Archive for the ‘Jobs’ Category
Marathon day in NYC is always an amazing day. I’ve off and on covered it for many years. It used to be simpler, back in the day when there were just a few thousand runners winding their way through the boroughs, the bridges and the canyons of the city. In fact, the first time I covered it, for the UPI, I was the only photog they assigned. I went to Brooklyn, walked up to the middle of the Verrazano, shot the runners coming over, got back on the subway, and made it to Central Park in time to make a snap of Bill Rogers crossing the finish line first. I went back to the office on 42nd St., they processed my B&W, made a couple of prints, dropped them on the wire, and gave me my negs back. I believe I got paid $50. Life was indeed simpler then.
The most fun way to cover the marathon is from the air. The spectacle of over 40,000 runners chugging across the Verrazano Bridge is irresistible. It’s a suspension bridge, designed for wheeled vehicles to roll forward in smooth fashion. When all those runners are crossing the span, arms and legs pumping up and down like pistons, and thousands of feet are tromping the tarmac like mini jack hammers, from the air you can see the cables shimmering and quivering.
The above couple of pix were shot with a Fuji 617 pano camera, which is a medium format film camera. It was a trick, loading this puppy while hanging out of the open door of a chopper, to be sure. The leaf shutter was a pretty essential thing as well, as these are roughly 100 speed chrome film, so my shutter speed in the bird is around 1/60th to 1/125th. With a quiet little pfft! of a leaf shutter in the lens, instead of a robust, voluptuous bounce of a giant mirror inside the camera box, I had a prayer of sharpness. Even as I shot them, I knew Geographic wouldn’t use them, as these style of pix need to run really, really big to have impact in print. This race was just a small piece of coverage for an overall story on human performance, and thus not worth a four page gatefold. But that fall day in the air over NY was crystalline, and the breeze was like a big broom that just swept all the usual airborne crap that hovers over the city like a bad, germ laden cough out to sea. So I shot them.
Geographic ran with this.
Which was a bit of a trick to shoot as well, as that marvelous, aforementioned breeze was making it tough for the chopper to hover, and hand holding a six hundred in the wind whipped doorway was dicey. You’re framing while bouncing, focusing manually, grinding your teeth, bursting the motor drive, and praying to God you don’t drop anything. You also, in between shots, have to help your pilot out. On marathon day, the Verrazano looks like a beehive, with choppers aplenty buzzing and darting every which way. The pilots have to have eyes in the back of their head, and it’s advisable for you to have the same. Below, is a pullback view, most likely with a 70-200, or perhaps a 300mil.
It’s a big day in NY, and a big race. Runners from everywhere are in the city, jogging about, gobbling pasta, getting ready. It is often won by African marathoners, who quite frequently hail from the Rift Valley area of Kenya. I’ve covered them as well, too. Their skills are developed in quite simple ways, in rustic runners’ camps, often running in two’s and three’s, not thousands.
Early morning runs, early morning meals.
Under big skies…..
Good luck to all in today’s race! More tk….
Led this year to the hospital project…..
Post Sandy emergency medical response on Staten Island
For a photog, the path of the generalist can be a fraught one. You are never the first shooter called, for instance, because you are never the regarded as the “best” at anything. You’re never the best action guy, or still life expert. You don’t do celebrity enough to have Tom Cruise or Beyonce on speed dial. You barely know any Hollywood publicists, and many of the ones you might have met you couldn’t stand. You might shoot the occasional wedding, but given the fierceness of that market, you’ll never be real player. You don’t know a musk ox from a Jersey cow, so that rules out wildlife. And you just flat out suck at landscape.
I’ve basically just described myself, really. My entire career has consisted of a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. The generalist. My answer over the phone when someone asks me if I can shoot something is “Yes, of course.” The shakes start when I put the phone down. I liken my wonderful predicament as being like that of being a pretty good utility player on a baseball team. I don’t handle any one position the best, but by golly I can play a bunch of different spots pretty well, and hit the cutoff man when the game is on the line. Most of the time.
This had led to many photographic adventures, to be sure. The most recent, and certainly one of the most memorable of my career, arrived on our doorstep earlier this year. I was commissioned to create a book, a visual poem, if you will, to the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System. What an amazing job. It touched on many, if not most, of the skills in the photog’s bag–human relations, sensitivity to situations, hitting deadlines, run and gun shooting, remote camera photography, lighting, and all manner of off the cuff, impromptu camera work. It also confirmed what I have always preached–the camera is a visa. In this instance, one to visit the astonishing world of modern medicine.
Jeff Barasch, the president of Onward Publishing, rang up with the notion of doing this job in the fall of last year. We share a history together at the Time Inc. publications, and, via Jeff, I was introduced to the amazing staff of NSLIJ, who organized the 25 day shoot. We shot at pre-dawn, all through the night, in the snow, in high tech operating rooms, in delivery rooms, in the ER. It was one of those “all in” jobs, the ones that stick with you, not just while you are shooting, but while you are at breakfast, in the shower, driving home. After every day in the field, you always feel you could have done better, so you get home, charge batteries, download cards, and roll again before the sunlight, determined to engage at a higher level. And, at this turn of the page, it was handy enough to be a generalist, because almost everyday, the job demanded a different skill set, or another approach.
Ambulance moving through Manhattan
Having a photog pop into, say, a delivery room, is, while not a medical miracle, certainly a logistical one. Permissions, understandably, are required. Delicacy at the camera is needed, perhaps even more than a working knowledge of the relationships between f-stops and shutter speeds. I’ve done many medical coverages for the Geographic, so I know my way around an operating theater, but in these intense rooms, your first and always quietly asked question is, “May I stand here?”
Doctor and nurse work in concert during open heart surgery.
The staff of medical professionals I met on this job were nothing but extraordinary, daily marshaling the combination of humanity, compassion, expertise and technology needed to meet the nearly overwhelming medical needs of a metropolitan area such as New York and its surrounding communities. It was one of those jobs where, photographically, you rarely came away empty handed. There was always something, a medical marvel, a simple human interaction, a victory story, something, to turn your camera towards. I wanted it to keep going, truth be told.
A young girl regains hearing in both ears via cochlear implants.
Teamwork in the Bioskills lab.
Checking chart in operating theater hallway.
The healing touch of animals.
Morning coffee for the residents.
24 hours post op, first steps.
And, heading home, with a new life.
A very worthwhile job, a lucky one to fall to the generalist, the camera jack of all trades. Thanks to Jeff, Justin Colby and the gang at Onward for thinking of our studio, and of course to the folks at the hospital, especially Cecelia Fullam, whose foresight led to the creation of the book. And to Barbara Mlawer, Robert Castano, Ken McMillan–thank you for putting up with some of my nuttier ideas.
There were some intriguing, ad hoc camera and lighting solutions involved in this job, and I will diagram a few in blogs to come…..more tk….
Another in a continuing set of blogs, parsing out a current National Geographic story on UAVs published in the March issue.
The way it was shot….
The way it ran…
When I tell some folks, who might be just starting to shoot jobs for money, that a client like Nat Geo sees every frame I shoot, they tend to blanche a bit. Every frame? Like, even the ones you don’t retouch?
Yep, good bad or indifferent, every frame goes to the magazine. Was like that in film days, and remains true now. (I say this as being a general rule of engagement with the yellow border gang, without knowing if some isolated photogs out there have a special arrangement with them. That could be possible.) But, for the workaday shooter in the employ of the magazine, you shoot it and ship it.
Which means of course the raw file. No PhotoShop, no retouching. The pix drop out of the camera onto a hard drive and thence into a FedEx package and onto 17th and M in DC. Most of your images are in fact like a stone you drop down a well. There’s a long period of silence, then a distant splash as they vanish from sight forever. Sometimes though, quite wonderfully, they don’t just drop unceremoniously out of the camera. Some actually strut outta your picture machine like a Vegas showgirl in full plumage, resplendent in seductive stilettos and fishnets, and all so sparkly and spangly they utterly bedazzle the bespectacled editors at the Geographic, who, I suspect, are a group who don’t get out much. They win their audition in stylish fashion, and thus gain entry, in all their colorful glory, onto the pages of the magazine. That happens to a rare few, actually.
But honestly, “dropping out of the camera” is a good description for most of your efforts. Thud! Mine in particular often bear a rough similarity to a bunch of rapid fire rabbit turds. There’s a bunch of them, they smell bad, and they get left behind.
They get left behind for good reasons, of course. The astute picture editors at Geographic are a pretty visually jaded bunch, having had many wonderfully stirring images pass their eyeballs. I can only imagine what goes through their heads as they plow through a take. (“Christ, another beautiful sunset. What was this asshole thinking?”) They seek only those images which impart difference and information in a truly distinctive way. If it’s just plain pretty, it generally closes out of town.
I thought I might have had one of those rare, meritorious, worthy of ink images with the frame atop the blog. It features one of the ” 50 best inventions of the year,” the Nano hummingbird, which flies and hovers just like a hummingbird and bears a video camera onboard. It is in the class of mini UAVs that are currently being experimented with and developed. The inventor, Matt Keenan, of AeroVironment, is a pretty brilliant guy, so, I thought, let’s get him with the machine. That was harder than you might expect.
Here’s the basics. It’s a programmed double exposure on a D3X. In brief, it’s got two small flash exposures, operating on different channels, during each exposure, a pair of LED lights attached to the bird (my suggestion), and a focus shift in between those exposures. First exposure was at a fast shutter speed. Second exposure was on bulb.
First exposure: A channel one deal, with a 24″ softbox on the Matt’s face, and then various hard flash splashed around the warehouse room to establish some sort of depth and context. These have various gels, and there is an ungelled flash rimming him. Shutter speed, 1/250 of a second. Didn’t want any cracks or slivers of light in the big room to bleed into the photograph. For the subject, he simply has to stand there, and look at the camera, UAV controller in hand.
Second exposure: On the same piece of, uh, film. Change channels on the commander to two. Two speed lights rigged to light the little birdie off to camera right. A main and a backlight. The hummingbird, LEDs alight, takes off from the inventor’s feet, and flies in its herky jerky way over to semi-hover in front of the camera lens. Focus has been shifted from the human to the bird. Click. Camera processes double exposure. Check LCD. Re-do. Digital definitely facilitated this. If I had to shoot this on film, I’d still be there. Each flight was between 5 to 10 seconds, and the LEDs carve a pattern in the blackness.
Here’s Cali and Drew in position for lighting purposes, with Drew doing his best hummingbird imitation.
Of course, the hummingbird we worked with was a singular prototype, so we were lucky to get a picture at all, and the thing didn’t break. And, being a prototype, its flight path, as you can see above, was on the unpredictable side. (It has evidently made great strides since this time in terms of endurance and precision of flight.) And of course, yours truly just flat out missed it a couple of times, as it buzzed its way past my ear.
But we got the deal done, and shipped it, un-retouched to the mag. It ran, as I hoped it would, but only as, really, the second exposure. In the published version, the focus is on the bird, not the inventor. Which is okay by me. Once you surrender a picture to a magazine, it is under their purview, not yours.
So….here’s your chance to art direct a bit. Cropped version? Uncropped version? Which do you prefer? Which tells the story better?