Archive for September 2010

Greensboro: 10th Anniversary Swing Dance

September 30, 2010

Last weekend the Piedmont Swing Dance Society celebrated its 10th anniversary with a three-day event featuring multiple classes, competitions and two large swing dances with live music.  I covered the event with both a camcorder and a camera.

Taking about 1.5 years of preparation, the event was the largest the swing dance group put on in size and scope, rivaled only in audience size by their 2003 celebration which featured Frankie Manning, one of the founders of Lindy Hop.

The largest challenge shooting both in still photographs and video was the dim lighting conditions.  Fortunately, the ceiling in the room was low and allowed me to bounce the flash from my Canon Speedlite EX II with good results.  Shooting well-exposed video, without the aid of additional lighting, left me little choice but to increase the gain, resulting in grainier, fuzzier image quality.

For more information about the Piedmont Swing Dance Society, you can visit their website at


Asheboro: Quick Tour of the RCC Photography Studio

September 29, 2010

For my PHO-224 multimedia class I was asked to quickly create a one-minute video giving a short tour of Randolph Community College’s photography school.  I shot the movie with a Canon XH-A1 camcorder and used Final Cut Express for editing.  Having a previous background in music composition I wrote the accompanying score using Finale.  I enjoyed all aspects of the production and hope to make the move to more multimedia projects.

Aberdeen: Civil War Reenactment

September 28, 2010

From September 24-26th, the Malcom Blue Farm held its 41st annual Historical Crafts & Farmskills Festival.  Some of the attractions included cloggers, horse-drawn carriage rides and traditional craftmaking demonstrations.  Searching for a specific story to focus on, I chose the Civil War reenactment of the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads performed by the 26th North Carolina.

An 1841 smooth-bore Spanish cannon is fired.  It was still in use during the Civil War, particularly by the Confederate army.

Also known as the “Battle of Fayetteville Road”, the battle occurred east of Aberdeen in March 10, 1865, in the early morning.  Accompanying Sherman as his army marched through North Carolina, the calvary division of Union Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick was ambushed by Lieutenant General Wade Hampton’s calvary division.

A Confederate infantryman reloads his rifle as his unit advances on retreating Union lines.

“Lt. Wade’s goal was to capture Kilpatrick and he nearly succeeded,” explained reenactor Dennis Brooks.  “Kilpatrick was residing in the Monroe house.  He came outside and encountered several Confederate soldiers looking for him.  Because he was only dressed in his nightgown, they did not recognize him.”

Union re-enactor Chris Goff feigns death from Confederate gunfire.  “When you’ve got a gun pointed right at you from 25 yards away and it goes off, it’s pretty obvious you’ve been shot,” Chris explains.  “That’s when I decided it was time to fall.”

The Confederate troops succeeded in overrunning the Union camp but were eventually pushed back after Kilpatrick’s men regrouped.  The battle was a near disaster for the Union and gave Confederate soldiers in Fayetteville time to escape across the Cape Fear River out of harm’s way.

Dennis Brooks has been reenacting since 1988.  Strongly interested in sports as a youth, he picked it up in his later years because it was a less physically demanding activity that still allowed him to participate as a member of a team.  “Camaraderie is what makes most people stay in reenacting, not the firing of guns,” he said.

Covering the reenactment, I was fortunate to have the freedom to get extremely close to the reenactors.  Perhaps it was because the reenactment was rather informal and small in size.  However, I have heard of photographers being allowed to embed themselves in larger reenactments, dressed in civil war uniform.  Photojournalists living during the Civil War, unfortunately, did not have the same opportunity to record the heat of battle.  Their cameras were large and bulky and the exposure times required to create the images were too long to capture action.

Before the reenactment a soldier told me that, due to the limited space, the re-enactors sometimes end up having to take cover behind parked cars.  Unfortunately that did not happen while I was there.  It would have been a great moment to capture.

For more information about the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads, visit this page featured on the U.S. National Park Service’s website:

UNCG: Autumn Moon Festival

September 21, 2010

Last Saturday, the various cultures of Asia and the the Moon Festival, a traditional Chinese festival representing the end of the summer harvest, were celebrated on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in the Elliot University Center auditorium.

The event featured the participation of student groups such as the Hmong, Chinese, and Taiwanese student associations and cultural representatives from the Greensboro area.  Among the main attractions were dancers from the campus and Greensboro Chinese Association, a traditional Korean percussion ensemble and Tae Kwan-Do and Tai Chi Chuan martial arts demonstrations.  The third year running, Robert Campo, the director of the university, International and Global Studies (IGS) program, first organized the event in coordination with the addition of the Asian Studies major to IGS.  The event has grown in success ever since.

Dancers from the Greensboro Chinese Association performed at the festival.

A table was set up for visitors to have their names written out in Japanese.

Scott Rogers of the Tai Chi Wellness and Martial Arts Center in Greensboro demonstrates Tai Chi forms.

UNCG’s Korean student association performs a piece with traditional Korean percussion instruments.

Moon cakes, small pastries filled with a sweet paste filling, have a long association with the moon festival and Chinese mythology.

Rockwell: Circle K Rodeo Practice

September 17, 2010

On Thursday evening I went to the Circle K Arena in Rockwell, North Carolina, to check out one of their weekly rodeo practices.  Training sessions began the first week of September and are held every Thursday evening, with the arena’s first rodeo competition happening October 2nd.

With only one hand holding onto a rope fastened to a bull, riders try to stay atop for at least eight seconds as the bull violently bucks and spins.  Most of the riders I interviewed had received injuries in the past from riding.  The worst I heard was of a bull stepping on and crushing a man’s legs, an injury which required a month of recovery and physical therapy.  While the riders at the practice were wearing protective vests and helmets with face-guards, there were few enforced safety measures in place twenty years ago.  I can only imagine the increased frequency and severity of injuries back then.  There is a reason why bull riding is known as “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”

With the considerable risk of personal injury and death lurking behind each ride, what motivated riders to put their health on the line again and again?  The adrenaline rush was the response I heard most often.

To capture the photographs I used a Canon 50D with a 70-200 mm and 17-55 mm lens (both f/2.8), aided by a monopod and occasional flash (Speedlite 580EX II).  The low-lighting conditions really tested the capability of the camera to shoot clean pictures in the high ISO range.  I found that I needed to shoot the action at 1/180th of a second or faster to capture the bulls and riders with acceptable sharpness.  These inevitably forced me to shoot the images underexposed and fix them in post-processing.  I decided that the pictures would look cleaner presented in black & white.

Rodeo clowns (the three men surrounding the bull) play an important role distracting the bull from attacking dismounted riders and directing it out of the arena.

A 15-year old bull rider reveals an old wound inflicted by a bull’s horn.

The aggressiveness of the bulls used varies.  The bull here came to a complete stop after a few seconds of bucking.

Here is the three-picture layout I created from the event for class:

I will be returning to the next practice session as well as the upcoming championship to not only record more images but shoot some video and collect audio.  Expect a slideshow in the future.

Pow-Wow in Spruce Pines

September 15, 2010

Last Saturday I went to the town of Spruce Pines in the mountains to shoot for class.  The Blue Ridge Intertribal Council was holding a pow-wow from the 10th to the 12th.  There was significant focus on military veterans during the entire event on September 11th.  A considerable amount of veterans were in attendance.  One man, a veteran of the Nicaraguan Drug War, was wearing face paint in the traditional colors of Cherokee warriors (red and black).  Mabel Benjamin, the founder of the Blue and organizer for the pow-wow, told me of the long history of Native American involvement in US wars.  I thought it was ironic, given the many instances of deceit and harm the government has brought upon them, but Mabel explained many natives were not fighting for the US government but instead fighting to defend their birth land from foreign invaders.  Others were fighting to earn recognition of their fellow tribes as US citizens.

A veteran of the Nicaraguan drug war wearing the traditional colors associated with Cherokee warriors.

Towards the evening there was a dance and a ceremony honoring the veterans.  A prayer was given in Cherokee and the veterans given the privilege to dance first.  Clouds descended on the site, creating a particularly thick fog which heightened the significance of the event.  The regalia worn by the performers was very diverse, each having their own history and meaning.  The eye-catching and flamboyant regalia decorated with numerous feathers reflected the period before the mass displacement of natives at the hands of the US military (the Trail of Tears, for example) while later styles were more somber and restrained.

Native American war veterans were given special recognition at the pow-wow

The interior of a 14-ft. Lakota Sioux tipi from the 1890s with items authentic to the period.

The women wore more modest regalia and danced slower to the beat.  This reflects the dignity and high values culturally expected of many Native American women.

The regalia worn after the mass displacement of Native Americans is more somber and restrained.

For more information about the Blue Ridge Intertribal Council and future hosted pow-wows, visit their website at

Multimedia Slideshow: A Day in the Life of…

September 14, 2010

Last week I created a multimedia slideshow following the studies of a UNC-Chapel Hill biomedical engineer graduate student.  Siddharth Shenoy is doing research on lung cells found in the trachea and how they behave when mucus-like fluid flows over them.  The experiment has the potential to provide better treatment options for patients with cystic fibrosis, a disease which inhibits the lung’s ability to remove excess mucus.  This was done for my multimedia class.

The design for the device used in the experiment, as shown on CAD software.  The digital model is sent to a 3D printer which can create the pieces.

Each circle contains a lung cell culture.  The color indicates whether the culture is dead or thriving.

The field of biomedical engineering combines different scientific disciplines, such as electrical engineering.

Siddharth Shenoy: UNC biomedical engineering graduate student.

The slideshow can be accessed here.