April 29, 2008 / Photo Quest / Photography / Spring 2008

Photo Quest – Role model 4

Written by Bill Hankins

For the fourth spring in a row, this column is profiling a professional in the world of photojournalism. For this issue, John Schultz, photojournalist for the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, is sharing his story and expertise.

Tell us a bit about your college experience.
While at Iowa I took all the photo classes I could get my hands on, in both departments, journalism and also through the Art Department. Classes I should have taken to help me out now would have been more business and accounting-type classes. But my whole point then was to get a well-rounded education and collect as many experiences I could. I was a Work-Study student, and that landed me jobs at the Writers Workshop, Office of Public Information, Iowa Sports Information Office, The Daily Iowan and the biology lab, besides having several other non-photographic-related jobs.

So your photography helped you make these connections?
Often my camera has been my passport to the world for me. It has opened up a lot of doors, both in college and during my career.

When did you first get interested in photography?
In 1976 or 77, I was introduced to the SLR camera (a Minolta) by my brotherin-law. At the time, I thought this camera was the bomb. I fooled around with it until I joined the newspaper and yearbook staffs (in high school).

I can’t recall having taken a picture that propelled me into this career. Rather it was the excitement of being in different places almost every night, experiencing something new, quenching my thirst to know what was going on, capturing what may some day be history. Not till I got to college did I realize I had a talent and an eye for the camera.

What were some of your most interesting experiences as a high school and college shooter?
Working as a staff photographer for The Daily Iowan (college paper) is what sealed my fate. The learning experience from my time at The Daily Iowan is the foundation that I have built on ever since, and why I’m where I am.

John Schultz


Photographer – Quad City Times, 20 years; Iowa City Press Citizen-, 2 1/2 years B.S. degree in Journalism, University of Iowa

Internship – Estes Park, Colo.; darkroom technician for portrait photographer

Explain that foundation a bit.
First and most important, it helped me to understand what a daily deadline was. In high school yearbook and newspaper, there were not daily deadlines. Secondly, my photo editor, David Zalaznik, gave me some great training for my eye to see what made a great picture. That whole experience had a real-world feel.

Tell us about your typical week at work. What are your assignments like?
I’ve been working nights for the entire time (20 + years) at the Times. There are not typical weeks. There are seasons. The busy sports season starts with football and cools off after March Madness. During the summer, weekend festivals and events take over until it all starts again in the fall. Many assignments I have shot in the past, but I try to look at each assignment with a fresh eye. As someone once said, “Every assignment is what you make it. So make it good. It’s your name that goes underneath it.”

John, you have a number of special interests in photography. Tell us how you got involved in the River Music Experience exhibit
Well, the River Music Experience came up as a fluke. I have an interest in music and had amassed a collection of photographs of musicians that had played in the area over the past 20 years. A friend of mine, John Greenwood (a photographer at a competing paper), had a similar collection. The idea came up of having the two of us come up with 20 photos each of the musicians we had shot and put them into the exhibit. Well, it’s still up three years later and has evolved into a permanent exhibit.

Another interest I have is aviation photography. There is nothing I enjoy more than going to the Quad City Airshow and shooting pictures. In fact, I take vacation time every year to go work for the Airshow and I get paid with rides from some of the performers. It’s a great gig.

Tell us more about your aerial photography experiences. Is there a large learning curve in shooting from the air?
I find shooting aerials very easy. It’s like opening up a new horizon, pun intended. The patterns, vantage point, light – everything is different. And now I’ve moved to shooting air-to-air of World War II aircraft at shows and riding with stunt pilots.

How do you focus and get good exposures?
A couple of little tricks I learned the hard way. For example, in a C48 plane we take out the side window, which helps with shooting. This helps the focus problem. I had to work to find the right shutter speed. With these WWII planes you want the propellers to show they are moving so you slow the shutter speed down a bit. I usually use 1/125 at F/8 or beyond. You can’t see the blurred propeller, but the tips are painted yellow so you can see a full rotation of the movement. With the IS0, I try to go as low as I can, 100, 320.

What about your sports shooting? What do you like to shoot most of all?
Sports shooting has turned out to be one of my biggest strengths. I was forced to cover a lot of high school sports when I stared at the Times. And since my schedule hasn’t changed in 20 years, I’ve gotten quite good at it. Now, besides high school sports, I’ve been promoted to covering the Iowa Hawkeye football team during the season for the entire Lee Network and gone to several bowl games to cover the team. I enjoy shooting all kinds of sports but my favorite is football.

Any secrets to shooting sports that would help young shooters?
There are many little secrets to shooting sports, but the main one is anticipation. Know the game and strategies well enough to make an educated guess on what might happen next and put yourself in a position to get the shot. A lot of shooting good sports action is having a feeling on when to push the shutter button to capture peak action. Be patient. Let the action come to you. It will. Be ready for it. Always be looking. In between plays look into the fans, look at the benches, check out the coaches, check the scoreboard to see if a certain player is having a good game. Follow that player for a while. And most of all, it doesn’t hurt to be a little bit lucky.

Any digital advice for young shooters?
Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Look at your work with a critical eye. You don’t have to worry about processing cost, so just keep shooting and re-evaluating and learning. Discover where your parameters are by experimenting with light, low light and very bright light, shutter speeds, apertures, ISO speeds, lenses, etc. Learn what you can and can’t do with your tool. One other thing: with film you expose for the shadows and print for the highlights; with digital, you expose for the highlights and print for the shadows.

Any final words of advice or inspiration for beginning photographers?
Be aggressive, shoot as much as you can, check with your local paper to see if they need help shooting things like sports on a Friday night. The more you can get things published outside of school experiences and in the real world the better. School’s great for theory on how it’s suppose to work, but until you get out there and get a little dirty and work your tail off, you have no idea how hard it is.

Develop a good work ethic and know that you are doing a labor of love. You won’t get rich doing this, but you will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing you’re doing something you love. Ask yourself: what makes you get out of bed in the morning; is it the money of a job you don’t like or is it the satisfaction of knowing that what you’re doing feels good to you?

One Response to “Photo Quest – Role model 4”

December 10, 2010 at 7:44 pm, schultzeyeview said:

[…] Q&A with John […]

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Bill Hankins

Bill Hankins taught scholastic photojournalism for 26 years, advised student publications for 29 years, and instructed more than 1,600 photojournalists, mostly at Oak Park High School in Kansas City. Before retiring, Hankins received the Missouri Journalism Teacher of the Year Award, the Pioneer Award from the NSPA, the Certificate of Merit from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 from the JEA.