Monthly Archives November 2010

Today in the U.S. we celebrate Thanksgiving; a national holiday where we give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy (and I truly feel like the most blessed guy on earth). Traditionally this is a day  where families come together to eat a Thanksgiving turkey feast, and then we watch football until we pass out. It’s just about a perfect day. :-)

Our offices are closed today for Thanksgiving, so there’s no “pimpy Thursday” today, but I’ll be back here tomorrow with some fun stuff, and of course some mild to medium pimpage in honor of the biggest shopping day of the year.

In the meantime, please enjoy the stock photo above (nothing brings the warmth, togetherness, and joy of Thanksgiving together like an inexpensive stock photo).

In all seriousness, here’s wishing you and family a joyus, happy, and yummy Thanksgiving. :-)

All my best,


When I was in college I took a speech class and learned that when speaking publicly, it can sometimes be a good idea to start off with a joke. However, being introduced as “Big Daddy” already made me laugh, so I hope you did too. I’ve never actually called myself big daddy before, but when I met Scott shooting on the sidelines of my alma mater, Louisiana Tech University, it was what he started calling me (referencing to the original big daddy, Big Daddy Don Garlits). Before I knew it, so did anyone he’s ever introduced me to :)

But with that said, Scott has become a good friend along with Brad and much of the Kelby gang, and I would like to thank them for the platform they’ve created here with the guest blogs and the opportunity to share a little bit about myself and my work.

There are basically only two things that I’ve done in the past 5 years to support myself, one involving my camera and the other involving my body…but we we’ll get to that in a little bit ;)

As an emerging photographer in a world of emerging photographers, I’ve done what I can to get noticed and do the type of work I enjoy, all while trying to continue to learn and still pay the rent. I have to be careful who I’m trying to get noticed by though. Being noticed by your peers (you guys) certainly can have its benefits, but is mostly just a confidence booster to continue in the grind when you start feeling lost in the crowd. If I had something I was selling you, I might need your attention, but I don’t really do workshops/seminars or make any products you might be interested in (although I’d like to write a book one day). I am just a photographer. I am another person helping over-saturate our market and overcrowd our sidelines. It pushes me to get better so that I can continue to do it and still make a living. We shouldn’t fool ourselves. Being a photographer is easy. It’s making a living being a photographer that’s hard.

The idea of progressing in your career comes with exposing yourself to new ideas and fresh work from others that have gone before you and/or are doing what you would like to be doing. (I realize there is an argument out there that talks about looking at other people’s work/copying/being original, but I’ll let someone else get yelled at for that. That’s not where I’m going today). I would simply like to state that I have gone to a lot of seminars/workshops/classes/live webcasts in the past year or so that have been nothing more than a “look-at-me-and-what-I-can-do—fest”… so today I’ll try to spare you from that.

Every photographer who is making a living gets asked “How do you get to where you are” or “How do I get cool jobs like the one you have?” And if I knew that, I’d write that book I was talking about and sell it and become a hundred-aire :) … All I can tell you is a little bit about my path so far. It’s certainly not what you need to do or the way it should be done, but for me… so far so good. There are so many talented people that didn’t go the traditional route in learning photography, and I admire those people so much. Some of them are my favorite photographers. But for me, it was a pretty straight forward traditional route in learning. For the most part…

Before the rumors get too out of control, this is the part of the story where I made money with my body. I got really into MMA. or “Ultimate Fighting,” and even eventually reached professional status. I was working my way through college by being a weekend warrior. Please don’t start envisioning me as the next cast member of Jersey Shore; I never took myself too seriously and still don’t. It was a sport and I wasn’t bad at it. I did however, stubbornly realize that I would never make it as a fighter for a living, and that I was a better photographer than a fighter. I’m okay with that and I’ve accepted it. Getting paid to be outside the cage and not feel like I got ran over by a truck the next day is equally as awesome :) This next image might be a better illustration of why I made the switch :)

Photo by Kevin Beasley

All joking aside, and despite what this photo would lead you to believe, I did develop a confidence in myself and my ability that has certainly transitioned into my photography and allowed me to approach high pressure circumstances and shoots with confidence. Without that, I would have surely buckled. Developing relationships with people and clients wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t believe in myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still doubt myself and tell myself how much I suck almost daily, but at least I can look myself in the eye and say it.

Somewhere between the blows to the head and the miserable internship I had at an architecture firm, I realized that I wasn’t going to really make a living doing either of those and bought my first DSLR. A Canon 10D. I had saved up money fighting to buy my first car, but blew it all on my first camera and a set of terrible Sigma lenses instead. TOTALLY WORTH IT. (** side note – SIGMA does make some good lenses, but the ones I had back then couldn’t focus on the broad side of a barn, so I’m not Sigma hating… totally)

Here I am, struggling to stay awake in art history class, learning about the forefathers of photography (all of which I am very glad to have studied and learned about) when the guy next to me leans over and says “Hey I’m about to go quit my job at the school paper, want to come with me and see if they’ll give it to you?”

Huh? Me? He was the sports photographer and I had never even attempted to shoot any sport. I hadn’t even pointed my camera at a little league T-ball game, much less an NCAA Division-1 sporting event. So I replied as an avid sports fan would… “Of course!” Why I got that job still baffles me to this day, but sometimes luck and angels play a part we will never know about.

I would like to say, “The rest is history. I was awesome. The end”. False. I was terrible. I thought it was my equipment, but I couldn’t do it on borrowed equipment either. I later found out that I was 1 game away from being fired. Yeah, that’s how bad I was. Fired-from-the-school-paper bad.

This next image is where it changed.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “That isn’t really that great either,” then that just shows you how bad I was. What made them keep me around for a while longer, was the effort it took to make this image. I drove (with some friends) 12.5 hours to Gainesville, Florida to take this image, wait for it….. without getting paid. ***gasp*** Since then, the lesson of what it takes to be a sports photographer has stuck with me. It’s not easy, and it’s not getting easier, but if you enjoy it, then you’ll do it and you’ll find a way to keep doing it.

Now I could probably stop here and call it a day, but there are a few more lessons I’ve learned so far in my career that have been pretty crucial to how I think and how I approach every area of photography, not just sports. So if you’ll bear with me, I’m going to give as much as I can here.

One day a couple years ago, like a lot of us do, I was sitting around with a bunch of photographers and we started looking at some of them real fancy type picture books, with really fancy type pictures in them. There was an image taken by Annie Leibovitz of the Queen of England. Just as I started to admire it, one of the people there started saying what was wrong with it.

What the…? Are you really telling us what this famous photographer did wrong? I really couldn’t contribute to the conversation because I knew that if I hadn’t been a fighter in a former life, I probably would just throw up on my shoes at the thought of taking the Queen’s portrait, much less light it properly. Since that day, it is pretty much weekly I hear someone, either online or in person, talk about what’s wrong with these accomplished photographer’s photos and how they do it. You can always look at others’ work from the outside looking in and find a better way to have done it. But from my experiences, these accomplished photographers do it like they do it for a reason, and until I’ve walked in their shoes, it’s not my job to criticize. All I can do is get my own experiences and learn from them.

I used to think sports photographers looked stupid with those utility belts and would say, “Why would they do that? That’s lame and there is no need for it.” Now that I’ve seen it and done it for myself, if I don’t have an assistant, I’m rocking the biggest fanny pack you’ve ever seen and I love it.

“I can do that.”

When I was in school studying other artists and their work, I would think to myself, “I can do that, I could take that photo.” I would get so angry that, somewhere deep inside, I knew I had the ability to take the photo that someone else took. (Which was completely not true, because like I mentioned earlier, I was terrible). Finally it clicked. It *now* seems like a very big no-brainer. But the reason I could not shoot that epic image of Muhammad Ali, or the iconic images I see in National Geographic, was because I am not there. Whether I can get the job done or not is irrelevant at this point, because I can’t shoot the Queen of England for Time Magazine if I am never in front of the Queen of England with permission to take her portrait. I can only shoot what I have access to.

So I have to focus on getting better as a photographer. If I ever want to shoot on the sidelines of the Super Bowl, I have to put the time in shooting teams you’ve never heard of in order to hone my skills enough to make it to the next level. If I want to shoot supermodels one day, I have to spend time shooting models you’ve never heard of right now. If I want to shoot for NGOs or National Geographic one day, I need to get myself to unique places and shoot. It’s called paying your dues, and you’re not ever going to get top level shoots unless you prove you can shoot at a top level…. Well, unless you’re Joey L ;)

The lesson learned was that I could appreciate what others have done without getting mad that “I could do that too.”

Prove it… Go do it.

You can see more of Donald’s work at, keep up with him on his blog, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. While you’re at it, go check out this week-long time lapse video he did during a road trip earlier this year!

Nighttime in New York City

A week or so ago my buddy RC Concepcion stops by my office and he’s showing me some great night photos he took of the New York City skyline (seen here and below). I asked where he shot them from, and he told me some were taken from the top of Rockefeller Center, and some from the top of the Empire State Building.

Since these were night shots, he’d need a tripod to get shots that sharp, but neither of those places allows you to shoot with a tripod. In fact, they pretty much confiscate your tripod if you even walk in the front door with one (of course, they tag it, and give it back when you leave).

So I asked RC how he got permission to shoot with a tripod, and he said he actually didn’t use a tripod at all—then he let me in on a little trick that he’s been using that so far hasn’t raised any eyebrows, but still gives great tripod like results for low light shooting.

He said he: …”uses a Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm with Camera Bracket and a Manfrotto Super Clamp Without Stud. B&H Photo offers them together as a kit, but the arm is different – it has a lever instead of the ball tensioner” (which RC thinks is better).

He told me, “On both the Top of the Rock and The Empire State Building there are protection fences that are pretty sturdy. You can attach the arm to the structure and fire away.” (that’s the rig shown at right—you can see it clamped to the fence, and it gives you a lot of freedom as to where you position the camera).

The shot you see below was done using this same rig, but it was shot from the observatory at the top of the Empire State Building.

Anyway, I had just never thought to use a Magic Arm and Clamp for situations where tripods aren’t allowed (that RC guy is pretty clever). Anyway, my thanks to RC for the photos, and for letting share his cool tip with you guys. :)

Flatiron Building at Dusk.

Two weekends ago I got an assignment from Southcreek Global Media to shoot the 2010 Foster Grant Ironman Triathlon World Championships, held in Clearwater Beach, Florida (the image above is from the start of the race. As luck would have it, the athlete I focused in on wound up coming in third).

I had never shot any kind of Triathlon before (and honestly, I didn’t know that much about them), so I had to do a lot of research before the shoot to get an idea of what kind of coverage to provide. Even at that, it was a real learning experience, and now that I’ve got one under my belt, I already know all the things I’d do differently next time.

Above: The panning shot above was taken in Manual mode, at 1/50 of a second, so I could blur the background as I panned with the cyclist. Southcreek Global chose this shot, and the one at the top, for their “Hot Shots” gallery (it’s the first time any of my images were chosen to be in “Hot Shots,” so I was pretty psyched!).

The race started just minutes before dawn (at 6:45 am), as the first wave of 1,700+ athletes (including men’s and women’s pros) swam for 1.2 miles, bicycled 56 miles, and then ran a 13.1 mile half-marathon. The shot above was taken near the start of the cycling part of the event. The sun hadn’t been up for too long, so it was still a warm color, and I took a whole series of these slow panning shots directly into the sun.

(Above: This was one taken as the first of the men’s pros reached the beach. I shot this with my 200-400mm f/4 lens on a Nikon D3).

(Above: Here’s the first wave of men’s pros racing for the beach).

(Above: Once the swimmers hit the beach, they run through these showers to get the salty sea water off, but as they’re running through, most of them are already stripping off their wet suits, but even with all the swimming, cycling, and running, the race comes down to literally seconds, so every one counts. This shot was taken with a D700, using the new Nikon 28-300mm lens, out at 24mm. It worked out amazingly well for a daylight shoot like this).

The shot was taken outside the photographer’s area, so I had to fight my way through the crowd to get this shot. Sadly, it was the only one without the guy standing next to me’s arm in it, holding his cell phone out in front of us both, shooting video. And no—unfortunately I’m not allowed to clone his arm out when covering an event like this.

(Above: My brother Jeff was at the race with me—I stayed at his condo the night before which was right near the start point for the race, and since it started at 6:45 am, and I live an hour away, it worked out great. He’s the one that spotted this shot for me. While I was shooting the previous shot, after the runner’s had come through the shower, he was at the other end, and said I should check out the view from the other end because the sun was beaming through the water. I headed down there, got inside the photographer’s area, got down on my knees, and thanks to Jeff got the shot you see above).

(Above: Last year’s winner, Michael Raelert from Germany, was favored to win again this year, except for the fact that not one previous winner had ever repeated, but all the buzz was about him, so I wanted to make sure I got a number of photos of him just in case. As it turned out, he won, and that’s him above, and in the very last image of this post).

(Above: Another panning shot taken on the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge, and key part of the course, and one that connects downtown Clearwater with the beaches. This one’s taken a 1/60 of a second. The sun is fully up at this point so I’m having to shoot at f/22 to keep everything from being way overexposed and totally blowing out).

(Above: I got this shot of the runner getting splashed with Gatorade as he goes through a water station. The thing I like best about this shot, is the reflection of the downtown buildings in his sunglasses, but I also like the way at first you don’t notice the cup, and it looks like he’s got an invisible bottle of water).

(Above: I took a number of shots at the water station, positioned behind the runners heading into the sun, so the water they’re splashing to cool down would be back-lit. Plus, I thought it was cool that he was representing the U.S. Army).

(Above: Here’s Michael Raelert, the two-time race winner during the third and final leg, just minutes before his big win).

The Wrap Up
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect shooting an Ironman event like this, and while I didn’t go in knowing exactly what to shoot, exactly where to be and when, and how to expose for it all, I sure learned a lot this time, and know better what to do next time. I feel pretty lucky to get the shots that I did get (and that Southcreek not only picked those two for their Hot Shots gallery, but picked one for rotation on their home page all week).

Thanks to Kathy and the gang at Southcreek Global for having the confidence in me to send me out to shoot something totally new for me, and thanks to you guys for letting me share my first triathlon shoot with you here on the blog.

Hi gang: it’s 1:56 am, and I’m in my hotel room after shooting the Miami Dolphins vs. Chicago Bears NFL Football game down in Miami tonight (big, big win for the Bears—they’re now 7-3, and I believe they’re 1/2 game up in their division—sweet!), and I’ve got to leave for the airport in….oh rats! 4 hours. :(

So, I’m hitting the sack right this minute. Although I’ll share some shots from the game next week, this was a record breaking shoot for me, because I broke my all time record of shots taken of the ground, my feet, other people’s feet, the turf, and stupid stuff like that when my 2nd camera body hits my leg as I’m running up and down the sidelines between plays, and it hits the shutter button (as seen above).

I’m proud to say, I have well over 100 shots like the ones you see above. Maybe even 200. A very proud moment indeed. ;-)

Besides the Bears game shots, I’ll share some images from a gig I shot last weekend—the Foster Grant 2010 Ironman World Championships triathalon. Lots of fun, and some truly amazing athletes.

That’s it from Miami. Hope everybody has a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. :)

Just in the time for the holiday shopping season, my buddy Terry White, over at the popular “Terry’s Tech Blog,” has posted his annual Holiday Gadget Gift Guide with lots of fun goodies.

He’s got a wide range of gift ideas this year—-everything there from great stocking-stuffers to gifts you only give if you’re a rich doctor, and you really, really want to impress the person on your holiday list (but it’s still fun to just look anyway).

Here’s the link. Happy shopping! :-)