Capturing the moment with Lehmann


Lori Larson

National Geographic photographer Brian Lehmann analyzes photos with senior Syble Heffernan and junior Phoenix VanCura while shooting around various locations in North Platte.

You’ve seen them on the field at the football games, on the gym floor during pep rallies, and in the wings of the stage at the PAC during presentations and performances. With their black ‘Press’ shirts, sharp movements, and focused faces behind the camera lens, the North Platte High School J-Squad is a crucial part of every big event. Whenever there’s an event going on at our school, you can be sure those journalists will be there capturing the moment with a camera. On Sept. 29th an 30th, the squad received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate directly with National Geographic photographer Brian Lehmann to further improve their work of visual storytelling.

Over the summer, several students from yearbook and newspaper attended a three-day journalism camp in Lincoln. Lehmann often encourages and mentors photographers, and said he saw promise in the group at NPHS. “After working with some students at a summer journalism camp, I saw that there was a lot of talent from North Platte and thought there might be enough drive in that program to help make a difference and make it even stronger,” said Lehmann.
Lehmann believes he can help push students to another level with their photography. “I feel like I point out a lot of things in people’s photographs that they may not recognize, like how to use light and how to capture layers,” Lehmann said. He hopes that by seeing him take pictures, different techniques rubbed off on the students. He said by the end of the two days he had already seen improvement in students’ photos.

NPHS is currently home to the number one high school photographer in the state. Sophomore Quincey Epley took home the top prize at last year’s at the Nebraska State Activities Association (NSAA) State Journalism competition. “The group wants to build on their success and strengthen their visual storytelling” Journalism Adviser Lori Larson said, “I’ve seen Brian work with students on their photo-taking techniques, but one of his greatest skills is his ability to tell a strong story through his lens.”
Epley said she would like to win State again, but mostly hopes to improve her photography skills. “Over the two days I spent as much time with Brian as I could. My goal was to capture more emotion in my pictures. He taught me the importance of layers, lighting, and most importantly, making relationships and connecting with your subject,” said Epley. “This has improved the quality of my photos exponentially,” she said.

It’s imortant for students to get on the right track to understanding photojournalism. “National Geographic has over 60 million Instagram followers, and 85 percent of newspaper photos are viewed, while only 15 percent of the stories are read,” said Lehmann. Knowing that pictures are looked at far more heavily than the stories, the NPHS journalism students are inspired to tell meaningful stories through the pictures they take. “I think students are starting to understand they need to spend more time with their subjects, get closer to them, and develop a relationship” Lehmann said.
Throughout the photojournalist’s stay on Sept. 29 and 30 students, got to practice shooting in different locations while Lehmann worked right alongside them and gave them tips. Students photographed people in various places around town and the school and during the home football game. In each place they went, they were challenged to find and capture fascinating stories. “I’m really impressed the students were willing to stay out late two nights in a row,” said Lehmann, “it seems they’ll do whatever it takes to get cool photos.”