In the Beginning…in Bridgeport, CT

When I first stepped foot in Connecticut as a photographer, it was after nearly 2 years as a staff photographer at a small daily newspaper that was located far from everywhere and close to nothing.

I had a great experience at the newspaper that gave me my first job out of college, but as a kid that grew up on Long Island in the shadow of NYC, I was looking for more. Small town life was not so much for me, even if rural upstate NY treated me well.

My very first day as a news photographer in Connecticut was the start of my 10 months as a photographer at the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport. A medium sized daily paper, they had a staff nearly a dozen photographers, a far cry from the 1 of 2 photographers I was at the Times Herald in Olean, NY.

Hillary Clinton shoots a basketball at the Bridgeport YMCA on Sept. 14, 1992, long before her time as First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State or the Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

Hillary Clinton shoots a basketball at the Bridgeport YMCA on Sept. 14, 1992, long before her time as First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State or the Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

When I entered the Post on day 1, I was full of enthusiasm and energy. I was determined to make the best of whatever they threw at me. I wanted to make an good impression. This was September 1992 and the country was deep in the midst of a Presidential campaign which saw Bill Clinton taking on George H. W. Bush. I didn’t know that much about Presidential politics, but certainly didn’t think the small, mostly democratic state of Connecticut would be a regular stop on the campaign trail.

To my great surprise, assignment 1 on day 1 in Connecticut had me covering a visit from then barely known Hillary Clinton during a campaign visit to the Bridgeport YMCA, just a short walk from the Post HQ on State Street in downtown Bridgeport.

I don’t remember much about the assignment, but had a clear recollection of making an unusual photo of Hillary Clinton tossing  basketball. I have no idea why she was shooting hoops, but welcome to the campaign trail, where anything goes if the campaign thinks it will convince someone to cast a vote for them.

After catching up with my good friend Ned a few weeks back, I passed the YMCA in Bridgeport and recalled the assignment to him. Little did I know, he had just been organizing and archiving a lot of old and historical images for the photo dept in preparation for the newspaper moving from the State Street building. The 2 images seen here were part of the reorganization. Yes, they were real photographic prints and we shot film back then. We actually printed all our own photos on deadline too. Now these photos are not remarkable in any way, but the opportunity to look back and see where it all started for me in Connecticut is interesting. I also realized looking at these prints that Hillary Clinton didn’t always wear pant suits.

Hillary Clinton in Bridgeport, CT on Sept. 14, 1992

Hillary Clinton in Bridgeport, CT on Sept. 14, 1992 before the pants suits.

Since then I have covered a handful of Presidential campaigns as they came through Connecticut, mostly for the Associated Press in the mid-1990’s. I don’t cover campaign politics much anymore, but it’s fun to look back and see some of the early work and experiences that shaped me as a photographer.

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3 (maybe 4) reasons mirrorless cameras are better than DSLR’s

Anyone that knows me is aware that I am bothered by the disproportionate amount of attention that camera gear gets versus the “how hard and smart are you willing to work” portion of the discussion.

Camera are mostly light tight boxes with lenses and your gear of choice has little bearing on how good the images are that you are producing or how successful your business is.


Professional wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino listens at the side of the stage at WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in San Jose, California. Sony A7s, 1/10 sec f4.0, 16-35mm, ISO 10,000

All that being said, there have been some advancements that lend themselves to some attention for their ability to do things other cameras can’t.

I wasn’t first on the mirrorless camera bandwagon. I wasn’t even 2nd or 3rd. I rememeber reading a blog post 2 or 3 years ago that said mirrorless cameras would render DSLR’s obsolete, I laughed and figured it was written by someone with a horse in the race.

I had tried mirrorless cameras a few times over the years and kind of hated them. But I kept going back to see what they had improved upon. These are tools of my trade and when the equipment can do something truly different and ground breaking that allows you to work in ways you couldn’t before, it’s worth discussing.

Here are 3 (maybe 4) reasons why I think mirrorless cameras are the future:

1.True Silent Mode:

I was schooled in the newspaper and wire photo business and when you want to be a fly on the wall to capture an image without drawing attention to yourself, being quiet (or silent) is a big advantage. Some of the newer Sony A7 line cameras finally have a true silent mode, which is a huge advantage for many lines of work. I happen to do a lot of documentary photography and work behind the scenes of TV shows. Operating without being noticed or heard is a huge advantage. I have been using a Sony A7s for much of this work and not only are you less noticeable which makes it easier to create more authentic images, but being silent keeps you of the shot list of TV cameramen, film camera operators and audio technicians. The lack of a mirror flapping up and down in your camera is significant in both noise and camera shake. Anyone that has worked on a TV set and has been forced to use a camera blimp for your DSLR knows what I’m talking about. It’s about the worst photo experience ever. Camera blimps suck. They are big and clunky and you have limited access to the camera functions etc. It’s a photo mojo killer and your arms hurt from carrying a cider block size camera for a whole day. Yeah, a silent mode on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III is pretty good, but it’s more of a quiet mode than a silent mode and some audio technicians think that is not enough and demand the blimp. Now you can just get a mirrorless camera with a silent mode and fire away and leave the blimp at home. This is ground breaking for set photographers, documentary photographers and even wedding photographers.

2. Low Light/High ISO

Yes, all cameras manufacturers are making shooting at high ISO more achievable every day, but the mirrorless cameras seem to be leading the pack in quality. Real world shooting at ISO higher than 10,000 for things other than web/digital is happening now. This is a range unheard of previously and the opportunities it presents are wonderful. Shooting images in places where the light is so dark shooting there used to be otherwise impossible. We’ve all seen the 4k videos shot by moon light and the documentary photography in places that only have neon signs. It’s a remarkable change in the way we gather images. In short, this was just not possible previously and will only continue to get better with both mirrorless and cameras with mirrors.

3. Wifi/transmit without a computer


Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson warms up backstage before entering the stadium for Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara ,California. Shot with a Sony A7s.

Why this isn’t a feature in every pro camera is beyond me. Truly no reason for a working pro not to have the ability to send our image to a smartphone/app, edit and send. Canon and Nikon are you listening? Sony has a very neat system I used for almost a week, on assignment, that worked nearly flawlessly. For convenience and detail sake, I’ve pasted a blog post I hadn’t published before below that details how I use this professionally.

Here is a breakdown of the A7s and why this camera was such a good fit for me and one job in particular.

Game Changer: Sony A7s

Driving along highway 101 near San Francisco its hard not to see the billboards. One after another, giant photo after giant photo, with a small caption at the bottom.

Shot with iPhone 6.

Many professional photographers, myself included,  have a love/hate relationship with camera phones and their place in the photo world. Yes, they are good, but they rarely offer the control over an image than camera systems do .

For me, as a professional photographer, this was a game changer.
Working at big media events and getting images out quickly has always meant either having an editing station close by at all times or a photo editor working exclusively with you to take your cards, edit and send images.

For much of the past decade I have been shooting documentary stories behind the scenes at WWE’s landmark yearly event, Wrestlemania. This year was a little different as it was strictly photo based, with short captions and time codes to accompany the images to be displayed on their web site that would be a running photo journal of the week.


HHH prepares to enter from below the stage at Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara, CA. Sony A7s, 16-35mm.

Working with new equipment at a big event is not typical for me.  This year in addition to my usual haul of Canon EOS digital cameras and lenses, I brought with me a new Sony A7s camera and 3 Sony/Zeiss lenses. I have been using them for a couple of months, but not in high pressure, time sensitive work environments.

I did this for 2 reasons. The first is that the A7s is considered one of the best (if not THE best) low light cameras on the market and I knew I was going to be shooting in challenging lighting environments. The second is Sony has built in WIFI transmission from the camera to your smart phone or tablet through their Play Memories app and it work easily and beautifully every time.

Wresltemania is the Super Bowl of sports entertainment and this year it was held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, where the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers play their home games. It’s a cavernous modern day stadium and there is a lot of ground to cover on show day.

For our Wrestlemania Diary, which we have called the project for many years, I was tasked with producing photos of the week that happen behind the scenes. The little things that happen off stage that help tell stories of how the show was produced or an emotional connection that might be part of the story behind the event.

I was shooting all my images to a 64GB Sony SD card as RAW files and then making edits of the one or two frames I liked best from each situation and sending them to my iPhone. The transfers took less than 10 seconds and then I would make conversions to black and white and tone and exposure adjustments with Lightroom mobile. From there I texted each image to a content editor at WWE at the show, but not with me and to a photo editor at working back in Stamford, CT. After an image was approved, I emailed a higher resolution file to the photo editor for use in the running gallery.

The entire process from shoot time to sending a finished file was about 90 seconds, with images getting posted to the site very soon after. Some of these images were multi-purposed to WWE’s Instagram and/or twitter feeds as well.

While shooting with Sony’s A7s cameras and lenses took some getting used to, especially with the electronic viewfinder, this was a huge advance is what I can do for my client and how quickly I can provide quality images nearly as fast as someone shooting with a camera phone. You can sing the praises of the latest iPhone and what kind of file it produces, but it doesn’t shoot RAW for future publishing needs and under challenging lighting conditions, shooting with an iPhone can be downright awful.

This technology leveled the playing field for me in a way I didn’t realized existed. Shooting at unthought of high ISO ranges and getting professional quality images that I can send out nearly immediately is something that merges my skills and vision as a professional photographer with quality and speed of Instagram.

I’ve always felt like technology combined with photography has been a mixed blessing. I was not on the bleeding edge of the changeover from film to digital and for many years I resented being a photo industry guinea pig as we all struggled to get the newest digital equipment used to it’s potential.

The cameras and lenses have long produced impressive quality files under challenging and even terrible lighting conditions, but for me there was still a disconnect in work environments that demand ever quicker turn around of quality photography.

I have always had mixed feelings to the “social media producers” that I often see in work environments. I understand their place in the world of modern day marketing but I feel like they mostly sacrifice quality for the sake of immediacy. Images that are supposed to support a brand are posted as quickly as possible without thought to whether it supports the brands visual mission and consistency.

4. Size/Weight

Ok, I’ll admit it. I used to like big cameras, especially when I was first starting out. It made me feel important. Boy has my philosophy on this changed. Mirrorless cameras weigh MUCH less. Is that ever a disadvantage? I’d say no, but this is just my opinion. I suppose some people still might think that a big camera makes a big impression and can create some kind of aura around you. I prefer to do this with confidence and great images, not gear. Yes, the mirrorless cameras do look like toys sometimes, but they are big on performance. Anyone that has carried cameras around all day long for one or several days knows that physically it can be draining. Small gear=less strain on your body. Short and simple. I find no real downside on the size of the gear.


Here are some notable exceptions and considerations to my mirrorless/mirrored debate:

  1. Viewfinder: Getting used to a electronic viewfinder is a huge adjustment from an optical viewfinder in a DSLR. There is not getting around it. It’s a tough adjustment and it takes time. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It was the toughest adjustment for me.
  2. Sports/auto focus/follow focus: One category that will continue to be ruled by DLSR’s is sports. The auto focus /follow focus of mirrorless cameras is not there yet and the lens offerings are not enough for a pro sports photographer.
  3. Lens selection: This is rapidly getting better, but Sony, Fuji and other camera manufacturers have a long way to go in offering the wide selection of lenses needed by many professional photographers.
Tom Buchanan - October 8, 2015 - 6:18 am

According to Peta Pixel, it looks like Pete Souza has been toying with a Sony mirrorless camera at The White House:

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Lost and Found

Years back I lost some film negatives. It was a processed and sleeved roll of Kodak Tri-x that I shot at a baseball Old Timers Day game in June of 1989, the first Summer I spent working and living in Buffalo while I was still in college.

That Summer I had 2 jobs. I was a photography intern for the Niagara Falls Gazette, a daily newspaper owned by Gannett Corporation, I was a staff photographer for a chain of weekly newspapers in Western New York called the Metro Community News.

The internship was 2 days a week and the staff job was 5 days a week, which left a grand total of zero days for myself that Summer, but I was OK with that. Actually, I loved it. I was sharing an apartment with 3 other photographers who were all much more experienced than I was. It was intimidating, but there was no better learning situation for a young photographer looking for experience. I lived photography 24/7 that Summer and those years were formative for me as holding a camera in your hands 8-10 hours a day 7 days a week gets you closer to the 10,000 hours you need to be any good.


At some point that Summer I heard that Buffalo (specifically Pilot Field, as it used to be called) was going to host a baseball Old Timers Day game. Now you ask, why would Buffalo, with no major league team, host a game of former major leaguers, with many big names coming to this upstate NY city with only a AAA baseball team? I’m not sure even to this day, but I wasn’t complaining.   I just wanted to shoot everything I could to build a photography portfolio of my best work and what better way to do that than with photos of big name big leaguers.

I got a photo credential from the weekly newspaper I was working for and shot the whole game, but the highlight for me was when they introduced Joe DiMaggio, a NY baseball legend and by far the biggest name in attendance. He was introduced, he walked out, waved his ball cap and went back to the dugout. Honestly, It was kind of anti-climactic. He seemed to be in a hurry or maybe he didn’t want to even be there. I was stationed on the infield with my trusty Nikon F-2 and a 180mm f2.8 lens and was just praying I’d make a good frame. It happened so fast, I just follow focused with my telephoto lens the best I could and fired away with the motor drive.

As it turned out, I made a pretty nice frame of Joe, despite his hurry. Watch this video of Joe DiMaggio’s intro at the game I found while researching the date of this game, which was June 19, 1989. He’s there and gone in a blink. You can even see me at the :10 mark of the video (frame grab below…yes I had hair then) Just a 21-year-old kid trying to just make a good image.


Years later as I carted my work and negatives around, I somehow lost track of the image. For years I had been hoping it would turn up. Well, today was the day. Doing some long overdue office cleanup and organizing, I found a folder of slides and negatives returned from my stock photo agency when they had digitized everything and they no longer needed the film.

There it was among the 35mm and 120mm slides…a lone sleeve of 35mm black and white film. My image of Joe neatly circled in red sharpie.


I was happy to find this little gem I had been trying to located for a bunch of years. The image has no huge value. I’m not sure it’s ever generated any revenue for me, but it does represent a time in my photo career that was immensely important to my professional development. And it was a damn fun Summer.

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