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Greetings from sunny Minnesota — FYI: It won’t last

January 11, 2012

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For several weeks now on my drive in to work I’ve been seeing this view of the just-risen sun hitting the facade of the Cathedral of St. Paul. I finally stopped, grabbed my camera and tried to save the scene, because after living in Minnesota for 28+ years I know this respite from winter weather isn’t going to continue. Snow forecast in the next 24 hours.

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This Sunday at the Cathedral of Saint Paul – Cherubic faces. Angelic voices. Heavenly Music.

December 16, 2011

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Cathedral Youth Choir will sing Ceremony of Carols

This Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2:30 p.m. the Saint Cecilia Choristers of the Cathedral Choir School of Minnesota present Benjamin Britten’s innocent and beloved Ceremony of Carols with harp accompaniment. The work opens and closes with the choristers processing by candlelight singing the ancient Gregorian chant, Hodie Christus natus est! The Cathedral is located at 239 Selby Avenue, at the corners of Summit Ave. and John Ireland Blvd. There is no cost for the concert; however, a suggested donation of $15 is welcome and appreciated.

Britten’s Ceremony of Carols is a masterpiece composed while on board a ship during a perilous five-week crossing of the North Atlantic. The year was 1942 and World War II was at its height as Britten was returning to England from the U.S.A., explains Robert Ridgell, Director of Sacred Music for the Cathedral of Saint Paul. “It is an unusual setting for treble voices and harp, and the ‘carols’ are largely the product of 15th and 16th century writers, mostly anonymous. The work opens and closes with the youth choir processing by candlelight singing to plainsong, the Hodie chant sung for centuries at Vespers on Christmas Eve. The carol settings in-between deal with the traditional stories surrounding the birth of Christ,” adds Ridgell.

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Three photos you haven’t seen in The Catholic Spirit

August 22, 2011

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For the Aug. 4 issue of The Catholic Spirit, I wrote a story about a memorial for victims and survivors of the I-35W bridge collapse. I took several photos for that story, but only one appeared in print.

That got me thinking about photos I’ve taken for which there wasn’t room in the print edition.

Three specific photos come to mind that I hoped would be used but weren’t:

Helen Hausmann

I really thought this portrait of Helen on the platform overlooking the river and the new bridge was powerful. Unfortunately the memorial isn’t in the photo and there was only room for one — so we needed one with the memorial in it.

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Father Tony O’Neill, 2011 ordination

I loved this picture because it really looks like Father O’Neill is connecting with Archbishop John Nienstedt, and Father O’Neill looks really happy at the ordination ceremony last May. Other photos from the ceremony can be viewed in our online photo gallery.

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Funeral for Maplewood Police Sgt. Joe Bergeron

The number of officers that came to show their support that day in May 2010 was awesome. The funeral was held on a day right after we published. A few appeared online, but none in the next print edition. Many others were published in our online photo gallery.

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A parish looking for photos

February 12, 2011

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Raindrops on leaves (photo by Dianne Towalski)

Here’s one way parishes can take advantage of the photographers in their pews.

On its website, Pax Christi in Eden Prairie is calling all amateur photographers from the parish to submit their photos of God’s creation. ”God is HERE! Photographers Needed!” The Environmental Challenge Ministry — who’s mission it is to “educate, energize, and enable our faith community towards greater appreciation, concern, and action for God’s creation” — is looking for photos the parish can use on a screen during Mass, on the website and in a gallery.

I think this is a great idea. There is a lot of talent out there and this is just one way a parish could benefit from the photography expertise of its parishioners.

Other ideas:

Photos could be submitted and sold during a parish festival or other event to raise funds for good causes, like the local food shelf, crisis pregnancy center or parish youth activities.

There could be a contest (with an entry fee) with winning photos being displayed in a gallery or gathering space.

More and more people are picking up a camera and creating beautiful images.  As Christians we are called to appreciate and be good stewards of the natural world — as Pope Benedict summed up in a quote featured on Pax Christi’s website:

“Contemplating the beauty of Creation inspires us to recognize the love of the Creator; that love which moves the sun, and the stars.”

—Pope Benedict XVI
World Day of Prayer 2010

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Sharing favorite photos

January 10, 2011

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What are your favorite photos? We all have photos that we’ve taken that are special to us. Maybe they are of people that are important in our lives or maybe they were really hard to get. For whatever reason we like them.

As a photojournalist I take hundreds of photos each year. Some of them I think I could have done better, some I’m happy with, and then there are my favorites. These are the photos that have meaning to me, photos that have a story behind them. They are not award-winning work, but I like them.

I have several, but I’ve narrowed it down to three here.

This photo of my husband Joe interviewing Minnesota Twins center-fielder Kirby Puckett in 1995 has a special place on my wall at work. I look at it often. We were working together at the St. Cloud Visitor then and Joe was still a reporter. (Now he’s the editor of The Catholic Spirit and The Visitor.) It took a while, but we managed to get a few minutes with him. We met him in the dugout during batting practice before a game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. He was such a nice guy, and he was willing to move all over the field so I could get the shot of him I wanted. It is always fun to meet a celebrity, but the fact that he was such a nice person made it so special.

I knew I had something good the second I took this photo of Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. Again I was working at The Visitor and our whole editorial staff traveled to this event. One person rode a bus to Denver with students from the diocese and stayed on a gym floor. Another actually rode his bike all the way there with another group from the diocese.

I was lucky. I flew and stayed in a hotel! This photo is from the Mass at Cherry Creek State Park. Hundreds of people had arrived the night before to get a good spot. I was supposed to take my reserved spot on the photographers’ platform at the back of the VIP section, but my editor had a pass for the VIP section, so I followed her to her seat. No one stopped me. I managed to get a seat on the end near the aisle I thought the pope would be walking down. And he did walk right down that aisle, shaking as many hands as he could along the way. When he got to me, he looked right at me and held out his hand.

For a split-second I debated whether I should shake his hand or take his picture. In the end, the photographer in me won out and I took his picture. I’m glad I did.

This shot of Archbishop Harry Flynn is one of my favorites because it really shows what kind of a person he is. He is so pastoral and caring and it really shows in this photo. This one appeared in The Catholic Spirit and was also used as part of a tribute to Archbishop Flynn during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. It was used to illustrate a song about love that was written for the event. It was an honor for one of my photos to be used in a tribute to such a wonderful man.

Do you have a photo with an interesting story behind it? E-mail the photo and short story to me (towalskid@archspm.org) and I’ll post the best ones on this blog.

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Nikon D3100 a good bet for the price

December 6, 2010

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Looking for a new camera for yourself or as a gift for someone else? If you have been looking at cameras at all lately, you’ve seen the new Nikon D3100.

Recently a coworker of mine at The Catholic Spirit asked for advice on buying a new camera. We both did some research and came up with the D3100. Since then, I’ve been seeing it everywhere!

It was featured on a segment of the Today show about great gifts for this Christmas. It was also listed as one of “Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010.” On the Oprah website it says,  “It’s the device Oprah calls ‘the ultimate camera from the ultimate camera-makers.’ The Nikon D3100 has all the bells and whistles a camera pro would want—including hi-def video—but it can also be a simple point-and-shoot. ‘May I say,’ Oprah says, ‘it is one sexy camera.’

It is also on sale everywhere. Best Buy, Target, Ritz Camera and others have had it featured in ads in the last few weeks.

So, why should you buy this camera?

The D3100 is a digital SLR aimed at people who take their photography seriously but are not professionals, that want really good quality and ease of use.

The 14.2 Megapixel Nikon D3100 has been available since mid-September. It is the lightest camera Nikon has ever made. It takes full 1080p HD video with full-time autofocus and sound. It features, just to name a few, a guide mode to help you take better pictures, ISO sensitivity from 100-3200 and automatic image sensor cleaning. This last feature is very important. I have had so much trouble with dust getting in my camera and then I have to send it in to be cleaned.

I don’t own one — yet. I have my eye on this as a back-up to the new D700 that I have decided I need to replace my 5-year-old D2hs (only 4.1 megapixels! We’ve come a long way in 5 years).
I have read tons of really good reviews from reliable, professional sources. http://Www.dprewiew.com says “The D3100 remains one of the most pleasant-to-hold cameras in its class. It may be small but it’s very comfortable to use. It’s almost impossible to pick up without your hand falling into a sensible position with all the key controls at your fingertips. The layout and positioning of the buttons is some of the best we’ve come across and their function has been carefully thought-out too.” http://Www.KenRockwell.com says, “It feels like the precision product it is.”

I’ve played with it a little in the store and the only thing that would concern me is the size. Most people will like the fact that it is very small, but I’m used to using a much bigger, heavier camera. It would take a little getting used to, but I could do it.

So for under $700 with a lens, you can’t beat this camera.

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Not too many saints out there on Oct. 31

November 10, 2010

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A few days before Halloween I asked readers to send in photos if they or their children were dressing up as a saint or angel for the occasion. On our annual trick-or-treating venture to the Mall of America, I didn’t see any saints. I did see one angel, but only one. One person that read my request did dress up and responded with a photo. Pictured below is Zoya, from Anchorage, Alaska, dressed as Saint Patrick. Thanks Zoya for letting us see your awesome costume!

I’m sure there were many more kids in saint costumes on All Saints Day. Fifth-grade faith formation students at Guardian Angels in Chaska held a costume contest. They had everyone from Saint Mary to Blessed Mother Teresa and many more. They sent us the photo below.

If you have photos from a church or school program, feel free to send them in, I’ll keep track of them and post a gallery when I get a few. Send them to towalskid@archspm.org.

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Dressed as a saint for Halloween? Send your photos!

October 30, 2010

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Our family is looking forward to Halloween. We have a tradition of going to the Mall of America for a party and trick-or-treating. My favorite part of it is being able to see the costumes. Minnesota weather is usually pretty cold on Halloween and kids have to cover their costumes with coats and hats to go door-to-door to collect their treats.

At the mall you can see all the elaborate costumes. And there is a wide variety. Parents, teens, toddlers, babies — they all get creative. Over the years, some of my favorites have been a preschooler dressed as a UPS delivery man, a newborn dressed in a bee costume, a really good Captain Jack Sparrow, an impressive Charlie Chaplin, and our own son as Indiana Jones. We didn’t, however, see very many angel or saint costumes.

Halloween is the night before All Saints Day. It was originally called All Hallows Eve and later shortened to Halloween. Costumes were a part of the celebration, but  the focus was on saints.

If you or your kids are dressing as saints or angels for Halloween, send me a picture. Tell me the first name of the person in the picture, their city or parish, and their saint.

I’ll follow up with a gallery of photos on this blog. Send the photos to towalskid@archspm.org.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!!

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To Photoshop or not to Photoshop

October 26, 2010

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I recently read about a controversy over Photoshopped NASA images. A conspiracy theorist accused NASA of “tampering” with a photo of Saturn’s moons. But what was done was nothing more than a basic clean-up of the image. Because of the type of camera that was used, some alignment of red, green and blue was needed. In my experience, digital images are rarely usable for publication straight from the camera.

Photojournalists have strict guidelines as to what is acceptable use of Photoshop. The program is a powerful image manipulation tool, but we only use a fraction of its capabilities. REUTERS has their guidelines spelled out very clearly. I’m sure NASA has similar guidelines in place to assure that no one is mislead by photos they publish but they still get the spectacular images that are expected.

For us at The Catholic Spirit and the other papers we publish, at the very minimum, images need to be toned to printer specifications, light and dark areas of the image need to be at certain levels so they don’t get too much ink (in the shadows) or no ink at all (in the highlight areas). And often there are dust spots that need to be removed (I have this problem a lot!).

As far as color goes, there are many reasons why the image you get out of the camera doesn’t look exactly like what you saw when you were taking the picture. Maybe it is under exposed, or more commonly the white-balance was set wrong. There is nothing wrong with tweaking the color to make it look more like the scene actually looked.

What we don’t want to do is alter the image to be something other than the scene that was photographed. No taking people out, removing unwanted items like poles, cars, etc…

Here’s an example of a photo I shot recently that needed a little work:

Original, untouched:
A usable version:
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Must-see landscape and architectural photos

October 12, 2010

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I just wanted to write a quick entry to share some awesome photography with everyone. Chuck Kimmerle was a staff photographer at the St. Cloud Times and the Grand Forks Herald before turning his lens to the landscape of western Minnesota and the eastern North Dakota. He has a long list of awards and exhibits. His current exhibit, The Unapologetic Landscape, is on an 18-month tour around North Dakota. The schedule is on his website.

Click here to see his work.

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