You shoot for The New York Times? What is that like?
Aside from my family, working as a freelance photographer for The New York Times is the greatest joy in my life. Ever since I read Gay Talese’s The Kingdom and the Power about the inner workings of the paper, I have always wanted to work for them. Every assignment is different and I never know what the day will be like. I find that thrilling. I have photographed everything from tagging great white sharks off Cape Cod to Mitt Romney’s presidential run. I started my career as a writer for Forbes magazine and have been lucky enough to write for The Times as well over the last 25 years.
What is the biggest story that you have covered?
Without question it was the Boston Marathon bombing. I arrived downtown about an hour after the bombs went off and didn’t sleep much for 10 days. My photo of Katherine Russell Tsarnaev appeared on the front page of The New York Times. You can see it here.
You are also a contributing editor for American Express’ Departures magazine. How did you start doing that and what are some of your favorite stories you have covered for them?
When I was a writer for Forbes, I helped write the “Personal Affairs” column which was the lifestyle section of the magazine. Basically, if it is expensive, rare, coveted, exclusive, high-end, bespoke or luxury, chances are I have written about it. Because of my Forbes background, Richard David Story, the terrific editor of Departures, was kind enough to hire me to write for them and photograph as well. I would say one of my two favorite stories was when Departures sent me to New Zealand's south island to go fly-fishing on mountain streams accessible only via helicopter. My other favorite trip was to Russia’s Kola Peninsula to fly-fish for Atlantic salmon on the Ponoi River – one of the most prolific Atlantic salmon rivers in the world. I’m an avid fly-fisherman, so those were trips of a lifetime. You can see a collection of my travel stories here.
What kind of cameras do you use?
I use professional-grade Canon cameras and own two 5D Mark III bodies. I have several flashes and shoot with a variety of lenses depending on the situation and the visual effect that I am trying to achieve. Lenses in my Think Tank camera bag include:
I also own the Fuji X100s which is a terrific retro-styled rangefinder camera that I use in situations where I want to be discreet because its electronic leaf shutter is completely quiet. I also own the Sony RX100 II which is the best pocket camera on the market. I use it sometimes when I don’t want to stand out like a professional photographer. People think I am a typical tourist when I use it and it allows me to get shots that I might not be able to pull-off using a bigger camera.
I am going on safari in Africa. Don't you have any bigger lenses to capture the animals?
Yes I do. For trips like that I rent large super telephoto lenses from my good freinds at LensProToGo which is located just 5 miles from my house. They stock the Canon 800mm 5.6 which retails for over $13,000.
What about underwater photography? Can you do that?
Yes. I have waterproof underwater housings for my Canon cameras.
Can you shoot video too?
Yes. My Canon cameras shoot 1080i high-definition video which is spectacular - so good, in fact, that Hollywood directors often use the same camera on many movie productions as second cameras along with their bigger Panavision cameras. If you would like me to shoot video on your trip, please let me know.
How long have you been a professional photographer?
I have been photographing since I was a kid (my father owned several Leicas which I was fortunate enough to use), but turned it into a profession in 2004 when Departures magazine sent me to New Zealand to write a story on fly fishing the south island. I said to myself that I could never go on that trip without a great camera. I bought the Canon 20D which was the first affordable DSLR. I was hooked. By the way, the 20D is a terrific camera and can be picked up on Ebay today for less than $200!
Also, one of the greatest influences in my life as a photographer which helped me become a photojournalist, has been the friendship and support of my good friend Peter Turnley who was a photographer for Newsweek for many years. I took his Paris Street Photography Workshop and he changed the way I see the world. No kidding. I highly recommend taking a class with him if you want to become a better photographer. There is a terrific 60 Minutes story on Peter and his twin brother David here.
We are very private people and don’t want our trip on your website. Is that a problem?
Not at all. I am happy to sign a waiver to preserve your privacy and understand that many of my clients are business leaders and celebrities. While I would rather be able to post the images so that future clients can see my work, whatever makes you the most comfortable, works for me.
How do you fit into a large group like a family that is traveling together?
It’s an over-used phrase, but I am without question a “people person”. As a journalist for over 25 years I have a pretty good sense of how to read people— their likes and dislikes—and I have blended in well with people from all over the world from different backgrounds. My goal is to be as unobtrusive as possible and take powerful pictures. I am always sensitive that some people love cameras and some don’t. My goal is for you to not even notice that I am there.
We love photography too? Can you teach us photography while you are photographing with us?
Absolutely. I love teaching people how to use their cameras and achieve professional results.
Can we call you for photography advice?
Yes! Call me anytime for any advice. I am happy to help in any way I can.
Can we order individual prints along with a book?
Yes. I can provide you with color or B&W prints as large as 44-inches across if you have the wall space for them!
How long after our trip will we receive our books?
Approximately 4-6 weeks depending on the sort of book you order. Some of the higher-priced books take longer to produce.
We have kids. Is it possible to watch them while mom and dad go out to dinner on our vacation?
Sure thing! I have two boys – 5 and 9 – so I know how important it is to have a break.
Your pictures of the people pheasant hunting in Scotland are interesting because you have shots of the shooters in the front? How did you do that without getting killed?
I used a remote camera on a tripod and triggered the camera with a Pocket Wizard and a special cable.
Your tagline - You Only Live Once. Photograph It. - is pretty powerful. How did you come up with that?
My father died when I was just 11 and my mother died when I was 21. Without a doubt those two events have taught me that life is short and can change instantly. I like to think of photography as a powerful tool to preserve lives in some way so that your kids and grandchildren and future generations will understand your life and times. My barn next to my house is filled with thousands of family photographs thanks to my camera-loving father who carried a camera with him everywhere. I am so thankful to have that archive of his life and my life as a kid. I suppose, in some way, I am trying to help other people have the same thing.