the moog school

For my final projects in both the Electronic Photojournalism and the Picture Story class, I’m working on a story on the Moog School in Columbia. Moog is a school for deaf and hearing impaired children that uses highly specialized educational techniques in combination with cutting-edge hearing technology to teach hearing impaired children how to listen and talk. To give the story a more personal touch, I’m focussing on one kid and his family. Aidan is two years old and lost his hearing at age four months through a meningitis. He got a cochlear implant soon after and is now able to hear the entire spectrum human speech. To get en impression of what it is like to hear with a cochlear implant, check out the website of the House Ear Insititute. Here are some of my first pictures that I took at the school last week.

Deaf educator Jessie and Aidan play a fishing game where Aidan has to recognize and say what is on the pictures that he catches with his magentic fishing pole.

During individual pull-out hours, Jessie works one-on-one with the kids. She tests their hearing and plays games that are designed to improve their pronounciation and language skills.

Jessie tests Aidan’s hearing by pronouncing six sounds covering the entire spectrum of human speech through a screen so that he can’t read her lips. If Aidan repeats the sounds correctly it means that his cochlear implants are working properly.

In the morning, the teachers and children gather in a circle and sing a song for every child that is present. Every activity at the school is designed to practice language and pronounciation.

During one of the “warm-up” games in the morning.

One of the educators adjusts a child’s cochlear implant.

Story time.

Kids play outside during play-time.

December 4, 2009

back to the bay

A couple of weeks ago, Bharat and I decided that we wanted to get away for a few days from the daily routine of student life in Columbia and go someplace where we could just relax and forget all those ethics papers, HTML codes and final projects. For a while, we thought about going to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, but then a few days before the Thanksgiving break, Mike Flynn called me from Oakland, Calif. Mike was my exchange partner during a high school student exchange program in 1998 and we haven’t seen each other in about eight years. Excited about the idea of visiting him in California, I went online to check flight fares and found a round trip for $250.00. Bharat didn’t need to be convinced. He was all for it and so last Saturday at 6 a.m., we left for Kansas City to catch our flight…

Sunrise at a gas station somewhere between Columbia, Mo., and Kansas City on Saturday morning.

As soon as we reached California, Bharat put on a happy smile that wouldn’t leave his face until we came back to Missouri…

Mike and his girlfriend Aliya at Fort Mason. We stayed at Mike’s place in Oakland, where he introduced us to the world of Domino and Bay Area Rap.

Mike has an orange tree growing in his back yard, and for the first time in my life, I had oranges fresh from the tree. I’m not lying when I say that these were the best I’ve ever had.

Saturday night, Mike and Aliya took us to a concert of the band Cafe Tacuba at the Fox Theater in Oakland, an amazing, palace-like theater that was recently restored. The tickets were $40.00 each, which seriously conflicted with our budget, but when we got there, Mike overheard two guys in front of the theater talking in Spanish about some tickets that they had in their hands and asked them how much they wanted for them. And sure enough they gave them to us for free! So we went to this concert and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Cafe Tacuba’s music is incredibly rich and diverse and these guys pulled off one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take more pictures because they wouldn’t allow us to take our cameras inside. Only when the show was almost over, we checked out our bags and went to the balcony to snap a few frames.

Early afternoon at the Port of Oakland. Urban legend has it that the cranes seen in the background inspired George Lucas to design the AT-AT snow walkers in “The Empire Strikes Back” after them, but Lucas himself denies that.

In the F-Train at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The surf at the cliffs of Fort Mason.

Dessert at the Mission Pie Cafe

…with Vince Tong (left), a friend of Mike’s and Aliya’s, and John Bowman (who I met in SF last March).

Somewhere in the streets of the Mission, on our way to a bar…

…where I just couldn’t resist playing a few riffs on my cue stick guitar.
Photograph by John Bowman

Bharat is taking a break from our Long March from Fort Mason to the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday. The walk was my idea, and it took us about two hours to get there. Our feet were all sore afterward and when we found out that there was a bus from Fort Mason to the Bridge, Bharat seriously considered throwing me off the Bridge for a few moments.

The late afternoon light falls through a small group of trees somewhere along Marine Drive.

Sunset at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Monday night, John took us to the steepest hill in San Francisco. Time for some fun…

Tuesday afternoon on Market Street.

Evening panorama from Twin Peaks.

I know it’s a cheesy picture, but the sunset on Twin Peaks was gorgeous.

On Wednesday, we met my room mate Tim who came to see his girlfriend Autoosa in Berkeley. They took us to the Indian Rock Park, from where we got another breathtaking view of the San Francisco bay. Tim and Autoosa are on the right in the picture.

Playing with the reflections in the window of a BART train on our way to downtown San Francisco Wednesday evening.

Wednesday night we had dinner at the Chan Chan, an awesome Cuban restaurant on 18th St. I really loved the atmosphere of that place, and couldn’t stop taking pictures of Bharat and John in front of this amazing background… This one’s my favorite.

After dinner, John gave us a lift to Oakland and we stopped at Treasure Island, halfway across the Bay Bridge, to catch a last glimpse of the city at night. Once again, we had an unforgettable time in this truly magic city, and it’s just a matter of time until I will be back to the Bay…

November 27, 2009

the lamprey’s brain

For our Electronic Photojournalism Class, we had to do another video assignment. I used this opportunity to experiment for the first time with a D-SLR as a video camera instead of a regular camcorder and shot my room mate Tim (a Ph. D. student in neuro sciences) while he was dissecting one of his lampreys in his lab. To get really close to the specimen on the microscope stage, I used a 60mm macro lens, which made holding the camera still quite difficult as I could not shoot from a tripod most of the time. Nevertheless, I really like the quality and the look of the result. Granted, I screwed up majorly because most of the takes are shaky, but nevertheless I just love the shallow depth of field and the feeling of the images. And a small table tripod next time will take care of the camera movement. I guess I will do more video with D-SLRs in future…

November 17, 2009

shoot ’em up, part II

A couple of weeks ago, I photographed Derek Kewley, a member of the Columbia Rocket Club (CRC) preparing one of his rockets for the one-day story assignment in our Picture Story and Photographic Essay course. Ever since then, we’ve been waiting for a stretch of good weather that would allow the farmers to bring in their crop so that the rocketeers could access their launch field. Today, the big day had finally arrived.

At 10.45 am we headed out for the field near Sturgeon, where Mark Grant, the director of the club, was already preparing the launch pads. There were about ten to fifteen people out there, and a hell of a lot of rockets in all shapes and sizes. One guy even had rockets in coffee table and cubicle shapes. Anyway, long story short: It was amazing. Here’s what I got:


Derek Kewley closes the doors of his trailer full of rockets before heading out to the launch field.


Derek Kewley and Mark Grant carry another CRC member’s rocket and equipment to the launch pad. It’s a so-called hybrid rocket that is fuelled by propellants in two different states of matter. The stuff in the tank that Mark carries is nitrous oxide. The rocket went off with a gigantic roar, but unfortunately it broke apart in mid-flight and came down “ballistic” (the rocketeers’ way of saying that it crashed into the ground without a parachute…).


One of Derek’s rockets during launch. It reached an altitude of 2,194 ft.


Mark Grant, left, and Mark Brown, of Kansas City, watch Brown’s rocket climb after they launched it.


From left, Derek Kewley, his step-daughter’s friend Brooke and his step-daughter Brittany prepare a small rocket for launch. Like for me, this was Brooke’s first time at a rocket launch.


Final adjustments before the launch…


Derek’s wife Les, his step-daughter’s friend Brooke, and Derek watch a rocket fly.


Mark Grant helps Derek put a rocket on the guide rail of the launch pad.


And then it was time for the big one. Derek and another CRC member carry Derek’s Dragon Claw to the launch pad…


…slide it onto the guide rail…


…adjust it, and…


…BOOOOOOOMMMM!!!!!! I was laying about 30 feet away on the ground when this one went off, and frankly, it was impressive. I ruined my pants and shirts laying in the muddy field, but this shot was totally worth it.

November 7, 2009

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