National Junior Classical League Convention –2009

Seeing 1500 high school students screaming, excited, and motivated about Latin is a site to behold. Latin geeks for sure.  I have just returned from being a part of just such a thing.  The NJCL (National Junior Classical League) recently held their 56th annual convention.  This year it was at the University of California – Davis. Latin students traveled from most of the states in the United States and even from parts of Canada to participate.   Can you imagine that kids traveled hundreds and some thousands of miles to take tests? Not only academic tests but there is competition in art, performance, athletics, and certamen (college bowl).  My wife is the sponsor of the Wyoming delegation, and of course, I was drafted to be the chaperone for her male students.  Not a problem as her students are always great.  The NJCL is loaded with awesome kids.

As important as they are, tests aren’t what it’s all about. It’s more about competition, learning, having fun,  and comradeship.  According to the NJCL creed,  it is about students seeking the best through searching the classical past of Greece and Rome.  NJCLers believe that an acquaintance with these two great civilizations will help them to understand and appraise the world of today.  They believe we are indebted to these great ancient civilizations for our government and laws, literature, and culture. Learning about ancient  Greece and Rome will will give them a understanding of our world today because so much of the west is beholden  to these cultures for our own world of today.

One of my favorite days of the convention is dedicated as a “Day in Old Rome”.  Everyone dresses in togas for a grand march and a banquet.  It’s quite a site to see 1500 students screaming and hollering and showing their spirit while wearing togas at the General Assembly.  People were flashing their cameras and trying to record the seeming chaos occurring in the hall.  I became caught up in the frenzy and used my on camera flash to also take pictures of the excitement.

Then it dawned on me.  Our one camera flashes could not light the entire arena.  We might be able to reach out and adequately light maybe 10 to 15 feet in front of our cameras.  Visions came to me of seeing this occurrence of flashes going off in large Coliseums I have visited, and I would think to myself, “crazy people, don’t they know they won’t get anything that way. They are too far away.” Well, here I was caught in the same trap, shooting pictures in a large building using my flash and expecting my camera to see the scene as my eyes were seeing it.  I realized what my eyes were seeing in the hall were not what the camera and flash would see. Consequently, I turned my flash off and tried to hand hold my camera using a slower shutter speed and a larger f/stop opening in hopes of catching the action but not blurring the image too much.

Assembly Using Flash

As you can see here, with on camera flash, only the people nearest the camera are adequately lighted.  The people in the distance are in the dark.

Assembley NOT using flashAfter turning my flash off and adjusting my camera for a proper exposure using the manual exposure setting, I managed a better picture if my purpose was to show more of the people in the distance.  I think this picture, even with some movement blur,  gives you a much better appreciation for the crazy, wild kids yelling and jumping and declaring themselves as having spirit for a “Day in Old Rome”.

Students can get excited for learning.  The NJCL proves it year in and year out.  Kids do want to test themselves academically and really don’t care if they are called “Latin Geeks”.  They wear the term proudly.

To see more of my pictures, take a look at my photography store at

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