What I did this Summer

01 7D2L1093 copy.1More than anytime during the recent past I spent a lot of this summer reflecting. The slower pace of summer at Chautauqua provides a space where introspective motivation is easy. The passing of time is a partner with the changes in our lives. They bring both dark & bright moments that alter my perspective on my life & the world around me.

02This summer, volunteering for the Bemus Point Stow Ferry didn’t include any trips across the narrows. Dry-docked for repairs I was able to document some of the work necessary for it to pass safety inspection. I did become a 3rd grade apprentice grinder working on the deck. As a “Steel-town Boy” I got a taste of the type of work my hometown is known for. I have confidence that the Ferry will be back in the water continuing her 3rd century of service to Chautauqua Lake. I am proud to be able to help keep this historic icon operating as well as accepting a position on the Board of Directors.

03 05Wip copy copyI know to many good bird photographers to say I am one. However, when I’m sitting on my front porch watching a Northern Flicker pose I will take advantage of the opportunity. The Kingfisher that occasionally sits on the mast of my sailboat continues to eluded my camera.

04Golf is a perfect sport for my 100-400 lens. During the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s tournament I was able to get a very high percentage of images I was happy with. Knowing the basics of the game, recognizing where good foreground/background locations were as well as having very nice weather allowed me to enjoy a very pleasant day on the links. I thought about picking up my clubs this summer but didn’t. I’m doubtful playing golf will become anything more than a minor part of my retirement. So much for stereotypes.

05Often the voices of nature can complement the serenity of the outdoors in a way that is uniquely familiar. The shoreline of ponds isn’t fully complete unless you hear the voices of frogs. I find it a great exercise for my eyes to find them in the weeds or the shallows of the water. It isn’t often I can get close enough to get a good image but if they are going to make it easy by sitting on a log I will make an attempt to grab a shot.

06I enjoy portraiture but for me it is difficult with people I know. That doesn’t mean I will stop trying. Since I have known Barb Koerner all of my life I can’t begin to explain the many deep qualities this portrait captures. Much of what the image means to me is totally unseen by the camera. It is my personal knowledge of the “sense of place” that is an untold story of this wonderful woman. Other than my family, this may be my best capture of someone I know. OBTW the pie was homemade from fresh hand picked blueberries!

07 7D2L1156 copy copyRecognizing your tastes helps define your motivation. I like boats. I enjoy old school as part of my life. I appreciate the craftsmanship of people that create & preserve things with wood. Knowing that, I stalked some participants in a local wooden boat show. This classic Chris Craft arriving from the north had beautiful early am sun that highlighted the high gloss of the wood. The strong sunlight also painted the contrasting green trees in the background giving a nice balanced hue to the image. If only I could have been about 5 degrees higher to have isolated the bow flag against the water. I always look for ways to make something better.

08 7D2L0735 copy copyDriving the back roads of Chautauqua County I spotted this farm on wash-day. My photographer’s instinct immediately thought leading lines. I realized that unless I invaded the family’s property I really couldn’t explore the full potential of this setting. Since I was on my way somewhere I just took this generic wide shot. It serves as a seed for future opportunities.

09 7D2L0848 copy copyEven though I’m less than satisfied with images of musicians I have taken, there is still a lure I can’t resist. I also believe many of the best shots I’ve seen include the interaction of 2 or more musicians. However, the smaller mandolin fit nicely into a tight single frame. The mustache, goatee, sunglasses & hat gave this musician character worthy of an attempt of musical portraiture. The Blue Heron Music Festival did a good job of providing entertaining music that didn’t overwhelm the audience with the volume.

daf01_8 copy copyThe life cycle of monarch butterflies is almost as amazing as watching them dancing in the wind. Thinking about their journeys as these frail creatures migrate across much of North America, I am in awe of their capacity. Splashing the landscape with color they intensify the beauty of flowers. They remind me not to ignore the simple pleasure of each & every day.

An Ongoing Inspiration & Challenge

01 copyOn Facebook last December, a friend posted video from the Volvo  Around the World Ocean Race. The images & footage from onboard the boats really got my attention. Racing around the world takes tremendous endurance & the ability to follow it so dramatically got me hooked. When I found out Newport RI was one of 11 stops I began to plan a road trip to photograph these amazing boats.

02Last Summer I failed at connecting with Tall Ships as they were passing thru the Great Lakes. With a defined departure date from Narragansett Bay in Mid May, I was not going to miss a chance to get some shots of these unique boats. I established a connection with John Lincourt, a RI photographer with a portfolio of great sailing images. He provided me with some valuable info. Things work out better when you can talk to someone with both experience & local knowledge to develop a plan.

03Sailboats are a subject I enjoy watching as well as taking photographs of. Not only are their numerous types of boats but they offer a diversity of forms that are unique. The only other forms I can compare them to in my mind’s eye are dancers. Since I own a small sailboat & have done a bit of sailing I recognize the challenge of capturing the unseen power of the wind to guide your boat. Although photos from onboard a sailboat are OK, in my opinion the real beauty is seen from another boat or the shore.

04 7D2L9029 last saturdayOn Saturday they had an In-Port-Race. With only a very minor impact on the scoring for the competition it was really more of a dog & pony show for host cities to promote. Even in the rain crowds lined the shore & filled the fleet of spectator boats. I had decided to buy a seat on a Ferry for this event  This gave me a somewhat elevated position above the fleet of fans. On Sunday, as they started the race leg across the Atlantic to Whales, I took images from shore near Ft. Adams.

05These boats are a custom design for one thing. Sail around the world as fast as possible. If you’re not familiar with sailing take my word these things fly through the water. Slicing thru waves for 600 miles in 24 hours must be one heck of a ride! They have almost nothing in common with my lil 15 foot day-sailor other than they both float. The 3 dome shaped antennas on the stern provide a link via satellite for vital weather info as well as a uploading images & footage. With 5 fixed video cameras & an embedded photojournalist, each team gave updates from all over the worlds oceans. The technology & the effort to capture & distribute this 9-month event is unlike anything I have ever heard of. It makes video coverage of a marathon look easy.

06I knew the basics of racing sailboats having read a bit about America’s Cup & seen a few on Chautauqua. When I saw Narragansett Bay I realized this was about as perfect a venue as possible for holding a port race because of the locations for spectators to watch along Ft. Adams. I’m sure that without rain or fog it would be stunning. On the upside, the poor weather did soften the background. The decision to be on the Ferry on Saturday was indeed the right choice. Watching 2 of these monsters sail thru the crowded spectator boats was a demonstration of amazing confidence.

07It was a personal challenge to frame tight because I think the beauty is in the wide shot with the wind shaping the sails. However, having viewed many sailing images prior to my trip I understood the power of a tight shot without the complete sailing rig. This is especially true when the boat is horizontal to the camera or coming right at you.

07aRD Turn tideNaturally, on an event as big & as expensive as this, sponsorship by businesses & organizations is necessary. I’m not a fan of the NASCAR type of branding but I understand it provides the financial support to make it happen. Turn The Tide on Plastic sails under the flag of the United Nations & is sponsored by foundations seeking to raise awareness of our oceans health. It was the only boat with a woman skipper.

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A unique aspect of trying to find the best sailing shots is the diversity of perspectives. In my perfect image, the horizon should not interfere which ideally would mean a position high enough to see only water in the background. This requires either a drone…I’m not buying another toy…or shooting from a helicopter, which is a very pricey platform. Ignoring the poor weather conditions this is about as close as I came to my “dream” shot.

09This is the crew that won it all 6 weeks later. As with any world-class competition, racing sailboats requires a level of experience, dedication & daring that only a handful of individuals can muster. To do it for over 45,000 nautical miles over 9 months makes it one of the most demanding sporting events any human can undertake. In the 13 races of this event since 1973, 9 people have lost their lives. John Fisher, one of the crew on Scallywag, was knocked overboard in the middle of the Southern Pacific Ocean. RIP

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As the boats headed off across the Atlantic for a 3300-mile sprint to Wales I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was not inspired to take up or closely follow sailboat racing. However, the imagery of sailboats remains an elusive photographic goal. I learned a great deal more about this event; I had made good decisions in my planning & I had expanded my understanding of personal motivations. Most rewarding, I got a few nice shots.

Inspired by a Road Trip

02 copy I’m a photographer motivated by subjects & stories. I’m not the type to have my camera over my shoulder always ready to capture something that catches my eye. So I planned a road trip with 4 primary photography destinations as my focus.

03 copyAs a low-no-budget project, I really didn’t want or need anything more than a place to sleep. I like the idea of supporting local businesses over chains so I stayed mostly in motels. None were absolutely terrible; all were under $100 a night. Since this was a solo trip I didn’t need to worry about Lori’s objections.

04 copyAs I took off along the Southern Tier of NY I didn’t have a tight schedule but hadn’t planned on side stops. Then, from the highway, I spotted people fly-fishing. There was a convenient exit & I pulled off. The light was good & the background was great but the deep pools with fish were near the opposite bank so I never saw faces. I was close to the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum so I made a note for possible future subject locations.

05 copyMy 1st destination was Mystic Seaport & Museum, the largest maritime museum in the US. The shipyard where Mayflower II was undergoing restoration for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims arrival was busy. Seeing workers using hand tools to shape the lumber precisely was inspiring to this wanna-be wood-worker. I strolled & explored the place for an entire day thoroughly enjoying myself.

06 copyFrom Mystic I spent a day with a talented, creative & inspiring friend I made during my career. I have known & respected Dave Taylor for well over 2 decades. He has a very media centered collection of antique electric toys as well as cutting-edge technology in his Mission Style influenced home.

07Although it wasn’t my main motivation for going to New England, Newport,  RI was the photography highlight of my Road-Trip. The Volvo Round the World Sailboat Race had a stopover in this historically significant sailing center of the US. The 2 days of sailing by the Volvo boats had very poor weather for photography. However, anytime I can snap a shot of a 12 Meter it is a very good day. Currently owned by Ted Turner American Eagle is for sale.

08Gatsby & ostentatious wealth are synonymous with Newport of a century ago. Touring the Vandergrift Mansion, I learned the term Gilded Age came from the title of a novel co-authored by Mark Twain. The themes of corruption & greed in the book came to represent a lifestyle & period of time that was unsustainable. By the 1930’s owners of this mansion couldn’t afford the upkeep. They stand as empty homes representing a brief period of history.  I believe that Andy Carnegie’s gift of libraries has had a more long-lasting impact demonstrating the value of philanthropy.

09The weather during the In-Harbor Race was rainy. Fortunately, I was prepared with an inexpensive but good rain cover for my camera. I had made a connection with John Lincourt a Sailboat Photographer & he said my 100-400 lens was the right tool. I purchased a seat onboard a ferry giving me an elevated position that worked out well. During this 9 month race, each of the 7 boats has an on-board photo journalist seen in yellow. Some of their work is absolutely spectacular. It is what inspired me to travel to Newport.

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The day after the Volvo boats took off across the Atlantic to Whales I did an afternoon cruise on Narragansett Bay under a clear blue sky. I realized that I would have preferred the good weather when I was shooting the race over my enjoyment on the beautiful schooner Adirondack II.

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The real motivation in New England was my daughter’s graduation. I arrived a few days before & went to her work-out to try & grab a few shots as she trained for the first USATF sanctioned Women’s Decathlon. I found a position where the background wasn’t too bad but there was very little light. ISO 5000 at 2.8 just isn’t going to give nice clear images.
12The moment of the trip was when we made eye contact just before she received her diploma. Her smile is as genuine as any face I’ve ever photographed. I just stood in the balcony waiting for her to notice me. No texting was necessary for us to connect.

13Her 4 years as a freshman proctor are over & we packed some of her stuff to bring back to Pittsburgh. She got a pass allowing me to “Pawk my Caw in Hawvawd Yawd.”

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I’m a photog that looks for subjects & stories. However, having a camera handy when you see something unique does have value. Maybe this will become part of a story on foiling sailboats. Upcoming blogs will go into more detail about my road-trip. Look for new postings on the 1st & 15th of each month.

 

Motivated by a New Opportunity

01I don’t consider myself a competitive person. However, I enjoy the challenge of capturing compelling images of others in sporting events. Mud on the Mountain at Seven Springs seemed like it would offer a variety of new opportunities for my mind’s eye.

02 copyThe weather was cooperative & the runners were enthusiastic subjects. Unfortunately, I had not done enough planning to know where the Mud Pit or other messy locations were & missed one of my primary goals of photographing tight muddy faces.

03A wide perspective the scale of the challenge, an important part of the story. It sets up the impact of tight shots. Atop the Laurel Highlands, I found this migration of competitors that reminded me of images from the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s a different environment & perspective from climbers in single file hiking up a snow-covered pass. In my mind, the push of human endurance was a common element. I also imagined the stark contrast when the terrain was snow covered with skiers speeding in the opposite direction.

04This is my favorite tight action shot of the event. I had spotted her with the war-paint mask as a flight of runners was preparing to start. I immediately noticed attitude & knew if I saw her on the mountain she would have emotion & character on her face. I had found a good position with minimal distractions in the background as runners exited wading thru a lake. She was one of the 1st runners thru after I was in position. Her determination is profoundly obvious.

05In addition to the 7.7-mile run/hike up & down the mountain, there were 30 obstacles. I had zero experience with this type of event from a visual perspective. I wanted to explore perspectives. Although there were “elite runners” competing to win, I believe most of the athletes had a personal goal or focused on just finishing. I did see teamwork as well as athletes helping others beside them. I recognized Mud on the Mountain was as a true personal sporting challenge where collaboration met compettion.

06I’m not sure when or why the Halloween tradition of costumes seeped into many large events. These are not the typical outfits of the competitors. However, they do stand out! Full disclosure, I knew they were a trio of characters but I really had no idea who they were from. When they told me they were from Super Mario I felt foolish for my lack of gaming pop-culture.  My gamer engagement ended at Pac Man. If you don’t know ask.

06a copyI had walked around this climbing challenge 360 degrees before I found a position where the background was clear of distractions. Each runner found a unique way up, over & down. I had good framing with the lines of the wooden structure & the blue sky. Now all I needed was somebody to insert something other than their butt into the frame. Until I sorted the images I had no ideas she had stuck out her tongue when I pressed the shutter. It certainly wasn’t a reaction I anticipated. I knew the elements were in place for a good shot & her expression made it a winner.

6b copyEven though I never made it to the muddy challenges, this shot comes close to what I had seen in my mind’s eye. In this image, there are many stories on the face of this athlete. I find it interesting how the curving contrasting double necklines & the hint of the Batman logo set up his face while the horizontal orange headband divides my attention. A bad hair day can be a strong element. This is another one of my favorite portraits.

6cI believe it is rewarding to put challenges in front of you & attempt to go over them. It can be physical challenges like this event or exploring your creative skills outside of your comfort zone. That is what motivated me to go to this event with my camera. I might go again but if I do I will make sure I do the necessary planning to get to the muddier parts of the course. I can’t speak for any of the competitors that were on the mountain on that glorious spring day, but from my perspective, this runner is a good example of what this event is about. Giving your best attempt at doing what you set out to do.

 

 

 

An Anniversary

 

I don’t associate April 15th as Tax Day. In 1979 it was my last day at WPGH TV & last “Full-Time” job. The date brings memories of my career as an Independent Freelancer.

01a04/15/79 marks the beginning of a journey I look back on with much gratitude. There are hundred’s of people that motivated, influenced & mentored me along the way. However, nobody had the longevity & impact as Jerry Hughes. Since the early 80’s his examples of professionalism taught me things that you can’t learn from a book or a training video. When I bought my 1st camera his example & advice about being an Owner/Operator lead me on a path I never dreamed possible living in Pittsburgh.

01b When I bought this Varicam in I remember a feeling of satisfaction knowing I was the 1st Independent HD Owner/Operator in Western PA. My career began when expansion of video production went beyond the programing for 4 networks & their local affiliates. 25 years later purchasing a camera that hurdled low resolution, & shallow contrast of the previous technology was a wonderful, but expensive, improvement. The end of poor quality video was going bye-bye & I was helping my clients escort it out the door.

02When the project had the proper planning, tools & people I was able to utilize what HD could do. On this documentary, I had explained to the lead horseman I needed his riding party to react in the pool of light. After about a 70-yard slow gallop downstream towards me they stopped on a dime & nailed it! That was a very good day at work. We made lots of nice pictures. Mark Bussler Producer/Director Horses of Gettysburg.

02aGetting the client what they wanted & needed was always my motivation. Sometimes that meant hauling a dolly to the top of a power plant facility. The backdrop was an excellent idea. However, we needed 3 more grips to haul the gear. Today small sliders/rails would give more movement to the shot & only weigh about 25% & cost much less. End Client IBEW International via a production company from Denver.

03In the early 80’s doing instant replay at local live sporting events was about 1/3 of my time. By the end of my career, it became about half. A fortunate connection with CBS Sports in 1986 opened a door that lead to live television opportunities I had dreamed about. Thinking back about doing 30 years of NFL & 13 Super Bowls I still need to pinch myself. Live TV is a unique process with fun tools & talented people. The reward of working with some of the best in the business is when it all comes together as “One Room”. I never knew being a slomologist was a career path. NEP SS CBS mobile unit.

98811_D1339BCrop.jpgI learned early on that all shows are big…some just have a whole lot more people. Crew shots from Super Bowls are like a Where’s Waldo puzzle. I will buy you lunch if you can ID me. While the people in the picture bring back memories, knowing that the photographer was John Filo adds another significant layer. Yea that kid from Western PA who is a fellow Kent State Alumni & won a Pulitzer. 2007 CBS Super Bowl

06 There is a correlation between the size of the show & the amount of cable. From my perspective, all shows are basically the same. Remote TV is a 3 part job. #1 Set it up. #2 Do the job. #3 Tear it down. Not unlike a circus, it’s a traveling roadshow. For big shows, the amount of equipment & wires increases for parts 1 & 2. Glamor & Show Business aren’t words I use together. 05The interconnectivity of multiple TV trucks creates technical opportunities & endless variables of data, audio, video, graphics, communication & monitoring.  Fortunately, connecting this was not my job. Some know the needs of their department. Only a very few know the entire workflow. I would disconnect only after double confirmation we were clear from NY.

07 copyAfter the show is when you find out who is really part of your crew. I believe early in my career I was given opportunities because I was good at wrapping cables. It is a sign of someone willing to do all 3 parts of the job. I had an advantage because at 14 I learned “over & under” when practicing ring buoy toss on my lifeguard test. It seemed like I had wrapped enough cable to make it to the moon. In reality, it is likely closer to the distance from Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City.

09I had a number of “close encounters” but usually wasn’t enticed to engage “talent”. When I heard Charles Kuralt was visiting our venue at the Lillehammer Olympics, I couldn’t resist asking him for a picture. When I told him I was humbled that our last names were together in the CBS phone book he gave a good laugh & remarked I had top billing over him. I am indeed biased but the 2 icons of telling stories on TV during my youth were Walter & Charles. Thanks for setting examples worth watching.

10I loved my work but…the packing, unpacking, set-up, tear-down & repeat of all of this gear took a toll I no longer felt like paying. This is a typical load of gear, minus the camera for an ENG job. Retirement is good. I’m beholding to many, I miss the people but I do not miss my old toys or the travel.

10a Albertville Meribel Olympic Flame 1992I really only have 1 nagging regret from my career. I never traveled with anything more than a mediocre still camera. I strived to be as light-weight as possible in packing & never wanted to carry a SLR. Oh well, I got a few so-so captures but I have amazing memories. Albertville 1992.

Capturing the Moment in Sports

 

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The thrill of my career doing instant replay for live sporting telecasts was when I could take the footage of terrific camera operators & get it into the show.  Now with my still camera, sporting events are wonderful challenges to capture a story. Photojournalists are charged with getting the winning moment. I look for moments highlighting the sport, the athlete or capturing an interesting moment. It isn’t just winners who display emotions but many competitors have dramatic expressions. Panning the subjects adds the feeling of motion to this frame. I took the opportunity of the multiple laps in this race to find the best shutter speed to get the effect I was looking for.

02       Indeed racing sailboats is a competitive sport. However, my appreciation is the challenge the sailors have with harnessing the wind. Images that show the unseen force has on the sails highlights the beauty of the boat design. There are diverse styles of sailboats as well as “points of sail” which define how they move in relation to the wind. For sailors it is an ever-changing juggle of physics, geometry & nature. For photogs finding the balance of lighting & background with a subject with 360-degree options can be frustrating.

03Athletes talk about “space & time”. In this image of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club one opponent is flatfooted & one is changing direction as the ball carrier has full stride very much in control of space. Often in sports where numerous players are interacting, my favorite images involves multiple players. Close-ups have personal drama, but the nature of the sport can be best shown in shots where 2, 3 or more individuals are involved.

04 copyDuring my career I had the privilege of being places few individuals were allowed. I did my job in a professional manner & respected athletes & the fans. Working for NJ Devils, my responsibilities didn’t involve the game. I found hockey tremendously difficult with the speed, the obstacles & constant change of direction. I was always impressed with how Marty Brodeur acted in practice, in the locker room & after the game.  So I chose him to concentrate my on.  Also, he stayed basically in 1 position. I admire his concentration as Evgeni Malkin is ready to pounce on a chance to get the puck past him.

05One of the ancillary advantages of photography is you give your own images a title. I call this one is “Pass the Ketchup Please.” After the pros morning skate a group of hockey enthusiasts would frequently take the ice. I called them the AHL the Afternoon Hockey League. If the title makes you smile it is a good thing.

06 copyI just recently discovered this fascinating activity. A combination of surfing, sailing, wind surfing, wake-boarding, snowboarding & hang-gliding, I would describe it as dancing with the wind on water. Initially I was disappointed that my position on a cliff overlooking the water was so far away I couldn’t get tight shots of the athletes as they launched themselves into the air. I then realized that the wider shot, which included the sail, was the best way to illustrate this sport.

06aSometimes a moment catapults your mind back to an image without warning. As a pack approached an early turn during the 1500 I was looking at getting a group shot of the runners. Although I didn’t see, or capture, what caused the fall, I reacted to the mishap. Moments after snapping my shutter the iconic Sports Illustrated image of Mary Decker on the ground during the 1984 Olympics flooded my memory. I now follow David Burnett who took that shot. His legacy of work is very impressive and inspiring.

07I just bought a 28mm & was looking for a subject to tune my eyes to this prime lens. It was afternoon in late fall with the sun low in the sky. I drove by a skate park & saw young men on boards. I observed them doing tricks to determine a good position. Most positions had terrible backgrounds. In the bottom of the bowl there were no distractions. I also noticed the shadow of the lip on the curved bowl.  I waited until this skater, & his shadow, were in the right position. Gravity is a subtle subject in this picture.

08Crew in competition or practice displays power, grace & symmetry. In my mind, this image as the 8 “Boys in the Boat” still working together as they end their workout on the Charles River represents the teamwork necessary for this sport. The boat had carried them gliding across the water. Now, they carry their shell to the boathouse.

11I was watching these students with envy on a beautiful fall afternoon. The Tech Dinghies are not the most beautiful boats on the water but they have a charm all their own. When I realized newbies were getting experience on the water I saw the potential for this encounter. I think the lesson for both boats was “Be aware of all that is around you!” Also good advice for a photog!

12 FinalI’m not a photojournalist & many of my images aren’t intended to document life so I’ve become ethically comfortable with editing my images. I’ve also learned my comfort zone with PS tools. I especially like how I can manipulate a shot with shortcomings into an acceptable image. I was slow in recognizing the opportunity of this position on a balcony until the last heat. The focus is off but I did capture/freeze “The Moment” I was looking for and altered it enough to make it a respectable shot of what my minds eye envisioned.