By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A Bluefield High School graduate who captured his team’s moment of triumph at a state championship game is now reporting the news for one of West Virginia’s largest newspapers.
Marcus Constantino, now 21 and living in the town of Belle, started working for the Charleston Daily Mail on Jan. 6. Working as a reporter and shooting photographs, his most recent work has included coverage of the major chemical spill along the Elk River in Charleston.
“Our newsroom has been going nonstop with the chemical spill ever since [Jan.9],” he said after working for 11 hours. “We’ve definitely been working long hours getting the information out.”
Constantino’s road to journalism started when his technical knowledge helped the Bluefield High School newspaper.
“I lived in Bramwell when I went to Bluefield High School,” he said. “I started my journalism career as editor of the Beaver Voice. Our newspaper teacher, Ms. Harshbarger, wanted to take our publication online. I learned some html in eighth grade, and I volunteered to take on the project,” he recalled. “Once the website was up and went live, I was the only person who knew how to edit it and work with it. I started taking on more of the journalistic duties like writing and taking photographs.”
Working for the Beaver Voice gave Constantino a place to practice photography, improve his techniques and present his work to the public. He worked at the school newspaper for two years and as a stringer for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph before graduating in 2010.
One of Constantino’s first assignments was to cover a major Bluefield High School sporting event. The BHS football team became West Virginia’s championship team in 2009, and he was in the midst of the celebration. His work supplied both photographs and the cover photo for a special commemorative magazine published by the Daily Telegraph. He got into the midst of the celebrating players and captured one jubilant teammate signaling, “We’re number one!”
Constantino laughed. “I had a really crappy camera back then, too! I would say that was my first really good sports photo, and I’ve been grateful to be able to cover Marshall sporting events ever since.”
When Constantino started photographing football and other sports, he had to develop his technique and learn while he worked.
“At first, I really didn’t have an approach,” he recalled. “So when shooting football, I just followed the football wherever it went. If the ball moved 70 yards, I would run 70 yards. I’m using a more methodical approach now that saves me some running and helps me get better photos. Now, once they cross the 30-yard line, I go to the other end of the field. It used to be I’d just go where the ball was. I was running myself to death.”
The excitement and atmosphere of a football game is one of the things Constantino enjoys. Covering a game requires quick wits and quick reflexes to capture the action.
“A big play can happen, and it could last only a tenth of a second; but if you capture that tenth of a second, it’s a very rewarding feeling,” he said. “It’s kind of funny. When you get a picture of a big play, and I watch it on the news later that night, it’s almost unbelievable how fast it all happens. You fall into a trance when you’re behind the camera. Everything happens so much slower than it really does.”
Constantino estimated that he shoots a thousand photographs while covering a football game. Major contests between traditional rivals call for even more photographs. The annual game between Bluefield High School and Graham High School in neighboring Bluefield, Va., is a good example.
“Usually I shoot more than 2,000 at the Beaver-Graham game,” he said.
Now a reporter, as well as a photographer, Constantino has to adjust when he is covering a news event. The news is less predictable than a football game, and finding a shot that helps to tell a news story is not always easy. His knowledge of the latest technology available to a reporter has been helpful.
“I like to push out the information on my Twitter account, and this is kind of leading into a story. I was at a water distribution area in South Charleston on Friday, and I whipped out my cellphone and took a picture of officials giving out water and directing traffic. I had my actual camera around my neck, but I didn’t have the lens I needed for the picture that I wanted.”
Constantino added that he normally prefers shooting photographs with a camera rather than a cellphone.
“It’s funny. When I was a student at Marshall (University), I was a big opponent of the smart phone photography. It’s kind of ironic that one of my most widely-seen photos was taken with an iPhone,” he said. “Smart phones will never replace real cameras, but I just think it’s funny that a photo shot with a smart phone went all over the world, even though I had a big expensive camera around my neck.”
He enjoys the work he is doing now, and he is excited about the changes he is seeing in the business of reporting the news.
“I really like what I’m doing now. I really like the multimedia opportunities that my generation has now. There is a new breed of journalists that are coming up and doing incredible things, and I would like to be a part of that.”
“You know, the Daily Telegraph, that and the Beaver Voice, were my launching pad. I remember how nervous I was when I did my first actual photo assignment for the Daily Telegraph, and I think I’ve come a long way since then. It was the Graham basketball game, by the way. It was a little ironic, because I was a Bluefield High School student at the time.”
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com