Sunday, May 17, 2009

Obama's economic stimulous for the freelancer

Like everyone else, we freelancers are getting our share of bumps and bruises. So it never hurts when you can photograph a high profile event with some relatively well-know guy like, um the President shows up in your backyard to shake hands at a graduation.

This time, a hot, sweltering day inside a concrete and steel bowl, that is Sun Devil Stadium made for a long and brutal day waiting for many hours to photograph President Barack Obama as he addressed the graduates of Arizona State University.

About the time Obama took his seat on the stage, the heat had faded from blast furnace intensity to a hair dryer on medium allowing the braincells to begin functioning again.

In spite of what began as some pretty brutal heat for May, this is one of those things that I really do enjoy about my job, the opportunity to photograph some pretty amazing and interesting people in news-making situations.

What I enjoy even more is when there is time to be thorough.

In photographing any event, thoroughness tells a better story. When there is time to pick up your feet to explore multiple perspectives, multiple lenses the collection provides a more complete view of an event. It also means, trying to find windows to see through the clutter, the teleprompters and stage rigging, that obstructed some vantage points and provided distracting photo content in others.

Who doesn't love a challenge?

Obama provided the opportunity to do that exploration by doing more than just delivering a speech and hitting the road. He stayed for most of the event, shaking hands with all of the doctoral candidates who crossed the stage to be recognized for their years of hard work.

You could call Obama's visit a sort of a stimulus package for freelancers. The longer Obama spent at ASU and the more he did to interact with students, the better the collection of images became. The stronger that collection, of course, the more play it will get.

Nothing like a little personal involvement in stimulating the economy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

STREEETCH and help some kids.

It’s the economy, every day. “They” say things are getting tougher.
Seems like what we spend buys less and less.

How cool would it be to stretch some of that green and make a difference to kids at the same time?

How could I possibly do that, Rick?
I am so glad you asked!
(But wait there’s more?)
It’s simple.

Help three small organizations that focus on education and other necessities mostly for kids in Uganda keep their programs running.

Let me explain.

As it is, small orgs must use whatever resources they have available not only in keeping the lights on but in trying to draw donations from a diminishing pool of donors in a increasingly competitive arena.

They draw donor attention through their communications tools, websites and mailers. Powerful photographs help make those tools successful. If the photographs are compelling, they convey the importance and strength of an organization. They motivate donors.

Small organizations, however, often can’t afford to bring an experienced, skilled photographer to their site. Their photographs are taken by staff-members whose expertise lies in education and social work. Those staffers are not trained in finding telling and emotional moments that make powerful photographs from which a viewer cannot look away.

Many of these organizations wish they could have work done by a pro.

With a little help, a little funding, a pro could be put into place without cost to an organization.

Wouldn’t it be even better if there were three or four organizations in the same area in Uganda with a similar need, the photographer is already in place to help out not just one, but several organizations accomplish the same goal?

Three for the price of one?

Just by pure coincidence (!?) atleast four organizations have expressed excitement at the prospect of getting great photographs of and for their programs:

Teach a Child to Fish

Bega Kwa Bega (Shoulder to Shoulder)

Uganda Community School Project, Nawantale

Kirabo (

My plan is to spend about two weeks photographing these projects as a volunteer, as well as another five or six days of post production time. Travel expenses for two weeks, which would include, transportation, food and lodging, etc., will range between $3,000 and $3,600 depending upon the cost of the airfare. Departure depends upon how quickly these expenses are raised.

How do we raise them?
It’s really easy.

If enough of you throw in, if we all spread the word through our respective networks, it would only take a 10-spot, or maybe a 20-spot each to get there.

So, send a check to Teach a Child to Fish, the collector of the funds, and send with one of those “forever stamps” (remember the price is going up very soon) to:

Teach A Child to Fish
P.O. Box 491
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Enter in the notations, "NGO photo project."

TCF is 501(c)3 so, donations are deductible.

Once the expenses are covered, the rest of the donated funds will help TCF with their program.

Don't forget, without your help this project will not be able to go forward.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Growing and revisiting

Growing forward is always a good thing. I always tell people, especially when I am talking to a group, that if you stop growing in your photography then you might as well hang it up. What fun is there in a creative endeavor in staying in the same place all the time? Isn't one of the motivations of regularly creating to create something in a little different way than before?Sometimes its the little stuff, like making better use of the infrared triggering system in the Nikon flashes (Canons do this too) when you can't set up the full-blown portable light kit. It made for a better result in this image from a couple weeks ago for a client who was writing about a young man who is interning at the state capitol. One strobe with an Omni Dome on his face and another putting a little highlight on his cheek, thereby separating him a bit more from the background. Some assignments must take place when they must take place. This lighting also allowed me to make the best of that shadowy, unappealing midday light.

That said, it also doesn't hurt to revisit the old days, like when my newspaper work took me to the weekly drama of high school age competitions. I don't miss some aspects of newspaper photography, but, I always enjoyed the fast moving athletics, and kind of miss those assignments. In the grand scheme of things these games might not matter too much, except to these kids, but it was always a fun challenge to pull the best image I could out of each opportunity.

The old skill came in handy for a friend whose son plays volleyball for a Valley school and is about to finish his scholastic athletic career.

Volleyball is tougher than it looks to photograph. That little white ball moves pretty fast and it takes some practice, or some re-oiling of some old skills, to get that timing down to get those frames where the ball is still close enough to the players to matter. Its great to move on to new skills but it can also be a great deal of fun to revisit some that haven't been exercised in a long time.