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ON ASSIGNMENT: Floods, Fish & Pedaling

09.07.2011

A scene from a pow-wow on the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation.

Greetings from Montana.

Although video has occupied most of my time this summer, I was still able to keep the Nikon from gathering dust while on assignment for the New York Times.

Click to enlarge.

   The old joke is that driving distances in the West are measured in six packs.  In Montana, kegs would be more appropriate.

Northeast Montana, a place you’ll never see in a travel brochure and a long, long way from anywhere, was where I caught up with NYT writer Bruce Weber in August, who was writing and cycling across the U.S. from Oregon to New York City.

For two days, I followed Bruce as he made his way in slow motion from Wolf Point, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, to Glendive, not far from the North Dakota border.  We went from cowboys and Indians to dinosaurs.

Following cyclists across the U.S. was familiar ground.  In 1994, I documented one of the teams racing across the country in the Bicycle Race Across America.  I spent almost as much time with Bruce as I did documenting that race.  In 1994, the coast-to-coast race was covered in five days, ten hours, and 15 minutes, at the time an American record.  Bruce should see the Atlantic around mid-October!

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The first night I met-up with Bruce, we were lucky enough to catch a pow-wow on the “rez”, a very bright moment for those who struggle with life far from the mainstream.

Storyblog and gallery links.

 At Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, I joined long-time NYT reporter Kirk Johnson, who was writing about how the National Park Service was killing one fish to save another.

The invasive lake trout had found its way into the lake in the early 1990’s, and since then, they have been trying to eradicate it in an effort to save the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout.  Lake trout like eating cutthroat trout.

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The Park Service predicts they will kill nearly 250,000 lake trout this summer in their effort, using mostly gill nets to capture the villains, which are then killed and thrown back into the lake.

We went out on a boat that was also netting fish, but instead of killing them, crews were inserting sonic transmitters that would lead them to more fish, especially spawning beds.  They were calling these fish “Judas Fish”.

On my drive out of the park, I took the long way, where I ran into buffalo, elk, osprey, and Yellowstone’s infamous wildlife-induced traffic jams.  In his story, Kirk posed a very thought-provoking question.  Can a system be called natural if humans must remain at the helm to make it work?  Natural or not, Yellowstone is always a great place to visit and photograph.

Story and gallery links.

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 The people of North Dakota might be some of the friendliest, and most humble, people I’ve met to date.

On my first day in Minot, N.D., where I was sent to cover the tragic flooding there in June, I met a local who took me in for three days, feeding me, guiding me around the city, and sharing his internet connection.  I’ve never been treated so well on such a sad assignment.  We check in with each other often.

Once the emergency levees gave way to the rising Souris River, quickly flooding the town, the result was hard to watch.  I remember on my second day of flying over flooded areas, where rising waters were starting to touch roofs, a dark cloud of sadness swept through me.

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Watching from afar, as most of us do, via the internet, newspapers, or television, is not the same.  When you’re there, you can’t help but be moved by it all.  I have covered more than my share of disasters over the past 30 years, and it doesn’t get any easier.  In fact, it continues to get harder and more emotional.

After three days of watching this tragedy slowly unfold, I left town, heading back to Montana.

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As I was driving out of town, I got a call from NYT reporter A.J. Sulzberger, who said the local radio station was giving thanks and that they included me for my photograph of a woman praying for her friends and family on a bridge above the river, inches away from overtaking its banks.  The voice on the radio said “thanks” for showing the world how much we care.  Since then, several locals have told me that picture has become one of the iconic images from their historic flood.

Links to stories on city braces, no flood insurance, and zoo animals escape to higher ground.

 Fall is in the air around here.  Soon the elk will be bugling.  Ah September!

THE WAR AT HOME: One Soldier’s Hell

07.13.2011

A peek into the life of one soldier and his dramatic struggle with life at home after serving in Iraq, told visually using a mix of video and photography. (I was asked by the editors at CNN.com to produce a video that would accompany an equally dramatic three-part story by CNN staffer Moni Basu.)

WEED WAR: One Man’s Obsession

04.06.2011

I’m attracted to those who want to do good, especially when the environment is concerned. Mark Harbaugh is definitely one of those people. His “small” contribution to the environment (in the Rocky Mountains) is a little different than most, but after watching this video, I’m sure you’ll appreciate Mark’s environmental commitment.

As Mark says, “My goal is to make a difference on how people look and think about weeds, and goats, and sustainability, instead of all relying on the chemical companies to produce poison for us to put into the environment.”

Hopefully I now have your curiosity and you’ll check out Mark’s story.

NOTE: I did this as a personal project, hoping it might find a home. In the end, I licensed it to Patagonia. It’s nice when your instincts pay off.

WORK FROM RECENT ASSIGNMENTS

04.05.2011

(Click on any image to start slide show.)

Lately, most of my time has been spent working on video projects, but here are a few favorite edits from recent work done for the Associated Press, New York Times, and Ebony magazine.

1. Portraits of comedian Bill Cosby, and Mark Rosenberg, head of the Task Force for Global Health.
2. Thousands gather at the Georgia capitol to protest Arizona-style immigration legislation.
3. American-Egyptian protestors show their displeasure with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and their support for the country’s popular uprising, in downtown Atlanta.
3. A hearse awaits the arrival of a fallen Marine at Dobbins Air Base in Marietta, GA.
4. Joe Patten, 83, known as the “Phantom of the Fox”, who has lived above the historic Fox Theatre in Atlanta for the past 32 years, walks down a flight of stairs from his apartment. Patton has a lease for life, but board members wanted him out. Patton won his case in court.
5. Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes brings out his cows for a campaign press conference in his bid for re-election. He lost.

LAST PICTURES OF 2010.

12.31.2010

Last pictures of the year.  After three days of technical issues and blown fuses, we finally got the lights to work.  Even though we got them up in time for Santa, the clear skies didn’t come until after Christmas.  Santa, though, still found us.

Happy Holidays from MT!

Rich

WHAT PHOTOGRAPHERS DO…WHEN IT’S TOO COLD TO SKI. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

12.30.2010

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Snow drifts.  Windchill -15 degrees.  Without wind, 5 degrees.  Camera temp…really cold!

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO BECOMING A FREELANCER

12.02.2010

I feel like I’ve been training my whole life for this moment.

I don’t know if that statement is all that profound, but the thought came to me the other day, so I’m running with it.  I’m on this new, exciting path, and everything I’ve learned the last 30 years has been thrown into a tasty creative stew.  We all take our past experiences and move forward, right, so maybe it’s supposed to be this way.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

For 30 years, my professional focus has been fairly singled minded…being as good as possible at being a newspaper photojournalist.  I always figured I’d die with my newspaper-ink-stained hands wrapped around my Nikon.*  In the end, the newspaper died before I did, so to speak.  It was a great ride…the best, really.

Life is a circle, I’m learning, full of reinvention.  At times, I feel like a scrambled-up jigsaw puzzle, which when put back together is not the scene on the box.  It’s better.

Today, when people ask me what I do for a living, I say I’m a journalist, first and foremost.  I then usually say I’m a professional observer of people, a visual storyteller, and a communicator.  And then I realize that that is exactly what I would have said while working for a daily newspaper.  The difference today, and I shock myself when I say this, is that my new instrument of choice is the video camera.

Video allows me to be everything I ever wanted to be…a photographer, writer, editor.  In short, video relies on the skills I’ve acquired over the years.  It challenges me in ways that photography doesn’t.  Challenges are good.

The rewards in photography are many, but the biggest reward comes the moment you capture a great image or moment.  The rewards in video are rarely that instant, but instead come at the end, and are usually more satisfying, because, I believe, video requires so much of you.

I will always be a photographer, and in fact, if you watch one of my videos you will see the photographer in me.  That flame will never go out, but being able to tell a story using imagery, narrative, and music, is a blast.  It may have taken a lifetime to get here, and who knows where it will lead, but sometimes the journey is the best part.

* I always figured I’d be shot by a cop, or security guard, that I pushed just a little to far, or that I’d fall to my death trying to get that crazy, never-seen-before angle on some meaningless assignment.