Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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I caught the bug at a MediaStorm Workshop

Logo_MediaStormI should say, I re-caught the bug.

From September 19 – 25, I spent most of my time volunteering for MediaStorm’s Advanced Multimedia Reporting Workshop.

I teamed up with Paolo Black, Melissa Pracht, Scott Lituchy and MediaStorm Producer Bob Sacha to tell a story about two young men who have made a career out of street entertainment. My role was to transcribe all the audio that was collected during shows and interviews.

I got to sit in on training sessions and lectures, and watch the MediaStorm team work their magic. And it was absolutely magical.

Talking the story over with the team showed me exactly how powerful a story like this can be and how we can learn from each other during its production. We all had our strengths and points of view, which contributed to a stronger piece than any of us could have produced individually.

I got home each day ranting about some new insight: interviewing techniques that get the subject to respond in complete sentences or the beauty of the extreme close-up. I looked at other MediaStorm projects, watching for the details we had talked about.

When I saw that my name was going in the credits for the project, and that I made a cameo in the Behind the Scenes production (at about 8:08) the grin on my face was big enough to fit an XL pizza.

There are parts of the experience I don’t want to remember. The ringing in my ears and the ache in my neck after transcribing for hours at a time. The frustration I felt as I watched the other members of the team working with high-end gear I can’t even dream of having. That doesn’t mean I won’t volunteer again. But next time, I’m taking a bottle of Aleve with me. And a point-and-shoot.

I started taking photos and shooting amateur videos long before I fell in love with journalism. In college, I took photography classes, including a study abroad trip to Berlin. I also did some independent study and in-class work with videography. Not to mention my work with both mediums at The Independent Florida Alligator, as I struggled to get reporters to get video and create audio slideshows along with their text articles.

So I caught the multimedia bug long ago. But once I lost access to the SLR and HD cameras, it got harder to be interested. I’d see a cool photo opportunity, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t afford to buy my own gear.

During this time, I turned to programming. I became more interested in data and applications and code than I had been with framing and sequences and lighting. Programming is a cheaper pursuit, and I’ve always been geeky enough to find the resources and teach myself.

Now, though, I catch myself walking around and seeing everything through a camera lens again. I wish I could afford even some low-end gear, because I know that otherwise, my interest will wane again. I will miss out on an aspect of storytelling every bit as important as programming or writing.

And although all the industry advice, including what I learned at MediaStorm, pushes specialization, I still want to know how to do it all.

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Berlin – winding down

All of our works for this class was due today. After turning it in, Andrew Stanfill and I went in search of a gallery belonging to the artist from Rost Graphics. We each bought a large print, and then a medium-sized print of the Berlin wall. Nice work.

We also found an army surplus store, where I was able to find a jacket for Jon, and somehow ended up with one for myself.

This evening I’m planning on another shopping trip to Alexanderplatz, and fresh Chinese food for dinner.

Tomorrow is the last day in Berlin. I leave Thursday morning at around 6 a.m.

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Berlin is a shit-hot sexy city

Yes, there is a story behind the title.

On Friday I set out down Prenzlauer Allee toward Alexanderplatz to find a subject for my class project. I figured that if I walked all the way the the Brandenburg Gate and couldn’t find a subject somewhere along the way, I need to go back to school.

I’m not sure how Germans view newspapers and journalists, but it can’t be good. There was a guy in Alexanderplatz holding a sign and talking to people about the vegan lifestyle. He got all excited when he found out I was American, because his group gets all their statistics and facts from American vegan groups. After about 30 mins I tried to get him to be my subject, and he sorta freaked out. Time to move on.

My next attempt was down by St. Marienkirsch. A bunch of tough-looking punks were gathered around a black van with their dogs. I walked up and sorta hung around until someone spoke to me in English. Turns out the van is owned by a group that brings food to Berlin’s homeless. The woman in charge didn’t want to do an interview either.

I actually did have to walk all the way to the Gate. The horse-drawn carriage drivers didn’t speak enough English, the performance artists were, well, performing.

bad portraitsThen I saw a bright pink sign. It said “Bad Portraits.” Not even thinking about my project, I started talking to Neb, the man behind the sign. About an hour later, he agreed to let me come back the next day and take photos.

I met up with Michelle and Robyn later to do sunset shots of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag.

Most of Saturday I spent shooting. Neb was a great subject; acted like I wasn’t there.
Neb Poulton

Yesterday I went to a huge flea market. It looked like 50 people had emptied their attics out onto tables. There was a guy selling only masking tape. Another table was filled with screwdrivers.

Hopefully today will be a shopping day. I still need to find a German army jacket. I finished my project and other work for the class this morning.

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Berlin – Follies and free time

We’ve had a lot more free time lately, which has been nice. I took some time to recover from the past few days of walking and biking to edit photos and think about a subject for my project.

Having just come away from 4 years of sleeping 2-4 hours a night, 8 hours is such a luxury! I crash out around midnight and wake up around 8 a.m. This is great for this trip since I have plenty of good light time.

Andrew PurvisYesterday we went to a meeting with Andrew Purvis of the TIME magazine Berlin bureau. He talked about how to break into international reporting and some of the risks involved in reporting in places like Africa.

Laura Laabs He and intern Laura Laabs also talked about the unique personality of Berlin as a city. It’s certainly like no place I’ve ever been, and is becoming one of my favorite cities.

Next was a trip to Mercedes World. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about this one – I can’t tell one car from another and don’t particularly care for the luxury ideals promoted by brands like Mercedes. I took the opportunity to take a load off and sat around waiting for everyone else.

The last “group activity” was supposed to be a visit to the Helmut Newton museum. But, FAIL, the museum was closed.

Michelle and Robyn and I took off to re-shoot the old and new churches in Potsdamer Platz, visited the ZooBerlin and the Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum nearby. Through Old to New

The zoo was really depressing. I’ve never seen so many bars and cages. In the bird house, a lot of birds were plucking themselves, and the water in most of the tanks looked like lime Kool Aid. Jaguar behind bars

We went to the erotica museum hoping for some giggles, but it seemed pretty tame. Old Asian drawings and sculptures dominated, along with homoerotic sketches, a gold penis the size of a 7-year-old, and a sex store. I was unimpressed. erotica museum

By now our feet were aching and we needed food. We headed to Hackescher-Markt for dinner. A street cafe called Rocco was the nearest source of seating and sustenance. Sadly, the food was bland and the service awful, especially considering the prices!

Today I’m planning to go solo and get my project done, or at least started. I’ve been uploading dozens of photos to my Flickr account, so check ’em out!

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Not another effing tour

The days are starting to melt together. Was it yesterday or the day before that we had a walking tour through former East Berlin? When did we go to the Allied Museum? Were those chicks or dudes making out on the bus? Did those break dancers really just try to charge for taking photos in a public plaza? How many times can we get on the wrong bus going in the wrong direction?

The pressure is on: our projects are due in one week. I have a few subject ideas, but nothing concrete yet. We’re going to have a lot more free time from now on, so I’m planning on going back to some cool places and re-shooting.

I’m really tired of trying to get my shots with 15 other people trying to get the same shot or otherwise getting in my way.

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Berlin – Bike tour and the last carnival on earth

At 11am yesterday, 14 Americans clambered onto 14 cruisers and set off through the city. Our American guide Marielle was funny and friendly, and took us to some cool, off the beaten path spots.

Key sightings:

  • Commie architecture
  • a segment of the Berlin wall known as the East Side Gallery (the longest section left standing at about 1 kilometer)
  • the Soviet War Memorial
  • a watchtower in a park that used to be part of the “Deathstrip” or “No Man’s
    Land”
  • the Karl-Marx-Allee
  • lunch at a Turkish hole in the wall
  • a squat called Koepi

After the tour, Professor Freeman told us about a carnival that was taking place in a different neighborhood of the city. There was some discussion within a faction of the group about ditching the carnival and going after hot showers instead. But we were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Points for adventurousness began to melt away as we were led through a park whose occupants looked to be selling happiness in powder, pill or plant form.

When we emerged from the trail of drug dealers, there was a clearing of pathetic little rides and bored carnies. And mud. And soon, rain. The most depressing carnival on earth.

We should have left 15 minutes earlier.

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Berlin – Alone no longer

Michelle Harris arrived on Thursday afternoon. I was glad of the company, even if she did wake me up.

We went out for dinner that night at Cafe Prenzlauer for quintessential Berlin food and walked around a bit afterward.

The next morning, (Friday) Michelle and I got up early and walked down to Alexanderplaetze to take photos.
3 churches, the TV tower, some fountains and a museum later, our feet began to complain.
We made our way back to the hotel expecting to have time for showers and naps before Professor Freeman and the other students arrived.
Imagine our horror when we walk into our room and not only have the others arrived but we are expected downstairs in 15 minutes!

We were treated to a meeting with Ian Johnson, Wall Street Journal Berlin Bureau chief, Pulitzer winner and UF graduate. Too bad most of us were half asleep! He talked about how he got his job in a foreign bureau and what possibilities there might be for us to crack the competition.

Then we went to the Bernaur Wall Park. I still can’t fully grasp what happened in this city, but the pictures and stories gave me the same quiet, sick feeling that I get from any account of human atrocities (the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia…).

We took a tram to “Prater Biergarten” for a dinner of sausages and beer. On the walk home my ankles finally went numb. Huzzah for scalding hot showers!

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Writing from Berlin!

So, after having dropped off the face of the cyberearth for a few weeks, I’m resurfacing in Berlin. I’m taking a Photojournalism class with Professor Freeman and some other students from UF.

And by the way, yes, I did manage to graduate! It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I’m sure some day it will. My move to Miami was anything but graceful, but everyone involved survived.

So I’m in Berlin for 2 weeks, then back to Miami for my internship. I’ll start uploading photos tomorrow and blogging about my experiences here.

So far, I’ve managed to get from the airport to my hotel, find food and walk 3 miles. And realize that my German is even more atrocious than I thought. I can read pretty well, but forget the rest.

This city has more graffiti than any other place I’ve ever been. Some of it is even extremely artistic, as opposed to just scribbles on the wall. Unfortunately, I wasted most of the daylight hours recovering from bouncing from plane to plane for 15 hours, but tomorrow I’ll be out and about bright and early. (Could I get anymore cliches in there?)

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Post-graduation plans

My plans for this summer just got more interesting.

I got an e-mail yesterday notifying me that I could do a photojournalism study abroad program in Berlin! I’ve wanted to go on this trip for some time, but it was always full when I got around to checking on it. This time I got lucky; it was my last chance because I am graduating this semester.

I’ve been to Spain and Costa Rica, and my parents took me to Japan when I was 1. Here’s to another ridiculously long flight.

During the week after I get back from Berlin, I’m moving back to Miami. Hopefully, the people my parents leased the house to when they moved to Costa Rica will be out by then. I’ll be attending the IRE Conference and then starting my internship at The Miami Herald.

After that, who knows? But life after college is looking better and better.