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AL DIAZ / MIAMI, FL

For Miami photojournalist Al Diaz, a camera is not just a piece of equipment that he carries with him. It’s an appendage, a body part that he never leaves home without.
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From NBA Finals and Olympic Games to the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, the coup attempt on Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, he has been there and done that. From President Reagan on through to President Obama, he’s captured them all. A staff photographer for the Miami Herald since 1983, Diaz has shared numerous awards with his colleagues including a Pulitzer Prize, a regional Emmy, and the McClatchy President’s Award for Journalism Excellence. In 2010 Diaz was awarded a Green Eye Shade Award for sports.

Although perfectly at ease shooting bold face names and superstar athletes, Diaz’s visual journalism is at its most poignant when he’s capturing the “common” man and woman. His tender portraits of the homeless, the hungry, and the disenfranchised in Florida won him a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 2003.

He even once chased down a thief on Rollerblades who stole his camera—as the police arrested the thief, Diaz got “the shot” that made the paper by using his second camera. The physically challenging nature of his work has taken its toll on his body but it has not dampened his spirit.

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After all these years, he’s still raring to go every morning and is always on the prowl for the next important moment. His cameras and gear sit by his front door.


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Favorite Place on Earth? Why?

Fishing off the Florida Keys or Biscayne Bay or working on my home I call Casa Palma. In the last couple of decades I’ve planted over a dozen varieties of swaying palms, creating my own tropical paradise, where once was a barren piece of property. It helps me recharge my batteries.

Wow, can we visit sometime? Tell us, what was your first ever Camera?

A Mamiya 500DTL, the first 35mm SLR with dual spot/averaging CdS TTL metering. Bought it at Zayre department store as a kid with money earned cutting lawns in the old neighborhood.

Favorite Camera?

The Canon EOS-1D X loaner that I used during the NBA playoffs from Canon Professional Services is the fastest autofocus camera I’ve ever used.

What rigs do you shoot with right now?

Two Canon EOS 1D Mark IV’s and a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

Most extreme place you’ve shot?

Spent a few days on Popocatepetl, one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico. Photographed geologists from the University of Miami as they placed GPS-equipped sensors to measure tiny but significant changes on the restless 17,802-foot volcano near Mexico City. There’s also the Cerro Negro volcano eruption in Nicaragua. Of course spending several weeks covering the devastating earthquake in Haiti with estimates of over 200,000 people killed was intense. Photographing anything with ash falling from the sky, seismic activity or 200mph winds is extreme to me.

Jeez, that must have been tough.. So what’s your dream photo shoot?

Is this a trick question? My wife will read this. Okay, anything that wins me a Pulitzer or shooting the cover of the Sports Illustrated bathing suit edition. There I said it.

That’s good work if you can get it! What job did you have before being a photographer?

During my summer months in high school I worked at carpentry shops with my father. One summer I built houseboats and almost cut my finger off with a chop saw.

How/when/where do you use Peak Design gear?

Shooting basketball with the flexibility and speed of the Peak Design Leash and Cuff‘s quick-connecting, quick-releasing straps work great. With LeBron James sprinting towards me at 23 mph and flicking the ball faster than an NFL quarterback at 40 mph. The last thing I need is to get tangled up with camera straps or dangling clasps on a fast break. Nothing is around my neck including my credentials. I place them in a Think Tank Photo Credential Holder Tall on my waist belt. At the end of the quarter I reattach the quick-connecting strap faster than any other system I’ve ever used as I sprint off the court to transmit.

Craziest place you’ve used Capture / Leash / Cuff?

It’s crazy to think that in Game 7 of the NBA Finals I sat in front of the best courtside seats in the house that are rumored to have commanded tenths of thousands of dollars per ticket. The Peak Design Leash and Cuff sat right along side me.

Gnarliest injury you’ve sustained in the field?

Dwayne Wade’s sweaty butt cheeks landed on my face during the NBA playoffs. My neck was sore for days.

Have you washed your face yet? Did you take pictures? Can we see?

Not yet! Of course, sunny side up.

If you weren’t a badass photographer, you’d definitely be a badass…

My wife Cindy and I restored two historic Old Spanish architectural style homes from the 1920’s. Our efforts were featured twice on Home and Garden Television. If I were not a photojournalist I’d be rock ‘n’ rollin with Vanilla Ice renovating homes on a Vanilla Ice Project, probably short a few fingers.