Mexico, NY church for Belt Mag by Brett Carlsen

Belt Mag was unfamiliar to me before I got an email last week from the photo editor there. It is based in Ohio and working to document the Great Lakes and rust belt regions from within. Something I think journalism could use more of, people from outside the NY/DC/LA markets telling stories.

They asked me to head up to Mexico, New York, a small town north of Syracuse, to photograph the Lighthouse Church of God where the pastor has taken the stand that his church will be protected from evil doers by allowing his church carry their handguns during services.

I worked with my Canon 1DX Mark II bodies and used an assortment of prime lenses including the 24 1.4, 35 1.4, 50 1.2 and 135 f2. Everything shot here was during one two hour church service and used natural light.

You can read the article here

Photographing the Snow Bowl 2017 for Getty Images by Brett Carlsen

Photo by Bryan Bennett

Photo by Bryan Bennett

Photographing football is a fast paced and exciting thing to do. Players are at the peak level of physical fitness and sprint across the 100 yard field with ease. They juke, spin and smash into each other at a pace that is often only captured by slow motion television cameras. Making beautiful photographs of this process is a challenge on the best day, but when mother nature decided to dump almost a foot of snow this Sunday during the game between the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts, the difficulty level knob was broken off.

I will try to answer what I think the most asked questions were in the past few days.

Was it really that insane?

Yes, it was absolutely nuts. I obviously did not watch much of the CBS broadcast so I can't compare, but during the first half and at the end of warmups I could not see the other side of the stadium. This is not a tremendous distance either, and to be clear that's just a distance marker I could gauge, I also couldn't see other things on the field which were of course closer. To add to this confusion and how extreme the situation was, none of us expected any snow until late in the game. I photographed removal of snow from days prior very early just to be sure I had any sort of weather picture.

How did you focus your cameras?

Most people assumed I would be manual focusing my camera to get anything usable. I've read about people doing that and there were some on the sideline that were forced to those lengths. I was lucky enough to have equipment that works hard in any conditions and was able to continue focusing properly despite the weather. That's not to say it worked as well as normal or got every shot, but I made just over 200 usable pictures during the game which I would say is a good amount all things considered.

I shoot with Canon cameras, 1DX Mark II bodies specifically for sports and most assignments. These are professional grade cameras and are built to work in extreme conditions such as these. Mine were paired with a 70-200mm lens and 200-400mm lens, both of which are weather sealed and performed pretty flawlessly (again given conditions). I normally like to have another body with a 24mm or similar lens on it, however given the conditions I felt the risk was too high that the camera would be damaged to have it out there. Both cameras were wrapped in weather protection equipment and I spent much of the game shoveling snow out of my lens hood with my hand (not joking).

That must have been awful!

I love cold weather and snow. I look forward to it all year long and curse summer as I wait for winter to start. I was in heaven and laughing and smiling the whole time. Yes it was extremely difficult to make pictures. However on a positive note, what would have been a game that no one covered or talked about instead became the must see photos of the week. That's what we're all trying to do in this career, make the pictures that everyone says "wow" to and if a little luck brings that my way, I'll gladly accept it.

Here are a few outtakes from the game that I loved. You can license these and many other photographs via Getty Images. (Cover photo by Bryan Bennett)

Revisiting a tragedy for The Boston Globe by Brett Carlsen

This wasn't meant to be a portrait shoot, but it ended up being one. The Boston Globe asked me to travel to Binghamton, New York to paint a moody picture of the city as they revisited the 2009 shooting which grabbed national headlines at the time.

The idea was to see how a community moves forward years after an incident like this. I was tasked with making a portrait of a victim's son, photographing the location where the shooting occurred, a memorial down the street and making artistic photos of the city. 

I ended up double dipping and making a portrait of Dr. King inside the memorial (a plan editors had hoped for) and catching some beautiful sunrise light on an American icon inside the location of the shooting.

The story ended up running on the paper's Sunday edition on the A1 page. You can read the story here.

Technical notes: assignment was shot on the Canon 1DX Mark II, 35, 50 and 135mm lenses.


Communal living for Time Magazine by Brett Carlsen

New clients are always very exciting, when a new client happens to be Time Magazine it's call for a party.

I was asked to photograph a slightly challenging story in Syracuse, New York for Time with little notice. The goal was to illustrate a communal living space for millennials and how it could be a great option for all involved.

The space was inside of a downtown nondescript building featuring communal workspace but also two floors of studio style apartments joined together with large community kitchens and living areas. An interesting concept that offers affordable options for those wanting the downtown lifestyle and also to share in community experiences.

However, small apartments and people at home are not always the most exciting subjects for photographs. I attempted to show the environment, the exterior and most notably the culture of sharing spaces.

I once again lit these photographs with my Profoto B1 lights and shot on the Canon 1DX2 bodies with an assortment of Canon L Prime lenses.

Read the article here

Ithaca portrait for Sierra Magazine by Brett Carlsen

This was a fun one, a quick portrait session in golden hour and then next to a whale skeleton, what more could you ask for?

Sierra Magazine asked me to photograph Alexandra Moore in Ithaca, New York. She works at two of the local education centers one that focuses on teaching outdoors in nature and the other that educates on evolution and the history of the earth.

I worked fast as I was attempting to take advantage of the golden hour as much as possible. While the two locations were only a ten minute drive apart, it still made for a tight schedule. I attempted to get as much variety and show off the two moderately different locations in their best light as quickly as possible. 

Check out the article here.

Battle against MRSA for The New York Times by Brett Carlsen

This fall has been about photographing the invisible for me it seems, first Virtual Reality and with this assignment MRSA. Well what I photographed is not exactly invisible, this story is about one University's plan to combat MRSA to prevent an outbreak in their athletics department.

The New York Times sent me out to Colgate University in Central New York to illustrate the ways in which the school's athletic trainers are competing against MRSA outbreaks. An assignment like this can be very linear and action based meaning that it will end up looking like an Ikea instruction manual more than illustrative photographs. That is something I had to overcome, I did so by asking myself "what's the story about?" over and over.

It sadly was still a little process oriented but finding small wins, like how to illustrate the department director Steve Chouinard in a way that wasn't a portrait. I then had to work on showing the overcrowding and the amount of close contact that happens in these training rooms. By the end of the afternoon thanks to patience and diligence I ended up illustrating both of those things in one photograph.

This was a pretty straightforward shoot as far as gear goes. I shot with two Canon 1DX Mark II cameras paired with a 24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 lenses.

Check out the full article here

Virtual Reality for Education Week by Brett Carlsen

Virtual reality is one of the neatest and 'wow' inducing experiences to anyone using it. However to someone outside the headset, it is just a person wearing a funny pair of goggles. This was my challenge when asked to photograph Virtual Reality technology being used by researchers in Buffalo, New York to better aid teachers in dealing with classroom issues.

Luckily the amazing editors at Education Week allowed me to take some creative license. I proposed that instead of approaching this with a typical reportage approach, how about we put these people in a neutral background and allow the person and VR goggles take over the frame. My thoughts being that the environment has nothing to do with what these people are experiencing so let's completely remove it.

I'm very happy with the results. I created them using the Profoto B1 lights and a simple green seamless paper taped to the back wall of an office space in the charter school where the program is happening.

View the final story here

Cornell University CubeSat for WSJ by Brett Carlsen

There are times when you get an assignment that is just too cool, meaning it's the nerdiest thing you've seen in a while and you'd rather listen and learn than make photographs. This was one of those assignments for me.

I was asked by The Wall Street Journal recently to photograph Cornell University's CubeSat program. You may be thinking what I was, "what is a CubeSat?" Well from my basic understanding, they are small satellites or space craft that travel on the small unused spaces within bigger spacecraft often made by research teams.

It was so incredible to see these students, all barely old enough to rent a car, finding new and innovative ways to use these tiny spacecraft to discover new things. As a nerd I also loved seeing the ingenuity for example using a tape measure as the antenna (pictured below) or using programming tools like Raspberry Pi to operate the systems.

Check out the final article here (subscription may be required)