Multimedia Case Studies for a Smarter Planet

Telling important stories to busy people is hard. A well-told story is only meaningful if someone hears it and feels it. One of the most effective ways to get the attention of the people that need to hear your message is through visually compelling images. Still images. And moving images. These are the key building blocks, the Story Components, make-up great storytelling.

 

Colorado State University Clean Energy Supercluster 2010-12

This is one of my favorite projects -- Photo Stories for the Clean Energy Supercluster. These photo stories begin with a 1-hour journalistic interview with the scientist or researcher: exactly what do you do and why should someone care?

Their stories are great. New batteries. Smarter grids. New energy-rich biofeedstocks. You name it. Until I can tell their story to their satisfaction, I'm not ready. Then the fun begins. Sometimes we come up with a photo idea that tells much of their story on the spot. Most of the time, it takes some deep thinking -- or just some deep sleeping.

Once we have the photo-story idea, we execute. Sometimes easy, sometimes not so easy. Always fun. Always meaningful. Here are their open-source images we've created.

 

SurgiReal Video, January 2012

The CSU-backed spin-off SurgiReal is going to change the way surgery is taught. They have created a series of low-cost teaching aids that allow beginning and advanced medical and veterinarian students to get hands-on practice without real tissue. I created this video to help tell their amazing story. It includes several of the images I made with them.

 

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New York Times, December 18, 2012-- CSU Article

The Engine and Energy Conversion Lab (EECL) at Colorado State University has got to be the coolest new-energy venue in the world. And it is only a 5 minute bicycle ride from my digs in Fort Collins. Needless to say, I have *lots* of EECL images in my archive. And that came in handy when the NYT ran a story on them.

 

 

Solar Today, March 2011 Cover

Colorado State University has a very special utility/energy engineer on their facilities staff. Carol Dollard. I've known Carol for a decade and have always been impressed with her engineering competence, her vision for a sustainable future, and her unique and effective style of working through bureaucratic webs that would trap and immobilize a lesser soul.

Late 2010, Carol kidded me into taking this picture and pitching her story. "Geeze Dan, why did Solar Today put a small 200KW PV system from some other university on their cover, when CSU has a new 5MW system?" Good point! I wound up 50 feet in the air shooting Carol (the red dot in the lower right of this cover).

 

Solar Today, March 2011 "Harnessing the Sun"

Early 2010, a French couple I've known since grad school sent me an email saying they wanted to visit me in Colorado and, if possible, visit the Lakota Nation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Kind of hard to say no that that sort of request. Trees, Water & People, an amazing non-profit based here in Fort Collins, runs a few energy-based programs on the rez, so I offered my photographic services in exchange for them setting up an eco-tour for my friends (Antoine and Cathy). We had a great time sleeping in teepees and riding horses (ouch, by the way).

Solar Today ran with the story, and ran a few of the images.

 

Solar Today, July-August 2010 cover

Interviewing Jenn was great fun (see above)-- but getting the sun to come out for the photo shoots was a different story. Good thing I brought my own portable sun with me. And good thing it stopped raining.

 

Solar Today, January-February 2010 cover

This composite cover was created by Solar Today's Art Director, Allison Gray. I made all the images – but that was the easy part.

A very nice way to start off the new decade!

 

Solar Today, Getting Started, October 2009 cover

This may just be my favorite cover so far. The assignment: find and photograph a solar home that makes sense for 2010. To me, that meant finding home that a normal human being could both afford to own and want to live in. I asked around for something "fun and on the small side." Several folks independently suggested this home. It turned out to be John and Yayoi Shaw's place. I've known both of them for several years now. John through the solar industry; Yayoi from the Denver Japanese Consulate. Small Planet. Right size home.

 

Solar Today, July-August 2009 cover

One of the coolest things about being both an engineer and a photojournalist, is that I get to talk with my engineering colleagues about what they are doing. These conversations often turn into geek-fests -- as was the case with Abound Solar's Tim Barry. He used to work for Atmel Semiconductors that made the really cool (and cheap!) microcontroler I used for a greenhouse control system I developed in the late 90's. Sharing the excitement for his new gig in the solar business helped defuse the fact that I had a big fat 16-35mm lens pointing at him.

 

Solar Today, March, 2009 cover

You can read about the little adventure I had making this picture on the Solar Today website. It was great fun (as usual), and the staff at Solar Today made this look great (as usual). This home is on the market for something like $3.9M. If I hadn't put all of my assets into Madoff Securities, I'd buy a few of these for my friends. What was I thinking?

 

Rural Connections Brief, March, 2009 cover

This is one of the images I made for Colorado State University's Clean Energy Super Cluster last year. This image is of some of the researchers (and beer-buddies) at Solix Biofuels, Inc.

"The Western Rural Development Center collaborates with its partners, including LGUs, local citizens, practitioners, NGOs, and others, to promote excellence in research, education, and extension of western land-grant institutions."

 

Solar Today, Get Started, October 2008 cover

Sometimes the sun goddesses smile on my photography. I had one day and two homes. The weather, which had been uncooperative the day before, cooperated. The flowers were in perfect bloom (and out of in nearly perfect focus).

This is one of Bella Energy's solar installations. I think the most beautiful one in Colorado. It looks like the whole roof is made of solar panels -- and one day they all will be.

 

Solar Today, September-October 2008 cover

Colorado State University does it again! I was asked to communicate "young people getting ready for an exciting career in renewable energy." These two grad students are developing next generation lithium battery technology -- ultimately for use in electric vehicles. The "storage problem" of intermittent renewable energy sources is anything but a problem for these student. It is an opportunity to make a difference and have cool career!

 

Solar Today, July-August 2008 cover

Solar Today was running an article on the merits of some types of biofuels - including algae. They had seen some of my CSU/Solix images, but said they weren't very good didn't quite work for a cover. They asked me to try "something with a lot of green and with that guy in the sunglasses." The rest is history.

 

Solar Today, March-April 2008 cover

I took this shot on a tour of our local wind farm in Medicine Bow, WY a couple of years ago. When I was laying on the dirt taking this, everyone thought I must be crazy a real photographer.

Solar Today won the 2008 APEX Awards for Publication Excellence for this cover.

 

Solar Today, January-February 2008 cover

I made this picture of the LED holiday lighting in downtown Fort Collins. It shows how efficiency can be beautiful and popular -- as save money.

 

Solar Today September-October 2006 cover

I made this picture of New Belgium's cofounders, Jeff and Kim's new-zero-energy home. It shows how PV can be a beautiful addition to a beautiful home.

 

Popular Science, June 2007

No, that isn't me in the new-age spacesuit my suit is blue, nor did I take this cover. But this is an interesting article about how Solix Biofuels (one of my clients) is developing biofuels from algae.

This article includes 4 of my photographs - and it's pretty cool story.

 

Dr. Chicken Poop, I presume 2010-11 (3-miute video)

I was drinking beer with Kevin, a friend of mine here in town that raises urban chickens at his suburban home. He was bragging about how beautiful his chickens were. When his wife had to leave town to take care of her ailing mother, he got board and we made this video.

Kevin is a veterinarian and when he was in the Peace Corps, he helped a small African school get into the chicken business using a technique called Deep Liter. Now you, too, can learn these secrets.

After we made the video, we decided it needed some music. So, we asked another friend of mine, Ken Beecken, to write an original score. John Williams, watch out!

 

Midsummer Night's Dream 12/07/2008

A good friend of mine, Mako Beecken, wrote and directed this amazing Japanese language version of Shakespeare's classic. She heads the Colorado State University's Japanese Language Program - when she's not rewriting history.

I volunteered to be her Paparazzo for the event. Check it out. My lighting skills have improved - in large part due to Dave Hobby (a.k.a., "The Strobist"), whose blog and DVD are brilliant, and Joe McNally, whose books and online training classes are awesome. Both of this guys are close personal friends of mine have no idea who the heck I am, but they're the best.

I do these kinds of projects for both generous and selfish reasons (hey, I get to use these skills in my high-end technical communication projects!), but at the end of the day, its really fun and energizing.