DPP Home Profiles Nick Ut: Master Of Spot News

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nick Ut: Master Of Spot News

From Hell to Hollywood, Nick Ut gets the shots that the editorial desk needs. He never misses, and he does his work with style and aplomb.


This Article Features Photo Zoom


Michael Jackson waves to fans after his arraignment on child molestation charges, Santa Maria, Calif., January 16, 2004.
DPP: What are some of the differences in approach between covering spot news and creating a photo essay?

Ut: For a journalist, anything can happen anytime and you have to be ready. For every assignment, you have to work very hard to get the picture. Often, it’s for a single photo, sometimes it’s for a picture story. For a picture story, you try to get 10 to 15 photos that tell a story. Whatever the story is, you shoot some tight shots, some wide-angle shots—you cover it from different angles. You might see one photo in the newspaper, but on the Internet—Yahoo, Google—they want more photos. Journalists now are shooting more like a movie.

DPP: What camera are you working with, and how do you transmit your photos from the field?

Ut: I have a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. We have a lot of guys shooting video now. At AP, for stills we shoot mostly JPEGs. RAW is too slow for us. We send pictures back to our office right away from our laptops. I have my wireless and will sit in my car and send the photos. Ten minutes later, you might see the photo on Yahoo. It goes everywhere.
 
I’ve photographed John Wayne, Bette Davis—I got a nice shot of her smoking. Whenever there’s a star in trouble, you’ll see me. I covered the Michael Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Phil Specter trials—so many celebrities going in and out of court and jail.
 

Actress Bette Davis being honored in Beverly Hills for her contributions to the film and TV industry, undated photo.
DPP: What are some of the most interesting stories you’ve covered in Southern California?

Ut: Because of the movie industry being here, a lot of them are about celebrities. I’ve photographed John Wayne, Bette Davis—I got a nice shot of her smoking. Whenever there’s a star in trouble, you’ll see me. I covered the Michael Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Phil Specter trials—so many celebrities going in and out of court and jail.

DPP: When you’re not a pool photographer inside the courtroom, how do you deal with all the photographers, including paparazzi, vying for the same shot outside the courthouse?

Ut: Many years ago, you didn’t have trouble. There weren’t so many photographers around, so it was much easier. But everybody knows who I am and everybody is nice to me. They always say, “Nicky, come over here,” and they give me a good position. If a photographer pushes me, the other photographers will yell at him.

 

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