ThinkTank Asks About a Photograph
Randy talks about a photograph for ThinkTank on their webpage aboutaphotograph.com
Kite Camera Easter Island
I had an assignment for National Geographic magazine on Easter Island. I took a lot of equipment to do a lot of different things, but the most difficult task was flying a kite with a camera attached to make photographs over the Moai that define this place.
Easter Island is a small remote Island off the coast of Chile. We got permission from a brigadier general of the Chilean Navy to use the one security plane to do an overall aerial of the island. But, to get in closer, I needed a helicopter– to get one I would have to bring it 2300 miles on a barge over open ocean.
I knew this would be too expensive, so I decided to fly a camera on a kite.
The first step was to find someone who could help me learn the basics of kite flying.
At home, in Oregon, I had set up a remote transmitter that would fire the camera.
Then I took the device to the beach for a test.
The camera was attached with a motorized gimbal to the kite that is basically a remote-controlled tilting device that moves the camera up and down to compose the photograph.
A kite expert in Oregon set me up with a kite that was larger and more stable…
He told me in the right winds, this kite could move a car.
So after some difficulties making the connections and getting the camera to pan, we successfully got a camera up in the air with steady winds.
I knew there would be problems but the test was somewhat successful and anyway, I would have to leave –I was out of time to play around with this stuff.
After two days of travel to get to the island I drove around for my first tour to see the sights, and my big surprise was that my trusty Rapa Nui assistant that had been emailing me in English, had been using a translator … and he didn’t know a word of English.
So although it wasn’t planned this way I ended up having a crew. We enlisted help from my assistant’s twin brother and girlfriend… this made for some interesting communication mixing Rapa Nui, Spanish, English and Dutch.
And in the end it took help from every one of them to help me do this photograph.
So after trying a variety of trigger devices, I finally wired a small computer to the camera and hung it on the string as well. Then that computer transmitted down to my iPad so I could see the framing.
But it was a frustrating experience because there was a lag, and by the time I hit the release button on the ipad the camera was in a completely different location so it was still just …serendipity…whether it worked or not.
Melissa spent most of a year in the American west to do a National Geographic Magazine story on wild horses. The story titled: Mustangs—Spirit of the Shrinking West, ran in the February, 2009 National Geographic Magazine.
Camel Beauty Contest, Empty Quarter
For the Arabs, camels are their most sacred animal. The camel was critical to their survival. Historically, camels provided them with milk and transportation. When they could no longer find water on their lands, they used camels to locate new sources. Although they call the festival a beauty contest, in reality it is more like a dog show or a horse show. Participants have to know lineage of the camel, and it must be a pedigree. A pedigree camel must be pure breed; the owner must know who the camel’s parents are. In order to attest to the purity of the camel, the owner must make an oath before god – this is how pure breeds are verified.
They have special contests that are just for sheiks. In the UAE they only have one royal family – they have 19 sons, and a few cousins. In Abu Dhabi, there are less than 100 sheiks. It’s a bit strange to westerners that to enter some of the competitions an owner must have multiple camels that are all worth multiple millions of dollars each.
Promo for HSBC
Jay Hanrahan – a great Australian cinematographer spent a month with Randy and did this promo film for HSBC International Bank about him working on HSBC advertising photography. National Geographic Assignment coordinated stills and motion for a number of photographers on this project to create an advertising photography library for HSBC Bank.
Two, Pair, Parallel, Double, Duo, Twin, Mate, Couple…Randy and Melissa have walked lockstep through careers in newspapers, education and magazine photojournalism. They are social documentary photojournalists and have put together 50 National Geographic assignments into visual pairings for the first time.
These are picture puzzles from assignments that have taken them to 50 countries around the world—into the heart of large, bustling cities as well as expansive, empty wilderness. They photograph people, wildlife and landscape.
We are not tourists. We travel to places and spend time to document truth as we come to know it. Although many times the place seems foreign, we have done this long enough that we no longer look for what is different i these cultures…we look for what is the same…what connects us all.
When we return home, we try to make sense of it all by finding these connections in our photographs. The pairings of these photographs reflect a personal interpretation of culture and species in diverse landscapes.
Naked Bike Ride in Portland Oregon
For a variety of reasons, we live in Pennsylvania and Oregon depending on work and our schedules and what our families are doing.
I’ve written before about the shock of going from culture to culture and how that can affect your notion of how group think can affect everything in culture whether you are a Pygmy or a Svan. I am pretty comfortable bouncing back and forth between these cultural groups and I’m not sure what prepared me to fit in so easily. I am from the midwest and did not travel outside the United States until in my 20s. Yet, when I fly into a foreign land where cultural differences are great and creature comforts are few, with a camera in hand, the difficulties don’t matter.
Strangely enough, I find it more difficult sometimes to go from rural/suburban Pennsylvania (where our little town is provincial and we are surrounded by 17 churches whose bells resonate constantly inside our living space) to Portland Oregon that on the very first night I land here, there are thousands of people going thru the streets naked on their bicycles.
I have to admit I really love the freedom of Portland