3.5 reasons to buy faster glass

[Nikon D2X, 24mm ƒ/2.8, 1/4, ISO 800] Ismael Tarnagda and Jay Shafto wind up a long day in Sabtenga, Burkina Faso.

1.    You need a faster lens to capture a scene
2.    You need a faster lens to increase the shutter-speed
3.    Bokeh: You want a silky smooth out of focus background and/or foreground
3.5.    Status symbol

If you are still shooting film and don’t have a digital camera shooting fast glass is a necessity in low light. Kodachrome only went to ISO 200 and sure you could push the ISO and pay extra to process, but the quality just falls a part.

If you shoot color negative film you can find ISO 1600, but again there is a lot of grain to contend with in your photos.

[Nikon D2X, 28mm ƒ/2.8, 1/10, ISO 800] Ismael Tarnagda and Jay Shafto wind up a long day in Sabtenga, Burkina Faso.

On my Nikon D4 the ISO is expanded to 204,800. This looks better than my film did at ISO 1600.

This is all to say that if you cannot increase your ISO for any reason you need a faster lens to capture a photo. One of the first lenses many photographers first buy to get the faster glass is the 50mm ƒ/1.4.  This lens is affordable as compared to almost every other ƒ/1.4 lens.  The Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4 sells for about $289 on the street.

Many of Nikon’s cameras come in a kit with the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX (VR) Lens. By adding the 50mm ƒ/1.4 the photographer gains 2 ƒ-stops.

If you are shooting architecture getting faster glass isn’t that important for the most part. Most of these photographers are stopping down the glass to get everything in focus. Also, they can put the camera on a tripod and since their subject doesn’t move they can shoot a long exposure time.

If you shoot people, then shooting much slower than 1/30 shutter speed will capture motion blur due to the subject moving.

[Nikon D2X, 30mm ƒ/2.8, 1/60, ISO 400] Clinic attendant Ester Betnam assists George Faile, general practitioner as he sees patients at Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu, Ghana.  Outside his door are patients waiting to see just him for today. 

Stanley’s Shutter Speed Guidelines

  • 1/30 for people when they are stationary. You could do family portraits with your camera on a tripod (to avoid photographer movement) to get good results.
  • 1/500 for sports. This is for most sports you can get sharp photos of the athletes. Things like football, basketball, and baseball will fall into these sports that will work at 1/500.
  • 1/2000 for high-speed sports. If you want to freeze the hockey puck or the motorcyclist in a race you need to crank up that shutter speed even more.

These are just guidelines. Shooting a photo with a shutter speed of 1/30 maybe too slow if you have an active child in a family photo. Maybe you want to pan with the racecar and shoot a slower shutter speed to blur the photo and therefore you wouldn’t want to shoot at 1/2000 shutter speed.

These are just ways to evaluate your need for faster glass in a situation.

With today’s zoom lenses being incredibly sharp as compared to earlier models they rival the sharpness of some of their prime lenses counterparts. Due to this increased quality I recommend finding a zoom that fits your style of shooting.

[Nikon D3, 16mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/50] Sunrise in North Georgia for a balloon ride over Lake Lanier.

Here are some of my recommendations from Nikon’s lens lineup.


Photojournalism/Documentary/Street Shooters

  • Wide Angle Zoom (one of these) 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR 
    • AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED 
  • General Zoom (one of these) 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
[Nikon D4, 105mm of 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 1/640 ISO 12,800]

Sports Shooter Zoom (in addition to the above)

  • AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II

[Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, 1/100, ISO 800]

Prime Lens Suggestions

Photojournalism/Documentary/Street Shooters

  •     AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
  •     AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G
  •     AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
  •     AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
  •     85mm (either one)
    •     AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G
    •     AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

Sports Shooter

  • AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR
  • AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR 

[Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, 1/250, ISO 100]


If you desire the silky smooth Bokeh there is another thing that affects the background—sensor size. This is especially true when you go to the smaller chips. The lens gets closer to the sensor and when this happens the depth-of-field increases. This is why your smartphone photos look in focus with a ƒ/2 lens. It is like shooting at ƒ/8 or ƒ/16 with a full-framed DSLR.

Buy a full-framed sensor camera to get the silkiest of all backgrounds.

[Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/8, 1/6, ISO 100 for light I used Alienbees B1600 at 1/16 power being triggered by Pocketwizard Mini TT1 on the camera and Plus II transciever on the strobe. The strobe is powered by the Vagabond Mini Lithium]

Nikkor 28-300mm ƒ/3.5 – 5.6 can replace the Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.4

Nikon D4, 28-300mm (300), ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/25 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.


Bokeh originated in the Japanese word [boke], which means blur. Today many photographers are going out and buying the ƒ/1.4 lenses to get that silky smooth background for when you shoot the lens wide open.

If the reason I am reaching for a lens based on getting a silky smooth out of focus background I might be wasting my time. You see so much of what I shoot is with the AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and to take the lens off to put on my AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D IF I could be just creating an unnecessary step.  

If you compare the lenses at the same aperture and focal length then it would make more sense to grab the 85mm ƒ/1.4. As you can see in the photo below shot on the 85mm @ ƒ/5.6 the background isn’t all that silky Bokeh.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/50 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/2, 1/50 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.

Shooting however at ƒ/2 you are seeing a major difference on the 85mm as compared to itself. But now compare it to the first photo on this blog shot with the 28-300mm when the lens is zoomed in to 300mm and shot wide open at ƒ/5.6.  I am having a really hard time seeing any difference in the Bokeh.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/50 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.

When shooting at ƒ/1.4 with the 85mm the depth-of-field is tad bit more shallow than the 300mm @ ƒ/5.6.

This is where you might just be scratching your head as I was after doing this little test.

The trick to getting that really silky smooth background has as much to do with how close you are to the subject as the ƒ-stop.

I would argue that if you are wanting that shallow depth of field with a creamy Bokeh you can do it with the 28-300mm ƒ/5.6 and not have to buy another lens to carry around.

There are other reasons you might want an 85mm ƒ/1.4 in your bag–stay tuned in for that post later.

Nikon D4: Sports Camera Setting

In an earlier blog post I gave you my normal settings for the Nikon D4 for how I shoot. Here is a link to that post.

These are the settings that I use on my Nikon D4 for shooting most all sport action. Nikon has made it really nice to allow photographers to save these settings so they do not have to remember each and every little setting they like to use for a style of shooting.

If you go to Menu and under the camera icon pick the first item “Shooting menu bank.” I have chosen C, which is my sports menu.

If you toggle into the “Shooting menu bank” you can rename those settings. Once you choose one of these settings everything you do to change the menu will be saved in that menu bank. I recommend to go ahead and try all my settings and then tweak them to your preferences.


When shooting sports it is very common for the lighting conditions to change instantly. While the football player runs toward you they may go from shade into direct sunlight. For this reason I let the camera do some of the thinking for me.

Go to the camera icon again and look for “ISO sensitivity settings.” Select this and you will then see this menu:

I turn on the “Auto ISO sensitivity control.” Then I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/2000. The ISO setting is what you see in the smaller window below the menu. I set this to ISO 100 and then set the “Maximum sensitivity” to ISO 12800.

While I am in Aperture Mode shooting the camera will always pick 1/2000 shutter-speed. If in sunlight I am at ƒ/4 the shutter-speed may go as high at 1/8000 at ISO 100, but as the scene changes and the athlete is now in the shade the camera will automatically drop to 1/2000 @ ƒ/4 and then change also the ISO up until I can still shoot at 1/2000.

The only time the shutter speed will dip below the 1/2000 is if the ISO peaks out at 12800.  If my aperture is wide open then the camera is doing everything that I would have done manually, but faster than I could ever adjust the camera. That is how you get more shots than the guy next to you.

Under the custom settings bank (Pencil Icon) I go into the auto focus setting.

I change the “Focus tracking with lock-on” from Normal to 4. What happens when I do this is the delay for the lens to refocus if something comes in between the camera and subject (like a referee). While I am following someone the camera will not refocus right away. This is something you need to try and pick what you like. You may want the lens to be more responsive and therefore go to setting 1 which will let the lens refocus instantly.

Focus Settings

I set the camera to AF mode. I also run this in continuous focus mode rather than single.

I go into the menu and select under custom settings the AF activation and choose “AF-ON only.” This means when I press the shutter it will not focus the lens.  It will only fire the camera. To focus I am using the AF-ON button on the back of the Nikon D4.

By changing these settings you will notice the camera will stay in focus and shoot faster frame rate. Great for following a baseball player sliding into a plate and another player trying to tag them or maybe a football player running towards you to score. You will find more photos tack sharp in a series.

I generally put my focus point dead center and lock it so I don’t bump it. I am trying to get photos of moving subjects and off center is too difficult for me. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the subject in focus first.

Now of the 51 different focus points you can choose groups of these to help with focusing. I went with Nikon’s suggested 21-point dynamic-area AF.

Here are suggestions by Nikon in the manual:


The only other setting is on the lens that I turn on VR.

Nikon helps to continue solving photography’s number one problem

Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 6400, 1/50, ƒ/5.6 (shot at 112 focal length)

Photos are not sharp

While the photo above is not terrible it isn’t sharp. Look at the enlarged section here below.

The reason the photo isn’t sharp is not due to the camera or lens. You see the number one problem facing most photographers today is soft images due to camera movement.

No matter the camera you are shooting, the best thing to combat camera movement is a tripod. Your images will be the sharpest possible, that is if your subject is perfectly still during the exposure.

The second thing you can do is to increase the shutter speed. The rule-of-thumb is turn your focal length into a fraction. Put 1 over your focal length and then find the closest shutter speed on your camera faster than it and you are generally good to go. 

In the photo above I was shooting at focal length of 112. I would convert this to a fraction of 1/112 and then shoot to the closest shutter speed, which for my camera would have been 1/125.  Notice however I was at ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6 and 1/50.  I needed to go up by more than 1 stop to do that for this photo.

For various reasons I couldn’t raise the shutter speed. To raise it would have been to push the ISO to 12,800 and the D3 really didn’t look all that good at 12,800. I was already wide open and so I couldn’t open up the aperture any more. I couldn’t shoot with a tripod in the hair salon because I would be in the way of customers.

Nikon to the rescue

Nikon added two lenses to some of their lenses to help with camera shake. These lenses help with vibration and reduce the camera shake by counteracting it. They call these lenses VR which is acronym for Vibration Reduction. Nikon VR lenses use two angular velocity sensors, one that detects vertical movement (pitch), the other, horizontal movement (yaw), with diagonal motion handled by both sensors working together. The sensors send angular velocity data to a microcomputer in the lens, which determines how much compensation is needed to offset the camera’s shake and sends that information to a duo of voice coil motors that move selected lens elements to compensate for the detected motion.

If you ever go on a cruise the ships have similar devices called gyroscopes that help stabilize a ship in rough water. If you have ever been on a ship and you still felt the roll of the sea this is because there is a limit to how much they can compensate.

The compensation of the Nikon VR II lenses is about equal to four stops. What this means is if you were shooting hand held with a camera lens at 1/60 then you should get the same sharpness as if you were shooting at 1/1000.  So you should be able to handhold a 1000mm lens at 1/60 based on this technology.  But if you have ever handheld a 600mm lens you know that few can actually hold one up.

The VR system can also detect the use of a tripod, recognize panning―an instance in which you wouldn’t want the lens to compensate for movement―and address the specific shake caused by the ongoing vibration patterns produced when shooting from a moving vehicle. From my personal experience you want to turn off the VR function when shooting from tripod.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12,800, 1/80, ƒ/5.6 300mm

Just a few years later I now am shooting with a Nikon D4 instead of the D3 above. I can now shoot ISO 12,800 and I also have the newer AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR that is a VR II technology.

I am hand holding this lens and just loving the results.

This is cropped area of the photo above. Notice how sharp the eyelashes are in the photo.

When I started shooting professionally 30 years ago I was using the Nikon FM2 film cameras. Let me list a few things that have changed making the above photo possible that I could have never done before.

  • Auto focus lenses
  • Highest ISO I shot in 1982 was ISO 400 for color and today I regularly shoot ISO 12,800
  • Vibration Reduction (letting me hand hold images four stops slower)
  • In Camera White Balance today (Only Daylight, Tungsten and BW film in 1982)
In 1982 Nikon had a 50-300mm that weighed 6lb 2.8oz

The lenses were manual focus early in my career and weighed a lot more than today. They are not as sharp as today’s lenses due to the ability of computers to help in the design today.

Today this 28-30mm lens only weighs 28.2 oz and can focus faster than I could ever do with manual lens.

Nikon has helped me take photos I could never have taken before in available light, which is helping me provide services to my clients that have never been done before.

My go to lens

The AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens might as well be bolted onto my camera. I do use other Nikon lenses, but this is always my first choice in majority of the situations I shoot. This lens with the Nikon D4 is one of the best combinations in camera gear today.

Nikon D4: Normal Camera Setting

These are my settings for normal shooting. Normal shooting for me is more photojournalistic using a lot of available light and lenses from 14 – 300mm range.

The first thing I do is select my shooting menu bank in the menu. I have saved two primary shooting setups.

I have normal for most average situations and shooting using studio flash. You can rename these to whatever you like to use.  I have occasionally setup a sports menu bank as well. Once you select this setting everything you then set in your menu will be saved here.

My primary slot is the XQD and the secondary slot is overflow. I am normally shooting in RAW in this setting. This means I can change white balance later if I want with more control than I would have in JPEGs.

Also I have set the bit depth to the highest setting of 14-bit to give me the largest possible data capture from the sensor.

I set the picture control to standard which only really affects the previews in a RAW.  If you are saving as JPEG and RAW then the JPEGs will be a little more punch than the Neutral which for me is too flat.

I shoot in the ADOBE RGB color space and after editing in Lightroom I output to sRGB.  In the Adobe RGB I have the largest color space and therefore when editing will have more information giving better color in the final image.

I prefer to shoot in AUTO ISO.  The ISO sensitivity is set at ISO 100 and set to max out at ISO 12,800.  I will go into this setting and often tweak the minimum shutter speed, especially when shooting under fluorescent lights to 1/100.  I wrote about Auto ISO in an earlier blog post here. While it is written about the Nikon D3S the concept hasn’t changed.  Earlier I also wrote about the reason to shoot at 1/100 with fluorescent lights here.

In the custom settings I only change a few from the default settings.

I use the auto focus points of 51 with auto setting on single. It will look for faces automatically.  I may override this if the auto setting isn’t locking in where I typically want. Often it is faster than me and sometimes I just need to override who I want as the focus point when there are many people in a photo.

I also like to embed my name in all the photos. So both in Image Comment and Copyright Information I put my name.


I will write more in future posts on settings for studio strobes and sports.

Imaging USA EXPO

David Bergman speaks at the Nikon booth during Imaging USA EXPO.

This blog post may seem a little disconnected, but it is more like a journal of my experience today at the Imaging USA Expo. I had a lot of fun and learned a few things.

Kevin Ames is photographing a model at the Sigma booth. Kevin is is sponsored by Sigma.

The reason I drove to the convention was to see my friends. All the gear I have seen before and no company was rolling out new gear at the show that I knew about.

One person that always is good to have in town is Bill Fortney. Bill is retiring July 1st from Nikon as one of their representatives. I knew I wanted to have some time with him as well as get a chance to talk with his boss Bill Pekala, the head of Nikon Professional Services.

Bill Fortney is handling all the questions from the convention attendees.

In a few weeks I will be doing a similar role to Bill when I am answering student questions about their next purchases. While Bill thought I was just hanging out to say hello, I was actually listening to how Bill handled all their questions.

Bill was helping people understand the Nikon lineup of cameras. For the most part Bill was talking to people about the differences between the Nikon D800 and the Nikon D600.  For most folks the Nikon D600 fits the bill just fine is what he was telling them. Fortney thinks of his Nikon D800 like a 4×5 camera. When he shoots with it this is serious. He knows he wants all the detail possible and pulls this camera out of the bag.

For the most part Bill explained how much he enjoyed shooting for the most part with the Nikon D600 as his everyday shooting camera.  You can read a blog Bill wrote on this here.

Dr. Charles Stanley asks Bill for some advice on his upcoming trip to Africa. He didn’t want to take all his gear and asked Bill for what he recommended. Bill recommended the Nikon D7000 and the Nikon 18-200mm lens for the trip.

You need good relationships with the camera representatives because they know the gear the best and great people to help one navigate their lineup of cameras and lenses.

I went by the Nikon Professional Services room and even met for the first time face to face Melissa DiBartolo. For years she has helped me with getting my cameras repaired and answering questions. I walked in and she knew me right away and this was so reassuring to know they are taking the time to help us out.

Jeff Raymond enjoys meeting Dr. Charles Stanley in the hall of the convention.

While I was having a chance to renew friendships I also was starting new ones. Jeff Raymond was able to meet Dr. Charles Stanley and talk about his work in missions.

Coming up the escalator was my friend Tara Patty who has a photo studio in Colorado Springs, CO. I was enjoying hear how her business is growing and changing. Years ago she was shooting 90% commercial and only about 10% portraits for the public. Today she is shooting 10% commercial and 90% portraits and her business is growing.

I then met my friend Mark Turner who said the last three years have been great for business. He only wonders how much better if the economy was stronger.

As I talked to friend after friend I was finding they were all doing much better and had made changes in their business as well.

If you have time I recommend taking it in yourself if you are in Atlanta on January 22nd.

You can go here to register and enjoy the event www.imagingusa.org/registration.

How to get repeat business and referrals from assignments


A popular myth maintains that those who know how to do something can teach others. Not True.

The ability to communicate a concept to another person and teach them is more than just knowing how to do something. Giving instructions has a lot in common with teaching. Giving assignments to creatives about something which can be very abstract requires more than an understanding of what you want. I know it when I see it isn’t a good teaching technique.

I have written this blog for two different audiences: 1) those giving assignments and 2) those doing those assignments.

Assignment Photography

Just because you know what you want from a photographer does not necessarily mean you know how to communicate it to a photographer for an assignment.  One of the biggest mistakes made in communication is making some assumptions.

Everything is “Clear Only If Known.” We can make assumptions as simple as telling someone directions and assuming they know where certain landmarks are along the way. Another example is telling someone to turn on something. Sometimes there are many steps to turning on something. They need to know where the place is to turn something on and sometimes there are multiple steps before it will turn on.

There are two standard ways many people making assignments like to communicate: 1) written and 2) spoken.

Most likely the person you are giving instructions to doesn’t do well reading or listening. To be sure you have covered your bases you are best served speaking to the person and sending them written instructions.

The problem with using only these two methods is there are some people who don’t listen and read instructions very well.  Understanding instructions can easily be linked to someone’s learning style. This is how they best learn to do something new.

You see there are seven different learning styles:

The Seven Learning Styles

    Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
    Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
    Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
    Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
    Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
    Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
    Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

One thing I think that can really help in addition to spoken and written assignments is some examples.  Many clients have given me and I have given to others have included visual examples.

Sometimes when the clients talks about a style or approach I will look for my own examples and send these to them for confirmation of an approach.

Besides conceptual approaches just the business side of the assignment can cause problems. For example, if a client needs photos sent to them electronically using a ftp site, then it is a good idea to do a dry run. I have done this to find out that the information they gave to me wasn’t correct. It is better to find that out before you are on a deadline.

The dry run is a great way to verify understanding of the instructions or at least most of them.

If you are the person giving the instructions then you want a balanced approach. Here are some tips that will increase the odds of understanding and implementation of your instructions.

  1. Spoken instructions – Be sure to give your instructions orally and in person if possible. This helps with them asking you to repeat things and getting clarification. Your tone of voice also helps communicate. When in person your body language will also help inform them.
  2. Written instructions – Be sure you also have all your instructions presented in writing. This will help you also review all your desirable outcomes. You have now a permanent record of your request. Sometimes this helps avoid problems in your voice tone or body language.
  3. Visual examples – If you have examples of past assignments and what you liked from other photographers please send this to them. If you have examples of how it will run in a printed piece or a link to a website then send this as well. 
  4. Test shots – Try to have a contact on site or be there yourself to look at what is being produced. You can ask the photographer to email you an example of what they have setup. Let’s say it is a portrait of the CEO. You can have a model stand in and take some test shots, then if the style and/or approach is off or just perfect you and the photographer can verify or make changes.

How do you learn best?

If you are on the receiving end of instructions you need to know your learning style to be successful. If you get an email asking you to take on an assignment and you know you are a verbal learner you may ask if they mind you calling them to clarify a few things.

When writing your contract it is always good to spell out the deliverable. I have even put photo examples into a contract and stated that the deliverable will be similar to what is in the contract.

Ask questions and clarify those expectations so you can meet and exceed their expectations. Even if everything is sounding really easy and routine, take the time and restate their expectations in your words to show you understand the assignment. It is very important when this is your first time working with someone to be sure you have complete understanding.

If you do better with written instructions and the person is just calling and not sending instructions ask them to send it in writing. Stress that you want to be sure they get exactly what they want and having the written instructions to refer to will help you. Now if they for some reason cannot send you instructions, make written notes. Be sure to stop and clarify points.

Use an App on your smartphone to record the phone call. Google Voice needs no introduction, its features and uses are well known, but one feature that not many know exists in Google Voice is the ability to record calls. This can be achieved by pressing the number four while in a received call. With the price of free and no hidden fees, Google Voice is a winner. If you really want to get a lot of features for phone calls that happen to include recording then go with Google Voice, you will not regret it.

Your self perception of the assignment is based on what you see and what you think or know and not what is actually there. What I am saying is that just because you are using the same language and words as the person talking to you or writing to you it is still very easy to have different interpretations as to what you are talking about. This is where having some samples of previous assignments to refer to will help you clarify the expectations. You might just follow up on the phone call and summarize your take on the assignment and then maybe attach or embed a photo or two saying this is an example of what they are looking for.

Your individual temperament and motivation are the personality traits that must be taken into consideration. Temperamental variables include impatience, mood swings, and a distorted perception of goals. As we get older we become more aware of how some of these traits of ours can interfere in our communications. If you like taking pictures and cannot see yourself doing anything other than this for a career and you have bills this will help motivate you to suck it up and learn to compensate for the few moments it takes to get an assignment.

You want to practice with some friends to be sure you are being perceived as a good listener and test to see if you are comprehending instructions. Even if you think you are polished it is a good idea to work on your replies that you will use with people. This is very important when you are maybe dealing with your own learning disabilities and need a few things from the person to help insure you are understanding them correctly.

You may find in practicing you need to work on your delivery so the tone of voice communicates your desire to help and not so blunt as it puts off people. Your friends can help you evaluate how you are coming across. It is much better to get experience through practice than with clients. Making the mistakes in practice will help you avoid a failure with a client.

Do a great job with a client and not only do you get repeat business they tell others about you. Do a bad job and the reverse is true.

Master’s Thesis on Don Rutledge: Conclusion


Don Rutledge (photo by: Ken Touchton)

            To a non-Christian, Don would have been considered crazy for taking the positions with Southern Baptist.  Going to the Home Mission Board was definitely a step down in pay and prestige for Don Rutledge.  Why would someone leave a super position to take a drastic cut in pay and work with people who generally did not understand photojournalism?  Why would Don repeat the cut in pay and prestige and leave the Home Mission Board to go the Foreign Mission Board?  The answers to these questions only come from one source and that source is God.

            Don turned down positions with Life magazine, Associated Press and many others.  The Associated Press job would allow Don to travel the country doing any feature story that he wanted to do.  The AP job also would require him to go with the President of the United States on any over seas coverages.  Don turned down what most would have not thought twice about taking as jobs.[54] 
Siberia—Working with outsiders means listening and being heard, according to Eduard Genrich, of Second Baptist Church in Novosibirsk. People here say they are encouraged and helped by outsiders, but taken advantage of by some. (photo by: Don Rutledge)

            Don did not follow the normal direction that most Americans seek.  He did not climb the ladder as most would.  In our culture we are trained to continue to go up vertically.  We move through our school years doing this and most continue to do the same in the corporate ladder climb.  However, Don learned to follow his Lord——Jesus.  Whenever Don decided, there was no brass ring to grab.  In hindsight Don’s life is a testimony to how the Lord takes care of his children. 

John Howard Griffin as a black man in New Orleans in 1956. (Photo by: Don Rutledge)
John Howard Griffin getting dressed in a hotel in 1956. (Photo by: Don Rutledge)
John Howard Griffin looking at movies playing. When going in as a black man he would have a separate entrance. (Photo by: Don Rutledge)
John Howard Griffin as a black man and polishing shoes for a white man. (Photo by: Don Rutledge)

            Don’s life has been a testimony to other photographers who are not Christian.  He is asked often to speak at conferences for the National Press Photographers, Atlanta Press Photogra­phers, The Southern Short Course and also speaks for numerous camera clubs around the country.

            This writer concludes that Don has exemplified better than most that following your Lord does not mean giving yourself to a lesser life.  Those that earlier criticized Don for leaving Black Star to work with Southern Baptist have called him over and over asking if there are any openings for them to serve.[55]
New York City, NY 1966:  Lady on roof top. (photo by: Don Rutledge)

            For those who want to follow in Don’s footsteps they need to be warned that the road that Don has paved, still has pot holes and other problems that will require one to still proceed with caution.  They must realize Don focused on relationships with all those around him.  They must build strong relationships. 

            While working with Don at the Foreign Mission Board this writer observed how the administrative assistants and those that worked in the file area of photography were often teasing Don.  After one trip, Don’s office was completely rolled with toilet paper.  Another time one of the girls in the office had everyone dress like Don.  Don always wore the same style shirts and this made it easy to tease him. 
            Another time Don came back to discover his desk stacked in mail.  Virginia Adams, administrative assistant in communications department, had made up labels with Don’s name and address.  Virginia asked everyone to bring in all their junk mail.  She then put the labels on all that mail.
Boy in mirror. (Photo by: Don Rutledge)

            One does not build this type of relationships by looking out for themselves alone.  Don was not around a great deal at the Foreign Mission Board, but he knew how to put all at ease around him.  He was well known for the stories that he told.  Don always had a story to tell and keep people laughing. 


            Don ability with people is strongly related to his relationship with Christ.  No matter how good one is with the camera or with words, they must understand that Don’s success is due to his diligence and patience given to him by Jesus Christ.  You will never hear Don preaching or grabbing shirt collars to witness.  Due to Don’s life many have come to see the compassion that Christ has for the world.  Looking at Don’s photographs allows one to see the world in a Christian perspective.  One does not have to work with a Christian institution to do what Don does so well.  One only need a Lord that they call their master to understand how he does it all——his Lord enables him.


[54] Interview with Rutledge.
[55] Rutledge.


Master’s Thesis on Don Rutledge: Chapter One

Figure 1 Harley Shields is a Southern Baptist Home Missionary whose work place is Selawik, Alaska. Don photographed him in 1978.
This writer has en­joyed seeing the world ap­proximately 137 coun­tries and all of the United States with­out ever leav­ing his own home.
Most of the travel­ing was done with the help of The Commission Magazineand Missions USA. Both of the maga­zines have won some of the highest awards in the country. The Commission Magazine has placed third in magazines in the “Pic­tures of The Year” contest sponsored by the Na­tional Press Photographers Association in 1989 and 1990. Missions USA has earned similar awards. These Southern Baptist magazines are in a league with National Geographic and Life Magazine for their photography and design.

The reason for their success can be tied greatly to Don Rutledge. For this reason this writer is doing his thesis on Don Rutledge for publication.

Don has worked for Black Star photo agency in New York for more than thirty years. During this time he has also worked for the Home Mission and the Foreign Mission Boards of the SBC. He has won more than 400 awards for his work. He has been published in many magazines and books around the globe. His work has taken him throughout all fifty states, all of Canada and to 135 coun­tries.

Today, Rutledge is mentor to many professional photographers and students. All of the photojournalists in the Southern Baptist Convention point to Don as being the reason they are where they are today. All of them hope one day to make the impact he has already made for Southern Baptists and the cause of missions.

Having worked with Don Rutledge for many years, this writer has devel­oped a great appreciation for him. He has come to understand that the common thread that binds all those in minis­try is working with people. Don works with people so well that he has made major changes in magazines by his soft encourag­ing voice. Wherev­er Don goes he makes many friends.
Figure 2 Every year Carl Holden, a home missionary, takes his young people tubing from his church, Central Baptist.
Don’s ability with people is a gift. Don puts people at ease with or without his camera. This is a talent envied by photo­jour­nalists the world over. Those in the field of Christian photojour­nalism understand where this gift came from. They under­stand how Don’s faith is lived out through his camera.

As one looks at Don’s photographs, one feels as if he is in the room with the people. Don becomes a part of the woodwork wherev­er he goes. He blends in so well that people are able to be them­selves. His subjects look as though Don were not present. They are not reacting to his presence but are free to be them­selves. Don has allowed God to be so much a part of his work, that when one speaks of how Don is a part of the woodwork, one can picture how the Holy Spirit works through him.

Figure 3 In 1967 Don Rutledge went inside the Artic Circle and captured this Eskimo child play­ing.

His reputation often precedes Don, now that people know of his integrity without ever meeting him. They can see a man who gives dignity to his sub­jects. Often many pho­togra­phers today will exploit their sub­jects. They pho­to­graph a handi­capped per­son and exag­gerate his handicap so that one never really sees the per­son. Don’s pho­tos call one to feel a part of the per­son. Don says the eyes are the windows to the soul. He re­veals the inner­most part of people in a brief instant that is frozen on film. The more one looks at the photo­graph, the more one sees. He packs so much information into a photo­graph that one can go back over and over it and see some­thing new every time. Don in­cludes small details in his photo­graphs like a good writer who pulls his reader into the situa­tion.

Don studied to be a psy­chologist and worked on his doctorate in the field. He also studied for the minis­try and was a pastor for a short period. He still is using his psychology in pho­to­graphing people, and his pictures continually reach audi­ences of over 1.5 million people week by week.

Don’s work has helped people see the work of mission­aries around the world. By doing this he has helped the mission board reach the world for Christ.

Growing up as a home missionary kid helped this writer realize the impor­tance of relationships in ministry. This writer felt the call to the ministry and went a traditional route of majoring in social work and then planning to go on to the semi­nary to become a pastor. While in college this writer discovered photog­raphy and the power of the camera as a communication tool. Knolan Benfield, Jr., was a photogra­pher who worked on Missions USAmagazine, and he intro­duced this writer to Don Rutledge. This writer was intrigued by the work that Don did on the maga­zine.

After talking with Don, this writer felt redi­rect­ed in his call to be a minister who used the camera as a central part of his ministry. Many who are Christian photojour­nalists have struggled with the call. In many ways, the Chris­tian photojour­nalist is a preacher. The photo­journalist’s illus­trations are not done with words in the pulpit but with photo­graphs on the printed page.

As one will see, Don’s work is powerful and his style can be seen in the work of most photojournalists who work for the Southern Baptists. They will tell you they hope someday to be like Don.

Don dreams of publications combining words and pictures effectively to communicate the concerns God has placed on his heart. This driving force in Don is the Holy Spirit convicting him of the message of missions. His photographs have one common theme: Love. They have moved people to become in­volved in missions. God has called them into missionary service after they looked at the mission field through the “eyes of Don.” Don’s work has helped to meet the needs of people the world over.

When considering the skills of Don Rutledge one can see that he could have become very wealthy from his photography if he had not worked with Southern Baptists. In his three months before coming to work with Southern Baptists, he made more than he would make in the next two years working with Southern Baptists. His decision to be a minister with a camera meant choosing the narrow road. Don chose to follow Jesus Christ. Due to his follow­ing Christ, his work as a Christian photojour­nalist has help spread the gospel around the world.

[1]Howard I. Finberg, The Best of Photojournalism 16: The Year in Pictures, (Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 1991), 232.


Master’s Thesis on Don Rutledge: Chapter Four

         When Dr. Keith Parks went to the Foreign Mission Board in 1975, his respon­sibility was to head up the mission support division.  Establishing one of the finest communications departments possible was one of the goals that Dr. Parks had set for himself and the Foreign Mission Board.  Taking a look around the denomination he discovered that the finest photojour­nalism work being done was done by Don Rutledge.  However, now Don was working for the Home Mission Board. 
         During this time while Dr. Parks was trying to give direction to the communi­cations department, Everette Hullum and Don Rutledge were asked to give a workshop at the Foreign Mission board.  During the workshop Don and Everette talked about working as a team and how they did coverages.  Don remembers that Dr. Parks sat in on the workshop.
         Later around 1979, Dr. Keith Parks heard through the grape vine that Don Rutledge may be interested in leaving the Home Mission Board.  It was then, that Dr. Keith Parks approached Don to come to the Foreign Mission Board.[41]  He also tried to get Everette Hullum but was unable to do so.
         “I feel that he [Don Rutledge] brought a new standard and new level of photojournalism here [Foreign Mission Board] to The Commission as well as other products,” said Dr. Parks.  “The significant detail about Don is not only his sensitivity but that he gives so unselfishly.  Many others have come on our staff fairly new and fairly young and Don has given a lot of time training them, giving them tips and working with them.  He has shared his own expertise very unselfishly.”[42]  This writer is one of the ones that Don took under his wing and trained at the Foreign Mission Board.  Joanna Pinneo was another of those whom Don helped.  She successfully took the suggestions of Don and moved on to work with Black Star and later with National Geo­graphic.
Figure 32 In Guatamalla, missionary Jane Parker works with the Kechi Indians.
         When Don worked with a person it was usu­al­ly because they initiated the con­tact rather than Don.  This occured as a person went to Don ask­ing for advice and contin­ued to return over and over and put into practice Don’s sugges­tions.  Those that did understand and were able to incorporate the sugges­tions of Don into their own direction in photogra­phy did very well. 
Figure 33 Don often talks of the eyes being the
“windows to the soul.”
         “We needed a flagship piece at the Board,” said Dr. Parks.[43]  They made The Commis­sion maga­zine that flag­ship.  To communicate the message through this piece they determined that they needed on the spot coverage.  In the past they had done this, but had got away from on the spot coverage.  They were relying on the missionaries to send in information that they could from the fields.  They designed the idea of getting informa­tion at the location.  The philosophy of team coverage was the direction taken by the board.  They hooked a writer and a photogra­pher together to work on projects.  They went to the countries to gather the together material to be used in publica­tions.  Some of the material was used for mission studies, for news releases and feature articles.
Figure 14 March 1985, was when Don went to Ethiopia to cover the hunger problem.  Here volunteer nurse Sally Jones holds an Ethipian child and comforts the child in the midst of other babies who are being held by their mothers.
        The team philosophy was not new in Southern Baptist life.  It was basically copied from the Home Mission Board with Don acting as a consultant.  Don also brought ideas from his days with Black Star to the Home Mission Board.  The old saying of two heads are better than one really applies to ef­fective communication.  Besides a writer and pho­tographer working togeth­er the team was actually bigger.  A designer, edi­tor, depart­ment head, librarian and others were included in the planning process all the way to the distribution of the product.  The team concept made everyone on the team become special­ists.  This specialization cause each person to make his contri­bution the best pos­sible.  The photographer concen­trated on the images and the writer could concentrate on the words.  The de­signer worked at combining the two ele­ments to work together to communicate the most effective package possible.
Figure 35 The shows an elderly man who came
to the feeding shelter sponsored by Baptist.  Many
are not only hungry but very sick.
         Before these coverages could take place, issues like budget needs had to be raised and planned into the schedule.  Often planning a year or so in advance was done to work out necessary details.  Often these plans would change at the last moment.  Even with de­tailed planning the team discovered that when they arrived on the field, the mission­aries did not un­derstand what the team was doing.  Due to the miles and cultural patterns in­volved in trying to com­municate with the whole world, many prob­lems had to be faced. 
Figure 36 An Ethopian child is rescued from
starvation by volunteers.  Mary Saunders, one
of the volunteers, comforts the mother of the child.
         All this planning later helped them to re­spond positively in crisis situations.  They covered the Earth­quake in Mexico City, and the mud slide in Colum­bia.  Both of these coverages were released through Associated Press and helped the world see how Southern Baptists were responding to the crisis of the world.  This provided good public relations.  It helped Southern Baptists who never see The Commission magazine or a Baptist state paper see for the first time in their local paper the positive work being done through Southern Baptist missions.
Figure 37 Joy is all that can be seen in the eyes of the young.  Rescued from starvation and given hope once again.
          Don’s ability to capture people on film in such a natural way provides a positive con­trast with photographers who wet up posed situa­tions.  Don’s photography “has helped in the total scope of communications” for the Foreign Mission Board.[44]
Figure 38 HOPE——In the face of starvation food is provided to many of these people at the shelter, while others take the food and return home.
         Don is a very sensitive person.  He is sensi­tive to other people.  He has a way of gaining their confidence and very subtly working himself into a situation.  He has tremendous spiritual depth.  Therefore his pictures reflect his sensitivity to people as well as his spiritual commitment.  I have never seen him take a picture or seen a picture he has made that in any way it would embarrass people who saw it.  He always did it in such a way that the people who saw it would be as proud of it as he was.  He has such a sensitive touch, and such a high standard and the feeling of wanting the people who were the objects of the picture to be as proud of the picture as he was as the taker of the picture.  Of course, he has such tremendous background in all of his travel and his awareness of Southern Baptist life and other Christian groups, he just brings a quality and a character to the work that many people don’t.  It’s not just a technical profession to him, it’s a spiritual calling.  You really sense that in what he does and how he does it.”[45]
Figure 39 With food in hand, the people leave the shelter and grounds to return to their families.

Dr. Keith Parks resigned late in 1992 due to the controversy in the Southern Baptist convention which was making it difficult for him to do the job as he saw it.  Don Rutledge and writer Robert O’Brien went with Dr. Parks on his last trip to Rio.

Figure 40 Surgeon Tim Pennell was able to get five of his colleagues from Bowman Gray School of Medicine to commit weeks of vacation time and thousands of dollars to meet their Chinese counterparts.

          Although Don took hundreds of pictures, I hardly noticed because he did it in such an unobtrusive way.  When he put it all together he had really caught the highlights of the meeting and the impact that he wanted.  I just think that he is a first rate fellow from every measurement professional.  Of course, he can and does meet the highest standards of the secular world, and yet his deep spiritual commitment has caused him to give himself to the spiritual cause he believes rather than selling his skills to the highest bidder.  I just think that quality and character come through in his pictures.[46]
Dan Beatty, the design editor of The Com­mission maga­zine commented,
Don is the one person who has complete­ly influenced the direction of the magazine.  Before Don came we knew that there was a certain way we wanted to present the missions material in the magazine.  None of us had a firm grasp on what direction we should go to achieve our goals.  Don really provided the direc­tion for us to go.  Don never expressed any strong feelings about——in a critique type way——on the mag­azine.  Just Don’s presence and constant example of someone who always strives for the best is what guided us along.  He was constantly putting us into contact with different individuals in the field of photojour­nalism and lay­out and design.  He felt these would be good influences on the maga­zine or influ­ences that would help us along the road where we wanted to be with the publication.[47]
Dan was heavily influ­enced by Don and those around Don.  Through Don, Dan was introduced to the people of National Geographic, The Virginia-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, those at Black Star and others.  The awards for best use of pictures by a magazine, given out by the National Press Photographers at the an­nual Pictures-of-the-Year contest, were basical­ly awarded the efforts of Dan Beat­ty.[48]  As a result of Dan receiv­ing this award, most per­sons in photojournalism considered Dan to be at the top of the field.  Dan says,
I would not be doing what I am doing, at the level I am doing it if it hadn’t been for Don.  He is an example of con­sistency and integrity in a field where that is not always a constant with the different people that I’ve met.  He represented something that I wanted to achieve myself.  He has been the biggest influence that I can think of on me personal­ly and the different photographers that I have worked with along with Don.  The thing that impressed me most with Don is his sensitivity and his regard for human beings.  I think that is what made him the asset that Dr. Parks was looking for in communi­cating about Foreign Missions to Southern Baptist and other people as well.  The dig­nity of the human being no mat­ter what the situa­tion is so very impor­tant to Don.  To me that is the real strength of Don’s work.[49]

Figure 41 In the Philippines families cluster together for meal.

         Not everyone at the board was so excited when Don came on board.  When he went to the Home Mission Board he was replacing the only photographer.  There was not a photogra­phy depart­ment.  Howev­er, when Don went to the Foreign Mission Board, there was a lab, the photo library, and photographers already working there.  The For­eign Mission Board was in many ways not any further along photographi­cally than the Home Mis­sion board was when he went there in 1966.  Here in 1980 they were shoot­ing their coverages on medium format cameras.  Hasselblads to be specific.  These cumbersome bodies did not let one shoot available light photogra­phy.  The photogra­phy being done was only glorified snapshots. 

Figure 42 Dr. Jerry Bedsole, a career veterinarian mission­ary, doctors the animals of the people in his open-air clinic.

        Survey trips were the way that photography was done.  The photographers would plan a trip and shoot stock photography.  These pictures were for the files and not for any specific story usually.  The pictures did not tell a story at all.  They were scenics of buildings and when peo­ple were includ­ed they all stood facing the camera.  If there were more than two people, generally they just lined them up for the group shot. 

         The magazine was dull and boring.  The technological advances had passed the board years ago in layout 

Figure 43

and design.  The Foreign Mission Board had a larger lab, more photogra­phers and even a larger photo library, but still their work was much poorer than what the Home Mission Board was produc­ing.  Some might say that Don had lost his marbles.  Why leave the Home Mission Board and go to a place like the Foreign Mission Board.  Sounds so familiar to the same reasons that he went from Black Star to the Home Mission Board.

Figure 44 The child is suffering from malnutrition.
The volunteers often see these faces of hopelessness
and they bring back the hope for the families.

         After going to the Foreign Mission Board, Don ran into problem after problem once again.  The board had just adopt­ed a policy to help those moving to Richmond to be able to get loans through the F.M.B.  But Carl Johnson told Don that although the govern­ing board had approved it he could not let Don use this program.  Interest rates were sky high.  Don took a cut in salary and went from paying a house payment of a couple of hundred dollars to four times as much.  The house wasn’t much big­ger.  It was just the nature of the housing market.  Don said he took a major cut in pay when figuring in all the costs of the move.

Figure 45

          Phil Douglas, a layout and design specialist, was putting together a book and had asked Don to contrib­ute to the book some of his work.  The Home Mission Board and the Foreign Mission Board were using and had used Phil Douglas’ consulting ser­vices at the time.  Ken Lawson did not think that this was a good idea and refused to let Don’s pic­tures from the Foreign Mission Board be used in the book.  The Home Mission Board did coop­erate with the project and let Don’s photo’s be used.  Many in the com­munica­tions department were giving Don a hard time.  Dr. Keith Parks had as­signed Don directly to the top of the Communi­ca­tions Department head, Johnni Scofield.  This infuriated many in the department.  They felt they had been there longer and deserved the prestige that was being given to Don by Dr. Parks. 

Figure 46 No shoes or protection for their feet, leaves many with feet problems.

         After looking at the two agencies and comparing the acceptance of Don by then the difficulties that he incurred at the two agencies, this writer has drawn a conclusion.  At the Home Board Don was faced with people questioning his knowl­edge of the technical, while at the Foreign Board they were jealous.  He communicat­ed well at both agencies.  The sources of his problems at the agencies were very different. 

Figure 47 A mother brings here child to see the doctor.  In the background is a sheep that she brought for the doctor.

         Those that were being asked by Parks to change their approaches were having to deal with major issues.  Dr. Parks wanted Don to direct the publications.  Perhaps those who followed willingly posses more self-esteem than those who fought the battle of falling. Don did not confront this issue.  He just let his work do the talking.  Slowly many changed their views after seeing the impact of Don’s work.

Figure 48 Seeing this landscape gives an idea of how the area looks without any grass, anything growing, a very desolate place.

         The ties that Don had with Black Star and others in the secular world helped many on the staff.  Steve Helber, the Asso­ciated Press Photographer for the state of Virginia, called Don one day asking for some help.  Steve had worked in Atlanta and knew Don from those days in Atlanta.  Don was too busy but suggested that Joanna Pinneo could probably help.  This introduction helped Joanna, then a lab techni­cian in the darkroom at the Foreign Mission Board, get the experience shooting.  Steve Helber took Joanna under his wing and taught her the in’s and out’s of wire service photogra­phy.  With Steve and Don working with Joanna, soon Joanna was doing coverages for the Foreign Mission Board.

Figure 49 Volunteer Mary Saunders has made a good friend in Ethiopia.

         Don helped Joanna by going over her contact sheets with her.  Slowly things were coming to­gether.  Her background was art and psychology.  Don helped her use this back­ground in photo­journalism.  Steve Helber helped Joanna develop her style of impact.  In the wire ser­vices pictures had to have immediate impact or the editors would not use them in their papers.  This under­standing cou­pled with Don’s magazine back­ground helped Joanna get some of the founda­tions that she later built upon to make her one of the most successful pho­tographers in the field today.  Howard Chapnick was grateful for being intro­duced to Joanna through Don.[50]  One can see through Joanna, Don’s teaching ability.

         What does Don teach others that they do already know?  Don teaches persons how to see again.  “Why is the sky blue?  Why is one flower red and another yellow?  How do the stars stay up in the sky?  Why is the snow cold?,” are questions Don says that children ask and adults forget to ask.  Once these questions are not asked the world becomes humdrum.  Don teaches those around him how to appreciate the small details and how these small details say so much.  Don says, “Photography forces me to continue asking questions which began in my childhood and probing for answers in the maturity of my life.  The ‘seeing beyond what the average person sees’ fills me constantly with excitement and allows me to keep the dreams of my youth.  It gives my ‘seeing’ a newness and freshness as I work hard to communicate through photog­raphy the messages I want to convey.”[51] 

Figure 50 Volunteer Mike Edens taught these two pastors Mikhail Shehata Ghaly and Anwar Dakdouk MasterLife Discipleship training in Cypress during 1984.

         Black Star gave Don the opportunity to pursue this direction and later the Home Mission Board nurtured this call of Don’s.  The desire keeps him going now with the Foreign Mission Board.  As a result of work with these groups, Don has been in all 50 states, all but two of the Canadian Provinces and 137 countries.[52]  This travel has help Don to see how small the world really is.  He has noticed that once he arrives in another country the people are very similar and live very much alike.  The smile still means the same the world over. 

         Often Don is asked to speak to photography conferences.  He advises the photo­journalists who work on the local papers to learn how to work where they are now.  The ability to look good has little to do with where you are located in the world and who you are photographing.  The ability to communicate must be there in the local market.  For the past twenty years this writer/photographer has looked at Don Rutledge’s work.  The pictures in Russia look very similar to his pictures in Kentucky.  The differences were smaller than the similarities.  Don’s photographs concentrate on the emotions of people.  No matter where you are located in the world, people’s emotions stand above languages and cultures.  These small moments of expression communicate across our language barriers.  Foreign Missions has been one of the best places for Don’s work to excel.  Here his style of photography was not bound by words or cultures.  Body-language is a very powerful form of communication.  The difference between a “No Comment” on a show like 60 Minutes and the same words in print is obvious.

Figure 51 Missionary Kid, Ellen Duval, loves her cats and books and this is what helps her make home in Indonesia.
         While Don was doing a coverage to show where Lottie Moon grew up in the mountains of Virginia, he was reminded of how small the world had always been.  He discovered that Lottie Moon spoke several languages and that many of the people in the hills of Virginia today speak many languages.  Some of the people Don ran into speak Asian languages like Chinese.[53]
         How does Don continue, year after year, to make photographs where the people appear not to notice Don.  Don’s favorite lens for years has been the 28mm lens.  This lens requires Don to get twice as close as he appears to be in the actual photo­graph.  When viewing Don’s photographs, realize that he is usually twice as close as he appears.  Don’s style of photogra­phy requires the subject to allow Don to enter his personal space.  If someone enters the personal space of most people, they appear uptight and tense.  But if their best friend enters that space they seem warmer and personable.  This immediacy that Don creates with the camera breaks down the walls of culture and status.  People become real when Don photographs them.  Don wants us to see the positive side of people.  This ability comes from years of hard work on the part of a man commited to his calling to ministry, the ministry of helping others the people and the world with “his father’s eyes.”


[41] Dr. Keith Parks, interview by author, Tape recording, Richmond, Virginia, 26 October 1992.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Dan Beatty, interview by author, Tape recording, Richmond, Virginia, 27 October 1992.

[48] Howard I. Finberg, The Best of Photojournalism 16: The Year in Pictures, (Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 1991), 232.

[49] Interview with Beatty.

[50] Interview with Chapnick.

[51] Don Rutledge, “Using Photography: To look beyond the backyard fence” unpublished, 1992.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Don Rutledge, Interview by author, Richmond, 1985.