Hello 2021….

Here we are, right after the tail end of what was probably the most difficult year most of the folks on this Earth have ever had.  2020 is a year that will likely have an extra thick chapter in the history books of schools in the future just because of all the things that happened in this silly world; and not because anybody did anything to warrant going down in history but because the world is silly.  I for one spent quite a bit of time at home in 2020, like many photographers.  More time at home than I can ever remember actually.  I have friends who work on the road who normally spend something like 260 days on said road; but not hardly at all in 2020.  Instead, in 2020 all those road warriors learned which of them knew how to cook and which of them did not.  In 2020, I know folks that learned how inescapable their family (kids) can be and how being out and about on occasion is good for all of their mental health. In 2020,  I know a ton of folks that learned new hobbies, because doing the same old same old at home gets…. well…. OLD.  In a normal year I drive about 35,000 miles combined for assignments and everyday life; in 2020 I went less than 15,000.  Nobody has been without their problems in 2020 that’s for darn sure.  I haven’t written a blog post in over 1 year now, and before I started writing this one I decided early that it wouldn’t happen late in 2020, but to usher in 2021.  2020 just didn’t deserve it.  Now to be fair, some of that waiting was migrating the website to Photoshelter and reworking the blog to a new address making that possible.   Some. (I also say that like I did it, when in fact my incredible wife did it because I have no idea how the internet works.)   The other part of the lack of blog writing was just a struggle to physically do it in this pandemic environment.  Getting inspired has been tough for whatever reason and hats off to the shooters that have seemingly inspiration out the ears the last 9 months of the Pandemic.

(Nikon D850, 2000ISO, Nikon 300F4PF, 1/1250@F4.)


That was from one of my last assignments in a normal world.  Normal being, no masks, and hugging people you don’t see very often.  Not long after that photo was taken (hours after in fact) the B1g Ten and the NCAA Cancelled their 2020 Tournaments.  I do not know a single photographer that hasn’t struggled in 2020 in some way or another.  Physically, mentally, or monetarily.  It’s just a tough time for photographers and that’s Big time shooters or weekend warriors alike. I know photographers that started jobs where the client went bankrupt meaning they didn’t get paid a dime for the work they had already done, MUCH LESS for the work they had scheduled which was now totally gone.  I know photographers whose spring sports schedule was dusted faster than marvel super heroes when the pandemic hit. I know folks who primarily shoot Corporate headshots, and most corporations went to working remotely meaning no gathering in the office for said headshots, meaning all hose gigs disappeared too.  No concerts, few to no events, and next level safety precautions on the events that DID take place meant a fraction of the number of photographers normally at those events were even approved entry; IF any were allowed at all. Talk about a life change for the year.  If you thought budgeting an inconsistent paycheck as a freelancer was difficult before, we played on ultra hard mode in 2020.  Others had it worse than that too.   Some photographers don’t have a spouse that makes an income also; and the ones that do sometimes faced them losing their job as well.  Other folks I know who worked full time as photographers were told their positions were unnecessary because of budgets and sent packing. When you work for a school or company full time more often than not the company provides the gear, and now a lot of those shooters are left physically unable to do the job they live for because even a used set of D4 or D5 bodies aren’t cheap (not to mention lenses).  Not to mention the fact that most of us who regularly shoot on the sidelines were going to need to be thinking bigger for this sports season as nobody was allowed on the sidelines.  Bigger being that 400mm might not be enough and  500mm and 600mm lenses aren’t cheap; much less in a pandemic where everybody’s income has been slashed.

Experimenting with loaner a Sigma 500mmF4 and Teleconverters and a Nikon 600mmF4 VR preparing for 2020’s football season.


So that’s all a bit of a downer and I guess now you are wondering, what’s my point? My point is that it’s 2021 and we are still here.  A lot of us are still shooting photos and we are still trying to come up with the next cool shots.  Lots of photographers STILL made some incredible images in 2020 with the protests, the presidential election and even the Pandemic.  My friends at the Indianapolis Star just released their photos of the year, and I can tell you that the images in that gallery are in my opinion, much more impactful than in years prior.  My friend Julio with the AP also had a few spectacular images while covering the Protests, BLM and other marches around the US.  As far as news photography goes, 2020 was a helluva year to cover the world.  Whether it was a calm moment or the world was burning there were photos to be made of love and pain in all shapes and forms; and I give all the photographers out on the front lines of it a lot of credit for doing the job.  Whether tear gassed or pepper sprayed, or just happily watching from a distance the world would be unaware without them.  Buy them a drink next time you are with them, they probably need one.

A photo made for my Ivy Tech lighting class over ZOOM with 1 light in my basement. Yes, this was shot with just 1 light and quite a few reflectors/flags from BEHIND the subject. Nikon D850, 100ISO, Sigma 24-70F2.8OS@66mm. Elinchrom ELB500 with 27″ Octabox behind the. bottle with a black flag dividing the softbox in two creating the rim light. A large white card making a “pi” symbol over the front of the camera to hi-light the front of the bottle using the backlight. ELB500 triggered with Skyport Pro from on the camera hot shoe. Smoke effect created practically using a can of Atmosphere Aerosol behind the bottle. We did make a few of these using flashlights and speedlights, but this one was a single light shot.  


I didn’t cover any protests, riots or otherwise in 2020 and that’s OK with me.  I didn’t do that all that much when I worked for the Indianapolis Star either, but it did happen on occasion.  As a freelancer sometimes it’s nice to be able to opt out for any reason.  Either the money isn’t right, or the job is uninteresting, or you just aren’t interested in being burned down with a block of businesses.  Maybe the email had a misspelling and you just didn’t want to do it.  Sometimes, you do indeed need the money so you take a job when you know you shouldn’t, but hopefully those are fewer and further between.  Luckily, I did in fact have a few interesting assignments last year although not anywhere near as much work as usual.  In fact I was surprised to find out that I had one photo listed in the sports photos of the year over at Imagn. (Imagn is basically USA Today, with a little scrolling you can find it on either site).  This is the image here if you don’t feel like doing any digging:

The shot from the aforementioned 2020 sports photos of the year with Imagn/USA Today.  “The Dive”, a game defining moment in the lsat seconds of the Indiana University vs Penn State football game on October 24th 2020. Nikon D500, 2000ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8FL@130mm. 1/1600th@F2.8.

Along with that I was honored to be asked into a bubble, which I think I’ll write a blog about coming up soon.  FIBA America asked me to join them in the bubble for the Fiba Americup.  I was the *only * photographer allowed inside, and it required being in a hotel for a week over thanksgiving.  Also In 2020 I also spent two weeks on the road shooting LPGA Golf, which was fantastic as I admittedly used to be a much better golfer than I am a photographer. It was especially great to go and watch these world class players play on a course without any crowds; which never happened pre COVID.  I shot several magazine assignments relating to social distancing or even Pandemic related safety as well.  Safety precautions on these new shoots were interesting too, as well as the precautions taken at any sporting events I was lucky enough to attend this year.  From nose swabs, to thermal cameras taking group temperatures; all the boxes were checked even down to occasionally having to wash my hands in front of someone before even going into wherever it was I was arriving.  There are still even a couple of assignments that I can’t even talk about yet which finished up as far back as August because at the time of this writing almost all of the imagery isn’t out yet.  That said, now that the blog is back there is something to look forward to as content.  Interestingly enough the online teaching element of 2020 started off super strong and then tapered off again not long after the pandemic started.  I think folks were hot with online learning to get started, but then seemed to quickly tire of sitting at home for it as well.  Online classes of all kinds are here to stay though, and I don’t honestly think that’s a bad thing.  More on that for me coming to the blog soon.

Nikon Z7, 400ISO, Nikon 200-400F4@400mm. 1/4000th@F4.

Without a doubt 2020 was a tough year and nobody needs to lie about this; not that I expect anyone would.  I for one am looking forward to the possibilities of 2021 but fully admit that it’s going to take some work from all of us to be better.  I am off to the races again in another day or two though, finalizing the books preparing the computer and folders for some 2021 photo action with some basketball and teaching; not to mention plans for a few other projects that I’m trying to finalize this week as well.   I know that we didn’t cross some magical line between 2020 and 2021 to make 2021 instantly better but I think we are all hoping for the best for 2021 anyway.  It’s all going to be about attitude.  That said, I cannot argue with Joe McNally’s take on it when he said “Given our state, 2021 might be better served to just keep the door locked.”  Vaccines are headed out now, and who knows when we will each receive even the first half of the two part process.  Keep in mind if you don’t complete them in the proper cadence it’s to the back of the line to start over.   I for one am ready for the vaccine, although I do know plenty of folks that say they will refuse stating that they don’t know what’s in it.

Nikon D850, 125ISO, Nikon 70-200F.28FL@170mm. 1/60th@F4. Elinchrom ELB500 above camera left with 27″ Octabox with grid triggered by Elinchrom Skyport Pro in the hot shoe.


In the end, like many I am ready to be back out and at it, making pictures in any number of capacities and I hope that 2021 is ready for it too.  Who would have thought that as adults we would regularly be sticking things up our noses and complaining about the loss of our favorite masks?  But, here we are.  I do have some blog content to work on straight away though.  Some stuff that I have been working on for a bit, while the site migration was happening and some other stuff that I know is coming up this year already.  Some of it will be gear reviews, some of it just plain fun stuff.  Let’s work together to make 2021 a better year than 2020.  That shouldn’t be hard.  I’m going to do my best to keep this space better updated than I used to, I’m hoping the break in 2020 helps with that.  I think a blog a month is a good goal yes?  If that month’s review is a gear review I’ll see if I can sneak in a second with some photo making content as well.  A want with a plan is a goal right?  2021 doesn’t need to be the best year in history, but it just needs to be better than 2020.  Thanks for reading, and as always.  More soon.

Nikon Z7, 80ISO, Sigma 28F1.4Art, 1/200th@F1.4. Elinchrom ELB500 Above camera right on a Kupo Baby Boom and C stand in a 39″ Rotalux Octabox. Second ELB500 head far behind the subject out of sight on camera left with a 110cm Strip box. Both lights triggered by Elinchrom Skyport Pro in the camera hot shoe.