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Chuck Berry Performing Live in New York, 1972

A letter to Chuck Berry from Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan

Sad news this weekend, as we all learned that the great Chuck Berry had passed on at the age of 90. His contribution to modern music is such that the entire first page of a Google search for “father of rock and roll” features his name. Or, if you prefer a form of recognition less ephemeral, he was one of the few performers immortalized on the “Golden Record” placed aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft, now streaking through interstellar space at nearly 11 miles per second. “Go, Johnny, go”, indeed.

Chuck Berry live at Hofstra University (1972)

I was lucky enough to photograph Mr. Berry in concert (and fortunate enough to have the images close at hand, considering their age.) The time was November 1972, and the place was Hofstra University, on New York’s Long Island. It was a cool, slightly drizzly night outside, but you wouldn’t know it inside the auditorium, between the warmly-gelled stage lights and the energetic Berry, performing his signature “duck-walk” as he grinned and wailed away on his Gibson. The show was being filmed for ABC’s “In Concert” series, a new venture for the network, directed and executive produced by the legendary Don Kirshner.

Chuck Berry live at Hofstra University (1972)

Imagine my delight on finding that highlights from the show are available right here on YouTube. If you watch very carefully (pixels being so much larger and blurrier back then than they are now), you might be able to pick me out standing next to the TV cameras. (I’d much rather you gave your full attention to the music, though.)

And you’ll note that, were you an audiophile who wanted to hear the program in stereo, you were directed to tune your “hi-fi” to the ABC-affiliated FM radio station, which was simulcasting the show across the country. We were all a long way from carrying hi-def televisions in our pockets all day (which also happened to make phone calls and catch Pokémon), but the energy of those live performances was as good as ever – maybe even better.

Daniel Norton of Adorama Demonstrates ‘Filming a Narrative Dialogue’ with Rosco Silk LED Lights

Adorama crewShowing off Rosco’s new Silk LED lamps in the Adorama Pro department, Daniel Norton demonstrates how he builds a lighting setup from scratch, live, on YouTube. Take a look! If you watch closely, you may even notice our very own Allen Green in the audience…

Rosco Silk lighting set

Celebrate What’s Right With the World

We find ourselves this week at the end of an absolutely brutal political campaign. The phrase “worst election ever” is thrown around by both sides nearly every four years, but this year seems unlikely to be surpassed for decades (or so we hope). According to the Pew Research Center, literally half of either side is ‘afraid’ of the other party. And as many feared, the turmoil has not subsided as the contest ended; indeed, many tempers seem to be worsening as the transfer of power begins.

As we contemplate our role in this new world, I ask you to take another look at some of the precious details you may have forgotten were there all along, being masked by all the noise and vitriol. A moment of Zen is in order, even if only to recharge your batteries in order to better stand up for what you believe in. 


Dewitt Jones, former National Geographic photographer and a collaborator and friend of ours for years, publishes an ongoing project called “Celebrate What’s Right With the World!” Dewitt has a knack for discovering beauty and peace in natural scenes (though he might characterize these as “revelations” rather than “discoveries”). His project has evolved over the years from a film, to a website, to an entire community of like-minded people posting their own celebrations of life for all to enjoy. Most of the action takes place on his Facebook page, but if that’s not your style, you can choose to follow him on Twitter or Instagram, or join his mailing list. Whatever your choice, I hope you’ll spend a few moments at the end of a tumultuous week scrolling through Dewitt’s images, and that they bring you some wonder, joy, inspiration, or peace. 

Objects of Desire (or Vigorous Want, at Least) at PhotoPlus Expo 2016

The exhibits have been taken down at NYC’s Javits Center, and PhotoPlus Expo 2016 is now in the past. It’s always a pleasure to run into friends and dealers while touring the show floor, as we all oooh and ahhh at the shiny new gizmos on display, and start to make mental notes of which ones we’re going to start saving for. Here’s a recap of some of what’s new and what is changing in how we’ll shoot pictures and video this year…

nikon-booth-at-ppe-2016

A Death Spiral for DSLRs?

Well, probably more like a steep loss of altitude. As always, Nikon and Canon were out in force, and lots of fans were there to see and play with their new toys. But the real action was to be found at mirrorless vendors like Sony, and Fuji, and Lumix. I’ve never seen a presentation like Sony’s before. Their range of mirrorless cameras and the vast array of optics they showed drew crowds from the moment the doors opened.

Sony booth at PPE 2016

Sony lenses at PPE 2016

The capabilities of these cameras, both in still and 4K video, are astonishing. It’s why my full-frame DSLRs now spend much of their time on the shelf. It’s also why these cameras are being widely used in professional video production and why companies like Zeiss are making feature-worthy optics to fit them.

It’s no surprise that Fotodiox (about whom I’ve written before) is continually expanding their range of adapters to ensure that virtually any lens can be used with any of the new cameras, in most cases transferring their auto-focus technology at the same time. I love being able to use vintage Leica M-series optics on my Fuji X-E2, particularly for portraiture.

And I’ll never be smart enough to figure out how Lumix (and others) can offer a camera with a 24-480mm optical zoom and a host of other phenomenal features that weighs not much more than my 43-86 Zoom-Nikkor from the late ’60s (still languishing in a desk drawer).

Lensbaby Trio28 at PPE 2016

Accessories of Note

Even though I had very high regard for the unique products they brought to photographers, I’ve never owned a Lensbaby product. It’s probably because, through decades of photojournalism work, I avoided anything that modified the images I produced. But things change, and I was intrigued to learn about their Trio 28 for mirrorless cameras. It produces three versatile effects on a rotating mount over a 28mm lens (effectively 42mm on my Fuji). I played with it at the show, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it soon.

ThinkTank Red Whips at PPE 2016

I’ve been using Think Tank memory card wallets for years, but wasn’t aware of their full range of products. Here’s one that everyone needs: Red Whips adjustable elastic cable ties. Managing cords and cables at home or on location is a real pain, and a package of these would be the perfect stocking stuffer (along with a pack of our microGAFFER – a favorite on holiday shopping lists year after year!)

Op/Tech USA is a company with a vast range of accessories, some of which I’ve been using for a long time. At PhotoPlus Expo, I tried a new camera strap they call the “Envy” on my Fuji mirrorless. It’s got a slim profile and is padded with memory foam. Op/Tech makes hundreds of products, and I plan to put the Envy strap on all my camera bodies. You’ve gotta love that—just like us—they’re proud to stamp the “Made in the USA” banner on practically all their products, and even produced a behind-the-scenes look into their workshop.

Phoxi FriendsMy best-in-show award for accessories, however, would have to go to Phoxi Friends. Marie Murray, a Canadian children’s photographer, has come up with a range of delightful creatures (with built-in squeakers) that wrap around the barrel of any lens and instantly engage any subject, particularly small children. Any photographer who’s struggled to get and hold the attention of a kid or pet knows how tough that can be. At her modest booth on the fringes of the exhibit floor, I watched dozens of attendees walk away with their new Phoxi Friends.

“Your New York Minute” Photo Contest

Not to forget what all this stuff is for — helping great photographers capture great images — PPE’s first official photo contest was held at the show, with the City of New York as its subject. Some magnificent images were chosen, both in the Amateur and Professional categories. Take a look, and be inspired!

Clever Hack: How to Use VSCO Filters and Other Develop Presets in Lightroom Mobile

Using desktop Lightroom presets on Lr Mobile

Lightroom users: Did you ever wish you had access to the photo processing filters on your desktop… when you weren’t at your desktop? Lucky for you, Reddit user naturalized_cinnamon shared a process by which you can sync your favorite Develop Module presets to Lightroom Mobile. Whether you use VSCO Film or you’ve created a set of your own presets, you’ll always have them at hand!

Here’s how it works: first, create a “host image” for each preset. Apply the preset to the image, and then use the Creative Cloud Sync feature to have those settings transfer to your phone. Once you find yourself in the mood to apply, say, Fuji Provia 100F to one of your iPhone shots, just bring it into Lr Mobile, then copy and paste the develop settings from the host image to your target image, and tweak if necessary. Very cool!

See the full process as described by naturalized_cinnamon. Note that the host images can be as simple or complex as you like; in his example, you can see that different brands of film have been color-coded: orange for Kodak, purple and green for Fuji, etc. The colors and/or gradients used won’t affect how your photos are processed, but can help you find what you’re looking for a little more quickly.

Live News Stand-Ups in the Age of Internet Memes

Used to be if you were doing a live shot during a local or network news broadcast, all you had to worry about was the ‘Hi Mom’ sign being lifted up behind you during your stand-up. But as NBC’s Katy Tur found out on May 27th in San Diego, it’s gotten a bit more risky.

Fuck Trump sign

Tur has been the principal reporter covering the Trump campaign for Nightly News, and when it’s a single-camera shoot, there’s no way to cut away from an offensive graphic in the crowd. The best you can hope for is to move your correspondent out of the line of fire and pan back to her in a graphically safer setting. Having directed a lot of live TV news, I can easily visualize the scene in the control room during the nine seconds this was on air on the East Coast. Guaranteed there was a cleaner version for all the other time zones.