Archive for December, 2013

It's New Year's Eve day, 2013. The first firework photograph I saw today came from, where else? Sydney, Australia. In 2000 at the end of the Games of the XXVII Olympiad, I was frankly whipped. Along with Dave Callow, my great Australian brother who selflessly devoted his time in Sydney to helping me make the best images I could possibly make, I had put in 25 straight 20 hour days. Exhausted from the stress, strain, physical and mental exertion, and last but not least the heat, we just wanted to get through the Closing Ceremony. But then SI's picture editor Jimmy Colton asked me where I thought I would like to work that last night, and I knew I needed to do something special. Most of my colleagues wanted to be inside the Olympic Stadium, but after 10 days of track and field -- shooting every single heat of every race at every distance, I desperately needed a change. Not only that, I was more interested in the overall spectacle showing the closing of the Games in that magnificent city that had welcomed us so wonderfully. There was no other place possible, we had to be looking on from Mrs. Macquaries Chair. A spectacular vantage point overlooking Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Legend has it, if you sit there at just the right time and make a wish, it will be granted. I had brought 25 cases of gear to Australia. So many single lens reflex cameras. All kinds of lenses. And a trunk containing some very unique and special medium format cameras. Three of which were modified by Dave to give a different look. A look that no one else would produce at these Olympics.

Sports Illustrated ran the image above across a three page gatefold in the front of the magazine and maybe best of all the reverse side of the gatefold was an image by Heinz Kluetmeier. A former Director of Photography at the magazine, and the man who brought me to SI initially, Kluet is the best there's ever been at sports action photography. Starting with the first time I covered the Olympics for the magazine in 1992 in Barcelona, he had encouraged me to own the finish line at track, and that included figuring out ways to take Kluet's trademark images and make them even better -- something I couldn't have done without his brilliance and generous teaching. Standing in the finish pit three days before Closing Ceremonies, Dave and I were suddenly struck with the realization that we had 60 Nikons, a slew of lenses, all kinds of specialty gear for finish line images and underwater shots... everything, but a panorama camera. We started frantically calling every resource we could think of from our position trackside. Nobody had anything available. Every big format and panoramic camera was already rented. And then from five feet to my left came the distinctive voice of Joe McNally. "I have a couple with me. You can use them." Stunned. Really Joe? "Of course, just pack them up when you're finished and leave them at the front desk of the hotel, I'll collect them when I get back from my assignment in the Outback." Friends. My wish for great ones has been granted many times.

About 150,000 folks were on the hillside with us that night and when the fireworks erupted they broke into a mass a cappella version of the de facto Australian national anthem, Waltzing Matilda. I will never forget the moment. Just magic.

With the call to prayer reverberating through the old city of Istanbul, the pianist in the lobby playing Bach Sinfonia in G - from the Christmas Oratorio, and happy laughter in the streets, I have to think, this is the way it should be. Peace on Earth. Happy Holidays from all of us at Straw Hat Visuals!

Fresh snow in Alaska.

This has been a terrific week in our offices. Laura, Sara and I have had three visitors bearing presents. Brice, Dan and Tim brought the gifts of good humor, technical acumen and boundless energy to the studio. All students of Jonathan Blake Huer at Ball State, they have worked with us on projects on both coasts this year, and will do more of the same in 2014.

Bill explains analog solutions to the digital corps.

Together, we have muscled through a huge amount of work, editing and imaging non-stop. The last eleven months Laura and I have been in constant motion. Traveling more 440,000 kilometers it's been a year of learning and exploration as we've crisscrossed the planet making images. Building a massive cache of data to process and sculpt into new short films and photographic essays. We are moving strongly back to our roots in photojournalism. Whether it's long form essays for Sports Illustrated, music videos, documentary films on a wide variety of stories we think need to be told, or iBooks with our partners Tr@ed Media - makers of amazing educational material - the year has been full of good fun and good work. This week has been a time for reflection and planning. Seasonal music bouncing off the walls, slicing through air laced with the enchanting aromas of brownies and strong espresso, mixed with of laughter. Early in the new year, we will be releasing a bunch of new work -- some collaborative efforts with our friends, as well as new content on our Websites, and a group of new films.

The creative life is a good one. I hope you'll keep watching our journey.

After I posted my list of favorite books of the year, we got a bunch of emails asking for end of year gear buying advice.
This is a short list but it's all stuff we use constantly and love.

Anything from

And if you are shopping for me...

It's that time. Finishing projects. Culling through the million or two images produced through the year. Our office is tech heavy.  Raids and computers. Printers. Devices of all stripes everywhere. Last night an old friend moved out. Replaced by innovation and technology. When I arrived in Florida, fresh out of the University of Kansas School of Journalism, things worked a little different in the photo world.  I shot film, actual strips of celluloid. I processed it in wet chemicals, examined it with a loupe, and made prints. One of the great presents of my life showed up just before Christmas my first winter in Miami.  A giant blue industrial light table with a three foot by three viewing surface. Magnificent. The elf that left it on my porch didn't try to get it through the front door.  I'm still not entirely sure how we managed to get it inside unscathed, but where there's a will there's a way. Millions of images crossed that viewing platform, carrying with them my vision, my life's work.  Tri-X and Kodachrome, those stalwart staples of photojournalism. Images bound for the front pages of the world’s newspapers and magazines -- ah yes print, that ancient medium which served so many for so well for so long, and which contrary to apparent popular belief is going strong all over the planet. No piece of furniture, save the ancient family rocking chair, held my attention for so long or for so well. A decade ago digital photography took over completely in my office. Scanners, card readers and computer screens replaced the old loupes and light boxes. I still have millions of negatives and transparencies stored neatly in huge black filing cabinets, but as I have transferred the most important of them digitally, I have pulled open those creaking drawers less and less often. Finally this year, I decided painfully I needed the space for yet another bank of hard drives. Even though I seldom hunched over the piles of film evaluating for the first cogent time their value, and by fiat my success or failure at communicating the moment or story through them, it was still very tough to say goodbye. So much emotion and work tied to that surface. Editing then was different.  It was more solitary.  I looked at the film.  Thinking strictly about what it said or didn't.  It was a tactile process. And the light box didn't talk, not like my computer screen does, always beckoning and seducing with sounds, and lights, and distractions. But it's gone, those who work with me celebrating the freed up space. Silly as it sounds, I'm glad it's found a new home with young artists, working in an older medium who will enjoy the virtues of a slower pace of visualization and a sturdy place to support their creations. Time to get back to the computers and the edit.  Now, where to put my coffee cup?

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