Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Workshops with Documentary Photographer Maggie Steber

Photograph by Maggie Steber, Haiti
By Al Diaz
When Maggie was Director of Photography at The Miami Herald for several years she motivated the staff and elevated the quality of our work and respect in the newsroom.

Maggie whipped us into shape and raised a few eyebrows when she brought a riding crop into the office and prodded us. “Get out there little dogies and make some great pictures and we’ll get ‘em in the paper!”

Under her tenure the staff won numerous international, national and state awards including the newsrooms Pulitzer Prize for the plight of Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez. Pulitzer finalists twice, with local photo stories by Nuri Vallbona and Candace Barbot for their photographs of Liberty City, a neighborhood crippled by drugs and violence, which detail the community’s effort to reclaim the area. Lure of the Burbs by J. Albert Diaz for his diverse images portraying American life in the sprawl of south Florida's Broward County. World Press award for Raul Rubiera’s photograph’s of Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as they search a bus passing through territory they control.

An outstanding documentary photographer and leader, Maggie Steber is also a great teacher and motivator. Here are two opportunities to attend her workshops.

• FORM AND CONTENT: Visual storytelling for the new photographic landscape. 
Maggie Steber and Jeff Jacobson are joining together to offer a unique photo workshop in Miami, Florida, March  25-31, 2012.  Steber, a contributing photographer to National Geographic, and formerly Director of Photography of the Miami Herald, is a master of the narrative in photography.  Jacobson, author of three monographs and contributor to magazines around the world, is known for his idiosyncratic and formally beautiful documentary photographs.  Together they will offer students an intensive immersion in making graphically powerful photographs and applying them to a serious narrative.  The workshop is limited to 10 students.

In his Where Do You Stand workshops, Jacobson asks two questions of students:  where do you stand and when do you press the shutter?  How photographers answer these questions determines the formal structure of their photographs.   Do you stand close or far away, raise the camera to your eye or shoot from the hip, stand up or sink to your knees?  How do you know when to move, where to move to, and how to move so as not to disturb the scene you are photographing?  This issue of movement is one of the most important and under-examined questions photographers face.  Jacobson also discusses with students emotional, economic and political questions about where they stand in relation to photography in their lives.  In Steber’s workshops, Maggie helps students formulate and execute cohesive stories told through photographs. She looks for visual and storytelling themes and ideas in the work of the student during the workshop. She helps them shape the story they want to tell to avoid the obvious, and she teaches how to focus on an idea, edit it and sequence the narrative to produce something fresh and unique.

We will explore various issues pertaining to each student through
daily shooting assignments.  Each workshop day will begin in the morning with editing of the previous day’s shooting. Each student will edit their own work. Maggie and Jeff will then re-edit the pictures to determine what they
are overlooking or missing, along with discussion of the work.  They will help students see ideas emerging from their photographs that they may not have anticipated. Every participant will one on one sessions with Maggie or Jeff. The last day of the workshop will be devoted to putting together the entire week’s work and extensive discussions about any issues that have come up during the week for each student.

WORKSHOP FEE:  $1500….50% deposit required at registration.

Here is a video to fellow instructor Jeff Jacobson.

Maggie will also be joining Ami Vitale and Andrea Bruce for an epic journey into the Himalayas  with of the world's top photojournalists. The workshop in India is limited to 30 participants.
• Traveling Lens Master Class - Ladakh, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dose of Reality for Linsanity!

QR Code printed in the Miami Herald allows you to use your smartphone to scan and view a Heat-Knicks photo gallery by the Herald’s Charles Trainor Jr., Al Diaz and El Nuevo’s David Santiago.
The Heat shut down rival Knick's and their phenom Jeremy Lin, Heat 102, Knicks 88 on Thursday.
For the first time since his meteoric rise to stardom, the Knicks’ hyped Jeremy Lin looked like a basketball player from Harvard.

Of course, that shouldn’t take anything away from his amazing story. The Heat simply is shutting everything down these days — even feel-good, made-for-Disney stories like Lin’s. Never mind the opponent, the enormity of the game, the schedule or whatever, the Heat is crashing through the regular season at its halfway point, and Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena was just more of the same.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Makes You Click? Q & A with Photojournalist John Kaplan

By Al Diaz

On Valentine's Day 2005 my mother died of cancer, so when I received a DVD of the film Not as I Pictured, by John Kaplan, I set it aside. Not wanting to revisit those heart-wrenching moments, I procrastinated.

Three months later I read the enclosed note by the Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist John Kaplan. “If you have reservations about opening the enclosed DVD package, please know that viewers universally find the film to be upbeat and life affirming.”

Once read, I took a deep breath and took a journey as I watched a courageous Kaplan defeat an insidious Lymphoma ravaging his body.

Q. John, as a photojournalist you have photographed history unfold before your eyes. After being diagnosed with cancer what was your thought process that gave you the idea to turn the camera on yourself?

A. I was used to documenting life’s challenges, and even the worst that life could offer a human being. In my more than 25-year career, I had covered revolution in the Philippines, the worst tornadoes to hit the U.S. in a century, and many other devastating circumstances.

Journalists who cover such real life drama can fall into an easy trap of believing we are invincible, that the life challenges faced by our subjects will not happen to us. Of course that is not true, but even at age 48, I had never truly faced my own vulnerability.

Q. While shooting, did the project help you cope with the disease?

A. I had rarely been ill, so when a routine CT scan in 2008 revealed a kidney tumor and an eventual rare diagnosis of Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma growing inside me, picking up my cameras was the last thing on my mind. But, initially as a way to cope with my fear, I began photographing and shooting video of myself through the treatment process.

Having judged more than 200 competitions, including the Pulitzer, I know what a cliché many cancer stories can be. But, when you get cancer, you don’t feel like a cliché, you just pray you can beat it.

It has always been at my core to do my best to treat my subjects with dignity. So, that foundation was a true test—Would I be able to share the same intimate and emotional situations with others from the challenge of my life that I have always asked of my subjects?

Q. Now that you documented your own journey through cancer treatment, when on assignment, do you approach your subjects differently? 

A. I still recommend to my students that they avoid doing self-serving first person stories about themselves, but in trying to comprehend the shock of a cancer diagnosis, I broke my own rule. I needed that emotional crutch--the distraction of shooting pictures during the emotional roller coaster I was embarking on. 

I’m doing fine now, more than a year after my last treatment. I don’t think my approach to shooting situations has changed, but believe I am a more patient person now.

Q. The film is viewed across America on PBS. How has it been received?

A. The response has been incredible. We have reached more than 94 million American homes on PBS, and collaborated with the two largest organizations worldwide in cancer research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and in advocacy, the American Cancer Society.

To date, we have given away 6,000 free copies of the film on DVD to anyone touched by cancer. That’s been an incredible part of my healing, too. The film is truly helping people.

To learn more, people can come over to our site:

Please also join us on Facebook where more than 200 viewers have shared feedback on the upbeat and life-affirming message of Not As I Pictured:

Q. Did you edit the project while going through treatment?

A. Yes, I edited along the way. It was a welcome distraction from the tough realities I faced at the time. One amazing outcome is the support we received from the music community.

During my treatment, R.E.M became a friend of the project and helped spread the word among leading musicians who donated music for the Not As I Pictured soundtrack, including Chris Martin of Coldplay, Michael Stipe, David Bowie, will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Justin Timberlake, Pantera, and the Cowboy Junkies.

The film has a surprise cameo at the end from a rock star, too. You need to watch the film for that.

Q. I could not always tell when you were shooting handheld, remote or using someone else. Can you describe your approach?

A. At the time, I needed to remember that the most important thing was to do what my doctors told me to do, and that the image making clearly had to take a back seat to my belief that I could beat cancer, and the treatment process.

So, shooting pictures and video was as non-technical as possible. Intuition just took over. I held my arm out most of the time, and also used a simple infrared remote with the camera on a tripod. Thank God for my return to health, and Thank God for autofocus, too!

Q. Did you reach the goal you set out to accomplish with your film?

A. During my treatment, we received so much unexpected help along the way, often from strangers. In sharing our family’s story, I’m determined to give some of that kindness back.

The film gives viewers that small extra nugget of courage that you can make it through the process and back to the joy of every day. One of my mantras to share is—most cancers today are not only treatable, they are beatable.

Our goals are ongoing as we are doing screenings accompanied by cancer coping forums across the U.S. and beginning now internationally, too. One next step is to have the film utilized in medical humanities education to help healthcare professionals learn to be more empathetic in their approach toward patients. That’s an important movement known as “Humanism in Medicine.”

We’ve just launched the touring Not As I Pictured photographic exhibition, too. It just opened last week in Wilmington, Delaware, and next tours to the University of Kentucky.

It’s a moving set of pictures and this is an exhibition that can really involve and motivate any local community. One in three American women will get cancer, and one in two men. Thus, cancer touches nearly every family in the nation, and the exhibition’s appeal is broad-based, too.

We’re looking for additional locations for the exhibition. Here’s more info about how to book the exhibition at our website:

Q What’s in your bag?

A. Besides an old granola bar, you mean?

I use the Canon 5D Mark II as my main body and the EF 16-35 f 2.8, and 70-100 f.2.8 zooms.

But I’m frequently going with lighter weight when possible and also love the EF 70-200 f4.0, and the EF 24-105 f 4.0 zooms. So, before heading out, depending on available light, I’ll choose which to take with me.

More often than not, my great love is still the 24mm look. That perspective is where my vision gravitates most often. So, I’m thinking of going back to a prime 24 lens rather than most often reaching for a wide zoom. I want to try going back to a fixed focal length for wide shooting for the discipline it can provide in carefully chosen composition.

I’d also like to share that Canon was also a great friend in donating the excellent ipf6300 printer I used for the Not As I Pictured touring photographic exhibition.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flying Tomato Smash and Bash

An arsenal of 25,000 tomatoes (10,000 pounds) were launched by a mob on Saturday, February 11, 2012. Tobacco Road, Miami's oldest bar provided the tomatoes for Miami's first Tomato Smash and Bash. 
There was no need to travel to Spain for La Tomatina Tomato Fight Festival, it happened right here at Patrick Gleber's Tobacco Road, 626 South Miami Avenue. Every year since 1957 1,000’s of people join together in Bunol, Spain to participate in the traditional La Tomatina festival. Around 150,000 tomatoes, which equals out to be over 90,000 pounds are smashed and participants from all over the world begin this crazy traditional Tomato fight that lasts an hour long.
Some of these participants actually look familiar! Tobacco Road owner Patrick Gleber, left, myself and Andrew Innerarity. Andrew was shooting for Reuters while J Pat Carter covered it in tomato paste for Associated Press. 
Tobacco Road Owner Patrick Gleber

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

David Bergman on Adorama TV

Adorama Photography TV presents How'd They Do That with David Bergman. David is a concert, sports and action photographer based in New York. David has photographed everything from major sporting events like the World Series to the high intensity world of rock concert tours. He has photographed six U.S. Presidents and his Obama inauguration GigaPan has been viewed over 12 million times.

Bergman was my guest blogger in January. David Bergman: A Legend Photographs a Legend
To see more of Bergman's work go to DavidBergman.net

Monday, February 6, 2012

U Pick 'em Think Tank Photo Contest Winners Picked!

Photos by Cindy Seip SplashFoto.com

Valentine cupid Angelika makes a splash to announce the winners of the U Pick ‘em Think Tank Photo Contest. Julian Jenkins wins first place and Logan Mock-Bunting wins second.
Jenkins wins the Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise® 35 V2.0 and the Black Rapid RS-7s camera strap. Mock-Bunting takes home the Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia® Flash 70-200.

“It was fast. It was frenetic. And it was ferocious” That’s how Miami Herald Sports writer Susan Miller Degnan described the game as West Virginia routed Clemson at the Orange Bowl, 70-33.

That describes how I edit when the kick off is way beyond 8pm. There is not much time to do any less. My heart raced with excitement as I shot the sequence unfolding before me. It’s that adrenaline rush that makes shooting sports amazing.

The image of frame #1 was already picked out in my mind as I ran outside the stadium to reach our cramped photo trailer to transmit on deadline. By the time I saw the sequence I had doubts. I still chose #1. The next day, I looked at the same set of images again and chose #3 but #2 sure looks damn good!

Here is a rough count as you picked them. Frame #1 total votes 51. Frame #2 total votes 31. Frame #3 total votes 88. Thanks for playing.

Contest winners were selected at random using the True Random Number Generator on Random.OrgCongratulations to the winners and please support our 
sponsors Think Tank Photo and Black Rapid!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

U Pick'em Winners Picked!

Winners of the U Pick'em Contest are in. First place is the Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise® 35 V2.0 and the Black Rapid RS-7s camera strap. Second place is the Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia® Flash 70-200. Watch for the announcement on Monday!