Archive for the ‘Photojournalism’ Category


Sunday, October 16th, 2011

OccupyMN, Day 9

I have not had as much a chance as I would have liked to cover Minneapolis’ version of Occupy Wall Street, OccupyMN, at Hennepin County Government Plaza downtown. But I’ve made it out several times, and just wanted to share a few shots I’ve captured at the ongoing event. Here’s the full set. The highlights here are in no particular order, and were taken on a range of dates from October 7 up through today.

For the photo geeks: I recently sent a solid chunk of my equipment in for repair: D700, 14-24/2.8, 80-200/2.8, and 300/2.8, which is why I haven’t shot any concerts lately. There’s nothing hugely wrong with any of them – it’s all just kind of getting old and not working quite as well as before, particularly with regards to autofocus performance. The D700 passed 150,000 actuations this month, the two telephoto lenses are probably about as old as I am, and the 14-24 takes the brunt of the the abuse my gear gets exposed to at close-quarters shows. So at OccupyMN I’ve been shooting with my D300, some primes, and my old Tokina 12-24/4 wide-angle zoom. I’ve been spoiled by the D700 and 14-24 combo in low light; the D300 just isn’t cutting it for photojournalism in near-darkness. Still, I think I got some decent shots, pumping the ISO to the max and applying noise reduction liberally.

OccupyMN, Day 1

OccupyMN, Day 1

OccupyMN, Day 1

OccupyMN, Day 1

OccupyMN, Day 8

OccupyMN, Day 8

OccupyMN, Day 5

OccupyMN, Day 1

Labor strife in Madison, WI

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Defending Collective Bargaining

I drove down to Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday to participate in demonstrations against an attempt by Governor Scott Walker to strip public employees of their rights to collectively bargain. This was one of the calmest, most well-organized mass protests (estimates ranged from 55,000 to 70,000 people) I’ve ever seen, even when the Tea Party counter-protest was exiting the area through throngs of pro-labor folks.

Here are just a few photos from the day.

Defending Collective Bargaining

Defending Collective Bargaining

Defending Collective Bargaining

Defending Collective Bargaining

A few more photos here.

Nelson Lichtenstein in the Chicago Reader

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Nelson Lichtenstein

The above photo of labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein appeared in the July 1 issue of the Chicago Reader, in an article about Wal-Mart. I shot this photo at a panel event at Georgetown University, in which I intentionally framed the majority of my photos extremely tightly to add some drama to the generally dry activity of people talking from podiums.

Earth Day Climate Rally 2010

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Earth Day Climate Rally

Maryland Deathfest was one of several large festival-style music events I’ve photographed in the last month and a half or so. I’m late on posting about the others but I’m going to go ahead and do it, as I’m very happy with some of the shots I got from these. Shooting at festivals is always fun not just because of the variety of bands, but also because I really enjoy taking pictures of festival-goers, who (especially at something like MDF) often make for really, really interesting people-watching.

In late April I took a gazillion photos at the Earth Day Climate Rally that took place on DC’s National Mall. This full-day event was a weird cross between a political rally and a music festival, with a massive array of speakers interspersed between brief sets of music (3-5 songs per artist). Of the speakers, I particularly enjoyed Jesse Jackson Sr. and Rep. Ed Markey, and was bummed to have gotten there too late to hear what new AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka had to say.

There was a rudimentary media tent set up – just a couple tables and chairs, no food or drink or anything like that – where various VIPs came and did interviews and photo ops. I found these photo ops bizarre and awkward. Though I’ve never shot a red carpet event, I suppose this was similar – random VIP arrives, poses for dozens of photographers in front of a cheesy pre-fab background, continues on his/her merry way. So strange. I actually preferred to wait and take photos while the VIPs were doing their interviews instead of awkwardly posing. Here’s TV personality Maria Menounos:

Maria Menounos @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Taking photos of people speaking at podiums is not a recipe for stunning art. That said, here’s my favorite such photo of the day, of the aforementioned Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.):

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Oh, and there was music to be photographed, of course! This actually turned out to be a bit of a challenge. There was a nice, ample photo pit, but we were only allowed in there for two songs per performance. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except the way the performances were structured, new performers would come out with every song. So for instance, three songs into a set, someone like Bob Weir or Joss Stone would wander onto the stage and play a song or two. So for probably about half of the big names on the performance roster, the photogs never actually got a proper chance to shoot.

The presence of a large media platform set back maybe 100 feet from the stage and raised up high was a mitigating factor. With a 300mm lens on a crop body I got some OK shots of performers I wasn’t able to shoot from the pit. But I realized that I had a better chance to get good stuff outside the pit by simply shooting from ground level in the crowd with the 300mm. A clumsy proposition at best, but the Joss Stone photo below (for example) was taken that way, and I’m perfectly happy with that shot.

So anyway, here are some pictures. First up, salsa legend Willie Colón:

Willie Colón @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Indie-rockers Passion Pit:

Passion Pit @ Earth Day Climate Rally

The Roots (who played their own set in the middle of the day and then performed as the backing band for every single performer after them):

The Roots @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Joss Stone:

Joss Stone @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Robert Randolph; this is another shoot-from-the-crowd shot:

Robert Randolph @ Earth Day Climate Rally

And finally, Mr. Headliner Man, Sting:

Sting @ Earth Day Climate Rally

I also spent some time sniping away at rally attendees using a long lens. There were a bunch of people with N’avi facepaint, and there was this strong Avatar vibe running through the whole event, thanks to the presence of the film’s director, James Cameron. I have to say, I find this Avatar fanboyism pretty inexplicable. I finally saw the film a few weeks ago and thought it was terrible. But I digress!

Earth Day Climate Rally

Earth Day Climate Rally

And finally, a view of part of the crowd, looking back from the media platform. There were a lot of people there.

Earth Day Climate Rally

Check out my full photoset here!

Four years after Katrina

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Lower Ninth Ward

I was in New Orleans earlier this month to celebrate a milestone with my now-fiancée. She has done a great deal of work in the Gulf Coast region helping rebuild from the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. We went to the Lower Ninth Ward so I could see firsthand some of what she has been up against. It was a sobering sight, to say the least. The above photo was taken inside an abandoned home in the Lower Ninth, which apparently had not been touched at all by any of the cleanup or recovery efforts (here is another view). Keep in mind: this happened more than four years ago. It’s pretty unbelievable. I did not touch anything in the above photo; that mug was just sitting there, and I used my pop-up flash to cast a little light on it.

I am currently planning a trip to do some photography of a disaster site of a different nature: the areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon polluted by Texaco oil exploration starting around 1970. I leave Friday. Some of what I get will appear here, no doubt. In the meantime, here are the rest of my shots from New Orleans – most of them of a much happier nature than the above.

The First Lady

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Michelle Obama @ Business & Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit

I had the wonderful opportunity to have (almost) unfettered access to shoot First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday as she gave a short luncheon speech to attendees of Greater DC Cares’ Business and Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit and Awards event. At this event, the press were stuck all the way in the back of the room, with photographers allowed to approach the buffer for “four clicks only.” Makes the three-song rule look absolutely luxurious in comparison. Inside the buffer were four Secret Service agents, White House photographer Samantha Appleton, and… me (after several rounds of security clearance). So that was fun.

Michelle Obama @ Business & Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit

I don’t envy working photojournalists covering events like this. It’s pretty tough to take consistently interesting (much less creative) photos of people speechifying, especially when you’re stuck at the back of a room shooting with a mega-telephoto lens. Luckily I was able to move around and find some different angles, and I had some decent elements to work with, including some gorgeous blue lighting on the curtains behind the podium. There were many other shots I would have liked to have tried, but I figured those Secret Service agents would probably take a dim view of my standing directly behind the First Lady during her speech. So I played it pretty safe.

Michelle Obama @ Business & Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit

After her speech, Mrs. Obama worked the ropeline, greeting the attendees, who were overflowing with enthusiasm. Really, this was a lot like taking crowd shots at big concerts, except with older subjects, more cameras, more handshakes, more Secret Service agents, and fewer devil’s horns. My favorite shot is this one, though, taken with a long lens and the benefit of some catchflash from someone else’s camera. This was a seriously lucky shot – that catchflash makes the First Lady stand out in a sea of tungsten-lit haze. I don’t need no radio-triggered remote strobes when I can just use other people’s perfectly aimed flashes!

Michelle Obama @ Business & Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit

All told, this went pretty well other than a time or two that I got too close and was either shouldered aside by Secret Service agents or pulled back by Samantha. Oops. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” is always near the front of my brain, but this time around it probably shouldn’t have been.

After the jump, a few more photos from the event. There’s a small gallery here; I’ll be turning over a full set to Greater DC Cares within a few days. (They’re already using one of my shots – the second one above – as their main homepage image.) I documented the entire summit, not just the luncheon, but obviously the keynote speech was the big draw.


Something happened in DC yesterday

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Inaugural Parade 11

I hear it was historically significant.

In all seriousness, I was stoked to get tickets to the inaugural parade, courtesy of a friend whose organization wanted photos of their float. Unfortunately, the real fun seemed to be at the swearing-in ceremonies – at least where we were, towards the end of the parade route, there was tons of space that never filled up. Security was not letting non-ticketholders in at all despite the fact that there were these wide-open expanses of sidewalk just waiting for spectators to fill them up. Very strange.

The parade was delayed nearly two hours, so after waiting in the cold for seven hours (we had no idea what to expect and so showed up very early even though we had tickets), we still had seen nothing but various formations of troops, and the president and vice president. We had a dinner to go to at 7pm and had to leave, so I got zero photos of floats or any of the thousands of folks in the parade. Sucks for them – the parade route bascially emptied out completely after Obama passed by.

So anyway, the crowd was only about 2-3 people deep where I was, when Obama and his wife got out of their heavily armed and armored limo just inside our field of view. They walked past us and around the corner, and I got the above shot. Shortly after, Joe and Jill Biden came ambling down the street as well, and for some reason the Vice President decided he liked me:

Inaugural Parade 15

The Obama shot is way better technically, but the Biden photo is obviously a more unique shot. Was it worth seven hours in 20 degree weather? I’d say so – just being there was pretty cool. I’d much rather have been at the swearing-in amongst crowded masses of people, to share in the feeling and to get lots of fun people photos, but I’m not complaining. Also, we had zero problems getting to and from the entry point – when we got to our checkpoint at 14th and F at 11am after a smooth ride on the 42 bus, there was no line, and when we left, we walked a short distance and picked up an S2 bus that was similarly unimpeded in its progress through the city. Guess all the crowds were concentrated closer to the Mall.

Thanks Saerom for the tickets!

Inaugural Parade 03

A few more shots here at Flickr.

Election Night 2008: the U Street scene

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

U Street Obama celebration

At this point, you’ve probably already read all about it: Washington, DC’s U Street area became a massive block party forty years later after Barack Obama was announced the next president of the United States. You’ve probably forgotten about it by now – unless you were lucky enough to be there, or at one of the similar spontaneous celebrations that took place in cities across the country. I was one of those lucky folks: I went down to U Street with a couple friends after leaving my office at 8:30 (I was working on an election-related report and had to be up and working again at 6:30 the next morning!) and scarfing down a quick dinner. What ensued was, and I say this with little hyperbole, one of the most inspiring few hours of my life. And I say this with the benefit of two weeks’ hindsight and as a skeptic not totally convinced that Obama will really live up to his mantra of “change.”

U Street Obama celebration

What was so inspiring? That a politician could, in a very real way, inspire so many people. That an election result could lead to a spontaneous outpouring of joy as much as, say, a professional sports team winning a national championship. Most of all, that so many people of all walks of life could celebrate together, really together, un-self-consciously and with no regard for their differences. The intersection of 14th and U Streets was Ground Zero of the city’s worst race riots in 1968, but on this night, total strangers were high-fiving each other, chatting animatedly, dancing together, hugging one another, and just generally sharing in a feeling of positive solidarity that seemed to transcend all barriers of race, class, age, gender, etc etc.

I’ve never seen anything like it: for me the word “solidarity” has always been in the context of opposition: solidarity among oppressed peoples fighting for their rights and livelihoods; jail solidarity among arrested demonstrators; that sort of thing. This night saw an unprecedented (in my experience) solidarity that defined itself positively instead of in opposition. Apparently the scene at the White House was different, with an equally joyous crowd that was chanting taunts at the outgoing president; but on U Street, I literally never heard Bush’s name mentioned all night (and I was there from 10pm until 3am). This was a night for Obama and for a real shared feeling that things could really get better. I’ll never forget it.

Luckily, even if I do manage to forget it, I have the photos to remind me.

U Street Obama celebration

Photographically, the night was obviously a treasure trove. Happy people always make for good photographs, to say nothing of crowds of thousands of them. With my 17-55/2.8 busted, I used my 12-24/4 exclusively, which was a more appropriate lens for the job anyway. Pretty much every shot I took was wide-angle, getting close up to people and capturing a bit of the environment as well. I used my SB-600 on almost every shot, mostly off-camera using CLS infrared triggering (which looked like this – that’s me in the blue jacket). I used manual exposure but set the flash to TTL – the action was just too fast for me to be fiddling with manual flash outputs. I was a little nervous about this because I have little experience with TTL off-camera flash, but whatever the little chips are doing in Nikon’s flash exposure system, they did a hell of a job and I got great flash exposures very consistently. The only issue I had was a period when the CLS system wasn’t reliably triggering the flash – not sure what the deal was but the problem went away after maybe 15 minutes of going on the fritz. User error perhaps, but I still haven’t figured out what went wrong. Makes me want to get a cheap off-camera flash cord.

U Street

Anyway, no new photos, but I just wanted to post one final thing about that night and showcase a few more of my favorite shots. (And make room for my next post, about an absolutely fantastic show I shot last night.) Full set of the U Street photos, again, is here.

Four years

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Almost four years ago, at George W. Bush’s second inauguration, Washington DC looked like this:

Last night, after Barack Obama was announced as President-Elect, Washington DC looked like this:

U Street

Let’s do that again. Four years ago:

Last night:

U Street

One more time. Bush inauguration:

Obama’s election win:

U Street

Granted, DC is something like 95% Democrat, and its three electoral votes are the only ones in the entire country that have never gone to any party but the Democrats. Still, there was something special about the atmosphere last night. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. More photos here (with many more to come, I was out until 3:30am last night and so didn’t exactly have time to process all my shots) and I’ll have another post about it later.

Things I still suck at

Sunday, July 13th, 2008


A very, very incomplete list of things I suck at:

1. Flash photography.
2. Flash photography.
3. Flash photography.

Almost all of the photography I do is available-light. This goes for sports, concerts, and my presumptuous efforts at so-called “fine art” photography (whatever the hell that may or may not mean). I occasionally use off-camera flash to spice things up, but for the most part I try to avoid having to use flash at all.

This weekend, I photographed an event put on by SweatFree Communities: a panel discussion and rally targeting the National Governors’ Association meeting in downtown Philadelphia. One of SFC’s major goals is to get states to commit to sweatshop-free procurement policies, so an event that brought together all 50 governors in one place was an obvious opportunity to hold some publicity events.

Day 194: National SweatFree Summit

The panel took place inside a church, on a low stage with minimal light. I had brought a strobe but nothing to mount it on. Available-light shooting with the lenses I had (80-200/2.8 on my D300 and 12-24/4 on my D70) was getting me ISO 3200 on the D300 and ISO 800 on the D70, neither of those anywhere close to ideal. The above photo was shot available light at ISO 3200, and would have been a heck of a lot better at a lower ISO or with some carefully applied strobe – the noise in the wall behind the panelist is kind of distracting to me, which bothers me a lot because otherwise I really like that shot.

With a wide stage to deal with and no light stand on which to mount my SB-800, I enlisted the help of a friend and had him hold the strobe standing to the right of the stage near the podium. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have time to give him instructions on how to orient the flash head, so he just kept the CLS sensor pointing toward my camera as I wandered around the room, which meant uneven lighting on the stage depending on my position. So most of my flash shots came out fairly badly.

If this had been a paid gig I would have shown up earlier with appropriate gear (rented from Penn Camera most likely) and positioned a strobe or two on the stage. Instead, I improvised and it didn’t really work. So it goes.


On the other hand, the rally was outside the church in broad daylight, so lighting was not an issue here. But rallies and protests present their own challenges, of course, in that it’s sometimes tough to take creative shots. Most of mine are fairly cliche, but at least I think they’re reasonably well-executed. And these kinds of things are always a lot of fun to photograph.

The rally was confined to a relatively narrow sidewalk – there was a massive police presence befitting the fact that all 50 governors were in the building across the street from us – which made getting wide photos of the whole rally basically impossible (though I did hop over to a distant street corner to at least grab a couple environmental shots). So I focused on headshots and the like and came away with a few that I’m happy with.

Another thing – this was the first time I used my D300 and D70 in conjunction, and switching between the two wasn’t nearly as jarring as I expected. It did take me a few moments to remember how to do a few extremely basic things on the D70 (like change ISO or zoom in and out when reviewing images), but once I got reacquainted, it was fine. The tiny, dim viewfinder of the D70 didn’t bother me at all, which was something I had been worried about. Instead, what I noticed most was the tiny LCD screen that made it hard to evaluate photos in the field. I’ve definitely taken to analyzing my photos reasonably critically using the D300’s enormous LCD. That’s a nice luxury for sure.


I turned over a bunch of my photos to SFC, but a select few are in this Flickr photoset.