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|| News Item: Posted 2004-07-28

The Intern Diaries: Robert Caplin
By Robert Caplin, Los Angeles Times

Photo by Robert Caplin / Los Angeles Times

Photo by Robert Caplin / Los Angeles Times

Atop a 3000 gallon water truck, Jason Matter, a firefighter with the US Forest Service, sprays fire-retardant chemicals on brushy areas around the Rose Bowl to make the area safer during the Fourth of July weekend and the summer fire season.
(Editors Note: Since it's summer Sports Shooter asked several college students serving internships to write about their experiences during their first few weeks "in the real world." This is the first of two parts.)

The last month of my Spring quarter at Ohio University was crazy with putting finishing touches on my class documentary, cramming for finals, plotting my cross country drive to Los Angeles for my internship, and planning my scheme for proposing to my girlfriend along our road trip out. (She said yes.)

Walking into the LA Times building my first day on the job I met Jose Barrera, metro photo and assignment editor who oversees the photography internship recruiting. Immediately I noticed that I stuck out like a sore thumb as I was wearing slacks, shirt and a tie...and the rest of the photographers dressed much more casually. Jose's bright, blue Converse All-Stars caught my eye and put a smile on my face. It was then that I realized that I needed to loosen up a bit. After all ...I'm in California.

I received the grand tour of the office and must say that it's a crazy newsroom, very big. My first day on the job marked the last shift Carolyn Cole was working in LA (she moved to New York and will be corresponding from the east coast) and I moved into her locker...let's hope her photo vibes rub off! Fortunately I was able to have a short chat with her before she took off, nice lady and very humble.

My first assignment, shooting the Olympic torch relay winding through the streets of Los Angeles, was given to me mainly just to get accustomed to the city, as it was already assigned to three other staff photographers. It was at that point that I quickly realized how INSANE the driving is in this city. Driving just a few miles can literally take hours to accomplish. Many of the staffers jokingly claim that their job title is a professional driver who takes pictures.

What has really surprised me, contrary to popular belief, is that not all of the assignments that the staffers receive are that glamorous. Of course, every so often there are the portrait sessions with celebrities, but the majority are assignments to cover the local news and sports, just like any other staff job.

Photo by

Caplin's first photo that made A1. He decided to shoot the Dodger's game as a second photographer after his morning shift was over. He attended the game that Eric Gagne blew his save which ended his astronomical streak.
The paper covers most all news in LA, which tends to have a little more variety then, lets say, Ohio, but I truly believe that what separates the LA Times photo staff from any of the other photo staff in the country is the conglomeration of talent the staff embodies.

Each photographer who works here is a truly skilled image-maker. Most of the photographers are incredibly gifted in a certain genre of photography, but still shoot daily news and sports with incredible skill.

Take Myung Chun for instance, he can pump out some awesome home and architecture photos with some fun lighting techniques and the next day rock out an awesome action photos of a whitewater rafting trip.

Or the way Ricardo De Aratanha will turn the available light in a hotel room into a sexy, high key situation with reflectors on a two-minute Sharon Stone portrait session...and the next day make some beautiful news photos. What an awesome group of photographers to work with!

One city block from the downtown office at The Redwood, a popular LA Times watering hole and eatery that dates back many decades, I was having lunch with a few of my editors. We talked about the benefits of internship programs in general and how they are extremely valuable tools, not just to see your byline in the paper, but also to network yourself and build a list of contacts and references.

So far I've found that I learn far more by tagging along with the photographers and picking their brains than shooting the assignments themselves. I spend time after my shift is over assisting photographers, hitting already staffed assignments as a second photographer, sitting in on editing sessions, just hanging out at the office, etc. I'm in LA for 10 weeks to absorb as much information I can.

Photo by Robert Caplin / Los Angeles Times

Photo by Robert Caplin / Los Angeles Times

Caplin on assignment for the Outdoors at Lake Havasu, AZ for the boating edition. Assignment was to cover the party scene on Lake Havasu and the Colorado River.
The past couple of weeks have been extremely educational, especially after sitting in on Francine Orr's editing session with Senior Projects Editor, Gail Fisher, on her six-part Africa project that just finished running with incredible display. Gail and Francine were so kind to not only allow me in on the process, but also included me in the conversation, explaining why they were choosing the photos they did.

It was also extremely interesting to learn the reasons for the different editing styles for the web presentation over the paper presentation. I didn't know that a photo shouldn't be displayed in a multi-media presentation for much more than five seconds, or the reason for displaying the print version in black and white was to separate the piece from the rest of the paper, etc. In school, we've had small editing sessions and briefly discussed the editing process, but this in-depth and hands-on experience was the real deal and gave me a great feel for the picture editing process.

I consider myself fortunate to have been given a chance to work with a group of the finest photographers in the industry ... this is an opportunity of a lifetime!

(For information about Robert and to see samples of his work, go to his member page:

Related Links:
Robert's member page
The Intern Diaries, Part 2: Robert Caplin

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