For 20 years, Kevin T. Gilbert, D.C. photojournalist, covered superpower summits, pro sports, national political campaigns, as well as the noise and news of Washington and the nation.
Having completed his fifth term as president of the White House News Photographers' Association and won some 40 awards from the WHNPA, the NPPA, and other prestigious associations, in 1998, Gilbert left The Washington Times to form Blue Pixel, and together with partners Rob Galbraith, Reed Hoffman, and Jeff Lawrence, Gilbert travels tirelessly across the U.S. and around the world, extolling the virtues of an effective digital workflow to those who would listen.
Why the change? "The simple answer is I'm a photojournalist," says Gilbert, "and we have long been the early adapters of every new camera, computer, piece of software, and phonecell phone, sat phonebecause everything a photojournalist can do to beat the next guy by five seconds he'll do. It's the nature of our business."
He and his fellow gadget hounds have been carrying laptops for years. "I've had email since the mid-80s and got into computers and digital photography partly as a necessity, and partly because I saw the potential for it down the road."
Birth of the Blues
Often teaching and training other photographers anyway, Gilbert & cohorts decided they could form a "real juggernaut of information," with different levels of talent and expertise in different fields and create an entire workflow solution for photographers needing baseline digital information. And so, Blue Pixel was born.Taking his own advice to never pass up a photo you may not get again, Gilbert shot these Masai Warriors dancing in a Kenya hotel lobby in virtual darkness with a Nikon D1 and 80-200mm lens, on AP. The green is fluorescent lights.
With Blue Pixel business taking most of his time these days, Gilbert devotes shooting time to mega events, such as "A Day in the Life of Africa," a highly successful Olympus project held earlier this year. His team set up workflow for the 100 photojournalists who participated in this event across the African continent.
Another big project was Eco-Challenge, an annual racing adventure Gilbert's covered for seven years, held in a remote location and broadcast worldwide. Shot in Fiji this year, it typically features everything from orienteering through the wilderness to rock climbing, white water kayaking, mountain biking, and camel riding.
"To cover 300 miles of pretty inaccessible terrain," explains Gilbert, "we move by 4-wheel drive, climb giant waterfalls or ledges, jump out of helicopters, and cross glaciers. It is the ultimate adventure for us."
Deleting Digital Doubts
One of the major issues the industry faces right now is educating art directors, photo buyers, everyone in general that digital can do just as well as film, says Gilbert.
"Digital is no different than shooting film in that the image has to come from within you to shoot it. Then there's media storage, which in some ways approximates film. Lexar Media CompactFlash cards are all I've ever used, because I only use the best tools to help me capture my images. We had 90 Lexar Media 512 MB storage cards with us in Fiji."
Says Gilbert, "If people can understand that the quality is there and they just have a few extra steps, they'll actually find digital is easier, more economical, and can simplify their lives if they've set up an efficient workflow."
The technology allows photographers to assign keywords, captions, and all the data that appears with the photograph instantly, so even if it's not all entered when a digital file is created, the date stamp is on those files so they can always be searched by the date.
For safekeeping, Gilbert backs up all his images to LaCie Firewire drives then creates a searchable index with iView Media Pro, "an amazing $50 program on Apple's G4 PowerBook."Gilbert captured this little girl during the 2000 Borneo Eco-Challenge, as she watched racers fly through her fishing village. Used his Nikon D1 and 500 f/4, his favorite lens. "It's stunning as a 24x36."
It's a great program, but won't catalog more than 35,000 images in one file. But, according to Gilbert, "If you've got 20,000 or 30,000 images on CDs or DVDs, you can create a thumbnail index that will fit on a CD or two, or take less than a gig of space on your laptop, and you can go to a client and show some of your best stuff. When they say, 'Do you have a picture of this or that,' you can do a search and pull up a picture immediately. It's an incredible selling tool."