To be honest, I am still going through this career with a somewhat surreal feeling inside that I am walking in another person’s shoes. It’s fun, it’s stressful, but at the end of the day there is nothing I’d rather be doing… other than being a Ghostbuster.
Last week I was in New York to meet with Nikon. It was not just a meeting, but the first “Ambassador Summit,” where those of us honored to call ourselves Ambassadors would gather and meet the rest of the family. I had no idea what to expect, and decided that I should do what I do best…. so I checked into the hotel and immediately went down to the lobby bar.
Fight it as much as we can, we photographers are a lot more alike than we think. Proof of this… within 1 hour, every other ambassador with with me at the bar and the stories starting flying over pints of Stella. On many occasions I found myself mentally removing myself from the conversation at hand to step back and admire the talent that I was fortunate to be sitting with. Even more incredible was to be able to stand next to them as brothers and sisters… my Nikon family.
What I wouldn’t give for a video to show you all the shenanigans that went on, or the laughs that were had. However, we put the cameras down and got to know each other beyond our work and accomplishments. This being perhaps the greatest honor of all. Getting to talk to other photographers that I know and respect about our families, hobbies and occasionally photography.
While I’m bummed the entire photo world couldn’t sit next to us and share a beer, I decided to write down notes about each of the ambassadors and share them as a kind of insight to what each of us is like away from the camera. I will go in the order we spoke:
Joe McNally – This was actually my first time meeting Joe, and I was a bit hesitant to bug him, as he is often the guy that everyone wants to talk to. Then to my surprise, while heading into dinner, he approached me and introduced himself. It was immediately apparent that this man possess a kindness and humility that we all should aspire to. The night after our speeches (and again at the hotel bar) he was the guy I talked to the most, about life, traveling, and our flights in fighter jets. A good man to the core.
Jerry Ghionis – First thing to know about Jerry is that you should never seat he and I next to each other at dinner. He reminds me very much of two of my best friends, and with the two of us at fine dining establishment, nothing but mischief could be expected. Much of the table was in tears with laughter, while the rest of the table was trying their best to claim no association with the two of us. Not once did we talk photo, and that one of the reasons I think we get along so well.
Corey Rich – The first to join me at the inaugural beer, we share a love of Stella. I don’t think I saw Corey once where he wasn’t smiling. I think I may have disappointed him when I mentioned that the trip to New York was one of the first where I saw snow, or that I have never gone camping. He strikes me as being far more outdoorsy than I am, but is a great guy nonetheless.
Lucas Gilman – Let me start out by saying that I blame Lucas for the cold which I currently have, but I will forgive him for this. Lucas is a very quiet guy that is hilarious when he says something. I could tell that he was taking it all in as well. Personality wise, I think he and I are a lot alike. The last drink I in New York I shared with he and a couple other ambassadors and I found myself wishing I had chatted more with him during the summit.
Ami Vitale – Ami has photographed in some of the most dangerous, life threatening situations on Earth. She has worked amidst gun fire and bombs and the chaos of war. So it is only ironic that we met at Starbucks, while both of us were freaking out about the five minute speeches that we had to give. She is extremely sweet, soft spoken and the only person I’ve ever met that dressed as a panda to do a photoshoot.
Cliff Mautner – Sadly, I didn’t get to talk to Cliff all that much during the summit. However, on a slight funny note, he drove us back to the hotel after a dinner and there wasn’t enough room for all the guys in his Porsche Cayenne, so Corey and I rode in the trunk.
Bill Frakes – A fellow Sun Devil, Bill and I have tried unsuccessfully on many occasions to grab a coffee. He is a man that has many great stories from shoots. The irony is how much we have photographed the same athletes, but couldn’t be more different in our approach to photographing them. He shoots the games, whereas I shoot in the studio. We joked on many occasions about gear. The main one being that I have shot with the same body and lens for nearly seven years, where he shoots some events with fifty (yes, 50) cameras at once.
Dave Black – Dave is another guy I wish I could have talked with more. I enjoy looking at his work, and would have loved to hear the stories behind much of it. I believe he is one of the quite, super intellectual types. One thing to note, we both love Hans Zimmer’s music before shoots.
Robin Layton – OMG is Robin an awesome person. We met a couple years back while we were speaking in Atlanta, both for our first time. She and I are each others cheerleaders and she is a person that I can talk to about anything. She sees things in such a beautiful and artistic way that she even designed a house that was nothing less than stunning.
Sandro – A soft spoken man that is photography in its purest form. What is so cool about him is he absolute love of creating art. He played a video during his speech and I remember thinking to myself, “now that’s what I’m talking about.” I think that he and I are quite similar in our approach towards creating in that we research a ton before ever setting foot in studio.
Moose Peterson – I didn’t get to speak to Moose at all other than a quick handshake. I could tell that he was a man that is passionate about conservation and protecting animals near extinctions. One funny thing that I got from his speech is that he has sat still in a sand hole in the California sun for 12 hours to take a single image of a near extinct marsupial…. now that is dedication.
Dixie Dixon – The fashion heart of our group (proof in that she is wearing heart-shaped sunglasses in the group photo). Dixie is a hard working girl that has gotten comfortable with the speaking aspect of this job that many of us fear. While full of enthusiasm, she can mellow out with the best of em over beer. She played along with Jerry and my humor like a champ. A damn cool girl.
Andrew Hancock – This guy has dedication. We took a taxi together from Long Island to Brooklyn and I was taken back by how much of his life he dedicates to photography. He wants to learn and has a passion for making his craft better. He was one of the few that I got to talk watches with and I can see a cool pairing if we were to shoot a project together.
Tamara Lackey – Tamara possesses vegan powers (a reference to Scott Pilgrim). In all reality though, she could teach you how to make any dish vegan, and from how much she knows, I can imagine it would taste good. She has a huge heart and an extreme love for her family. Just talking to her makes you care about the world around us more.
Bambi Cantrell – I got to sit next to her for the first day of the conference, and wow. She could do nothing and still go down amongst the best wedding photos ever, yet she is still asking questions and trying to learn. During a meeting where we (the ambassadors) were answering a ton of questions, she was taking notes the whole time. She truly cares about helping the Nikon family grow stronger. As I promised… Bambi, thank you for buying me a banana
Ron Magill – OH. MY. GOD. This man is crazy. Do you remember the guy that did the Micro Machine’s commercials that could talk super fast? He is like Ron’s long lost brother. Ron managed to take a crowd that was mostly asleep after my speech and get them pumped up as if they were knocking back Red Bulls the whole time. In all seriousness though, this man will save animals by showing the world how important they are. While there were fun little jokes made about his enthusiasm about animals, we all look at what he is doing to protect many species with huge respect.
This is my Nikon family, incredible people every last one of them. All talented, yet humble and passionate about what they shoot, and what they shoot it with.
I want to say a genuine and heartfelt Thank You to Mike, Mark and the entire Nikon family. You guys give us so much more than we could ever ask for and we will never be able to say thank you enough.