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Best of ASMP 2009


David H. Wells has taken immersion in his subjects to a whole new level by embracing the integrated storytelling methods of podcasting and multimedia work. Firmly committed to research and extensive location work, Wells gathers audio and visual materials on multiple trips. He revisits locations at different times of day and shoots from multiple points of view, all with an eye to harnessing light and shadow as an enhancement to the visual narrative. Another new element in his media toolbox is an educational Web site that provides free information, resources and expertise about the creativity and craft of photography.

David H. Wells

Websites: www.davidhwells.com and thewellspoint.com

Project: Self taught efforts in podcasting/multimedia work

© David H Wells
All images in this article © David H Wells

ASMP: How long have you been in business?
DHW: 24 years as a freelancer and 5 years before that, working for various newspapers.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?
DHW: Since 1992.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?
DHW: I specialize in intercultural communications, photo-essays for publication and exhibition, editorial assignments and cultural/travel stock photography.

© David H Wells

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?
DHW: My cumulative experience as a professional photographer. I mean my skills in capturing images as well as my skills in licensing/publishing images.

© David H Wells

ASMP: What is unique about your style/approach or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?
DHW: I try to immerse myself into the culture/story I am portraying so I can tell a story with greater depth/insight. I do relatively few projects over longer periods of time, so I can immerse myself in the subject, including research in advance as well as extensive photography on location. I also am always trying to use light and shadow to enhance the visual narrative.

© David H Wells

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.
DHW: The actual photographing for the bus station piece entailed taking many pictures from a wide range of positions and varying focal lengths. Similarly, I revisited the location at different times of day. The difference was that, since I was shooting with multi-media in mind, I took and kept many more photos.

First, I would zoom the camera in and out as I made a sequence of images. Then I would walk in and out, photographing the same subject changing my point of view, in order to make sets of images with different perspectives. Though I have no formal training in film, I kept reminding myself to think and photograph cinematically.

Completely separate from the photographing would be gathering the audio. I find that listening and looking use such different parts of the brain that I usually do them on separate visits to the location. In the bus station, I used both the built-in mike on the Zoom Handy recorder and an external shotgun mike.

© David H Wells

ASMP: What inspired you to expand from still photography to podcasting and multimedia work?
DHW: Two things:

First was the growing awareness that the explosive growth of digital imaging had eliminated the valuation that was once placed on the skill component of being a photographer. Anyone can (or thinks they can) take a good picture. So the mastery of light, lenses, chemistry, etc., which once distinguished a “pro” no longer seems to matter.

Second was the realization that multimedia could help me convey to the viewer the fullness of whatever I was experiencing. Photography is a media (duh) which is often used to mediate the experience of the photographer for the viewer. The way that multimedia includes sound, motion and the reshaping of time only adds to the richness of the experience the viewer gets from my finished pieces. If I could add smell to the work, that would be even better.

© David H Wells

ASMP: You mention that your podcasting efforts are self-taught. Are there specific resources that you found to be particularly helpful in learning the ropes of this medium?
DHW: Everyone has a different learning strategy. I do not do well with books or sitting in classes. My strategy is to open and install the program and then start to fiddle around. If it works, I move forward, trying new parts of the software. If not, I search the Web and somewhere, someone has encountered my issue and explained how to resolve the problem. I occasionally look to the instruction manuals, but not often. The Web itself is the big resource that saved me over and over. I cannot emphasize this enough! I could not have done it without the Web. The use of photographs in a video-editing program (which is not the normal use of the software) is one example of why the manual is of limited value and searching the Web is the key. My strategy is not highly recommended for most people!

© David H Wells

ASMP: What kind of audio equipment do you use? What kinds of challenges have you had to deal with in learning how to work with this equipment?
DHW: Zoom Handy H2 digital recorder. All our camera gear involves compromises and audio gear does as well. The microphone is good up close but not so good at a distance. Shotgun mikes are either unwieldy, require added equipment, are expensive, or all of the above. Again, the learning strategy described above worked here. I try it till I get stuck, then I go to the Internet for answers. Learning to think in terms of sound not light has been (and still is) a challenge. One upside is that audio can be recorded at midday when the light is bad, and I would not usually be photographing anyway at that time.

© David H Wells

ASMP: What software programs are you using to assemble the podcasts? Approximately how much time do you spend on assembling the materials into the final piece?
DHW: I used SoundSlides for one piece and gave up because it was too limiting. I did three on Apple’s iMovie, and gave up because that was too limiting. Most were made with Final Cut Express (a version of Final Cut Pro with some features left out.) I am very comfortable with Final Cut Express though I am moving up to of Final Cut Pro because it has a number of features that will speed up my workflow.

I have used Audacity (which is free) from the beginning to edit the sound.

Rough guess on time:

  • 3 to 5 hours editing, organizing, ordering and formatting the images.
  • 1 or 2 hours reviewing the audio and ID-ing the pieces I will be using.
  • 10 to 20 hours doing the first version of the finished piece.
  • 4 to 6 hours revisiting, revising and reordering that piece a couple weeks later.
  • 3 to 5 hours revisiting, revising and reordering that piece a couple weeks later.

The final tweaking sessions are key and they need to be long enough removed from the first sessions that I forget the project and can look at it relatively freshly.

© David H Wells

ASMP: With the understanding that each piece is unique and of variable length, can you provide any general time or volume estimates for the amount of work required to gather the materials for one of your standard podcasts?
DHW: Still no clear pattern. I will say I am starting to realize, often mid-shoot, that what I am doing might make a good podcast and so I step back and try to gather more material. I recently photographed a business executive and as I was setting up, I stopped myself, set up a video camera and taped the whole portrait session from start to finish. I will take that video and the finished portrait images, then add some narration and that will be a pretty simple “how-to” podcast. That was an hour or so gathering material. Most, like the bus station, require three or four shoots, a.m. and p.m., for a couple hours each, to get the light right and get enough various images of the activity that I want to show.

© David H Wells

ASMP: Much of your work is done during extended trips to foreign countries. Have you encountered any technical issues when working under these circumstances? If so, how did you resolve them?
DHW: Most of the technical issues are largely similar to ones I encounter doing any kind of electronic/digital work overseas: needing backup adapters, transformers, AC chargers, etc. Also, having enough empty HD space and having double (or even triple) backups is usually the biggest issue. Finally, getting enough sleep because the photographing, recording and organizing/backing up all takes time.

© David H Wells

ASMP: You mention that you’ve done podcasts for a paying client. Who was the client and how did they use the piece?
DHW: A client had me do a project on call centers in India and I made that into a multi-media piece, which can be seen at http://thewellspoint.com/2009/04/22/call-center-workers-in-bangalore-india/.

© David H Wells

ASMP: What kind of criteria do you use for negotiating usage fees for this kind of multimedia content?
DHW: That is the million-dollar question for a lot of us. Right now it seems to be a hybrid based on time it takes to make vs. length of time it will be used. Most folks I know who are doing this are still figuring out pricing.

Frankly, ask Brain Storm at Mediastorm how he prices projects (in detail) and let us all know what he says.

© David H Wells

ASMP: Are you able to track the viewers who download podcasts from your Web site? If so, what have you learned from these statistics? Is there any notable pattern to the traffic received? Has the audience for your podcasts grown over time?
DHW: I can track visitors to the site via Google Analytics. I have not yet investigated how to track downloads, though I am sure it can be done. Right now, I am mostly concentrating on generating visibility for the site to get the traffic to get the visitors to the site who will do the actual downloading.

© David H Wells

ASMP: Has the visibility of any of your podcasts resulted in increased opportunities for the licensing of your still images? If so, are there particular images/elements that are most popular?
DHW: Not yet, but they have raised general interest in my work. They have also given me new opportunities to teach classes on multimedia. I am new to the media but there is such an interest in the topic that I am now being asked to teach classes on basics of multimedia.

© David H Wells

ASMP: In addition to your work with multimedia and podcasting you’ve also started an educational Web site, The Wells Point. What do you hope to accomplish with this site and who is your primary audience?
DHW: The goal of the site is to share information and expertise. With digital photography, everyone thinks they are a photographer. Yet, as a rule, most people know surprisingly little about the artistic and/or commercial aspects of photography. The blog posts, podcasts and especially the resources at: http://thewellspoint.com/about are supposed to help folks in the target market of aspiring and accomplished photographers.

© David H Wells

ASMP: Are there other social networking tools that you use on a regular basis to spread the news about your work? Which are your favorites and how do you use them?
DHW: I am exploring Facebook and Twitter. The downside of Facebook is the viewer stays on Facebook when looking at stuff. We want them to go to the Wells Point site, so we are putting more effort into Twitter, which will drive them to the site. I have a fan page on Faecbook at .

Most of my promotion is still actually through e-mail marketing via Mail Chimp, which works well so far.

© David H Wells

ASMP: Are there specific photography Web sites, blogs, podcasts or other resources that you consult on a regular basis? Please list them in order of your preference.
DHW: I look at Mediastorm and Washington Post a lot. I look at video art as well as music videos and of course motion pictures. My undergraduate studies were in history of photography, so I am constantly looking at everything and anything and piling up more information in my mental “HD” of images.

© David H Wells

ASMP: Do you have any details about future podcasts that you can share with us? Do you have any plans to present the materials from your podcasts in other formats?
DHW: Nothing comes to mind, but I will let you know.