I just returned from Pittsburgh, PA from shooting the Presbyterian Church’s 220th General Assembly – the biennial national meeting of the denomination. Several thousand people found themselves at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, while still-thousands more awaited news of some controversial changes coming before the commissioners – the possible changing of the denomination’s definition of marriage being the most-awaited decision.

This was my first time shooting the event, but not my first time in attendance. A trip to the Assembly held in Birmingham, AL gave me some idea of the kinds of events that I would be documenting. This was probably the best asset that I brought along with me. While the location for this event changes each session, the traditions and events remain largely intact with only subtle changes. Working alongside long-time GA photographer Danny Bolin, we both worked approximately 18 hours days for eight days straight, moving from one event to another. With little time for editing, we covered most gatherings and every plenary meeting.

While the outcome of the Assembly’s voting retained many status-quo positions for the denomination, people advocating for various changes, as well as those opposed to them, left the city with plans for returning to the fight in two years when the Assembly convenes in Detroit, MI.

The politics of the denominational church have fascinated me ever since I can remember. The idea that two (or more) groups of people can hold that God wants opposite outcomes for the same argument is a fascinating process to watch, and photograph. The journey of keeping a historical denomination relevant to modern concerns is one that I am excited to document, however slow it may be!

Another Derby week has come and gone, and my feet are still throbbing! Watching I’ll Have Another steal the show was a neat experience, but those two minutes were only a fraction of the action at Churchill Downs this past week. This was my second Derby, and I spent the week getting to the track early to watch the Derby and Oaks horses workout, but also spent time covering the morning routine on the backside.

 

Pines overlook the Beech Flats Prong drainage near Luftee Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the morning of Thursday, March 03, 2012. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

 

Just returned from a trip down through the Southern Appalachians with a few friends. We hit our destinations at the right time during the weekdays to avoid the Spring Break crowds that have begun to trickle into these areas. Along with taking a few days off from work, it was also a chance to get ready for a few large jobs coming up in the next few months.

Some new cameras have hit the streets …the 5D MkIII looks like its going to be a good successor from the view quick reviews that have been posted. See Ira Block’s initial comments here. A few friends have been working with theirs over the last weekend, so I’m hoping for good reviews from them as well.

Michael Whitman | Louisville, KY

Ryan Althaus, right, has been ringing his Salvation Army bell for over 24 hours.

For the last twenty-four hours, pedestrians walking through Fourth Street Live in Louisville, KY have been greeted by the friendly face of my friend Ryan Althaus. Equipped with a mini trampoline, a ustream.tv broadcast set-up, and a strong and committed spirit, Ryan is ringing/hopping towards the hope of making Christmas a little better for a local family. Additionally, if he keps going, he will be a candidate for a new world record for the longest continual ringing of a Salvation Army bell.

While I wouldn’t normally publish an image with one of my strobes included in the frame, this moment was very nice. A group of kids walked by and one girl started hopping along. A great encouragement as Ryan faces his last few hours.

UPDATE: Ryan withstood the cold and constant bouncing for 36 hours and one minute, breaking the current record. Unfortunately, other ringers from around the country kept going. While Ryan will not have the world record, he still raised a ton of cash for charity!
Michael Whitman | Louisville, KY