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Guest blog post by liveBooks client Ed Asmus

“Stunning” is a word that I don’t often use. But in this particular case, my trip to visit Ethiopia’s Omo Valley was not only aesthetically stunning, but strange and otherworldly. Almost ancestral.

Ed Asmus

Ed Asmus

This magical place is also known as “The Cradle of Mankind” – home of the oldest hominid fossil, #AL288-1 or “Lucy.” 3.5 million years after her, I went to photograph and visit her descendants.

This life changing journey started in a strange way. I am a long time user of the Broncolor lighting in my professional photography business in Sacramento, CA. One day, when I was reading their monthly newsletter, I saw a featured photographer and read about his trip to Ethiopia. His images were immediately captivating. Eerie, almost. It was hard to believe that what I was looking at really still existed in the world today. I contacted Ken, the photographer, who told me that things were rapidly changing over there, that I should go for at least two weeks, and that I should go NOW. He gave me his trusted guide’s name and shoot organizer, Ayele Sode, and all the pieces began to fall into place.


Ed Asmus

Ed Asmus

We planned our trip in November, just after the Ethiopian rainy season – their springtime – so native flowers would be in bloom. With equipment loaded atop our SUV, we headed to our first stop to see the “Surma Tribe.” It took three long days of driving in the bush to get to their village; the dirt roads were horrible. Not many Western people get to this tribe because they are so far off the beaten path, and there are no accommodations or running water. Our guide had organized tent camping and an enormous bottled water supply. He brought with us a chef and a hired bodyguard with an AK-47. I forgot we were in the bush and a long ways away from any cell service or modern conveniences.


Ed Asmus

Ed Asmus

We planned to stay five days with the Surma people, but it was cut short by tribal tensions one night, so we departed a day early. We still experienced rain, which made the roads even more difficult. On our way out, some roads were washed out and we ended up getting stuck four times. It crossed my mind more than once that we were all going to spend the night in the Landcruiser. The first little town we came to is where we found pension for $2.00 a night – and I gladly picked up the tab. The rain made our travels longer as we had another three days of driving to get to our next tribe. We saw seven tribes total, each more different than the last. The one commonality is that they all live and depend on the land; most are either farmers of teff, corn, wheat, or coffee, or they free range cattle and goats. Our accommodations ranged from $2 to $120 per night/USD. This really is a National Geographic wonderland, and what you will see and experience is worth every penny. All I can say is stunning.


Ed Asmus

Ed Asmus

I’ve been back for only two weeks and am already missing the ET native people. They seem to get by on what they have and are happy. My plans are to go back again next year, fine tune the logistics, and shoot more beautiful work.

Ed Asmus

Ed Asmus

Ed Asmus

Please check out Ed’s website for more stunning images!

Studio: 916-455-5061


September 23rd, 2014

Shooting on the Edge

Posted by liveBooks

Have you ever wondered how did they get that shot? Corporate industrial photographer Nick Souza tells us how he is able to create and produce compelling images while navigating a dangerous work environment.

As I carefully work my way to the tip of a 300 foot crane boom perched 200 feet over the water and swaying mightily as it unloads a giant container ship, my biggest challenge is to not smash a camera against one of the huge steel girders that surround me. More importantly, be careful not to slip on the minefield of grease blobs that wait to slam me into the sharp metal catwalk that is below my feet.

Subic Bay Container Terminal in Manila, Philippines

A vessel is assisted by a tug boat as it departs the Subic Bay Container Terminal in Manila, Philippines. Image courtesy of Nick Souza.

Surrounded by giant machinery that will roll over you in a matter of seconds or alternately drop their 2 tons of cargo right where you are standing, my work environment can be extremely dangerous. An ear splitting array of sounds in the midst of controlled chaos, a container terminal plays a roll in our daily lives that most people have no idea about.

The vast majority of our clothing, household goods, electronics and even some of our food are shipped around the world in 40 foot steel boxes on ships longer than four football fields. For twenty years as a corporate industrial photographer I have concentrated on this specialized world. The incredible scale of the ships, the colorful containers and the opportunity to travel captivated me immediately. With a background in photojournalism, telling my client’s stories was easy, but it was doing it dramatically that became my signature style.

Combining my storytelling ability with a strong artistic approach, I create images that are driven by their composition, color or quality of light yet still successfully illustrate the theme or message that they were ultimately created for. This concept has become my brand, with my client’s relying on a unique vision of their industry to differentiate themselves from the competition.

SPRC Container Terminal Cartagena Columbia

View of the front of a Reachstacker which is designed to move containers in multiple directions. Image courtesy of Nick Souza.

My approach to an assignment always begins by gathering as much information as possible. Very simply, I ask a lot of questions! Working on location is about finding solutions to challenges and still producing the best possible images. In an environment where shoot sabotaging last minute schedule changes are the norm, and cooperation is the key to my success, knowing the right questions to ask is what enables me to produce the types of images that I do. Armed with information, it is easier to make decisions about what I am going to shoot and plan for potential opportunities.

Speaking the lingo and having a great deal of knowledge about what I am photographing has served me well in being able to do things that would usually be greeted with a resounding NO! I am persistent and have been given some incredible access to produce some very difficult shots.

I have been on a lot of cranes, but on an assignment in Cartagena Columbia for the manufacturer, I really wanted to shoot from a different perspective. Making giant steel structures look as impressive as they are in person, showcase my client’s brand, throw in some bad weather mixed with uncooperative local authorities, just another typical assignment!

When working in a setting that has massive scale, finding an elevated vantage point is my favorite way to create a dynamic image. Shooting from on top of a container crane is the simplest way to get above this giant world. My client’s crane in Columbia offered a potentially incredible vantage point that I have never shot from before. A small platform at the tip that was actually below the boom, difficult and dangerous to get to while the crane was working, became the place that I absolutely had to shoot from.

SPRC Container Terminal Cartagena Columbia Kalmar STS Crane

Gantry Cranes unloading a container ship at the Port of Cartagena Columbia. Image courtesy of Nick Souza.

While I work in dangerous environments, I am not a daredevil and safely doing my job is the number one priority. Noticing several minutes of lag time in the cycle of unloading containers, I realized it might be possible to get to my elusive vantage point without risk or interfering with productivity. I was just going to have to convince my escort who really didn’t want to be up there in the first place, that everything would be fine! Utilizing the always-effective bargaining tool of time, as in “we will only be there for a few minutes” I was able to make an image that offered an amazing perspective of my client’s product in operation.

One of the more unusual aspects of a typical assignment is that often I will be shooting for more than one client at the same time. I discovered many years ago that if a project or assignment involves multiple companies, it works very well to combine everyone’s needs into one assignment. Interconnected as vendors or customers of each other, sharing production/travel expenses is always appealing to them. On this type of shoot I provide each client involved with their own custom set of images mixed with selections that are useful for everyone.

Adding this additional level of complexity to my normally challenging assignments has actually enabled me to be more creative. Focusing on the different needs, I’m seeing the situations that I’m shooting in ways that may have been missed. During a recent shoot documenting the delivery of five gigantic automated cranes in New Jersey, I made one of my favorite images by seeing my subject a little differently.

Konecranes ASC/RMG delivery at Global Container Terminal New Jersey USA

A fully assembled automated stacking crane is unloaded from a heavy lift vessel while a supervisor looks on. Image courtesy of Nick Souza.

In an environment that is filled with giant impressive industrial machinery, it is easy to focus only on that. To enhance the story, I will often include people in the frame adding both scale and a connection. On this particular assignment everything came together when the project manager for one of my three clients put himself right in front of me, blocking my shot. With this extremely large man obstructing my perfect angle, I was just about to move when suddenly I saw a great shot. Placing this giant man clad in yellow coveralls in the center of the frame with his back to me while the action happened beyond him told a great story. It would have been really easy to not see one of my now favorite images when the shot I had in my mind was completely obstructed.

With persistence, luck and a lot of patience, I am constantly searching for more interesting ways to photograph an industry that I have been looking at for a long time.

As sponsors of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop for the third year, liveBooks recently got an update about the lineup of instructors for this year’s workshop happening from June 20-26 in Istanbul, Turkey.

We have to admit, it’s an impressive list: Maggie Steber, Ron Haviv, Andrea Bruce, Stephanie Sinclair, Ami Vitale, Guy Calaf, Kate Brooks, Tyler Hicks, Kael Alford, Adriana Zehbruaskas, Jared Moossy, David Guttendfelder, Rena Effendi, Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Jon Vidar, David Bathgate, Tewfic el Sawy, Henrik Kastenskov/Bombay Flying Club.

You can read all about the Foundry Workshop in our interview with founder Eric Beecroft from last year’s edition in India (year one was in Mexico). The workshop began in 2008 as a more affordable workshop option that international and emerging photographers could afford.

With such a prestigious list of instructors this year, we thought it would be good to hear from a few of them about the Foundry experience and their advice for workshops in general.

Miki Johnson: What is your favorite thing about being involved in the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop? Do you have a favorite moment from past years?

Ron Haviv: Watching the growth of the students in such a short period of time. The realization from many that this is a great way to spend your life. Seeing that moment on students’ faces is inspirational to me.

Ami Vitale: The collaboration and working with fine photographers and fun people. It’s always a great experience and I’m always inspired by my students and colleagues. Last time I left feeling  full of inspiration and ideas. Watching students grow in the short span of the workshop is incredible.

Tewic el Sawy: My favorite take-home sentiment from participating in the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop is the mutual camaraderie and unfettered sharing of knowledge, information, and support between instructors and students/attendees. As for my favorite moment: during the final screening of the students work at the Manali workshop, learning that Dhiraj Singh (one of my class attendees) had deservedly won the top photography spot/prize of the workshop.

MJ: What is the most important things for students to realize when they participate in a workshop, to help them get the most out of the experience?

Ron: To open their minds to the knowledge that all the photographers, both students and teachers alike, are sharing with them.

Ami: To have fun and not to be too hard on themselves. I think some people come into this and put so much pressure on themselves to succeed.  This should be an environment of exploration and learning — and making mistakes is part of the learning process.

Tewic: The most important lessons that students will learn is to leave their ego at home, to help each other, to collaborate, and to be optimistic. Speaking for my class, they will realize that the more they know of multimedia, the more they’ll progress in their careers.

MJ: Was there a class or instructor that helped you become the photographer that you are now? How did they do that?

Ami: Rich Beckman. I’m back in grad school with him again! He’s always been ahead of the curve when it comes to finding new paths for storytelling. I’m studying Multimedia and Film with him now.

Tewic: I took a class in Havana with Magnum photographer Costa Manos and he told me that my photographs were “too simple.” He was right, and I’ve been trying to complicate them ever since.

While iStockphoto is launching its 10th birthday bash, this New York Times story outlining the hard road ahead for photographers stirred up debate in the photo world (there’s even a follow-up article with reader and blog responses). Adding insult to injury, word also surfaced of a new business model for product photography called Via U!, where buyers can composite an image and purchase all rights for a flat $250 fee. A Photo Editor has details.

The New York Photo Festival (NYPH) announced its curators and exhibition dates for this year. The third annual NYPH ’10, which runs from May 12 – 15, 2010, is getting bigger and better, with later and extended exhibition hours, reduced fare and open attendance hours for the public. It has also teamed up with the Slideluck Potshow to take photography outdoors.

Blurb’s Photography Book Now competition has also launched its third year. In addition to $25,000, the grand prize winner will also be given the opportunity to show their work at ICP, the Annenberg Space for Photography, and the George Eastman House. The competition is a reminder of the potential of self-publishing, something we discussed extensively in our Future of Photobooks series.

Center, formerly known as the Santa Fe Center of Photography, has announced the winners of the 2010 Center’s Choice Awards. Aaron Huey, Stephen Beckley, and Jamey Stillings are the winners of the Curator’s Choice Award, the Director’s Choice Award, and the Editor’s Choice Award, respectively. See the full list of winners here.


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