The Florida360 blog started in the late spring of 2011. We wanted a blog driven by the visuals department that was different from other photo blogs in the industry. We decided to focus on our own region and “our diverse and, if we’re going to be honest, sometimes crazy Sunshine State.”

We were not going to have picture galleries from big national and international events. There are plenty of big-name sites offering that content. And we were not going to be just a portfolio site for photographer’s “my favorite photo” galleries. We would be story driven while also offering a look behind the scenes on how great photos are made.

The blog has proven popular with our online community and also with our staff. It’s been an outlet for storytelling as well as technical and creative innovations. We’ve featured everything from interactive panoramas to lots of POV video with GoPro cameras.

And I’ve gained a lot.  from designing to workflow that had to be compatible with our proprietary CMS to having great experiences coaching and editing the photographers’ work on the page and contributing blog posts myself.

Stan Van Gundy doll at the beach with seashell

The talented graphics team at the Sentinel had created a series of fold-and-assemble paper dolls of the Orlando Magic, the city’s NBA team. The dolls included the team’s demonstrative coach Stan Van Gundy and when he was fired at the end of the season, I suggested they rework his doll into a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops for his time off. And they did.

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, I had another idea to challenge our audience to make their own SVG dolls and to send us photos of Stan in fun places. We gave it the #SVGGetaway hashtag on Twitter, promoted on our Facebook and in print and waited for the photos.

I was very happy when dozens of people participated. The SVG doll went to the beach, went horseback riding, went to several BBQ parties and more than spa. He even took flying lessons. We also got several notes on Twitter and Facebook thanking us for the fun project.

Interactive panoramas have been part of our department’s toolbox for several years now. I was tasked with researching the methods, purchasing software and hardware, developing workflow and training staff both at the Orlando Sentinel and at the Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale. The projects were so successful that they inspired the “360” in the title of the Florida360 blog.

The panoramas have proved to be a unique way to put our audience in the scene of interesting places. We focus on new or unique access for our subjects and found that the theme parks and the space program are especially popular. We have a healthy collection of panoramas that continues to grow.

Before the Casey Anthony trial started, I wrote a piece for our blog explaining cameras in the courtroom and the origins in the 1935 Lindbergh Baby murder trial.

There was also a story about a courtroom photo of Casey that bore strong resemblance to her missing daughter Caley. And the extensive photo galleries of the trial coverage.

When Facebook introduced a new layout with a very horizontal cover photo, we began to offer our staff photos cropped to the dimensions. We presented them to share with our followers and they have proven to be very popular.