22 August 2009

"Wow!" 20•Aug•09

Chiam Weinstock digs a grave prior to a traditional Hasidic burial in the Raywood Drive neighborhood of Kiryas Joel Village of Monroe, NY on Thursday, August 20, 2009. The burial was the first one outside of the cemetery in the village. A continuing bitter fight between rival factions of Satmar Hasidim took a dramatic turn Thursday when mourners hastily dedicated a new cemetery just outside Kiryas Joel to bury a 41-year-old man who died that morning. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

*I've covered a lot of funerals and been around death my whole career, but the other night provided the opportunity to make images that just blew me away. Right here close to home. Talk about being in "The Zone." It's the feeling that I work very hard to achieve - when the camera becomes a mere extension of the eye, and as a photographer, you are truly in the moment, witnessing something special. At times I was literally shaking, if only on the inside - or maybe it was the summer heat.
After a typical long work day here in the blazing sun that started out up north covering a local college's freshman moving-in day, quickly followed by a high school football practice, I was handed a vague assignment back in our main office that there was going to be a burial in the Village of Kiryas Joel, the Hasidic enclave here in southern Orange County, NY. There could be trouble between to the two factions of the Hasidic Satmar sect I was told. I would eventually spend two hours at the scene, and although I didn't get to see the actual burial - the family requested that I leave. The dozens of black clad Hasidic men arriving sporting felt fedoras and gathered at the scene made for strong images in a community we rarely get to see from the inside.

It could've just as easily been in another country. Yea, having met the face of death up close and persoanl in Haiti, Kosovo, Central & South America, and Turkey, I can now add "KJ" to this list... -cg.

20 August 2009

*My Photo in USA Today.com 19•Aug.•09

Don Hewitt, former 60 MINUTES Executive Producer photographed in his Manhattan office in December 1995. Hewitt passed away at age 86. (Chet Gordon / The Journal News)

*A portrait I made back in 1995 or so of former 60 MINUTES Executive Producer Don Hewitt appears on the USA Today website. Hewitt's career as a television news executive spanned more than 50 years, and I remember the portrait assignment like it was it was only a few months ago. Shot on negative film back then. Dragged in a Dyna-Lite two light set set-up early on a Sunday morning into the midtown Manhattan offices of 60 MINUTES and remember bouncing one head into the ceiling with a grid over the strobe head. I remember wanting the consistent small camera apertures at f/11 - f/16 on a slow speed film. (Strobist techniques way before it was even called that.) I still remember bits and pieces about that interview and how pleasant he was with me - even though I was at the early stages of my career. Some assignments will always stick with you. I'm glad that the boys at my old paper in White Plains, NY managed to move this image to Arlington, VA (USA Today's HQ).
Hoping this story makes their print editions as well later today. Boy, this business is really something when you stop and think about it all... -cg.


16 August 2009

*You Don't See This Everyday... 15•Aug•09

Montgomery, NY. 15•August•09 7:55PM

I spotted two hot-air balloons on my ride home last evening after an exhaustive day at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. I was there covering the early & midday festivities of the original Woodstock concert's 40th. Anniversary celebration. What a pleasure it was to see these balloons drifting so aimlessly to the earth at sunset, particularly after the day I'd put in up at the Woodstock celebration. I pulled over twice on the interstate to make a few frames of the balloons, and thought this image kind of worked, considering I was on the eastbound side of the highway, so the balloons at times seemed to hover over the vehicles heading west. It was a nice few moments standing along highway and tromping through the underbrush making images and reminding myself how exhilarating it all was when I'd actually accompanied pilot Chris Healey a few months ago on a feature story we did on him in flight: "Takes Your Breath Away." Yea, these few images made the whole 16-hour workday worth it. -cg.

14 August 2009

10-minute "Quick & Dirty" one light portraits - on location. Aug • 2009

Mary Phillips photographed on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Highland, NY on Thursday, August 13, 2009. Phillips is known as the trailkeeper of the picturesque 2.5 mile paved path. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

Yesterday I was faced with cloudy skies most of the day for another outdoor feature assignment for our "Go" section, which appears on Fridays. A schedule change with the subject put us out on location at a converted railroad trail or "Rail-Trail" in our area, which made for a few nice portraits. I used my 'quick & dirty' lighting kit, quickly putting up one small strobe on a stand, and aiming it through a shoot-through umbrella. It's a Canon 550EX strobe, powered by a Quantum 1 battery & fired by Pocket-Wizards. Here's a few from that take as well as the same set-up a few days earlier in the late afternoon light, for a portrait of four recovery center staff members. (below).

As we toured the grounds, and they brought the reporter and I to the back of the building; seeing that late afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees, I knew this would be a signature image for the story - but I knew I had to work fast.
Fortunately their facility had a heavy duty ladder on the loading dock that I could utilize for this image. Also posing them on the inlaid stone labyrinth is mentioned in the story. -cg.

04 August 2009

"Got Ink...?" 3•Aug.•09

SkinFlower Cosmic Designs. Phoenicia, NY. Monday, Aug. 3, 2009. 9:24PM

02 August 2009

Combat Outpost (COP) field training
for senior cadets at the
United States Military Academy in West Point, NY.

Cadet Mike Zhou (21) of Forest Hills, NY secures his M240 machine gun in the back of a Humvee during a mounted patrol mission as part of their Combat Outpost (COP) field training at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Wednesday, July 29, 2009. The 5-day COP training exercise is one segment of a three week summer combat leadership training in the field for senior cadets at the academy. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

* Our West Point beat reporter and I spent an overnight out in the field with West Point cadets last week. This was not an easy assignment by any means. Everything in the soldier's basecamp was run in "real time" with active duty Army NCO's and officers casually lobbing loud explosive devices without warning within the barbed-wire encircled, hilltop basecamp, to "simulate" incoming mortar & artillery fire. These Army trainers were all Iraq & Afghanistan combat vets from active duty units and/or faculty at West Point. When the squads of soon-to-be officers headed out on Humvees on mounted & foot patrols, additional IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices) would erupt right at roadside. The instructors would then walk through an impact area to proclaim, "You're dead. Lay down. You've got a massive chest wound. You three over there are dead..." as they pointed out the seriously wounded or killed. Other cadets would then have to scramble into action to treat their wounded, including applying bandages & identifying their dead comrades.
For few moments there it was all kind of eerie when an artillery attack took out about 15 cadets during evening hot chow in the rain. Hearing protection was mandatory ("ear-pro.") and all the cadets wore either wrap around shades or clear wrap-around, lightweight eye googles ("eye-pro"). We were also issued Kevlar helmets, which were to be worn at all times when outside a tent or vehicle. did I mention the near monsoon conditions that first day...? Muddy conditions, explosions & small arms fire with gunpowder in the air made for challenging conditions for me at first. Really limited my shooting opportunities around the COP (Combat Outpost) those first few hours, until nearly 4PM when we finally were able to accompany a squad out of the compound on Humvees. Initially I was hoping to photograph a few of the cadet command leadership as formal portraits out in the field, and even brought along my portable, mini location lighting backpack & a lightstand bag of umbrellas, stands, etc. The continuing downpours put an instant halt to those ideas, as well as the way their hectic week long operation was being run the instructors. We were introduced as "embedded" reporters and locked onto to a few cadets to follow and attempt to tell their stories, both in words and images during our albeit too brief of a stay.

Slideshow tk soon. You can read my colleague's story here. -cg.