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Mar 12 2014 2014 WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award



32 years. Hard to believe. I’ve been shooting and making a living with a camera for 32 years. Last week in Las Vegas at the Wedding and Portrait Photographer’s international convention, I received the Lifetime Achievement award. The word “lifetime” didn’t sit well with me at first. I sarcastically asked if the award came with a geriatric walker and some Depends. However, after some self reflection and some reinforcement from my wife and my friends, I’m quite proud that this incredible honor was bestowed upon me. After all, when you start at age 19, perhaps I can receive another lifetime achievement award in another 30 years. Who knows. 
 
For those interested and might even care where I began, my beginnings were quite humble, to say the least. While in college in my sophomore year- like most college kids, I was broke- and I was looking for a part time job to make some pizza and party money. I replied to an ad in the newspaper ad that said “award winning newspaper seeks photographer”. So, with very little experience, a good attitude, and a pulse, I interviewed and was hired. Obviously, they were desperate. For $75.00 per week, I got to shoot community assignments on weekends, process and print those assignments, process and print the film the reporters shot during the week(some really crappy negatives), and place everything on the editors desk by Monday morning. I also had a part time job working 3 evenings per week at a large supermarket chain’s photo processing plant. Oh, yeah, I also coached gymnastics and attended college full time. Fun stuff….However, I was an absolutely brutal photographer. I mean, really bad. I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I didn’t have anyone to mentor me. I learned on the job… School of hard knocks, as they say.  
 
Two years of working for that weekly gave me a taste for photojournalism, and after printing shitty negatives from the assignments the reporters shot, I learned my way around a darkroom. I heard that the Philadelphia Inquirer was hiring correspondents/stringers to infiltrate the suburbs in order to expand their coverage. I was given an opportunity, and ran with it. I was promptly fired from the weekly for a conflict of interest. Even though it was only $75.00 per week, it still hurt because I took pride in what I had done there.  
 
I spent 15 years working as a photojournalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. My first assignment, given to me by my photo editor Bryan Grigsby, was to cover a “German American Police Association meeting” in Burlington County NJ. Bryan, with his tireless sense of humor, figured “who better to send to the German American Police Association meeting that the new green Jewish kid”. Next up from Bryan was the monthly meeting of the “La Leche` league. Yes, that’s not a typo. It was a meeting where women breast feed their babies. Trust me, I was more uncomfortable than those mothers were. Bryan taught me how to be a story teller. He helped me learn how to see, and he gave me shit when I needed it most. He wasn’t just a photo editor. If there is such a thing as a photographic parent, Bryan Grigsby was just that for me and many who worked under him.  
 
I’ll spare you any detailed accounts of the next 6000 or so assignments I shot, but I can tell you that so many of them made me see the world in a very unique fashion. While those15 years weren’t exactly financially rewarding(understatement) it was, instead, free tuition to the “University of All Walks of Life”. I got to see people, places, and things that had a profound impact on who I am as a person. I wasn’t rich, but I was enriched by those years, and I became the cynical, realistic, hard working, perceptive, loving, open minded man I am because of those I’ve met along that path. Oh, yeah, I also learned how to shoot a little. After all, with the number of Pulitzer prize winning photographers at the Philadelphia Inquirer, I just wanted to breath the same air and hope osmosis would help me out. 
 
Jump to 1998. Newspapers were on the decline- even back then. I, along with many of my colleagues were laid off. I’ll spare the ugly details, but fortunately, I was shooting a slew of commercial, advertising, and public relations work. I was doing pretty well, and working for an eclectic array of clientele. A year earlier, I met a photographer at my best friend’s wedding. She invited me to her studio, and for shits and giggles, I shot 2 or 3 weddings with her. That was the first time in my life that I believed I could shoot weddings- even though I’d always thought weddings were a joke. I believed they were a recipe motivated, formula driven genre that I had no interest in. However, thanks to a few pioneers like Denis Reggie and a few others, the photojournalistic approach to weddings was in vogue. It was a natural fit for me. I found my legs, and I began shooting weddings full time shortly after my lay off. When I think about it, I’ve actually had two careers. One as a photojournalist, and another as a wedding photographer/educator. I’ve truly been blessed to have found the crazy world of weddings, and WPPI has been a vital part of my second career. 
 
Now, one may think it’s a natural transition- from photojournalist to wedding photographer. Not so much. To ME, I was really interested in the story of the day, and I was adept at anticipating and capturing moments. No problem. However, I needed to learn SO MUCH MORE in order to excel as a wedding shooter. First off, I needed to develop a much broader, more well rounded skillset. I needed to learn how to make a woman look beautiful. I needed to be a portraitist, as well as a documentarian. And, with the commotion and strain of a wedding day, I needed to earn a bride’s trust so I could put her at ease when everything around her was pure chaos. I’ll also spare you the dichotomy of being a photographer in business rather than being a business person in photography. That’s a book, not just a blog post…., 
 
Close to 900 weddings later, and another 50 or so for 2014, I’m not slowing down. I need everyone to understand that my best images are in front of me. That said, I’m still learning. I’m still driven at each and every event to break new ground. It doesn’t happen often. Ansel Adams once said, “12 significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”. Well, Since we’re all our own worst critics, my standards are pretty high. However, it’s that drive to produce something special each time I shoot that provides my clients with a level of consistency that I’m extremely proud of.  
 
 
In accepting this award on March 5th, 2014, I thanked a few people that were instrumental along the way. I’d be remiss not to do so in my own blog post. Obviously, WPPI- specifically my dear friend, Bill Hurter, for my first opportunity to speak and share my information so many years ago for WPPI. The organization is in great hands today with Jason Groupp at the helm. WPPI has allowed me the platform to share my knowledge and experience with so many around the world. Thanks to the Nikon corporation- for what they do for so many photographers, specifically my brother, Mike Corrado, the professional relations maestro. I’ve shot every SLR and DSLR image on Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses, and being a Nikon Ambassador to the United States is an honor I don’t take lightly. I also need to say thank you to my friends RC Concepcion, Matt Kloskowski, and Scott Kelby for my involvement in the KelbyOne world, and helping me reach a global audience for my work and my teaching. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to my amazing studio manager, Noelle Andrews, who is on her way to building her own successful career. Without her, I couldn’t take care of my clients the way I do, and I couldn’t possibly provide the clients with the experience they deserve. Also, I need to thank the woman in my life, my wife and best friend Susan Stripling Mautner who’s helped push me with her own talents, and helped me stay motivated to improve as I’ve watched her own growth as an artist.  
 
I’m proud that I’ve developed a distinctive style that uses dramatic light that accompanies compelling moments. I’m proud that I’ve been able to teach so many around the world how to improve their skills. I’m proud of the photographer and the teacher I’ve become. I’m proud to have been recognized by my peers at Wedding and Portrait Photographer’s International for this incredible honor. However, I’m most proud of the fact that I’m still going strong, that I’ve taken care of my clients, and that I’m a good husband to my beautiful wife Susan, and also the best father and stepfather I can be to my daughters Samantha, Alison, Emma, and Olivia.  
 
The awards I’ve won are clearly an embarrassment of riches. Being named one of the Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the World, winning the WPPI Grand Award for Photojournalism, receiving the 2012 Nikon WPPI photographer of the year, being the recipient of the 2013 IPC United Nations Leadership award, being named a Nikon Ambassador to the United States, and now the WPPI lifetime achievement award- In the end, as photographers, we’re only as good as our clients. Thank you to all of my brides, grooms, and their families who’ve entrusted me with such an important day in your lives, and my hope is that my images last for generations long after I’m gone. I can’t wait for this Saturday’s wedding. 
 
Below are a few of my images that I believe still stand the test of time. That, to me, is what’s most important with my work. In the words of Eddie Adams, "if it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips your heart out, that's a good picture". I hope I have many more of these to make in my career.


































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Feb 19 2014 Lens Essentials-My AF-S Nikkor 85mm 1.4G

As I gear up for WPPI, I've been refreshing my presentations with new imagery for my keynotes. A few weeks back, I posted a blog entry about my essential lenses in my gear bag. Now, I take EIGHT lenses with me to each and every wedding I shoot. My reasons are vast, but the bottom line is that I believe the lenses are an extension of my mind's eye.  
 
One of the most frequently asked questions from photographers is "what's your favorite lens". My normal answer is "that's like asking me which one of my daughters is my favorite".... or something dumb like that. Truth be told, if I had to truly pick one favorite, it'd have to be the AF-S Nikkor 85mm 1.4G. I was very privileged to be one of the very first people to shoot this lens, and I gave it a whirl while shooting a global ad campaign for Nikkor. The 85 D was also a favorite, and I had wondered what they could have done to improve this lens. Well, how about everything. It's four years old now, but it's still a lens that I simply can't do without.  
 
I begin each wedding day with this lens on one of my D4's without fail. It allows me to create a look and feel that I simply can't obtain with any other lens. Oh, and I nearly always shoot it wide open at 1.4. My goal is to capture and isolate moments. There are times we work in places with distracting backgrounds, and this lens lets me extinguish those distractions with a shallow depth of field that I can't achieve with other lenses.  
 
The other element is it's speed. The speed of focus, and it's aperture value allow me to keep this lens on for nearly any situation, and there's hardly ever an environment I'm in where I can't produce an image. All I need is a tiny bit of light, and when coupled with my D4, or my Df, it's a very, very powerful combination.  
 
Perhaps the most important reason- I don't miss moments with this lens. I have complete confidence that I can produce razor sharp images in nearly any condition I face. From the prep stages, to the portraits of my brides, to the ceremony, and through various spontaneous situations throughout the day, this lens allows me capture images I simply wouldn't create without it.  
 
If you're going to WPPI, try and catch me at the Nikon Theatre where I'll be shooting live with this lens, and giving some information on how make our brides look their best! 
 
Here's a few with the AF-S Nikkor 85mm 1.4G


















































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Feb 10 2014 Welcoming Carter-Family Portraits with the Nikon Df-Philadelphia PA

When I first held the Nikon Df, it absolutely took me back in time a bit to when I shot with an FE. I'll spare anyone reading this post my attempts at waxing poetic about my film days.... We've been there. As a Nikon Ambassador to the United States, I'm NOT going to attempt a "review" of this camera. I'll leave that to the tech pundits. I'll just talk about how I'm going to use it. There's plenty of review's about this camera on the web, and the files have spoken loudly.... with very little noise.... pun intended.  
 
I wasn't really expecting to love this camera. I'm a "flagship" kind of guy. I love the responsive nature and ergonomics of my D4, and the flagship cameras that date back 30 years. I first played with the Df a few weeks back in New York while hanging with a few friends. It took me a bit of time to get used to thinking about fundamentals. There's a few wheels and dials that I needed to get used to. It's not a camera I'm going to shoot the bulk of a wedding with. But, it's a camera that I can carry on my shoulder the entire day with ease- never missing a moment in front of me. That, right there, is why I love it.  
 
Paired with a fast prime, this camera is a serious tool in my bag that is stealthy, light, and packs a punch with files that rival my D4. I really don't care about the whole retro thing. If I really want retro, I'll bring out my old FE. Hell, these days, my D3 will feel "retro" soon. I do like how it looks. But, I care more about what it does. It's light as a feather, I'll wear it all day, and the arthritis in my neck and shoulder can stop bitching at me. I'll be ready for nearly any moment that comes along.  
 
Now, it's not exactly prime wedding season here in the Philadelphia PA, USA area, so I haven't had the chance to shoot a wedding with it yet. It will, however, be paired with my Nikkor 35mm 1.4G, or my old Nikkor 28mm 1.4D. It's light as a feather, and extremely quiet. During this portrait session below, I had my D4 with my 85 1.4G on one shoulder, and the Df with my 35 1.4G on the other. I shot more images with the Df, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed shooting it. It's not going to replace my D4. But it's a supplement that I'll be using quite a bit this upcoming season.  
 
About the portrait session below. I'm proud to say that I photographed Courtney and Joel back in 2004. I absolutely love this couple. We've stayed in touch over the years, and I was fortunate enough to capture they're first son, Landon, as a baby. Two weeks ago, I spent a few hours with them on a frigid day inside their Philadelphia home 3 weeks after Carter was born. 
 
For the geeks, ALL but one image were shot with the Nikon Df and the Nikkor 35mm 1.4G.  
 
 
 
 
















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Jan 26 2014 Nikon advertorial for Rangefinder Magazine

It's always an honor when Nikon asks me to take part in an advertorial. As a Nikon Ambassador to the United States, I love when I'm able to share my images to represent the Nikon brand. After 30+ years in photography, I still get a rush when I see my work in publications I enjoy. The advertorial was meant to touch upon lenses. I probably take more lenses to a wedding than most other photographers. I usually use all eight lenses in my bag at each and every wedding. Along with light, and our own unique vision, lens selection is a key to enhancing creativity, as well as composing the images we make. So, when the Nikon advertorial's focus(pun intended) was on lens selection, I thought it was a good opportunity to explain why I take so much glass to a wedding.  
 
If you'd like to read the advertorial, The link to that, as well as Rangefinder Magazine's online version is ADVERTORIAL