High sun requires HSS


A few people have asking me lately about my gear and settings for my recent run of  Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Pacesetter portraits, so here is a quick breakdown from my most recent portrait of  Rock Island High School sprinter –  Courtney Lindsey.

Nikon D500, 70-200mm, f 3.5, ISO: 50, Shutter: 1/1250

High bright sun at noon is not ideal for portraits like this, so High Speed Sync strobes are key. I used a Flashpoint Streaklight 360 , Flashpoint R2 i-TTL 2.4G Wireless Transmitter, Flashpoint R2 Bridge Receiver for Non-R2 Streaklights, and a Glow ParaPop 28” modifier.

The Streaklight gives you enough juice to over power the sun. Positioning him was key. Courtney’s back to the sun eliminating weird shadows and it acts as a great backight. I only had to use one light. The ParaPop delivers fantastic light and it is super, super easy set-up. The light stand was also weighted because of the wind. You only need to have ne light blow down on a shoot and you’ll get straight to WalMart and buy a set of heavy leg weights.

The second and third frames are shot in the track’s tunnel with the ParaPop utilized as a beauty-dish on a boom. Similar specs Lens (mm): 17-55 @ 55, ISO: 50, Aperture: 2.8 and Shutter: 1/1250


My old friend Betty

Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.(Photo by Todd Mizener / tmizener@qconline.com)

During the course of your career you come across those unique characters on assignment that just stick with you. 100-year-old Betty Sample is one of those people for me. This week’s podcast is about Betty and the portrait I shot in honor of her 100th birthday. It’s only 8-minutes, so please take some time to give it a listen.

Talking Pictures Podcast: Betty Sample – My Old Friend

A sensory vacation


Day 1: Morning dew in our neighbor’s front yard

One of the keys to being a good photographer is having a never-ending curiosity.

If you lack curiosity you will perish. Obviously, this is a mantra extends far beyond the world of photography but you get my point. If you only see images as they present themselves on the surface, your work will become stale and uninteresting. You need to challenge yourself everyday to be better, look deeper and get out of your comfort zone.

You never know when a visual challenge is going to come your way. I certainly didn’t expect to have one tossed at me while I was off work for a week. So when my friend, and fellow photographer Joe Murphy, tagged me in one of those Facebook ‘Photo A Day’ challenges last week I decided to push all my cards on to the table and try hard to make really good images. The subject of the challenge was “nature.” My only problem seemed to be that I was on a “stay-cation” doing nothing but lawn work, home repairs, running my dogs to the vet and working on organizing my photo archive. I had no real plans to get out into “nature”. But since I love a challenge I had to explore the nature around me with a new set of eyes.

From the first image to the last I think I made 8 pretty decent images. The first two are probably the strongest. They also got the biggest reactions on social media for whatever that is worth.

As part of the challenge I had to nominate another person to do the challenge each day I posted a photo. I ended up picking a nice of mix of professional and amateur  photographers/nature lovers. The end result was two weeks of wonderful and relaxing images filling my Facebook feed.  For some reason I didn’t see that consequence coming, so it was a very pleasant surprise.  And now that the flow of images is starting to slow to a trickle, my feed is back to memes and  angry posts about the President.

Who knew that a  random photo-challenge on Facebook would result in a sensory vacation for my soul? Thanks Joe.


Day 2: Rainy afternoon.

Day 2: Rainy afternoon.


Day 3: Fallen blossom in morning light.


Day 4: ‘Interloper’.


Day 5: Actually this isn’t the photo I posted of my dog Ivy, but it’s from the same time period. Upon further review I like it better.


Day 6: “Take-off”


Day 7: Colorful blooms


Day 8: Even though I am off the hook for anymore Nature Photos. On Day 8 couldn’t resist the contrast this morning on our deck. Someday we will get a new deck but until then I will enjoy the aging wood below my feet while I sip my coffee.

12-2 will feel better in time

The Swarm takes the field back in October at Kinnick Stadium. (Photo by Todd Mizener / tmizener@qconline.com)

The Swarm takes the field back in October at Kinnick Stadium. (Photo by Todd Mizener / tmizener@qconline.com)

In 1986 we sat in the Rose Bowl dumbfounded at Ronnie Harmon fumbling 4 times and dropping a sure touchdown in the end zone. Chuck Long got sacked 4 times and the Hawkeyes lost to UCLA 45-28.

But unlike today it always felt like at any minute the game would flip in their favor. 2016 Rose Bowl the Hawkeyes ran into a team which, sans an early season loss to Northwestern, is clearly on par with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

Iowa had a great year. It was a mix of skill, guts and luck. Today, they were out skilled, out toughed and couldn’t catch a break if it was handled to them. The thing that makes me mad about this horrible loss is that they didn’t play like the team we watched all year but then again they didn’t play anyone as good as Stanford all season.

To make matters worse today we had to endure Brent Musburger narrate the entire debacle. In the end the journey to 12-2 was pretty damn good, despite the disappointing final act.

Podcast: At the center of the storm with Tim Tai

Working on the Talking Pictures Podcast, which I host with co-workers Todd Welvaert and Paul Colletti, is one of the highlights of my week. It is a fantastic way to connect with our readers in addition to photographers from around the globe. So when I watched the YouTube video of student photojournalist Tim Tai trying to hold his ground against advancing protesters my first thought (after my blood pressure subsided) was that we needed to get Tim on the podcast. With the help of mutual friend Leah Klafczynski we were able to score the timely and important interview.

Incase you are unfamiliar with Tim’s story, on Monday November 9, 2015 student photojournalist Tim Tai, of the University of Missouri, accepted a plumb assignment from ESPN to photograph the events surrounding the #ConcernedStudent1950 protests at Mizzou. An hour later the 20-year-old photographer found himself face to face with protesters. The YouTube video of his attempt to stand his ground as protesters pushed him and other journalists back would quickly catapult him into the public eye. The 6:34-minute video went viral and journalists across the country hailed him for keeping his cool while trying to make a case for the First Amendment.

We sat down with Tim a few days after the incident to discuss his experience and the fallout of being part of a viral video. He is a credit to our profession and I am proud we were able to help him tell his story.

Tim’s website – http://timtaiphoto.com
Tim’s photos for ESPN.com

Video by Mark Schierbecker

A friend remembered

Trish Sept 2012This blog entry is written with a heavy heart. On Feb. 7th one of my favorite people, Trish Snowdon Heelan, passed away after succumbing to the ravages of pancreatic cancer.

I received the email about Trish’s passing during our afternoon editor’s meeting. I was sitting in the same room, having a similar meeting in 2009 when my brother Jeff called to tell me that our mother had died. Instead of getting up to leave, this time I just sat silently staring at the email and the photo of her waving goodbye. The meeting kept moving forward but I was stuck in neutral. It sort of felt like I was standing perfectly still in the middle of a train station at rush hour.

My first thought was that she was going to get to see my Mom & Dad in heaven. Then I flashed back to the phone call back in 2009 from Jeff and how surreal it was to have to tell a room full of people that I needed to leave because my mom was dead. I guess I just sat there numb contemplating what Trish had meant to me and my family. When I got home my wife Lisa gave me a big hug. We spent most of our evening walk chatting about what a wonderful person Trish was.

It wasn’t until he next morning that her passing hit me. As a stood in the shower, the song ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers started to play and all of my emotions just started to pour out. I remembered how much we leaned on her for the 10-months it took to clean out my parent’s house and I cried. I thought about how much Mom leaned on her in the years following our Dad’s death and I cried. I thought about her husband Will, who she leaned on during her battle with cancer, being all alone in their wonderful house and I cried. I thought about all the nights they hosted me and Jeff so we could decompress in their care and I cried.

I know that Trish forever changed me. She was the kind of person who made you want to be a better, kinder and gentler person. Her kindness had no equal and we would have been lost without her help and guidance in the days and months following my mother’s passing. Why did she help us? God only knows but when I think about a world without Trish I cry.

Trish at home - Feb. 2013

It seems like I knew her my entire life but that isn’t true. Knowing someone is different than being aware of someone. I guess it wasn’t until my dad died in 2005 that I really learned how special Trish was.

Trish and her husband Will were ‘the hippies’ living next door to my very Republican parents. They always seemed nice but I knew my mom didn’t really understand them. They were the kind of people who had a VW Van and God forbid a McGovern sticker on the bumper. Mom and Trish shared a common cause as members of the neighborhood garden club but I think you could best describe their relationship as reserved, with a gentle political tense undertow.

But little did I know, on the other side of that old picket fence, Trish and Will were quietly waiting for just the right moment build a real friendship. That day came when my father passed away in 2005. Trish & Will tossed my mother a lifeline. Janet grabbed it and held on for dear life.

Up until the day she died in Dec. of 2009 Trish and Will kept a watchful eye over my mom. They helped her with all the little chores that are gigantic hurdles to a woman in her 80‘s and they never asked for anything in return. I was glad to find out later that mom showed them her appreciation with thoughtful little gifts now and again. It was their dedication to my Mom’s daily routine that alerted us to her passing. They quickly noticed that her light pattern in the house had changed.

My parent’s house was packed from the attic rafters, to the basement drain, with a unique brand of treasures and trash. It took us 10-months to clean out the house and sell it. Since neither of us live in the Chicago area Trish and Will acted as our eyes and ears. They also volunteered countless hours of their time to helping us pack and haul things out of every crevasse of the two-story house. Trish even found a home for mom’s raggedy old cat. I could go on and on listing every little thing they helped us with but my fingers would go numb typing.

The most important thing they did for us during those 10-months was to offer us sanctuary in the evening. We were only 25-feet from the chaos but their kitchen might as well been in another state. Those many dinners were full of insightful conversation, a ton of laughs and not to mention a lot of great food and wine. I wouldn’t trade those nights for the world, they made the unbearable bearable.


I took tons of photos over those 10-months and after I learned Trish had died I poured over them again. I was disappointed by how few photos I had of Trish. Then I realized that she probably wanted it that way. Maybe it was because she was camera shy but I think it speaks more to her amazing ability to know just when to offer us a life line and when to step back and let us work, grieve and bond. As hard as those 10-months were I can’t imagine going through that experience without Trish and Will.

On Saturday March 23 Trish’s family and friends will gather to celebrate her life and say goodbye. I plan to say thank you.

This video snippet is from one of our many dinners. I love being able to hear her voice again. Cheers my friend, we miss you.

Black Friday – Hipstamatic street photography

Black Friday 2012 was perfect for some late night street photography. I didn’t really have any intention of heading out into the fray but this year’s early start made it a little easier for me to be convinced to participate. Over the last few years my nephews and I have maintained a Black Friday tradition of shopping together at a few select stores. I thought we were going skip it this year when we couldn’t find any thing to buy in the newspaper circulars but they were not to be deterred. So in the name of tradition we headed out to Target and Best Buy in Moline, Ill.


Once we arrived at Target I became focused on photographing the madness. The line outside the neighboring Kohl’s was too good to pass up. After shooting the long line at Kohl’s I headed into Target to find my nephews and checkout the craziness. I made a few nice frames there and then we were off to Best Buy.

At Best Buy, where Jeff was kinda looking for a good deal on a 40-inch TV, we got in the back of the growing line of shoppers. It was cold and I could not believe how many people brought their small children out at midnight to shop. The following in a collection of images from our 2 1/2 hour adventure. Oh by the way our purchases consisted of Matt buying a game at full price, I bought a 32GB SD card for no good reason and Jeff never did find that 40-inch tv.