The Seattle Times uses Canon gear. What equipment do you take on a typical shoot?

JL: For metro assignments I go out with two bodies. Over one shoulder I have the 1D X with a 35mm F1.4L. On the other is a 1D Mark III with the 70-200 F2.8L. In my hip pack I have a 50mm F1.4 and an 85mm F1.8.

For sports assignments like NFL games I use the same bodies, but will put a 400mm F2.8 on the 1D X and keep the 70-200 on the 1D 3. I'll bring a Canon 1.4x teleconverter. Then I'll add a third body around my neck, the Canon 7D with the 16-35mm zoom to shoot the things that happen really quick in front of me. Now if I had my druthers I'd shoot with three 1D Xs but that's a budgeting issue at the paper.

Being close to the action, loaded down with three bodies and heavy lenses, means that getting out of the way is not always possible. Here, John Lok could not escape the collision, but did come away unhurt. Photo by George Holland.

DR: For the most part sporting events seem to be a three lens configuration: your short zoom, long zoom and 400 F2.8. You can work around most situations with just those three lenses and three bodies.

For every assignment the pack is different so I have a number of ThinkTank roller bags. For NFL games I bring two 1D X bodies, the 16-35mm F2.8L, 70-200mm F2.8L and 400mm F2.8. I have my MacBook and two Lexar FW 800 card readers that I can daisy chain.

For pro and college basketball, the 400mm F2.8 is replaced by the 300mm F2.8. And I'm adding another body or two, like a 7D with a 16-35mm F2.8L. I'll bring floor plates and a Magic Arm to set up that camera as a remote using PocketWizard transmitters. I don't mount it above the rim like the magazine guys simply because at that height the camera is not serviceable at halftime, which is my first deadline. So I mount lower down on the post where I can get to the camera when I need to, even during a time-out to swap cards, etc. This way I can get my 'under the rim' shots onto the newswire first, whereas for most guys those are the shots they upload last.

Canon EOS 7D, EF 17-35mm F2.8L USM, ISO 1250, 1/1000 @F2.8. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times.
To get this shot, the camera was mounted on the post beneath the rim and fired remotely.

How do you process/transmit images back to the photo desk?

DR: I mentioned that I shoot Raw and my Raw workflow is as fast as most people's JPEG workflow. One reason is that I bring an external monitor. Venues have a workroom where you have room to set up a 20-inch or larger monitor. We all use laptops but the second screen helps in managing a thousand images on deadline. I can go through thumbnail images faster to make selects.

I use Photo Mechanic to ingest the images and a plugin to go straight to Photoshop. We ftp into a mainframe that assimilates our images into all the photos that come in from wire services. So our editors see and have access to all photographers' images from an event. So speed in transmitting becomes very important as well as IPTC metadata that identifies our work.

Canon EOS 7DEF 24-105mm F4L IS USM ISO 500, 1/320 @F4. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times.

If I'm transmitting from the field I'm doing it from my iPad. I use a CF card adapter for the iPad to get images onto it. I use the app Photogene to add IPTC metadata, use ftp presets and do basic color corrections. The app can even handle raw files.

Is the Ethernet and add-on wireless connectivity in the latest Canon and Nikon pro bodies a significant feature?

DR: We invested in Canon's WFT wireless transmitters but one of the big problems with this and Ethernet connectivity from the camera is that if you set your IP address for the camera you take your device out of the IP for Internet access. So it actually slows down the ability to acquire and send an image back to the office. This is something we'd like to see Canon address, so you can wirelessly acquire images from the camera and then, without changing any settings send it out over the Internet.

If you could design the perfect camera what would it have?

JL: It would be extremely responsive, have a frame rate even faster than the 1D X and I could shoot with it in a rainstorm!

DR: I want more seamless data transfer to my laptop and the Internet. I'd love to see the ability to import IPTC data into the camera. I'd even like to see an in-camera auto exposure tool that would leverage the raw data and remap black and white points like in Photoshop. Workflow is everything and speed is paramount.

What advice would you to give to aspiring photojournalists?

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 16-35mm F2.8L, ISO 50, 1/200 @F8. John Lok/The Seattle Times. Lighting setup: Hensel Porty 1200 and EHT 1200 head with Profoto Octa 5-foot softbox.

DR: It's a brutal career now, especially in sports where so many federations and leagues are controlling their images and making it more difficult for people to be credentialed to cover events. But having said that, if you have talent there's absolutely nothing to stop you from being successful if you're motivated, ambitious and really want to succeed!

Start small. There's a tendency among young graduates to want to start at the top by shooting pro sports games. You have such a better opportunity to develop your craft at the high school or college level. You'll have access to athletes who are not jaded and not controlling their own images. You'll have proximity to the action, so you don't need a 400mm lens. Start small and shoot as much as you humanly can. And whenever you get to shoot alongside pros always compare your work against theirs to see where you went wrong. Ask yourself, 'What are they seeing that I didn't see?'

 Nikon D3S, AF-S Nikkor 600mm F4 VR, ISO 2000, 1/1600 @F4. John Lok/The Seattle Times.

JL: My advice is that you really need to want it! As Dean mentioned, being a professional photographer whether its advertising, fashion, architecture, you name it, is a very difficult thing to pull off in this day and age. It just is. With cellphone cameras, everyone and their mom are photographers. Expensive gear is no longer a barrier. The sheer volume of images being produced now means that consumers of images have many more avenues to get them, and many of those options are low cost or even free.


Dean Rutz

Dean Rutz joined the Seattle Times in 1988 as picture editor. Previously he had been a staff photographer at The Washington (DC) Times, and the Palm Beach (FL) Post. He has shot six Olympic Games, the Superbowl, NBA Championships, countless MLB playoff games and more than his share of high school sports.

John Lok

A native of Seattle, John Lok has been a staff photographer at The Seattle Times since 2003. He is a graduate of the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University. He has interned at the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.), Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Mich.), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Los Angeles Times. He specializes in portraiture, sports, food and lifestyle imagery. To see more of John Lok's work, visit his online image gallery at the Seattle Times. You can also follow his Twitter feed.

You can view more of Dean and John's work with the Seattle Times photo app.