As a fourth generation Chinese-Australian, Matthew Poon’s roots are deep in the Perth area, where he has worked at the same employer for the past twelve years since he was seventeen. Currently photographing the news beat for four publications belonging to the Community Newspaper Group (CNG) in Midland, Poon has wanted to be a professional photographer since his high school days. He’s achieved that and more. In 2009 he was named CNG Photographer of the Year.
In 1980, Dave Black began photographing sports by working the Olympics that year. Since then, he’s covered 12 Olympic games and countless world championships, international competitions, and national sports championships in the United States and other countries. He’s also covered professional football, baseball, basketball, motorsports, and others. Tennis, golf, and college sports have also graced his portfolio. He worked for Golf Digest for five years, and has had long relationships with Newsweek, TIME, and Sports Illustrated. With thirty years of experience, there’s not many sports Black hasn’t covered.
It’s no surprise PocketWizards are not meant to be used underwater. Photographer Daniel Houghton recently defied the odds by using a PocketWizard Plus II underwater. This is not recommended under any circumstances by PocketWizard, but Pocono Record photographer Adam Richins has found a unique workaround to get some underwater shots while utilizing his PocketWizard gear.
Assigned to shoot a swim meet, his employer didn’t have the budget to buy an underwater housing for his Nikon, so Richins got inventive. Borrowing a fish tank from a colleague, he floated it in the water, and shot through the tank’s glass while lying at the side of the pool. Simple, but genius.
Don’t forget, PocketWizard makes no provisions for units which get wet. Be careful with your gear!
Click here to see a gallery of the images Richins shot, including one of the fish tank setup. Click here for the full article authored by Richins and detailing all his gear and how he put the shots together.
Bangkok-based British photographer Bronek Kaminski covers all of Southeast Asia for various news and editorial clients. Images from both of the following shoots ran worldwide in newspapers and magazines. They were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 580EX flashes.
“With the elephant shots, the mahouts had been working all day, it was midnight by the time I managed to get some time with them, and they were really keen to finish,” Kaminski recalls. “As soon as I got the last shot, they told me to come up onto one of the elephants. We set off to a stall, bought some beers which were passed up to us, and we finished off the day sitting around in their camp drinking.”
Stephen Alvarez sees a direct connection with his home state of Tennessee and the subject he loves to photograph more than any other. “As a young man, we didn’t have snow or high mountains. If you wanted to do something adventurous, fun and hard, you’d go caving,” he explains.
The early cave exploration he did as a youth served him later in life, after coming across photos by Michael “Nick” Nichols, the National Geographic wildlife photographer. Alvarez saw Nichols’ photos of caves in Alabama, Georgia, and his own Tennessee. “They just captivated me,” says Alvarez. “I realized I can do something similar to that. I can go into these environments I’m very comfortable in and come out with images of the right mix telling a similar sort of story.”
Read and see more after the jump. (more…)
With a thirty year career and assignments in over fifty countries, New Jersey-born Joe McNally’s images have been seen by millions the world over. His credits include covers for Fortune, Men’s Journal, Newsweek, New York, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and TIME. He has a 23-year relationship with National Geographic, and, as a young man, cut some of his photographic teeth as a staff photographer for LIFE.
Heading to college with the idea of becoming a journalist, he was required to take a photography class as part of his major. “That’s what spun me in a visual direction,” McNally recalls. “Then I stayed in school beyond that, because I really didn’t have enough training. I stayed for two more years and eventually got a master’s degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University.”
We caught up with McNally as he was on the road for a seminar and gearing up for the October 2010 release of his latest book, The LIFE Guide to Digital Photography. Being on the road is nothing new for McNally. Although born in New Jersey, his family moved often when he was a child. He reports his professional career has always been based in and around New York City.
Perhaps the constant moving during his formative years has helped McNally develop his adaptability skills. Working for a wide range of publications and corporate clients, not to mention navigating the personalities of countless local individuals the around the world, flexibility has been one of the keys to his continued success. “Every magazine has its own essential character or quality, and its own purview,” McNally explains. “Some magazines are generalist kind of magazines, some obviously vector in on a certain world, like Sports Illustrated. National Geographic tends to visit big themes: science, medicine, conservation, social geography, physical geography, that kind of thing. I think it’s a question of adaptability, when you work for a variety of people. You recognize their mission is paramount and you adapt your skills to implement that mission.”
Loving his life as a freelancer, a multitude of clients have come to rely on McNally’s strengths. They know his style, and what they can expect from him. These days, he sees magazines getting more specific about what they want. The vision of a creative photographer can be hampered by strict editorial mandates, but McNally finds ways to keep his clients happy by working within their guidelines, yet not sacrificing his talent. “That’s the beauty of shooting editorially,” he says. “You have a certain parameter, a certain story, a certain narrative you have to observe. Presumably the magazine has chosen you because of certain strengths you have that seem to be suited to the particular story at hand. So they really do rely on those strengths or skills to augment and represent the story in the way that you fashion it in the field.”
He works best when the editorial direction is not overwhelming. “There’s usually not a controlling force,” he says of his clients. “That is getting less so now, as magazines get more specific about what they want. Certainly cover stories or cover pictures have art direction components to them, but by and large, historically‑speaking, when I’ve been out to places for National Geographic or Sports Illustrated, there’s no directorial influence. It’s usually kind of wind you up and go. When you start to lay down lots of structure and preordained concepts and storyboards and whatnot, then it becomes more like ad shooting than editorial shooting.”
As magazines and newspapers continue to be assaulted on all sides by the continuing recession and declining numbers of readers, McNally appreciates the strain editors are under, and shoots accordingly. “I would say there’s a lot of art directors at magazines who are tremendously influential, as opposed to the more laissez faire attitude of days gone by,” he says. “I think magazines are more rigidly controlling their look, because their look defines their place in the market, and their place in the market is very hard‑won nowadays. There is more, I think, influence from home base, if you will, and there’s certainly more budgetary control.”
When asked about how much gear he takes on assignments, the economy plays a part in this, too. “No, it’s too expensive to always bring the kitchen sink,” he explains. “Certainly the budget on the job and the scope and the scale of it dictate things. I do an awful lot of work with small flash, as well as big flash. Some jobs are just very equipment‑intensive, other jobs not so much. What you bring with you is influenced greatly by the scale of the job and the least you can get away with, in some ways, because shipping equipment is very expensive nowadays. If you are hopefully a little more precise in your estimation of what’s needed in the field, you can save yourself a lot of money and a lot of heartache.”
On his blog, McNally regularly posts sketches of lighting scenarios. These were diagrams he created for his team to follow. Often times actual location conditions will force him to scrap his plans, and he needs to adjust lighting and other gear on the fly.
If you had to posit one thing which unifies the wide range of subject matter McNally shoots, it might be the compositions of his location shoots. Whether it’s a fisheye shot looking down from the antenna atop the Empire State Building to looking up at a group of swimmers passing by overhead (but not giving himself away by having any of his exhalation bubbles in the shot), McNally often composes in unfamiliar ways. “The push, I think, for any photographer is to try to come up with this picture that might be slightly different from another picture you’ve already seen,” he says. “Not always, but at least occasionally, that would be driven by simply getting your camera someplace where a camera doesn’t get to too often. You find yourself using a helicopter, or climbing something, or attaching the camera to something which hopefully returns a photograph that is at least unexpected. I enjoy it if I can come up with a photograph a little bit different. That’s what I push for, because that’s part of the job. If you do come up with something like that, you have a chance, anyway, of resting somebody’s eyeballs for more than a few seconds and getting them intrigued. That’s really your job as a storyteller is to get people involved in whatever the story is that you are telling.”
Aside from unfamiliar angles in some of his compositions, McNally also has been known to put unfamiliar elements together, such as his series of ballet dancers in locations far from the stage or dance studio. He has shot dancers everywhere from bombed-out apartment buildings to steam baths. “I always advocate to photographers to shoot that which they love, or that which they can’t help but shoot. For me, for many years, that has been a hobby within photography for me is dance work, because A: I think it’s very beautiful just de facto, just to look at it. B: I find dancers to be very artistically attuned themselves. When you ask them if they would be, say, adventuresome with you and become part of a tableau you’re creating, they often times will respond to that and become part of your imagination in a very wonderful way. I like dancers, they work very hard; they’re very creative people. The dance forms like ballet, to me, it’s all about pictures. It’s all about visual audacity and just the genius of a dancer beckons the camera constantly.”
As technology changes photography, McNally still values mentoring relationships, and is very much involved with educating other photographers. “I was blessed with knowing really great photographers when I started, and was mentored and educated in the field by some great picture editors,” he recalls. “That happens probably less so today, because the big staffs of photographers have largely dissipated, so there isn’t that collection of photographers at one place and time where the younger staffers would feed off of the older ones and learn. Digital is wonderful, but it also, for photographers, can be very isolating. The other type of community which sprung up in lieu of that, I think, has been the availability of workshops, lectures, and mentoring on the Internet and things like that.”
Seeing the Internet as taking the place of one-on-one mentorships of the past, McNally still enjoys meeting shooters of all kinds. The exchange he has with them is mutually beneficial. “I enjoy that contact with other photographers whether they are amateur or professional, young or veterans, whatever it might be,” he says. “I enjoy that contact, because I find I learn constantly in those kinds of situations.”
Between lectures, one-day seminars, and workshops, McNally estimates he teaches about half of each year. “Workshops can be intensive and hands-on as opposed to a discussion, which would be more lecture based, a showing of work and a discussion thereof,” he explains. “What we try to do at the workshops is push to be hands-on, push for it to be not just a lecture experience, but also a practical experience where the participants in the workshop not only see the instructor, myself or someone else, do something, they actually try to do it themselves. They get involved with the gear, or they get involved in a hands-on level.”
When asked about the wide range of his catalog, McNally points to photographers whom he was drawn to when coming out of school, such as W. Eugene Smith. “I really admired some of the photographers in the heyday of LIFE Magazine, and they were very versatile with cameras, to be sure. They can do a lot of different things. If I had a pattern I observed, it might have been that, but to take credit for that or say that I was the architect of my career in that way would probably be presuming too much. Some of it is certainly accidental. Do something for one magazine, another magazine sees it. Before you know it, you’ve done a few things across the board. I’ve always referred to myself, photographically speaking, if you used a sports analogy: I’m a pretty good utility infielder. I can play a lot of different positions at once, or I can do a lot of different things for the ball club. Maybe wouldn’t be the best at any one of them, but I can do a variety of different things with a camera in my hand.”
The cameras in his hands today are the Nikon D3S and D3X. He has put together his “basic workhorse kit,” which contains a 14-24mm, a 24-70mm, and a 70-200mm zoom lens. “I’ve been experimenting with a lot of minimum depth-of-field lately, and thankfully there have been some new lenses that have accommodated that interest,” he says. “Just in the last year or so, Nikon has come out with a 24/1.4, an 85/1.4, a 35/1.4, so those lenses are very intriguing to me because it’s a throw back in certain ways to where I started with them being prime lenses, and also being very fast, and also being very sharp wide open.”
Known for his speedlight work, McNally claims Nikon’s “the best flash system in the marketplace. It’s very intuitive. They’re light, but also powerful. It’s smart, it’s adaptive. Is it perfect? Absolutely not; no flash system is. But, in terms of creative control, I find it gives me a lot of intuitive, quick responses when you’re out there moving fast, which I really value.”
When he doesn’t have direct line of sight, McNally triggers his lights with PocketWizards. “Now, of course, with the Flexes and the Minis on the doorstep for the Nikon system, I’ve been involving those,” he says. “I look forward to that kind of control. That’s another adaptation potentially very valuable to be able to incorporate TTL into a radio signal. That is in our future, quite obviously. That’s potentially very envelope-enlarging in terms of creative control and flash.”
We asked McNally about his latest book, released October 2010. “It’s quite an honor to have written it, because it’s for my alma mater, LIFE Magazine. I’m the last staff photographer at LIFE. There were 90 of us, and I’m the last one. They approached me and asked me to write a guide to digital photography. It’s a book that starts real basic and goes through a whole series of step‑by‑step basic information, but it’s leavened with 30 years of field experience, so there’s hopefully material in there that even someone who is a little more advanced than someone who just got a camera would find interesting and valuable.”
Hopes for The LIFE Guide to Digital Photography are high, especially considering his last two books, The Moment it Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries, both cracked the top ten on Amazon.com. “We were very surprised and honored by that,” McNally says. “People seemed to really respond to the books, so hopefully this book, while it appeals to a different section of the photography enthusiast marketplace out there, hopefully it will be well received.”
As the world of photography, clients, and photographers continues to change, Joe McNally continues to adapt, build great images, and share with other photographers. The width and breadth of his career is nothing short of stunning. If he’s lecturing or running a workshop in a town near you, be sure to catch him. One day you’ll be able to tell younger shooters not only did you learn a lot, but that you spent time with the last staffer in the long line of great LIFE photographers.
Written by Ron Egatz
Triathlons are multi-sport endurance events, and the photographers who cover them are not unlike the athletes who participate in them. Paul H. Phillips and his team of photographers at Competitive Image in Minneapolis have identified their métier, and it’s in their blood. Competitive Image consists of photographers who also happen to be runners, skiers, cyclists, swimmers, and martial artists. These common athletic interests enable them to cover sporting events in ways most photographers can’t or don’t imagine.
Bob Kupbens teamed up with Phillips to conceive and create Competitive Image’s iconic shot of the start of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon earlier this year. The shot was also featured in Runner’s World magazine. It’s a classic example of the company’s premise of making great shots, as opposed to taking them.
This approach is paying off. By staking out race courses and planning out positions of remote cameras, the teams’ results are getting them recognition. Their soccer book, Portrait of Passion, has been nominated for the 2009 Billie Award for Journalism for the Outstanding Portrayal of Women in Sport. They have also had an image published on one of the ultimate sports marketing icons: a box of Wheaties.
Triathlons are essentially a long swim race followed by a long bicycle race followed by a long foot race. Photographers covering them need to work at least as long as the shortest time it takes the winner to complete the course. That doesn’t include setup and breakdown times. Endurance is the strategy on both sides of the cameras.
“We can now do some very exciting things with very high shutter speed,” says Phillips. “This is because of PocketWizard. We’re slowly making the shift from the MultiMAX to the FlexTT5 and the MiniTT1. I particularly like the Mini because it is what it is: it’s tiny! We’re combining all of these models on a shoot for the cover of Triathlete magazine. We’re going to use studio strobes, but we need a few highlights on the athlete’s bike, so we’ll use a few remotely-fired 580s, too.”
Competitive Image recently shot a series of swimmers in a pool using the FlexTT5 and the MiniTT1. “One Mini and three Flexes were used with five MultiMAX units. I only see our work with PocketWizards increasing.”
“The PocketWizards help us make the shot. We ask, ‘what shot would be really cool?’ Well, let’s build something and hang it from the starting line truss!” As the lead photographers for the Twin Cities Marathon, one of the top marathons in the country, Phillips and his team enjoys a large degree of latitude in creative license and permissions to set them up and get them. Named as one of the International Triathlon Union Photographers for 2010, Phillips is earning the reputation of the guy who can get the shots others don’t.
For the first leg of triathlons with athletes diving into the water, Phillips sometimes finds himself shooting half-submerged from the waterline with two assistants behind him holding strobes on monopods. He also has been known to sit backwards all day on a motorcycle, shooting athletes as they bike and run for the finish line.
“I only see our use of PocketWizards expanding,” says Phillips. “We’re only limited by our own creativity. We’re already designing our next big cover shot for a race that will be the first week in May of 2010.” Phillips will be detailing his preproduction work in an eight-page report, covering everything from how he’ll mount remote units on streetlights to dealing with crowds during a race which will be won in approximately four minutes. “At a four-minute mile, you’re talking about a runner moving 22-feet per second. Trying to light that and get a clean shot is challenging.” With that kind of action, the team will have several photographers firing a multitude of PocketWizards on different channels.
The Competitive Image team shoot a full range of lenses for both Canon and Nikon digital bodies. Two of the team are MIT grads, “so if we need something built, it’s no problem,” Phillips laughs.
The well-written Competitive Image blog not only details some solid tips for sports photography enthusiasts, but documents some of the detailed thought process Paul—a former racer himself—and his team do in the preproduction stage before an athletic event. Photography fans and athletes alike have reason to follow Paul Phillips and his team—until they have to start planning for their next race, that is.
Jason Reed doesn’t have one thing most photographers have: his own Web site. He has no need for one. We see his images every day. Jason Reed has one thing most photographers would trade all their gear for, even for one day. Reed is a seven year veteran of the White House Traveling Pool, and has been shooting for Reuters for twenty years.
News photography fans and much of the public will recall some of Reed’s memorable images, such as George W. Bush bumping chests with a new graduate at the Merchant Marine Academy, or Karl Rove rapping at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner, or Barack Obama shedding a tear over the death of his grandmother on the eve of the election he was to win. What really got the attention of photography fans was his “White House Moments: A Time-lapse View,” created after a video editing course got him interested in time-lapse movies. In it, he documents a day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from the West Wing to the East Room to the Rose Garden to the South Lawn. This is the White House as you’ve never seen it before. 8000 exposures later, PocketWizards proved critical to the project.
“The PocketWizard is something we’ve been using at the White House since they’ve been around,” says Jason. “I use the MultiMAX Transceivers. I can’t imagine working without them. They’re so easy to use. I can put multiple cameras at different angles all on the same frequency and trigger them as either motor drive sequences or using the intervalometer, which are really easy to set up from the menu. You can shoot a picture every three seconds, five seconds, ten seconds, and you can change those settings pretty quickly.”
Australian-born Reed began a Bachelor’s degree in Photography in Sydney. The first day he showed up to discover just one class was unavailable: his photography class. This unfortunate event was the loss of higher education and the gain of the news photography industry. Soon he was able to get a job at Reuters hand-printing color film to 8 x 10 format and loading prints onto analog drum transmitters. That led to some photographer-mentors encouraging his talent, supplementing a two-year technical course in Photography at a local college. Then began Reed’s Forrest Gump-like professional life of being present at world events as they unfolded. In 1994 at age 23, he moved to Hong Kong, which was the Reuters regional headquarters at that time. He served there as an editor and photographer until the handover to China in 1997. Moving on to the new headquarters in Singapore, Reed was dispatched around the region to cover earthquakes, plane crashes, and civil unrest in Asia. From 1999 until 2002 he used Bangkok, Thailand as a base from where he travelled to Pakistan to cover the 2001 war against the Taliban and Indian natural disasters, among other news stories.
Presidential visits to the region drew his interest. President Clinton went to Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Reed lent support to Reuters White House photographers who travelled with the President wherever he went. The young photographer found himself caught up in the energy of being in the entourage of the Leader of the Free World, as the old cliché goes. He dreamed of doing it full-time, and in 2003 a position opened up, and Jason Reed became a Reuters photographer at the White House.
Although situated at the White House, the road didn’t stop calling him. Reed covered the 2004 Bush campaign and he spent the last two years on the road following the Obama campaign to victory from before the Illinois junior Senator’s announcement to run in February of 2007. He finds what he’s learned in the capital is applicable outside it. “Shooting every day at the White House is challenging. You constantly try to find something new. Those skills you take away to any other assignment and look for something new, something you wouldn’t be looking for if you hadn’t worked at the White House. Trying to make things subtly new day after day for years and years teaches you to be a better photographer. The PocketWizard is an extension of that. When I travel to events I see where I can put multiple cameras. I’m always looking for a key moment of a historical event, such as the signing of an important act of Congress, or a bilateral meeting with a foreign head of state. As a photographer you try to find multiple angles of everything. You’re working harder, but the reward is you’re getting more angles, better pictures and better moments. The PocketWizard frees me up to look at different things and execute them really easily.”
Although shooting at the same address, Reed isn’t about to get bored. “History shows us anything can happen at any time,” he says. Occasionally he’ll be photographing the President at a graduation ceremony, looking through the viewfinder for hours at a time, careful to never miss a moment. “If there’s anything this job teaches you, it’s about being ready.”
Reed also has to be ready for other assignments. He covered the last Academy Awards ceremony, and was full of quips pointing out the difference between photographing politicians and celebrities. “They say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, and Hollywood is Washington for beautiful people,” jokes Reed. “I like to do different events like the Olympics or Formula One races — something different to mix it up.”
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, however, remains the location of his dream job, as it would be for countless photographers around the world. “At the White House, it’s full HMI (hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide) light. There’s a whole group of television lighting technicians dedicated to lighting every event. We’re really blessed with the ability to walk in and shoot an indoor event at 400 ISO at 250ths of a second at f/2.8 or 320ths at f/2.8. It’s fantastic. This is the center of the universe of making things look good.” For this, our leaders and candidates are grateful, and viewers around the world wait for the next click of Jason Reed’s shutter while working at his dream job.
The Sun-Sentinel, a Florida newspaper, not only has a great staff of photojournalists but a fun, educational blog. It’s latest entry is by Jim Rassol, who after 21 months of covering the election deserves a break — any kind of break — and one of his first was sports. It was Halloween night and Rookie Michael Beasley was having a little fun wearing a Batman mouthpiece during the Heat’s home opener against the Sacramento Kings. Jim used the ubiquitous PocketWizard, taped with his strobe to a courtside seat, to get an awesome shot of Dwayne Wade. You can find out more about Jim and his colleagues here.
Every once and a while a photographer comes along who boggles the mind in terms of artistic ability, commercial success and industry accomplishments. Vincent Laforet is one of them, and if you go to Vincent LaForet’s blog you’ll see what we’re talking about. No grass growing under his feet, as mom used to say.
Vincent recently traipsed off to Beijing, along with a few thousand other photographers, to cover the Olympics. If you think any shooter snuck off to a unique viewpoint, take a look at the results. How did we do it before PocketWizard? Or, imagine if photographers were like those of yesteryear and didn’t play well with others. Thankfully, times have changed.
via Strobist, where David remarks:
Finally, in case you haven’t seen it yet: Vincent Laforet takes a video stroll through Pocket Wizard heaven at the finish line of the 100m sprint at the Olympics. (Patrick Smith, if you are reading this from a public computer, you might want to put a pillow over your lap before you watch it…)