Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Importance of Internships: My College Experience at the Hotel Del Coronado

One of the most common questions I get asked by students is “What should I do in order to gain more experience in photography?”  The answer is simple:  Go out and apply for an internship.  This is true for any other field of study.  You can get instruction in the classroom, but an internship is a great way to apply what you learn in a real life situation, for very little risk.  Many professional organizations will work with universities and colleges to offer class credit for performing duties under an internship.  Not only do you get to go out there and work like a professional in your field, but you can use that valuable time to gauge whether or not something is your cup of tea.  In college I was very interested in sports photography, so I sought assignments at my school paper to cover sporting assignments.  I came across a public relations internship for the world famous Hotel Del Coronado, and quickly applied.  Though it was not sports related, it was photography-related, and I would be working right along the beach during my senior year 3 days a week with a light class load. It was more like landing a dream job than anything else. 

My one regret in college is that I did not do more internships.  I probably would have been good doing one per year, if not one every quarter.  Perhaps I should have studied abroad, but I digress.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I seriously started looking for jobs in photography, only to discover that many opportunities that would have been great for me were open more to college students through the form of internships for college credit.  I sought internships at the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, and Getty Images, only to be turned away simply because I had already graduated.  So if you’re reading this and are in college, what are you waiting for?  Your window of opportunity is right now!

I really did enjoy my time at the Hotel Del Coronado.  I worked specifically with Lauren Ash Donoho in their public relations department, and had a great time being their PR photographer.  I would have a different assignment every time I came in – whether it be portraits of their Executive Chef, capturing surfing lessons on the beach, or trying to convey the “essence of Coronado.”  I had free reign many days to photograph my assignment, and then dip my toes in the water and hang out on the sand.  I loved every minute of it.   For those of you who are not familiar with San Diego, Coronado is literally an island across from San Diego, that requires you to traverse a bridge to get to.  It is home to a large Naval fleet, and is one of the most beautiful little towns one could ever have the privilege to visit.  It is obviously home to the Hotel Del Coronado, which itself has a rich history – and a story for another day. 

In the end, this internship was my first experience with photography in the real world, and though I look back at all my photos and am quite embarrassed to look at how badly some of the stuff turned out, it was all about learning.  I knew that place inside and out – exploring every facet with my trusty FM-10 film camera.  I met so many awesome people there and got an opportunity be the guy responsible for the photo production at “The Del.” 

So go out there and pursue as many internships as possible.  If you don’t find something that you really want- try something else.  Who knows, it may lead you to a career path you didn’t know you could love.  On the other hand, if you’ve immersed yourself in something you thought you would love and somehow it’s not what you thought it would be, you’ve just figured out that it may not the right field for you.  You never know until you try!

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the internship.  99% of this stuff was taken on film (what’s that, right?!).   Enjoy!

-Johnny

One of the first portraits I've ever taken.
What a great place to work, huh?
A view from above.
The Spa and Fitness shoot was an interesting one to say the least.




This image was used in one of their PR collateral brochures.


Surfing lessons on the beach.



You could take a ferry back and forth to San Diego without crossing the bridge.


I took a ladder up to the roof, set up a tripod, and spent 20 minutes trying to get this shot while guests watched from below.  One of my all time favorite photos I've ever shot.  I framed one for my director as a parting gift.

A view from inside the famous turret.
I encourage you to visit the hotel, and request this room in particular!  There is a world famous story behind it.


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