November 4th, 2014

PhotoPlus Expo 2014: Gerd Ludwig’s Tips on Shooting in Low Light

Gerd Ludwig dips into his bag of tricks at PhotoPlus Expo 2014 © Matthew Ismael Ruiz

Gerd Ludwig dips into his bag of tricks at PhotoPlus Expo 2014 © Matthew Ismael Ruiz

During his PhotoPlus Expo seminar, “Digital Vision in Low Light,” the photographer Gerd Ludwig offered a peek behind the curtain at the tools and techniques he uses to make National Geographic-worthy images under terrible conditions. The veteran photographer spoke for two hours about the ways he uses small strobes and long exposures as well as rapport with subjects to make the images he captures in Russia and the Ukraine for NatGeo, his book Broken Empire, and his Chernobyl iPad app, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl.

One of the first things Ludwig shared was that he had never had an image published in National Geographic that was shot at a speed higher than ISO 500. He often shoots at night—or in the case of a sarcophagus he photographed at Chernobyl, in pitch darkness—but darkness isn’t the only reason Ludwig likes to use strobes. Harsh fluorescent lighting can make for hideous color tone, something he would regularly encounter in Russia.

“The Russian fluorescent lights are the worst in the world,” Ludwig explains. “They’re very green.” He would use strobes to counteract the sickly green glow, often attaching gels to suit his esthetic.

For one famous shot of the control room of reactor #4 at Chernobyl, he revealed the secret to the dramatic lighting that seemed to emanate from within the control panel: During a long exposure, he and his assistant crouched behind the panel and fired strobes up onto the wall-mounted displays. Again, he used a variety of gels to get the tone of the light just right.

Here are some additional technical nuggets that Ludwig shared during his seminar:

- When shooting in low-light with strobes, Ludwig typically shoots TTL on Aperture Priority, firing his strobes at -1, or -2 1/3 EV.
- Strobes are often more effective when the subject looks away from the light.
- In falling snow, using a wide-angle on the strobe on camera illuminates the snow closest to you, to dramatic effect.
- Using a headlamp can be helpful when working in complete darkness (a trick he used in the sarcophagus at Chernobyl). You can get a red one that isn’t as intense, and during long exposures, you can “paint” your scene with the headlamps to emphasize various elements.
- In a pinch, you can use your hand as a reflector, provided you have light skin.
- You can use the free sample set of gels at your local camera store to make your own flash gels.

Much of Ludwig’s work in Chernobyl focuses not just on the ruins of the plant, but of the people affected by the plant’s meltdown, particularly, the children of victims of contamination from the disaster’s nuclear fallout. The children’s physical condition is difficult to witness—most are permanently disabled by the effects of radiation. But in videos he played of himself taking photographs in the hospital, he engaged the children completely, encouraging them to dance, even crawling under tables to meet them on their own level. In one particularly touching moment, he touches the hand of a blind and deaf boy, sitting on the ground because the boy cannot walk. The boy smiles instantly, and Ludwig returns the favor.

“When shooting underprivileged victims,” Ludwig told his audience, “you have to realize that when you point the camera at them, you temporarily increase their pain.”

 Related Article

PDN Video: Gerd Ludwig on Why He’s Risked His Life at Chernobyl

August 5th, 2014

Photogs Marcus Bleasdale, Steve Ringman Win Environmental Journalism Awards

The Society of Environmental Journalists announced their 2014 awards for reporting on the environment yesterday. Seattle Times staffer Steve Ringman and VII’s Marcus Bleasdale were among the honorees.

Ringman was recognized for his work with writer Craig Allen Welch on “Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn,” the Seattle Times‘ multi-part investigation of ocean acidification and its impacts on the Pacific Ocean. (PDN spoke with Ringman and the Seattle Times about the creation of the “Sea Change” for our December 2013 issue. Read that feature here.) Ringman and Welch received the Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding In-depth Reporting for a large market publication, the top award given by SEJ.

Bleasdale received the award for Outstanding Environmental Photojournalism for “The Price of Precious,” his story on conflict mineral mining in Congo, which was published by National Geographic. (PDN featured Bleasdale’s long-term project on conflict minerals in our December 2013 issue. Read that story here.)

Second place in the Environmental Photojournalism category went to J. Carl Ganter, Matt Black and Brian Lehmann for their photographs examining the effects of water scarcity, published in Circle of Blue. Jenny E. Ross received a third place mention for her photo essay on polar bears, published by Natural History magazine.

The awards will be given out during a ceremony at the SEJ’s annual conference, which takes place in New Orleans in early September.

Related: MSNBC.com: A Place for Serious Photo Stories (Subscribers only)

February 14th, 2014

Patrick Smith Named POYi’s 2014 Sports Photographer of the Year

©Patrick Smith

©Patrick Smith

Freelance photographer Patrick Smith has won Sports Photographer of the Year honors at the 2014 Pictures of the Year International competition (POYi). Smith won for a diverse portfolio that emphasized his NASCAR coverage, but included sports action, portraits and feature photos of athletes and fans of various sports.

National Geographic magazine has won the top prize in the Sports Story Editing category for a story titled “On the Trail with the First Skiers,” a story about skiers in a remote area of China and the clues they offer about the evolution of the sport. The story was photographed by Jonas Bendiksen.

Other categories in the 2014 POYi Sports Division contest and their first-place winners include:

Sports Action: Mark J. Terrill of Associated Press for his photograph of welterweight boxer Pablo Cesar Cano landing a punch on the face of opponent Ashley Theophane.

Sports Feature: Jabin Botsford, a student at Western Kentucky University, for an image he shot at a Kentucky high school cheerleading competition.

Recreational Sports: Alex Goodlett of the Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), for an image he shot at a high school volleyball match.

Sports Picture Story:  Daniel Ochoa De Olza for a story about bullfighting in Spain.

Judges for the Sports Division entries were James Colton, Elsa Garrison, and John McDonnell

Judging for the Reportage Division (formerly Magazine Division) entries begins tomorrow and continues through this weekend. Editing and Multimedia Division entries will be judged next week.

Related
Barbara Davidson Named 2014 POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year

POYi Posts Winning Entries for Its Newspaper Division Contest (And PDN Names the Photographers)

October 29th, 2013

PPE 2103: Inside the Mind of a Photo Editor

Have you ever wondered what a photo editor actually does? At the 2013 PhotoPlus Expo panel “Photo Editing: A to Z” attendees got an inside look courtesy of two speakers: Elizabeth Krist of National Geographic and Bronwen Latimer of The Washington Post.

The panel was broken up into short-form and long-form journalism topics, as the two have widely different lead times. Latimer, the deputy director of photography at The Washington Post, noted that the lead-time for an article in the newspaper is anywhere from two to eight hours. She added that the lead-time is even shorter on the Web. Krist said National Geographic has a minimum lead-time of six months, and that they are already working on stories for 2015.

Latimer said she’s constantly looking at photo sources, including blogs, websites and galleries, for work that provides a fresh perspective on a subject. Her presentation included examples of photos from promos, e-mails, and websites that she has hung on to because she either likes the image or may have an article in the future on a topic that the image illustrates. Latimer gave the following advice to photographers interested in catching the eye of newspaper photo editors: always keep your website up to date so editors can see what you’re working on; show the work you want to be shooting; and pitch ideas to the digital extensions of newspapers because they are always looking for new content to post on their blogs and websites.

To discuss long-form journalism, Krist, the senior photo editor at National Geographic, showed David Guttenfelder’s work that was featured in the October issue for an article about North Korea. She shared the edit of images that she pitched to Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns and noted that she likes to have a rhythm to a layout so she often organizes work by different themes, in this case by categories like city life, the countryside, propaganda, etc. (These categories helped to avoid repetition in the layout so there was enough variety to warrant the 20 pages, including a gatefold, that National Geographic dedicated to the story.) Krist also briefly spoke about the exhibition “Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment,” which she curated.

Both Latimer and Krist mentioned that they appreciate photographers who explore a topic in depth. Krist added that she likes to see a whole body of work when photographers show her their portfolios.

When asked what they look for when choosing a layout’s opening image, Krist said she likes an image to be unexpected and draw the viewer in. Latimer noted the photo should grab a reader’s attention, and be the photographic equivalent of a gut punch. This advice seems as applicable to portfolio and presentations as it is for publications.

May 3rd, 2013

National Geographic and W Win Photography Categories at National Magazine Awards

The August 2012 cover of National Geographic. This issue was part of the winning submission in the Photography category of the National Magazine Awards. It features an image from Aaron Huey's series on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. © National Geographic/Photo by Aaron Huey.

The August 2012 cover of National Geographic. This issue was part of NG’s winning submission in the Photography category of the National Magazine Awards. It features an image from Aaron Huey’s series on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. © National Geographic/photo by Aaron Huey.

 

The American Society of Magazine Editors announced the winners of the 2013 National Magazine Awards last night in New York City. National Geographic won in four categories, including Photography and Multimedia. For the Photography category, National Geographic submitted three issues of the magazine, which included work by Aaron Huey, Andrew Parkinson, Carsten Peter,  Alex Webb and Michael Yamashita (August 2012); Robert Clark, Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky, Rob Kendrick, Stephanie Sinclair and Brian Skerry (September 2012); and Robert Clark, Carolyn Drake, Tim Layman, Michael “Nick” Nichols, Paolo Pellegrin and Mark Thiessen (December 2012). National Geographic won the Multimedia category for “Cheetahs on the Edge,” which included still images by Frans Lanting.

In the Feature Photography category, W magazine took home the prize for “Good Kate, Bad Kate,” a fashion editorial shot by Steven Klein and featuring model Kate Moss. The work appeared in W’s March 2012 issue.

Other notable winners last night included New York, which took home two awards including top honors as the Magazine of the Year, and TIME, which won the Design category.

Since 1966 the trade organization, in association with the Columbia University School of Journalism, has been recognizing excellence in publishing. This year almost 260 publications entered work for consideration in the annual awards. The 330 judges included magazine editors, art directors, photo editors and journalism educators.

For a complete list of winners, visit www.magazine.org.

Related Articles:

Helping Communities Speak for Themselves: Aaron Huey’s Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project
Photojournalist Aaron Huey sought a new way to tell the stories of the Oglala Lakota living on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and found it with an online tool that enables the residents to create and share their personal histories. (For subscribers only.)

From Volcanoes to Glaciers, Carsten Peter on Shooting in Challenging Conditions
The National Geographic photographer talks about doing whatever it takes to get the shot, whether it’s from the crater of a volcano to the interior of a glacier. (For subscribers only.)

Anatomy of an iPad App: A Photo Archive That’s Also an App
Michael “Nick” Nichols grew weary of offering his wildlife photography for free online, so he relauched his Web site as a low-cost iPad application. (For subscribers only.)

W Magazine: Past, Present, Future
Stefano Tonchi on the importance of photographers to the magazine’s history, how the popularity of online video is influencing editors, and what he sees for the future of W and the magazine business. (For subscribers only.)

January 31st, 2013

NPPA Honors Storm, Estrin, Harrity and Dimick

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has awarded its annual Clifton C. Edom Award to Brian Storm, founder of multimedia production company MediaStorm, the photojournalists’ organization announced today. The award, named for the first head of the photojournalism program at the University of Missouri at Columbia and the founder of the awards now known as Pictures of the Year International, recognizes an individual who inspires and motivates members of the photojournalism community.

NPPA also announced several other awards.

The Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award was awarded to two recipients:  photographer Charles W. “Chick” Harrity, a former contributor to US News & World Report, and Dennis Dimick, executive environment editor and interim director of photography at National Geographic Magazine.

Jim Estrin, senior photographer at The New York Times and editor of the LENS blog will receive the Kenneth P. McLaughlin Award of Merit, given to those who render “continuing outstanding service in the interests of news photography.” John Harrington, photographer and writer on business issues, received the J. Winton Lemen Fellowship Award for service in the interests of press photography.

A full list of winners and honors can be found on the website NPPA.org.