Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nita Nez - Della Toadlena Interviews - Buffalo Pass

On Thursday, May 30, two documentary journalism teams left the Diné College campus in Tsaile, Arizona, in the morning and headed in different directions to gather more interview material for the films they are working on about the lives of Navajo elders. This is -- as regular blog readers know -- part of the 2013 Navajo Oral History Project, a collaboration between Winona State University of Winona, Minnesota, and Diné College, of Tsaile, Arizona, the Tribal College of the Navajo Nation.

One team headed north to Rock Point, Arizona to meet with Nita Nez, a traditional Navajo rug weaver. There, they would interview Nita again, with the help of a translator, because Nita prefers to speak only in the Navajo language. They also got a demonstration of her creating another work of art at her loom.

Skylar Ogren videotaping B-Roll footage of Nita setting up a loom.

Whitney Harlos and Robbie Christiano try their hand at weaving.

Skylar Ogren and Whitney Harlos each bought a rug from Nita. Robbie Christiano also purchased the rug that was in process on her loom. As soon as it is done, it will be sent to Robbie.

(Above 11 photos by Whitney Harlos)

Here's the group that interviewed Nita Nez (left to right) Prof. Miranda Haskie, Nita Nez, Skylar Ogren, Whitney Harlos and Lyndzey Barney.
(photo by Revaline Nez)

Another group drove west to Chinle, Arizona, to meet again with Della Toadlena, who retired a few years ago from teaching English at Diné College.

The Della Toadlena documentary group (left to right): Elise Nelson, Lionel Harvey, Della Toadlena, Cara Mannino, Nik Strand and Jemmisa Tsinnijinnie.

The group also did a short secondary interview with Brent Toadlena, Della's son.

The remaining documentary teams stayed back on campus and met in groups to work more on their journalism projects about their specific elders.

(above four photos by Brett Gustafson)

When the two teams returned to campus, Prof. Tom Grier took most of the class on a short drive to Buffalo Pass, a beautiful overlook in the Chuska Mountains above Lukachukai, Arizona. From the overlook, visitors can see nearly 30 miles to the east, and get a nice view of the famous Shiprock formation about 19 miles away.

(above three photos by Brett Gustafson)

Today was quite windy, and the winds kicked up a lot of dust and sand, which made it harder to see the Shiprock. For reference, here are two images of Shiprock from a couple years ago, on a clear, non-windy day.

When the group got back to campus, it was time for dinner in the Diné College cafeteria, followed by a round of disc golf, then back to the dorms to work on transcriptions and editing.

Several groups have said that work on their documentary films is coming along well. It will still be awhile before they can be unveiled. 

There will be receptions this fall to premiere the student-produced films. One reception at WSU in Winona, Minnesota, is planned for Friday, Sept. 13. And another will be held at Diné College, in Tsaile, Arizona. Details on the receptions will be publicized here on this blog and in local media around both institutions. These events are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Software Tutorials and Navajo Culture

It was a class day and time to catch up on project-related needs today (Wednesday, May 29) for the 2013 Navajo Oral history project.

The students had breakfast, then got to class by 8 a.m. where they participated in a series of software-based tutorials. Prof. Tom Grier led an introduction to Photoshop software, discussing a series of processes, tools and techniques journalists use to build efficiency into imaging workflow while ensuring images accurately and effectively tell the story the photographer intended.

Grier also demonstrated Audacity software: a simple, effective audio editing tool.

Skylar Ogren, a Winona State University student in the 2013 Navajo Oral History project, is an accomplished video editor. The faculty asked Skylar to present a tutorial on Final Cut Pro software, a robust video editing program. In an hour, Skylar had the class feeling comfortable with Final Cut's user-interface and capabilities, including importing video, audio and still photographs; changing clip lengths; enhancing audio; inserting title slides and subtitles; applying transitions between scenes; and exporting finished projects for viewing or burning to DVDs.

The faculty thank Skylar for presenting the tutorial and for helping all of us learn and grow in our abilities.

Side note: Skylar has been making a highlights video each day of the 2013 Navajo Oral History Project. They are funny, entertaining, informational, and give an excellent, quick look at the class activities. He posts the clips to YouTube and links on Facebook. Many blog readers may have seen some of the clips already. If you haven't, follow the link below to one of the YouTube clips and from there view more of Skylar's clips. You'll find yourself smiling and laughing along with the videos:

Following the morning class, students and faculty went to the east entrance of Diné College's Ned Hatathli Center, the main campus building built in the shape of a traditional Navajo hogan, and created a group portrait photograph, wearing the 2013 NOH team polo shirts.

The documentary journalism teams then met to work on transcriptions, editing and planning for final interviews.

After lunch, Dr. Henry Fowler, a Diné College faculty member gave a presentation on Navajo culture to the class.

Here, Prof. Miranda Haskie (right) introduces Prof. Fowler. 

Journalists are resourceful. A couple stacks of disc golf discs were used to raise the elevation of the projector Dr. Fowler used for his presentation.

In the afternoon, the Della Toadlena journalism team needed to travel to shoot B-Roll footage of Della's childhood home and of the Diné College campus where she worked for many years before retiring a few years ago.

B-roll is a video production term that refers to video footage that breaks from the main content or interview material to show views that help visually explain a story to viewers. When Della speaks about her position at Diné College and her love for helping students succeed, the film producers may use a slow panning B-roll shot of the campus while Della talks.

In late afternoon, several members of the class took an hour to play a round of disc golf, beginning at the Diné College dorm building and walking a couple miles to Tsaile Lake and back to campus in time for dinner in the cafeteria.

Darin Strohmenger, Brett Gustafson in background

Cara Mannino throws her disc while Robbie Christiano, Tom Grier and Brett Gustafson watch.

Tom Grier

Skylar Ogren ...

... who promptly slipped in the gravel and landed on his back -- which he does at least once each time he plays disc golf with this group. (He's fine, the only thing injured was his pride.)

Darin Strohmenger

(above eight photos by Nik Strand)

Most students spent the evening relaxing, watching movies, walking, or goofing off. The members of the two journalism teams with interviews scheduled Thursday, were busy comparing notes, reading transcriptions, reviewing past interview video clips, writing interview questions, testing equipment and recharging the batteries for cameras, light kits, audio recorders and still cameras.

It's hard to believe this project is 11 days old already. Today, several students were heard lamenting that they have only one week left on the Navajo Nation. While they will certainly be pleased to return home to friends and family, they will miss this place and the spirit of harmony and beauty that exists here everyday.


Self-Serving Post-Script: here's a photo of the blog editor: Tom Grier, in his room working on the blog, as he does most mornings before class and most evenings prior to going to bed. The photo was shot to test the remote camera trigger before doing the group portrait. The test image came out pretty well, so it is being shared with blog readers.

This especially for the blog editor's wife, Julie, who dutifully reads the blog each day and helps find typos or makes edit suggestions. Thanks Julie: for the help, and for allowing me to run off to the Navajo Nation several times a year for this fulfilling and important work.