Monthly Archives February 2013

Peter Hurley – Mastering Headshot Photography
SHABANG! The latest class in the library is Peter Hurley’s Mastering Headshot Photography, but don’t let the name fool you… If you photograph people AT ALL, you need to watch this class. Peter doesn’t focus on lighting or the technical aspects of his shoots, he focuses on the people in front of his camera. Watch as he works his magic to pull great expressions and emotions from his subject, and learn how the smallest thing can make the difference between an okay picture and a great photograph.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of this class!

Kelby Training Live
Want to spend a day with Matt Kloskowski, RC Concepcion, or Ben Willmore? Check out these seminar tours!

Lightroom 4 Live with Matt Kloskowski
Feb 20 - Arlington, TX
Feb 22 - Atlanta, GA
Mar 22 – Phoenix, AZ

Photoshop CS6 for Photographers with RC Concepcion
Feb 27 - Richmond, VA
Mar 15 – Tampa, FL
Mar 25 – Houston, TX

Photographic Artistry with Adobe Photoshop with Ben Willmore
Mar 19 - New York, NY
Mar 20 - Washington, DC

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free ticket to one of these events!

Cliff Mautner Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp
Want to spend a couple of days with Cliff Mautner in London? This summer is your chance!

When: June 11th and 12th
Where: Moor Park, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire WD3 1QN
Why: It will empower photographers with the skills needed to obtain a style of their own.

The workshop is limited to 20, and more information can be found on Cliff’s blog. You can send an email to with questions or to register.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of one of Cliff’s classes!

Nikon Capture NX 2
Want to learn how to edit your photos using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 software? Check out this class from Scott Diussa to see how you can take full advantage of this powerful, yet easy to use program.

And, leave a comment for your chance to win a free pass for this class!

Lightroom 4 Live Ticket
– JessicaD

Photoshop CS6 for Photographers Live Ticket
– KC

Photo by JerSean Golatt

A big thanks to Scott for his leadership and for the tremendous effort he puts into designing incredible resources that sharpen artists all over the worldâ¦You rock man.

You may know me as a travel photographer and story teller for change⦠most of the client work I do is in effort to improve quality of life for people in material poverty. I work a ton in Africa & Asia and love to create & shoot campaigns for initiatives like clean water projects, education, church expansion, clean wood-burning stoves and more. I feel strongly that we are called to use what we’ve been given to invest in others and up to last year, I did that mostly with my camera.

In northern Kenya with Paradigm Project, on assignment to capture the experience of cooking indoors over an open fire.

In 2011, I changed sleeping locations nearly 150 timesâ¦just about every other day. I loved it — I got to see some incredible things happening all over the world and make friends in some really cool places.

Philemon, my new friend and host in Fiji.

The Need & Dream
At the end of the year, I was sitting at a deli with my Dad dreaming about 2012⦠how could I use what I’ve been given to broaden my impact? One thing was certain: I wasn’t going to move faster or shoot more⦠but what if I shifted my focus a bit?

I've always really enjoyed enabling others as best I can⦠being behind the scenes feeding them knowledge and tools (usually geek stuff) to help them to succeed. It’s gotta be my favorite thing in the world. As we sat there, we began to dream about a a whole new way to accomplish that.

At that point, I saw (and still see) freelancers & independent creatives conducting business at home or at coffee shops all over the country⦠Some people are happy with working from home and others aren't⦠but happy or not, lack of access to inspirational people and tools to create inhibits our ability to run with the creative muscles we've been given.

For my own career, the single greatest thing that has and continues to enable me is connecting with others. Talking with them. Learning from them. Being sharpened, inspired & encouraged by their complimentary skill-sets.

Years ago, photographers would hang out at the lab together as they developed photographs⦠there they would build friendships, working relationships and businesses together. It's there that they would be inspired to spontaneously create, dream new ideas and find food for their creative soul.

In this digital age where we develop images isolated on our Macs and everyone is satisfied with Twitter follows and Facebook likes, what if there were a REAL PLACE, a physical hub that facilitated camaraderie? What if there were a place designed specifically to enable creative people?

I looked and found nothing quite like this⦠so about a year ago, I decided to put my travel photography work on hold and take a somewhat scary leap of faith into creating what we now call WELD.

Thanks to my cousin Brandon, co-founder of WELD, we had an awesome space in no time. I can remember sitting in the 10,000 square feet of white walls and concrete floors for hours on end dreaming about what this place could be.

The fun thing is, even before launch we began seeing beautiful collaborations taking place. Talented people came out of the woodwork to bring their gifts to the table and help make it happen. We all worked together to dream about the space, build it and shape it⦠all along the way shooting fun little art projects on the side. We began to discover the magic of being together, of creating together and of constant collaboration.

WELD's communal workspace aka the bullpen. 

We opened in June and today WELD is a collaborative work & shoot space that exists for one reason: to enable creatives to create. WELD does this by connecting them to like-minded people, equipping them w/ tools and giving them a place to hone their craft within a community instead of alone.

From the moment we opened our doors, people at WELD began to dream with the abilities of their peers instead of just their own — and beautiful things have come out of it.  Member collaborations continue to flow and every day I'm more excited to go in and see what's being dreamed up.

The Creative Struggle
All these things have been incredible and I'm so proud to be a part of what WELD is and will be but it hasn't been without it's challenges. I'm up here writing this at 4:01 AM because there's a billion things to be done, very few of which directly relate to things I'm most passionate about.

I'm constantly navigating the unexpected, inventing solutions, executing mundane tasks, troubleshooting problems⦠but something keeps relentlessly fueling my fire: vision.

I see so many people give up when their creative project doesn't go as planned. QUIT DOING THAT. If you're project is worthwhile you will always encounter a force against you and you'll never get anywhere if you don't passionately stick to your vision.

Don't give up when it's tough⦠by it's very nature it will be tough. If achieving your goal was easy, someone else will have already done it and it wouldn't even be vision, it'd be reality.

There will always be Resistance, working against youâ¦to discourage you, to deflate you, to tell you your stupid, to distract you. Don't accept that. Dominate it.

If Scott had given up on Photoshop when he couldn't figure out the Pen tool in the early â˜90s, you wouldn't be reading this. If FedEx had given up when they had $5K left in their bank account, global courier service wouldn't be the same today.  If George Lucas had given up when everyone told him his film was too wacky, we wouldn't have Star Wars.

Do I put myself in the same class as these guys? Not for a second. But you know what kept them going and pushed them past the Resistance? Vision. Vision for the possibilities of digital image editing. Vision for the first ever overnight delivery service⦠vision for a beautifully told story of galaxies and lasers and love.

The WELD Vision
The vision for WELD is pretty simple: to help creators achieve their vision.

Whether that's a single image, a film or a full-blown business, WELD is a streamlined hub to help artists create something from nothing. It exists to reduce friction in the creative workflow to grow your vision and get you there faster. It's a place to feed starving artists and rejuvenate the plump ones. To thrust freelancers into previously unchartered frontier.

Above: One of WELD's fully equipped studio spaces where members have collaborated to create visions like this piece below: 

Created by Chris Titze

WELD is designed to be an environment where the first scene of Star Wars could be conceived, written & shot. Even now, creative businesses are thriving here⦠we've already seen feature length films, international non-profit campaigns, iOS apps and more born at WELD. I just can't wait to see what's in store for this place.

I hope and pray WELD will continue thrive here in Dallas but also grow across the country and impact thousands of artists and millions more through their work.   I can't stop dreaming about the possibilities.  About the ideas conceived, the relationships built, the business strengthened, the stories told and the lives changed through the visions achieved by WELDERS.

Whatever your vision may be, don't accept not trying⦠and when you try, refuse to quit. Don't give in to Resistance⦠focus on what you were made to do and do it — if you persevere, there will be no end to the beauty you will create.


Update: We are hosting a free happy hour on Friday (Feb 8th) at WELD. We are live screening of one of Kelby Training’s in-studio lighting workshops with Joe McNally (huge thanks to Scott for permission to do so!) Wine & cheese provided. Come out, pick up some studio tips and meet some awesome creative people just like you⦠hope to see you there.  details here.

Thanks again to Scott & Brad for this opportunity to share — hope to see you at the upcoming happy hour!

– Austin Mann

Learn more about WELD and the artists here.

Keep up with Austin via Twitter & Instagram. And he’d love to hear from you! Shoot him a note about anything at

Hi Gang: When I post after 10:00 am, ya know I’ve pretty much got nuthin’ for today, however I do have 100 free passes to watch Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki’s classes on copyright, protecting your images and model releases, so that’s at least something, right?

The first 100 people to visit the address below get a free 24-hour pass to watch those classes (Well, technically you would watch any classes on Kelby Training Online for that mattter), but make sure you watch Jack and Ed’s classes first — they are really fantastic, eye-opening, and as a photographer they just may save your butt by protecting you and the images you take.

Hey, I just got word that tomorrow we are releasing an absolutely kick-butt online class on shooting headshots from none other than Peter Hurley himself. I heard from Adam (one of our very talented directors/video editors) this morning and he told me he thinks it is literally one of our best classes ever!  If you’re already a subscriber, make sure you check it out tomorrow when it’s released. If not, what are you waiting for? Here’s that link.

Cheers everybody and here’s wishing you an awesome National Pancake Day!! (Hey, that’s what our buddy William Beem claims today is, though that sounds like a totally made-up holiday. Not a bad idea for a holiday, mind you, but I would have preferred National Pancake Month! LOL!). :)

Well, it’s over, and what a season it was. I’ve had so many questions about mypost-season of sideline shooting (and lots on the use of remote cameras), so I thought I’d answer a few of them as my last post of the season (until probably late July or Early August when football cranks back up again). Here we go:

Q. So, what was the Super Bowl like?
A. It was really amazing! I remember at one point during the game, I turned to my bother who was watching the game with me on the couch, and I said “Man, if San Francisco scores here, this is going to turn into a tight game!” and then he took a bite of one of the sandwiches my wife made for us at halftime. See, gotcha! I used that 49ers shot from last season (vs. Giants) to reel you in and make you think I was there shooting it, and then bam â” I pulled a fast one on you.

Q. What??!!You mean you weren’t shooting the Super Bowl?
A. Nope. I watched the game at home with my brother Jeff and his girlfriend. Great game though, especially the 2nd half. After that long power-outage, my buddy Bill Fortney texted me what I called the “Quote of the Week” on Twitter when he said “San Francisco fans killed the power hoping it would clear the scoreboard!.” LOL!!! Still, it turned out to be a great game (and I’m glad Flacco got MPV. He’s one of the most under-rated QBs playing today. With the way the football media loves Tony Romo, I’m surprised they didn’t give it him, even though he wasn’t in the Super Bowl (don’t get me started). Anyway, it was a great game, even just watching it at home. :)

Q. OK, ready for some real questions actually asked by your readers?
A. Sure, Scott’s ready. Fire away!

Q. You’re not going to be talking about yourself in the third person are you?
A. Scott never talks about himself in the third person. Scott’s not like that. Fire away!

Q. [When you’re shooting a game on the sidelines…] Do you move around or stay in what spot? And if you’re in one spot, is it assigned or do you stake out a spot?
A. Thankfully, we’re not assigned spots — we’re pretty much allowed to roam anywhere along the sidelines with the exception of shooting inside either team’s bench (for obvious reasons). However, the official team photographer is often allowed to shoot in there, but he’s the only one. We do have to stay behind a yellow-dotted line that is set about 3 yards out from the edge of the playing field, and if you step over it, a security guard or police officer will come over and tell you to move back a bit. How they tell you varies between stadiums and personalities, so it’s best just to stay safely behind that line.

Q. Where do you get those steel safety cables? [to secure remote cameras]
A. We’ve been getting ours at Home Depot, but we just got a line on a guy who does rigging for Sports Illustrated and he makes and sells his own, so we’re ordering some of his. I’ll let you know how they are once we try them on a remote for another sport. Maybe basketball.

Q. When do you use the 14-24mm? Is it for after the game?
A. Usually, it’s for pre-game stuff, like for the player introductions and during warmups. Also, it’s now my go-to lens for floor-mounted remote cameras.

Q. Has TSA ever stopped you or asked to have your carry-on weighed?
A. It hasn’t happened so far (knock on wood).

Q. Wish you would write about how u keep your equipment from being stolen traveling at hotel & game
A. I pretty much keep my gear with me almost all the time. After the game, if I can’t get it back to my hotel, it literally rolls into the restaurant with me. During the game, I keep my gear bag locked, and it gets tethered and locked to something that won’t move easily. In the hotel, it’s with me or it’s locked down too! I have lots of locks and locking cables. It’s a bit of a pain sometimes, but less of a pain then replacing all your equipment. 

Q. Scott, do you prefer the [Nikon] D3s or D4?
A. They are very similar cameras, but the D4 has more megapixels which is helpful if you have to crop in tight on a shot when the play has quickly moved down the field (like a long pass or kick-off return). So the D4 is my main lens, the D3s is my 2nd body. 

Q. Where do you buy those gel-filled kneepads?
A. Home Depot or Lowes (they use them for installing carpet, and they’re worth their weight in gold).

Q. What is the fplate floor mount?
A. It’s a steel plate that sits on the floor and it’s designed to let you attach a Ballhead, so you can mount a camera on top and aim it anywhere you want. I use mine to mount cameras at ground level when the players make their entrance, but you can use them for other sports (motorsports, basketball, hockey, horser acing — you name it). They come from and they run about $55 each. Totally worth it (they’re very well made and thought out).

Q. So what glass are you using for remote?
A. Usually really wide angle stuff down on the field, and for the rig we mounted up at the top of the George Dome  aiming down at the 50 yard line (For the NFC Championship Game), it was a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoomed out to 200mm.

Q. What and where do you use a remote during a football game?
A. I use one during warm-ups; I mount a wide angle or fisheye on the end of monopod and trigger it with a wireless remote. Then the rest are usually just for the player intros, but this time I’m adding one overhead. 

Q. How quickly do you have to get to your gear to collect it before they clean up the game after the player intro?
A. I have literally about 60-seconds. In two minutes that stuff is gone, so I have to literally run and grab it. For the NFC Championship game, I had to on the ground and one mounted to the truss. My buddy Matt Lange grabbed one rig; I grabbed the other; we set them on the sidelines beside a security guard (there goes 30-seconds) and as soon as I turned around they were tipping the truss over on its side. I ran up and as they were walking with it, I unlocked my Magic Arm holders and took off. Speed is the key (and it doesn’t hurt to have a friend like Matt, or you’ll stuff will get lost or run over).
Q. Am I just missing something or you’re using Pocket Wizards without any lights?
A. They’re used to fire the remotes like a wireless remote shutter release which can fire multiple cameras at once with a range of like 300 feet. For the last game, I tried the new Pocket Wizard Plus IIIs and they were terrific. When I got back, we ordered four of them (I had borrowed some for the game). 

Q. Maybe you’ve discussed this before but I’m curious about the cards. Are they provided by the club/organization for which you are shooting or do you use your own? If the latter, do you get them back somehow after they have been downloaded? How does that work, logistically?
A. I normally use my own cards, but at last week’s game they had cards provided for us. After the player intros, a runner takes the memory cards from my hand-held and remote cameras. Then at the half, right at the 2:00 minute warning, they take them from both of my cameras, and then at the end of the game, I go up to the press box and they take two more cards. I have my name on all my cards, and they give them give them back to me once they’re all offloaded.

Q. Are you able to set up as many remotes as you want? Are there restrictions on where they can be and what they can capture? You make it appear fairly simple, but I’m sure it is very intense.
A. You pretty much always need permission, but since I’m shooting for the Falcon’s team themselves, they have a lot more latitude over what can be done, and they have been totally cool about letting me put up remotes (as long as they’re not in anybody’s way, and set up way in advance. Also, I need permission from the Pryo crew to mount stuff on their truss or near their fire and explosions going off, but in Atlanta they have been absolutely fantastic to work with. In fact, earlier this year at the Falcons/Cowboy’s game, the head Pryo tech came over and said, “Hey, if you want to take it up a notch next time you’re here, just get here early and we can do some really cool stuff.” (By the way, that scenario doesn’t happen very often). So, needless to say, I’ll be there WAY before game time tomorrow, and we’ve been communicating via email all week. The only part that is intense is getting all the gear pulled down immediately after the players come up. They pyro crew has to disassemble all that stuff in just a few minutes, so I have to get my gear out of that really, really fast. Outside of that, it’s really a lot of fun.

Q. If someone else has the same remotes, how do you keep from having them trigger your mounted camera?
A. That’s what great about the new PocketWizard Plus III — rather than just four channels (like the Plus IIs), you have like 29 channels (not certain about the number, but it’s a bunch). There won’t be that many folks shooting remotes unless Bill Frakes shows up (LOL!). He shots 30 remotes for SI at the Kentucky Derby. WOW! Anyway, I’m most concerned about the one mounted in the ceiling of the dome; I’ll pick some obscure channel and hope for the best.

Q. Do you have one master trigger that fires all remotes together, or a separate button for each camera? Any issues with battery life during the game?
A. I had two triggers — one master that triggered all the remotes during player introductions (that one is mounted on top of my handheld camera, so when I fire it, it fires the other three automatically). The 2nd trigger was for the one mounted up top in the Dome. I didn’t fire it until something was happening near center field, and I just had to push the “Test” button on it to fire it. I had fresh batteries in the dome-mounted camera with a back-up battery and it made it through the entire game (but it was pretty low). Ideally, I’d have a power adapter for a remote that would be left “live” for hours before the game, during, and an hour or so after. So, we’ll just say in this instance, I was lucky to have two batteries (one in the camera, one in the battery grip).

Q. Using that much gear in a quick and efficient manner is impressive.
A. OK, I had never actually ever used that much gear, and I can’t say with a straight face that I used it in a quick and efficient manner (outside of the player intros). I covered the player intros from four different angles and it worked out pretty well. I wanted to do something different for the Falcon’s photo crew —- They’re all really good shooters and I’m not sure they need another shot of Tony Gonzalez catching a pass in the end zone, so I tried to bring something different with interesting perspectives for them. 

Q. Just curious… you have help with you, an assistant maybe? That’s a lot of work for one guy.
A. I didn’t have an assistant during the game — all the sidelines passes were already taken, but it absolutely would have made a big difference, and I would have wound up using more remotes during the game (in the end zones and such), if I had an assistant. It would make a big difference. The Falcons did hire a great guy(Kevin Liles) to help us rig the remote in the dome and on the truss, and he was a big help of course, but his work was all before / after the game. 

Q. Any hassles transporting your gear?
A. Not really. We put all the remote gear (except camera bodies and lenses) in a rolling Pelican Case, and I check that bag as luggage, locked with a TSA-approved lock. Sure enough, they opened it and checked it (they put TSA-tape over it to let you know they checked it). Then I carried on my camera bag, and a backpack on the plane with all the cameras and lenses.

Q. I know you likely shoot hundreds if not more, shots per game. Crazy question but how many are tossers would you say percentage wise?
A. There are a LOT of tossers from the remotes, because there are so many test shots, so I won’t count those. For regular game shots, I shoot around 1,200 to 1,500 shots, and if I get 75 shots that I would upload to the wire service I shoot for (or to the Falcons in this case), I’m pretty happy.

Q. Care to share your camera setting for capturing action shots?
A. Absolutely. I usually shoot in Aperture Priority mode and I always shoot “Wide Open” so f/2.8 if the lens allows, or f/4. My goal is to make sure I shoot at 1/1000 of a second or faster, so for day games I can leave my ISO at 100 or 200 most of the time. For indoor or night games, I’m between 1,600 and 3,200 most of the time. Occasionally 4,000 ISO, but it just depends on the light.

Q. What about the exposure [for the remote cameras]? Are you using Auto or Manual settings? I see those fireworks form left and right… I think they will affect your picture and  change the exposure. 
A. Yeah, I learned this one the hard way, and Manual is the way to go so it doesn’t change with the fire. It does get brighter (and yellower) when the pyro goes off but only by a stop or so, so it’s not bad. 

Q. Were they any “De-Motivational Poster” moments in the Post Season?
A. Sadly, there always are. We’ll wrap things up with another tender moment from my series of posters. Until next season my friends!


OK, before we get into all this, just want to give you a heads up: I cover all of this in MUCH more detail (with more final and behind-the-scenes photos), on yesterday’s episode of “The Grid” which I’ve posted below, so you can just watch it right here if you like.

OK, if you’re not watching that video, here we go! First, some final photos (taken aboard the carrier George H.W. Bush) and then we’ll get to the stories and behind the scenes stuff.

Above: here’s an F/A-18 coming in for a touch and go on the flight deck.

Above: Here’s a wide angle (14mm) view from one of the launch catapults looking back toward the Island (that tower on the left).

Above: One of  the Crash and Salvage Crews on the flight deck in his fire-retardant gear on.

Above: Steam from the previous catapult launch blowing back toward the next F/A-18 getting ready to launch

Above: It almost ran me over. Thankfully, they grabbed the back of my deck vest and pulled me out of the way.

Above: My one HDR shot — here’s the view from the Bridge.

Above: This is taken from two levels up in the Island: from a place they call Vulture’s Row (basically, where visitors get to watch take-offs and landings safely above the Flight Deck).

Above: the weather was less-than-optimal for photography, but from what I hear, pretty standard for flying off a carrier.

Above: Another wide angle shot

Above: One of the Catapult and Arresting Gear Officers (known as “Shooters” on the deck (the crew who literally help “shoot” the plane off the deck).

Above: Literally right before they launch the place the pilot gives a crisp salute, and a split-second later they launch him off.

Above: Guiding an F/A-18 on to the launch Catapult (look how short the runway is!).

Above: One of my favorites — taken during a catapult launch.

Above: It’s not an HDR but I had to double-process this shot of the Bridge or the view outside the window would be totally blown out to solid white.

Above: The only other plane I got to shoot: A Prowler (on deck) with an F/A-18 taking off.

Above: An F/A-18 getting tail hooked for a landing.


Above: Here’s an iPhone video I shot of a tail-hook landing.

Now, It’s Story Time (Q&A Style):

Q. OK, how did you wind up shooting on an Aircraft Carrier?
A. It wasn’t easy. It took me literally eight years of trying to find someone who had a connection to get me on. I was close a couple of times, but either my schedule or the location of the carrier made it impossible, but then last week I got an email from Ed Buice of NCIS (not the TV show — the real NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Services), that he was flying out on assignment to the carrier George H.W. Bush which was already at sea and that I could come and assist with the shoot. Even though it was only three-days notice — I jumped all over it. 

Above: That’s Ed in the Officer’s dining room. Looks really serious, but he was a blast — great sense of humor — totally cool guy, really good photographer, awesome to hang out with, and he taught me a lot. Plus, he didn’t shoot me (a bonus).

Q. What kind of assignment did Ed have?
A. Ed is the Public Affairs Officer for NCIS and he needed shots of Special Agent Afloat Sam Bush (each carrier has an NCIS agent on board. More about this on that video at the top of the page).

We spent two days following Sam around the ship shooting him “doing his thing,” which was everything from posed portraits, to Sam conducting interviews, interacting with the ship’s Security Detail, dusting for prints — you name it. Sam is a busy guy, and after two days of shooting him (and baby-sitting us) he was probably thrilled to see us finally leave the ship. I did some flash stuff, and basically acted as Ed’s “Second shooter” (I put a few of my 2nd shooter shots below), but of course we also got to shoot all sorts of other cool stuff, too.

Q. Were their concerns about you shooting stuff that is Classified or that you’re not supposed to share?
A. Everywhere we went, we had a handler with us and they made certain that we didn’t shoot anything we couldn’t’ share. Of course, this means there were parts of the ship that were weren’t allowed to visit, and we always had to have permission in advance to enter certain areas and then permission to take photos once we were in that area. We actually had much more access than I had imagined but we made sure we stuck to the rules and didn’t shoot anything we weren’t supposed to.

Q. How did you get out to the Carrier?
A. We took off from the base in Norfolk, Virginia in a COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) plane (a twin-engine Grumann C2 Greyhound — a mail and supply plane that also holds around 40 passengers as uncomfortably as possible and you’re seated backwards), and we landed (and got tail hooked) on the deck of the carrier (which was pretty cool and not as scary as everyone had warned me about).

Above: That’s me standing in front of our ride out to the Carrier. You enter through the back and you start screaming. Kidding. Kinda. Photo by Ed Buice.

Q. How did you get off the carrier?
A. They literally shot us off with the same Catapult they launch the F/A-18 Hornet’s off with, and that was actually pretty intense (and pretty fun) but it was over in literally 3-seconds and the rest was just a regular plane ride (accept you’re seated backwards and there are virtually no windows and it’s louder than a Monster Truck & Tractor Pull).

Q. Any surprises?
A. Yup. Two. The first was — after we got on board, after an hour or so we learned that none of our luggage actually made it on the COD plane. Nothing. Not my camera gear. Not my overnight bag. No toothbrush. No underwear. No phone charger. Nada. We were kinda freaked!

Q. So what did you do?
A. We had a guardian Angel. We’re looking for our luggage and up comes Tony Curtis (not the actor; one of the ship’s Mass Communication Specialists, 2nd Class). He’s one of the ship’s photographers (a really good one as it turns out) and he says, “Hey, I read your blog every day” and we started talking. He was a totally cool guy — great personality, smart, talented and when we told him our heartbreaking story, he says, “Don’t worry — I’ve got you covered.”

Above: That’s MC Curtis (totally great guy) and he basically saved our trip. He’s really a smart guy, so we called him MC2 (MC Squared) for short. 

Q. So he had toothpaste?
A. Better. He had a ton of Nikon gear. A ton! (see below). He takes us down to his department where his boss, and head of Media Communication MCC (Chief Mass Communication Specialist) Matt Bash, has approved for us to borrow some gear (awesome boss, right?). So, Tony unlocks this door, we walk in and he says “Whatdawant? A D4? D800? What kind of lenses? 14-24m? 70-200mm? 300 f/2.8? We were saved! Whoo Hoo (and Tony is now our new best friend).

Above: Just part of their equipment locker. They had everything! It was like breaking into B&H Photo.

Q. So what did you do first?
A. We geared up and then Tony asked me “Where do you want to shoot first?” I asked if we could shoot on the flight deck (fat chance, right?) and he said “Sure! Let’s grab some gear — you’ll need a helmet, goggles, gloves, and a flight desk safety vest” (which he handed me) and we headed for the flight deck. I almost blacked out.

Above: That’s Sam, MC Curtis, Me, and MC Walter (another really good Navy photographer. These guys seriously know their stuff, and work their butts off. MC Walter was totally cool, too and he helped me out with everything from giving me shooting location and camera tips, and pulling me to safety).

Q. So….how’d it go?
A. Honestly, I totally blew it. When I stepped out there, and we were literally in the middle of everything. We’re getting blown around by Jet Wash; jets are rolling right by us; another is taking off, we’ve got loads of gear on (plus, we have layers of clothing because it’s cold and windy) and then I put the camera up to my eye and “Clonk!” I have goggle on so you can’t put it up to your eye — you have to put it up to the goggle, which is just weird because it’s like two-inches in front of your eyes, but that’s not why I tanked it.

I was so overwhelmed, pumped and just exciting, I just started firing. I took a ton of shots of planes taking off and landing, but what I didn’t realize at that point was that this scenario never changes. It’s the same planes taking off from the same runways, landing on the same runways, and if everything goes as planned, it all looks exactly the same, so just shooting jet after jet creates a bunch of very similar-looking photos of gray planes. When I looked at the images from my first shoot, I was pretty bummed. No color, no people, just lots of gray planes. Very cool stuff, but a lot of the same stuff.

Above: Here’s the typical type of stupid shots I took, with a big red bar on the right side killing the shot (that’s called a Belknap — thanks Jose Ramos) and of course I could crop it out but that’s not how it’s supposed to work. I’m in charge of composition in the camera — not afterward in Photoshop, so shooting like this feels like a total failure of my most basic job as a photographer. I had a bunch of these. Actually, a ton.

Q. Did you do any teaching?
A. I did a talk for the Navy photographers on board with some tips on how to move to the next level with their photography. It was only about an hour talk, but afterward I did some one-on-one portfolio reviews (and saw some really fantastic, creative images which actually inspired me for my 2nd shoot the following day), and I shared a few Photoshop tips and shortcuts.

Above: Here’s a shot taken by Ed Buice during my talk. What I’m saying right here is “Don’t forget to pack an extra toothbrush!” LOL!

Q. So, did the 2nd shoot go any better?
A. Dramatically. First, I was settled down and more focused. I had gotten used to the jet wash, roar of the jets, and the fact that I would be dragged in different directions at any time to keep from being literally run over by a jet taxi-ing on the flight deck. But beside that, I knew that for more interesting shots, I needed to include the human factor, and I needed to include color, which honestly was everywhere because the flight deck crews wear different solid-color vests and helmets for quick visual ID.

Q. Aren’t these trips usually just 24-hour quick over-night trips?
A. Generally yes, but the weather was so bad they delayed, and then cancelled our flight back to base, so we had to stay another day on board without our luggage (LOL!). Hey, honestly, I was thrilled because that gave me a third shoot (the 2nd shoot was a dawn shoot that morning that was a bust because the sun rose straight into a giant gray cloud bank). It was that extra shoot where I got some images I at least thought were decent. I wasn’t thrilled, but at least I wasn’t miserable. It’s harder than it looks (especially because of the dynamics of a VERY active flight deck.

Q. How were the accommodations?
A. We had Officer’s quarters, and we got to eat with the Officers, so compared to the rest of the shipmates, it was heavenly. However, the actual sleeping part was kind of challenging because our stateroom was located just two decks below the Flight Deck and they run flight operations, well…pretty much all the time. So, what was that like. Close your eyes and picture this scenario: You’ve somehow fallen asleep in a Port-o-potty. While you’re asleep, a huge Semi-Tractor trailer pulls up so close to your Port-o-potty that it touches the door. Then the driver Revs his engine as loud as he can for 15 or so seconds, then he jumps out; takes a baseball bat and hits your Port-o-potty as hard as he can (so it hard it shakes the whole thing), then he starts a running chain saw for another 10-seconds. It was exactly like that. Only louder, and this happens about every 60-seconds or so. Weird thing is — you somehow get used to it, and you fall asleep, but the first time you hear it, after you stop freaking out, you start to laugh hysterically. Well, Ed and I did anyway.

The bathrooms were somewhere down a hall or two, but the hall is pitch dark with just a very dim red light (like you’d imagine a submarine would be during war games), and they were often clogged beyond belief —- sometimes to the extent that you’d go in there, look around and say, “Oh hell no!” and walk right back out. In the dark.

Above: Ed and I shared this spacious room, reminiscent of a suite at the Four Seasons, but larger. Lots of storage space, but that’s about it. It made you not want to hang out in your room. Nice lighting, though. ;-)

Q. What did you learn from this trip?
A. I learned that the sailors and Marines who work on the George H.W. Bush are an incredible team. The flight deck is a miracle of precision, teamwork and timing. The pilots that land on carriers are literally wizards (especially when they land at night, and we watched a night landing session — the photos were a total bust — didn’t’ have a tripod, but not sure that would have helped), and however thankful and proud I was of our men and women in uniform, after seeing what they do, my respect for them went up another big notch. I was really impressed at the professionalism, courtesy, attitude and work ethic of everyone I ran across. Really impressive, and even the Captain seemed like a really great guy (and the crew all spoke very highly of him). My humble thanks to the crew of the George H.W. Bush for their service to our country, and for the sacrifices they make, and their families make, every single day. It was really an honor to visit the carrier, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Thanks to my buddy Ed Buice for an experience I’ll never forget. I had so much fun hanging out with you, and I learned a lot about the “real” NCIS and some of the dedicated people who serve there. Thanks to MC Curtis for saving our trip and for his wonderful hospitality and great attitude while we were there, and to MC Walter for the tips and advice and for looking out for us on the Flight Deck. Thanks to their boss MCC  Matt Bash and all the dedicated photo and graphics crew on board for making us feel so welcome. And of course thanks to the men and women of GHWB for everything you do to keep us safe and our country free. My hats off to you all.