moon, photographer for the Peninsula Clarion, and Jenny Neyman, editor for the Redoubt Reporter, were guest speakers in class before the event. We were most appreciative to hear about their life experiences in journalism. The class also studied published sled-dog race photographs in advance to understand what made good journalism photography in this environment," she said.
David Wartinbee, a T-200 board member and race volunteer for many years, also came and spoke to the class about preparing for the cold, how to keep warm and how to keep cameras functioning. He also gave them directions, times and an idea of what to expect, Jones said.
Wartinbee is also the person responsible for the inception of this collaborative artistic endeavor.
"This project started last year when we realized that we didn't have a good source of decent pictures from the race for the Web site," Wartinbee said.
He added the T-200 organization was happy to support the project and excited about what it will be getting from it in return.
"The T-200 is providing the prize money/awards and in return will get to use these pictures on the Web site. As well, the T-200 will use the top photo on the poster for next year's race," Wartinbee said.
As to who determined the winners, Jones said that was left to Charles Mason, the head of the Journalism Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Mason is also a photojournalist who has had his work represented by Getty Images, an international photo agency.
"Charles agreed to meet me in an on-line 'eLive' session to critique the students' work, giving them pointers and choosing the winning works. As juror he did an excellent job. It is always good to bring in outside professionals who can speak to a specific genre of photography," she said.
Jones added that finding and bringing qualified judges to the Kenai Peninsula has always been difficult due to a limited budget for such things. However, the feedback to students from such professionals is priceless.
"It is rare for photographers or artists to have the opportunity to hear the thought process that the juror put into their choices. I couldn't be happier about this aspect of the assignment. In the past this has been cost prohibitive so eLive was an outstanding educational tool in this instance. I plan to make future use of this idea in many of the upcoming on-line photography courses in the two-year digital art degree," she said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at email@example.com.
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