An Inside Look at Working With a Photo Editor with Sabine Meyer of Audubon Magazine and Photographer Morgan Heim
Have you ever wished you could see inside the mind of a photo editor? To understand why they make the decisions they make about stories and know what it's like to actually work alongside them? Or have you dreamed of assisting on a photo story just so you could witness the ins and outs of how it all works?
This honest, wide-ranging conversation with Sabine Meyer of Audubon Magazine and conservation photographer Morgan Heim gives you surprising insights into the work of visual storytelling while encouraging you to follow your creative instincts.
Conservation photographer Morgan Heim and Sabine Meyer, Photography Director for National Audubon Society have collaborated on many photo stories over the years.
Together, they're an example of the ideal relationship between editor and photographer that leads to brilliantly creative, impactful conservation photo stories.
We sat down to talk about all things photo stories, including what it's like to build a relationship that centers on trust and creative vison.
This candid conversation gives essential insights for anyone looking to break into the business of crafting powerful visual stories with creativity and intention.
Listen closely – there are many invaluable lessons packed into this episode!
- finding joy in art
- how Sabine chooses photographers for stories
- what goes into selecting which stories to publish in the magazine
- why working locally is critical to photographers landing assignments
- the role of trust between photographer and editor
- the surprising things to highlight about yourself on social media
- embracing the freedom to break rules and explore creativity in photojournalism
- bold creative choices to bring life to seemingly “been done” and controversial stories
- how to stay top-of-mind with editors by helping out other photographers
- and oh my goodness so, so, so much more
Episode 126: An Inside Look at Working With a Photo Editor with Sabine Meyer of Audubon Magazine and Photographer Morgan Heim
(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)
Morgan / Jaymi: We're just gonna dive straight into conversation because we already were talking and I know that some fun things are gonna pop up. Okay. So, sorry.
[00:00:11] Sabine: She's such a pro. She's like, turn it on immediately.
[00:00:15] Morgan / Jaymi: So We're gonna dive into photo editing and inspiration and collaborating between editor and photographer while on assignment and finding joy in your job and all kinds of good stuff. So Morgan, you were about to ask a question of Sabine. Yeah Um, well, hi everybody. . Um, . Sabine well, I was gonna ask like, no holes barred, no limitations. If there were things that could add joy to what you do, like what would you love to be able to sink your teeth into?
[00:00:47] Sabine: Hi everyone. Thank you for having me. My two favorite people here. I would like to have time. Time is right now. Something I [00:01:00] lack time to just, not just look at photography, but time to dive into anything that's visual and exciting. I was talking to a friend and saying that when I was probably 18 was an avid movie goer.
[00:01:17] Sabine: And back then the only way to see movies aside from a small television would be to go to the theater. And I, my brother lived in Paris and I would go visit him. He was a year older and I would literally spend three to four I mean, I would go see three to four movies back to back in the theater. And I think it probably without me knowing it was the beginning of my visual education and forming my eye to see different things.
[00:01:45] Sabine: And that is something I miss. I'm, I mean, not just going to the movies, but you know, kind of don't think about your job. Don't think about the fact that photo editor and you have to look at photography, but [00:02:00] nourish your mind and look at visual production. I am so missing the time, well obviously pre pandemic. Pre reliving far from the city, pre having a child but going to galleries pretty much every Saturday in Manhattan and just kind of absorbing and you don't realize how much it feeds your creativity. And that's something I'm missing. So that would be, I mean, time and the freedom to explore visual genres that are not necessarily linked to what I do. And you know, kind of having the freedom to say, I'm not gonna look at conservation photography, which is my daily job. I'm just going to look at something else and trust that it will be really good to, to push a reset button, which at this very moment I feel very much, I was having a [00:03:00] conversation with Camilla, my colleague, and we were talking about this, you know, how do you re push the reset button when you know every story you get over your desk that you need to assign?
[00:03:12] Sabine: Feels kind of like the same thing.
[00:03:14] Sabine: So how do you approach it creatively?
[00:03:18] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah, absolutely, man. I feel like just today, Morgan, so one of the benefits is of Morgan and I living so close together, is we can do these visits. And so Morgan's here in, in the studio um, and so we were just mentioning before we hit record that last night, we did like a short film festival in the living room and showing each other these films and things.
[00:03:40] Morgan / Jaymi: And then today we went on a walk in the woods with our dogs and Morgan's telling me about a film that she's working on and thinking about ways to fill in these moments that she's not sure if they filmed enough for this. So like, what could be a creative way of navigating that section of the film.
[00:03:59] Morgan / Jaymi: And I was [00:04:00] like, oh man, there's this surfer documentary that they did that they had to go back, you know, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, and like talk about an event that happened. And the way that they did it with this animation and these sound nuances was really creative. And so she was gonna go look at that.
[00:04:18] Morgan / Jaymi: And you don't, I feel like it's really hard to have those types of conversations in that reset without the time to go on those walks or to have the random conversations. It's like the two of those have to go hand in hand. Yeah. you need the, the interruptions, right? Yeah. And for me it's. I, I think probably a lot of people would think that I spend a lot of time, you know, reading non-fiction or reading books about the environment.
[00:04:45] Morgan / Jaymi: I almost never read environmental books unless it's directly related to researching a story. I am like a hardcore fiction reader. When I watch movies, it's actually pretty rare that I watch a documentary even though I make them. [00:05:00] But I need that mental break and I can't tell you the number of times where I justify watching those things or reading those things because there ends up being something that, that triggers an idea that I can then incorporate into how I'm gonna approach an a, a story that is non-fiction.
[00:05:18] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . And I don't know if it's about like, I mean, so much of it is yeah, you literally don't have time cuz your schedules are so full and so jam-packed and it's really easy to get really caught up in the maintaining the, I have to get this done or I should get this done. and I, I think that. if you can.
[00:05:37] Morgan / Jaymi: One of the tricks that I do, I mean, I end up staying up way too late. That's one of the problems. So I typically only get six hours of sleep a night cuz I stay up too late. Um, But oh five means saying five, five, oh no. But but I say like, oh, you know what, this is actually, even though it's me relaxing, I know that by doing this it's gonna help me do my job better.
[00:05:58] Morgan / Jaymi: And so I just, I like [00:06:00] create these like justifications for basically playing . Mm-hmm. , because really that's all I wanna do all the time is play.
[00:06:07] Sabine: but play is really important. You know, there's a lot of people who say, we don't play enough. We've forgotten to pursue things that are not linked to a goal necessarily, or not linked to a job. And this is where, the, the opportunity to just say, no, I don't need to know who, what the latest stories are, who the latest photographers are.
[00:06:28] Sabine: I'm just going to voluntarily ignore all of that and pursue something else. It's sort of like I compare it to geology, the sediments, you know, the layers and the layers. that's what I also justify my other pursuits that aren't, you know, directly linked to my job by saying, no, no, I'm just building this house of visuals.
[00:06:51] Sabine: You know, and all the, the pieces that, you know, the foundation is there. I have the roof a above it [00:07:00] already, because that's my job and it's conservation. This is that world. But inside you can rearrange and, and redecorate as much as you want. And that means just, you know, pursuing different genres or looking at different types of photography that have nothing to do with the stuff.
[00:07:20] Sabine: You know, you, you typically work on. We were talking about a story that we are doing on bird seeds, and we are thinking about approaching it as like food photography. And I'm thinking,
[00:07:31] Sabine: Hmm, I should really spend some time looking at food photography. Then
[00:07:35] Sabine: down the road I go, and really, I'm looking at photography, but I'm looking at the food now and I'm like, Ooh, I wanna cook this, and I'm getting sidetracked.
[00:07:43] Sabine: I'm like, okay, recenter back to photography, not to the food. Um, I mean, it's also about breaking down the silos and as practitioner of a very specific genre, which is conservation photography. [00:08:00] I think it's, it's really important to decide to break the silos and try something different.
[00:08:07] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:07] Sabine: Have the room to fail.
[00:08:09] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. Yes. Well, and the room to, as we go back to it, the room to play, because what I'm always talking about is different audiences are gonna respond to different styles and different types of photography and different approaches to stories. And so when you give yourself the room to play and have conservation photography look wildly different, you might end up reaching or engaging this whole other type of audience that really needs the conservation message, but wouldn't be interested.
[00:08:38] Morgan / Jaymi: They're like, that doesn't attract me. It's food photography. Like, I'm always into the fashion magazines or something like that. And then if a conservation story appeals to that, then they might be willing to take a look. So the idea of play and exploration, it allows you to remember that conservation is embedded in everything anyway.
[00:08:55] Morgan / Jaymi: And so we get to pull that out and highlight it and explore it. Like we were playing with it. [00:09:00] I had taken an hour of working on just documenting my partner as he's making a surf. . And so it was this fun just, just exploring. And then we thought, oh man, as we're going through this and looking at the images and the different techniques and stuff, wouldn't it be fun to take that style?
[00:09:17] Morgan / Jaymi: Cause I had processed them in black and white. Take that style and go apply it to this other story idea or this other person profile and play with it there, and then see what happens there and make it like really dramatic. And anyway, I don't know where I'm going with that, but I think play is really critical in, in exploring.
[00:09:34] Morgan / Jaymi: Well, what I saw happen with the selection of images that Jamie created in like an hour and a half was, in my opinion, the best human. Like people photography I've ever seen her do. No. Yeah. And I mean, I already think your photography's strong, but there was a, there was that in the pictures that wasn't present in [00:10:00] other photographs I've seen where you're, you know, on assignment or given a self, you've given yourself a self assignment and you're trying to make the most interesting picture you can of like a scientist in the field.
[00:10:12] Morgan / Jaymi: What you had in these pictures were moments and intimacy. Mm-hmm. And a style that was very much yours. Like, it felt like you, and it's obvious that you love the person in the pictures and that the, and the, and the little puppy dog that makes an appearance. But the thing is, is like, By giving yourself that room to kind of just strip away all the expectations and roles.
[00:10:38] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. I think you let more of yourself come out as a photographer and it really showed through the quality of the imagery. Oh, thank you. Well, I'm curious because like, I feel like the two of you in a recent Audubon story on Northern spotted Owls did this and because you shot Morgan shot the story Sabine edited in in a very, [00:11:00] it's, it's a very different approach to conservation imagery than anything we've seen.
[00:11:04] Morgan / Jaymi: So what was the conversation like for you two in, in taking what feels like a radically different approach for conservation photography? Were you consciously saying, let's go explore a different way of doing this? What was the thought process there? Because that story, and I'm gonna link to the story in the show notes so people can see what these visuals are like.
[00:11:24] Morgan / Jaymi: It's not what you would expect for a typical owl conservation story at all.
[00:11:30] Sabine: I, I think there were a few layers of, sort of challenges that made us, I think, and correct me, jump in if I'm wrong, but, Made us decide to really kind of bite the bullet and just do it instead of trying to, so number one, let me dial this back. Number one, it was a story about killing a species to save another one.
[00:11:56] Sabine: So that, to start with is super [00:12:00] controversial, polarizing, controversial the setup. It was working with low light or at night with dimple light in a very forested you know, the canopy being under not under the brights sort of big sky. That I think if I recall my conversations, it feels like it is bit up a few stories ago. Um, That was a challenge. And then not using flash on owls, you know, to try to photograph them was a, was another challenge. And the idea of, oh my God, we've got yet another story where we are in the field with scientists who are going to capture a species, process it, and then to try to study it. So that sort of very simple, I'm simplifying, but that line is sort of the core of a lot of the stories that Audubon does.
[00:12:57] Sabine: Scientists in the field [00:13:00] processing a species to try to explain why it's at risk or not coming back or something. I was at the point where I said, I'm so tired of the whatever way that we've been doing. Let's try something different. And, and that's where Mo had some brilliance just, and I was like, oh my God, they're going to love it, or I'm going to get in trouble.
[00:13:26] Morgan / Jaymi: Well, I felt so, I mean, I think sometimes restrictions are actually the mother of, I mean the mother of invention, right? Mm-hmm. . There's a reason that Renaissance came after the dark ages and you know, like it, there's These things that just spark new ways, new ideas for how to approach something. And so even though we're still gonna have stor, you know, images that are about the scientists looking for the animal in the field there can still be different ways of approaching it.
[00:13:55] Morgan / Jaymi: And I think also what I liked about, I'm, I'm [00:14:00] so grateful that one, that Sabine was really supportive. Like, at least on my end, she may have had all those things swirling in her brain and all the heavy lifting she had to do on her end to get people on board. But she never made me feel like it was like a crazy idea or that we couldn't do it right from the get go.
[00:14:18] Morgan / Jaymi: Sabine was like, yes. Like this is how we can, using infrared is how we can limit the impact that any impact that we're worried about. Even though the biologists were like, it's okay if you use flash. And we were just like, no, we'll, we'll go with infrared. And and then I just threw it out there like, let's, let's do the whole story in black and white.
[00:14:39] Morgan / Jaymi: Just cuz it would seem very weird to be jumping back and forth mm-hmm. and then you're looking for, and they, and she also like, you know, that requires specialist equipment and there's not many places that are going to invest extra money.
[00:14:55] Morgan / Jaymi: for you to either buy or rent this specialist [00:15:00] equipment to get a story done.
[00:15:01] Morgan / Jaymi: And it was never even a second thought for you, at least not in the way that I perceived it. You were just like, we gotta make this, we're gonna commit to this and we're gonna make it happen. And, and so to have that leeway to be like, okay, we've, we've got some logistical challenge we need to solve and you're gonna gimme the resources to do that and the support to do that.
[00:15:22] Morgan / Jaymi: And then on top of that that means you have to shoot differently. Mm-hmm. , because, you know, I had done infrared camera trapping before, but I'd never done infrared night photography in hand.
[00:15:37] Morgan / Jaymi: And that's a whole different ballgame cuz you're dealing with fluid situations. . You can't use a flashlight to recompose everything, otherwise you're defeating the whole purpose.
[00:15:48] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. So yeah, I think I had, cuz I was assisting on that, I had a red laser thing. You had an infrared flashlight? Yeah, that I bought from like a hunting outfitter . And that [00:16:00] was what it's normally like a scope that fits on a gun or something like that. Yeah. So you were learning how to pre focus, like anticipate mm-hmm pre focus in the, in the moment, but then also still get these very, like I keep calling it mo's film noir shoot because that's what it feels like.
[00:16:18] Morgan / Jaymi: And then so yeah, you had a very different approach to Yeah. What you were doing in there. What I liked is, I mean, I couldn't have, I, yeah, I'm the person who gets the byline for the photography, but none of those images would've been possible without my assistant. Oh. It takes a team and or your editor.
[00:16:34] Morgan / Jaymi: Like having Sabine's full support and talking about this and Sabine, I'm really curious, were you guys talking ahead of time about like once you decided, okay, this is how we wanna photograph it, we're gonna be daring, we're gonna go for it, what was the conversation like for the shots that you knew you wanted to get?
[00:16:52] Morgan / Jaymi: Because you already mentioned I'm tired of processing shots, bird in hand, here's the banding, all that. I wanna go beyond that. So did you guys talk a [00:17:00] lot about the style of actual shots and the shot list ahead of time?
[00:17:04] Sabine: I don't, I mean, I think we were really focused on all the technical stuff and trying to gather the resources. I, I mean, you know, the beauty of working with Moe is I know I don't have to worry about You know how it's going to look. I know that no matter what, I'm gonna have solid pictures beyond my expectations.
[00:17:25] Sabine: There's always surprises, you know, and I knew I, and also you had worked on that subject matter prior. You had deep knowledge of that species and you had worked with the scientists, your personal relationships. So I didn't feel I had a lot of, you know, expertise to add. I think what I was more concerned about is I'm gonna get this past my boss and my creative director, and basically, I didn't tell anyone but that's the beauty of some of the freedom [00:18:00] I have.
[00:18:00] Sabine: I have the leeway to make some decisions, and in this case, I do feel I have enough freedom in the gig I have and the steadfast and complete confidence from my art director to know that she never second guesses my decision. So, I don't know, this was really a gut thing where I felt like this is the right thing to do. I'm not gonna second guess myself. I felt as a, as I did when I was like a young photo editor trying new stuff because I didn't know any better and I was kind of fun to do the same thing to go on a limb and take a chance. And I thought, you know, the worst thing that can happen is that we'll not do it again. But at the same time , I knew the cover was going to be in color cuz I didn't wanna push the envelope too much.
[00:18:51] Sabine: I know you were shooting some stuff still in color. But that was never gonna be the goal. I never had color as a backup and I was [00:19:00] truly excited. We've only done a few black and white story period. So this was, you know, so sort of like timing is right. This is the perfect story to try something else.
[00:19:12] Sabine: And people love owls and this story is so controversial, you know, and when you came back with that pickup truck shot, I mean, I was beside myself with excitement and I thought,
[00:19:23] Morgan / Jaymi: Can
[00:19:23] Morgan / Jaymi: you describe that shot for listeners?
[00:19:27] Sabine: It's, so, it's the back of the pickup truck of the main scientist who, it's late, I forget his name mark Kiley.
[00:19:35] Sabine: Markley. And he basically was using the bed of his pickup truck to pro process the owls he was killing. And so the image was he was in the picture. It was sort of a still life, like a, you know what is Flemish, you know, these buffet tables with all this game that's just been killed. And that's [00:20:00] sprawled on, on a beautiful table with very kind of dark colors.
[00:20:04] Sabine: That was sort of like the approach, you know, it, it felt like I'm not even Flemish School of Painting meats, modern day conservation photography with dead owls. And some of the feathers were spread out. And you could tell that the, the birds were dead, but it wasn't like in your face. It was a very subtle way to show the, The fact that these birds were dead and it was sort of like at eye level at least from the pickup truck, the bed of the pickup truck. It was just sort of symmetrical. And the light was very graphic. It was totally film noir, you know graphic novel. And it was just, it, it felt very obvious that this image was going to be the opener.
[00:20:47] Sabine: And we, we comped it up and the ARC director was really into it. We even like brainstormed some headline ideas so we could put the headline with the pictures so that [00:21:00] when we presented the layout we didn't have to explain too much. It was sort of obvious and it worked
[00:21:06] Sabine: anyways.
[00:21:07] Morgan / Jaymi: cool. That makes, it's really fun to hear the back, like the backstory of, you know, because you hand off the pictures and you're like, I hope this is doing the right job. You know? And doing it in a way that is not just like checking things off the list. Yeah. So it's really cool to hear about discussions that happen behind the scenes once those pictures go in.
[00:21:31] Sabine: So we had a little kind of mini sidebar that
[00:21:34] Sabine: Explained
[00:21:35] Sabine: the
[00:21:35] Sabine: approach
[00:21:36] Sabine: Mo took and what she
[00:21:37] Sabine: did. It was very simple so that readers would know, cuz I. You know, I was pretty sure we would have readers write to us saying, what's going on with this landscape?
[00:21:49] Sabine: It looks like it's covered in snow, but it's not, you know, and so we, I wanted to leave enough sort of mystery and, and sort of awe in the photography, but [00:22:00] I wanted to give a clue to the readers so that they knew what happened. And, you know, this is, it's a conf conservation magazine. We are not going to drill down into photography technique to, to an expert level.
[00:22:13] Sabine: But I I like the idea of also just, you know, peppering a little photo education here and there
[00:22:20] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And there was a conservation reason for that
[00:22:24] Sabine: of course. Yeah.
[00:22:25] Sabine: And an ethical reason also.
[00:22:28] Sabine: So Yeah.
[00:22:30] Sabine: that was, that was kind of to me that was important. Very important. Yeah.
[00:22:35] Morgan / Jaymi: Something that, I mean, I was thrilled to get this opportunity. One, I felt like the story really, it warranted black and white. Like there's sometimes where I think people use black and white as an affectation or a gimmick, but this was a story where there was a practical reason, but also because there is so no so much nostalgia wrapped up in this species, in this conservation issue, even [00:23:00] though it was like the eighties and nineties when it really became kind of a hot button topic when everything's in color at that point it felt like thematically appropriate if you're going to use monochrome to use it in a story like this.
[00:23:14] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. It gave a sense of weight and. Contemplation and it, it gave a different level of like emotive seriousness to the whole story so that you know that you are going to be looking at a story in a way that you haven't heard it before or heard it discussed before. It gives you pause to stop and consume this story.
[00:23:39] Morgan / Jaymi: Even if you've heard the, the northern spotted Owl story a hundred times, even if you know that the Barred Owl is an issue for this endangered species, even if you know all this stuff, the photography gives you a reason to stop and say, oh, I might not have thought about it in this way.
[00:23:57] Morgan / Jaymi: I'm, I'm gonna take a moment and and breathe this [00:24:00] in.
[00:24:00] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. And I'm glad that you mentioned that because I feel this is one of my favorites, like, or one of the stories I'm most proud of, the work that's come out of it. And the use of the infrared. I like to describe it as it forced me to do slow photography or slow storytelling. And so I had to be so deliberate and thoughtful and it wasn't like the pictures aren't set up.
[00:24:26] Morgan / Jaymi: They're, they're still completely candid moments, but it's like you're really present with the people who are there in observing how they are. Reacting to the moments and moving through the scene and really intimately getting to know like, okay, this is what they're about to do. So there was some communication of just like, like, especially with taking the, when they're taking the Bard owls there's a lot of waiting, you know?
[00:24:52] Morgan / Jaymi: So I have time to just observe and get the light just right. And Mark would know ahead of time that like, if he's gonna suddenly move from [00:25:00] position, like he has to get in a position in order to take the shot. You don't just like go on the move and shoot. So I had time to, to, uh, being Mark actually taking a Bard owl in the hunting process.
[00:25:12] Morgan / Jaymi: Yes. Hunting. Yeah. Yep. Taking it down,
[00:25:15] Morgan / Jaymi: lethally removing a hard owl. Mm-hmm. , but, so I had time to figure out, get, get myself a position and work with you or Maddie who came out with me on some of the shoot to shine the light in the, just the right way so I could look through the back of my camera and actually see what was going on.
[00:25:35] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . And then it's like, you just hope that you're angling the flash. Right. I would sometimes take a test shot just to see how the light would fall. Yeah. But there was so much pre-visualization and, and that idea of being present and then waiting for the moments to happen that mm-hmm.
[00:25:49] Morgan / Jaymi: that took place. And then the other thing was, Not really had anything to do with the technique, but just with the approach, it, it is heart-wrenching to think about [00:26:00] having to kill one animal in order to save another. And it's through no fault of that animal that it's so good at existing. And and so I wanted to, I hope in the images that there's an element of dignity and empathy that comes across mm-hmm.
[00:26:20] Morgan / Jaymi: for every living being involved. Mm-hmm. , the, the bard owl, the hunter, the biologist, the, the, the spotted owl, like all of the species involved. And gosh, even the mice, like the mice broke my heart too. . And explain that part for listeners. And the mice come into play in that, you know, in photography we don't bait, we don't bait ethically, I don't bait to get wildlife shots, but the scientists, they have to use live bait to basically they call in the, the, the, the spotted owls, and then they present the spotted owl with a live [00:27:00] mouse that the spotted owl has to, you know, swoop down and they take it instantly kills the mouse.
[00:27:05] Morgan / Jaymi: The mouse. I tried to. Like, give myself solace. And that that mouse was living like a super kush life up until that moment . Um, And they, but they watch where the owl delivers the mouse because this is how they find mates. This is how they find nest. This is how they find young, which are all super critical for understanding the population dynamics and also doing things like banding or getting, doing health checks and finding out all sorts of things that are important to know that aren't just presence or absence, but it's like, you know, how are young surviving or, or taking a blood sample and finding out is this bird like suffering from parasite loading or, or genocide poisoning, which has become a bigger and bigger issue
[00:27:50] Morgan / Jaymi: out in the public land.
[00:27:52] Morgan / Jaymi: So there's really important information that they get from that. And so this, this poor little mouse that's so adorable, and [00:28:00] it's using a photo photographic process that I wouldn't normally use, but they're not doing it for me to get a photo. I'm ju I'm not there to judge how they are collecting their information.
[00:28:09] Morgan / Jaymi: I'm there to show what it takes right now to try and save this species. And those processes aren't always like, they're not like a nice walk through the flowers. Mm-hmm. . It's hard work and it, it makes people ask tough questions. Mm-hmm.
[00:28:24] Sabine: Yeah.
[00:28:26] Morgan / Jaymi: What has been the reaction to the story? Because you guys made a very conscious decision to use a different photographic approach that was very, in your own job, was a daring approach, and you really wanted to be able to do something different with this story.
[00:28:42] Morgan / Jaymi: Have you heard that it made a different impact or what's been some of the feedback? If you've gotten any?
[00:28:48] Sabine: I think the, the, you know, having to decide that one species has to be taken the life of that species has to be taken to save another one. That was, [00:29:00] it's so polarizing. I think a lot of the feedback was on that particular issue, not so much. I mean, obviously I think some of my peers in the community, the photographers, there's a lot of, you know, super positive.
[00:29:16] Sabine: Like, wow, this is great. I'm so glad you're able to try and have the resources to do that. But I must admit, I'm not big on social media, so I may have missed a whole thunderstorm of stuff, , which um, I, I can constantly try to decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing for me to, to gauge a story or reaction by how it's, it's been seen in on social media. So I guess the answer to your question is there's, there was a lot of positive sort of, it's great to try these different things.
[00:29:53] Sabine: I think that the whole magazine team was super excited to do something different. [00:30:00] But I, I, I don't think there was a tsunami of bad reactions, so that's great. No one, no one I believe wrote to say, what's this black and white stuff doing? You know, this is the twentie first century. Why aren't you shooting this in color? I didn't really see that. So I was very, very, pleased. It's sort of that story Mo gave me kind of a new sort of like start in terms of, okay, I can do this. There are different ways I feel, I have a hit the refresh button a little bit. You know, with that story I felt like energized and there is a way to do this differently.
[00:30:41] Sabine: It just
[00:30:41] Sabine: takes, you know, a great collaborator. So thank you.
[00:30:46] Morgan / Jaymi: I think that you just said something so amazing because ultimately whatever reaction you're gonna get from a story that you're trying something new on, you're going outta the box on that is just the reaction that is going to happen. But ultimately, the most [00:31:00] important part is that you say, let's do something new.
[00:31:02] Morgan / Jaymi: Let's do something different. Let's be bold and take a risk.
[00:31:05] Morgan / Jaymi: And that revitalizes my creative spirit.
[00:31:10] Morgan / Jaymi: It makes me wanna keep going in this. And as a photo editor, as a photographer, I feel like that is a really critical element to the decisions that you're making. And so it feels really good that you're like, no big reaction on either side, but whatever.
[00:31:23] Morgan / Jaymi: It felt really great. I'm ready to go forward with more fun adventures.
[00:31:27] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah.
[00:31:28] Sabine: I don't, you know, I don't do these things to get like a pat in the back from my community. I don't care about that. I care about how, you know, if the photographers were excited and felt like they, they got their creative juices going and, pushed the limits of their own storytelling, that's where I'm really, I like enabling in that way. I'd like to be an enabler. An enabler of good stuff, of creative. I don't wanna have someone go, oh God, you're giving me yet another [00:32:00] story about this. Come on. I do not wanna be the photo editor who hears that from a photographer. I
[00:32:05] Sabine: wanna be like,
[00:32:06] Sabine: wow. Always coming with challenging stories.
[00:32:09] Sabine: Speed. How about that?
[00:32:12] Morgan / Jaymi: well, you said something earlier that I'd love to explore with you guys, which is, you know, you and Morgan have worked together on several stories, including several cover stories for Audubon Magazine. And so you mentioned like, oh, I know that when a certain story comes along, I can lean on Mo because I, I know that she will bring back usable images.
[00:32:33] Morgan / Jaymi: Probably some amazing surprises. It's probably gonna be on, be beyond my expectations. So as you're developing relationships with different photographers, or if a story lands on your desk and you're thinking, oh wow, okay, I'm looking at this story. I think that we need to photograph it in this way, or with this style or with this approach, how is it that you think about pairing the right photographer with a story?
[00:32:57] Morgan / Jaymi: That's a really good question. Why? Thank you.[00:33:00]
[00:33:01] Sabine: Well, there's, it's, it's, there's no simple answer. There's always multiple parameters that come into play. We are a conservation group, so the goal is to conserve resources and use local resources. So often my first move is to say, oh, is there somebody local who has all the skills or someone I really been wanting to work with?
[00:33:26] Sabine: And that would be an opportunity. My first goal is always, can I get someone local, because then that person is an insider or knows at least the geography may know the people can also. Dip in and out if necessary, spend same amount of days, but within more time, have more breathing room. So that was my number one.
[00:33:49] Sabine: My number two is if there's no one local who's the best person that I can reasonably hire you know, I don't wanna fly somebody from [00:34:00] another continent, although I have flown you mo to China. But you know, this is sort of, we take an a stance on we are a conservation organization. We are trying to reduce, , our carbon footprint in including traveling the photographer.
[00:34:15] Sabine: So the job could require someone who's very technical or who can, is a great conservation photographer, but really needs to do birds. And there's not too many people who can really photograph birds and be great storytellers and weave all that into a great narrative and are technical, can do camera traps and infrared and, and drone and, hanging trees and set up stuff. So that, that limits sometimes the, the pool. Sometimes I try to, I look at the story and I have this conversation with myself and I say, you. The obvious person for this job would be blah, blah, blah. And maybe we've done [00:35:00] this a few times, maybe I should hire against the perfect match, you know, mismatch and see if there's sparks. And that would be someone who has a slightly different approach. But then I have to weigh the return on this investment. Are the readers or the editors going, going to expect, you know, your quote unquote traditional conservation coverage? And if I come up with something that's a little out of the box, am I still gonna deliver the story visually?
[00:35:28] Sabine: So there's all these conversations that are going on. You know, do I need someone who can speak a different language? Because that will give the photography more intimacy. We will have better access. You know, do I need a woman? Do I need someone who can climb super steep rock faces and has been repelling and knows how to pitch something, something, or, you know, because we need to go to these ledges and, and the only way to get awesome POVs [00:36:00] is to have a climber who's also a photographer. And I need that person to have the gear. Because I don't have a huge, huge budget. I can't, you know, hire crew on top of the photographers to make up for so, It's a long-winded answer, but there's so much um, I mean, often I, and this is where I love having a challenge. I do not want to have yet enough a cookie cut a story where the coverage is going to be the same.
[00:36:29] Sabine: Cuz I want something where I'm gonna go, wow, I don't know what, I have no idea who I'm gonna hire for this. Or I think of the person and I'm like, no, that's crazy. And then I revisit it and I'm like, no, I'm gonna try it.
[00:36:41] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. .
[00:36:42] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. So that was super cool and I, I think that there are, there's so many lessons to be taken away from what you just said.
[00:36:50] Morgan / Jaymi: One if, especially if, if you're any, if you're any level of photographer aspiring to be a professional or already a professional. I mean, I heard things like, [00:37:00] Give, make sure you're getting familiar with the local stories that would might be of interest to publications you wanna work with that they don't have to be in your state.
[00:37:08] Morgan / Jaymi: I mean, I go down to wa, I go up to Washington and down to California a lot. When I was in Colorado, I got hired to do stuff in Wyoming and Utah a lot. So like maybe in a tri-state area. Try to get really, really familiar with the issues that are happening there. If you are traveling someplace and you have relationships with editors, let them know where you are going and what, how long you're gonna be there.
[00:37:34] Morgan / Jaymi: Because it may end up that they have an assignment and that happened. With the Mass Bob White story.
[00:37:39] Morgan / Jaymi: You knew I was going down to visit my husband in Arizona and it worked out that you guys had a story down there and you needed a photographer and
[00:37:47] Morgan / Jaymi: So make sure you have that in your bios and in like your social media feeds. If you've got specialty skills, whether it's camera trapping, but especially if it's things with. , like [00:38:00] rock climbing \ make sure you're show casing that, whether it's written up in your bio, but best if it's an excuse to make sure you're, that you are taking pictures of yourself in the field or,
[00:38:10] Morgan / Jaymi: or of what you're doing in the field so that when editors go to your Instagram site, they see that you're doing all these things and they're like, oh, I need a photographer who has this skillset.
[00:38:19] Morgan / Jaymi: In addition to the storytelling side. Mm-hmm.
[00:38:22] Morgan / Jaymi: So yeah,
[00:38:24] Sabine: above and under. And I think just to add to what you just said, not only the skillsets, but if you have an expertise.
[00:38:33] Sabine: because you are a biologist or you have a, you know, you've studied a particular species phenomenon, geology, any of these expertise can be super helpful if, if you spend time in a lab and you could potentially know how to do macro photography, which comes in handy when you're a conservation photographer. All that stuff is super, super helpful. Um, for me [00:39:00] to know, I think when I'm hiring someone, I think that's great
[00:39:04] Morgan / Jaymi: One of the things I sit here thinking about when it comes to finding other photographers, cuz I know that you. are both swimming and photography and photographers, but probably are time limited in how you can search for photographers that you're not already working with. And so if there's something like, if there's like, Hey, is there someone out there that, you know, I'm looking to do a story on X, Y, Z and does anyone come to mind that I don't know about yet.
[00:39:32] Morgan / Jaymi: Like,
[00:39:33] Morgan / Jaymi: I think like more than happy to throw talent your direction, you know, I wonder out of curiosity, Sabine, when you hear something like that because often as photographers we're thinking about how do we maintain relationships with editors and remind them that we're here and that we're, you know, thinking about stories or whatever, what is the value of if a photographer's like, Hey, I just found this really amazing new [00:40:00] photographer, new to me, and I think that their work is really interesting and it might be interest, it might be of interest to you.
[00:40:05] Morgan / Jaymi: Here's their name. Like, is that email useful to you or is it more, oh my God, there's just more on my plate now.
[00:40:11] Sabine: No, that's super. I can use any opportunity to distract myself by from my, from my to-do list my, you know, Asana project platform with all my to-dos on Asana, all my projects with looking at great photography, I have
[00:40:30] Sabine: to literally be like, no, no, no, I gotta wait. I gotta finish this. And then I'm giving myself five minutes to look at this project, to look at this person.
[00:40:37] Sabine: So I think it's also, I love having a community of photographers who I work with, who are all supportive to each other, because I hate the competition
[00:40:48] Sabine: Feeling, you know, if you get the job, it's not, you know, of course the other person did not. But there's reasons. And, you know, I try, I am trying to carefully weigh the landscape.
[00:40:58] Sabine: But at the same time[00:41:00] like I said, I truly believe that often you are like, you are the right person at the right time and at the right place with the
[00:41:08] Sabine: right set of skills. And that creates the perfect match, you
[00:41:12] Sabine: know? So yes, finding super creative new talent, people who do things out of the box or who are extremely technical, you know who, who do stuff in, in the studio with wildlife in a way that's ethical or macro or, you know, not everything is photojournalistic.
[00:41:36] Sabine: Maybe someone can, you know, create a world with, I mean, I'm very intrigued by all the AI stuff,
[00:41:44] Sabine: you know, and, and not in the way that's going to pretend it's not ai. But there may be some circumstances where ethically or for some x, Y Z reason, you need to reach out to technology to actually visualize [00:42:00] what the story is about.
[00:42:01] Sabine: So that's where, you know, I mean, obviously I don't have the budget. Na Geo has to, to literally invent stuff. You know,
[00:42:10] Sabine: I don't have a bunch of photography geniuses in, in the, you know, lab of, Audubon, you know, like Q in Gems Bond who's like, make this for me please. I need blah, blah, blah, to take photos of, you know, birds in the dark.
[00:42:28] Morgan / Jaymi: Well, that's really great to hear because I think that it's important to remember that if you know that an editor needs help with a certain thing or, or just maintaining a really great reference for different photographers, you're not taking work away from yourself by recommending other people.
[00:42:45] Morgan / Jaymi: And then that can be a way to say, Hey, Sabine here, so-and-so's really interesting. And then you remember me as a photographer as well as this other person. And so it's a really great reminder that I think in this field, helping other people out [00:43:00] helps yourself out in the long run anyway.
[00:43:02] Sabine: Totally believe that. Yes. Yeah, I really believe that. and my goal is to learn something every day, you know? So I mean, discovering a new photographer, reading about a particular ethical practice that I never thought about, or , even looking at a photographer who's now passed and sort of whose work with Seminole back in the days and kind of thinking about that, you know, how is it to log a eight by 10 camera, you know, with glass plates around the landscape.
[00:43:37] Sabine: And
[00:43:38] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah.
[00:43:39] Sabine: I think that we just, you know, we move so fast, there's always this long to-do list that, you know we just. Consume too fast. And that goes back to what you were saying, Mo is, you know, it's great to practice, you know, fewer frames, more deliberate, more composed, [00:44:00] shoot less, compose more As a teacher, I say that all the time.
[00:44:04] Sabine: When I teach photo editing, that's my number one rule. It's like, back in the days you only had 36 frames, and if you were a student, you knew that role would cost money to buy, to process, to contact sheet, and to print. So you made sure that every single frame was super deliberate and, and, you know, had some value.
[00:44:27] Sabine: And it's not just boom, boom, boom, boom, which,
[00:44:31] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah.
[00:44:32] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. It gives you a chance to find your eyes and not just being reacting to things. Mm-hmm. though, I will say that often something about my personality is like, as a writer, I don't notice my typos until I hit publish on an article. So I'll hit publish and then immediately go back in for my final edit on something.
[00:44:51] Morgan / Jaymi: And when I'm shooting, I don't notice some things until I see it actually captured in frame. And so there's some responsibility for that frame now. And then I'm like, oh, [00:45:00] but there's that light. Okay. I'm gonna move slightly over here and then take a, take another shot. Oh, so I know that you had some, I have a question that I've already prepared for so it can Cool.
[00:45:09] Morgan / Jaymi: And you had other ideas. She wrote it down, folks, and I don't think it was written down when we started . It was not. But I know that you had other thoughts, so Mo do you wanna add in some more thoughts before we move into that direction? Oh, just one other thing. That Sabine mentioned that inspired a thought, and that is like, you know, this concept of finding new ways to visualize things that might, you know, not require the traditional photojournalism approach that you have to find a creative way to illustrate it through the camera.
[00:45:38] Morgan / Jaymi: And you know, one example that comes to mind is like I think it was Tom Ishak was doing some story. It was on an island that had there's some ruins on the island and there was a strong kind of land use and bird related thing that doesn't exist anymore. You know, it's from like the early 19 hundreds.
[00:45:56] Morgan / Jaymi: But what he did is he projected these [00:46:00] archival images on the sides of buildings or shovel shovels, and it was almost creating like a camera obscura effect on these buildings. And it was a really creative way to bring the history of the place into the present and then meld that with the other, you know, what's happening there now.
[00:46:16] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. kind of pictures and maybe that, \ took an astronomical, heavy lift on like getting generators out there or the right kinds of projectors. But I have walked into the photographic studios and assisted some photographers that are like, you know, they're the top Nat geo photographers, they're celebrated and you walk into their studio and it's like, like, Tatter worn black paper that's half torn and hanging on the wall string and paper clips and duct tape and like some half dying plant that's just like dangling there.
[00:46:54] Morgan / Jaymi: And they made these gorgeous studio portraits of these plants. [00:47:00] And you know, at one point I assisted Joel Sartori and I was literally holding up a piece of black poster board bought from like Michael's or something above my head as a Turkey vulture, sat on a little wooden branch in front of me and then
[00:47:15] Morgan / Jaymi: he pooped just a reign of poop. About six inches in front of my face is I have my arms up above my head just holding this poster board in place. Yeah. So it's not always a super high tech glamorous process to get these cool creative photos. Yeah. And, and I have like taken a projector , plugged it into a cigarette lighter in the car and projected images on a wall at the border wall.
[00:47:41] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. and filmed that. And you know, it, you can be super low-fi just be creative and you'll be really surprised at the things that you can accomplish. Yeah. There's an Instagram account that maintain the PG of this podcast, I won't say, but I will link to it in the show notes that Basical. People [00:48:00] post the junkiest rigs that they've made in order to pull off shots.
[00:48:04] Morgan / Jaymi: And it's like the stuff that you come up with
[00:48:07] Morgan / Jaymi: to make something work. It's so inspiring to see what people, people are No, you gotta say it. You gotta say it. But I then I have to tick the little box that says explicit. Okay, fine. Oh, I mean, can beep it. There's a well then I have to take the time to figure out how to beep it.
[00:48:19] Morgan / Jaymi: No, I'll just leave. . It's, it, it's a, it's shoddy rigs. S shotty rigs, but it's, you know, with an eye instead of a No. Yeah. Mm-hmm. . But at any rate like that is a really fun Instagram account to follow because it, you're right, like there is so much inside of this that when you embrace creativity and functionality over, I don't know, ego, then you come up with the coolest ideas for how to solve a problem.
[00:48:48] Morgan / Jaymi: It's about problem solving. What do I need to create to be able to illustrate what needs to be illustrated? So how do I pull that off? Yeah. And there's no glory in that side of things. That's the process. Doesn't have to look pretty. No, [00:49:00] no, not at all.
[00:49:01] Sabine: the, the secret sauce can stay secret
[00:49:04] Sabine: even if it's not a big secret. It's just off tape and a poster board from Michael.
[00:49:10] Morgan / Jaymi: Okay, so I would love to head in a slightly different direction. But a really fun one. So we were talking earlier about like how do you ensure that you always keep joy in your work as a creative? And we talked about the Northern spotted owl story. And so Sabine, this is primarily directed at you, but I think that it's really open for any of us to talk about.
[00:49:34] Morgan / Jaymi: When you are editing a photo story, you get a collection of images and you know that you want to create a final edit that illustrates this story in a certain way. And so you're really thinking about, okay, from these images, what am I gonna select and how am I gonna lay that out for this photo story? But then there's also the three of us got together to look at the exact same [00:50:00] story, but for a different purpose.
[00:50:01] Morgan / Jaymi: And we got into all of these other areas for like talking about why we liked certain images and what needs to st. Like if we keep that image, then cam this other ones stay. And there was so much inside of that that was a lot of fun and really in intriguing. So this question is two parts. One is, as a photo editor, what is it like for you to have the photo editing process that is part of the job?
[00:50:27] Morgan / Jaymi: You know, like what you really need to pick because you know what viewers are kind of expecting and the weight that is on your shoulders to illustrate the story. But then there's the photo editor side of you that's like, I want to just talk about stuff and I wanna just like go into all these different corners.
[00:50:44] Morgan / Jaymi: So how important is it for you to have both of those experiences as a photo editor? And the second part of this question is, how important is it for or, or what is the importance to all of us photo editors, photographers, creatives, [00:51:00] to make time to have these sessions that are almost conversational and to allow time to just like go off on these?
[00:51:08] Morgan / Jaymi: Because Moe and I just did another edit of my own stuff and I told her that I made decisions in some of the images that I picked for the wide edit because of stuff that the three of us talked about when editing her photo story. So that was like an educational moment for me where it was like, oh yeah, I didn't agree with them on that image choice, but I really love their thinking behind it.
[00:51:29] Morgan / Jaymi: And now that I'm in this context, I love that thinking so much that that's actually gonna direct how I choose certain images. So it expanded my creativity. I'm starting to ramble. Did those questions make sense
[00:51:41] Morgan / Jaymi: to
[00:51:41] Sabine: They did, but
[00:51:42] Sabine: I may have to be reminded.
[00:51:44] Morgan / Jaymi: Okay. , you have to break it back down. Jamie one, one part at the at a time.
[00:51:49] Morgan / Jaymi: Okay. I got so excited that the question that I wrote down is like barely a legible scribble, but yeah.
[00:51:55] Sabine: But I think I can safely say that to answer question number one. I, as a [00:52:00] picture editor, I'm trying to have these two circles meet the most, you know, they're like ven diagrams. And I want the overlap to be as big as possible. I want to be able to pull my extremely, all my favorite photos. I do usually first edit that's like shoot, like edit from the hip, like the stuff you love.
[00:52:21] Sabine: And you, I haven't read the story. I mean, I know what the story is because, Talked about the shoot list, but the the first draft of the piece hasn't come in. So I haven't really read the story. And so I picked my favorites and then the story comes in and I'm like, oh, it was kind of going in a slightly different direction, or I still have to find that overlap.
[00:52:43] Sabine: So my goal is always to have that most the, the overlap needs to be as big as possible. Now our exercise made me realize that I want to do more of that. So I've actually thanks to you to [00:53:00] implemented a new little process in my practice. For next issue. I just, you know, for the the six first pages of our magazine are called the Opener Spreads and Portfolio More.
[00:53:12] Sabine: We had your cor marant project. Anyways, I made an edit and then I circled back with the photographer and we really talked about the edit, which when, you know, in the sort of fast everything is done at the last minute, we don't have the time. It's like, where are the photos? We need to lay them out, you know? So I am now putting my foot down and I'm just, I want to implement that sort of, extremely important step to make sure I do an edit, but then I bring it back to the photographer and we really talk about it because, I mean, it seems like it should be that way. It's an obvious thing that should happen, but often things just move too fast. And we don't have time to do that. I think another takeaway for me is to say to [00:54:00] photographers, deliver a tight edit. I'm gonna put it on you, you the person in the field, you know what's happening out there. I wanna see what you see, and I wanna get, you know, you can give me an edit, a, which is really what you would like to have on the pages.
[00:54:16] Sabine: And then the edit B is sort of like the extra stuff to, in case you need these photos that are their little kind of transition images or the storytelling the gravy, you know? So I don't know if that makes sense, but I'm, I'm excited about that sort of process being underway. I feel that I have learned through, I mean, I, I, had a important takeaway learning moment that I'm implementing. So thank you so much to the
[00:54:49] Sabine: two of you.
[00:54:49] Morgan / Jaymi: so cool. I just feel like I like because I feel like it was so much fun to be in on that session with you guys and because we just did it again. . [00:55:00] I can't say how excited I am for you because I know exactly how fun it is to be able to sit down and like, let's talk about everything that comes into our head about this and why this image maybe comes after that one.
[00:55:13] Morgan / Jaymi: Or like the pros and cons of these and why we have to kill this darling. Or, I know that we're trying not to use like violent language, but still you have to kill your darling sometimes. And it's really hard depending on how close you are. Mm-hmm. And so to talk with the right people who are as invested in a story but aren't as emotionally connected to image, like, I'll, I'll quit talking.
[00:55:34] Morgan / Jaymi: I just, I'm so excited for you. I'm really, really stoked that you are saying no, this is a process that's happening. Cuz I can see that being so revitalizing.
[00:55:44] Sabine: it, it, it is sort of literally, I, I, I think that's the theme for me is like, push a reset button, you know,
[00:55:51] Sabine: it's high time. And I think we all need to do it to do this on a extremely regular basis, but, you know, getting kind of swept into the [00:56:00] fast. Again, back to what you were saying, Mo slowing down and allowing the time for more reflection. It's definitely stretching the process overall, but I think it's beneficial. So.
[00:56:14] Morgan / Jaymi: And, and. Well with those front of the book photo essays too, I think it's, that's such a great place to do that because so often you are working with photographers who are bringing in long-term projects. They have very personal connections and angles that are maybe nuanced. So to then have those conversations with those people, and then I, as a photographer, like there's so many of us especially once you kind of get to a point in your career where you're lucky enough to be shooting a lot of assignments and things like that.
[00:56:48] Morgan / Jaymi: We're looking for learning experiences, and I think a common theme across photographers is difficulty in knowing how to edit your own work.
[00:56:59] Morgan / Jaymi: And so [00:57:00] to have any opportunity like that, to learn how to be a better editor, how to think like an editor, how to distance yourself from the work it benefits everybody, I think.
[00:57:10] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . And then for you too, I think it helps strengthen relationships, you know? Yeah. Especially if you're getting to ex dive into that with someone who it might be your first or second time getting to work with them, you know, it's a great way to actually really. Strengthen that relationship. Yeah. And learn how they tick and think and stuff like that.
[00:57:29] Morgan / Jaymi: I love the idea too of like building that editing muscle among photographers too. Like with my students in conservation photography 1 0 1 I just threw cuz it is easier to edit stuff that you haven't shot. You have the emotional distance. And so I threw a portfolio of images into our student group and said, okay, get your editor hat on.
[00:57:49] Morgan / Jaymi: Here's 26 images. You have to narrow it down to 10 and put them in the order that you think it should go. And it was really fun to see what different students chose and how they ordered them. [00:58:00] And one of the students was even like, oh man, it's so much easier to edit something that's not your own work. So it just gives you some muscles that you can practice exercise.
[00:58:08] Morgan / Jaymi: And I, I think that this is a really amazing opportunity. Like if you wanna do some homework assignments with people who are in your camera club mm-hmm. or fellow photographer friends and it's like, just trade some portfolios and then sit there and talk about them and talk about your why. And there's oftentimes that I'm talking through what I think is my idea and literally as words are coming out of my mouth , I'm like, oh, I don't think I think that anymore.
[00:58:32] Morgan / Jaymi: Lemme take that back. On the second question, the, the second part of this question that I have though is when it comes to having these moments of being able to sit down with, like, Sabine, you're sitting down with photographers who you're working with for the front of book or you know, you're sitting down with your friends or whatever.
[00:58:50] Morgan / Jaymi: What do you think that this adds to your experience as a creative to make the time to have these conversations? Like, what do the [00:59:00] conversations themselves add to you and your life as a creative?
[00:59:04] Sabine: I mean, I, I think it gives you the opportunity to really see how someone else's brain works, you know, and why they see the way they see. Because, you know, as a picture editor, you've, you've had decades of experience. You think, you know, you see a certain way and my fear is always to put too much of my own vision into someone else's work.
[00:59:28] Sabine: And of course, that's why I'm an editor and
[00:59:30] Sabine: that's why I'm not a photographer cuz I love taking someone else's work and shaping it. But I wanna be respectful so that that person's work is still their work. You know, I don't want to take their clay and make them like, move their hands and make them do something that's not theirs.
[00:59:47] Sabine: So I think to me that's really important, you know, and to sort of say, Hey, what is your ultimate favorite photo out of the lot? If you were to pick that one shot That's going to be the quinte, quintessential, sort of [01:00:00] all encompassing image that tells the whole story in one image. Which one is it? And why?
[01:00:05] Sabine: Because I have some ideas, but that's me. It's not the you. So that's a short answer to that question.
[01:00:15] Morgan / Jaymi: I love that. Mm-hmm. , what about you, Mo? What comes up for you? Well, I mean, so many things, so many of the things that we already discussed, but like, I crave learning and growth and I don't want it to be too self-guided. I don't wanna be a burden on anybody, but I feel very, very spoiled and lucky that I'm now in a situation where I can come to people like Sabine and ask her to give her thoughts on, I mean, I feel like I could ask you anything about any project I was working on and get your advice.
[01:00:53] Morgan / Jaymi: And that's, that's such an enormous gift to have that and, and know that there's a [01:01:00] way to continue to become better and better at what I, what I care most about spending my life doing. Mm-hmm. . So that's like the, the big thing. Also, I love the sense of friendship and camaraderie. Like yes, we have our editors, photographers, we have the, like, roles and responsibilities that we have to fill and meet for each other, which is like that professional thing.
[01:01:23] Morgan / Jaymi: But I don't look at any of the editors I work with so many of the photographers that are in my community, I don't look at them as competition. I look at them as like my comrades, , mm-hmm. and and my friends and my fellow nerds who just like, I can let the nerd flag fly and no one's gonna judge me about it.
[01:01:44] Morgan / Jaymi: And so, having these kinds of discussions and, and not only do I get to learn, but I, I feel like I am amongst like my chosen family mm-hmm. and even if we're all the way across the world from one another. And so I, [01:02:00] I get a lot of fulfillment from that. It's the kind of thing that fuels me that keeps me believing that, okay, I'm gonna keep working on this because this is my community that, that I've mm-hmm.
[01:02:12] Morgan / Jaymi: built and my purpose in life. And I, and I so just love and enjoy the people that I've managed to surround. myself with or who've like mm-hmm. let me in, you know, at the same time. So that's for me, like I just love it and it, it just makes me like so excited to get up every day and work on new things. Yeah.
[01:02:37] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. I don't think that I realized what it brought to me until recently, , cuz I have so much fun sitting down with one or two or three people and we're just, here's a pile of images. In fact, I remember we were at an event, Mo it was you and, and several of our colleagues and all of us, I think it were, it was five of us and we were in a hotel room at an event and one of 'em needed to turn in an application with a [01:03:00] portfolio.
[01:03:00] Morgan / Jaymi: So we bought a bottle of whiskey and we were just three sheets to the wind editing this portfolio. And it was so much fun. And I remember that night. So like, as just this joyous thing mm-hmm. and between like that experience and then also the one with the three of us, one of the things that I realized that it's brought for me is a level of bravery in recognizing who you are as a photographer and bravery in the choices that you make moving forward.
[01:03:27] Morgan / Jaymi: So for instance, I mentioned earlier that in this wide edit I pulled an image, there were several images where there was a dog and a person in the scene and the, they were sort of looking at each other, and my first impression was like, oh, well go ahead and pull the shots where they're clearly looking at each other, because that's sort of the point of it or whatever.
[01:03:47] Morgan / Jaymi: And part of me was just like, yeah, but it's kind of obvious and it's kind of uh, you know, it's okay, dog in person looking at each other. And then there's one where the person sort of looking down has a little bit more of a spacey look and then the dog's eyes are closing. It's got [01:04:00] this kind of goofy look on his face.
[01:04:02] Morgan / Jaymi: And so I was choosing these shots and I was like, but that one's so cute. Like, I feel like there's so much personality in that shot, but I'm, I can see myself as someone who's like, yeah, but is that the, is that the right shot to choose? Is that gonna be okay Or are there people gonna like it?
[01:04:16] Morgan / Jaymi: So I, I remember talking with the three of us. You guys loved a shot that I ultimately didn't really like, but you loved it because it was weird. It stood out, it had quirkiness to it. And so I channeled you two. And I actually chose that off the wall shot with a goofy look on their faces because that's what my heart wanted.
[01:04:36] Morgan / Jaymi: My heart wanted that shot to be in there. And so I feel like sometimes you can go into these sessions with other people and recall what they said and why they said it. And it gives you the, the courage to be like, well, I know why I want that shot to be in here, and I don't really care if other people see it as the wrong choice.
[01:04:54] Morgan / Jaymi: Because for me, as the creative, that shot needs to be in there and I'm gonna choose it and then move forward. And then it ends up [01:05:00] being the right shot overall, and it gives you more creative freedom. So I feel like there is also an element of bravery in your creative choices because of what you can recall in the conversations.
[01:05:10] Morgan / Jaymi: For some reason, the group of friends and stranger things is coming to mind. , like, yeah, they all come together to tuck the monsters together and lean on each other's different strengths. I think that that's something that really comes out of that for me too. Yeah, definitely. Yeah,, well so to kind of go through some of the places that I was thinking about taking this interview Sabine, I also know that you wanted to talk not only about the owl story, but also the Coron story of Morgan's that you worked on, which is a really amazing.
[01:05:39] Morgan / Jaymi: Example of communication and okay, well, but we might need these shots for this story. Can you get those and all of that. So one of the questions that I had lined up for this was, what is communication? Like when you are working with a photographer who's out in the field, and we'll just use the Corrate story as the example.
[01:05:59] Sabine: I mean [01:06:00] the core Moran story also, you took the lead. I was just kind of following, you know, I think the portfolio itself, you had already created a
[01:06:08] Sabine: Very strong narrative.
[01:06:09] Sabine: and I think
[01:06:11] Sabine: we
[01:06:11] Sabine: were,
[01:06:11] Sabine: in this particular case I, I remember very clearly talking about that one shot where they were
[01:06:18] Sabine: using the gun Yeah.
[01:06:19] Sabine: And the bridge and you know, the angle. So we were super laser focused on literally, Here's, I think we share screen shared, and we talked about how about the hand is not as big in the frame and the person, and we see more of this. I mean, it was literally sort of physically imagining where the person would be, how much of the frame would be filled by the person by the hand, possibly the gun, possibly the flare that we wanna see.
[01:06:48] Sabine: The flare. So it was extremely precise. It wasn't about the feeling or the mood, it was literally here are the few I shot. We were kind of going through them saying, [01:07:00] this works really well if you can do this, but less of that, more sky, I want the flare, you know, not as big of a head, because once you publish it, even at a quarter page, it becomes really big.
[01:07:12] Sabine: You know, it was sort of like dissecting
[01:07:14] Sabine: something on a table.
[01:07:16] Morgan / Jaymi: real quick just for any listeners if they're not familiar with what actually the story's about, could you guys kind of set that up so that it makes sense when we go into detail about chat? Sure. So this was a long-term personal project that until Audubon picked it up and also supported some additional photography for it was completely, you know, self-funded personal project.
[01:07:41] Morgan / Jaymi: No grants, no nothing. And it's a local project too, to where I live, but it's about where I live there until recently was the largest nesting colony of double crested cormorants in North America. And they like to eat fish. We have endangered salmon here that becomes problematic when people, [01:08:00] especially a large commercial fishery, is wanting to fish those same fish.
[01:08:06] Morgan / Jaymi: And so the government had implemented a culling campaign on the island where the cormorants were nesting. And what that ultimately did was it caused the cormorants to that, that colony to collapse. The cormorants left the island and they ended up taking residents on this sort of iconic bridge that connects Oregon and Washington.
[01:08:31] Morgan / Jaymi: It's appeared in a bunch of movies. It spans the Columbia River. It's four miles long and it had. I think at its peak, about 11,000 pairs of double crested cormorants nesting on it as of 2020. And that presented a whole host of other problems. So there's all, there's, you know, there's all these other facets that we could get into.
[01:08:51] Morgan / Jaymi: But that's sort of like the, the basis, the stage that was set for this project. And I've spent [01:09:00] a bunch of time and I will be spending more time continuing to document, , all of the dynamics and the ways that these birds are crossing over into people's lives, as well as the science that's happening to try to come to grips with this pretty big conundrum at this point.
[01:09:18] Morgan / Jaymi: So I had presented that portfolio, so we knew I was working on this project and, and had said, oh, you know, the, this photo essay at the front of the book might be a great place to run it. And it's such a, it was such a fantastic place for this project to premiere. And there's still lots like, including that shot.
[01:09:36] Morgan / Jaymi: It was so helpful. One, to be able to be working on a story and be able to take that and, and use it as to, to continue to build relationships. I had been cultivating to be, like, to get permission to go on this bridge to document this hazing mm-hmm. , because I, I had an outlet lined. , it's an outlet that's known for doing good [01:10:00] coverage.
[01:10:00] Morgan / Jaymi: You know, not too, too extremist one way or the other. And and then I had built relationships with the Oregon Department of Transportation who manages the bridge mm-hmm. . And they helped me build a relationship with wildlife services. Mm-hmm. , who was doing the hazing, and got permission from the engineers who were doing a lot of the bridge refurbishment that had to do with the cormorants, pooping all over it.
[01:10:26] Morgan / Jaymi: So that I would get permission to literally climb down the exterior side of this massive bridge over the Columbia River and photograph a guy shooting basically fireworks at mm-hmm. , a bunch of birds nesting on it. And so it was really incredible that I got that opportunity and I got it more than once.
[01:10:46] Morgan / Jaymi: And then it was really, really crucial, I think, to have Sabine's help with approaching that picture. Because I was lucky I could go more than once. And I pr I, I could have [01:11:00] continued to go more times after the deadline of the story. And I probably will cuz I'm still not satisfied with my photo
[01:11:06] Morgan / Jaymi: But where we ended up is a lot better than where I started. And it is a really tricky situation. You know, it's a, it's literally. , they, they shoot their flare pistols. And the whistle pistols and you've got like, you, you have to recompose, you don't get to like retry a different composition.
[01:11:25] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. , it's like one opportunity and then it's gone for that entire session and you know, you only get like a couple times to go down and try mm-hmm. because it's just time the clock runs out on time. So to have Sabine to be able to bring her the frames and show how the process was evolving and talk with her about the physical limitations of where you can stand and things like that.
[01:11:47] Morgan / Jaymi: Not just because of the fact that you're basically on temporary scaffolding underneath the bridge. . But that you can't, you know, obviously you can't stand in certain places because there's a firearm involved. , right? Yeah. Yeah. [01:12:00] So, well, and I mean, so once you have access to a certain shot making the most of it is like, there's so much pressure on this. And then meanwhile, you're sitting in a position Sabine, where you can't be there in the moment.
[01:12:13] Morgan / Jaymi: So you're trying to guide and, and this is, yes, we're using this particular thing as an example, but this is, time and again what happens between editor and photographers. So what is it like for you to be like, I have to give my best advice for someone who gets a shot or two to get the image right
[01:12:32] Sabine: For me, it boils down to trust. I say always, this is how I think this could be fixed or problem solved or trouble shot, so to
[01:12:43] Sabine: speak?
[01:12:43] Sabine: But at the end of the day, you there and I am not, and I trust you to basically come up with the best possible shot and I am absolutely. Okay with this not working because [01:13:00] I cannot. expect the impossible. And I'm not there. I'm not the one who's composing the photo. I trust you. If it doesn't work out, I know you've given it your best. You know, so I don't ever, my goal is also to support, but never put you know, un sort of reachable pressure and say, no, you have to get that shot, because otherwise I will be disappointed.
[01:13:25] Sabine: I just don't believe that is a, a workable relationship. You know? I mean, I just had that conversation with another photographers and who was in the field this weekend for me and then said, you know, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. This is not gonna be failure. We tried. It's just, you know, my expectations have to be realistic and I am not there I am not dealing with all the parameters. This is what I envision. But at the end of the day, I trust you to do your best. And I know it's sometimes it doesn't work. And, and I take that back to my [01:14:00] editors and I never, you know, obviously failed the photographers. I always say, we tried, this is something didn't work. But look, we have this different direction that we implemented and that is super successful.
[01:14:13] Sabine: So, To me, what's really important is that, yes, as a photo editor I envision how a shot a story should look, but at the end of the day, it is just the figment of my, my brain imagining. And yes, I'm not there and I'm not you with your eyes. So that's why I hire you to shoot this. So you can, you constantly readjust, you know, what your expectations are with the limitation of the setup and the weather and the animals.
[01:14:41] Sabine: You know, you can't just fail someone because the birds didn't show up or the weather was bad, , I mean, or it was too dangerous to hang from this bridge,
[01:14:51] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. I, I do have to say I also had another editor in, in the writing sector. And your [01:15:00] approach and her approach were really similar and all it does for me is make me wanna work way harder for you. I know, I think that if there were an editor that was like, go and get this shot, or, you're out, it, it puts pressure and you really wanna perform and everything, but it doesn't make you feel emotionally invested in trying to give that editor who put all this trust in you what they want.
[01:15:22] Morgan / Jaymi: It's like Harry Potter and Dumbledore. Like, you just, you wanna do a good job too, Kristen. Yeah, absolutely. And so , I will say like Sabine, that approach that you take has the effect of, I think, producing even better results because since you're putting trust in the photographer, we want to do everything that we can and it gives us this like, sense of strength in the field, I think.
[01:15:43] Sabine: and, and license to fail oak.
[01:15:46] Sabine: And, and, and that's, it's, I don't even know what word we should use because it is not a failure license to try
[01:15:54] Sabine: and for it To not take take, a different outcome.
[01:15:57] Morgan / Jaymi: I call it data collection or, [01:16:00] or take a chance. I don't wanna say take risks because it's like, I think that there's a real. There's a real presence of, this has been shown in war photography. Es especially as more and more photojournalist are stringers are freelance.
[01:16:15] Morgan / Jaymi: They're, they're not under the umbrella of a publication, but they're going into war zones. And then, you know, certain kinds of images are always getting notoriety through contests or the front page publishing. That they take greater and greater safety risks in order to get particular kinds of images that they think are gonna be the most successful or impactful.
[01:16:38] Morgan / Jaymi: So I, when I say risk, I don't mean doing that. Hmm. it's more about taking a chance on being creative, doing world building so that your story, the success of your photographic story doesn't hinge on the presence or absence of one particular photo. Mm-hmm. , I think if you're in a position of like, if we don't [01:17:00] get this one photo, the whole thing is just like a waste of time.
[01:17:04] Morgan / Jaymi: You've chosen the wrong approach or the wrong story or something is, is very dysfunctional within the whole system that has commissioned that story. Or within yourself who, how you've decided to approach a project because these things. don't come down. There are certain pictures that are really important, but most stories I think have more than one image that are critically important and can accomplish what you need to accomplish to engage people with the issue.
[01:17:30] Morgan / Jaymi: Because it, it is about, I think, engaging people with the issue mm-hmm. and making them stick with it. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And I think that if you are willing to take a chance on a shot and you do quote unquote fail, then you're thinking, okay, I didn't get that. Is there another way that I can show that element?
[01:17:46] Morgan / Jaymi: Is there another opportunity that I can bring back? Is there a way that I can replace that somehow? And so it's still, it keeps creativity going. Yeah. That conversation keeps it going. If I can come back to that picture about the [01:18:00] hazing of the corres on the bridge. Yes. Cuz something I'm very concerned about is like, I'm trying to get access to things that most people would probably be like, I'm not letting you photograph this and, and I need to photograph an element of it for the story.
[01:18:17] Morgan / Jaymi: And the while I am, I'm not like, . Well, I have a complicated opinion of wildlife services in general, . And but the officer that I photographed, like, he was very just sort of practical about his relationship with the bird and the job and everything, and I wasn't there to judge him on it. And I made my photos and I would share photos with him.
[01:18:40] Morgan / Jaymi: He actually ended up asking to use some of the photos that I took
[01:18:45] Morgan / Jaymi: in presentations about managing Ence on the bridge. So to me, I take that as a kind of a win that I have worked with these groups that could be on opposing [01:19:00] sides from other people in the story, connected with the story, and they're still willing to they don't see themselves as villainized.
[01:19:09] Morgan / Jaymi: They, they saw themselves as like maybe he had a pragmatic relationship to those images where someone else will have a more emotional response to those images. Mm-hmm. , but he didn't feel misrepresented.
[01:19:19] Morgan / Jaymi: And that's really important to me because I, I think that we need to work harder at showing these different sides of the story and getting as much as we can into the inside of those.
[01:19:33] Morgan / Jaymi: So it's not like we're photographing it from a long ways, from far away. It's like we somehow gained access mm-hmm. to provide these other perspectives and, and we're found to be like, trustworthy, and they took a chance on trusting us that we weren't just gonna like butcher them. Mm-hmm. , you know? Yeah.
[01:19:52] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. This is actually something that I, I've talked with my students about recently. You know, in conservation photography 1 0 1, 1 of the things that you do is [01:20:00] you learn how to develop a story idea in and of itself. And so you'll, you'll often come up with a story idea, and then you present that for feedback and we all talk about it and kind of critique it.
[01:20:09] Morgan / Jaymi: And it can be easy when you're on a certain side of a conservation issue to say, these people are doing this, and it's so frustrating and I wanna change it. And so I'm gonna do a story about this. And so it's like, if only these people would get their stuff together, then everything would be okay. And I'm like, okay, I understand that you wanna do a story about this issue, but do you see how you basically vilified the people that you're gonna need to go photograph and work with?
[01:20:31] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . It's that really the approach that you wanna take and, and honestly, like your target audience for this conservation story, are the people that you're vilifying, are they gonna listen to you when this story comes out? They probably aren't. So are there gonna, is there another way that we can reframe this story to basically be fair to parties and say, you, your voice will be heard, or your perspective will be heard, or you're gonna be a part of this story.
[01:20:58] Morgan / Jaymi: And then ultimately, like what [01:21:00] you said, that gives you access, it gives you perspective, it adds complexity. And that's the only way that people ultimately listen to anything is if they feel like it's been fairly stated.
[01:21:11] Sabine: I think you put the, your finger on what I think is a um, unfairly conceived notion of what conservation photography is. I think it's still journalism. You still present both sides of the issue. It doesn't mean that you take sides. Being an advocate doesn't mean that you don't recognize that each side of, of the equation has their value and their, you know, their own agenda.
[01:21:36] Sabine: That's to be respected. And so I think today, We really need to make sure we keep fostering a sort of away from the label of conservation is advocacy to death. I mean, not to death, but that's sort of very one-sided take side [01:22:00] with the issue, because you wanna save this or save that, because you don't build a coalition, you do not, you know, you need, you need more, not less to be able to achieve those goals.
[01:22:11] Sabine: So, and at the end of the day, it's still journalists. I, I truly believe that you need to be a journalist and present, you know, both parties and as you just described beautifully mo you know, this person felt fully represented and is now using your photography. And, you know, it's, it's complex, complicated. But that's, we don't want a black and white world, you know,
[01:22:37] Sabine: it's all in the gray zone, all in nuances.
[01:22:40] Morgan / Jaymi: And I will say like, I don't really, I don't want him using my photos to justify killing wildlife. It's, but I do wanna keep the doors open in them at the table. So I'm gonna still be using those photos to [01:23:00] just really try to show people all the layers of what's happening with this bird. And I'm gonna present other layers where it's like building empathy for the bird and how it's surviving.
[01:23:11] Morgan / Jaymi: And, you know, different groups will interpret pictures different ways, but I do want to keep those, I wanna keep people at the table and those doors open. Mm-hmm. , you know. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . If this was something where it's a non-lethal way, that they were dealing with a small subset of the birds on the bridge in order to make sure the bridge is in good and enough conditions.
[01:23:36] Morgan / Jaymi: So yeah, it doesn't collapse. I'm driving on that bridge. I wanna make sure that bridge is stable too. So I, I appreciate, but I also appreciate my life as a vehicle driver. Right? Yeah. You know, so these are the kinds of things that go through my brain is I, I deal with folks that it's so easy to just slap a label on wildlife surfaces, which is known for just reaching for the gun and shooting thousands and thousands [01:24:00] and thousands of quote unquote nuisance animals.
[01:24:02] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. to, to try to be a little bit more looking at the, bigger picture for this particular mm-hmm. scenario. Yeah. You know? Yeah. And I think that level of it, it actually makes me think about, you know, Sabine, we talked a, a second ago about how you put trust in the photographer and that makes the photographer wanna work for you.
[01:24:24] Morgan / Jaymi: When you, as the photographer put trust in a character that they, as a person is a, a, a good and valid person. They put trust in you to document them. Mm-hmm. . And that makes you capable of documenting more of the story even in these controversial stories. And I think that that's really important.
[01:24:42] Sabine: Hmm.
[01:24:43] Morgan / Jaymi: I have another question.
[01:24:44] Morgan / Jaymi: I know that we are reaching sort of like the, the limits of time for this interview, and I wanna be really respectful, but I do have one more question that may lead us down a rabbit hole, but I think it's really valuable to think about. So as an editor, [01:25:00] Sabine and as a photographer, Morgan, there's all of these moments and little like ahas or sparks of potential stories that might come across your field of vision.
[01:25:12] Morgan / Jaymi: And what is it like for you to the, I'm gonna go ahead and throw a two-parter at you again. , what is it like for you to a wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Let me take notes. Giving your notebook. I know. , come on. Gimme a notebook. You gotta write this down just in case. So what is it like for you to be active in the practice of recognizing stories that are possibilities?
[01:25:36] Morgan / Jaymi: And two, to think about what stories are kind of interesting and then what have real potential for getting out there in the world and how do you kind of differentiate those things? So one, the, the first part of the question has more to do with the active practice of recognizing stories. And then the second part is, I guess, judging them or weighing them to what you move forward with [01:26:00] and what you allow to just slip to the back burner or slip off the possibility entirely.
[01:26:05] Morgan / Jaymi: Okay. And Morgan is furiously writing. Yeah.
[01:26:07] Morgan / Jaymi: I I have a quick question clarifying question. Yes. by being active and recognizing stories cuz I've had this happen. Are you talking about like we're in the middle of like, say an assignment and another story comes up that you're like, Ooh, that's actually like the real story?
[01:26:24] Morgan / Jaymi: Or do you mean Oh, good one. Like in life in general. Oh man. So now there's another rabbit hole because that was a great, like different realm to go. So no, I wasn't actually asking about when you're pursuing a story and then you realize, ooh, actually the more interesting angles over here. What I'm thinking about is more like, well we were talking about the other night where you're active in a story and then you recognize, oh, one of these characters themselves has an interesting story or one of these species that is totally tangential to the story, but I just happen to run into them when I'm in the field.
[01:26:57] Morgan / Jaymi: That's a story. And, and keeping an [01:27:00] active notebook, cuz one of the things that I wanna start doing is keeping an active notebook on anything that comes across my brain as it may be a story, it might not, but it's worth like noting down and exploring. Okay. So that's where I was heading with this question.
[01:27:13] Morgan / Jaymi: Okay. So how do you recognize potential stories? Then how do you decide that they're interesting enough? Yes. And that they might be successful Yes. If for like magazines or other places to want to publish them. Exactly. Okay. Because there are certain stories that we might like if you have the active practice, recognizing stories.
[01:27:33] Morgan / Jaymi: You might write something down and it's like, it's interesting to you, but it doesn't mean it's interesting to anybody else. Yeah. So which ones are the ones that then you weigh and say, okay, that one is something that has legs that involves other people. I wanna hear Sabine's answer. Okay.
[01:27:47] Sabine: It's complicated I, well, I think actually, I think both questions really kind of merge into a multi-tiered [01:28:00] single answer or, you know, I, so the answer is, you know, this is not a, a decision that I make on my own. It's a group decision. There's editors, there's external factors, like we only publish four stories a year.
[01:28:17] Sabine: So then we have to balance, oh, we've already covered that species. We've been to that location. So this is very specific to the work I do for Audubon. This is not just in general, you know, I'm going to kind of lay down the, sort of some of the process in terms of the specific. Magazine I work for, or website, which is what everybody does.
[01:28:40] Sabine: When you're assigned for a publication or a website, there's always lots of external parameters that may not have anything to do with the value of your story, but have to do with you know, somebody just pitched me and I'm like, Hey, it's a great story. Look, two years ago we just published it. It may be, you know, we [01:29:00] just went to that side of the world.
[01:29:01] Sabine: We just did something really similar. So your story still has legs, but it won't be for us. You need to keep going and you need to pitch it to someone else. Or, you know, there's like one person in the team that's evaluating the pitches that has a little bit of a personal, I don't like that because I don't like blah, blah, blah.
[01:29:23] Sabine: Or that's my little pet peeve and I'm going to react a little differently. So all of a sudden, you know the balance of opinions maybe, Ooh, this is our expert. Why are we, you know, are we going in, you know, against the grain? Our readers going to be? Taken aback. Can we actually photograph it?
[01:29:45] Sabine: Do we have the resources? Because it's gonna involve multiple seasons. We need the story now, but we can't, the timing is wrong because it's the winter and this is supposed to be, you know, we off migration [01:30:00] season, we should have two sets of migrations spring and fall, but we can't wait a year and a half. Or, you know, your story's really interesting, but we need a, something that's a breakout piece of news on conservation. Something that's sort of changes the paradigm about the species, about the research. You know, your story's good, but it's not great. You know, the angle is, is is okay, but it's not, it's not moving the needle or it's not different enough.
[01:30:33] Sabine: It's been done before. I mean, all these are potential feedback on a story that. Can come across. And sometimes the story is amazing, but somehow because of this and this and that, I have this one story that's sitting in my, I wanna publish a story, and, and now it's like too old.
[01:30:52] Sabine: And it's been sitting in my little basket, you know, in my cart for three years.
[01:30:57] Sabine: And I love it. And we have not published it, [01:31:00] and I'm gonna have to let it go because, you know, the reporting is old. The situation in this place may have changed. I have no idea what the, you know, conservation status of that particular species is at the moment. Covid has happened. Everything can be different.
[01:31:16] Sabine: And the set of images is amazing, but we didn't publish it because there was always a different reason why they, it wasn't right for us at that moment. So sometimes it could be infuriating because I as a picture editor have to collaborate with a whole set of other folks who have their own expertise that I have to respect.
[01:31:40] Sabine: And we have to come to a, a decision together about what runs and what doesn't. And, you know, sometimes you win like not win. I don't like the language of win and lose, but sometimes the timing is right and everything falls into place, like the Corine story. And sometimes it just doesn't, there's like a couple [01:32:00] of the, you know, spots on the lineup that just. Throwing everything off kilter.
[01:32:06] Morgan / Jaymi: have you ever. . Like for instance, in the case of this one story that now I wanna know what this story is, and then I went off my note like, oh, is there a way that I can, like, oh, I wanna rest, brainstorm. Yeah, brainstorm for this person. Like where else they, what else they might need to do, or where else they could take it to get it out there.
[01:32:22] Morgan / Jaymi: But yeah. Has anyone ever has that happened with this story where for whatever reasons it wasn't a good fit for Audubon, but you really liked it and, and you gave that person any suggestions or connections to other outlets that might be like, you know, maybe you should think about approaching this person over here.
[01:32:47] Morgan / Jaymi: Because they might actually, they've, they've been looking for stuff like
[01:32:52] Sabine: Mm-hmm. .I don't know if I specifically engineer that kind of thing, but I always have said at this point, I [01:33:00] ne I'm releasing the story. Go pitch it to this, this, and this outlet, because we are never gonna run it, you
[01:33:06] Sabine: know, and I'm I'm sorry I cannot keep sitting on this. Please go and give it another life. I'm trying to think. I probably will come up with something at this hour. I'm not sure my brain is still able to process this information. I'm sure it's happened.
[01:33:23] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. And the other thing I had was, I could imagine someone listening to this and hearing like, oh, have, they've already done a conservation, a, a big story on a species within my tri-state area. Mm-hmm. , for example. And they're like, well, they're not gonna, they're not gonna go for another story in my region is one, is that true?
[01:33:47] Morgan / Jaymi: And two the other element is can, you know, while we encourage a lot of like, you know, the benefits of working more locally, but if you have a good story [01:34:00] idea or a project where it's like you have, you've got the inside track, you've got the relationships with the scientists or the people on the ground living with the species that are going to give you access and also, you know, lower the costs of being in the field for whatever reason.
[01:34:19] Morgan / Jaymi: That's something to pay attention to when deciding to pitch a story, I think. Mm-hmm. . So, because it, those are things that can be built as like, yeah, it's not a local story, but I can do it on the cheap, or I've got the, I've got the people, I've got the relationships already. Mm-hmm.
[01:34:32] Sabine: and hands down, if you know, I say we've, we don't have the room for it. That doesn't mean the story is not viable. It means it's just not right for us. Please, by all means, you know, go pitch it somewhere else. Someone else will give you the, the resources and, and the, the real estate to publish that.
[01:34:51] Sabine: It's always a, the timing's not right. The, you know, the story, it, it doesn't deme in any way, shape of [01:35:00] faith, shape of or not your work, your ability to produce the story. It's unfortunate because you'd love to work here and I get that. But, you know, at the end of the day it's it's just one more step into your process to, okay, I'm pivoting. Who else out there? I'm gonna keep working on this. It's my project. Someone be a right fit for someone.
[01:35:24] Sabine: So I believe in that. And I've, definitely been, you know, helping with story development or mentoring here and their own stories that absolutely not right for Audubon, but just because I believe in the story or I or I can. Collaborate on some guidance. I'm very happy to do that. It doesn't always need to be my job as a photo editor, it doesn't always need to have a return on my investment for my own publication. You
[01:35:49] Sabine: know, I, I, I love talking about stories, even though, you know, they're not gonna end up in my magazine or in on my website.
[01:35:58] Sabine: That's okay.
[01:35:59] Sabine: It makes me [01:36:00] a, it's the muscle, you
[01:36:01] Morgan / Jaymi: I
[01:36:01] Sabine: exercise the muscle.
[01:36:03] Morgan / Jaymi: that is super generous of you especially considering how many different directions you're constantly being pulled. Mm-hmm. , that's a huge,
[01:36:13] Sabine: But that's that is the, that's what keeps me you know, sane and makes me a better editor. It's not, you know, if I were to only focus on the stuff I need to do on my to-do list, I was, I would shrivel up like an old shriveled apple, you know, there was, there would be no juice left. I need to have some juice.
[01:36:33] Sabine: Otherwise, you
[01:36:34] Morgan / Jaymi: I'm totally picturing this like sad little apple with like your clear framed glasses propped on top of it. . Yeah. I feel like this, that's the title for the episode is like how to not shivel up like it all shriveled Apple . Yeah. But I do. Okay, so I'm gonna, I'm gonna come back and I'm gonna re-ask this question because I think that asking two pronged questions late in the evening after happy hour is a [01:37:00] mistake.
[01:37:00] Morgan / Jaymi: So I'm gonna just ask it in a new way. Isn't not after, it's during, well, during um, when it comes to the practice of that muscle exercising, the muscle of identifying stories, What are your thoughts on actively practicing that as a creative exercise? . Okay. I have, I have ideas . Okay. Okay. So one of the thing, there's, there's a few things that I pay attention to.
[01:37:26] Morgan / Jaymi: Okay. So I pay attention to obviously your gut reaction because you need that no matter what. Like, that's gonna help sustain you. It, it is a signal, Hey, I'm actually inherently interested in this. Mm-hmm. two is, I often look for, does it raise some sort of like larger, almost existential question.
[01:37:48] Morgan / Jaymi: And invariably the projects that, you know, it's not necessarily about a GW science finding.
[01:37:56] Morgan / Jaymi: Sometimes it's like that, but usually those things are like pretty [01:38:00] short stories. Yeah. It's, if it, if the gws science findings and what it took to get there lead to some existential questions about our relationship to nature or what it took to find that information. Even like is it worth it? You know, those kinds of questions.
[01:38:18] Morgan / Jaymi: I think they cross, they are what good stories hinge on. Yeah. Every good story you've ever read hinges on something big like that. Yeah. Cuz you're basically taking a, oh, look at that interesting thing. I may or may not care about it to a big picture. So what factor where no matter who you are, it affects you in some way or you care about it in some way.
[01:38:37] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . So you're taking it from like very specific to something much more general and relatable. Yeah. A thousand percent agree with you. Does it raise that little spidey sense in you? Yeah. And all of a sudden the whole world opens up with like so many ways you could approach it different audiences you could potentially reach.
[01:38:57] Morgan / Jaymi: You know, I was just at the Arctic Goose [01:39:00] Conference, where I spoke on, on communication.
[01:39:04] Morgan / Jaymi: But you know, one of the scientists that, I mean, a lot of the scientists there were really, they were very, very invested and concerned with communication and mm-hmm.
[01:39:12] Morgan / Jaymi: And one young guy was, he's getting ready to start his PhD and I was asking him, I was like, well, why do you, why are you doing your work here? And he talked about how he was like born and raised in this place. And, and at first he had been like, well, it was like an interesting topic associated with, you know, the place that I wanted to stay.
[01:39:31] Morgan / Jaymi: But then he started talking about this sense of home. Mm. And, and how doing this work in this particular place enriched that sense of home and his sense of responsibility to it. And that he hope to connect people to caring funnily enough about like Bard Owls, but back east. to their wellbeing and that sense of home.
[01:39:53] Morgan / Jaymi: And I was like, well, and he was very interested in, in telling a story about, you know, kinda getting involved in him doing [01:40:00] some communication work. And I was like, tap into that more. Mm-hmm. , because it doesn't then matter really what the discoveries are that you made or your particular scientific process, but if you are building on this idea of home and what that, how's that defined for you and what your responsibility is to it, then you've tapped into themes that so many people care about and you happen to have some species and settings that then create intrigue because it's outside the norm of what we use to describe home.
[01:40:33] Morgan / Jaymi: Yes. And, and, and so I would think for me, big things personally when I approach story triggers are those existential questions or values, and then I love contradictions. Hmm. What about you, Sabine? When you're actively thinking about story ideas or things you know, kind of come across your radar and your peripheral vision, or maybe even come across your desk, like you get a rash of [01:41:00] stories across your desk, that sounds really awful.
[01:41:02] Morgan / Jaymi: When you get an abundance of stories across your desk, what stands out for you in really active, actively working on the muscle? That is story identifi.
[01:41:15] Sabine: I mean, usually for me right now, our, there's a lot of similar similarities to what you were just mentioning. Oh. I think to me it's sort of like climate, big, big future where our, as a species human, the interaction between us climate and animals and the future of this planet lie and seen within the prism, of course, of bird conservation, because that's what I specifically do.
[01:41:46] Sabine: So, to me, yes, there, if there is a component that's, you know, this is this very narrow science where this is this very narrow species, but it's so telling about a larger theme and it's [01:42:00] related to climate and how we use or abuse our natural resources. I think the c the where all these Freds meet is where I find interest and I love unsung heroes.
[01:42:15] Sabine: People who stories about, you know, this kind of like, very under sort of studied species or very sort of general generic run of the mill. Nothing special, but that carries so much importance. I love these kinds of stories and I also like stories that people can relate to. It doesn't need to be super far, it doesn't need to be exotic. I love exotic stuff, but I wanna hear more stories about stuff that happens in people's communities. You know, that's, that's right here, right there. I think conservation, it's about solutions. I am so tired of the doom, gloom, everything I [01:43:00] want to, that is kind of my big, big thing right now. I want to see stories that show solutions, things that I can be hopeful about, things that we can show young kids in elementary school so that, yes, they all wear about climate change and all the awful things that their future hold, but I want to give them hope because otherwise, you know, they're, they're in elementary school.
[01:43:25] Sabine: These kids are little. I want them to be able to say, this is giving me hope and this is something I can do to change the course of this runaway train That's, you know, taken us to potential doom gloom. So I really, I, it's really hard to find stories that show positive, that are solution oriented.
[01:43:49] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . I'm, I'm like furiously nodding
[01:43:52] Morgan / Jaymi: because this has been a conversation in the Facebook group that I run. I think Morgan, you posted a question about like, yeah. If there's [01:44:00] something like what are the strengths and weaknesses in media discussing conservation right now, what do you guys think those are?
[01:44:08] Morgan / Jaymi: And everyone was like, they don't talk enough about solutions. They don't talk enough about what people are doing, right? They don't talk about what we can, they, they tell a story of doom and gloom and then don't tell us what we can do to help. And so everybody is looking for a way to help. Everybody is looking for a way to contribute.
[01:44:25] Morgan / Jaymi: I believe this to my core. Even if people who don't like conserv. , they're still looking for a way to contribute to their community, to their church, to their family, to something. Everyone's looking for a way to contribute. So if you can really train your brain to look at solutions, to look at empowerment, I think that that really lends weight to you as a storyteller, to someone who can really bring change about.
[01:44:53] Morgan / Jaymi: And that doesn't mean pretending like things are on an overly positive [01:45:00] trajectory. No, it doesn't mean ignoring, picturing the problem. It's, it means adding another layer to the story and deciding to give a particular layer, sort of like the, give them the prominent place so that people take a prominent takeaway from the story.
[01:45:18] Morgan / Jaymi: So you represent the problem, you see the impacts, the challenges, but you show the person or the groups or whatever, the species overcoming those challenges and finding that sense of hope and the, the things that, the action points that whether or not you as an individual can participate in them. But recognizing I think it's so important, you know, some of these things.
[01:45:42] Morgan / Jaymi: Yeah. You know, you and I, we, we can't change the needle with recycling or turning our lights off or even volunteering at our wildlife rehab center. It's something far away. . And making sure that the people who are basically dedicating their lives [01:46:00] sacrificing so much running themselves into the ground to try to address and solve these issues, feel seen, and then through their stories maybe get more support.
[01:46:12] Morgan / Jaymi: Then I think that's a hugely imp that's like, that's where you and I come in is like as story creators. That's how we can support them as readers who have maybe no interest or other engagement with these issues or stories might decide, Hey, I wanna support that group because they're doing something good.
[01:46:32] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. , then you can become an active, participant in the solutions instead of just receiving bad news and being like, well , nevermind. Yeah. I'm gonna go eat ice cream. Exactly. . Okay. On that note, here's the last question of the interview. What will each of you do tomorrow to find joy in the work that you do?
[01:46:55] Sabine: Well not specifically tomorrow, but I am mentoring a couple of. [01:47:00] Photographers and I do have a session with one of them this week. So I'm looking forward to doing that. So it has nothing to do with what I do specifically for Audubon, but that gives me a lot of joy. Right now
[01:47:17] Sabine: I learn a lot and it's tangential, but conservation and it just forces me to think about things that, you know, I don't necessarily know or think.
[01:47:30] Sabine: So it's, it puts me to the task
[01:47:33] Sabine: and I like that.
[01:47:35] Morgan / Jaymi: What about you, Morgan? Um, well technically tomorrow I'll be driving home. . So I will need to find joy cuz I will be sad that I'm leaving you. Aww. Um, but excited, I'm going home , so I'll be listening to podcasts that inspire me. Excellent. And that always gets me jazzed up for my to-do list, but the day after tomorrow I am gonna be [01:48:00] doing some, what I like to think of is like productive dreaming.
[01:48:04] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . So I've got several different story ideas along with the current existing stories, but I'm really focus focusing on some new kind of story ideas and researching and kind of like starting to map out a plan for making them a reality. Hmm. And working on some grant applications. I'm super excited to dive into that.
[01:48:30] Morgan / Jaymi: And some of those are connected to existing projects and some are new projects, but I am just like, it's like when you're getting ready to eat a meal you've been really looking forward to, so. Oh, nice. I, I find a lot of joy in that part of the process cuz everything's possible at that point yet.
[01:48:46] Morgan / Jaymi: Mm-hmm. , right? No one said no to you, . Mm-hmm. , you haven't even said no to you, which is like usually the first person. Mm-hmm. that says no to you is yourself . So yes. I'm very excited to dive into that stage [01:49:00] of some new ideas. I love that very much. My thing tomorrow that I am gonna do to find joy in my work is actually a, it's a idea that I've had for a long time.
[01:49:14] Morgan / Jaymi: And I just need to reach out to someone to say, you're a really interesting person and I would be really interested in photographing your story. And a while ago I thought about them most doing a little, this pump And zero pressure attached to it. There's no, I'm not gonna pitch it anywhere like that might come down the road, but it's really for me and for them and celebrating who they are as a person, and to go photograph that and see what might appear from that.
[01:49:38] Morgan / Jaymi: And so tomorrow my joy will be from not overanalyzing to the point of not doing it. And instead of just being like, Hey, let's do something creative together. What do you think? That's gonna be my, my little spark. I'm so excited for you for this particular endeavor. Thank you. I appreciate it. I feel like every one of us needs to spend time indulging in visual [01:50:00] feasting and time in productive dreaming and time in, I just feel like creating something for the sake of creating.
[01:50:07] Morgan / Jaymi: So I feel like we all came up with a really good spark of joy. So to lu I have to bookend things. It's compulsive . So I am really excited that each of us has something that will bring us joy. When we started this conversation about trying to continue finding joy in a job that's difficult,
[01:50:26] Morgan / Jaymi: so Well, thank you.
[01:50:27] Morgan / Jaymi: Thank you so much to both of you for spending at this point. It's been over two hours. of talking . Um, You're gonna have to do a two-parter podcast. Why am Might, but you, both of you have inspired me in new ways. Got me thinking in different perspectives, running down different rabbit holes.
[01:50:46] Morgan / Jaymi: I have more notes that I can't wait to take. I really appreciate both of you sitting down and being so honest with people who are listening and helping them find inspiration in the work that they're doing at home. It's really, really [01:51:00] valuable and kind and generous and I know that there's a lot of listeners who are grateful to you.
[01:51:04] Morgan / Jaymi: So thank you to both of you for sitting down. It's my pleasure. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, I think Sabine, when we finally get out to New York you have to use us as an excuse to be like, we have to go have a museum day. Oh, yes. Where it's part of all of our development to go look at some exhibits that don't necessarily have anything to do with what mm-hmm.
[01:51:30] Morgan / Jaymi: we photograph. Mm-hmm. and uh, then see what happens.
[01:51:33] Sabine: Let's make a plan.
[01:51:36] Morgan / Jaymi: Wonderful. Well, everyone, thank you so much and we'll talk to you again next week.