Icelandic Adventures by Laura Heald


Driving through the countryside of Iceland is a time warp to a land before time. The landscape is rough and barren. Its moss covered lava fields and tall sloping mountains have an almost lunar appearance.

This is 66 degrees north.  The home of seals and poets.

A few years ago, we produced a multimedia piece on Australia for the launch of the Nikon D3s and rolling through the southwest Iceland felt so much like our time in Tasmania.

Bill and I were lucky to be escorted through the Snæfellsnes peninsula of Iceland on Sunday by our new friend Raymond Hoffmann.

He works with Dionys Moser, a Swiss photographer who is famous for his landscape work.

We will be joining them on some tours in the near future -- a diverse selection of locations from the north of Norway for the Northern Lights to the White Desert of Egypt to the Blues country of the Mississippi Delta.  We will have dates and descriptions posted on our blog and their Web sites soon. Raymond was born in Germany, but moved to Iceland after meeting his wife - a native Icelander - on a trip to the island 10 years ago. He took us to spots the guide books never mention. A black rock beach, a cozy ocean front hotel for a gourmet lunch -- lost on Bill, but much appreciated by me -- and small waterfalls overlooking a breathtaking backdrop of Church Mountain.

We started the day with coffee and croissants with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.  Along with spending hours talking with photographers at a lunch graciously arranged by Baldvin Einarsson, this was easily the highlight of our trip.  As much as we love taking pictures, spending time with people and making new friends is the best part of our existence.

Baldvin runs a professional camera store in Reykajavik.  A really professional camera store.  It was a another step back in time for us. Along with our friends at the Camera Store in Calgary, and Light and Byte in Zurich, Becco is a wonderful throwback to when service mattered most.  It’s just a different way to shop, and learn.

We’re lucky because we have Jeff Snyder and Annie Cahill at Adorama in NYC who are long time friends and colleagues. We can’t drop in often and hang out with them -- it’s a bit of a commute --but they give great small town service with huge national resources.

The weather Sunday was perhaps less than desirable for most tourists but, as Raymond pointed out, typically Icelandic. The temperature wavered between 0 and -2 degrees Celsius, and the wind was a blustery 30 meters per second, which translates to just over 60 miles per hour. We spent the day driving along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, unable to see the famous Snæfellsjökull volcanic glacier due to clouds, but enjoying the scenery nonetheless.  We stopped to watch a family of Icelandic ponies graze in a rocky field. We made pictures of a small church in the center of a lava field. Raymond took us to the famous beach at Búðir where we watched snow fall on its one-of-a-kind round, black rocks, a jarring yet phenomenal scene.

We ended the tour in a small fishing town where we warmed up with a bowl of homemade vegetable cream soup before driving back to Reykjavik. As the sun set behind a wall of clouds, rays of light escaped, allowing us to make the last of our Icelandic photos.

Maybe we’ll make it back there someday.  There is still so much more to see and do.

This is one place I’d like to get back to on a sunny day.  It’s called Gullfols, or Golden Falls, and pictures from there are spectacular when the weather is nice.  I shot this using the 8mm app on my iPhone just for fun, trying to make light of a dark day.

But there is a lot of work to be done this weekend at the Preakness Stakes so after a quick stop in Norway, home we go.

Iceland by Bill Frakes


Any place where more than half of the population believes in fairies, and where they advertise themselves as the land of seals and poets--yet the landscape and people are incredibly reminiscent of the best of the American west--is a place I can't help but love. Great music on the radio didn't hurt my mood either, nor did the excellent coffee.  Outside of Portland, and maybe Seattle, why doesn't the USA have the same wonderfully prepared coffee I always find in Europe?   Sure, most US cities have a great coffee shop, but you have to search for it.  Here, it's everywhere.

The land is gorgeous.  Geysers, snow covered mountains and beaches within sight of each other.......not to mention the delicious thermal spring baths.  Peter Brodin from Nikon Nordic took us straight to Blue Lagoon Wednesday after we got off the plane - the perfect way to relax after a long journey across the Atlantic. The warm water coupled with the chilly air and shocking landscape was refreshing in an uncommon way.

Then yesterday Laura and I took a road trip east to Geysir - a small town about an hour and a half outside Reykjavik that consists of a gas station, a motel and the world's largest geyser. Geysir, the geyser (they are clever with names here)  has not erupted since 2000, but when it does it is twice the size of Old Faithful in Yellowstone. However, a smaller geyser 50 yards away called Strokkur erupts every 8 to 10 minutes and, unlike Yellowstone, Laura and I were the only people there to enjoy it. Watching something like that is like watching the world begin. It's beautiful in a primordial way.

After the sweltering heat, and the intensity of the Kentucky Derby, the chill air and thermal hot springs of Reykjavik have been an extremely pleasant salve.

Just the right tonic to revive me before I head to Baltimore to continue to document the quest for a horse racing triple crown at the Preakness Stakes.

Nikon Solutions Expo by Bill Frakes

This week, Laura and I are traveling to Germany for Nikon Deutschland's Nikon Solutions Expo. The Expo, April 27-28, brings together professional photographers, hobby photographers, and photo enthusiasts to showcase some of the latest technology and hold educational workshops and seminars.
Nearly all of my ancestors came to the USA from Germany, and it's always a treat to be back "home." My great great great great grandfather Wilhem came to the States on a boat by himself when he was five years old, with a small suitcase and a note pinned to his chest.  His parents sent him during the European potato famine as they could not take care of him.  This is a guy I would like to have met.  Talk about tough.

We're honored to be a part of such an inspiring group of presenters including Joe McNally, Serge Romanov, Jens Brüggemann, Mayk Azzato, Robin Preston, Florian Schulz, Ralph Man, Sebastian Wiegärtner, and Maike Jarsetz.

We will be presenting three times a day at 10:45, 12:45 and 17:15 on D-SLR Video, Sports Photography and the Simple Love of Photography -- if I am not on the stage you'll be able to find me trying to absorb some of the wealth of information being offered.
Wir würden uns freuen Sie dort zu sehen.

iPhoneography in Mexico by Laura Heald


The Apple Distinguished Educators are one of our favorite groups to work with.  Being with them is like spending time with all your favorite teachers - the ones who changed your life. Last week, Bill and I were with them in Guanajuato, Mexico, taking pictures and teaching them about what we do.

A lot of our work is complicated - very technical and time consuming.  Some of it isn't.

We try to use the right tool for every job.  Sometimes that's a powerful Nikon DSLR, occasionally an extremely high end video camera, and sometimes our phones.

We can do a lot with one iPhone.

On this trip we wanted to focus on that workflow, showing our "students" everything that is possible with the phone they already own.

We took a photo walk one day through Guanajuato.  It's an incredibly photogenic town.  There were pictures around every corner.

While Bill gave instruction on light, composition and technique, I followed the group with an iPhone and a small tripod.

At the end of the walk, we presented everyone with this video.  It was done entirely on my iPhone 4 - shot, edited and exported on one device.

Having an entire production studio in my hand is a powerful thing.

Super Bowl by Bill Frakes


I am frequently asked which are my favorite teams in sports and who I want to win. It's pretty simple really. I pull for the people who are nice to me.

Last night in Indianapolis, there were a couple of players on the field I have spent time with through the years.

Danny Woodhead of the Patriots, and Eli Manning from the victorious New York football Giants.

When Danny was a senior at tiny Chadron State College in western Nebraska, Laura and I spent two great days working with him as he closed in on the NCAA career rushing record.

He was friendly and generous with his time. And especially since he is from a small town in Nebraska, like me, I always hope he does well.

But it was a little more complicated last night. Eli Manning, the youngest member of sports most gracious family, I photographed before he was a teenager.

We weren't doing a story on Eli, it was a piece on Archie, his dad, hero of Mississippi.

Then I photographed Eli again when we were doing a piece on his older brother Peyton.

I went to school at Ole Miss, and so when Eli was the star there, Steve Fine, SI's director of photography, sent me to Oxford to make portraits and shoo game action of Eli there.

I photographed him again when he was a first round draft pick.

Yet again at the family football camp - the Manning passing academy.

Another time for a story on his brother Cooper.

Each and every time Eli has been the same. Quiet, polite, and -- it hurts to be old enough to say this about a man who has now twice been Super Bowl MVP -- a really good kid.

Sports Illustrated's best images of Super Bowl XLVI gallery is now online.

From NOLA to Florida by Bill Frakes

I spent last night on the sidelines photographing the rematch between LSU and Alabama for Sports Illustrated. That's six straight BCS National Championships for the SEC. The photos are online now at, SI Snapshot and on the SI Big Ticket App. In the morning, I was on a plane from New Orleans to Florida.

And this afternoon, I'm on set directing the incredibly talented Florida-based recording artist Alea. Laura's directing the photography.

It certainly is a great start to the week!

Ram! Jam! 'Bama! SI Cover by SARA TANNER

Football season is well underway, and Bill has been spending the weekends covering the action around the country. This past weekend brought him back to Florida for the UF v. Alabama game in the Swamp. Bill photographed Alabama's Josh Chapman for the cover of  Sports Illustrated (the October 10 issue).

The First Saturday in May by Bill Frakes


The first Saturday in May always means the same thing. Louisville and the Kentucky Derby. There is no place on earth I would rather be than at Churchill Downs when they play My Old Kentucky Home. Because it is one of my favorite homes.

It’s weeks like this that make, especially make, mine one of the greatest jobs on earth.

Early mornings on the backside means seeing friends new and old.

For 30 years Dan Dry and Bill Luster have greeted me with smiles and kindness. They’re classy guys and great photographers.

Even though I didn’t work for him, C Thomas Hardin, legendary director of photography at the Courier Journal, had a huge impact on my career because of all of my buddies who did have the good fortune to be influenced daily by him. I treasure those conversations.

This was Laura’s fourth derby, and for me... well, I’ve done a few more. And by that I mean about 30 of them.

Curt Bianchi, who is one of the software geniuses who build Apple’s Aperture was helping us again along with his wife, Sue, and a really good group of younger photographers — Andy Hancock, Sara Tanner, Zach Brake, Mike Weaver, Jeff Lautenberger, Patrick Fallon, Britney McIntosh and Joel Kowsky.

The folks at Churchill are as good as it gets in this business. Darren Rogers has more stuff going on than you can possibly imagine, but he always has time to laugh and help. 

Keith Klein and the Dumsdorf family make things go so smoothly the event that could be utter chaos without them.

When Animal Kingdom surged across the finish line a familiar question rippled through the crowd -- is he the one? Are we looking at the next winner of the Triple Crown?

In 2001, I went to Triple Chimneys to photograph the only horse living in this century to have won the three championships, and the only undefeated Triple Crown winner in 1977 - Seattle Slew.

Every Derby has a distinct flavor. Last year's Derby has a different feeling from the year before it.

The Derby always marks the beginning of a busy summer, but spring isn’t ever slow. This year assignments have taken us around the globe, working on projects ranging from music videos to documentaries to commercial assignments.

2011 started the way 2010 ended, on the road for Sports Illustrated. Lots of football and portraits, including a cover of the University of Connecticut’s Women Basketball team.

In between NFL playoffs and the Superbowl, I took two trips to Sweden working with Nikon and Sony Music on a music video for up and coming Swedish musical artist Lisa Miskovsky.

Everyone had a tremendous time in the snow making great use of our Nikon cameras and Manfrotto supports. Laura edited the music video, "Got a Friend." We also built a behind the scenes video.

February found us back in the States for the Superbowl. Laura and I always have fun in Texas and with a huge group of the SI team there it was great time.

In preparation for March Madness, we started shooting a lot of basketball, NBA and NCAA. SI launched apps SI Snapshot and SI Big Ticket, giving us the opportunity to have more images seen.

Febuary and March were basketball heavy, capped by the Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

In Nebraska, we taught back to back seminars for the students at University of Nebraska - Lincoln with Apple and for the Nebraska Nature Photographers.

While in Nebraska, we were honored to do a interview with the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States Ted Kooser.

In March, we shot two additional music videos: one of pianist Anya Marina with Cinevate, and one for our friend, master guitarist Neil Zaza with Nikon at South by Southwest.

This is a look at the Behind the Scenes video of the making of “Felony Flats.”

We’re headed off to Nashville to work with Ricky Skaggs, shooting a music video of his song “Mosaic.”

More soon.

South by Southwest by Bill Frakes

Laura and I are in Austin, Texas, this week presenting and shooting at South by Southwest. Austin is always a high energy city, but with the influx of creativity from this conference the city is booming. There is inspiration everywhere you look.

The beginning of this year has kept me and the rest of the Straw Hat Visuals team busy. We’ve shot four music videos, one documentary pieces, taught four workshops, and we’ve flown thousands of miles from Georgia to Sweden to Canada and now Texas.

Among the videos we've shown here is Austin on the Nikon panel, one of our fan favorites is our Backyard Babies music video.

Watching this video makes me even more excited about the videos we will be launching in the next few weeks.