Tag: travel writing

Voyaging: A Photo Excursion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Voyaging: A Photo Excursion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, PA is a lively, historic and beautiful town that’ll make you not want to leave. If yinz haven’t been there yet, you must go as soon as possible. When I was getting into photography, one of the earliest bodies of work I saw was 

How to Do Winter Street Photography

How to Do Winter Street Photography

The ability to capture a genuine, authentic moment in time is what immediately drew me into photography. There’s a magic to photographing a scene and knowing you did it without posing or manipulating a scene. Once I discovered that street photography encapsulated this type of 

Why the iPhone was Perfect for Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park

Why the iPhone was Perfect for Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park

Every year for the past eight years we’ve traveled to Colorado for Thanksgiving. Our families are small so that makes it simple to pack our things and meet up in one of the most beautiful sections of the U.S. I’ve ever seen.

Call it the photographer’s dilemma, but one thing I used to have a really tough time doing is selecting which camera I was going to bring. That was then, though. Lately, I’ve had no problems with this decision.

One of the reasons for this is that I’ve dedicated myself and my photography to whichever camera I bring, and I’ve told myself that I’ll use whatever I have to the best of my abilities.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Going on as many trips as we have, I’ve become a lot more streamlined in my photographic equipment choices. So when it came time to choose a picture-making tool this year, I went with the simplest and most convenient camera I could think of—my iPhone.

At this point, the iPhone has any photographic feature I could ever want in a camera: it’s quick; the lens is sharp; and it can focus incredibly fast.

These characteristics become paramount in my photographic outings.

On one morning we left before sunrise to see how the early-morning rays would treat the surroundings. It was tough to leave the comfort of bed, but I simply grabbed my phone and headed out the door.

Denver, Colorado

As we walked into the Rocky Mountain National Park, we noticed a variety of cabins and structures that were situated perfectly along a mountain river. Since I enjoy architectural photography, it was fun walking around some of the cabins since they were so simply built, but so effective for their intended purposes.

I enjoyed the speed of the iPhone as I was able to quickly adjust my compositions and framing. The iPhone truly has taken almost all of the hassle out of photography.

The light was gorgeous in the early-morning hours and we had a fantastic time photographing anything we saw and found interesting.

Estes Park, Colorado

Later on, we decided to go on a group hike toward Cub Lake. As soon as we exited the car we walked toward a roof-covered section of benches from which I laced my hiking boots. As soon as I sat down, two magpies quickly flew over to me and landed.

My iPhone allowed me to respond almost instantaneously and make some pictures of them. The pictures were good, but when I’m photographing, I’m always trying to think, “What can make this photo better.”

There was a trail nearby that I began walking toward, and once I stepped toward a section of the trail one of the magpie landed perfectly on the post, as it was surrounded by some fresh-falling snow. I was able to quickly grab my iPhone and photograph the bird.

Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s not that I couldn’t have made some fine images on this trip out West, but the speed and abilities of the iPhone made the photographic process extremely easy.

Finally, one fantastic and underutilized aspect of the iPhone is it’s ability to capture files that can be printed at a decent size.

Few people make actual prints these days, which is too bad, because having a quality print on the wall is like the ultimate final step for an image.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Most cell-phone cameras, especially the newer ones, can capture files that can be printed easily at 11″x14″, and oftentimes larger.

So, the next time you’re heading out on an adventure, near or far, grab your cell-phone camera and have fun.

Why the Canon AE-1  Makes a Great Film Camera

Why the Canon AE-1 Makes a Great Film Camera

Choosing the right film camera can be incredibly overwhelming. There are seemingly endless options out there for you to use. But, worry not. If you’re looking for a simple camera that can be found for a reasonable price, the Canon AE-1 gets the job done, 

How Film Photography Can Make You A Better Portrait Photographer

How Film Photography Can Make You A Better Portrait Photographer

Portrait photography is one of my favorite genres within the craft. To meet someone and make a portrait of that person, or people, is special. While working for different newspapers, it was portraits that made up so many daily assignments. The goal was to photograph 

Photographing in a Snowstorm for Five Minutes

Photographing in a Snowstorm for Five Minutes

It was December 24, 2022. Our plan, by way of yearly tradition, was to travel north and visit family for the holidays. Nature’s plan, though, was to make the Michigan roads as undriveable as possible through a weather assault of wind, snow, cold and ice. It was the Christmas Eve blizzard.

I’m from Michigan, so snowstorms are always in the forecast no matter what month of the year it is. Drive through enough winters, like I have, and you too will begin to posses a set of skills centered around calm, supreme attentiveness and road lane visualization when there, seemingly, are no lanes.

When we heard the travel warning for this particular time, and the warnings have been known to overestimate things, we discussed it and decided to give the trip an effort.

Even on family trips, actually, especially on family trips, I bring a dedicated piece of camera gear for documentation purposes. With my 35mm rangefinder in tow, I’d be ready to photograph anything.

Grand Traverse County

As we exited our neighborhood and made our way north, it was apparent that the storm was indeed trying its best to cause dangerous travel conditions. Blinding snow was whipping it’s way at a high velocity from the west and ice had already established itself on the pavement.

“Is this smart?,” my partner Meg said. The answer was,”No.”

We decided to turn around at the next drive, which happened to be a service drive to a fruit orchard farm.

Not one to squander a photographic opportunity, I grabbed my camera and exited the vehicle to make some pictures. The full force of winter was seen, heard and felt as I made some steps to photograph some winter scenes.

One of my favorite reasons to photograph during winter is that when there are colors, the stark whiteness of winter really makes them pop.

There was a teal shed of some sort that I photographed first. Then, when I turned around, there was a school bus in the yard of a house across the road.

My total time photographing was about five minutes.

Grand Traverse County

The point of this post is this: Life has changes and circumstances that seem to be in a constant state of flux. By having a camera, and that includes cell phone cameras, and being receptive to photograph opportunities, you’ll find that you’ll have more chances to be creative and to simply create.

Grand Traverse County

As days become busier and busier and time becomes ever more valuable, I’m finding it more important than ever to carve out time and make chances to photograph and be creative.

The best way to do this, for me, has been to simply have a picture-taking device and to be open to photographing.

If you’re finding that you’re not taking as many pictures as you’d like, try to bring your camera with you everywhere. Be open to new photographic possibilities and maybe take a different route to and from work. You may discover new photographic opportunities and you may find that you’re inspired to create art.

Voyaging: A 2023 Springtime Photo Trip to Saginaw, Michigan

Voyaging: A 2023 Springtime Photo Trip to Saginaw, Michigan

Tell someone you’re going away for a weekend to Saginaw, Michigan to take photos, and you may receive puzzling expressions—I certainly did. The responses of wonderment I received were mostly from the people I encountered in Saginaw, too. Saginaw is often on lists, but they’re 

Tips for Photographing in the Midday Sun

Tips for Photographing in the Midday Sun

As photographers, we obviously would like to photography when the light is optimum. The golden hour, the blue hour, sunsets, sunrises—these are all times of day when the light can turn gorgeous and can result in exquisite images. But, what do you do when the 

On Assignment for The Wall Street Journal: “How ‘eDNA’ Might Transform the Search for Missing Service Members”

On Assignment for The Wall Street Journal: “How ‘eDNA’ Might Transform the Search for Missing Service Members”

In the span of only a few days, I went from receiving a photo assignment from The Wall Street Journal, to feeling Lake Huron spray hit my face as we sped toward shipwreck Pewabic, trying to beat inclement weather.

As a freelance photographer, when I’m commissioned by someone to make pictures for them, I take every inquiry seriously.

This rings especially true when the assignment comes from The Wall Street Journal. I’ve been fortunate to work with them on a number of assignments, and they’ve all been not only fascinating, but they’ve also held potential for interesting visuals as well.

Russ Green, from right, superintendent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Joe Hoyt, national coordinator with the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and Jessica Keller, diving safety officer with the University of Miami, prepare Saturday, August 6, 2022 for a dive to the shipwreck site of the steamer Pewabic, approximately 170 feet below the surface, in the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. Divers will set up a reference grid and place collection equipment at the shipwreck site so another team of divers will be able to collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for eDNA, or, environmental DNA. //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

Last August, my assignment was to meet and travel with a group of researchers and divers as they traveled to the site of a shipwreck. The objective of their excursion, and what I was to document, was their gathering of environmental DNA (eDNA) at the site.

The eDNA is gathered when collection tubes are placed near the shipwreck—it could also be a plane, or any other area of underwater interest—and sediment is collected at the site. Once the sediment is collected, it is transported to a laboratory for analyzing.

After working at some of the shipwrecks in Lake Huron, in Michigan’s northeast, many of the researchers were going to travel to Italy to explore and research a World War II plane that was underwater. It was interesting to hear about how this talented group of researchers was collaborating on a world-wide level.

This was a challenging, but extremely fulfilling assignment. Weather was the ultimate dictator of when, if and how long, anyone was going to travel to the shipwreck site. Since the weather changes so quickly, especially on the Great Lakes, it wasn’t decided whether or not the trip would take place until a couple of hours before the scheduled time.

Fortunately, there was a window of time when we could go.

Research vessel Storm is navigated Saturday, August 6, 2022 toward the site of the shipwreck Pewabic in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

Typically, there would be a group of divers that setup the equipment and supplies needed for the sediment collection. Then, there would be another group of divers that followed, and they would gather the sediment at the chosen site.

Since the weather was turning windy and wavy, only the first group of divers—they’re the ones who setup the sediment collection tubes at the underwater site—went down.

From a photojournalist’s standpoint, I was mostly thankful that any divers at all were able to go down.

Photographing this was really enjoyable. Everyone was extremely informative, helpful, professional and kind. One of the most difficult aspects of photojournalism, for a photojournalist, is gathering caption information.

If people are in a photo, it’s of utmost importance that their names are not only included in the captions, but spelled correctly.

Divers climb aboard the research vessel Storm and remove their equipment Saturday, August 6, 2022 after diving to the site of the shipwreck Pewabic, approximately 170 feet below the surface, in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The divers set up a reference grid and placed collection equipment at the shipwreck site so that another team of divers can collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for environmental DNA (eDNA). //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

My habit that has worked the best for me regarding this has been to listen to someone spell their name, and then I show them my notepad after I’ve written it down, so they can correct me if need be. It works really well.

Since most of my photo subjects were in diving gear, I had to make sure to write down who was wearing what, so that I’d have an idea of who was who when I would look at the photos later. A quick description like: ‘diver with red shoes and blue goggles’, can make all the difference.

A crate of sediment core collection tubes lies aboard the research vessel Storm Saturday, August 6, 2022 before being placed near the shipwreck of the steamer Pewabic, approximately 170 feet below the surface, in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. Divers will set up a reference grid and place collection equipment at the shipwreck site so another team of divers will be able to collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for environmental DNA (eDNA). //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

After returning to shore, the task of toning and captioning photos begins. Fortunately, I was able to have enough time to drive three hours home to do this. Sometimes, the turnaround time is so quick, the photo toning and captioning has to be completed as soon as possible.

I was pleased with how the photos turned out. My attention to what was going on is always really high in the moment and I could walk away from this assignment knowing I had done my best. A technique that I’ve adopted ever since I’ve started with photojournalism, though, is to critique my work and look for areas of improvement.

The final online layout, visible here, was exceptional and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how it came together as a narrative and visually interesting package.

A self-critiquing of my work has always given me pause and helped me find areas that I could do better during future assignments.

John Bright, research coordinator and unit diving supervisor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, talks with a diver Saturday, August 6, 2022 after a dive was made to the site of the shipwreck Pewabic in the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. Divers set up a reference grid and placed collection equipment at the shipwreck site so that another team of divers can collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for environmental DNA (eDNA). //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

To me, photojournalism is the most fulfilling occupation and craft in the world. It allows a person to be creative while still gathering information. This assignment checked all the boxes and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to photograph it.

If you’re interested in photographing assignments of some kind, find out what interests you and look for outlets or publications that use images like the ones you’re keen on. Keep photographing and building a body of work, then reach out to a photo editor and tell them you’d like to take photos for them.

Don’t be discouraged if your call isn’t well received or even received at all; photo editors and directors of photography are extremely busy. If you’re lucky you may receive a healthy dose of critiquing. I’ve always listened to criticism that came my way and tried to adjust accordingly.

Keep photographing things that are important to you and have fun.

Why You Should Put Yourself on Assignment

Why You Should Put Yourself on Assignment

When you open your email’s ‘Inbox’ to find that an editor has reached out for you to take photos, it’s exhilarating. Making pictures, being creative, having access to photograph interesting people, places, things, etc., and making money—it all can be as thrilling as it sounds.