Mountain Workshops 2010: Behind the scenes

In October I had the pleasure of attending the Mountain Workshops for the second straight year. Held in Elizabethtown, Ky., about 45 miles south of Louisville, the workshops welcomed more than 70 photojournalists who scoured Hardin County for picture and video stories.

In its 35th year, it was one of the largest workshops ever, if not the biggest, said James Kenney, director of the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University, host of the workshops. Check out the video — it was produced by the enormously talented staff that in many cases uses vacation time from their day jobs to support the workshops.

Mountain Workshops 2010: Glendale Geppetto

For 15 years, Hardin "Sonny" Hatfield has made toys by hand. His favorite subjects are characters from Mickey Mouse and Popeye cartoons. - By Derek PooreOf the two picture stories I produced this year at Mountain Workshops, my favorite was about a gentle toymaker in Glendale, Ky. Hardin "Sonny" Hatfield talked my ear off -- and I loved it.

He told me about the Army during World War II. He told me about his extensive vintage toy collection -- he had a story for each piece. He told me about the restaurant he used to run, and the toy museum he used to operate and the antique store he still owns.

And he let me into his life, only for a few days, but I was grateful.

For 15 years, he has made toys by hand. His favorite subjects are characters from Mickey Mouse and Popeye cartoons.

View the full picture story

Mountain Workshops 2010: Farming a Legacy

Steve Rogers is the second in three generations of farmers in Glendale, Ky. His dog, Scruffy, was abandoned at his 1,800-acre farm about three years ago. “We spoil him pretty good,” Rogers said. - By Derek Poore

Originally published as part of the Mountain Workshops, a weeklong photojournalism workshop produced
by Western Kentucky University. The 2010 workshops were held in Elizabethtown, Ky. >> View the full picture story.

The oil was all over the place, but Steve Rogers smiled.

His fire-apple red tractor was on the fritz. The problem was in a hard-to-reach spot. But after some finagling, he had it working again.

Steve runs his family’s 1,800-acre farm now that his father, Bud, and mother, Martha, are retired.

Steve has a daughter, Sarah, and two sons, Adam and Phillip, that are studying agronomy at Western Kentucky University. His boys grew up riding with him in combines and tractors. They recently bought their own farm not far away.

Farming is like gambling, Bud said. The summer of 2010 was especially dry, and Bud harvested his soybean crop about a month early.

“Timing and weather are everything in this farming,” Bud said.

Steve’s house is about 200 yards from his parents. It’s convenient, because his mom will often fix lunch, and his dad will drive it out to him while Steve’s working the farm.

Steve is handing down lessons of farming to his sons — a rite of passage once common for all Americans that has given way to urban expansion and sprawling mega farms. Steve used to take his sons with him from chore to chore, but now they plan the day’s work in the morning and split up.

“They go their way and I go mine,” Steve said, “and they’re on on their own.”

Picture Kentucky Promo

A short documentary about Picture Kentucky, the photojournalism workshop held each fall. This was shot, edited and produced live during the workshop Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2010 in Beattyville, Ky., a town tucked away in the hills of Appalachia. It premiered during the workshop’s final night.

To learn more about the workshop, check out, and watch multimedia content on its Vimeo channel.

Photojournalists invade Beattyville, Ky.

Picture Kentucky is a photojournalism workshop held each fall by the University of Kentucky’s journalism program and student newspaper the Kentucky Kernel.

Photographer David LaBelle says stories must have a lesson or they aren't worth telling. During the Picture Kentucky workshop, held Sept. 29-Oct. 2 in Beattyville, Ky., 17 student photojournalists covered Lee County's faces, places and spaces. 

I attended last year's Picture Kentucky in Hindman as a multimedia participant. This year I helped out on the staff.

With the help of Jonathan Palmer and Zach Brake I produced two videos. One is a documentary-style promotion for the workshop. The other was a fun, behind-the-scenes ride. Here's the fun one. I'll post the serious one after a final edit.

Amy Swann and Matt Thompson: Wedding Shoot

On Sept. 11 I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Amy Swann and Matt Thompson at the Crescent Hill Womans Club in Louisville, Ky. The couple’s ceremony and reception were held on-site. The venue was beautiful. The late-day sun and a little off-camera flash helped me with my portraits. The super sharp Canon 35mm f/1.4 L did the rest.

To see more images, visit my PhotoShelter galleries.

Emily Jent and Ryan Fackler: Wedding Shoot

Bride Emily Jent dances with her father - By Derek Poore

On Aug. 28 I had the pleasure of assisting Brad Luttrell shoot the wedding of Emily Jent and Ryan Fackler. The wedding and reception were held at a private residence in the Crescent Hill area of Louisville. 

During the ceremony I started making pictures from the wings but I took a moment and shot wide and telephoto from the roof in the middle of the service. Brad nailed a great shot from the roof while I played VAL (voice assisted lightstand) with an SB-26 Speedlight during the bride and groom’s first dance.

Congrats Emily and Ryan! Check out more pictures in my PhotoShelter gallery.

Andrea and Brett: eHarmony TV spoof

Engagement videos do not have to always be a serious, romantic montage of a content couple. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

This is a parody of eHarmony’s TV commercials. They really did first meet on eHarmony. Sort of. Check the video for the full story. Jonathan Palmer and I made this for the upcoming wedding of Andrea Uhde and Brett Shepherd. Watch in HD.

Jeanie Bradley and Michael Lawrence: Wedding Shoot


Light stands and the wind do not mix, especially with umbrella wind sails on top. While helping Brad Luttrell shoot a recent wedding, I hauled up some of my Strobist-inspired dumbbell weights. I used bungee cords to attach the weights near the bottom of the light stands.

Despite the 20 mph winds that were slamming the rooftop of Glassworks in downtown Louisville, the stands weren’t going anywhere, but it didn’t keep my umbrellas from flipping inside out. That’s a whole other problem entirely. 

The rain clouds held off, though, and the rooftop ceremony went off with the bride and groom happily married. Congratulations to Jeanie Bradley and Michael Lawrence!

See more pictures at Photoshelter.


To desaturate, or not?


I have been torn a lot lately on whether certain images look better in black and white or color. In the case of my toddler playing in his baby pool, I think both are appropriate at different times.

Link La Rocca Wedding

Link La Rocca Wedding at Locust Grove. Photos by Derek Poore.

On June 12 I helped photographer Brad Luttrell shoot the wedding of Robert Link and Alessandra La Rocca in the blistering Louisville heat. The ceremony was held at St. Francis of Rome and the reception followed outside at Locust Grove.

The historic land and home dates to the 1700s and was the last residence of George Rogers Clark, founder of Louisville. Keepers of the site say Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stopped there on the way back from exploring the West.

The reception setting made for a nice environment and several nice backgrounds, but I felt like I’d been swimming in my clothes by 6 p.m. The wedding party toughed it out for us, though.

See the full gallery at PhotoShelter.


Maine Media Workshops

When the Canon 5D Mark II arrived in late 2008 it ushered in a revolution in multimedia photojournalism. Now photographers carrying a DSLR camera could not only capture moments and events with still images but also record stunning high definition video using brilliant DSLR lenses.

In July I will have the pleasure of teaching a weeklong multimedia reporting class at the Maine Media Workshops. The class is entitled "Stills and Video for Multimedia" and will explore how to capture content with cameras and edit it into a multimedia story.

We will focus on reporting multimedia stories with stills, video and sound. The class will shoot with DSLRs and will edit in Final Cut Pro.

The 2010 catalog is now online and more information on the workshops are there too. My class is July 11-17. Tuition is $1,050.

Maine has a boatload of workshops for every facet of photography, multimedia and filmmaking. If you want to learn from the best, check them out.

Night vision not included

One of the biggest advantages to using a 5D Mark II over a traditional video camera is its superb low-light capability. I recently built a website for the Louisville jazz band Fattlabb and shot stills and video for the site.

I used two lenses, a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L and a manual Nikkor 50mm f/1.4. Pushing the camera's ISO at times to 4000-6400 I was able to capture great footage in what was a very dark stage at Louisville's Zanzabar.

Small Strobes, Big Results

By Derek PooreDavid X. Tejada's specialty, in his words, is "guys in ties." The internationally-known corporate location photographer shoots plenty of control rooms, boardrooms and oil rigs.

But Tejada said the digital conversion in photography during the past decade has breathed new life into his photography.

Tejada conducted his Small Strobes, Big Results workshop in March in Indianapolis, Ind.

I was one of a dozen students who broke out softboxes, umbrellas, speedlights and Pocket Wizards to photographed in Indy's historic Stutz Building.

As you might guess from the workshop title, Tejada — who along with me will be teaching at the Maine Media Workshops this summer — is big on small strobes. He said he has exclusively used Speedlights on location for about five years.

He travels with portable, but effective softboxes, umbrellas, grids, snoots and other light shapers that allow him to produce beautiful light using small strobes.

Tejada also loves bouncing light. He’ll bounce into and back out of umbrellas and panels. He will use gelled Speedlights to throw light at a wall and create a massive softbox to project light back onto his subject.

Positioning light, whether hard or soft, narrow or wide, and understanding how it will wrap around the subject is more important than what power the strobe is at, Tejada said, and that if it looks good, go with it.

“My power is adequate,” he joked on more than one occasion when a participant would ask how much power his strobe was pushing.

David Tejada photographs a model during his workshop (with an assist by Indy photographer Chris Bucher) in March 2010 in Indianapolis, Ind. - By Derek Poore

While his work takes Tejada to exotic locations throughout the year, he said at the workshop he loves the change of pace the instruction work gives him.

He has held workshops in his home state of Colorado and as far away as Saudi Arabia. He is also teaches his class regularly at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.

The workshop was a tremendous learning experience for me. The backdrop of the industrial, grungy Stutz Building — with its museum of cars and vacant spaces — was a pleasure to work in. You can’t help but see light differently after listening to Tejada’s instruction and watching him set up a shoot in person.


David Tejada

Photojournalists in Haiti

Pack Clif Bars, learn a half-dozen methods to sterilize drinking water and charge lots and lots of batteries are three foundational tips for working in a disaster environment in a third world country.

The topic on This Week in Photography is Haiti and how photojournalists are coping with the conditions there.

The group gives advice on the podcast that is basic, but would be helpful to anyone traveling to a second- or third-world country to shoot.

Also discussed is: when to put the camera down and help. I remember listening to a talk given by Los Angeles Times photographer Rick Loomis last year at the Mountain Workshops where he showed video of the U.S. military unit he was traveling with taking heavy fire in Iraq. Loomis said at one point he stopped shooting and helped other troops carry a wounded American soldier out of the firestorm. In that situation, he said, your instinct tells you to drop the camera and do what's right.


The latest webisode of Filmfellas was posted this week and features the conclusion of a conversation between four cinematographers -- Jens Bogehegn, Robert Primes ASC, Trent Opaloch and Philip Bloom.

This is one of two web shows Zacuto produces, along with Critics, and offers great roundtable discussions on all aspects of filmmaking, from shooting weddings to major motion pictures. It’s well produced and the topics and guests are usually fascinating if you’re interested in cinematography. 

FilmFellas Cast 6: "Cinematography" Webisode 27 ~ Cultivating Trust
The round table of DPs (Jens Bogehegn, Robert Primes ASC, Trent Opaloch and Philip Bloom), discuss the DP/Director relationship. They elaborate on ways to handle a problem director, the art of collaboration and staying true to your craft. Next, they exchange views on artistic vision and bonding with the director on a more personal level to build trust.

FilmFellas Cast 6 Filmmakers:
Jens Bogehegn
Robert Primes, ASC
Trent Opaloch
Philip Bloom

Canon 5D Mark II video workflow and you / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0UPDATE: This post was updated in June 2010 to reflect trending codec use and Canon's firmware upgrade to the 5D Mark II DSLR.

The Canon 5D Mark II is a year old and many newspapers have adopted this DSLR as their video camera of choice.

The 1080p high definition video is stunning. Throw a fast lens on it, like a 50mm 1.4, and the short depth of field make you think you're shooting on an outrageously expensive film camera. All for US$2,799.

A lot of people have been asking me how it fits into our post-production workflow at The Courier-Journal in Louisville.

While serving on the faculty at the Mountain Workshops inOctober I solicited the help of video gurus Chad Stevens and Bob Sacha, who produce work for MediaStorm. I adopted MediaStorm's workflow at our shop and came up with our own streamlined process from captured 5D Mark II footage to Final Cut Pro export.

INGEST: First I dump all of the video files into one folder on a hard drive. 

UPDATE: With the new firmware updates during the spring of 2010, the 5D Mark II can now shoot 29.97 or 23.978 frames per second, negating the need to convert files to new framerates.

29.97: Since the Mark II shoots in 30 fps I convert the files to 29.97 fps. (Philip Bloom has said a future firmware upgrade might take care of this.) But for now I must convert because QuickTime interprets the files as 29.97 fps. To do this I use Final Cut's Cinema Tools and after a few clicks the files are converted: First, open the application and click Create New Database from the pop up. Cancel out the dialogue box that opens and go to File>Batch Conform. Next, I pick one video file from that last ingest. Select 29.97 from the drop down menu and Cinema Tools will conform every video file within that folder to the proper spec. It should only take a few seconds.

CONVERT: While newer MacBook Pro's have on-board h.264 decompression built into their video cards, Apple's big bad Mac Pro tower machines do not. At our newspaper we're working on those towers, so viewing the gorgeous 1080p h.264 files that the 5D Mark II captures is a struggle. I convert from 1080p to 720p h.264 and Final Cut Pro on those Mac Pro's seems to handle them OK. Another method is to convert to ProRes 422. (Vincent Laforet outlines how to do that with either MPEG StreamClip or Final Cut's Compressor here. Since ProRes codec decompresses the h.264 files, a lot more storage space is needed for those video files.)

UPDATE: ProRes 422 or ProRes 4444 is being widely used as a codec for 5D Mark II files being edited in Final Cut Pro. Rendering is realtime and ProRes Final Cut projects are ready to be exported back into h.264 for posting on the Web or exporting to other compressed formats or uncompressed formats for use on HD TVs.

When I use Compressor I have a custom conversion method setup to scale the files down to 720p and keep the 29.97 framerate. It works for us and our online video player created by the people at Brightcove.

Once the files are converted they can be dropped into Final Cut.

To check out MediaStorm's full workflow head over to their submissions page.

It’s all in my head

(Picture: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It wasn’t totally in my head, or because of my head, but think I fixed a problem I was having with my PocketWizard Plus II flash triggers.

After buying a pair recently I experienced failures in maybe one out of every 5 to 8 pops. I couldn't figure it out. I tried: changing channels, replacing the batteries, using rechargeable batteries, swapping transceivers -- but it continued. 

During a recent shoot I just happened to be holding the camera a few inches from my face trying to compose a shot instead of mashing my eyeball up against the viewfinder. The flashes went off without a hitch. I kept shooting like that on a whim and they worked every time.

After posting on Flickr and talking to a few buddies I came to the conclusion it wasn't my head, but my Canon 430EX Speedlite that was the culprit. The PocketWizard people mentioned an existing problem with the 430EX and RF interference. (And this was happening before the recent MiniTT1 and Flex interference issue.) So with the existing RF interference and my normal human head interference -- it just too much for the PocketWizards to handle. 

I took the 430EX out of the equation and the problem seems to have resolved itself. But I'll keep my head on straight nonetheless.

Then he put on a dress

It didn't hit me until Rick Loomis donned a purple wig. The renowned Los Angeles Times photographer and other photo, multimedia and writing coaches marched into the 2009 Mountain Workshops in Murray, Ky., wearing vintage hats and stuffed dresses.

I had the honor of serving on the faculty as the world's top photographers and multimedia producers invaded western Kentucky for a week of intense journalism.

The pictures inspired, the video stories moved (figuratively) and laughter was contagious. If the creative energy in that workshop can't preserve first-class journalism, nothing will.

(Photo: Rick Loomis waits for the last compact flash card drop - Derek Poore)