Overcoming the Impossible

Tearing your ACL is every athlete’s worst nightmare. For Natalie LaRock, of Washington Twp. Michigan, it made her worst dream become a nightmare. Prior to Natalie tearing her ACL, she was an accomplished competitive cheerleader. Natalie trained with a level 5 cheerleading team program called VIZION, out of Shelby Twp, Michigan. Winning the world silver metal at the World Championship of Cheerleading held at ESPN Sports Complex at Disney in Orlando, Florida, the year prior Natalie and her team were ready to redeem themselves and go for gold. LaRock says she, “ate, breathed, and slept anything cheerleading,” that is, until one summer day spent training resulted in ending her career that was just beginning.

LaRock went to a summer practice like any other day. Ready to leave it all on the mat. So when she went to throw her last running standing full tumbling pass, a flip more commonly known as “the one that you twist in the air” by those who aren’t aware of cheerleading terms, and she landed it wrong. “As soon as I landed, I could feel it. my heart stopped and a million things were going through my brain and before I knew it I was collapsing on the floor, screaming and feeling a pain I’d never felt before,” LaRock said.

The next year was spent rehabilitating. She exceeded her surgeons expectations and was back to competing before her estimated recovery date. But it came with a price, constant pain, aches, and tears made her realize that her dreams of gold and becoming a college cheerleading may never take flight. So she signed up to be a high school cheerleader in her hometown of Romeo, Michigan. “It was something I never wanted to do, I always told myself I never wanted to be a cheerleader that held pom poms and cheered on the football team. But I realized this was the only way I as going to keep the sport I loved so much in my life,” LaRock said. LaRock’s story is one of perseverance, hard work and determination.

Constantly throughout the process of shooting LaRock I felt as though I was never able to accurately capture her and her struggle. I went to two separate performances of hers and I found that she’s a very strong female that never lets you know when things are bothering her, never letting her smile falter even when her knee is in so much pain. She’s very team orientated, always making sure to encourage and push her team to be better and better. –




Mason Laubert, basketball player for the Chesterfield Raptor.

For the portraits assignment I almost found it more awkward than just going around and shooting photos of people. Having to ask someone to stand there and pose for you is much different from just being able to shoot as you please. I was unsure of how to pose them, I almost felt like the whole process was awkward. I realize after the fact that if I would have approached the situation with less apprehension that it would have turned out a little differently. Our book strongly encourages to approach the situation and your subject with ease and I completely disregarded that which I now realize was a major setback for me and my assignment.


Mason Laubert, from Chesterfield, says he often plays video games before his games to help him relax.

I also found it hard finding the correct lighting, being in my friends basement trying to take pictures of her little brother before his basketball game was less than ideal but I felt like that was another challenging aspect that I never had to encounter while shooting before and had to adapt and learn how to deal with. In the book they describe as using light as a story telling element but in my case I felt like it was a setback. I should have used what was around me rather than worrying what wasn’t around me, something I will have to keep in mind for next time.




Sports photography was harder and easier in many different ways. For my assignment, I chose to cover a state semi finals football game in Howell, Michigan. I found it harder to capture the actions I wanted because I never knew when it was coming. But at the same time, it was also easy because I knew there was always more action to come. I found that the great thing about football is that with every play I’m guranteed an action shot.


Tyler Oakray (center) pretends to eat a bowl of cereal as he cheers on the bulldogs with his fellow Dawg Pound members at the state semi final game in Howell, Michigan Nov. 19th.

I also found it challenging that during the first half of shooting it was realtively cloudy and then halfway through it started to snow. I’d never shot in weather conditions such as those so it was new for me to try and adapt to my surroundings. Although I didn’t end up using any of the photos that show it snowing heavily I found that it was a good time for me to learn how to shoot in different weather conditions than I’m used to.


Head coach, Jason Couch, throws up his hands after his team has a perfect play at the state semi final game in Howell, Michigan Nov. 19th.

What I most enjoyed about this assignment is that there is truly never a dull moment at sporting events. With the fans, the team, and the atompshere you’re guranteed plenty of great shots. I just need to learn to have my camera more accessible and ready because the best moments to capture are the ones I’m not planning for.

Relaxation on the Riverfront

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For this assignment, I found that feature photography truly is a great big hunt. It’s not that you don’t have the elements in front of you but it’s that you need your subjects to do something that catches your eyes and makes it worth taking that photograph. You can create a story out of any moment, they just have the give you that moment to capture it.


1/500, 10, Workers from the GM Renaissance Center sit and take a break at the Detroit Riverwalk during work to unwind.

Going into the process, I knew for a fact that I wanted to shoot my subjects around the GM Renaissance building and Hart Plaza. I know during the day the area is regularly patrolled by the Detroit Police because it is a heavy traffic area for the homeless. But little did I know, it was also a heavy traffic area for blue collar workers looking to take a break from work and have a moment of relaxation at the Detroit River Walk.


1/500, 11, Kousik Patel leaves work to take a moment to contemplate and relax at the Detroit Riverwalk.

With that being said, I never really had a shortage of subjects to shoot, but had to pick and choose where to shoot. I had to decide what story I wanted to tell. Did I want to capture the man sitting on the bench looking over across the river towards Canada? Did I want to capture the two women dressed in their work dresses and tennis shoes powerwalking and chatting? Or did I want to capture the man and woman sitting on the steps taking a quick smoke break? All of these three people showed the variations of the workforce in midtown Detroit and how they spent their break time from work.


1/400, 14, Michael Joseph, worker at Chase near Campus Martius, comes to the Detroit Riverwalk to take a moment of relaxation during a long work day.

All in all, I found feature photography not as difficult as I had initially anticipated. Being someone that doesn’t like to interject themselves into situations I found the most difficult part having to capture photos of people I wasn’t familiar with and not of family, friends, or peers. That was the most difficult part for me throughout the whole assignment. But now having done and completed the assignment I realize now that it isn’t as scary as I made it seem in my head.


(enterprise) 1/320, 11, Marcus Henderson (right) and Evan Felicia (right) sit and play music next to Campus Martius and workers hurry to and from work.

First Amendment

Amendment I States:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

So, in simpler terms, the amendment grants us:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of press
  • Freedom of petition
  • Freedom of assembly
Those are a lot of freedoms to be thankful, don’t you think?

Being a journalism student, the First Amendment holds near and dear to my heart. We focus heavily on speech, so with this amendment, we’re able to speak freely without censorship.

This also holds true to photojournalism, we’re able to capture photographs and publish them as long as they’re truthful. As stated in Chapter 15 of Photojournalism A Professionals Approach, photojournalists can “Produce both a truthful picture and one that demonstrates artistic merit.” This allows us to engross ourselves in a situation by being creative while also doing so ethically and with merit.

With the freedoms of speech and press, we’re able to let information flow freely without much intervention from the government. This is what makes us a healthy democracy. Because of this, journalists and photojournalists alike are doing society a public service.

The biggest burden on photojournalists is knowing how to report on things ethically. It could be a breathtaking photograph but you have to take a step back and ask yourself if what you’re publishing for the world to see is ethical. This burden isn’t limited to just simply reporting the information, but going back and confirming the information so you can present it to your audience in a way that you know for certain is ethical and factual.

As journalism students, we know that the First Amendment is both a blessing and a burden. The blessing being that we can report freely without censorship. The burden being having to go on a hunt to provide as accurate information as possible. With standards shifting it’s ups to you to use your best judgment when publishing a photograph. 

Jumping Over the Learning Curve

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I won’t lie and say that this process was an easy one for me. If anything, I felt slightly overwhelmed by it all. Being someone who’s never taken photos for anything more than to just look back on a memory, it took me some time to fully grasp the concepts of all that my camera could do. I had no clue that a photo could have elements to do with it let alone what an f-stop or ISO was.

I felt as though I had no clue how to operate my own camera. It was a little defeating. I’d had this fancy DSLR camera for years and never had taken the time to learns its dials, hidden screens, switches and countless other features. With my head spinning, I realized I needed to take a different approach to learning all my camera could do.


1/400 sec; f/14; ISO 400; Shallow depth of field

With that being said, I took a deep breath and sat down at my kitchen table with my camera and it’s manual and spent an hour or two going over everything I had never thought to. I learned all of its tricks and quirks it took the time to research those I didn’t understand. When the storm had passed I felt my anxiety settle a bit I could see the bigger picture. Not only did this process help me explore all that my camera could do but it had helped me become more comfortable behind the lens.

Initially, I had completely disregarded my assignment worksheet on the designated photographs I needed for this assignment and just went out on a whim. I felt as though I needed to just go out and shoot my photos at random. I needed to shoot anything I felt worthy of being photographed. I needed to put my new knowledge to the test while also allowing myself to grow comfortable using the camera. Which, inevitably resulted in dozens of needless photographs. But by doing that I felt myself growing comfortable taking pictures of anyone and anything. Only then did I find myself feeling comfortable with the assignment and getting what needed to be done.


1/125; F/9; ISO 100; stopper action

Throughout taking photos I had found myself being very critical of the images I was capturing and uploading. In my head I’d say, “Well, that wasn’t the image I had thought I captured through my lens,” But then I had made myself take a step back. I needed to realize that just because I had spent an hour fiddling with my camera and a couple hours roaming around shooting didn’t make me an expert. I was far from the professional I thought I should be at this point. I had to remind myself that I was only a student and this was a work in progress. I wasn’t going to be good at it right off the bat.

Overall, I found the process of taking pictures to be exhilarating. Once I found my footing I found the process to smooth itself out. I realize now that I can’t be so critical of myself or my work. I still find myself getting confused on what f-stop, ISO, white balance, or shutter speed to use for certain landscapes. But I can feel myself getting it more and more with the more photographs I take.