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Nikon's cutbacks include no loyalty to customers

by Bill Stephens, Chief Photographer, Metro News Network

Nikon Corporation just doesn't get the picture when it comes to the basic principles the company was founded on such as a vision for the future. What ideals Nikon started with in 1917 surely are extinct in 2017.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Webster defines loyalty as, “the quality or state of being true and constant in support of someone or something.”

Each of us was raised with different examples of loyalty, however it all boils down to and shares the same virtues as do trust, faith and a good measure of respect. The things that we are naturally loyal too are God, country, family, friends and lastly to a particular brand.

We all choose our favorite brands to place our trust in, for various reasons. We have a favorite, car, truck, shampoo, etc. For those of us professional media photographers and videographers, we have our chosen brand to be loyal to as well. Some of us became loyal by virtue of the equipment we were trained on, others, not by choice, but by what was provided for use by our employer.

It really makes no difference what equipment you use to create your work just that you are creative and “use the tool” to get the outcome you want. I have used Nikon Camera equipment since I was eight years old. I will be 60 this year so, without doing the math – it’s been a long time.

The Reason I Use Nikon

I would call it an inherited brand. My Great Uncle Joe was a press photographer and he was always catching me looking over framed photos in his rec room and I just could not resist handling his camera equipment. So I guess out of frustration he gave me a 35mm Nikon F with a 35mm lens. He also gave me a package of Tri-X film to practice with. Having his own darkroom it was convenient to develop and make contact prints, and then check out my work.

Here I am, 52 years later, living and surviving through life changes good and bad but, still using Nikon equipment. That is what you would call being brand loyal.

Now the Hitch

Years ago, I joined NPS (Nikon Professional Services). NPS was set up to recognize professional photographers and give those individuals priority in getting equipment repaired, discounts, etc. The requirements to join NPS were, you must be a working professional in the field of photography, use professional Nikon equipment and most importantly be recognized and recommended by another Nikon Professional. It was a group you had to truly earn your way into or not join at all.

As a way to ensure reliability, I regularly replaced my camera bodies at minimum every five years. Unfortunately, in 2013 while working a music festival in 100+ degree heat, I suffered a heart issue and after quintuple bypass surgery and six months of forced recuperation (living on my savings including my equipment fund) and eating through all of my savings as no work = no $$$. Then, just months later, came a cancer diagnosis. Fast forward to today, five surgeries and a round of chemo later - I sit here with no savings and very little revenue as I had lost clients due to not being available to work and now with the inability to update my camera equipment.

NPS has forgotten that brand loyalty goes both ways. If they want to be recommended by professionals, they need to respect us without requiring that we continually upgrade equipment just to maintain our membership and professional recognition in their eyes.

I have seen many examples of a brand making changes that have effectively thumbed their noses at the consumer showing a lack of respect to the very people that have helped to build their brand and keep them profitable. I am not only disappointed and am angry that they would do this by only recognizing us as professionals based on the equipment that we use and not by our work and accomplishments using Nikon equipment.

Nikon needs to step up to the plate and go back to their old rules and renew the trust, faith and most importantly loyalty in their customers. Doing this will always pay off ten fold when you let your product bring the customer to you and the people that they recommend.

Photo by Niko, edited 
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by Bill Stephens, Metro News Chicago

As I sit here reading about another loss, this time the mother of a friend, it brings back the memories of all the family and friends that have left us, especially during the holiday season. Sure. We all feel loss. How we cope with it determines many things.

Every day we hear of the death of someone who is well known, in the public eye; a sports figure, politician or Hollywood type. Yet, the ones that mean the most are family and friends that we are closest too. The closer the date is to Christmas, the more quickly we remember and feel grief over the people we have lost.

It has been 20 years since I lost my dad. Every Christmas time, I feel the loss of him and, in my mind, I relive the memory of when I found out that we had lost him. Over the last couple of years, it seems the losses are increasing in frequency. I am sure it is mostly due to my getting older and as we age time seems to get shorter between losses.

Maybe I am getting more sensitive to the number of losses as each year progresses. Personally, between September and December of 2015, I attended six services for lost friends and family. There were more, but I was unable to travel even though those each and everyone of those people had made a difference in my life and deserved the respect of my presence to say “Goodbye”.

Three years ago my health “went south”. First, I almost died due to a heart issue that required an emergency quintuple bypass to clear blockages that occurred mostly overnight. It wasn’t until much later that it was discovered that my working out in the extreme heat depleted needed minerals and triggered the blockages.

Then, shortly after my recovery I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and am still battling the disease. I am currently halfway through the most recent round of treatments and only time will tell if it is working.

I have learned through these personal life events that our lifestyle and chosen path in life can have a great effect on our health and I am no exception. While I have had different jobs one in particular, years of volunteering in the fire service, the primary cause of my health issues, I wouldn't change a thing because my hope has always been that I was able to help someone else when they needed it the most.

When you are forced to sit out life while you recover from anything, it tends to force one to take stock of their life and try to determine what they've accomplished. What will you leave behind if you don’t survive the latest setback? Let’s face it – none of us get out of life alive. But, it is how long you manage to stay here, what you can and do leave behind as your legacy, the time you gave to others and what love you shared that makes the difference.

My dad left behind a wife, children and grandchildren. And while he never met the great grandchildren, with any luck those that did know him will hopefully share his story so he may live on in the hearts of even more family members to come.

All we can hope for as we age and struggle to survive is to leave behind a legacy that will live on in the hearts of family and friends. We all hope to be remembered as a person who lived life to the fullest, loved with all our heart and laughed often.

Christmas is once again upon us and my recommendation to all of you is this. Spend time with your family and friends, even the ones that make you crazy because there may not be a next year for the chance to make that memory happen.

Listen to Christmas music and watch those Hallmark movies that are designed to pull at your heart and revive memories from the past. If you can’t see your family or friends, call them. Most everyone has a cell phone these days. Twenty years ago it was much different. We didn't have that luxury. Merry Christmas.

Editors Note: At the end of some of the articles we publish, we usually put a disclaimer indicating that the views and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not those of Metro News or its affiliates. This time, we're happy to claim that the views and opinions shared in the above article are most definitely the views, opinions and personal values that all of the staff of Metro News shares and practices. The Metro News Network Family and our affiliates wish you and your loved ones all the very best for this holiday season has to offer. Thank you for reading this publication.

Blake Shelton at Country Thunder Wisconsin 2015 in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.
(Photo: ©2015 Bill Stephens/Metro News Network)

By Photojournalist Bill Stephens / Metro News Milwaukee
Monday, August 3, 2015, 6:35 AM

Blake Shelton media ban at

some venues and not others

'Pure BS' for fans, photogs

While on assignment at Country Thunder in Twin Lakes Wisconsin, an issue occurred that well on different levels upset, angered and yes even pissed off media photographers. Those of us that attend to provide reviews and to photo document the shows, again were turned away from the Blake Shelton set. Shelton again chose to ban all media from his set. He would not even allow those that were just reviewing into the reserved/VIP area close to the stage to get a good look and feel for the performance. Most of us (those that didn’t have seats) were forced into the general admission crowd (estimated at 30,000) to at best hear over the roar of the many intoxicated party animals in the crowd; my position was over 1,000 feet away.

The media photographers that did have seats were warned by security not to take photos or face ejection, yet there were potentially over 30,000 cell phones and cameras in the audience taking photos and video albeit not of professional quality.

Some may say that this decision was because of his newly announced divorce. But that doesn’t explain his last appearance here in 2012 or even the previous night at Country Jam another festival in Northern Wisconsin where Media was allowed to photograph his show. So the question remains why not in Twin Lakes?

Media photographers that are granted credentials by the venue, in this case Country Thunder Wisconsin, are verified that they are on assignment by a regular media publication or news outlet. We are not Paparazzi that purely exist to catch famous and public people doing bad or questionable things or quite literally with their pants down. We don’t do this. I personally have been involved in photography from
prior to my teen years and this year will be completing my 50
th year of capturing images, with the last 25 or so doing news, features and live performances. The bottom line here is that true media photojournalists strive to produce high quality images and do not pursue profit from a subject’s bad behavior or by sneaking photos of their private moments. A bad photo is a direct reflection on the photographer and not the subject.

Most people think because they own a camera or have the option on their cell phone that they are a photographer. I have news for you; it is not the camera that makes you a photographer. Photography, like any profession takes training and lots of practice.

Professional photographers, after working in the field, are accepted into and belong to various organizations that promote quality and honesty in photography. These organizations require verification that a photographer is actually working and is published with an accredited media outlet.

A media photographer’s primary job is to get the story. Our secondary job serves to promote, in this case, an artists brand. The more an artists image is in the public eye, the popularity of their brand will increase, even to household name status. When a musical artist begins a career, whether a local cover band or an artist with original material, they need promotion. Without media promotion none, NONE of them would even get out of the gate.

All new artists starting out bend over backwards to get media coverage to get their name out there and mostly never turn down photo ops and interviews for publicity. Artist’s management loves free advertising for up and coming performers – the price is right and in the long run makes them $$$. It seems that the more popular an artist becomes the more they forget all of the free publicity they received while they were starting up and they shut out media who are the very people who got the artists where they are today.

Also, the front man in any band or a solo artist would be just another singer without the backing of very talented musicians. Without media, radio, TV, print and all forms of internet publicity including social networking no one would have a clue who they are. Publicity of both good and bad news travels fast as wildfire, the old adage, “100 Atta boys get erased with one OH S**T,” is much more true especially if you are in the public eye and before the media. No matter who the artist is, public behavior is just that public.

We live in a country with a basic set of freedoms, while most of the freedoms are to protect us from an oppressive government; a free press opens each and every one of us to public scrutiny. If it happens out in the open, we are all subject to publicity. So, what to do? Don’t mess up. Treat people with respect. Work hard and don’t belittle anyone for what they do for a living. Respect everyone’s job because in the grand scheme of things everyone’s job is necessary. From the guy on the street collecting cans for spare change, to the CEO of a major corporation, someone somewhere depends on the income from that job to put food on the table and a roof over their family’s heads.

What Blake Shelton did at Country Thunder and for that matter whenever any artist does this, belittles my job. The banning of all media from covering his set communicated to me he doesn’t care or respect my job. His actions told me it was ok for us to promote him when no one knew his name, but now that he is a mega star and a household name media is now disposable.

Well I beg to differ, my job as Chief Photojournalist in my organization allows me to make decisions on which artist we cover and promote. As of now ,I am instituting a new policy to not cover or promote any artist or tour that chooses to not respect our job. The only thing that will change this policy is a very public apology and a promise to respect everyone’s job and work with us.

When a fan cannot attend a show for any reason they turn to media to get the low down and see a few images to get some of the feel of the show. Turning away the media turns away that fan that could not attend.

In Short, Blake, your move to ban media was PURE BS.

Bill Stephens is the National Chief Photographer at Metro News Network and Member of the National Press Photographers Association, Member of the International Fire Photographers Association, Member of the International Organization of Fire Photographers and Member of NIKON Professional Services.

 By Photojournalist Bill Stephens / Metro News Milwaukee / Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 8:00 PM

Summerfest 'School of Rock' unites

music students from US & Australia

High school students participated in "School of Rock" which had participants from America and Australia during Summerfest 2015 at Henry Maeir Festival Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. / Photo: Bill Stephens, Metro News

When you hear the words "School Of Rock," most will think of the movie starring Jack Black. On June 27th and 28th, over 500 student performers from 34 different School of Rock locations showed off their training, talent and love for rock music on multiple stages at Summerfest in Milwaukee. The participating students came from 16 states nationwide and Australia to compete against each other and in some cases themselves. Performing in front of a live audience with multiple band mates and various guest mentors can provide a learning experience, feedback and exposure in a real world environment.

I am an assigned photographer that each year spends each of the 11 days sampling music from the 11 different stages and over 800 performances that Summerfest has to offer. As a live performance photographer, I am charged with capturing images of performances in an effort to communicate the music visually freezing time using my eye and camera. These students not only demonstrate their musical aptitude and showmanship, they also believe in the music with all of their heart and soul.

Learning and performing any form of music takes dedication and hours of practice. In this case, performing with musicians they may have never met or performed with increases the level of difficulty and adds another level of complexity and learning experience. When performing in a band environment, you are now part of a tight unit, a team, that when all members are working together communicates the thoughts and feelings the composer put down on paper.

While music takes many shapes, Rock, Country, Classical, Rap, Blues, etc. and every musician has their own style, these students are no different. A musician’s expression is more powerful than just playing the notes. Anyone can learn to play the notes; painting a picture with the music and communicating that feeling from the heart is the difference. The School of Rock has been able to teach the student to convey the feeling and soul of the music. You have to believe in the music or you will never communicate with your audience.

I attended part of the finals at the BMO Harris Stage. Truly amazing performances by all. And, while I did not witness the winner, for the record, everyone is a winner by the students gaining experience and the audience being able to share their involvement. Kudos to the School of Rock and Summerfest, I hope they continue this partnership for the sake of the students and the future of musical performance.

For more information on the School, visit their website at www.schoolofrock.com

Bill Stephens will be on assignment at Country Thunder Music Festival in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin July 23-26, 2015. Stop by and meet Bill and get your picture taken for possible inclusion in an upcoming news feature.

Summerfest "School of Rock"
Photo Gallery
by Bill Stephens / Metro News

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