DPP Home Profiles Patrick Whelan, Joe Raedle, Justin Sullivan & Spencer Platt - War Photography: From The Field To The Cover

Friday, June 8, 2007

Patrick Whelan, Joe Raedle, Justin Sullivan & Spencer Platt - War Photography: From The Field To The Cover

Photojournalists equipped with digital SLRs, laptop computers and satellite modems took pictures that were available to their editors within hours or even minutes

Justin Sullivan, Embedded Photographer With The Navy
DPP: What was your assignment?
Justin Sullivan: I was embedded with the Navy on the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Constellation, for a month. Later, I was on a much smaller carrier, the U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard, for a week. When I first got on the Constellation, the war hadn't started, so I shot a lot of feature-type stuff, like showing the galley crew making 5,000 cinnamon rolls at a time. The Constellation is a huge vessel; there are more than 5,000 people on it. It's like a little city.

I also photographed the preparation for the war, of course. Right before the war began, they started assembling massive amounts of bombs. They came to the ship in pieces and then were assembled, depending on how they wanted to use them, such as a satellite- or laser-guided bomb. The sections of the bombs were brought over from another ship by helicopter. The assembly was done below deck in the hangar bay; they were ramping up production so heavily they even took over one of the enlisted men's food galleys.

DPP: Did you have a flash to light it?
Sullivan: I did have a flash, but I tried to use ambient light whenever possible for the more natural look. Even pumping the ISO all the way up, there were times I couldn't get around it and had to use a flash.

DPP: What equipment did you bring with you?
Sullivan: I brought two Canon EOS-1d cameras, a 17-35mm and a 70-200mm. I wanted to travel light and challenge myself to use that stuff instead of hauling a bunch of equipment that I didn't need.

DPP: Did the Navy give you unrestricted access?
Sullivan: Pretty much. For safety concerns, there were areas where journalists had to have an escort to go, such as on the flight deck. When flight operations are going on, it's pretty hairy up there. There were 30 press people on the ship.

When they launched the first strikes for “shock and awe,” it was night and pitch-black. The pictures of operations from that night, along with some of the pilot briefing, were as long as 30-second exposures. The flight line has very, very limited lighting. The planes sat there for a few seconds once they got into their positions to launch. I mounted the camera with a Manfrotto Super Clamp onto the railing. The boat moved at the same motion as the plane.

DPP: What were your standard camera settings?
Sullivan: I usually shoot manual. I don't like auto; if you get something white in the background, you'll be underexposed. I shot JPEG Fine. I always shoot at the lowest ISO possible. In low light, I crank up the ISO before I resort to flash.

DPP: How were you sending the images back to Getty?
Sullivan: It was actually pretty cool. We had an e-mail account given to us by the ship and seven or eight computers for us to use to transmit. Since there wasn't any way for us to plug in our laptops to transmit, I'd make my images, burn a CD on my Apple G3, then open my Constellation e-mail account and file the images—it was pretty fast because it was done via satellite. The files were 300 dpi at 10 inches wide, which is standard for Getty. I didn't file too many images at a time because I didn't want to clog up the system on my end. Once the ground campaign started, my stuff was more filler.


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