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Photography For Bloggers – Citizen Journalist Photography Of History-making Events

Lessons Learned

Thanks to Air Force Photographers

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Country boy, history enthusiast, writer and photographer that I am I try to keep up on local events. Friday evening, September 23, 2011 – I opened up the camera bag and checked to make sure the Canon EOS 40D camera’s battery was charged and that I had the compact flash media card.

Professional and amateur photographers realizes that Murphy’s Law of “anything that can go wrong will,” is why most photographers take a second camera body as a backup, in case, something happens to the first camera. I checked the Nikon D 70, which past muster and it went into the camera bag.

Black Bag Operation – I bought this black camera bag in the Philippines and used it on duty to carry my camera gear while on duty in the Pacific. It reminded me of my friend, Sergeant Robert Matlock and the camera bag that he carried at Barksdale. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.
Z_My Black Camera Bag_3817_resized

Thanks to Uncle Sam’s Air Force, I learned to “hope for the best and always plan for the worst,” which meant I put fresh double A batteries in my Kodak CX7300 compact camera and slipped it into the Canon holster on my belt.

Three cameras, their media cards and batteries would probably be considered “overkill” by most photographers on the planet. Years of shooting with film, digital and an army of different cameras always drives home one major point : A truly historical event only happens once in your lifetime.

Whether it is your 10th Birthday Party, meeting a famous celebrity, or graduating from the 8th Grade – some events will only happen once in every lifetime and you either get the moment on film, digital, or a movie camera or the moment is gone forever and you can’t share it with future kids or grand kids. Thus, I had two cameras in the bag and one in the holster on my belt.

History In The Making

Life creates history making events. Some you can’t plan for because you don’t know what’s coming. The ones that you do realize is going to go down in the history books are the ones that you plan for.

Stone County, Missouri’s 160th Anniversary Celebration – Saturday, September 24, 2011

The history making event was Stone County, Missouri’s 160th Anniversary Celebration set for Saturday, September 24, 2011 in Galena, Missouri. I knew as Joe Citizen, Country Boy Photographer that I wanted some nice shots to be able to post to my blog.

I also thought if I got some decent shots that I would email them to the local county newspaper, “The Crane Chronicle and Stone County Republican,” in Crane. My years of working on Air Force newspapers had taught me “once a newspaperman – always a newspaperman.” I could email the photos and then, it would be up to the editor to decide if there was space to publish the photos or if they had their own reporter on scene who would take their photos.

Finally, I knew as a kid, I had always enjoyed looking at old historical photos in history books and wondering what life was like back then. So, I would try to shoot some photos that stood the test of time that could be looked at or used by future generations, which meant that I would touch base with The Stone County Historical and Genealogical Society later and see if they wanted any of the prints.

Citizen Journalist”

Basically, since I was going into this photo shooting situation as a “citizen journalist”, i.e., a blogger, rather than a working news journalist or military reporter, I had a lot more flexibility at how I chose to cover the situation, which translated into a lot more freedom of movement as well. Plus, it helped to be a local country boy that had grown up in Stone County and people knew that I took photos.

Good Ole’ Days

Ten years earlier, I had covered Stone County Missouri’s 150th Anniversary on the square, in Galena, so I had a fairly good idea of the overall setup for the day’s activities, when it came to the local landscape and a general idea of the events. Back then, in 2001, my digital cameras were a Polaroid PDC 600 and a Jam Cam. The photos ended up posted on a Stone County website operated by Jo Dunne.

Joe Boyer, of Nixa, carries the American Flag on his trusty steed, during the parade to commemorate Stone County’s 150th Birthday Celebration in Galena, June 2, 2001. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr., Galena, Mo. I shot this photo using a early digital camera that I could afford at the time.

Most of my photography skills I learned in the Air Force, I learned by working alongside Air Force photographers. Uncle Sam sent me off to The Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana to be trained as a “print journalist.” I got to use a government camera for about three weeks and instructed how to shoot Kodak black and white Tri-X film for use in base newspapers. Writing was the main focus, so my photography training was basically which end of the camera to point and click the shutter.

Master Sergeant Phillip D. Cooper, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs NCO in Charge, and a former Air Force Audio Visual Service photographer, taught me how to use a Canon camera, on the job at Barksdale. At Barksdale, I got in the habit of working closely with the photographers in the local base photo lab.

Photo Lab Liaison ?

During my military career, I was always the public affairs guy, who usually ended up as the liaison with the base photo lab photographers. Public Affairs published the base newspaper, but the majority of time, a public affairs office had to rely on the local base photo lab to get the shots for the base newspaper.

While Public Affairs was a major customer, the base photo lab always had other clients that could not be put on hold. Often times public affairs officers and NCOs didn’t always appreciate all the commitments that the base photo lab had to juggle day to day – enter Sam.

Thanks to Air Force photo lab photographers, I could go into a darkroom and burn and dodge a print and do some other basic photo tasks that the average public affairs guy or gal never took the time to learn.

I was fortunate enough to work with some great base photo lab photographers through the years and I understood how they would get swamped with work orders, so I always tried to help out. In the process, I learned several lessons from Air Force photographers and was in place as digital cameras came on active duty in the U.S. Air Force.

Digital Cameras Go On Active Duty In The Pacific

My unofficial adoption by the base photo lab at Clark Air Base, in the Philippines, put me at the right place at the right time as the United States Air Force began to transition from film to digital photography.

Pacific Air Forces photographers didn’t necessarily want the extra weight in their camera bags, which usually carried two Nikon

A Classic U. S. Air Force and Pacific Air Forces photographers rig in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Nikon F3 is attached to the film motor drive, which sits on a bracket that holds the Nikon flash gun. In PACAF, some base photo labs equipped photographers with equally sized Sunpak flash gun units. This is the type of gear usually found in an Air Force photographers’ camera bag. Plus, usually one more camera body, a wide angle lens, a zoom lens and a telephoto lens. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.
Z_Classic U S Air Force Photographers Camera and Flash Gun of the 1980s_3825_resized

F-3 or Nikon F-4 bodies, a Sunpak or Nikon flash gun, and a variety of lens from a standard 50-millimeter to zooms, telephotos, wide angles and fish eyes.


An Air Force photographer’s camera bag usually weighed every bit as much as a crew chief’s toolbox on the flightline, which meant they would sling about 70 pounds over their shoulder to go to a photo job.

Sergeant Robert Matlock and I covered many photo and news assignments when I was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. He had this huge black camera bag that looked like a duffel bag because of all of the equipment that he had to carry. Once I got to the Philippines, I saw a camera bag that reminded me of Sergeant Matlock’s, so I bought it and wagged it from home, to the office and to numerous assignments in the Pacific.

Digital Camera Nightmares

When the Kodak DCS 420 and the Kodak DCS 460 came out those two camera bodies were roughly another five pounds that had to be added to an already overweight camera bag. I remember I was on duty in the Pacific, when these digital cameras came out. What made them unforgettable was the massive hard drive at the bottom of the camera looked like two red house bricks mortared together and painted black.

When the photo lab at Clark got one of these cameras, Technical Sergeant Ed Foster, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the photo lab, held it up and showed it to me. He was proud that the U.S. Air Force and the major command, Pacific Air Forces had sent the digital Nikons to the photo lab.

The other photographers in the photo lab didn’t share his enthusiasm. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, whatever technology got released in the United States, we knew it would probably be at least six months before the government items came to supply channels to end up at bases in the Pacific and the same was basically true for personal computers that came through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to end up on shelves at the BX for sale.

While Uncle Sam has always been great at supplying documentation like thick computer manuals, in those days, on the job training with new technology, meant you would have to sit down and dig into the books because trainers and training seemed to remain in the continental United States.

Film photographers were skilled at shooting film; digital was a new worry.

Even in the United States, there was the staunch photographers who swore digital would NEVER replace film. To the on duty Air Force photographers in the Pacific, digital was added stress they did not need: the story was that Uncle Sam had bought the cameras for about $10,000 each. If a photographer would of lost a camera, the United States Government would regain the lost money out of a photographer’s pay each payday, which meant he or she would be spending a long time to pay for a lost camera. The weight, the price and the technology to develop the images were issues that made the photographers reluctant to put the cameras in their camera bags.

Being a Public Affairs NCO, I was ecstatic the day that I got to hold one of the heavy cameras for a moment and click the shutter once. Then, I had to hand it back to the Air Force photographer.

Some Air Force photographers, like Technical Sergeant Ed Foster did see the handwriting on the wall and realized that the Days Of Film were like the Days Of The Jeep – ending. Still, the learning curve to learn the new technology and still get the job done meant that photographers would have to find some way to work it into their daily workload. Tsgt. Foster, at Clark, did his best to convince and train his people that, Digital Cameras Are Here To Stay.

Thanks to Uncle Sam, when it comes to cameras and computers I never believe the ads that claim a piece of equipment is “user friendly.” I realize “user friendly” is simply a phrase that means, you are going to have to learn how to use this piece of equipment before you can really use it.

Documentation Photos:

Crime Scene – Historical – Construction- Official Portrait;

You Name It And The Photo Lab Shoots It

Thanks to United States Air Force Photographers I learned that they would get different taskings that made sense in the real world: Documentation.

Uncle Sam is big about documentation.

While the photos might look boring to someone looking at a photo with art in mind, Uncle taught the photographers to be able to go into situations and shoot with documentation in mind.

A crime scene happens on a military base, then, you could expect a base photo lab photographer to arrive on scene and shoot the law enforcement type photos.

Damage to military property and moments after the military policeman arrives, a base photo lab photographer would arrive on scene.

Civil Engineers or Air Force Red Horse gets ready to break ground for a new building and the photo lab gets a call.

Official portraits need to be done for officers, NCOs or airmen and the photo lab gets a call.

Thanks to Air Force Photographers I learned to be flexible and always keep documentation photography in mind, when shooting photos.

20 Questions

Whenever I would call in a photo job to a photographer, it always seemed a “Game Of 20 Questions.” After about six months, I understood why the photographers always asked so many questions. With their various daily taskings they never knew what kind of shooting situation that they were going into.

If the photos were like a community event being hosted by a colonel’s wife or a general’s wife, then, they would do everything humanly possible to make sure the event got on film or digital.

If the photos were of a person like a United States Senator, Congressman or Ambassador, then, the photographer realized that not only would the shots and exposures have to be “spot on,” but the time in the darkroom to process the prints would at least double the amount of time usually required to process prints. Higher headquarters would more than likely be requesting copies through official channels.

Sooner or later official requests would flow down through official channels from either the senator’s or congressman’s office, which meant that the total number of finished prints would probably be a number that would look like “every man, woman and child in Washington D.C., had been given a copy of the color or black and white photos of the elected officials’ trip to the Pacific base..”

Thanks to Air Force Photographers, I learned before any photo job, you learn as much as you can about a shooting assignment and pack your camera bag for it.

Stone County Scenario

Friday night and early Saturday morning, I got my equipment ready.

I had used my cameras enough to have an idea what they were capable of. The Canon and Nikon had high resolution capabilities, which meant that the photos could be enlarged for prints to at least 8 x 10. Those images would have to be processed before uploading and posting to the internet because the megapixels would take forever and a day to upload in terms of time. I knew I would have to “downsize” the resolution of a chosen photo to upload to the internet for use in my blog. My compact Kodak was just an emergency backup or, in case I wanted a “snapshot” of something.

I had a general idea of the overall itinerary of the day’s events from 9 am to 6 pm. I had done the best overall planning that I could wrap my military mind around. Thanks to the lessons learned from Air Force photographers I felt prepared and ready for the event. With the camera bag packed, I sat the alarm clock and tried to get a good night’s sleep.


Documentation Photo – Weather Over Stone County – The skies over the south entrance of the Stone County Courthouse reveal how dismal they were the early morning of the celebration until around the time of the parade. I didn’t edit this photo to serve as documentation of the early morning weather on the day of the celebration. Needless to say, most of the early morning photos required me to use Photoscape to bright light into the photos. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Documentation Photo – Traffic Control – I shot this photo to serve as the documentation of traffic control. In the early morning hours, there was no yellow plastic tape used to tie off the streets of the square, so someone would stand in the street and tell arriving vendors and participants where they would have to park. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.
Z_Documentation_SC160_0150_Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr. 0150_resized

Documentation Photo – Traffic Control – This red vintage World War II jeep served as a temporary traffic control barricade to keep vendors’ vehicles from turning on to the street that was being used to assemble the people and vehicles for the parade. Documentation photos, like this one, give future event planners information on how to block off an area for a public event and still allow people and some limited vehicle traffic to move around an area. Plus, future historians and researchers can look at such a photo and have an information about how people and materials were arranged for some events. Documentation photos aren’t always the most interesting photographs, but they serve a purpose. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.
Z_Documentation_SC160_0153_Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr. 0153B_resized

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Written by samwarren55

October 10, 2011 at 10:02 AM

14 Responses

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    Nikon Compact

    October 12, 2011 at 3:47 AM

    • Nikon Compact,

      One of my first rules of photography is find a camera you are comfortable with.

      My mother almost always went for an inexpensive 35 millimeter compact in her later years. For years she had taken photos with a Kodak Brownie, then a Kodak instamatic and she had even owned a Polaroid Land camera. She liked to take photos, but she basically was looking for a reliable point and shoot camera.


      Cameras are like kids – each one has a different personality. If I’m going out in my “Johnny News Photographer” mode then I select one of my old reliables that has earned their stripes in getting the job done time and time again. If I’m in my “Artsy Craftsy” mode then I’ll experiment, take the time and “play” with a camera to see what it has “under the hood.” If I’m in a “shutterbug” mode to where all I have to do is raise the camera and press the shutter, then, I’m willing to try almost any point and shoot camera.

      The point is a camera is a tool like a hammer or saw. I know some men who would never use anything but Craftsman or Black and Decker. Likewise I’ve had photographer friends who would only use Nikon or Canon and would never consider Pentax or Olympus, which are also great camera systems.

      But, the real success of a camera is what it can do in the hands of a photographer who has an idea in mind that he or she wants to see on film or in digital media.

      Look at your budget and decide how involved in photography that you want to get. You may only be interested in a point and shoot. If you want to dig in and learn from the ground up, then, there are always the film cameras. I still have film ready to go for my Canon AE-1Program and my Canon T50.

      Cameras can also be like gloves, when you select a camera – it helps to pick “the right fit.” Great sources of information that I use are digital photography review, steve’s digicams and don’t neglect the camera manufacturer’s websites for information. Plus, there are camera and photography forums on the internet that you may want to visit and see what shutterbugs and photographers have to say about certain cameras.

      And, of course, if you are a camera collector, then, visit websites and see what catches your fancy. Then, you may want to go shopping on ebay.



      October 14, 2011 at 11:20 AM

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    October 14, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    • Stop Snacking,

      Thank you for your comment and taking the time to comment.

      For the record, my comments, ideas. views and articles aren’t always “mainstream.”

      In this article, it is “Common Sense” learned the “Hard Way” by “Experience,” Planning is easy to say, but often hard to do.

      U.S. Air Force photographers taught me to be flexible and to be ready to “roll with the punches” because whether it is a routine photo situation like photos at an on base nursery school or out on the flightline shooting a mass aircraft launch – Life can turn on a dime and a simple photo situation can change in an instant, be cancelled or become something completely different once you get on scene.

      The point is always “Plan When You Can,” but if you have to respond “On The Fly” be ready to roll and go with the situation to get what you need.



      October 15, 2011 at 5:44 PM

  3. Did you design the site this well with the default blog tools? Your blog is incredible.

    • Pellucid,

      I started out using Word Press. I published many pages using their default blog editor, which I don’t think is that responsive or “user friendly.” I used Windows Live Writer for awhile. Recently, I use Post2Blog as my blog editor, which makes the whole writing, importing of photos and publishing to the blogs fun.

      Thank you for the compliment.



      October 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

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    • Thank you for the comment. I believe it is important to try and support your local community because we are all in this life together.



      October 27, 2011 at 2:34 AM

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    October 28, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    • Sharmaine Noguchi,

      I didn’t make any change to my domain address. I think most of this is an automatic function done by computers, software and servers. If you want to manually go to a website then you have to type in the www. before the address, but if you click on the link then I think the software and servers kick in and handle the connection. Your Internet Service Provider and Web Hosting Service should be able to provide you complete details on their specifics and requirements.


      November 4, 2011 at 12:33 AM

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    October 29, 2011 at 6:45 AM

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      November 4, 2011 at 12:39 AM

  7. Dead pent articles, appreciate it for selective information.

    • Indian wedding photographer,

      I don’t understand the phrase, “Dead pent articles.”

      As for “selective information,” the information is based on my experiences not on any particular agenda. I’m proud of my military service and I have the utmost respect for the United States Armed Forces.

      I love my country. I don’t always agree with my government, but the nice thing about being an American is you don’t have to. There is many things that the United States Government does that I appreciate. There is many things that the United States Government does that I don’t agree with – and I do not hesitate to comment, criticize or point out that the idea or action is “stupid” in my opinion. President Thomas Jefferson believed Americans should be an “informed Citizenry.” I agree.

      I support the United States Military. We are the Good Guys. We are professional and do the job when others don’t have the guts. Never Ever confuse the United Stats Armed Forces with those rag tag, terrorist, dictator groupies that overthrow governments and kill citizens just because they have uniforms and guns. Professional military organizations are people who make a career of service and commitment – we are the cadre of professionals who believe in the profession of arms to maintain peace, the public welfare and the growth of civilization.

      In the current government, I support my president. I believe President Obama is doing his best. I believe he is a good man, who is doing his best to bring us back from the brink of global economic collapse. I don’t think the U.S. Congress is doing much to help him.

      In the past government, the Bush Administration, in my personal opinion, was a personality cult of a wannabee American dictator and his paper-pushing groupies out to push their own agenda and leave the American people to deal with the burden of their arrogance, egotism and economic waste. I was critical of that United Stats Government from Day One and none of my reading or research has suggested anything to give them the benefit of the doubt. They came to power and America had a balanced checkbook, after eight years, America was knee deep in two wars and on the brink of financial ruin that was taking global economies with us.

      I always support American men and women in uniform – active duty and retirees.

      I respect, but don’t always trust my government, because some politicians aren’t noble – they are just greedy and egomaniacs.

      Therefore, I did not write the article to be selective.



      November 4, 2011 at 1:09 AM

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