Scotland County Highland Games

It’s event time in photojournalism now.  I’ve been learning a lot about photographing events for a newspaper. The “formula” includes a wide-angle that sets the scene, a tight face of someone enjoying an event, a medium photo of people engaged, an iconic detail, and a “wild card” of anything else that helps tell the story. Eddie and I went to the Highland Games in Laurenburg, NC this past weekend and it was swizzawesome. Kilts and funnel cake–yeah. We had a history lesson on Clan Leary, which is where the O’Leary’s come from, so that was pretty awesome. It’s nice to get in touch with my roots by marriage. I think we’ve started an O’Leary October tradition.

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A story of waiting.

Ashley and Scott Mason are an awesome couple here in Asheboro. I work with Ashley at The Table and have gotten to know Scott from him hanging out at the restaurant. Scott and Ashley met each other at a Krispy Kreme 5k race, which led to a Krispy Kreme donuts cake at their wedding. They are two energetic, fun, and incredibly loving people. Unlike the typical married couple in America, Ashley and Scott have been facing immigration issues because Scott is from England. Because the government wants to stop transnational marriages only to gain citizenship, they must go through an intense, long process involving much paperwork, interviews (to ensure their marriage is authentic), and time. They have been in a period of waiting: waiting for their papers to get pushed, waiting for Scott to be able to legally work, waiting to sign a lease without the chance of deportation, waiting for certainty. They are currently living in a house with sketchy plumbing, no working oven, little furniture, and packed away boxes. In exchange of free rent, Scott and Ashley are renovating the house for their friend who is trying to flip it. As the two of them work through a time of uncertainty and learning to simply wait, I hope to capture their unique story within a larger issue of immigration and transnational marriage.



My love for digital retouching/editing has been slow going. I have a hard time sitting in front of a computer for hours practicing my bad posture. Within an hour I begin having periodic moments of intense flailing in an attempt to fight off the insanity creeping in. BUT, I will say, that after putting in 10, 20 hours of editing and finishing an image, it’s worth it—for about a second. For our last assignment in Digital Imaging we had to make a composite using at least six different photos. I learned a whole lot about Photoshop trying to put this composite together. I was forced to learn different techniques to get the look I was going for. I can’t say I would want to create images like this a lot, but I am glad that I know I would be able to make it look like I was hanging out with my zoo homies if I ever needed an alibi.



I haven’t posted any sports photos on my blog thus far, and it’s probably because I’m not the biggest fan of shooting sports. As a photojournalism student, however, I’ve learned to somewhat enjoy it. Football has been fun to shoot, despite all of my efforts since I was a young one not to attend football games (things have changed after getting married to a former football player). I’ve enjoyed the people watching and the exercise. I’ve learned that you have to move around a lot shooting football in order to get good shots. We’ve moved on to soccer this week, which I’m pretty sure I like photographing. It’s easier, its during the day for the most part, and the action continues rather than stops every 10 seconds. Here is my first take from my first soccer game EV-VER.

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This week’s theme for our photo-a-day project is shadows. I’v been trying to avoid the typical long shadow on the ground photo. I’ve always loved photos where the subject straddles the hot light and the shadows. Shadows create dimension and focus within an image that you just can’t beat. I’ve bombed a few days with awful photos from either lack of time or lack of creativity, but I’m kind of a big fan of this photo.

Sierra Leone photo essay

I traveled to Sierra Leone, West Africa with Eddie to document Safie and Mohammed Braima and their mission in their home village, Yiehun, about a year and a half ago. Safie and Mohammed are two of the most incredible people I know I will ever meet. Living with them for two months and witnessing the deep love that they have for their people changed me forever. Sierra Leone is now 10 years out of its decade-long civil war and it is still in a place of recovery and rebuilding. Yiehun, Safie and Mohammed’s home village, was the base for the Revolutionary United Front rebels during the war. There were more atrocities committed there than anyone wishes to imagine. Safie and Mohammed have moved back to the village from the U.S. to help rebuild their village. They have built a library, a church, a secondary school, and are now building a senior secondary school (high school). The impact they have had on their community as well as neighboring villages is exponential. I could write a book on the numerous people who have been effected by their love and help.

While over there, we interviewed many villagers who survived the war and listened to countless stories of how people escaped death’s door. Although there is a sense of brokenness within their voices, there is also a feeling of resilience and thankfulness for the gift of life. Listening to the adults who lived through the war, I could see within their eyes that they had seen death face to face. They were filled with a calm heaviness as if saying, “I’ve seen the end of my road so now I can walk through anything.”

What intrigued me greatly was the difference between the generation that lived through the war and the rising generation that will only know about what their parents, grandparents, and country went through from stories and from the aftermath. As Sierra Leone rebuilds itself, its new leaders will deal with the effects of a war that they never knew. I decided to put together a picture story in this light, focusing on the children of the village of Yiehun.

sl_blog-1After more than 10 years of fighting and violent corruption, the Sierra Leone civil war (1991-2002) left the country destroyed and its people devastated. Today, 10 years after the fighting stopped, Sierra Leone is still rebuilding itself and villagers continue to slowly come home. Yiehun is the village the Revolutionary United Front rebels seized and used as their base. As Yiehun works to rebuild itself, a new generation is rising to help that never saw the war– only the harrowing effects on its parents, grandparents, and village.

Abbi_OLeary25Abi, who was born into the civil war, carries her son, who will only know of the 10-year devastation of his country through stories passed down.

sl_blog-3The few students that do travel to senior secondary school walk 15 miles every week and come home only for the weekends. Yiehun is building a new school to help lessen teen pregnancies, dropouts, and missing children.

sl_blog-4Two kids take a break from gathering sand for their new school and play. Over 200 students help bring sand to the school site, eager to be able to finish their education in their home village. As the generation before them struggle to forget the past, the children of Sierra Leone struggle to create a promising future. They are faced daily with the shadow of a war they never knew.

sl_blog-5A girl gathers water for her family in the village. Yiehun is one of the only villages in eastern Sierra Leone that had a water pump during the war, which was a key reason why the RUF rebels made their base there. The lines are broken now, so children have to go to the river for water.

sl_blog-6A fire set to clear land for a rice farm encroaches on the village’s primary school, mirroring the violent landscape of the war. Many schools were burnt to the ground during the war along with entire villages. Yiehun had to rebuild all of their schools and almost all of their mud houses, save for the few with lines of bullet holes from executions and RUF graffiti.

sl_blog-7Alpha Korima studies for his final exams outside of the secondary school. He is one of the children who is helping build a senior  secondary school so that he does not have to walk far and live away form his family once he graduates from secondary school.

sl_blog-8Children gather wood for their first school meal. The older generations of Yiehun walk around the fields in the village quietly talking about executions, mass burials, and brutal violence that occurred in specific places. When the children hear their stories, they listen intently on what happened on the land they now live and walk on.

sl_blog-9Women and children were left stranded across the country for years during the war. Women had to raise their children constantly running from gunfire and moving from one village to another as the rebels took over. Many children were separated from their mother’s for months and even years. One mother, MJ, tells of how her sister was separated from her children for years by running in a different direction into the bush as the rebels came through the dirt road firing.

sl_blog-10Mami plays outside after school. On the weekends the children go into the bush with their parents and work on the farm from sunrise to sunset, sowing and harvesting their land.

sl_blog-11Sierra, 6, plays with her adoptive family. Sierra lived through a war of her own when her parents believed she was possessed and left her to die. Safie and Mohommed Braima heard that someone found a starving child and decided to raise her. After 3 years, they are still trying to adopt her legally.

B.Ball Action.

Looking for a compelling photo to take every day can be challenging. My days can feel pretty repetitive and mundane as a student, as much as I would not like to admit that. I drive down the same roads, stop at the same stop lights, pass by the same fast food restaurants, walk through the same fluorescent-infused hallway, sit down in the same chair, and stare at the same instructor—every day. Much of searching for an interesting photo deals with me trying to break out of my daily landscape and experience something new. Much of looking for a good photograph is also trying to see my world around me in a new way. Here is a visual ode to the beautiful, fleeting moments that I more than often miss.


Ben and Deanne’s wedding: Boone, NC

Ben and Deanne’s wedding was simply beautiful. It was the most ideal wedding for a photographer, but more importantly it was one of the most genuine, sweet, heartfelt weddings I’ve been to. Ben and Deanne are a dream team. Their love for one another runs so deep, and it’s evident the moment you see them together. It was one of the biggest honors being able to photograph their wedding. Here is a little “sneak”, as they say, of their sweet, sweet day. Can’t wait to share more real soon.

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Pictures are stories.

We are working on picture stories in photojournalism right now. I photographed my friend, Levi, for a multimedia project last semester, but am working on revamping these photos into a picture story. Although I’d like to go back and take more photos now that I have a new end in mind, I’m working on editing them as effectively as possible. I am learning about the components that make up an effective photo story, including cohesive mood, flow, tight editing, and directing every photo back to my headline. Here it is without captions–the title is “For Jody”_MG_8762_MG_8378_MG_8283-2_MG_8669-2_MG_8636-2_MG_8795_MG_8922