Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tallest tree in Pennsylvania?

Could this be the tallest tree in Pennsylvania? Maybe not, but it is certainly the highest tree top in the state. I photographed this tree yesterday from atop the Mount Davis observation tower that soars more than 50' above the mountain summit that is the highest point in Pennsylvania. It was my first trip there yesterday and I enjoyed the solitude and absolute quiet up on the tower with no people around for MILES. From atop of Mt. Davis you can see far into Maryland and beyond Somerset. Though the mountains in the background APPEAR taller, it is an optical illusion and they are not as high as the photo vantage point (at least that's what some old bronze plaque said...) The leaves are turning very nice at the higher elevations in Western PA!

The best pictures differentiate themselves by nuances...a tiny relationship-either a harmony or a disharmony-that creates a picture. Ernst Haas

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story concludes.

I awoke Friday morning to more darkness and gray skies. I was hoping to get a nice exterior at sunrise for my client that would show the convention center and the outdoor balcony that was packed with television crews, but alas my plans were not to be.
I did shoot from the Northside across the river before heading up to the Mellon Arena to go through another round of security, but my heart wasn't in it as I knew even the best of Photoshop tricks would give my exterior photos an average look at best.

The security check point was more crowded than the previous morning and I had to wait quite some time after walking through the metal detector for my equipment to be poked, prodded, and sniffed. I passed the time talking with a photographer whom I met a long time ago on a shoot for Alcoa. We were both in the same location, but working on different projects.

The convention center was abuzz with activity when I arrived. Because I attempted to photograph the exterior, I missed Obama's impromptu press conference where he announced the US and allies would be cracking down on the nuclear program in Iran. This conference actually stole the G20 thunder and remained the headline throughout the rest of the Summit.

The next photo opportunity would have been the "family" photo session where all the heads of state are on a riser for the historic photo. Unfortunately, I was lead to believe by the State Department that no additional credential or "underlay" would be needed to photograph this event. Of course, when I showed up at the door I learned that if you didn't have a special credential you weren't getting in. No one sent me the memo. I did get the "shot" by sitting in the US Television control room for about 45 minutes and photographed the live feed off from a large monitor. I was able to get the convention center in the background as well, so I figured my client would be pleased.

Shortly after I went into the White House Press Corp briefing room where Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary and Gary Samore, the White House expert on WMD's were holding court. I entered the room half way through the conference and thought it was a little strange that I was the only photographer. I went to the back of the room and shot about 8 frames. I was then approached by some freshly scrubbed White House press office intern who told me that this was a "no photography session". I told her I hadn't got that memo either...I did quit shooting since I already had what I needed and quietly left the room in my walk of shame. I don't think anyone really cared that I was shooting, for the press was taking notes and typing on their laptops, trying hard to keep up with the breaking content that was being thrown out.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful till I did the final Obama wrap up press conference photos. We waited on risers for about 45 minutes waiting for a late Obama to show up. The video people were all complaining because whomever built the risers didn't make them sturdy enough and everytime someone would so much as take a step, all the video cameras started getting vibration problems and un-stabilized shots. The only other thing that I thought was out of the ordinary, was that powerful quartz lighting was turned on aimed directly towards us in the back of the room and in to our camera lenses. I couldn't imagine why anyone would design lighting like that as light in your lens isn't conducive to great photos. It then dawned on me that they were there so the Secret Service could keep their eyes on everyone as they didn't want to be staring in to a black hole. I didn't really hear much of what he had to say, as I was concentrating on getting a good shot, not vibrating the riser, and fighting the body odor of the French videographer whom I was standing next to that hadn't taken his weekly shower yet.

The day was finished after I photographed two other smaller conferences with the Canadian Prime Minister, Swedish Prime Minister and the Secretary for the European Union.

All in was a good two days. Despite a closed downtown and business losing out on two days of revenue, the Summit was considered a success bringing in a conservative 35 million dollars to the economy. There was very little protester damage done, though a few dopey anarchists broke some glass in Oakland. From what I heard many of the people who clogged the streets wearing black and face masks were shouting, "HERE WE GO STEELERS!" and "LET"S GO PENS!". Note to protesters: Next time don't bother coming out and making a nuisance of yourselves. Just put a cogent thought or two together and send a letter to someone who CARES...The violent protesters NEVER get their point across, since the criminal actions always out weigh any message the protester might have. Of course the news kept showing a video of a stupid girl throwing her bike at some cops where they quickly introduced her to the pavement. They might have been just a little over zealous in their actions, but I figure you better stay on the porch if you can't run with the big dogs...Maybe next time she'll take my advice and write a letter, but somehow I doubt it.

In the end the G20 finally turned out to be profitable for me which was what I was hoping for all along. Not only did I land a great assignment, but a local hotel bought 150 copies of my book for dignitaries and VIP's staying with them. My only disappointment was that I was not able to curate a Pittsburgh photo show in the convention center which I thought would have been a great opportunity to sell our region to the throng of captive media. Maybe I'll try again in a couple of years. I hear rumblings that the G20 would like Pittsburgh to be a host again!

Thanks for following my blog and being interested in this event!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story. Part Two

So Thursday finally arrived and it was showtime! I woke earlier than normal, downed a banana and some OJ and started my drive into downtown. Traffic was extremely light and it was apparent very quickly that most of the people who worked in the city had stayed home to work from their laptops, mow their lawns or just take some time off. I arrived at the Mellon Arena and parked after trying to give a very surly parking lot attendant a twenty dollar bill at 7AM. I never get why they should be mad a me when I give them legal currency...I DIDN'T set the parking rates!

Security checkpoint was interesting. We had to pass through a metal detector after emptying our pockets. Unlike the airport, I was able to leave my watch and shoes on. My equipment bags were checked by TSA, Border Patrol, and Secret Service people and a bored German Shepherd. I must say, even though there were many people and camera bags to sift through they were very professional, treated the equipment with kid gloves and were gentle handling all my thousand dollar tools. I wish that crew worked at every airport. After checkpoint we loaded into a motorcoach complete with Secret Service agent riding shotgun to assure there would be no funny stuff. I made a comment that the agent's Revo sunglasses were the same ones that I had. Of course, I wasn't wearing mine since it was still DARK outside...The agent grunted something without cracking a smile. So much for any conversation...she was clearly on the case.

We rode quietly into downtown and viewed the empty streets, high steel barricades, National Guard on every corner, and more black SUVS with tinted glass than I could count. I felt like I was on a movie set of some sci-fi flick, but this was the real deal.

Upon entering the Convention Center I started looking around for interesting angles and interesting things happening. The outside of the Center was shrouded in gray soup clouds and fog. No beautiful morning sun light was going to take place, much to my disappointment. I set up camp on the first floor media room. It was an ugly room that had been converted to a media center with tables, internet connection, large screen monitors to watch CNN (I'm more of a Fox news person but I didn't think anyone was about to change channels for me), and a small lunch counter. Also along one wall was a riser for TV crews to do shots of their reporters with the anticipated 1500 media spaces on the tables filled in the background. I sat next to some writers from Canada and they were fun to speak to and I shared some Pittsburgh hospitality guiding them where I thought they would enjoy dinner and drinks that evening. Right behind me, KDKA's political reporter, Jon Delano was holding court and stayed busy gathering info and doing interviews. Eventually Jon would even get to ask President Obama a question during the final briefing. I thought it was great that the Prez would call on a local reporter along with his trusty White House Press Staff.

The remainder of Thursday was spent mostly photographing media who was photographing and interviewing media. Most reporters as well as photographers were quite bored, for there just wasn't much going on and the entourages from around the world had yet to arrive. I did get some strong photos of the Center with people in the foreground, shots out the beautiful windows, and many media in action photos on the balcony where all the networks had set up to do live shots. Most of their cameras were pointed towards the "Golden Lady" bridges and PNC Park. However, I noted on my Twitter page, that some European crew had pointed their camera towards the ugly rusted brown and black rail road bridge that runs from the Amtrak station across the Allegheny. I wanted to say something to them, but fearing an international incident...I kept my mouth shut.
My client, an international architectural firm was mostly interested in seeing their building in use with lots of people and photos that showed media technology, so I had to incorporate the building in my shots whenever I could. Though I did leave the Convention Center for a bit in the afternoon to get an obligatory protester photo. The Tibetans were angry at China in a peaceful march on Liberty Avenue, so I shot that for about 10 minutes and quickly got bored of all the screaming and drama. Apparently, nobody told all the protesters that the China delegation was still sitting in their 747 sipping tea, or whatever it is that they drink. One thing for sure was that no delegate member ever saw a single protester for two days. The worst part about going outside was that meant me walking back to the Mellon Arena and going through security again and taking another bus ride back to the Convention Center to regain access. But by then, the sun had broke through the clouds and it was nice just to get some fresh air.

It was fun talking to a few photographers that I knew. Ran into Post Gazette shooters, Steve Mellon and Bob Donaldson, former assistant Steve Dietz, and makeup artist, Patty Bell who is ALWAYS working wherever there is something cool going on. Patty was working for the Eurovision crew and looked as bored as everyone else. We spent time swapping family stories and social media ideas. We both are seeing payoffs from the heavy social media time we've been putting in and it was interesting to compare ideas. Also spoke at length to Tom Buell from Global Pittsburgh, a fellow Twitter Tweep, avid photographer, and Ben Avon resident. I also got to corner County Executive Dan Onorato and pestered him asking why the county hasn't purchased a few hundred copies of my, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait book. He said I should call his secretary...Thanks, but been there, done that...

This is a photo of Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner. I wasn't listening to him as I shot, but I'm guessing he's explaining that all our tax dollars are being spent with the utmost care and that investment house bailouts with no government oversight is good for the United States...

Part 3 to follow...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story.

With much fanfare, anticipation AND trepidation, the G20 is now over. My personal quest to cover and photograph the G20 Pittsburgh Summit was an interesting one and fraught with frustrations, excitement, anticipation, and many personal experiences. Now that it's over my story can be told. It probably isn't the most interesting to journalists who cover events on a regular basis, but for me it's a story of having a plan, having it unravel, and then come together just like I had hoped it would from the beginning. It's a story of myself digging to find an assignment opportunity and a lesson of how the photography business has evolved to one of making your own destiny instead of waiting around for something to happen. Of course, as always, some luck is a huge part of the story.

When the White House announced that Pittsburgh would be hosting the G20 Economic Summit four months, I immediately started to try to figure out how this historic event could be my economic stimulus in what has been an extremely slow year for commercial assignments due to a horrible economy and changes brought about by the new web 2.0 business models. Since I am NOT a photojournalist, the first thing I needed to do was to find out how I could get credentials for the Summit. I knew that having credentials would be the key to landing an assignment. Most freelancers tend to wait to the last minute to start asking around and then applying. I knew that this wouldn't be possible due to security measures, and general government bureaucracy. There would be NO gate crashing this event, unless you were prepared to be shot.

Social media was a huge help for me. I spent much time blogging about the G20 and also reading other blogs and websites where I could pick up as much information as possible. I attended a couple of open meetings for the public where we were invited to submit ideas to the city and county governments on what the citizens could do to make a better impression on the world media. By doing this I got on an official email list and learned how to apply for credentials, deadline, etc.
Through officials channels I learned that my credentials would be approved. Though I didn't actually HAVE an assignment or
press connection to list when they asked for what organization I belonged to, I did list my professional affiliation with ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers). After all, I DO BELONG to this organization and it has "Media" in the name and I do have a laminated card with my mug shot on it. So this was the extent of my "media" connection. I probably could have called up one of my business magazines that I shoot for once in awhile and asked if I could use their name, but I really hate involving anyone that doesn't need to be involved in my business since I know how busy photo editors are.

After hearing I was approved I started firing off emails and promos to various national business magazines, Pittsburgh travel and visitor organizations, corporations doing international business, and anyone else I could think of that might need or KNOW someone who might need event photo coverage. I was asked to put together a photo estimate for the European Union, but that fell apart when they decided to fly a photographer from Europe to cover the Summit. I made contact with a few people who were from the company that designed the staging and lighting for the Summit, and was encouraged to stay in close touch. Then I found out that they had an in-house shooter who would be taking care of their needs. Unfortunately, it appeared I was speaking with the wrong people. My chase for a client was hitting a wall and time was running out. Then of course, the LUCK factor comes in.

My former assistant, Alex Denmarsh who is now an architectural photographer was contacted by one of his clients, an architect firm that helped designed many features of the LEED certified, Convention Center. By this time, Alex was in no position to take on the assignment because he did not have a credential. He then recommend me and I secured the contract to shoot on the Friday before the following Thursday and Friday Summit. Credentials were to be picked up on Monday according to an email from the State Dept.

I arrived early Monday morning to pick up my badge. No badge. Lots of excuses, no eye contact, and bureaucratic speak. I was told to come back the following day at 2 PM and my badge would be ready. The request was more like "maybe, possibly, it might happen, if you're lucky..." Not what you want to hear when you see your assignment fee gradually being pulled out of your pocket like just about everything else that the government likes to take from us. I showed up the following day at 9AM and they said they wouldn't have the badge and wouldn't know when they would be getting it. "But what about when you said for me to show up at 2PM?" I asked. Again...lots of excuses and lots of double speak as why I should come back another day.
"But...I have a client...and they are getting nervous about their assignment..." Gee...too bad..."Who's next please?" Now I'm starting to think who I might have pissed off so badly sometime in my life that somehow the Secret Service got word of it and thought I was some kind of security risk. I knew I didn't have an arrest record, but I have had a couple of "spirited conversations" with private security guards (not naming any names...but their company rhymes with Pee Pee Gee)

At this point I could only hope I still had an assignment. Fortunately on Wednesday, after an email sent to some black hole department with no human name attached pleading my case, I showed up around 4 PM and with little fanfare and no apologies or reason, my laminated yellow badge complete with my ugly face was handed to me. I felt like the "fasten seat belts" light had just gone off when I'm sitting in a middle seat in coach and I need to use the bathroom NOW...

Part two to follow....this is getting long in tooth...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A few more photos from last week's sessions

I've been quite busy working on logistics and trying to figure out what it is going to take to photograph the Pittsburgh Summit in a couple of weeks. Credentials, VIP contacts, State Department, vendors supplying the G20, etc. It has been a lot of work with unfortunately, no payoff insight...YET.... I'm confident that as the G20 gets closer the phone will start ringing for my event services. It has been fun meeting with various people who are in charge of the summit.
I did have some time last week to get a few photo sessions in. Here are some pictures from them..

Make it a great day!

Monday, August 3, 2009

PIttsburgh G20...Coming soon to our town!

I've been very busy planning and marketing for the historical G20 Summit that will be taking over Pittsburgh on September 24-25. For the week prior to that time expect to see journalists from all over the world come to our city to start their reporting. I have already put one estimate out for event photography during the summit and I'm sure that more event opportunities will present themselves. It will be easier for media to rely upon local photographers than trying to book non existent rooms and have strangers dealing with tough travel restrictions. It will take a local to get through the streets and to their assignment with a minimum amount of hassle. I have also put together a proposal for the Pittsburgh ASMP chapter to have an awesome photo show at Pittsburgh International Airport. I'm waiting to hear if we can hold the show there, as it would be an amazing place for International travelers to get their first taste of Pittsburgh as seen through the eyes of some of Pittsburgh's best photographers.

For more info on the G20 feel free to stop over at another one of my blogs:

I'm also looking for partnerships that are interested in my book: Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait. The book would make a great gift to dignitaries from county offices, politicians and corporate hosts. It would be great for hotel gift baskets, a take away from dinners, etc. If anyone knows of any connections, I'd greatly appreciate hearing any information you might have!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is Print dying AKA publisher's myopic views....

Read this great article from Mr. Magazine Blog. It gives suggestions what media needs to do to help print co-exist with the web.
Great read!

El Rio theater in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico