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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Finally, A Book That Has Everything You Need To Know

Feb 22

In Books, Friends at 9:48am

Well, at least about getting your pictures up on the web effectively. Which, if you’re going to have a voice, a presence, a personality, and a chance of survival in the roiling  sea of photogs out there, is simply a necessity. Especially now, as the click of keys has replaced the roar of presses, shooters and scribes are no longer ink stained wretches, but pixel pushing, web browsing, self publishing lords of the internet. To compete nowadays, you have to get in the game, and this book is the playbook. Here’s a link, Get Your Photography on the Web, by RC Concepcion.

Hell, I wouldn’t know HTML from a dashboard plugin, and I’m enjoying reading it. It is so concise, logical, and simple, it demystifies the hydra-headed monster known as the internet, and paves the way for you to just go do it. I liken the book to the tunnel leading onto the playing field. It is a directional, no frills, easy to negotiate one way street. You keep going, and the dark recedes, things get brighter and brighter, and you hear the muffled roar of the crowd. Then–BOOM! You are in the light, on the field, the people are screaming, and it’s on! Game time! Website! Blog! Portfolio! Your pictures are no longer in a box under the shelf at the back of the closet. They are on the world wide web, and anybody can see them, and say anything they want about them. Heh, heh! Be careful what you you wish for.

There’s a personal note to all of this for me. I’m just so damn happy for RC, who is one of the most giving, ebullient, warm hearted people on the planet, not just our industry. Down at the Kelby Camp, they refer to him as the Swiss Army knife of the internet–he can do anything and everything with a computer, including rebuild one with spit, glue and well, maybe a Swiss Army knife. He also the author of one of the sweetest dance photographs–ever.

RC shot this of his lovely wife Jen, who is a magnificent ballerina, with the adorable Sabie, their daughter, looking up from mom’s pointe shoes. I have been blessed to work with Jen a couple of times, capturing her in flight.

Jen’s a typically perfectionist ballerina. I brought her out on the sand, and she was saying, “Ooh, I won’t look good on this surface. I won’t be able to leap, or jump, or anything!” Then she goes off like Superwoman in pointe shoes.

What’s even cooler for me, personally, is that I was standing right next to RC when he shot the cover of the book, which is a wonderful frame of Central Park in NYC. I called my friend Rita, who lives in a building with one of those views, and she asked a neighbor for a few minutes on their porch. We went up, shot some pix, and then she treated RC and I to borscht, bread, cheese and vodka. Definitely a New York night.

Whether you’re just starting, or thinking about ramping up your web presence, this book is the bible…..more tk….

LIFE Launch…

Oct 19

In Books at 7:43am


Today is official release of a book I wrote for my alma mater, LIFE magazine. What a long strange trip photography is. I shot my first job for the magazine in 1984, and managed somehow to survive editor changes, shifts in format, style, and even the change of the physical size of the magazine to keep shooting for them right through the nineties. Just about 1995 they asked me to become their first staffer in 23 years, which also meant I became the last staff photographer in the history of the magazine, as it is no longer publishing. As I always point out, being the last in a series of 90 staff shooters at this illustrious picture magazine probably means that someone writing the history of this field will probably associate my name with the death of photojournalism:-)

It was an honor to write, given the fact that my editor was Bob Sullivan. Sully and I have done stories together over the years for LIFE, Time, and Sports Illustrated. As I always say about him, he is one of those editor/writers who know more stuff about more stuff than just about anybody I know. He gave the book coherence and structure, and a sense of the English language that my location influenced photo dialect falls far short of. He can switch hats from sports to news to music to celebrities in a heartbeat, which has made him the perfect editor at LIFE, which was about all that and more.

LIFE of course continues in electronic form as one of the most popular photo sites of the web world. LIFE.com is a treasure trove of the current pictorial news of the day, as well as a rich mix of images from the archives of the magazine, many of which never saw ink on paper, and are only now just being published for the first time. I’m the guest editor at the site right now, and I had a wonderful opportunity to ramble a bit about my favorite LIFE shooters and their images. Check it out here. Also do a stint on holding cameras, and a section called “dynamic photography.”

The LIFE Guide is just that–a guide. It can take a newbie right from opening the box containing the new digital picture machine right through composition, light, lenses, and color. Predictably, given the author, it is not a dry, nuts and bolts account of f-stops and shutter speeds, but more of a mix of basic information, leavened with 30 years of field experience offering notions of when it is appropriate to bring that information into play, and fly by the “rules,” or just chuck the manual and go with your head and your heart.

It’s got lots of stuff….





Not to mention a fairly bent set of tips…..:-)


They did the smart thing of making it with a semi-hard cover, flexible but tough, and of a size that is fairly easy to stuff into a camera bag or backpack. I plow through basics such as aperture and shutter speed, rule of thirds, lens use, light and color, and even a bit about flash. It is, well, soup to nuts:-) Hoping to make the basics fun, and to keep folks who already have those basics tucked away in their noodles entertained and intrigued with field strategies, and lessons from a whole bunch of hard won (and lost) assignments.

More tk…..

Dang…Double Dang….

Oct 7

In Books, Friends at 5:17am


Just caught up to this column by Ashley Gilbertson in the NYT, all about Tim Whelan pulling the plug on his tiny photo bookstore in Rockport, Me. Dang. Above is a portrait I did of Tim in his shop a number of years ago, with his beloved pooch, Maya. It is one of my favorite pix, understandably, ’cause the combo of the little shop and Tim’s company was irresistible.

It was a rite of passage as an instructor up at Maine Media Workshops. Finish your class, get paid, and go and leave a chunk of the check behind at Tim’s store. A wander (make that more of a shuffle, the place wasn’t very big) through the shelves and the stacks just made you feel good. It made you think, it made you wonder. It always ramped up my sense of curiosity about somebody else’s visual take on the world. You felt hemmed in by paper and ink, and that always felt good. And then there was Tim–easygoing, conversational, knowledgeable.

To say it was like taking a step away from the madding world is a bit redundant, because if you are in Rockport, Me., you’ve already taken that step. It was, however, quiet time, which is always in short supply. Contemplative. Dare I say, kinda like going to church–but much more fun.

I would take my classes there all the time, and, per above, Tim was always a willing and wonderful subject for a lighting demo. Ironically, I put this pic in a new book I just wrote for LIFE, as an example of an environmental portrait, a face in a place.

I can’t feel bad for Tim. He ran a wonderful shop, and I’m sure, has great friends and memories that stem from doing so. From the article, it seems like he is making a sensible move to greener economic pastures.

I just feel bad for the rest of us. Ever walk down the street in a howler of a storm, winds pummeling you like you’re a speed bag, rain flooding your glasses, stinging your skin, ruining your clothes, and just making misery out of everything? (If you’re a freelance photog, you take this walk everyday, even if you don’t know it.) You get inside, close the door, the winds abate, the noise recedes, and you just stand there, thankful for the quiet? (Except of course, for the sound of you, dripping on the carpet.)

That was Tim’s shop, to me. An easy place, apart from the storm. In a way, his photo bookstore was like a good photo. Gave you pause. Made you think. Welcomed you in. Started a conversation, at least in your head. His shelves were filled with reminders of why we do this. I’ll miss it.

More tk….

On LIFE, and Loengard

Aug 30

In Books at 6:07am

LIFE is strange, right? And wonderful.  It is, “Life Its Own Self,” as Dan Jenkins once famously wrote. I shot my first job for the venerable picture magazine that was once everybody’s TV in 1984. Became a staff photographer in 1994. Last one in a series of 90 staffers. Now, 26 years after my first frame, I just finished another project that, I’m proud to say, goes to print sporting that famous red and white logo.picture-3

Never written a guide before. Yikes. Lots of stuff to think about. There’s tons of info in it gained from 30 years out there with a camera in my hand. I’d sit down to write, and have this mental image of my brain as a dump truck, complete with backup warning, starting to pour stuff into my computer. Having done that of course, it would need to be shaped and formed, and I would somehow have to take my photo lingo shorthand and turn it into English. The book starts with the moment you open the box you just got, the one with the digital camera inside, and goes from those super basics right through lenses, light, color, composition to photo terms and concepts, and shooting strategies that make pictures better. Along the way, I drop in little blog like essays that relate field strategies and expertise in a fairly amusing and irreverent (hey, it’s me) way. The result is a guide that covers the basics, with anecdotes about how those basics save your butt when confronted with a photo situation that is decidedly not so basic.

Started on LIFE’s path years ago via being assigned by John Loengard, perhaps the most visually intelligent editor I have ever worked for.


A legendary shooter in his own right, he went from location work to the editor’s desk with impact and influence. (Not all shooters can do this. Many have tried, only to find they should have stayed on the street, and continued to do that which they were good at–shoot pictures.)

Not so John. He’s equally formidable with a camera, or a loupe. In his role as picture editor, to say he was provocative is to understate the case. He got you wired up for the assignment, made you nervous (at least he did me), and dropped incongruent and startling picture notions into your noodle. In short, he got you to think.

Thoughtful pictures are his forte. His book, Pictures Under Discussion, is a must for anyone who might want to do this seriously.




There are gifts that accrue from hanging in there and doing this nutty thing for as long as I have. One truly astonishing one–John wrote the forward for this book. His writing, just as intelligent as his photography, becomes a link between the historic LIFE of film times, and nowadays, with pictures as ones and zeroes. I followed suit in my writing. The book is all about digital shooting. But there are some film pictures in it. Why? Because none of the underpinnings of shooting good pictures have really changed. It remains, then and now, a situational, improvisational, nail biting, uncertain thing to do. It is first and foremost an art and craft powered by your head and your heart, and your sense of the world. The machine in your hands is immaterial. But–this powerful new digital machine can be mysterious and needs explaining. Hence the book.

I can say it has been a truly wonderful LIFE. I was a bit of a fireman for the magazine. Ever the generalist, I got  sent to cover all manner of things. In Russia, I bounced around, weightless, in pseudo-space.


Spent time with Leonard Bernstein as he composed.


Went to Rwanda after the genocide.


Took the clothes off the Olympic team in ’96.


Did a portrait of Kim, “the napalm girl,” and saw how someone’s entire life can spin on the snap of a shutter.


And, in a decidedly dad moment, put my kid on the cover. (Hey, I saved the mag some dough. No model fee. How’s that for a nice, juicy rationalization?)


In short, had the privilege of seeing and recording lots of different bits and pieces of life as people live it. Learned a lot of lessons. Tried to hold up, as best I could, the tradition of vibrant storytelling that was the indelible imprint of the magazine. In this book, I talk a lot about the how to. That’s a given. “How does this thing work?” is explained and re-explained. I also offer up notions about the “why for?” the “what if,” and the “you might just want to.”

In short, I talk about being a shooter. How you do it, and why you do it.

Many of the LIFE photogs were heroes and mentors to me. I was offered a small space in the book for a dedication. See below.

This book is dedicated to those who went before. To what they saw, and how
they saw it. And to the fact that, sometimes at great peril, in impossible
conditions, with all odds against them, they shot it well and beautifully,
and shared it with us. Their work is the stuff of all our memories.

More tk…

This Just In…..

Nov 4

In Books, Stories, Thoughts at 10:44am

Hot Shoe Diaries was the number one reader’s pick for the arts and photography category on Amazon for 2009.


Pretty cool. I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback from folks who really enjoyed the book and I thank everyone for the kind words that have been sent my way. Very appreciative of the support, and thanks for letting Amazon know about it!

It’s been an interesting week.  There was the good news about the book, and then Lynn, my studio manager for 18 years, was going back and forth with a major multi-national who had a check for us, but had the wrong address listed. It batted around the GPO in NYC for a bit, and was returned, so thankfully, they called and got it all adjusted properly and re-sent it.  (As far as Lynn’s longevity with me is concerned, rest assured I am extremely appreciative. I just called Rome, and tried to put her name on the list for beatification as a saint. They asked, well, has she performed any miracles? I said, “Are you kidding me? We’re still in business!” The line went dead. Maybe I shoulda emailed?)

We anxiously awaited the check. This could be it! What a great week! First the Amazon rating, and now, a check! The one that puts us over the top! No more worries! Livin’ large. Next trip to LA, book me the Walter Iooss memorial suite at  Shutters on the Beach!

It showed up, and frankly, it was disappointing.


Eighty two cents? Jeez. Undaunted, I went into a convenience store  and walked up to the very nice lady at the counter and asked if there was anything in the store I could buy for .82 cents.

She looked at me hard, and didn’t even have to say, “Are ya stupid, or just plain crazy?”

I assured her I was not, and that I knew it was a little weird, but my budget limit was eighty two cents.

She tried to be helpful, but was having a hard time thinking of stuff. I suggested a box of Tic Tacs but no way. Tic Tacs are like, around $1.55 most places, except Kennedy Airport, where they are $17.26. The little boxes generally have 36 individual tic tacs, which makes them about 4.3 cents per, so I could have converted my check into 19 of those minty little guys, but they don’t sell them individually.

Newspaper? Not even close. Refrigerator magnet?  I got the look again. I got outta the store, lest I discovered hassling the clerk early in the morning might lead me to discover eighty two cents could possibly purchase a big noise and a used shotgun shell.

But hey, things are okay. I just got notification from Delta that I’m in the million miler club. Million miles, just on Delta. Sheesh. Evidence, perhaps, of a life gone wrong? Dunno. But it worked out this morning. On a non-refundable coach class ticket, I got an upgrade to first! Way cool. I was thinking on it, you know, anticipating the delights of the first class cabin. Eggs Benedict? A Mimosa? Pigs in a blanket? A foot rub? An exclusive first ever in the air viewing of “This Is It”?

Not quite.


Breakfast. Oh, well. More tk….