First Breaking News Piece

Today I covered my first breaking news story for the Staten Island Advance, along with Eddie D'Anna and Jan Somma-Hammel, about a fire on 75 West Cedarview Ave. 

"The apartment was unoccupied and the blaze was knocked down within minutes. While the investigation into its cause is ongoing, the fire initially appears to be electrical, the chief said."

You can view the article here: http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2017/05/fdny_responding_to_fire_report.html#incart_river_home or in print: 

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Dine Out Against Hunger

Every April 27th, the Staten Island community and restaurant industry join together to fight against homelessness and hunger through "Dine Out Against Hunger." 125 restaurants participate and 20% of their food bills goes towards Project Hospitality. Here's a video I created for the Staten Island Advance. 

Ecuador & the Galápagos: Wildlife Edition

Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands are filled with fascinating and beautiful wildlife. Here are a few photos of the wildlife I encountered during my time there.

A Hummingbird at the Mashpi Eco Lodge's Hummingbird Observation Center in Ecuador.

A Hummingbird at the Mashpi Eco Lodge's Hummingbird Observation Center in Ecuador.

The Illioneus Giant Owl (Caligo illioneus) Butterfly at the Mashpi Life Center Atrium in Ecuador. 

The Illioneus Giant Owl (Caligo illioneus) Butterfly at the Mashpi Life Center Atrium in Ecuador. 

Two sea lions lounge on the beach on South Plaza Island, one of the Galápagos Islands.

A Galápagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) on South Plaza Island.

A Galápagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) on South Plaza Island.

A land iguana climbing a cactus on North Seymour Island.

A land iguana climbing a cactus on North Seymour Island.

Grapsus Grapsus, commonly known as Sally Lightfoot crabs, are one of the most common types of crabs in the Galápagos. They are born with a black or dark brown color in order to camouflage themselves into the black lava coasts of the Galápagos Islands. Adult crabs are bright orange and red with yellow or pink spots.

Grapsus Grapsus, commonly known as Sally Lightfoot crabs, are one of the most common types of crabs in the Galápagos. They are born with a black or dark brown color in order to camouflage themselves into the black lava coasts of the Galápagos Islands. Adult crabs are bright orange and red with yellow or pink spots.

A man feeding numerous Pelicans and a Sea Lion on the Santa Cruz Island of the Galápagos.

A man feeding numerous Pelicans and a Sea Lion on the Santa Cruz Island of the Galápagos.

A lizard sits on the back of a land Iguana on North Seymour Island in the Galápagos.

A lizard sits on the back of a land Iguana on North Seymour Island in the Galápagos.

A rare sighting of a Marine Iguana and a Land Iguana sitting together on North Seymour Island.

A reflection of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise in the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

A reflection of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise in the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

A male Galápagos Giant Tortoise attempting to mate with a female Galápagos Giant Tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

A male Galápagos Giant Tortoise attempting to mate with a female Galápagos Giant Tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands.

2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I want to share some of my favorite memories from this past year: 
 

1. Started the year traveling in Peru and Chile with my family


2. Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Hero Awards Video

Melissa Scott and I had the opportunity to tell Kanisha Ffriend's story of being a disability rights scholar and activist at Syracuse University for the Martin Luther King Unsung Hero Awards. In January 2016, our film was screened inside the Carrier Dome during the awards ceremony and celebration. It was so rewarding to collaborate not only with Melissa, but with Kanisha and the people who she inspires with her work. 


3. Pixels and Print

Working the Pixels and Print design workshop was particularly rewarding for me. I not only worked as the Assistant Managing Producer to Renée Stevens for the workshop itself, but I was able to collaborate with some of my favorite people to create a promotional video for the design department at Newhouse. This was the first time I had a producing role for a project, so it was exciting for me to learn about what that entails. I oversaw the production of the video, assisted with conducting interviews, made sure we had enough footage, and I also was the primary video editor. 

This workshop also was when I discovered my interest in motion graphics. One of the designers was working on a motion piece for the client's website and I was mesmerized watching him work. Later this year, I took a motion graphics class to learn how to create projects in After Effects.  


4. Spent lots of time with my grandma... and got to know her pretty well :)

I always knew my grandma loved fashion, but it was quite remarkable spending time with her down in West Palm Beach, Florida and learning about her history... not to mention seeing all of her magnificent clothes! And while it's always fun to share the video with others so they get to know her better too, the most rewarding part for me is the memory of creating this piece with her. 


5. Skyworks Project

Skyworks Project is a drone project at Syracuse University where creatives & engineers come together to learn about and further develop drone technology. Arland Whitfield, the CEO & founder, and I designed a brand new website for the project and were able to recruit many new members. It has been so much fun working on this because I not only was able to take photographs, manage the blog, and help organize events, but I was able to learn so much about drone tech - and not to mention teaching others how to fly. 

One of our biggest accomplishments this year was meeting the Chancellor and discussing the issues of a potential drone ban on campus. 
 

Eric Cola, Chase Guttman, Shira Stoll

Eric Cola, Chase Guttman, Shira Stoll

Eric Cola, Gabriel Ortiz, Will Carrara, Chancellor Kent Syverud, Shira Stoll, Elliot Greenwald, and Christian Merced Cruz at the Chancellors house in Syracuse, NY.

Eric Cola, Gabriel Ortiz, Will Carrara, Chancellor Kent Syverud, Shira Stoll, Elliot Greenwald, and Christian Merced Cruz at the Chancellors house in Syracuse, NY.


6. CORE 4 with Lynn Johnson
I learned more about myself and what I want to do in the future during this summer when I studied under Lynn Johnson. CORE is a 20-day intensive class in which we work on a project, meet guest photographers & editors, ride bikes, eat food, and ask questions about the photography industry. See my blog post from the first 10 days: www.shirastoll.com/blog/2016/6/3/core4-with-lynn-johnson


One of the coolest experiences was the second half of the course where we all went to Pittsburgh and learned how to make tintypes with Jason Snyder in his studio. I fell in love with a Graflex Polaroid camera, my tintype is a photograph of the camera. 


7. Interning in Los Angeles
This summer I had the opportunity to intern in the photography department of NBC Entertainment on the back lot of NBCUniversal where I learned about the NBC photo archives and was able to assist on gallery shoots and Press Tour. 

Aside from interning, my summer in Los Angeles led me to Doris Wise, the founder of Jews Can Shoot & Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, who is the lead character in my Master's Film. I am continuing to work on the short film throughout 2017. 


8. The Fall Workshop

In just 3 days, I challenged myself to tell H Richard Levy's story. Levy was separated from his parents in 1938 when they put him on the KinderTransport to escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He recalls his lifelong journey to finally finding home.

It was an honor to win the Nikon Golden Eye: Best Vision Award during the workshop-  and I have to give a huge thanks to my team and my coaches, Amy Toensing & Katye Brier.  

Right to Left: Cassie Zhang, Jeff Anderson, Amy Toensing, Shira Stoll, Pablo Piedra, Naomi Schware, Katye Brier: my team during TFW16.

Right to Left: Cassie Zhang, Jeff Anderson, Amy Toensing, Shira Stoll, Pablo Piedra, Naomi Schware, Katye Brier: my team during TFW16.


9. Published in Narrative.ly & NY Daily News

Kim Dadou killed her abusive boyfriend before he could kill her. Then she served 17 years in jail, and now she's taking on the system. Read more: http://narrative.ly/she-killed-her-abuser-before-he-could-kill-her-then-served-17-years-now-shes-taking-on-the-system/

Kim Dadou killed her abusive boyfriend before he could kill her. Then she served 17 years in jail, and now she's taking on the system. Read more:
http://narrative.ly/she-killed-her-abuser-before-he-could-kill-her-then-served-17-years-now-shes-taking-on-the-system/

Maleatra Montanez was sexually assaulted by police officer Chester Thompson. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/king-new-york-sexual-predator-article-1.2638864

Maleatra Montanez was sexually assaulted by police officer Chester Thompson. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/king-new-york-sexual-predator-article-1.2638864


10. Published in Thrillist for an assignment about pizza... and I really like pizza
 


11. Learned about light and portraiture studying under Prof. Gregory Heisler
Here are a few of my favorite portraits from this year:


12. Finished my coursework at Newhouse
Although I still have my Master's project to complete, in December 2016 I completed my year and a half graduate school coursework. This is my Motion Reel from the year showcasing clips from all of the projects I produced this year. 


13. Ending the year traveling around the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, & Panama with my family


14. The People I met
This year, for sure, I met some of the most sincere and dedicated friends. The Newhouse Multimedia, Photography, and Design department has shown me how much friends can feel like family. I want to give a special shout out to the incredible people I met in MPD, MPJ & beyond.


I'm so thankful for all of the opportunities I've had and friends I've made this year. Here's to a happy & healthy new year! 

CORE 4 with Lynn Johnson

At Newhouse, students have the opportunity to take a summer class with National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson called "CORE." During the class, we have conversations about the industry that we haven't really talked about before. Some of the conversations include (1) removing the "labels" between photojournalism, photo illustration, fashion, portraiture, art photography, etc. and blurring the lines, (2) balancing personal life and work life, (3) how to tell real emotional stories without getting emotionally invested (since journalists are supposed to remain "objective," and how being objective doesn't exist,) (4) being a woman in the profession, and many other questions that a lot of visual communicators are beginning to address. 

(l-r) Xiang Wei, Sam Maller, Shira Stoll, Melissa Scott, Viola Wan, Martha Swann, Jasmine Purdie, Vi Nguyen, Kathy Hua, Sophia Little, Xixi Zhou, Elizabeth Krist, Lynn Johnson. Photo by Allie Hootnick.

(l-r) Xiang Wei, Sam Maller, Shira Stoll, Melissa Scott, Viola Wan, Martha Swann, Jasmine Purdie, Vi Nguyen, Kathy Hua, Sophia Little, Xixi Zhou, Elizabeth Krist, Lynn Johnson. Photo by Allie Hootnick.

The class is designed to help us work on a summer-long project (ideally our Master's Thesis project), in which we plan our projects during the 10 days before the summer with her, communicate with her all summer while we're off shooting, and then meet up with her for the last 10 days of summer to show her work and discuss what we learned. We also have daily photo assignments during the first 10 days.

Our first assignment was to photograph an abstraction of light. This was in order to remove the stigma of those labels, blur the lines, and to get back to the basics of photography, which is light. These were my 3 photos:

The second assignment was to take lyrical portraits of strangers:

Our third assignment was to photograph the Multimedia Immersion Workshop as a class in order to get a full-coverage of the event. We each had our own task which was outside of our comfort zone. For example, people who usually shoot eye level, had to shoot high or low, people who normally shoot tight shoot wide, people who normally have very structured compositions had to shoot with their eyes closed, etc.

The Multimedia workshop, while extremely intense for the participants, was not the most intriguing location to photograph. There was minimal "good light," as we were in an auditorium on the 1st floor of Newhouse, and everyone was sitting at a computer editing their videos. So, the challenge was to shoot for 2 hours in this space where not a lot was going on and we had to shoot in a way that we don't normally shoot. Lynn told me that I usually shoot wide and have a lot going on in my frame, so she challenged me to shoot only "tight faces" with a 70-200, which is my least favorite lens, by the way. This was definitely a challenge for me because there was minimal light that I could use and I was only taking one type of photograph. I found myself just waiting and looking for little pools of light that would come in from the window to hit someone's face. 

Here are 6/20 of the images I handed in:

At the end, we put together a final video for the participants of all the photographs that we took:


The fourth assignment was to tell a story in 2 hours and we could only take 32 frames (as if it were taken on one roll of film). We couldn't delete anything and the photos had to be taken IN ORDER of the story that we wanted to tell.

My story was about overcoming a dark time and trying to move forward. The photos literally move from darkness to light, but the subject matter/use of light were meant to hint at undertones of a person struggling with a broken heart and moving towards letting go of what hurt them. It starts and ends with a window, insinuating a new day in both the first picture and the last.

The truth is that shooting this story in order was probably the hardest part. I really had to think about it, and sometimes the photo wasn't exactly what I wanted & I had to move on rather than wait again for the right moment. For this slideshow of images from the story, I cut it down to 24 frames in order to make the story more clear/I took out some of my less-successful frames.

We all were standing in the Multimedia, Photography, and Design Stele Center at Newhouse talking about our projects when Lynn told us to get a giant piece of paper and write down the first 20 words, collectively as a group, we could think of. We shouted them out as someone wrote them down. Once we had all 20 down, she said "ok. now go out and shoot. I'll see you tomorrow." That was at 7 PM and we had to shoot a good, lyrical frame of each of these 20 words by 9 AM the next morning. It was extremely challenging; especially because the main point of all of these assignments were to think less-literally and to really capture the essence of the words. Let's just say, none of us slept that night. BUT - it was amazing. It allowed me to really think hard about photography and how to get through tough assignments. I was researching, brainstorming, looking, and shooting all night. In the end though, while not all of the frames were exactly what I wanted due to the time constraint, I learned something from each experience and I came away with many that I was really proud of. Here are 15/20 of the words:
 

"Power and Control" was the final assignment. We had to find a stranger and take a photo of them that was observed and photo of them that was constructed. The "power and control" name comes from being in control of the photograph vs. being completely observant and not in control of the photograph. It was a good exercise in learning how to communicate with people and also how to understand when it's ok to be in control and when I need to step back and observe a situation. I photographed Bradley Burman, who was putting in hardwood floors in the Park Point Syracuse apartment building during their summer construction period.

Overall, it was an inspiring, informative, and wonderful 10 days where we not only had great conversations and planned our summers, but we also took a yoga class every morning with Jennifer Masters. This allowed us to really think about syncing our mind, body, and breath. Doing yoga (phoga, or photo-yoga) every morning at 9 AM changed the way that I work and the way that I am. It allowed me to be much more present, alert, patient, and relaxed. 


It was a great start to a wonderful summer and I'm excited to see how everyone's projects develop throughout these next few months.

Core 4. Photo by Lynn Johnson

Core 4. Photo by Lynn Johnson

NKLA Super Adoption

On June 4 & 5, NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles) had a Super Adoption event in which numerous volunteers from animal shelters came together in Griffith Park for people to adopt dogs and cats. NKLA is an initiative led by Best Friends Animal Society, to turn Los Angeles into a no-kill city by the year 2017.

According to the Best Friends Animal Society Facebook Page, 520 homeless dogs and cats (plus 5 bunnies) were adopted.

Maleatra Montanez Portrait

"She'd called the police to report her teenage daughter missing and hours later Maleatra Montanez was being compelled by the responding officer to have sex with him in her living room." (New York Daily News)

On May 14, 2016, I photographed Maleatra Montanez for the New York Daily News. Here are the selects from the portraits that I took of her:

The Present

A very wise man told me something yesterday which changed my life forever, and I'm going to share it with you because I think everyone deserves to hear this:

Your body can physically only exist in the present. YOU can only exist in the present. Your mind can be somewhere in the past or the future, but all you physically have is now.

You might be thinking: "Yeah, duh, everyone knows that. People always talk about 'living in the moment,' and obviously you can only exist right now." But have you ever been somewhere where you were physically present and your mind was somewhere completely different? I'm sure you have. We all have. Think back to a class, a conversation, or any moment in time when you physically were standing in a place but you were daydreaming about something else. It was probably a moment when you were bored or you had so much on your mind that you forgot to pay attention. But what if you had been present? You wouldn't have missed what your friend was saying, or you wouldn't be behind in that class. You would have been there, both physically and mentally.

Think about it. Think about how productive your day would be if you stopped thinking about all of the things you had to do, but if you actually just focused your mind on one of those things. Today, I have to write a blog post, create a video, and send photos to a client; but for just this moment in time, I'm writing my blog post. I have so many other things going on, but right now, I'm not done writing this post, so I'm not going to think about anything but this exact moment that I'm living in. I'm just going to write. 

I have been living in the future. I'm guilty of it. All I had been thinking about was my next move and I forgot to live in the now. I wasn't productive because I so was caught up in my to-do lists, that I never actually did anything on the lists. I pushed them aside because I was so overwhelmed by my work load. I never thought about what I should be doing now, I would just think about all of the things that needed to get done, and nothing would get done. When I was in class, I thought about the projects I needed to complete. When I was talking to someone, I was thinking about when I could leave the conversation so I could go do the next thing. I wasn't present. I was anywhere but present, and believe it or not, I wasn't productive and I wasn't happy. I was always on the go, always onto the next one, and I wasn't really living. I was just existing.

I find this advice to be specifically useful when you're extremely stressed. It's easy to think about all of the things you need to do, and it's easy to complain about them. But stop yourself and just think: what am I doing right now and what could I be doing right now? Who cares about what you need to get done or what you have done or haven't done. What are you doing right now? And do it. Focus on it. Cherish it, and you will be productive and you will be happy. I guarantee it.

So thank you, to this very wise man, because you have changed the way I live my life. In one conversation, you have switched my gears in an entirely different direction. This second, I'm writing this letter and thinking this thought, and that's all that matters. 

The "Me Time"

So, here we are. It's a month and a day into the new year, a few weeks into a new semester, a few hours into a new morning, and we're already stressing.

You received those rejection letters from all of the internships and grants you applied to and spent hours working on. You're swamped with homework, or you're switching jobs. Maybe you're moving to a new state, or a new country. Whatever the situation is, it's stressful. 

As a graduate student who is working 3 jobs and trying to also tell 3 stories, I get you. I received some of those rejected letters, I'm swamped with all the work you can imagine, and I just took on another job. 

I especially felt the stress last semester. I was constantly doing that workaholic thing I do where I don't make time for myself and I just run around trying to get everything done and make everyone happy. Instead of going to the party on Saturday night and having a few drinks, I volunteered myself as the designated driver so that after I drove everyone home, I could continue editing whichever video I was working on. I would listen to music, but only when I got ready in the morning or walked to class. I wouldn't even let myself get through one episode of New Girl on Netflix because while I was in the middle of watching, I would feel this guilt come over me which whispered in my ear "you should be doing homework." I didn't go to the gym because I felt that instead of 30 minutes on the elliptical, I could spend 30 extra minutes on the paper I had due the next day. Yeah, it was bad. I drove myself crazy. I was so busy, I barely even let myself sleep, let alone have time for myself.

Winter break was good for me. I needed time to travel, be with my family, watch some Netflix, and clear my head. It also made me realize that I was crazy for taking on so many tasks and for not letting myself have any fun outside of work. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was totally having fun. I love what I do. I can't imagine myself doing anything else, but what I didn't realize was I had to do other things once in awhile too. We all need a change of pace to keep our minds creative. 


So, here we are. It's a month and a day into the new year, a few weeks into the new semester, a few hours into a new morning, and we're already stressing. However, this semester I'm trying something new, and for those of you who are also feeling this stress, I invite you to join me on this. 

My roommate and I created a list of "Semester Goals." Similar to a New Year's Resolution (although not really similar since those resolutions never seem to actually happen), it's a list of things we're going to do for ourselves that is going to keep us healthier both physically and mentally. My semester goals include: more play and less work, using the elliptical just 3x a week for 30 minutes, especially in times of stress, cooking more and eating less chocolate. They're simple, and not hard to accomplish, but so far they've made me so much happier.

You need time for yourself. Everyone needs a little "me time." Maybe that means working on personal projects, or maybe that means taking a nap. I realized that I needed time when I wasn't photographing or editing. I needed time to have a drink with my friends on Saturday night after a long week of working 3 jobs, telling 3 stories, and taking Graduate level classes. I needed time to binge watch Parks and Rec on a Wednesday night after working from 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM straight. I needed time to go to the gym to clear my mind and exercise. 


So, whatever stressful situation this new year has brought upon you, make sure you make time for you. 

Snowy Portraits II

Say hello to Chase Guttman! This awesome dude right here has been teaching me all about drones. He's extremely fun to hang out with... especially when he's singing along to the songs on the radio, or making jokes about how young he looks. He's only 19, but is already an accomplished travel photographer. Today we went out to fly and also had a little fun in the snow. 

First, Chase was my model for my 1st-ever drone photographs. Seen here: 


And then we decided to have a spontaneous shoot in the snow:

Snowy Portraits

I've been back at school for a total of 6 days now, and it's been snowing for 5 of those days. So, I decided that in order to show how much we in Syracuse love the snow (and by love, I mean hate, but force ourselves to love it), I decided to create a portrait series of my friends enjoying the winter. 

Say hello to Melissa Scott. She's known on campus for the amount of coffee she drinks. She just recently cut down her coffee consumption from 7 cups a day to 3, which is a huge deal. There's nothing this girl loves more in life than a nice, hot cup of coffee... and who could blame her? In grad school, I'd say we all need about 7 cups a day. 

Here's the lovely Melissa Scott from today's photoshoot: 

Piranha Fishing on the Amazon River

The Amazon rainforest travels through numerous countries in South America including Peru, Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. There are approximately 3,000 fresh water fish living in the river, including the piranha.

Movies have created the myth that piranhas eat humans. However, the diet of a piranha usually consists of insects, small fish, plant materials, and decaying animals and fish. Some piranhas are even vegetarians.

Corey Axelowitz catching a Piranha. 

Corey Axelowitz catching a Piranha. 

Jesse Axelowitz, Ryan Axelowitz, Jason Stoll, Corey Axelowitz, Nico Frost, and Juan Carlos look over as the people on the second fishing boat catch piranhas in the Amazon River

Jesse Axelowitz, Ryan Axelowitz, Jason Stoll, Corey Axelowitz, Nico Frost, and Juan Carlos look over as the people on the second fishing boat catch piranhas in the Amazon River

Many local indigenous communities fish for piranhas and use their teeth as cutting tools, sell the piranha teeth and/or bodies as tourist gifts, or sometimes eat them.


Sources used:
• All Photos:  © Shira Stoll
• Juan Carlos, Zafiro Amazon Riverboat Cruse, Dec. 26, 2015.
• Smithsonian Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/14-fun-facts-about-piranhas-180951948/?no-ist

Captivating Cusco

For the past few days, I've been exploring the beautiful city of Cusco in Peru, which was once the capital of the Incan Empire. I've mostly been drawn to the Incan history, gorgeous views, and incredible architecture. Through these in-camera multiple exposures, I wanted to show the beauty of this city and the chaos in the marketplace during Christmas time, which is the peak time for tourism. Catholicism is also the main religion of Cusco and a huge part of the culture, so in almost every single one of these images, there is a Catholic reference (Jesus Christ, Cathedrals, etc.)

Many of these were taken today at a Christmas celebration in the main square, Plaza del Armas, which closed its roads for the next few days to open an enormous Christmas market and have many performances from musicians and children. 

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Sky Chasing

I've recently been obsessed with chasing the sky at beautiful times of day. I really can't explain it, but it's the only thing I've wanted to photograph/film for the past two weeks. I think it's just one of those things where I've been so caught up with finals, that the sky seems so peaceful and relaxing. I've never been one to want to wake up at sunrise, but for some reason I found myself awake at 5 AM almost every morning aching to go out and shoot. 

It's funny, because during my first photo class ever, my teacher told me to never photograph the sunset. "The sunset," he would say, "is a cliché thing to photograph, so just don't do it." So, I told myself I would never photograph the sunset. Here I am, however many years later, finding myself just wanting to photograph the gorgeous sky. To get myself over this statement, I told myself that the sunrise was different from the sunset, so therefore it was not cliché. Then, I realized I just wanted to photograph the sky regardless of it being "cliché" or not.