I’ve had the honor of working closely with the New Media Consortium, an international group of visionaries who specialize in educational technology. The concept of educational technology takes many forms and is constantly fluctuating. For me, being part of the dynamic conversations that NMC facilitates is exciting and inspiring.

Larry Johnson CEO of the NMC asked me to do a keynote presentation on creativity at this year’s convention and suggested I wrap my talk around some of the work I have been doing in my native Nebraska.

I love Nebraska, it’s a serene, rugged place full of surprises.  I’m spending a lot of time there this summer and fall producing films and photographs, seeing my family and friends, and enjoying being home.

For more on the NMC Summer Conference, visit http://www.nmc.org/event-manager/2014-nmc-summer-conference-keynotes/

Join us for a 10 day tour of Iceland - the land of seals and poets.

This Photo Tour and Workshop will take place August 4-14, 2014.

We will spend as much time outside enjoying the environment as possible.  August in Iceland will give us 23 hours of golden light every day.

We will roam all over the island and spend time making photos and time-lapses of a variety of places – volcanic glaciers, black rock beaches, small fishing towns and more.

The ten-day tour is $6,000 which includes meals, lodging and intern Iceland transportation.  The tour price does not include airfare to and from Reykajavik or alcoholic beverages.

This is going to be serious fun and there will be daily chances to make incredible images.

It’s a small group, and we’ve just secured a few more hard to find hotel rooms so we can take four more guests.

To secure your spot, please contact bill@strawhatvisuals.com.

The deadline to join the tour is June 24, 2014.

California Chrome roared down the front stretch at Pimlico on Saturday shining, much needed light on horse racing.

I was head on to the action, tracking the Pimlico Field with a 600 f4 lens mounted on a Nikon D4S camera.

Three races make up horse racing’s fabled Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. I’ve covered the Derby 31 times, the Preakness 28, and the Belmont at least 20 times. That’s a whole bunch of big-time horse races. This will be the 12th time I’ve gone to NYC hoping to see a horse and jockey close the deal and win the Triple Crown.

I’m obviously not sure how it will turn out this time.

But I know how I got started in all of it.

Bill Nack wrote Secretariat, Making of a Champion. I read it and was hooked on the sport.  With apologies to my many writer friends, Nack’s Secretariat remains my favorite sports book.

Dan Dry invited me to the Kentucky Derby.  I couldn’t, and still can’t believe how wonderful it is there.  All these years later, I still see Dan at the track, and we talk with no pause in our ongoing conversation that has stretched over a few decades now.  I am as fascinated by the Derby just as much now as I was the first time I walked into Churchill Downs. The only difference is I am little better acquainted with that glorious track, and that leads to better pictures.

Heinz Kluetmeier started assigning me to cover the races for Sports Illustrated in 1986. He taught me how to do it the SI way, big and bold. He was and still is an extremely generous teacher and friend.

But first, there were the images of Tony Leonard.  I was casually flipping through Nikon World. Marveling at the images done by Art Kane. Crazy good stuff.  I remember going back through that article a few times, then finally I moved on.  The next image I saw, a big red horse running free, mane streaming, in a paddock, clobbered me. I couldn’t believe how powerful and poignant it was. I still have that magazine. Published in DECEMBER, 1980. VOLUME 13. NUMBER 3. It’s a prized possession.

It was more than 15 years later that I met Tony on the track in Louisville. I gathered my courage and walked up the man who was a legendary equine photographer, who defined the genre working for the greatest farms and owners doing portraits of the best mares and stallions alive. These were not simple photographs, these were elegant posed portraits chronicling the golden age of thoroughbred racing.  I stuck out my hand and said, “Mister Leonard, I just want to tell you how much I admire your work, and your style.”  He smiled that wry smile of his and said, “Kid, I know your pictures, they’re terrific.“  Few sentences have meant as much during my career. We were close for the rest of his life.

When Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Colton asked me to photograph Seattle Slew, the only horse to win the Triple Crown while undefeated, I called Tony and asked for advice.

He did better than that, he came along as my assistant.  Showing up to do a horse portrait with Tony as your assistant would be like having the Rolling Stones as your backing band when you were in music school.

The shoot went well. What classics they were, both of them.

I’ve been in motion even more than usual the last four months, and since I average about 250,000 miles a year in the air and another 100,000 on the ground, that’s saying something.

I love books. The content. The way they feel. The relationship.

On planes, I read novels and biographies. It simultaneously invigorates and relaxes me.

In the office, it’s all non fiction.

But when I can escape to the rocking chair, well, that’s the best. A good coffee, a throw from Rejkavick, some blues wrapping around my ears and photo books. Even better if it’s raining.

I have a good collection. At least 5,000 photo books.

Yesterday, I focused on three of them.

Mark Cohen’s opus about his hometown.  He uses a technique to make the images that wouldn’t work for many, but he makes it sing.

Alec Soth’s Ping Pong conversations. Beautiful images, combined with an insightful, lovely book length interview with art critic Francesco Zanot. It is a book for photographic thinkers.

In Red Thistle, photographer Davide Montelone explores a small region of the Northern Caucus. It’s a deep introspective work connecting narratives of the people and places he visits.

All three are blissful - sublime - and offer much pleasure.

Incredible style. Powerful subject matter.

I am working on a couple of my own that will hopefully be in a similar vein. Personal work more than commissions.

Heavenly. I do love the power of photography.

Best. Audience. Ever.

One hundred third graders at United World College in Singapore.

Dave Caleb, a terrific friend, teacher and photographer invited Laura and me to talk with several groups of students at the school about creativity, my favorite topic. We always enjoy interacting with classes. We always learn more than we teach. But these kids were special.

The first video we showed was a highlight reel of my work for Sports Illustrated. I have shown this collection of images in various iterations at least 100 times through the years to audiences of all ages and interests. This group got it like no other. Oohs, and ahhs. Smiles, gasps, and giggles.

Normally in an hour-long presentation, we will show four or five video pieces, and a gallery of still images.  Normally, we take a dozen questions from the crowd. This time was different.

I turned the room open to questions.  Eighty hands shot up.

The first question stopped me cold.

Eliot.  A precocious 8-year-old with a winning smile underneath mischievous eyes asked me a simple question that cuts to the core of everything we do as photojournalists.

“Your photographs are impossibly good. Do you build them in Photoshop?”

In an instant it came clear to me how pervasive the credibility issue has become for my profession.

Photoshop is a tool.  It’s a great one.  It’s wonderful for all kinds of images.  It just can’t be used by photojournalists to alter the content of a picture.

Now more than ever the world needs accurate, fair, powerful photographic storytelling.  The challenge for us is to establish veracity with our work.

Once I explained that credibility is the most important part of a photojournalist’s work they really got excited, and the questions moved to feelings, life and the world at-large.

The kids were totally engaged and intrigued.  They wanted to understand everything.

I could have stayed there all day.

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