Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

I’ve never given much thought to photographing the northern leopard frog or really any variety of frog. That was before a recent assignment with Minnesota Public Radio News. I recently spent a short time photographing the northern leopard frog near Mantador, N.D., and was absolutely taken with these creatures [and mighty thankful for my macro]. They were a hoot to photograph. Working in concert with a radio reporter requires I’m more quiet than usual. I was so delighted with the frogs and their unpredictable jumps that I was giggling. It was silly, but oh so entertaining. The audio version of the story and more photographs are online here.

Thanks for looking. – Ann

Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

Photograph of northern leopard frog in North Dakota

My work as freelance photojournalist for Minnesota Public Radio News expanded in 2011. I completed 30-some assignments for the organization last year and was pleased to learn that nine of my photographs have been included in MPR News’ Pictures of the Year. Online photo galleries featuring photographs by both staff and freelance contributors are available here, here, here and here.

My selected images are presented in order of oldest to most recent below. Not surprising, two of the biggest news stories from the region [spring flooding and the American Crystal Sugar lock-out] are well represented. In this era of newsroom layoffs and shrinking freelance budgets, I remain grateful to the editors and reporters at MPR News for their respective roles in helping me document the people and places in the Red River Valley. Few things give me more pleasure or satisfaction.

Happy New Year. – Ann

Stepping Stones

Bear Cub

Flood from Above

Sandbag Line

Golden-Winged Warbler

Beekeeper

Lockout

A&R Bar in Hillsboro, N.D.

Homer's One-Stop Mini-Mart

Minnesota beekeeper

A recent assignment with Minnesota Public Radio News called for photographs of honey bees and beekeepers. Now, I like honey and I generally believe bees do important work in our ecosystem. However, I wasn’t too sure about the part of the assignment that would require me to be in such close proximity to so many bees. If you’ve never photographed bees from inside the confines of coveralls, which are taped at your wrists to rubber gloves and at your ankles to hiking boot, and a wide-brimmed hat with veil and netting, it’s an interesting experience.

More photographs from the assignment are featured online here. Also, the audio and written versions of “Hive Health: Beekeepers closely watch population, productivity” are online here.

Enjoy! – Ann

P.S. In case you were wondering, I was stung once during the outing with the beekeepers.

Minnesota beekeeper

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Spring flooding is a pretty common event here in the Red River Valley. The region has been on the national media’s radar since the 1997 flood, which devastated downtown Grand Forks, N.D., and other areas.

I missed that flood. In fact, North Dakota wasn’t even on my radar back then.

Three years ago the entire valley and Fargo, in particular, drew heaps of media coverage due to the severity of the flood fight.

I was here in 2009 and those memories remain vivid. Flood preparation ramped up just a few weeks after my full-time position with the local newspaper ended. I was a freelancer without an outlet. I contributed reporting to a wire service and photographed whatever I was able to access. Our street felt something like a war zone – I can’t say for certain since I’ve never been in an actual war zone. Black hawk helicopters overhead. National Guard trucks in droves. Calls from the city declaring, “Code Red”. Clay dikes and more clay dikes. You get the picture. The experience wasn’t much fun professionally or personally.

Last year’s flood event was pretty standard as floods go – at least here in Fargo-Moorhead. I photographed daily for Minnesota Public Radio News. My contribution to the organization’s website and Minnesota Today project spanned seven consecutive days. I remember feeling proud that I was now regularly freelancing for a reputable news organization.

For the most recent flood event, I again contributed photographs to MPR News and Minnesota Today. I was able to apply lessons learned during past years [hit key areas early and often, flash my media credential at check points, convert the car into an office complete with a veritable snack bar, wear comfortable rain boots and warm socks]. My contribution spanned 10 consecutive days. I photographed a lot of wonderful people and remain grateful for those meetings.

One particular assignment marks a sort of milestone. On April 11, I climbed into a small airplane to photograph flooding from above. The Red River at Fargo crested two days earlier, but the river remained high. Meanwhile, overland flooding had forced the closure of Interstate 29 and left dozens of rural roads under water. The next day, 14 aerial photographs were published by MPR News. I posted that link on my facebook page and promised to share a bit of the back story here.

It’s important to note that the aerial images would not have been possible without news editors willing to support the endeavor.

That said, I planted the seed for the shoot weeks before flood coverage began. I followed up on that concept a couple times and continued to make the case for it. I checked the weather, thinking clear skies would lead to more dynamic photographs. I called everyone I could think of to ask for help in locating a pilot and plane. I found a pilot and a plane. I called an editor – as I was literally on my way to meet said pilot and plane – to confirm the assignment.

A couple of things worth noting:

1] I don’t like flying and I really don’t like small planes.
2] I don’t have extensive – or really any – experience photographing aerials.
3] I’ve never come back from an assignment without publishable images.

I figured the best thing to do was to have two cameras, fully charged batteries, fresh memory cards, shoot at a fast shutter speed because the plane isn’t really in a fixed location, open the windows to avoid reflection and distortion, pull my hair back so it wouldn’t get in my photographs and shoot a lot.

I spent an hour in the sky. I shot 700 frames.

I’m rarely -if ever – satisfied with my photographic efforts. Those who know me well – my husband, book club friends and a handful of colleagues – would agree with that statement.

When my time in the sky came to a close, I was filled with a huge sense of satisfaction. I knew I had done my job well. The aerial photographs have been very well received. I recently finished a second edit of my effort and am sharing some of those photographs here.

It seems a lot of folks are enjoying them. I hope you do as well. – Ann

P.S. Several of my images from this year’s flood will be featured as part of a “Discovery Dock” at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, Minn. “The Raging Red and the Mighty Mississippi” will be on display May 19 to Sept. 4. Many thanks to Andy Maus, the museum’s executive director, for the invitation to contribute to the project.

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Photograph of Red River Valley flooding 2011

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Editorial assignments with Minnesota Public Radio [yes, public radio!] remain among my favorites in 2010. Yet, the assignments are also often uniquely challenging. Here’s why:

Sometimes I’m asked to accompany a reporter – so we literally go together on an assignment. Photographers and reporters working in tandem or collaboration is a good thing in my book.

However, the trick with radio reporters is they are always, always, always collecting sound. The only sounds they don’t want – as far as I know – are my camera shutter and me chattering away. So, when I work with a radio reporter I try to be thoughtful about when I’m photographing, how often I’m making pictures and what I’m doing with my body, voice and gear. I photograph less aggressively and if there is a situation I know I should photograph I let the reporter know that in advance, if possible. I feel it’s a matter of respect.

So, everything I just wrote wasn’t true for my most recent MPR assignment. It was more like a traditional news assignment. I was on my own with a limited amount of time in Rothsay, Minn., a town of 510 people located 40 miles southeast of Moorhead. The story was about how the town takes on an energy conservation challenge. The assignment seemed easy enough.

Turns out that many of the improvements, audits, inspections and so forth were already complete. No photos there. Local students had previously gone door-to-door to ask residents to sign a pledge to use less energy. No photos there. A Tuesday evening class aimed at teaching residents to better understand utility bills might generate a couple of photos. [People and computers don’t typically make great photos, but sometimes you’ve got to work with the less than ideal.] So, with that activity in place I found myself roaming Rothsay in the dark. [Not really, but it kind of felt that way. It’s really dark in Rothsay after the sun goes down.]

What I decided to do was to try to come up with a couple of photographs at the class as well as some from the gym or school – where many improvements have already been made. I also made arrangements to visit resident Jeanette Geer who won a home makeover as part of the energy challenge project. I knew her granddaughter would be home and that family had received some new appliances. Whenever I have an opportunity to photograph in someone’s home I know there are photographs to be made. When I said good-bye to Jeanette it was great to hear that I was easy to be around and the experience had been a good one.

To learn more about the project or to see how much energy the community saves check out: http://www.energychallengeison.com/rothsay/.

Best, Ann

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.