About midway into a challenging assignment, Harry Connolly decided to switch cameras. It wasn't merely a DSLR-to-DSLR update swap; it was a change of format: DSLR to mirrorless, specifically D610 to Z 6.
That caught our attention.
So...how come, Harry? We know that going from a reflex viewfinder to an EVF isn't that big a deal, but still...you know, learning curve and all that? And in the midst of a challenging assignment?
Harry had a quick response: "Everything I read about the Z 6 seemed to be perfect for what I was doing—lighter, smaller, great dynamic range, low-light capability."
Okay, then. Makes sense. A lighter, smaller camera for an assignment that kept him on the move, not only from state to state and town to town, but from street to park, church to construction site. And an advantage in low-light shooting. And a quiet shutter, which for Harry didn't mean setting the camera for silent running—he was working with people who knew pictures were being taken—but just using the camera with its built-in, off-the-shelf shutter sound. Just the normal quiet shutter was a game-changer for him because part of what makes his photos effective is the person-to-person, face to face connection he makes with people, and the quiet little camera did nothing to break that connection.
Eye-Detection AF also became a significant factor when he photographed people on the move, people in groups, people who were walking and talking and pointing things out to him. "Overall, Eye AF made the camera even more intuitive," he says. "It made everything easier in terms of my ability to concentrate on the situations and the environmental portraits I was making."
When we asked about the learning-curve factor, it turned out it was no big deal. "It wasn't really there, or at least not enough that I was aware of it. It was pretty much a seamless transition. I shoot mainly in manual, so I would adjust as I went along. I had to learn a few things, like with low-light shooting I did have to find out how far up the ISO ladder I could go—and it was pretty far. The color balance was right on, and it was easy to work the files if I needed to do that. Sure, I had the D610 with me as a backup, but I never took it out again. The Z 6 was perfect for the assignment."
Ah, yes...the assignment. That, too, caught our attention.
Everything about the Z 6 seemed to be perfect for what I was doing—lighter, smaller, great dynamic range, low-light capability.
On the Job
Harry Connolly is a photojournalist who seeks and often finds the kinds of assignments that demonstrate the power of photography to tell life-affirming stories. Sometimes those assignments find him, and this was one of those.
He was hired by the Enterprise Rose Fellowship, an organization dedicated to affordable housing and community development solutions. They work by partnering with local not-for-profit groups to provide leadership, advocacy and financing, and their work is based on long-term participation in the effort.
"They don't descend on a community and tell people what they should do, or what they will do for them," Harry explains. "They listen—they'll spend time in community meetings to learn about what's needed and what's being done—and then they bring their talent to the job." Essentially the individual Rose Fellows increase people's capacity to get things done. "They work with small non-profits that don't normally have access to their level of experience and talent."
The approach of the Rose Fellowship's 20th anniversary sparked the idea of visiting Fellows in locations around the country. The stories and photos of their activities and the lives of the people in the communities were collected in Design With Love: At Home in America, which was published in September, 2020.
Harry worked with a set of guidelines, but was pretty much on his own to focus on the people who would benefit from the group's efforts. "The organization knows what I do—my connection to the Rose Fellows goes back 16 years," he says.
For Harry the work is a relationship. "It's definitely not a hit-and-run situation," he says. "I spent time with the people, and I'd often return to places to see how the work was going." And while there was time to revisit and establish connections, there was a lot of ground to cover, and things tended to move fast. The gear and Harry's attitude kept pace. "It was no 'toe in the water' switch to the Z 6 and mirrorless shooting," he says. "I just jumped right in, and I knew right away—this is going to work."
What might have clinched the deal was the performance and accuracy of Eye AF when Harry got the somersault shot that made the cover of the book.
You know that photo got our attention.