Iowa Journalist Fall 2009

The University of Iowa

Getting the shot

It was the second inning of the game. The Houston Astros were playing the San Francisco Giants at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, and Kazuo Matsui was on first base. Just as he broke to steal second, Julie Koehn (senior, Atkins, Iowa) snapped his picture.

Kazuo Matsui steals base

Perfect shot Julie Koehn's photo of Houston Astro Kazuo Matsui was featured on ESPN.com.Photo contributed by Julie Koehn

Text messages started pouring into her phone. A photographer at the Houston Chronicle wanted to know if she got the shot. Koehn looked through her camera to find the picture of Matsui stealing second base, while kicking dirt up with his right foot.

Koehn, a 21-year-old journalism student, was one of the only professional photographers who captured Matsui’s 400th career stolen base that night. The Associated Press picked up the photo a few hours later. By the following day, Koehn’s photo was on ESPN.com.

"To be able to say I got to shoot at a major league baseball game was awesome," Koehn said. "Getting that shot was incredible."

Koehn’s photography internship at the Houston Chronicle not only gave her high-profile credits for her portfolio, but also gave her a look into the real world of photojournalism. Koehn heard about the internship through her cousin who works in the sports department of the Chronicle.

The once paid internship had been cut from the newspaper’s budget but Koehn contacted the director of photography and sent in her portfolio.

After working at The Daily Iowan for two years and becoming assistant photo editor, she had to adjust to being an intern.

"I was back at the bottom of the totem pole," Koehn said. "I was a small town girl from Iowa working in a big city."

But everyone from the photography department at the Houston Chronicle was willing to help Koehn learn, even Director of Photography Steve Gonzales.

The four-week unpaid internship demanded 40-hour work weeks from Koehn. In a typical day, she would either shadow a Chronicle photographer on the job or get her own assignments. While shadowing, Koehn followed one of the 13 photographers on staff throughout the day. When she was on her own, she shot, edited and selected a handful of photos to show Gonzales.

Kazuo Matsui steals base

Shooting Pictures Julie Koehn photographs a variety of sports events for the Houston Chronicle.Photo contributed by Julie Koehn

"When I turned in my very first shoot, the director told me the first photo was terrible," Koehn said. "Finally, he got to the end and saw one he really liked. He was really critical, but it helped me learn."

The editors and assistants not only taught her new photography skills, but also helped Koehn develop her reporting skills for breaking news. Because of budget cuts and decreasing staff, she needed to photograph and report on any given story.

One such occasion brought Koehn to a busy Houston freeway to report on and photograph a car crash that left an SUV wrapped around a pole. After taking the picture, she was able to interview the father of one of the women involved in the crash and a police officer. The picture and story appeared across three columns of the next day’s paper.

Koehn still keeps in touch with the 13 photo staff members at the Chronicle who helped her survive her first internship. She remains amazed at the willingness of the staff to help her learn.

"If I run into a pinch here, I’ll call one of them and they’ll talk me through it," Koehn said. "I even send them links to the stuff I’m doing for The Daily Iowan and they still give me feedback."

As the assistant photo editor for the DI, Koehn has used her experience in Houston to benefit her staff. She has brought back new techniques in composition and lighting as well as real-world advice.

"The best piece of advice I got from the director was to shoot everything like you’re making it a photo story, but you also have to have the photo that tells the whole story," Koehn said.

Even on the most difficult days at the Houston Chronicle, Koehn’s dreams of becoming a sports photographer were confirmed.

"I learned that I really had to work hard for the job," Koehn said. "I loved what I was doing."

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