How good are LED on-camera lights?

   How good are LED panel lights for still photo work?  In a word, not at all.
   I’ve tried two - one by Manfrotto (below), the other by Litepanels.  And I’ve been dissatisfied with both.  Neither can provide adequate light beyond the shortest range - unlike a speedlite, and they obviously are intended for on-camera use, as each has a shoe mount.  And neither can work with any but a very narrow choice of lenses.  Neither is suited for macro use, either.
   Absolutely forget using either with your 70-200 or at any serious range; they also have problems covering the entire area your lens will for wider-angle lenses.
   Both run on easy-to-find “AA” batteries - and have easy-to-use dimming controls.  But neither approaches the capability a speedlite and inexpensive diffuser offers - but costs far more.  In short, buy a speedlite and diffuser instead.

Manfrotto ML360 panel LED light.


How do you carry your stuff?

   How do you carry your stuff - not only your photo gear, but your personal items - while shooting news?  I’ve seen shooters work stories carrying backpacks - but they sure aren’t easy to reach into for anything you suddenly need.  And a purse sure is inconvenient to get in and out of a car with when also carrying a dSLR with a nearly-foot-long lens like a 70-200; getting anything out of the purse is inconvenient even outside of the car.
   My suggestion is a photographer’s vest - full of very large pockets inside and out, most with covers keeping things in and weather out.  Sure, a fishing vest may also work - but it may not be as durable and may not have as many pockets or covers on as many.  While few shooters seem to be using them, the use of one by the federal marshal heading courthouse security at the John Edwards trial (below) clearly showed the potential.
   Leave the purse or backpack home.  Have the vest well-organized - both photo and first-aid essentials.  Before going, put your driver’s license, car registration, and insurance card in one pocket.  But keep the vest always set up with the things you might need for a shoot: coins for parking meters, multitool or Swiss Army knife, Band-Aids, cable ties, extra memory cards in a weatherproof carrier, business cards, reporter’s notebook, pens.  And - of course - pill box with several days of any prescriptions you depend on to stay functional.
   Before going to cover a story, put the driver’s license, registration, and insurance card in one pocket; take them out when you get home.  Also bring along a water bottle to keep you functional and able to take those prescriptions; State Farm insurance agents now are giving away a sturdy one - that won’t collapse as it’s emptied - with a push-pull valve; it will fit in one of the lens pockets on back of the vest.

Butch Moore, regional head of courthouse security, wearing such a vest 
at the John Edwards trial.


Repairability - how big an issue?

   How big a factor should repairability of discontinued gear be in your purchasing decisions?  In my experience, not at all.
   The issue of Canon (supposedly) no longer repairing some prior versions of their top-grade “L” lenses came up on Facebook this week.  But my experience says not to worry about that - but to buy the earlier version used at a big discount if it’s reportedly fine with pro users.
   I’ve had three 7D bodies - plus 24-105 f/4 “L” IS USM, a 24-70 f/2.8 “L” USM, and a 70-200 f/2.8 “L” IS USM lenses.  I’ve also had a G15 and prior G-series digicams as backups for the dSLR gear.  And none ever needed service of any kind.
   Of course, the dSLR bodies and particular lenses being weather-sealed was a big help; I shot stories in driving rain with all.  But that G15 also got plenty of use - and bounced around everywhere with me, but always was good to go.
   Back in the film era, I had a Minolta rangefinder and my mother a Konica SLR; neither ever needed any repairs.  Even that knockaround Instamatic I started with didn’t need repairs.
   Buy good gear, take good care of it - and you’ll be fine.

This G15 bounced around everywhere with me - just fine.


Decline of a once-great daily

   In the 1970s and 1980s, the Greensboro, N.C. News & Record was a great daily.  Four sections daily - most locally produced. 
   In the 1980s, it expanded into a metropolitan paper - derided by a local weekly as “The Eleven County News & Record” or the acronym “TECN&R.”  It printed five regional editions - and had bureaus in adjoining counties of the 11.
   When I had a portfolio review there in Sept. 2010, it had a robustly-staffed newsroom - even as the overall economy died.
   Since then, it was bought by Berkshire Hathaway - and has been through at least three big downsizings, two in the past year.  It had entire levels of middle management downsized.  Its current directory looks like a high school paper.  And it got gutted to two, sometimes three, sections daily - largely cut and pasted from the wire.
   Pitching something to an editor there this past month, I was told it now really is only the TWO county News & Record - far down from when a local weekly ridiculed it as the ELEVEN County News & Record!  This county - among those 11 - it basically now no longer covers, that editor told me.
   An appreciable percentage of ad space now is a Berkshire Hathaway real-estate ad.  Needless to say, you can’t get high ad rates from yourself!

Photos from this then-recent Tea Party rally were a big part of my portfolio review.
Greensboro, N.C., Apr. 15, 2010.


Covering 2020: Democrats

   Covering 2020?  The Democrats have two possible presidential contenders who cannot be written off - as absurd as each seems.
   Although the July-August 2017 issue of “Atlantic” reported that top-echelon circles of the Democrats listed 28 unnamed possible credible contenders - as in potential contenders who’d be taken seriously if they ran - the two seemingly-absurd “sleeper” possibilities are Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey:
   Hillary: despite age, losing twice to nobodies, apparent health problems - and decades of sometimes contradictory paper trail - must be tempted by Trump’s failure on the issue that elected him: middle-class jobs.  Thousands of middle-class jobs in many industries got downsized in the past three months.  Add his flip-flops on “DREAMers” and guns recently - and Trump is very weak for 2020; he only won by 75,000 in three key states.  Ironically like Trump is a cult of personality; her 2016 campaign even had hashtag #PantsuitPower.
   Oprah: extreme paper trail problem of many years of unscripted daily shows, a nobody - but has to realize that another guy lacking any political experience just won!  Lacks any political agenda, though.
   Either of these is worth including in your photo library - starting now.


Covering 2020 - Republican Party

   Covering GOP presidential wannabes in 2020?  There are four Republican Parties - based on stories I’ve covered - with considerable overlap among the first three:
   Trump dead-enders: Named after similar to-anywhere followers of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, they will back Trump no matter how bad things get.  They are functionally all white - and overwhelmingly retired, from any part of U.S.; that age makes his slogan “Make America Great Again” resonate strongly with them - because age makes them remember when this really was a great nation.  They are driven by the economic, social, and foreign-respect collapse of America after the Vietnam War - and their view that Trump can restore what had been.  Like cops or Mafia people in that they don’t care if you like them - but are obsessed with being respected.  It is a cult of personality - and I’m hardly the first observer to say that: Trump is America’s first personality-cult president.  Trump is, of course, their cause.
   Tea Party: Functionally all white - but all ages; driven by economic collapse of middle class.  Just want back affluence; not particularly interested in any one president or candidate.  But their logical 2020 candidate is Newt Gingrich - who campaigned at Tea Party rallies in his 2012 presidential campaign.
   Social-issues right: All white, all ages but most older, mainly heartland.  Driven by abortion, gun rights, or same-sex marriage; really not interested in economy or foreign policy.  Ted Cruz again their likely candidate - as in 2016.
   Country-club Republicans: Driven by economic concerns of the affluent - tax cuts, Obamacare, etc.; don’t care about much else.  Mitt Romney - as in 2012 - is their logical guy, if he can get elected to the Senate in Utah.

Mitt Romney’s son Tagg campaigns for him, Burlington, N.C., Oct. 17, 2012.


My first assignment

   In the month after I shot my breakout work, I got my first assignment - portajohns!  I was to rapidly learn a lot about the portajohn industry after an email from a magazine I’d never heard of - Portable Restroom Operator - offering $350 to shoot a package for an update on a story on a major area business I’d never previously heard of: Piedmont Portables.
   So I arranged to shoot Piedmont Portables.  Most of the assignment went smoothly - though I ended up there three times to get more photos and captions for the Wisconsin-based industrial magazine. 
   But the key photo of the assignment - a cover photo of a Piedmont Portables portajohn sited on a construction site - was unobtainable.  As I explained to the client, nobody was doing construction in this area then, and some major building projects had simply been abandoned.  So I told the magazine’s editorial staff to contact Piedmont Portables itself for confirmation that nobody was doing construction then here - which they explained.
   The magazine arranged with Piedmont Portables for the portajohn company itself to provide that cover photo as soon as one was rented on a job site.   In the meantime, they paid me.
   In their Feb. 2013 issue, some of my package ran (below) - such as Piedmont Portables employee Keith Barksdale spray-cleaning a larger unit.

Shot on assignment for Portable Restroom Operator:
Piedmont Portables worker Keith Barksdale cleans a portajohn.
Ran Feb. 2013 issue.


Covering the “Resistance” against Trump

   Covering the “Resistance” - the street movement of Democrats against Trump that began very soon after his inauguration?  Big opportunity later this month.
   A first anniversary of the women’s “Resistance” marches immediately after he became president is scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 20-21, the day and time locally depending on where you are.  Raleigh, N.C. has  a march scheduled for Saturday morning.
   Of course - as I noted - whether the “Resistance” gets taken seriously like Occupy was by politicians, the press, and the public depends totally on whether it becomes a chronic presence seemingly everywhere the way that Occupy did fast.  So far, it has failed to become a nationwide grouping of “Trumpvilles” in the way Occupy immediately became nationwide “Obamavilles” - seemingly unending encampments of jobless college graduates and a few other struggling Americans.
   So far, the “Resistance” has failed to be a news item - and stayed limited to the egghead few.

Occupy Greensboro (N.C.), Oct. 15, 2011.



Next year’s coming big stories

   Next year’s coming big stories will be political protest and the economy - at least on a national level.  Sure, other things may be bigger stories locally - but, for national stories, the economy and political protest will dominate for ongoing persistent news stories.
   So far, opposition to Pres. Trump hasn’t shown the endlessness that Occupy did - or the everywhereness that both Occupy and the Tea Party were noted for; instead, the “Resistance” has been limited to marches and rallies of a few hours each - in a very few places.  So far, opposition to Trump has centered on ideological differences.
   But will the issue that elected Trump - middle-class jobs for a largely dispossessed middle class - spark Occupy-like “Trumpvilles?”  In the past three months, massive downsizing of middle-class jobs has been a common news story; General Electric alone just downsized 12,000 more - and Ford downsized over 1,000 middle managers, Boeing 300 engineers, Lowe’s its entire IT department of 120.  And many other companies also did big downsizings of middle-class jobs during that three months: GM, Berkshire Hathaway newspapers, Blue Cross of North Carolina, Kellogg, Carrier, AT&T. 
   So far, however, neither the establishment Democrats - nor the “street” “Resistance” - have mobilized the downsized into a street-protest movement resembling Occupy or even the Tea Party.  Nor, so far, have establishment Democrats made a political issue of the continuing massive downsizings of middle-class jobs.
   But any “new Occupy” - or even an anti-Trump “Tea Party”-style movement - is the coming big news story.  Coming - because Occupy’s “campers” obviously simply didn’t have good jobs they couldn’t afford to be truant from!
   Similarly, the economy itself will provide great photojournalism potential - for the shooter willing and able to be observant and creative.

Occupy Chapel Hill (N.C.), Oct 22, 2011.


Batteries, batteries…

   Batteries are a major hassle for photographers - particularly photojournalists, who must rely on their batteries staying both able and not corroding gear despite being in scalding-hot car interiors in summer and freezing car interiors in winter.  Fortunately, some do work fine every time.
   In the “AA” alkaline batteries flash units need, my strong preference is Ray-O-Vac; they don’t corrode - and stay powerful for six months unused in a flash left in a car.  I’ve also never had problems with Duracell.
   I’ve had corrosion troubles with Eveready alkalines - fortunately never in photo use, as I simply won’t use them in that!
   My choice of where to get batteries is Lowe’s - as they sell them cheap in discount volume packs for building tradesmen, ensuring high turnover of those for sale and thus fresh ones.
   For rechargeables, I’ve never had trouble with either Eveready or Promaster Ni-MH batteries for powering digicams. 
   But - for proprietary battery packs for dSLRs - my choice is either Green Extreme or Promaster lithium-ion rechargeables.  Either is much less expensive than Canon’s - but works just as well.  Adorama sells Green Extreme inexpensively.