Published on April 1st, 2019 | by Shannon Walford0
Pro Team: Al Diaz
Our Pro Team are a fantastic group of talented photographers, many of whom have used 3 Legged Thing tripods and accessories for several years. Each month we introduce you to different members of the team, using short Q&As to give you some insight into how they work, what equipment they use, and how they became professional photographers.
Next in the series is Al Diaz, a Miami based photojournalist who blogs about his work assignments, issues affecting visual journalists today, products, gear, technology and events as well as news and information regarding the photographic industry.
What is your earliest memory of handling a camera?
“During my youth, I earned enough cash cutting all my neighbour’s lawns at five bucks a pop so I could buy my first camera. At the time, the “Mamamiya” 500 DTL film camera retailed for about $120 at Zayre department store in Miami. At 14 years old, I knew nothing about sales taxes, so when I whipped out all my cash the cashier said I was a bit short. Fortunately, my dad graciously covered the difference.
“As a freshman in high school, Gus Pupo-Mayo, an upperclassman, further sparked my interest in photography when I walked into a dimly lit room and saw Gus photographing a cone, a sphere and a square resting on a table as he slowly moved a single light bulb to see the effect of light and shadow on the objects. Gus saw my puzzled look and went on to explain that he was taking a photography course by mail and suggested that I should join the school’s camera club. By my senior year, I was photographing for the school newspaper and yearbook. Gus went on to become the founding President and CEO of MGM Networks Latin America and I’ve been living the dream as a photojournalist at the Miami Herald for 35 years.”
– “Miami Heat players pose for a portrait before the start of the season during Miami Heat media day at the American Airlines Arena in Miami on Monday, September 24, 2018.”
Was there a single event that made you decide to become a professional photographer?
“Allergies, yep! I wanted to be a carpenter like my dad but working at the wood shop one summer killed that idea. My face would turn red and my nose would be dribbling from all the sawdust particles I was allergic to. I figured plan A was not going to work out so plan B in photography might be a better fit.”
Are there any strange/unusual items in your photo bag?
“Yes, alien tripods! In my camera bag, there are 3 Legged Things like the DOCZ stabiliser foot mounted on my Alan monopod. And then there is Winston Churchill resurrected as a tripod of all things, powerful, resolute and steadfast carrying an AirHed 360.”
– “Carol City High School’s head coach Benedick Hyppolite in the locker room on Monday, August 21, 2017.”
What’s in your kit bag?
“Lately, I’ve been using the DJI Mavic PRO drone stored in a Think Tank Photo Hubba Hubba Hiney that can be used as a belt pack or shoulder bag. My TTP ShapeShifter V2 carries my laptop, card reader, cables, etc. My daily assignments dictate what to carry in my three TTP Airport Security rollers. These are my options:
- Two Canon EOS-1D X’s
- One Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM lens
- Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L II USM lens
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens
- Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens
- Canon EF 400 f/2.8L IS II USM lens
- Canon EF 200-400 f/4L IS lens USM with built-in Extender 1.4x
- Canon XA10 camcorder, cables, and audio gear.
“For location lighting, I have two TTPProduction Manager 40’s filled with Dynalite strobes, light modifiers, light stands and PocketWizard remotes. The TTP Airport International V2 roller carries four Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT’s with all the accessories. I usually strap 3 Legged Thing’s Alan monopod and/or a Winston Churchill tripod on to the side of the rollers.”
– “Fight promoter “Dada 5000″, Dhafir Harris, puts on backyard fights at his mother’s house that go viral on YouTube and have been the subject of documentaries. Sometimes the men fight until they are unconscious. There’ s no gloves and occasionally, there’s a cage.”
You’ve covered natural disasters, political campaigns, sports championships, temperamental celebrities, and angry mobs, are there any early lessons in your career that you recall?
“There are several life lessons that I learned from my mentors. Here’s one lesson I still follow daily.
“In 1980 I was just starting to work as a stringer freelancing for the Associated Press when race riots broke out in Miami. The city burned following the acquittal of four white Miami-Dade Police officers charged in the beating death of African-American, Arthur McDuffie.
“Days later U.S. President Jimmy Carter met with local leaders in a meeting that quickly turned ugly. Secret Service agents rushed the President out of the room. As Carter’s motorcade pulled away, the large crowd booed and threw trash, a beer bottle bounced off the roof of Carter’s limousine. I was positioned across the street and photographed the drama as it unfolded.
“Upon returning to the office, AP staff photographers rushed to process their 35mm Kodak black & white Tri-X film. As prints were being made and transmitted worldwide, a couple of AP staffers scanned through my negatives with a loupe, magnifying the images, but nothing caught their interest until AP Florida photography editor, Phil Sandlin had a look.
“Sandlin reviewed the negatives one by one, never skipping a frame, until he stopped, turned and smiled. Sandlin found an image showing the bottle at mid-flight bouncing off the roof of Carter’s limo. He quickly ran off to make a B&W print then placed it on the drum scanner and transmitted.
“Sandlin taught me to always look at every frame. A high bar I hold for myself and anyone else that edits my work. That lesson has helped me find hidden gems on many occasions.”
– “City of Miami police in riot gear, fire pepper spray and advance on demonstrators who massed along the city’s Biscayne Boulevard protesting the Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting in Miami.”
How would you describe your style of photography?
“My friend, photojournalist Patrick Farrell, says I’m like a utility player in baseball. I can play any position on demand and consistently excel at it. Give me anything and I’ll hit it out of the park photographically for 1A with style.”
“May the best shots be yours!” – Al Diaz