Diary of a Photojournalist: My First Year

This past year has been a whirlwind for me. I never thought I would be able to do half of the things I did this year, let alone my freshman year in college. The weeks before I started at Ball State in August, I dreaded the thought of coming to college. High school was filled with losses in many ways and I assumed college would be the same.

When I got to college, I had a lot of doubts about myself and thought I wouldn’t be good enough to do the things I wanted to do. I have always been a goal oriented person and have always dreamed big. One thing I learned, especially in high school, is that when you set high goals, it can often lead to disappointment. The more disappointed I was with something, the more it was what I expected.

When I met Lisa Renze-Rhodes, Ball State’s Unified Media Advisor, things started to change for the better.

When I realized that sports photography was what I wanted to pursue, I knew my only option would be to join student media. I met Lisa the day after I moved into my dorm and was hooked. Luckily for me, the Daily News needed photographers and I was more than happy to fill that role. I also knew that I loved designing for my high school yearbook and wanted to continue designing in college. At the time, I had no idea that a reunion would be the best thing that ever happened to me.

A few months into the school year, I started getting more and more opportunities. I photographed most of the sports at Ball State and fell more and more in love with it every day. Whenever I take sports photos, I feel exactly where I need to be, I feel at home. Although it can be a very energetic environment, it is the place where I am the least stressed and the most calm.

The more I exercised, the more I seemed to find myself. When I arrived at college, I felt lost. Not because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but because I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I got lost in high school and being on the Daily News helped me find my place and my people.

By taking pictures and drawing for paper, I started to have more confidence in myself.

I was now becoming the person I had wanted to become. It started with taking pictures at the Ball State Football Homecoming game, then the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, then the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Tournament in Los Angeles.

I applied to be an associate photo editor at the start of second semester and, to my surprise, I got the job. I spent the semester learning to be a leader in the newsroom and was given more and more responsibility. Fairly early in this job, I was given the responsibility of making sure sports had photos or visuals for the newspaper each week. Of the three photo editors, I was the most interested in sports, so I gladly accepted this role. I continued to take pictures at as many sporting events as possible. One of my favorite parts of the year has been seeing how my work has improved since day one, whether it’s photos or design.

No matter how stressed I was throughout the year, sports photography was always what brought me back. It’s what I can always count on to be there whenever I’m struggling with something – the one thing that can make me forget everything that’s going on.

Sports photography requires a bit of patience and hyper awareness of what’s going on to best predict what athletes are going to do. It is very difficult to be able to film sports without some understanding of the sport you are covering. You keep shooting and waiting. When you get the shot, there’s so much joy that comes with it.

I spent 14 years of my childhood acting and never thought I would find something that would give me the kind of joy I felt when I was on stage until I found my new passion for sports photography.

When I discovered the possibility of traveling to Los Angeles. to cover the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Tournament, I didn’t think I was the only one going. I’d never been the only one given the opportunity to do something I loved on a larger scale, and I’d gotten so used to being told no that I never would have thought it would happen.

Ball State Daily News Senior Photo and Visual Editor Amber Pietz poses next to the statue of the UCLA Bruins mascot May 8 at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. Pietz is a freshman in Photographic Storytelling and Journalism Graphics at Ball State. Daniel Kehn, DN

When Ball State won the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) regular-season championship, talk escalated over who in the newsroom would travel if the Cardinals made it to the national stage. As Ball State progressed through the tournament, my hopes grew higher than they had been in a long time. I was lucky enough to be able to cover the entire MIVA tournament and when Ball State won, I was overwhelmed with emotions. At that point, we understood that I would be the photographer who would go to California if the opportunity presented itself and I was in shock.

From making plans the week before to now, I felt like I was dreaming. Not only being able to cover Ball State’s final four games, but also the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship, I had never felt so much excitement about what I was doing. Having the opportunity to cover these events has given me more confidence than ever.

If someone had told me a year ago that I could have had this experience, I would never have believed you.

Working at the Daily News last year gave me more experiences than I ever thought possible in college. I have never felt so excited or passionate about the work I was doing. The Daily News is one of the most supportive people I have ever met and I don’t know what I would do without them. The Unified Media Lab has become my home away from home and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

My dream of being a professional sports photographer is going to take a lot of hard work, but I’m fully dedicated to making it a reality.

Contact Amber Pietz with comments at [email protected] or on Twitter @arpietz15.

About Julius Southworth

Check Also

Miguel Raimundo shares his secret of beautiful street portraits

“It’s the best way to make friends,” says Portuguese street photographer Miguel Raimundo when asked …