My career as a photographer has taken me all over the world -- in fact, it has taken me to about 80 countries around the world -- about 27 times. I mention this because I don't work out of a conventional studio. My studio is wherever my work takes me and several locations lack many of the luxuries we take for granted such as electricity or clean drinking water. Places like Sudan, Rwanda, parts of the Middle East and most recently the Arctic Circle and Antarctica offer incredible opportunities for me to tell a story and each location has attracted me to visit not once, but many times. The stories I bring back from these locations are very different but in the end, the goal is always the same -- come back with images, no excuses. And for me, especially in the case of Darfur in Sudan, my photographs represented proof that atrocities and unimaginable events against humanity had occurred, and continue to this day.
As a photojournalist, I’ve learned to use whatever is available to me to capture the images I’m looking for. There aren’t any “props” when photographing news or the environment that surrounds me. It’s life as I see it with no additives to make it funnier, prettier, more dramatic or more exciting. The same holds true with my light source. I rarely have the luxury of bringing portable strobes on my shooting assignments – even on my commercial advertising jobs. My commercial clients are looking for something natural, not something set up and oftentimes that includes natural light, or at least natural “looking” light. I have used strobes in the studio when I’m trying to achieve a particular look for a client, but I normally don’t have the luxury of finding myself in a controlled environment so I have to work around the light source (the sun) rather than the other way around.
Keeping the lighting simple is something I always try to emphasize when teaching workshops or giving lectures. Whether it’s in the studio or on location, keeping the lighting very simple minimizes complications and forces you to look at your subjects from varying angles and perspectives. Many of my best shots were produced because I was forced to move around a subject and change my perspective when the only light source I had could not be changed. The light was stationary and I was the one that needed to move. It is a great exercise and one I am constantly sharing with students in my workshops.
I especially like backlighting my subjects. This is a personal preference on my part but feel it gives my subjects an added, unique dimension and has become somewhat of a “signature” of my style of work if there is such a thing. The point is to be creative, find your own space and use the light to create something that is unique to you. With some practice you will discover a look that is indicative of your own personal shooting style.
Because the sun is my only light source most of the time, I find myself moving around my subjects to get the look I want, assuming I have the luxury of moving at all. While photographing icebergs in Antarctica, I kept the captain pretty busy so I could properly position myself around my subject based on the light. This was also the case in the Arctic Circle where the Polar Bear was my primary subject.
While much of my work over the past 20 years has been as a documentary photographer, I have used my "shooting style" as a journalist and applied it to the world of advertising. Whether it's advertising or documentary, my studio continues to be the world around me and I can't afford any malfunctions with my gear, which is why I choose my equipment very carefully.
I can't stress enough the need to prepare for any assignment you’re given, even if the assignment is photographing your child's Little League baseball game. Whether it’s researching your subject’s background, personal interests, accomplishments, etc. or simply having a “Plan B” in case “Plan A” doesn’t pan out the way you anticipated -- a backup plan, if you will. The same could be said for protecting all the photographs residing on your memory cards. For me, and the type of work I do, I don't have the luxury of do-overs. And parents who are busy capturing many of life's "firsts" don't have the luxury of do-overs either. Life comes at us pretty fast and presents itself before my camera and either I capture it or I don't. A student once asked me if there was anything worse than not getting the shot. "Yes," I said. "Getting the shot and then losing it." That is the worst feeling any photographer could have and is why I protect all my photos and documents by backing them up on Western Digital storage drives.
I use WD drives for one simple reason -- they have never failed me, even in the most challenging circumstances including my recent trip to the Arctic Circle to photograph Polar Bears. With temperatures at -30°F and spending 8-10 hours in a Tundra Buggy miles from anything, backing up my images to Western Digital My Passport drives is not only a part of my daily workflow process, it was by far the most critical.
Someone once said that photography is 20% taking pictures and 80% problem solving and I certainly concur. But there is one constant throughout all my projects that I knew I could count on, even when we couldn’t count on anything going exactly according to plan – the flawless performance of my Western Digital desktop drives. For my office I use WD's My ShareSpace NAS (Network Attached Storage) drives. The NAS drives allow me, and my assistants, to access anything on these drives from anywhere in the world. This is critical for me because requests from art directors and art buyers often come when we're out of the country and they have deadlines too. The NAS system allows me, or my staff, to access images from anywhere.
At any given time I have at least four Western Digital My Passport portable drives with me on my assignments but never keep them together or in one location. I always have one in my camera bag and keep the others at various locations such as my hotel room, car, or boat (in Antarctica). This is additional security for my photos so if my camera bag is stolen (it happened) or someone breaks into my hotel room (it happened), I will have another copy of my work safely stored somewhere else. Whether it's just smart business or good old-fashioned paranoia, I know my images are safe.
There are two essential things I can always count on when I’m out taking pictures. The first is that the sun will rise and give me the light I need to capture my images, especially the early morning and late afternoon “golden light” opportunities of each day. The second thing I can count on are my Western Digital storage drives doing what they do best – safeguarding my life's work.
And so it begins on the Boulevard’s most regal day. It’s the special Sunday, the day Oscar bestows with all hubris and humility the gold of desire. Outside the theater though, gridlocked on the corner of Highland and Sunset is where the pre-show really begins. The words, they pour from the mouth of the streets, and the “Trust Jesus” preacher, the other man in black, begins his oratory.
“Hey you A-holes in your fricking limousine’s, there is not one word in the Bible that talks about acting. That’s because it doesn’t exist. you know why? Because it isn’t a talent, you have no talent and you get paid for doing nothing. God is angry. God hates you. Obey or perish."
Anger and expletives continue to flow from the preacher's lips. Thrusting his megaphone onto his salted chapped lips he bellows over and over. “REPENT HOLLYWOOD VULTURES REPENT! REPENT HOLLYWOOD VULTURES REPENT! REPENT HOLLYWOOD VULTURES REPENT!
Across the street are the young girls holding up their silent signs, which read, “Roll down your windows please.” Aching silence, as the two competing worlds collide and then the man with the carbon tongue, the street preacher begins again. “Shame on you and your stupid movies. Okay you rich man in that black car I see you and God see’s you and you should be ashamed of yourself."
There are a lot of men out here on the Blvd taking off their underwear in public. I wonder at what point he crossed over? When it was suddenly okay for him to go out and stand on a street corner the day of the Oscar’s and fill the world that day with his thoughts and a megaphone.
Army of One
From The Boulevard Series
So, here I am, I’m back. Last I left, the bones still had a little marrow left in them. Back on the Blvd., here to get what’s left, get it out of the corners. Men, and their ideas of who they are. I walk by these two guys going at it. “I’ve been retired all my life. Except I didn’t stop drinking, hell, that’s been my full time job. All you really need in life is a couple of good words. I could turn my life into a video game. I could be the atom bomb.” A big round ass of a girl wonders in, interrupts Oppenheimer and bums a cigarette from the old man. He obliges, not reluctant in the least. He does her the favor of a light and continues. “It came out of me like I was spitting water. I wrote three scripts in three days. You’re a much better writer than you think you are.” His name is Wild Bill. The 1-800 Starbus slowly drives by. Six or eight pink tourists from the Midwest sit perched. Sweaty, fat thighs stick to the seats. Wild Bill gives them the finger. “They got bad genes in the middle of this country.” He draws from within his fingers the black nicotine that sustains him. “You know, you can wear clothes like this when you’re an old man. Take that woman, who took that cigarette. You gotta feel bad for her. A big fat ass like that and no tits, that’s God messin’ with you right there. If I’m going to be fat, I want a big ass set of titties. At least that way, God’s giving me something to work with.” As she walked away, a six, maybe eight-inch hole spread from the middle of her old, tired grey sweat pants. Her under pants were cotton, pale blue. “Well, at least she’s got somethin’ workin’ for her.” I wonder if she knew.
From The Boulevard Series
And as I walk down the Blvd., I simply snatch broken pieces of conversation...
Wake up blood bags, its time to consume.
I don’t really want to go to Japan, but they have everything I want there
It’s good because it’s slow but it’s fast
She talks to angels, that’s not the point
Baby I can break you down
Movie star homes
Free paternity test
Stomach shots lets turn around
I mean like, like, like, I’m creative
Tell mom I want to be a sumo wrestler
Stop walkin’ into people before I smack you
God’s she’s freaking hot
Do a good deed today
Everyone’s gettin’ somethin’
Just eat what you can
The mushroom cycle
I’m already sick of the playoffs
I’m gonna submerge my double dip
What’s your number on the Internet
I’ve got a hole in my foot
The sooner these things pop the better
Half is half of half but it’s not a quarter
Let me see that look on your face.
Stick to the spicy milk in the cup
I can eat all day what about it
She’s an easy lover, awkward limbs
I just stuffed my face with calories right now
I dropped a pound in a week and a half on my meat diet
Yeah let's go we’re burnin’ daylight
I love a well-dressed woman who uses f*** every other word
Make that tortilla bleed
You know we shouldn’t have left the puppy in the car
I’ve got lights for the man cruiser
Tear the lettuce off and throw it on the ground
I lost 7.15 inches in the last 6 months
I can't get it out of you, your gonna need a doctor to do that
I should be a doctor
St. Christopher Crosses
We turned right onto a street of such sorrow, I felt my soul hover and then leave. The street had been given the name of Saint Christopher, and was home to the saints and souls of the three hundred thousand sleeping under his slow rounded stones. I dropped to my knees. Impossible words accelerated out of my being at a speed I could not control nor cared to control. An immense cross of twenty feet lay upon the hillside covered in purple silk. Below are roughly seven hundred and fifty unmarked crosses. Beyond tears.
Finally, I’m off the grid of humanity, off into a place where I can just drift and drive. After four hours, I’m out past the cell zone, out past the radio. My mind and my quixotic soul are now in complete congruence. And on into the silent sheets of rain I spin. Into God’s great sky of grey, folding into each breath of wind. I slow, feeling the pull of an easy magnetism and ease the car to the right. Before me, hundreds of ravens take to the air circling my car. They too are the blood and bone of me, and I am breathless as they share their spirit wood with me. The black sky, their painting of feathers above me, the way their wings brush against the sightless horizon enter me as myth. The birds feel as if they’ve soldiered through time to be here, and that this is their final immaculate place of rest. Four hours and hundreds of miles of exits, and this is the random one I chose. I will not spread my camera here upon your silent landscape of rain. Instead I will touch your black earth, the roots of the trees from which you were born. I chose not to photograph you; I chose instead to commit you to my inner world. Not everything needs to be rendered still. In these recent years, I’ve chosen to walk away from more and more images. I am happy in the fact that I alone have seen them. The cumbersome nature of the camera takes away from the sense of being true and pure as witness in spirit.
Bottle Nose Beauty
To she who once swam without fear, I acknowledge you. To your Bottle Nose beauty. Your last breath, lost in the vastness of our sea. Without a voice, left to die alone. Until your body meets with my camera, my soul and I breathe back in the essence that was once you. The photographs came from a different place this time. Reflected through a 7th prism, a dimension that had expressed itself only briefly over the last two decades. I’d removed the mind from the photograph.
Bob's Snorkel Shack
“You having fun yet? Nope. You having fun yet? Nope. You having fun yet? Nope. You having fun yet? Nope. You having fun yet? Nope. Pass me a freaking banana would you…” And that’s how it all began, as the baboon tourists sat, waiting with their bellies full of boredom, apathy and misery. They looked fresh off the bus from the Lithium Institute with nothing but pick axes and death in their eyes. The one big fat guy with his mask on his head, wetsuit on backwards with bulging pink limbs full of high blood pressure and cholesterol was the worst. Maybe because that could be me in ten or less; note to self, always have cyanide handy. Hawaii is all about mirrors and being seen in public. The veil must be lifted, but I ignore, choosing instead to busy myself in the completion of photographs, my greatest distraction in life. I think of the Curse of Lono… the last big voice that came booming out of here was Hunter S. Thompson. Spreading the thick hummus of his words across the printed page. The devil surely had him, wrestling that thick tongue of his, scraping off the paste and throwing it under the might of Steadman’s bloodied blade. Two knights, savoring their collective lust.
Belfast: Innocence Lost
Yes, it began here on the streets of Belfast. Innocence, mine was about to be lost. It came by way of two children. And it was their smile, their youth, the exuberance, the joy. Held in a moment inside their bright blue eyes. In the opposite direction was an elderly man, shoulders narrowed from the weight of his life as he carried his invisible yoke with him up the delving road. He took me on life’s journey of sorrow that day, and I left my youth cutting the string to my own life. I’d like to go back to that place now, almost twenty-five years later, to that place where I traded my past for my present.
As a photographer, Peter is always trying to capture a powerful moment that will tell a story or provide insight into the performance of an athlete. Whether he’s shooting a live sporting event on location; or conducting a photo shoot in his studio, Peter generates a large amount of photos on a daily basis. Ensuring that those photos are properly stored, archived and accessible are keys to his success as a world-class photographer. He needed a solution that would provide him with enough space to his satisfy his demand for storage, offer easy access from anywhere, have a reputation for unquestionable reliability, and support a secure way to share his work easily with clients. Losing data or not having it available when he needed it wasn’t an option.
To accomplish this, Peter decided on the four-bay QNAP TS-469 Pro and loaded it with WD Red hard drives, which are designed specifically for home and small office NAS systems. The combination of remote access to his data from anywhere in the world and the reliability of WD Red hard drives provided the perfect solution.
At first Peter was skeptical that the speed of writing and accessing his files wouldn’t be able to keep up with the large amount of photos he was generating. However, after some testing through his workstation and studio, he came away impressed by the experience it provided. The QNAP device was able to quickly save his photos directly from a shoot, and allowed him to set up a personal cloud to send out photos to his client for review quickly and easily.
Getting the QNAP device set-up was an easy and straightforward process, as was adding the WD Red hard drives to each of the four slots. The QNAP Finder app walked him through the entire process of formatting the system for RAID, configuring his devices for backup and setting up a personal cloud. When deciding on a RAID configuration, Peter went with RAID 10 in order to get the best possible mix of speed and data security. Adding the QMobile app to his iOS devices gave him another avenue from which to access his data. It was another amazing piece of a total solution that finally gave him complete control over how he interacted with his work and clients.
After just a short period of use, the QNAP device has allowed him to make improvements to his workflow. Peter is currently working on a book to showcase his work and the device has already helped speed that process along. His workflow is more streamlined. Giving him the room to focus more on his creative process rather than worrying about the technology that powers it.
"The QNAP TS-469 Pro and WD Red hard drives provide me an amazing experience that gives me a reliable way to access, save and share my data from anywhere." – Peter Read Miller