Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saluting the Fallen

A Young Marine salutes after placing an American flag on a veteran's grave in the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix, AZ, Saturday. 

Along with Firebird Young Marines, a Scout like organization, hundreds of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts came out to the cemetery this morning to place American flags on the graves in the cemetery. The cemetery covers 225 acres, but so many people came out this morning that it only took a little more than an hour for the volunteers to place a flag on every grave. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

f1.2 and Be There

Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) waits for a Congressional subcommittee hearing to start in Phoenix, Monday. 

I photographed Congressman Quayle, along with Rep Paul Gosar and Rep Sheila Jackson Lee at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on border security in Phoenix Monday. It was pretty much what I expected - people sitting around tables.

I made this photo with my 5D Mark III and 50mm f1.2 L lens. It's a great combination for political or feature work. The 5D Mark III has excellent image quality, an evolutionary step up from the 5D Mark II in image quality but light years better camera. Really fast autofocus, even with the 50mm f1.2 lens (which focuses very slowly on the Mark II and original 5D) and at 6 frames per second it can almost keep up with Canon's top of the line 1D series bodies. 

The 50mm f1.2 lens is just about the sharpest lens Canon makes. Shooting wide open, at f1.2, the depth of field is razor thin. The photo is either in focus and looks great or out of focus and looks like an art experiment gone horribly wrong. 

I made this photo at f1.2. I like the way it isolated Quayle as members of his staff moved around him. The other thing I like about using the 50mm f1.2 is that when I shoot at 1.2 I can drop the ISO and eliminate the digital noise that can junk up a photo. I used a 200mm f2.8 and a 1.4X teleconverter for most of the meeting and shot at ISO 3200. It's a tribute to Canon's sensor design and Lightroom's noise reduction that the photos looked as good as they did. But for the photos I made at f1.2 I was able to drop the ISO to 400 or 500. At that ISO, there's virtually no noise in the photos. 

There are more photos of the subcommittee hearing in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Motor Mouth Mad Man

One of the things I love about being a photojournalist is that you never know where the day is going to take you. I'm working the photo desk at the Arizona Republic now, so I don't get out on assignment as often as I used to, but I still get to make pictures every once in a while. 

Ted Nugent was in Phoenix several days ago for a concert and made an unplanned stop at the Republic for a TV interview (KPNX, the local NBC affiliate also owned by Gannett, shares our newsroom). I was asked to photograph Nugent during the interview, which was taped for TV. 

It was complete "fly on the wall" photography. I couldn't use my lights or say anything because that would have interfered with the TV interview. The lighting thing was okay - the television photographer lit it up nicely for me (well actually for herself, but what worked for her also worked for me) and the 5D Mark II's excellent high ISO performance combined with fast lenses (50mm f1.2, 100mm f2 and 200mm f2.8) meant the relatively low ambient light she set up was not a problem. The light was nice and warm and using the lenses wide open gave the photos nice bokeh. A little noise reduction in Lightroom and all was right with the world. 

I like to interact with people when I'm photographing them, so it was hard for me not to say anything. Especially when my subject is Ted Nugent. I've never been a big fan of his music, but he's really entertaining and seems like a nice guy. After the interview he posed for photos and chatted with fans in the Republic's lobby. I suspect he would have enjoyed a little give and take. 

The are more photos of the "Nuge" in my archive

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eye in the Sky

A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, popularly called the Predator drone, flies over the southern Arizona desert looking for illegal border crossers and drug smugglers. 

Predator drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles have been in the news a lot in the last couple of years. They're being used with great frequency to kill America's perceived enemies - terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places have been struck down by drone strikes. Including at least one American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator over Yemen. The al-Awlaki killing was "extra-judicial," he was killed without the benefit of a trial or guilty verdict.

In 2005, US Customs and Border Protection announced that unarmed Predators would also be used to patrol the US / Mexican border. Pilots would fly the drones from offices in Sierra Vista and Texas. The drones can stay airborne for hours at a time, their unblinking eyes are not supposed to miss anything. The camera array (the bulb in the nose of the aircraft) has high resolution cameras for day and night use. 

But their use has not been without controversy. Several Predators have crashed in the six years they have been flying over the American southwest. Last weekend the Los Angeles Times reported that the Predators have not been very effective along the border. They require a lot of maintenance (one hour of maintenance for every hour of flight time), they're more expensive than initially thought and they don't work too well in bad weather.

I went down to Sierra Vista in October 2005 to photograph the rollout of the Predator. When the story appeared in the LA Times over the weekend I went into my Lightroom archive to find the photos and upload them to my PhotoShelter archive. (I wasn't using PhotoShelter in 2005 and a lot of my older work isn't in my online archive yet.) 

Lightroom has made keeping track of what I shoot, captioning and keywording my photos a whole lot simpler. I shot these photos six years ago. I have about 200,000 photos in my archive. It took me less than five minutes to find these photos. It took another 30 minutes to recaption and edit them. Well under an hour total. Lightroom rocks.