On assignment for the New York Post - Part I, the Jill Abramson story.

It began as a voicemail on my phone from a prior repeat client - but when I called them back 15 minutes later, they’d decided not to hire a stringer for this story: just-fired New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was to speak at not-distant Wake Forest University’s commencement.
So I immediately called around to other possible clients for that story. Abramson - and her sudden termination by the New York Times - was a big story, especially among the three dailies in New York City but also far beyond, fueled by allegations of sexism. Of those I called, they either were sending their own staff people - or using wire-photo feed - except for the New York Post, where the photo desk first told me they’d consider it, then called me back to hire me. Phone and email discussion provided what kind of photos they wanted and a price agreed.
My job in this assignment included everything from locating where and when the commencement would be held to arranging credentialing.
I arrived early and shot some “scenery” photos as one of the first press people there - but it soon became evident that dozens of press people were covering this - even two just from CNN and three from Associated Press.
Abramson was all smiles when presented an honorary degree (below).
I had all photos sent to the New York Post via FTP in a timely manner.

Jill Abramson smiles as she is awarded an honorary degree.

I saw it, I shot the photo, I sold the photo: the “Duck Dynasty” controversy. 

Although now having shot on-assignment for two years, I still shoot on-spec anything newsworthy - and upload the photos to a news-photo agency. I do this for potential additional sales of photos that I own - and for additional exposure when on-assignment work is slow.
So it was last Christmas Eve - when, at the height of the “Duck Dynasty” controversy over gay rights - I saw a display of “Duck Dynasty” merchandise for sale at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant.
I got out my backup digicam - a Canon G15 - and shot a package. Canon’s G15 is unobtrusive - and ideal for such work - but offers near-dSLR capability except for the lack of an interchangeable lens. Its combination of a very fast lens (equivalent to 28-140mm), great photos even at very high ISO, very easy exposure compensation - in an inconspicuous package but one still easy to grip firmly - make it a great backup digicam, especially for breaking news stories as that camera you’d always carry that has immensely more capability than a smartphone’s camera. While your dSLR is out in the car as you eat or shop or whatever, that G15 is with you.
A photo from my package (below) sold through a reseller to an unknown buyer several months later in March.

“Duck Dynasty” merchandise for sale in a restaurant - at the height of the controversy.

On assignment for the New York Daily News - Part II, the NFL-related story

The call came the month after as the first assignment from the New York Daily News - in Dec. 2012 - at about 5:30 P.M.; the photo desk at the NYDN needed photos of the latest New York Giants rookie standout’s parents and fast. Specifically, they needed the photos by the next morning - and already had told the parents that I’d be there at 8:00 P.M. or so at their home in Danville, Virginia, just across the state line; that barely left time to get there.
The photo desk told me to get photos of the parents with football trophies or other football-related things - and that they’d told the parents that.
The photo desk emailed the address and agreement to the fee. Then my work began; I printed out Google’s street directions door-to-door - and a map of the destination area.
This assignment obviously called for the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens - and that, along with a flash, went.
I arrived to find something useful - a father who understood photography, being that he’d gotten into his own dSLR after his son got further into football! He and I discussed lenses. The parents and another son tacked up a background for me in the hallway - torn from a large roll of white paper.
The parents, surprisingly, didn’t have much in the way of football trophies downstairs, despite the NYDN’s phone discussion with them - but I got Mom to pose with their son’s take-home ball from the 2012 NFL draft (below). I shot a variety of horizontal-format and vertical-format photos of the parents - one of Mom with the football. Flash - when used - was bounce with a diffuser.
I got back to edit the photos, prepare captions - and had it all sent by FTP to the NYDN by around midnight, hours before deadline. One of the photos ran in a story on the player, David Wilson.

Shelia WIlson, mother of David Wilson of the New York Giants, with her son’s take-home ball from the NFL draft.

On assignment for the New York Daily News - Part I, the Petraeus/Broadwell scandal.

I got the call in Nov. 2012, with the phone literally in my hand; the New York Daily News was hiring me on-assignment for two days coverage of Paula Broadwell’s home in Charlotte, N.C. at the height of the Petraeus/Broadwell scandal.
I had the photo editor at the New York Daily News email me her address and agreement to the arranged fee for coverage starting in four days - and then my work began. I printed out from Google street directions door-to-door to Broadwell’s home in Charlotte - and a map of her neighborhood. I then used Google News to find what was possible on her - especially what vehicles she had; photos run by a London daily provided the license plate numbers - and a view of her rather-unique-looking home. I also obtained what information was possible on other members of her family that way.
My choice of my 70-200mm lens was easy as it would allow me to work from the sidewalk on public property legally - and out of range of her hands or feet if she got angry - yet produce close-up views as it had during the John Edwards trial. I did not yet know how essential that would be!
I arrived to two television stations’ live trucks and a subcontracted shooter for a network - all apparently present day after day.
On the first day, I shot mostly “environment” photos - the ill-maintained house in a rich neighborhood, one of their SUVs with a West Point alumni license-plate frame (a glaring reminder of West Point’s famous honor code saying that cadets shall not cheat nor tolerate anyone who cheats) - most of the day. By that day, the Broadwells had hiding down to a fine art; drawn-down shades on all windows - and neither parent even sticking their head outdoors when a neighbor came to take their young kids to play. But, finally, Paula Broadwell’s husband Dr. Scott Broadwell backed one of their SUVs into the tiny carport attached to the house and began loading it full of things; it now was obvious that the family either was going somewhere for Thanksgiving - or just leaving home, period.
The husband snuck Paula Broadwell into the SUV from behind the passenger door - hiding her from both me and the several television crews there. He then practically dived into the driver’s seat - as I shot his photo (below).
I went home, evaluated my photos for the best - and sent them to my client by FTP as easily as if I were in its offices in New York City. I then went back to Google News - and learned that an Associated Press stringer, no longer at the Broadwell home, had been assaulted by Paula Broadwell when she used a wide-angle lens making her stand close to the car door and resulting in Paula Broadwell swinging the door into her lens with her head being gouged by her dSLR!
I completed the assignment the next day uneventfully - with nobody there but that contracted shooter for the network.

Paula Broadwell’s husband, Dr. Scott Broadwell, as he jumps into SUV.

Covering the 2012 presidential campaign - Part II

The call came unexpectedly - and provided nil notice; it was from a source that I had developed in this county’s Republican Party organization - who was at the level at which the “official” Republican Party and the Tea Party interfaced and seemed to merge, providing good information on both. The source told me that Mitt Romney’s son Tagg was going to be appearing locally to campaign for his father - in a couple hours - at county GOP headquarters.
What the source didn’t know was distances, whether a campaign bus would come, or other details essential to choosing which lens to use - my 24-70mm or my 70-200mm, the latter of which I’d used at a Newt Gingrich campaign stop in April during the fading days of Gingrich’s own presidential campaign. In the end, I chose the 24-70mm - which proved to be an excellent decision.
When I got to county GOP headquarters to cover this story, the place already was packed - very different from all the earlier events that I’d covered there during the presidential campaign.
Tagg Romney arrived - and, with a huge campaign sign as backdrop, spoke to the crowd as I shot photos. He was a far better speaker than his father the candidate - never a good situation for a presidential candidate! The next morning, my photo of Tagg Romney speaking in front of that huge sign (below) was running atop three stories in the London Telegraph. A headshot photo of Tagg Romney that I’d shot there ran in the London Daily Mail. Unfortunately, what I’d say was the best photo I’d shot there - a “shot for the Jumbotrons” photo of Tagg Romney, who’s been urged to run for Congress, autographing yard signs - has yet to run.

Covering the 2012 presidential campaign - Part I

2012 - as an election year - provided plenty of top stories; this was especially true in the spring - while there still were numerous arguably-credible contenders for the Republican nomination.
As I had developed a source in the county Republican organization two years earlier - when the Tea Party was becoming big - I had an edge on covering the 2012 Republican contenders. I learned that Newt Gingrich would be the keynote speaker at an April 14 “Tax Day” rally of the Tea Party in Greensboro, N.C.
Newt Gingrich spoke (below) - complete with the Secret Service detail then the only hint that his then-dying candidacy still was a presidential candidacy. For their part, the two Secret Service agents provided a photo opportunity - as it also was the height of a Secret Service scandal then in the news.
As for the rally, attendance was noticeably smaller than in past years for the same event. But it also provided opportunities for covering what was - after all - another normal Tea Party rally, and a small girl protesting Obamacare (below) provided the photo of mine that ran in Scandinavian newsmagazine Illustreret Videnskab Historie.

Gingrich’s campaign would soon end - and I’d soon enough be covering the winning Republican contender’s campaign: Mitt Romney.

My first work to run big - Kodak’s bankruptcy

My first work to run big was Kodak’s bankruptcy. Hearing on a radio I was listening to over my shoulder that Kodak then was likely to file bankruptcy within weeks, I prepared to do a photo package on the story..
I got a group of Kodak products with Kodak’s logo, name, or color scheme on them to shoot. One was an old cartridge of 35mm film - which I shot on a background, held in exactly the correct position by a powerful magnet under the background, with the film itself coming out of the cartridge. That photo was symbolic of how Kodak had gone broke - a dependence on repeat resale of consumable products that had worked great in the film era, but was hopeless in the digital-photo era in which memory cards are reused over and over. I then uploaded the package to a news photo agency.
The day Kodak filed bankruptcy, my photo of the 35mm film cartridge (below) ran in the New York Post - both accompanying the story and as a thumbnail on the front page of the paper’s Web edition. It also would run in the Web edition of California television station KSEE-TV.

It was my first work to run in a top-market daily.

My breakout work - the full story.

My breakout work - John Edwards at his trial - began by accident, literally. I was waiting to pay at a place here in N.C. that I had no idea he stopped in at - when I made an unknowing wisecrack to someone else often there, and was told he’d recently been in!
Over the next two years - with Edwards and his scandal in and out of the headlines here in N.C., where he and I both live, long before his indictment - I developed multiple credible sources, one a top-tier campaign donor of his who knew him well. I also read any archived news story relating to his political career I could find.
Needless to say, I stopped in that particular place often - finally once seeing him there, extremely casually dressed but still with that Hollywood-perfect hairdo. I worked it the first morning of his trial, hoping for a unique photo - but he didn’t show. It soon became obvious he was going straight from his home to the trial - and straight home from it.
However - one day partway through his trial - I was uploading photos shot on spec to a news-photo agency for that day, and had two shot less than a quarter of a second apart. One showed him looking down in the dumps - and the other showed him looking like Hollywood’s hottest superstar; the “Hollywood look” one I uploaded as an afterthought - as it seemed so surreal. The next morning, my daily Google search found the “Hollywood look” photo (below) was running on four continents - appearing in news outlets from Boston to Burma.

That photo took me to on-assignment work - including top stories such as the Petraeus/Broadwell scandal for the New York Daily News.