Friday, December 13, 2013

My Viral Image!

Every photographer that has ever uploaded their image to the internet to share it with friends, family or clients, has at one time or another had their images stolen (whether they know it or not). Its not a very good feeling when you realize that after you took the time to prepare, arrive, properly capture the shot, edit it, watermark it and then upload it, that an unknown thief grabs it and claims it as their own.  Trying to pursue them can be very challenging and makes most individuals gnash their teeth and curse the invention of the web for image sharing in the first place!  Some victims have been known to morph themselves into the NSA, looking for and tracking any leads on Bing or Google that pop up….. it quickly turns into a lesson in futility. Trust me I know , but I digress…………….moving on to my story.

Over the past few years, every time the U.S. National soccer team comes to Florida, I am always the first to sign up to shoot them, no matter if it’s the Men’s or the Women’s team….they both ROCK and the games are always action packed with tons of screaming fans in attendance and top quality play!  It truly is one of the highlights of my photo career to capture these athletes on the field and to experience the actions of the game on the pitch. I’ve had a few images featured on both the ESPN and the Sports Illustrated websites after International friendlies and the CONCACAF qualifying games……and its just awesome to be able to share these scenes with the world, when its on my terms!

The first weekend this past November, the U.S. Women arrived in Orlando to take on their futbol nemesis, the Brazil National team.  Just to be clear, there is no love lost between these teams and the players know each other as well as one can know a rival. Though it was an international “friendly”, no one on earth expected the game to be played with kid gloves, this was serious business with bragging rights and National pride on the line.

(Side note)- Local media picked up on a story a few days prior to the match where the U.S. team bus broke down after a scheduled practice session and the players actually caught rides back to their hotel with their fans. The Twitter and Facebook worlds were all abuzz and other social media platforms stressing just how relaxed the U.S. girls seemed to be.  Smiles and happy spirits seemed to be everywhere if you could believe what you read…but that changed come game time.

The Florida Citrus Bowl was packed with about 30,000 spectators and the decibel level of the screaming fans was actually quite high. Though fireworks and flares were not allowed, the U.S. faithful seemed to have a pretty good time as they were videotaped live for the NBC television network, performing the wave, chanting and beating on small drums and tossing rolls of colored toilet paper onto the grass.

As for the media, all of the wire services and broadcast teams were in attendance and the assigned photo areas were pretty packed at the beginning of the game. It was about 10 minutes into the match that I decided to pack up my gear and change my camera angle….I caught a quick golf cart ride to the other side of the playing field and set up shop behind the endzone boards.  Within minutes of arriving, I was connected wirelessly to the internet with my MacAir.  It was Game on!!!!
It couldn’t have been 3 minutes later that Sydney Leroux scored her first of two goals on the day, and the crowd went absolutely nuts! All time leading scorer and recently married team Captain Abby Wambach raced over and jumped onto Leroux’s back as she stretched her arms out in celebration, facing the crowd and the national TV audience. The moment was fleeting and I happened to be in precisely the exact spot to see it, 8 shutter clicks later I had captured what I had come for, the perfect emotional frame.  I quickly pulled the card from my camera, inserted it into the card reader and grabbed the one frame that I wanted to transmit. I really didn’t do much in the way of image manipulation, just a simple tone, crop and added the caption/metadeta. Less that 2 minutes after the goal was scored, the image was already visible on the AP Images website.  Just as quickly as I had settled in, Abby was tripped in the goaltenders box and a penalty kick was assessed, she scored easily on the shot and the score was now 2-0, in a matter of minutes. Brazil kicked it into overdrive and the elbows started to fly.  By halftime I was walking back to the media room, having already uploaded 10 images….

The game ended 4-1 with the U.S. winning and everyone was happy. Days later I was thrilled to see that my first image had been selected as one of the ESPN “Images of the week”!

It was on a different job a few days later that my world came tumbling down. I searched “Alex Menendez” and “U.S. soccer” on the search engine and low and behold, my image was EVERYWHERE!  Literally.  There it was, on hundreds of tumblr sites, with full credit given  “COPYRIGHT AP IMAGES ALEX MENENDEZ”, but interestingly enough, more than half of the shots still had the AP watermark placed right across the shot that was there to prevent illegal use.  They were stolen…..plain and simple.

If you want to do a frame grab or a screen grab its quite simple, you just find the shot you want online and grab it. Once its on your computer screen, you can pretty much manipulate it any way that you want to, and this is just one of the things I saw being done to my soccer photo.  This image had been cropped, toned, over saturated, brightened, sharpened or simply turned to black and white. Somebody else had actually grabbed the un-watermarked version (most likely the large file from ESPN’s site) and created an Iphone screen saver and was passing it out like candy at Halloween to any of his followers that wanted it. I was less than thrilled at this discovery and the feeling one gets once they’ve realized that they’ve been violated sunk in….I was way more than mad.
Immediately I sent a quick list of sites to my editor who didn’t know what to say…..what could he say?
One by one I started following the long rabbit hole, down this way, right, left and back right again, only to discover 50 more violations. The few main sites I had discovered were being followed by hundreds of people, who in turn were being followed by hundreds more, and then more behind them…..all of them sharing or linking my photo, I was at a loss.  Due to the fact that I was on assignment in California, and using the incredibly slow hotel internet connection, I felt handcuffed as to how much trolling I could actually get done before my daily shoot was scheduled. I managed to contact the first 30 sites and sent a take down notice, but only 4 of them agreed to take the shots down with a written apology.  My next move was to contact Tumblr directly…..but that proved to be a joke.

Here is the response I received:

“If you are the copyright holder for the content that you are reporting, 
or their authorized representative, please complete the following 
DMCA notification form.
(form here) Once we receive your completed request we can proceed
with removing  the material you’ve reported.”

The problem with doing as they command in their
policy, is that you need to fill out the entire form 
for EACH OCCURRENCE with the listed
website users web address. In essence, I would 
have to fill out over 1000 DMCA forms and 
include  every single link, and a copy of the 
pilfered image with the link.  It would take weeks 
to complete this  method.  They seem to trust their 
own users more  than they would trust me, the 
original owner of  the shot, whose name by the 
way appeared under most of the images stolen.

Most of you who are professionals know about
copyright registration, but to those that may not, 
let  me kinda, sorta fill you in.
Once you snap the shutter button and the image is
captured, you own that image, you are the 
copyright  holder. It belongs to you and you can 
call it yours.
There are certain restrictions on what you may or 
not use the image for, whether you can sell it 
or not, based on its contents and the location of 
the shot, and who the people are that appear in 
the shot. I won’t  get into this as this is a whole 
other can of worms and  we could talk for weeks 
about responsibility and usage.
What I want to talk about is the fact that the  
Associated Press watermarked this image with 
an AP Images logo so that people who wanted 
to use it in their  editorial content could license 
or “rent” the image for presentation or publication
without the logo covering the scene. I captured 
the image, and then via my contract, provided the 
shot to the AP site for licensing, for a set fee.
ESPN, among other publications, paid for this
image on a rental basis and then uploaded it to 
their websites for worldwide use.  They did 
nothing wrong in this instance, in fact, it was 
done by the book.
The theft began when a fan, (I can assume)
grabbed the image from both the ESPN site and 
the AP Images viewer site, and downloaded a 
lower resolution image to embed on their personal 
They attempted to give me credit under the image.
I am not sure if they thought that this would 
free them from paying for it or what, but it means 
nothing in a court of law if you’ve stolen the 
image in the first place.
Keep in mind that once I register this set of
images via I 
receive my registration 
receipt number in the mail, I am bonafide. 
I can prove that my image is registered and then 
if I send an invoice to the guilty party for stealing 
my image, and they refuse to pay, I can then take 
them to court for copyright violation. This is the 
norm and I am having to do this for a lot of images 
that I have recently discovered. 
Its not fun, nor is it how I would like to be 
compensated for my hard work, but realize this, 
every assignment that I go on, I have to travel there.
My costs include gas, perhaps airfare and hotel,
and food.
My gear is worth tens of thousands of dollars and it too 
needs repair at times. I could go on, but won’t…….

Every image that I upload, there is a chance that it could get
stolen, I know this and it seems to be the norm these days. 
Once upon a time, a sportsshooter would  walk into a flea market 
or a shopping mall and see illegal prints of theirs for sale 
to general public, nowadays, when a stolen image goes viral, 
there is no way to  stop it.  This once profitable industry has 
changed, there are still ways to make  money at it, but you 
have to outsmart the trolls…..
Let me know your ideas or thoughts on this if you have any,
but when you contact me, don’t try to do it through Tumblr, 
I wont be there.

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Blog Copyright Alex Menendez

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Scouting at the Zoo

Last evening both boys had the opportunity to attend the “Wild Night” boy scouts campout event at the Sanford Zoo. Both dens attended and the turnout was pretty good considering this would be a fairly short event.

Scouts and their families were to arrive at 4:00 on Saturday night, setup tents and the campground, then be prepared to meet our Zoo tour-guides at 7pm. Since the daylight savings time clock change happened a few weeks ago, it was fairly dark by 6:00, but that did not deter the 7 footballs that were flying between the trees and bouncing off the tents. These boys were non-stop and all roaring to go, especially since none of them has to return to school for at least another week……at this point, I was beginning to prepare for a long night!

Our guides arrived at 6:45 and gave instructions on what to do, and what NOT to do. We would be split up into 5 individual groups, and would be getting a 90-minute tour of the actual zoo. Everyone that carried a flashlight had to have a red colored gel affixed to their lights, as to not disturb or blind the wildlife. These gels were doled out and tested by our guides….then we were off in search of wild beasts and hissing insects.

Each group stopped at predetermined check points and saw such critters as scorpions, owls, Madagascar hissing roaches, alligators, porcupines, cougars and a fully loaded bat house. The time passed fairly quickly, and then it was back to camp.

We met up under the fan covered meeting spot which featured at least a dozen picnic tables, a few of which were strewn with old and tattered US flags.  Tonights lesson/activity would be to teach the boys (and a few visiting girls), how to properly retire a worn or tattered US flag.  The process begins with cutting out the blue patch with the stars, and then meticulously cutting the red and white stripes into individual ribbons or strips.

Fireside, a few small words were spoken by the parents and scouts, and the flag segments were placed into the fire, in order.  At this point, the flames grew taller than most of the kids that were surrounding it, and the heat radiated at least 30 feet from its popping and cracking center.  In a matter of minutes, the fire was back down to its normal size with no trace of the flags, and the group was off for banana pudding.

The clouds slowly moved in and at 11pm and there were still youngsters running through camp, screaming and giggling as little boys do…..!

Blaze, my 10 year old, decided that we should shoot some long exposure images before the clouds totally blocked out the stars that we could still see. We filmed for about 30 minutes and he lightpainted the bottom of both palm and oak trees…..nothing too spectacular came to us, but just being out there with him made the entire trip worthwhile!

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Twitter: @instinctfilms

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

James Risen: Prosecuting the Press event

A few weeks back I was invited to shoot an event at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The event was titled “Prosecuting the Press” and featured the world famous investigative reporter Lowell Bergman, a true badass and currently producer/correspondent for the PBS documentary series FRONTLINE. Bergman is so tough and experienced that actor Al Pacino played him in the feature film “The Insider”, needless to say, he is the real deal!

His guest for this lecture was the currently embattled Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist and New York Times reporter, James Risen. Risen is also as tough as nails and has been challenged by the courts to reveal the name of his source for a chapter in his book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Chapter 9 in his book talks about a secret mission called Operation MERLIN that the CIA totally screwed up. Risen caught wind of this mishap and wrote about it years later, unfortunately, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration are still trying to punish him for bringing the said incident to light. He is currently challenging the ruling of the court system who looks to send him to jail if he won’t divulge his source of the leak, by taking his case to the Supreme Court. This is currently scheduled to happen in a few months, and that is also why I chose to accept this assignment, the verdict in this case will have HUGE implications on the way the Media/Press deal with acquiring and writing their stories in the near future. Risens’ challenge is one of the bravest things for a journalist to attempt, and I fully support his rights and ideals.  With the amount of hype that Julian Assange (Wikileaks), Eric Snowden and Chelsea Manning have received in the past few years for their specific leaks, the Risen case may seem miniscule in comparison. However, it must be noted that he was not the “leaker”, he merely wrote about the events the occurred, as told to him, by a trusted source…….but he is also a journalist, and is protected by the laws of the land…..right? One would think, but the rules have changed rapidly since 9/11, and the U.S. government is trying to set him up as an example….don’t burn us or we will burn you seems to be the statement they are screaming!

“The basic issue is, can we continue as journalists to protect and offer the confidentiality to someone who knows something going on in the government but doesn’t want to go public?”, asked Risen.

His question and answer event was scheduled at the Berdahl Auditorium on campus and was held in front of 300 invited guests. Among those in attendance was Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, one of the first ever to leak secrets, most famously the “Pentagon Papers” that he copied and delivered to The New York Times in 1971. His leak changed the way the Vietnam war debacle played out, and his decision and bravery no doubt helped save the lives of  many U.S. soldiers.

I was fortunate enough to film all of these men and listen to their stories as well….a bonus if you will. I had read the book ahead of time to judge for myself if the leak was really worth going to jail over…..I don’t think it gave away anything that would have jeopardized or hurt America…..unless showing how reckless and childish the whole CIA plan actually was…! I truly believe that the people trying to punish Risen are embarrassed by what he revealed, and the simple fact that they got caught. 
The Berkeley professors, Dean Wasserman and the students/staff who helped and attended this event should be proud of the program that they put together this night and I am glad that I could attend and do my part in capturing this small segment of history….James Risen is a true leader, and will be seen as one by years end.  When asked about his own future and why he published his book, Risen responded to the crowd, “I thought, I either publish these stories or I’m getting out of journalism. The default position for a reporter should be to publish.”

The entire event was videotaped and will hopefully be around for many decades to teach other journalism students the ethics and responsibility of being  professional writers.

In other happenings, I was invited to put together a small workshop on the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism campus and it couldn’t have gone any better! I was to discuss being a “Pool photographer” as well as how uploading images to the Associated Press wire service happens. I had about a dozen excited and curious students in attendance in the library, and we spoke for over 2 hours. We talked ethics, responsibility, PhotoMechanic, editing, cropping, metadata, code replacements, Photoshop actions and FTP servers……and then went through my traveling camera case. Students set up my cameras with Pocket Wizard remotes and tried my selection of different lenses and bodies……Hands on was the motto of the day.   I want to personally thank everyone at Berkeley, and I truly hope to return there one day for a longer workshop to train these excited students. This was one of the best teaching experiences ever. Go Bears!!!

For more photos of this event click here:!/index/G0000FU69V3m5Np4

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dia De Los Muertos

"DAY OF THE DEAD".....what a title for a Holiday!

I had heard about this for years, but didn't know if it was the title of a movie or the name of a song, or both.....but it stuck...until a few months back....

A friend mentioned it to me and explained the concept and origins...and I have been waiting impatiently for these few days to begin ever since.
For those of you that aren't quite up to date, or just simply lost like I was....lets take a look at Wikipedia's definition of this worldly ritual:

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where the day is a bank holiday. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.[1][2] Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

Get it? Well, let me take it from what I experienced at the Mexican Consulate event in Orlando, Florida this past weekend.

I saw Skeletons, flowers, food, cigarettes, cerveza, face paint, honest feelings, sad faces and a huge sense of pride. Friendly folks tried in vain to explain the purpose to me, while speaking in Spanish and feeding me and my son Blaze the best Beef and Sausage tacos I have ever eaten..... in short, I was very welcomed, accepted and taken in.

I first made the connection to photograph this event on Friday afternoon after searching endlessly on the internet for "Dia De Los Muertos" festivals in the area. The closest was in Fort Lauderdale........a bit too far to travel for me......but with some persistence and tracking down and translating the El Sentinel newspaper, I came across a very small article about the Mexican Consulate public event. I knew this was my only chance to capture this festival, so I cleared my cards and charged my batteries. My son Blaze also wanted to shoot, so he agreed to tag along with his DSLR.

Saturday arrived with the cold front, and all of the ofretas that had been arranged outside were packed up, and moved indoors. The first heavy rainfall in weeks arrived to try and ruin the event, but it was not to be.....nothing was going to supress this day.

The event went off without a hitch and the Consulate was packed to capacity. The altars were stacked with candles, old photos, Catrinas, sombreros, paper figures and sugar skulls......It was colorful and GRAND!

Blaze and I took many photos of the surroundings and the parade of was a fantastic experience and we hope to film it again next year. Thanks to everyone who granted us permission to photograph.

Please see photos here:!/index/G0000kZvwSdxZ_I0

All Images on this blog property of Alex Menendez. Don't steal em.
Dictionary text credit: Wikipedia

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cotto- Rodriguez Boxing

Tomorrow night is the first ever Boxing event at the Amway Arena and features a heck of a bout with 3 time Champion Miguel Cotto from Puerto Rico taking on Dominican challenger Delvin Rodriguez.
These two are evenly matched and this promises to be an incredible bout.
Cotto represented Puerto Rico in the Olympics and has gone on to be the best fighter to come off the island. He has previous bouts with Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito. He has gone on to start his own promotion company and I had the pleasure of shooting one of his first promotions at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY. They put on a heck of as show and this HBO fight will surely gain him more credability in the boxing promo game.
Add that Miguel is bringing in Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and this has all the makings of a brighter future for Cotto.

Delvin Rodriguez is stepping up to the HBO fight after a series of ESPN Friday Night Fights features. He is of Dominican descent and fights out of Danbury Connecticuit and has appeared on live television 11 times.

Both fighters made weight and are confident they will be victorious.
Check back tomorrow for results and more pics.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ninja at home

So, my boys decided to create “Sugar Glass”, you know, the material that is used on movie sets to crash over the actors heads, or in the old cowboy Western’s, the window that was broken as the villain get kicked out of the saloon. This is all the rage apparently with 8 and 10 year old boys….as this is all they spoke about for a week.
Now, if you don’t know my boys, they are actual Ninjas….honest to God, actual living and breathing NINJAS! The actual spinning, flying, grunting and cussin little buggers who are 2 stripe tests away from earning their brown belts…(one belt away from BLACK)……so you can probably see where this little story is headed.

I digress… anyways, they mixed the concoction up in the bowl and then cooked it in a 9x9 cake tin. It turned into a rather large Ricola cough drop looking thingy, about half an inch thick and sticky as hell….but it was transparent for the most part.  We left it in the fridge overnight to harden….as the boys went to bed for the night, smiling and planning on the next days adventures, and how to break the glass.
Sunday morning was like Christmas to them as I apparently overslept for the grand breaking ceremony. I was pulled from my somewhat comfy bed with the demands of Blaze to "grab my camera and shoot this thing"…………Y A W N!
I told him to go to the garage and retrieve the black backdrop, stands, beauty dish and a kicker light for the background. We took a 4x8 foamcore sheet and tried our best to block the sun streaming through the front door, as total darkness what my ultimate goal. This didn’t really work out as planned, but I proceeded to attempt the shot anyway.

We took a simple tripod and Blaze gaff taped a normal spring clamp to it, to hold the glass in place. This stuff was as sticky as molasses I tell ya.
It was very important for the two

of us to get our timing down, we only had the one chance to nail the shot and I was already up……..I counted him down at least 10 times until I felt we were in sync. When he finally got consistent in his throwing of the punches and his screams were at the optimal NINJA volume, we decided to go for it!

One more test of the flash was necessary to make sure the lights were firing…they didn’t?  The cable release had fallen out,….phew….quick fix.

3………..2………..1………POP!!!!!!.......then a second later the shattering echoed throughout the living room……….it was over….DONE!

Chimping on the back of the camera was almost as glorious as seeing my Space Shuttle remotes for the first time….we had done it….Perfection on one take.

He laughed as we ate the glass that was still stuck to the tripod………….not a bad days work.

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