Writing has always come naturally to me, which has served as a good foundation for almost every other skill I have picked up as a journalist. If I could write and ask questions, I could do anything. Except take pictures. Camera settings seemed like a puzzle I would never be able to solve and I didn’t know the first thing about where to stand or how to compose a good shot. 

As a Shield staffer, I was hesitant to cover events, afraid of returning with subpar photos and tarnishing my status as an otherwise versatile journalist. While every staffer rushed to photograph McCallum’s rivalry Taco Shack game, I happily typed away at my next story draft. I’d covered a few events my sophomore year and was resigned to the fact that my photo credits would end there. Photography was just something I was not going to master.

So when yearbook adviser Frank Webster came into the newspaper room midway through my junior year and asked if anyone from our staff would like to join his photography trip to Big Bend National Park, I never imagined I would say yes. 

I told him, “I’m not much of a photographer, but I’ll pass your message along.”

“Not much of a photographer?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.

I decided to go as a documentarian, to report on the trip and its educational experience. But what I learned was that I actually enjoyed photography. I was by no means a natural, but that just meant that there was more room for improvement. 

After I returned, I started signing up to photograph events. I became part of the weekly varsity football coverage team the following year. I learned to shoot theatre, pep rallies, orchestra concerts and basketball games. Each time continuing the adventure I began on that trip out west.

Scroll through this page to see examples of my growth as a photojournalist.

work samples

All the Way Home performance – Nov. 14, 2021

When I agreed to cover MacTheatre’s fall play, All the Way Home, I was sure another staffer would attend one of the other showings, so it wouldn’t really matter how my photos turned out. Because my expectations of myself were already low, I broke from my usual pattern of photography — a cycle of stressing so much about getting enough usable images that I’d end up reverting to program auto mode and run-and-gun shooting. This time, I put thought into every photo I took. Before pressing the shutter, I’d stop and consider the best way to frame each shot. I thought about where to sit and how to move around to get unique angles. This worked well for a slow-paced show like All the Way Home where the storyline takes place over only a few days. When I got home to upload my photos, I was excited to see that most of them had turned out better than I had expected. This experience forced me to reevaluate the way I’d been covering events and taught me to slow down and look for moments — a skill that has benefited me in many areas of journalism beyond photography.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Original reporting can be found on this Instagram Post.

Big Bend photo safari - April 21-24, 2023

There was quite possibly nothing more out of my comfort zone than spending a weekend primitive camping in Big Bend National Park for a photography trip. But that is exactly the position I found myself in last April, after agreeing to be The Shield’s documentarian for yearbook adviser and commercial photography teacher Frank Webster’s photo safari trip. Being the sole reporter created additional pressure. While the other students followed Mr. Webster’s more structured photography assignments, I was left to my own devices to figure out the best way to cover the trip. And there are only so many ways to photograph people photographing other things. This taught me to get creative with my approach behind the lens. I took advantage of Big Bend’s landscape by trudging ahead or hanging back to get photos on different levels. I also looked for moments where students weren’t just photographing but were interacting with one another, taking in the park or hiking the trails. I also learned to make every shot count, because we were only in Big Bend for a limited time, and I had to be constantly on the lookout for photo opportunities.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Full reporting that accompanied images can be found on this Instagram Post.

Sweet Charity dress rehearsal - Sept. 27, 2023

After having some experience photographing theatre, I decided that I could get my best images of MacTheatre’s production of Sweet Charity by attending the dress rehearsal. I knew that because this show was a musical and not a play, it would be much more fast-paced than the productions I’d photographed previously. Shooting the dress rehearsal would allow me to move around more, without imposing on an audience member’s viewing experience. I discovered the trick with taking photos of a stage show was not to focus on capturing emotion (because actors naturally incorporate plenty of emotion), but to reproduce the feel of watching the show. I did this by including a mixture of all the elements that went into production — the sets, the costumes, the backdrops — to capture the experience of being in the audience. This meant having a variety of wide and close-up shots and utilizing stage lighting to help make viewers feel like they were in the theater, watching the show.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Full reporting that accompanied images can be found on this Instagram Post.

Halftime show - McCallum vs. Northeast - Oct. 6, 2023

During my time on the football coverage team, I learned many different roles of live game coverage. At this game, I was posting, which meant my main role was reviewing all of the photographer’s SD cards to find the best 10 images for our quarterly recaps and getting the post up as quickly as possible. With multiple photographers on the field, the process is time-consuming and requires most of my focus during the game. It also means I don’t get that much time to photograph, and when I do, it’s not my top priority. That’s why I decided to only photograph the halftime show, when I had the mental energy to take quality photos of the band and Blue Brigade drill team. A benefit was that it allowed me to ensure that my photos well represented all of the halftime performers — not just the band, but also the color guard, not just the Blue Brigade officers, but also the other members of the drill team — to improve our overall coverage of the game.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Original reporting can be found on this Instagram gallery of Blue Brigade and this Instagram gallery of MacBand.

Homecoming pep rally - Oct. 19, 2023

There are not a lot of opportunities to cover an event that is attended by everybody in the school. By the time people reach high school, it seems like almost everyone has found their own group or clique to stick with. But one of the few times everyone is brought together — from athletes to artists — is the pep rallies, which are the epitome of Texas school spirit and the perfect opportunity to capture a wide-range of emotional storytelling moments. Because of this, coverage of the big-ticket events like homecoming and pep rallies is always in high demand by our student audience and usually ends up being some of our most liked posts. Seeing student enjoyment of these events reminds me that covering these pep rallies isn’t a chore, but a way to connect our students and engage in school culture.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Original reporting can be found on this Instagram post.

Football - McCallum vs. Rouse High School - Nov. 10, 2023

Covering almost every football game this year taught me that, in general, there are moments that always happen. After a few games of getting the same photo of the team running through the McCallum flag, or the drill team’s pregame routine or the players going up to their parents at the end of the game, I realized it was a better use of my time to look for what was different at each game. At this game that meant catching a moment between the athletic trainers. Or noticing Head Coach Thomas Gammerdinger’s daughter dressed up in a homemade Blue Brigade uniform. Or showing a team that has grown over the course of a season. This game, which was the last one of the season, shows just how much I’ve grown from just trying to get a few usable shots, to taking photos that tell a story.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Original reporting can be found on the Instagram posts for each quarter: First, Halftime, ThirdFinal

Orchestra holiday concert - Dec. 13, 2023

When I covered the winter orchestra concert, I figured it couldn’t be much different from photographing theatre. I was wrong. I was unprepared for the fact that, because there were so many people and large instruments on stage, it was challenging to get images that look different from one another. I had to think on my feet, moving to the orchestra pit in front of the stage — which was empty because the orchestra was performing on stage — to give myself more room to move around without blocking the view from the audience. This allowed me to get better coverage of individual students and show a variety of different musicians in the orchestra, rather than having the same three shots.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Full reporting that accompanied images can be found on this Instagram Post.

Yearbook work night - Dec. 14, 2023

On many high school publications, covering the yearbook staff is considered self-promotion and therefore off-limits. But at McCallum, where the yearbook and newspaper staffs are completely separated with different advisers, different editors and different classrooms, yearbook is included in The Shield’s coverage of student organizations. When I heard about a yearbook work night/holiday party, I decided to stay after school to photograph it, diversifying the content on our @macjournalism Instagram feed by adding some academics coverage. Staying after school with the yearbook staff allowed me to practice taking photos inside the classroom, capturing the scenes of planning, organizing and editing spreads, as well as the fun that the staffers had together with team building games.

Click through the photo gallery for captions. Full reporting that accompanied images can be found on this Instagram Post

Final thoughts

In truth, my interest in journalism started with photography.

As an elementary schooler, I’d tag along with my mom, a middle school yearbook adviser, to cover games and events. She’d often hand me the camera with little instruction, leaving me free to hold down the shutter and photograph at a rapid-fire pace. If I was lucky, I’d get one good shot. It’s ironic that my introduction to journalism would eventually become my area of most discomfort while on The Shield staff.

For a while, I thought my career as a photojournalist would fail to expand beyond my elementary school years.

I never would have guessed that all it would take was a weekend in the Chihuahuan Desert to force me outside of my comfort zone. Challenging myself to learn photography and accept the moments of discomfort that came along with it has made me not only a better journalist but a better leader because it has given me the tools to relate with and encourage my staffers to do more than they ever imagined.