Thursday, June 14, 2007
Tyler Hicks - Into The Combat Zone
While New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks takes pictures of some of the most hellish events on the planet, he manages to capture moments that reaffirm life in the midst of violence and death
As perfect as that sounds, there are limits. Says Hicks, “It won't work in Asia; only the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. I recently returned from Indonesia to cover the tsunami and the Inmarsat RBgan data sled wouldn't work. So in order to file my images from there, I had to work with older and slower technologies, notably the Thuraya phones. That's why you have to travel with all of this equipment just in case one technology fails.”
Hicks is amazed by how much today's satellite technology has simplified the work for reportage photographers. Naturally, change comes with a cost.
“The RBgan satellite phones have really begun to change how we do news photography,” says Hicks. “The Thrane & Thrane high-speed satellite phone costs $8 per minute, so from the moment you turn it on and get connected, the meter starts running. It could run $40 just to check your e-mail. When you use it, you have to have everything set up ahead of time. And you want to use it simply to send your files the moment you're connected and then log off right away.
“The RBgan is different since you're only being charged per megabyte. As long as you don't have something on screen that keeps reloading a Web page, your charges are minimal. You could have the Google homepage up for a week and only be charged $5. If you start surfing, however, a megabyte will go by very quickly.”
Says Hicks of the volume of images he transmits back to New York, “I send on average eight photos per day, whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq. If a lot is happening, I might send up to 15 to 20 pictures per day.”
Having worked in a variety of overseas locations, Hicks has learned through experience what makes for an ideal photography and networking kit. “I carry a Thuraya satellite phone, the RBgan satellite transmitter, an Apple PowerBook G4, two Canon EOS-1D Mark II cameras—8 megapixels—and 17-35mm and 28-70mm lenses,” he says.
“Shooting in JPEG at high quality is perfect for a newspaper. It would be great to shoot the larger-resolution files, but it would be overkill for my current needs. I'd have to crunch the files dramatically before I could send them, so there's no point in taking them at such a high resolution.”
RAW & JPEG Do Have A Future
In the future, Hicks may very well wish to keep both RAW and JPEG images of his work for both professional and personal reasons. The images in his new book, Histories Are Mirrors: The Path of Conflict Through Afghanistan and Iraq (Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Essays by John F. Burns & Ian Fisher, Umbrage Editions, April 2004; ISBN: 1884167446), were taken from film images shot at Ground Zero on September 12th, as well as the digital images taken in Afghanistan and Iraq. The book is a powerful record of how events here in the United States have played out half a world away.
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