A journal from a photojournalist: My first year

Ball State Daily News Photo and Visuals Editor Amber Pietz takes photos at a men's volleyball MIVA Quarterfinals April 16 at Worthen Arena. Pietz is a freshman photographic storytelling and journalism graphics major at Ball State. Jacy Bradley, DN
Ball State Daily News Photo and Visuals Editor Amber Pietz takes photos at a men's volleyball MIVA Quarterfinals April 16 at Worthen Arena. Pietz is a freshman photographic storytelling and journalism graphics major at Ball State. Jacy Bradley, DN

This past year was a whirlwind for me. I never thought I’d be able to do half of the things I've done this year at all, let alone in my first year of college. The weeks before I started at Ball State in August, I was dreading the thought of coming to college. High school was filled with loss in so many ways and I assumed college would be the same way.

Coming to college I had a lot of self doubt and thought I wouldn’t be good enough to do the things I wanted to do. I’ve always been a goal-oriented person, and I’ve always dreamt big. One thing I learned, especially in high school, is that when you set high goals for yourself, it can often lead to disappointment. The more I was disappointed with something, the more it became what I expected to happen. 

When I met Lisa Renze-Rhodes, Ball State’s Unified Media Advisor, things started to change for the better.

When I figured out that sports photography was what I wanted to pursue, I knew that my only option would be joining student media. I met with Lisa the day after I moved into my dorm and I was hooked. Luckily for me, the Daily News was in need of photographers and I was more than happy to fill the role. I also knew that I enjoyed designing for my high school yearbook and wanted to continue designing in college. At the time I had no idea that one meeting would be the best thing that ever happened to me.

A few months into the school year, I started getting more and more opportunities. I photographed most of the sports at Ball State and was falling in love with it more and more every day. Whenever I’m taking sports photos, I feel exactly where I’m supposed to be, I feel at home. Even though it can be such a high energy environment, it’s the place where I’m the least stressed and the calmest.

The more I shot sports, the more I seemed to find myself. When I came to college I felt lost. Not because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but because I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I lost myself in high school and being at the Daily News helped me find my place and my people.

Through taking photos and designing for the paper, I began to find more confidence in myself.

I was now becoming the person I had wanted to become. It started with taking photos at Ball State Football’s Homecoming game, then the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, then the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Tournament in Los Angeles.

I applied to be Associate Photo Editor at the beginning of the second semester, and to my surprise, I got the job. I spent the semester learning to be a leader in the newsroom and was given more and more responsibilities. Pretty early on in this job, I was given the responsibility of making sure that sports had photos or visuals for each week’s paper. Out of the three of us that were photo editors, I was the one most interested in sports, so I gladly took this role. I continued to take photos at as many sporting events as I possibly could. One of my favorite parts of the year was seeing how my work improved since day one, whether that be photo or design work.

No matter how stressed I got throughout the year, sports photography was always the thing to bring me back. It’s what I can always count to be there whenever I’m struggling with something – the only thing that can take my mind off whatever is going on.

Sports photography requires a little bit of patience and a hyper sense of awareness of what’s going on to best predict what the athletes are going to do. It is very difficult to be able to shoot sports without some understanding of the sport you are covering. You keep shooting and waiting. When you get the shot, there is so much joy that comes with it.

I spent 14 years of my childhood performing and I never thought that I would find something that gave me the type of joy I experienced when I was on stage until I found my new passion in sports photography.

When I found out about the possibility of traveling to Los Angeles. to cover the Men’s Volleyball NCAA Tournament I didn’t think I would be the one to go. I had never been the one to get an opportunity to do something that I loved on a bigger scale, and I had gotten so used to being told no that I never thought it would happen. 

Ball State Daily News Photo and Visuals Editor Amber Pietz poses next to the UCLA Bruins mascot statue May 8 at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. Pietz is a freshman photographic storytelling and journalism graphics major at Ball State. Daniel Kehn, DN

When Ball State won the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) regular season championship, talks grew about who in the newsroom would travel if the Cardinals made it to the national stage. As Ball State advanced through the tournament my hopes got higher than they had for anything in a long time. I was lucky enough to be able to cover the entire MIVA Tournament and when Ball State won, I was overcome with emotions. At that point, we had figured out that I would be the photographer to go to California if given the opportunity and I was in shock.

From figuring out plans the week before to being there in the moment, I felt like I was dreaming. Not only being able to cover Ball State’s final four match but the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship, I had never felt so much excitement about what I was doing. Having the opportunity to cover these events gave me more confidence in myself than I have ever felt. 

If I was told a year ago that I would be able to have had this experience, I never would have believed you.

Working at the Daily News this past year has brought me more experiences than I ever thought would be possible in college. I have never felt more excited or passionate about the work that I was doing. The Daily News is a group of the most supportive people I have ever met and I don’t know what I would do without them. The Unified Media Lab has become my home away from home and there is nowhere else I’d rather be.

My dream to be a professional sports photographer is going to take a lot of work, but I am fully dedicated to making that a reality.

Contact Amber Pietz with comments at amber.pietz@bsu.edu or on Twitter @arpietz15.


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