Garden & Gun Magazine – Captains For Clean Water

I had the distinct pleasure to shoot with Garden and Gun Magazine recently.   Garden & Gun is an amazing publication with not only great editorial content but is also coveted among photographers as a publication that “get’s it”.   They have a history of working with really amazing photographers and giving them the creative freedom and support to do their very best work.    It was truly a pleasure working with them and I hope we have many more opportunities in the future.

For this assignment I was contacted by Margaret Houston the photo editor to shoot for an article featuring Captain Chris Wittman.    Chris is a fishing guide in Florida (Stillwater Charters) who heads up an organization called  “Captains For Clean Water”.   After being briefed on the article and what CFCW was all about,  I jumped at the chance to hop a plane back to Florida from Utah to shoot for G&G and do my part to  support such a worthy cause.

Captains For Clean Water is a Grassroots Nonprofit Organization Advocating for Clean Water & Healthy Estuaries Across South Florida.  They started out as a group of fishing guides that “had enough” of Florida’s poor water management practices. Given the destruction seen firsthand, we were convinced that if everyone knew what we knew, the problem would have been already fixed. They discovered, the solution has been delayed for decades because of a lack of political will and public awareness.


On average, billions of gallons of nutrient-laden fresh water flow into our lower estuaries via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers every day. The concern to our estuaries is not just that these unnatural discharges contain pesticides, herbicides, fungicide, high nutrient loads and bacteria which have led to public health warnings; the volume of the fresh water alone is enough to disrupt our fragile marine ecosystems. The nutrients, and other pollutants, enter our waters through agricultural and urban areas in the center of the state, mostly north of Lake Okeechobee. Thankfully, with cooperation of farmers throughout the state, we have slowly been able to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen loads that enter the water supply, yet nutrient levels remain much higher than natural lake and river water.

Here’s what it’s all about…

Under normal circumstances, Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers may not contribute substantial nutrients to this water supply. When we experience heavy rains, however, sugar and other farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee flood. That water is then drained into ditches and ultimately pumped into Lake Okeechobee. This practice is known as back-pumping, and it adds fair amount of fresh water and nutrients to the lake. Back-pumping doesn’t happen on a daily basis, only during periods of heavy rains. The practice is justified in the name of reducing flood risk in largely agricultural areas south of Lake Okeechobee, however it is arguably a violation of the intent of the Clean Water Act and works mostly to the benefit of agricultural corporations operating in the EAA. And it is just one example of the many Lake Okeechobee water mismanagement issues facing our state.

The excess nutrients in Lake Okeechobee discharge water works to fuel toxic algae blooms in our marine (salt and freshwater) environments. The nutrients also have the potential to “fertilize” an already present red tide organism. These recurring fresh water discharges can create two deadly options for marine life in our estuaries: die in the fresh water discharge or be washed out to sea into a supercharged red tide bloom.

The murky, turbid Lake Okeechobee discharge water also kills seagrass, oysters and other life on the sea floor. It blocks light from reaching the seagrass and prohibits photosynthesis. Prolonged exposure to low salinity also kills grass, oysters, and other marine life.

Our seagrass beds and oysters are the foundation of estuarial marine life and an incredible natural filter. Without them, our estuary ecosystems face an uncertain future.

For many years we have witnessed, first hand, a decline in the lower Caloosahatchee, Pine Island Sound, and Indian River Lagoon estuaries due to this long term water mismanagement. While we drown in fresh water, Florida Bay is suffering from a lack of it, causing the water to become too salty to support critical sea life.

Our state needs land in the Everglades Agricultural Area necessary to clean the Lake Okeechobee discharge water in an attempt to restore natural sheet flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. This will take large tracts of contiguous land for the construction of storm water treatment areas that will substantially reduce phosphorous and nitrogen levels in the water. Nutrient reduction is critical so we do not simply send our problem south.  For more information,  head over to www.captainsforcleanwater.org or pick up a copy of this month’s Garden And Gun Magazine and you can read the article!

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Dusty Road- Chevy Motion Project

Been working on shooting more motion stuff lately.    Here are a few sneak peek frame grabs of some new car stuff we shot a couple weeks back outside Park City, Utah of a Chevy Duramax Diesel driving on some dusty roads in the valley for a social media project.     Stay tuned for the final edit in the coming month.

 

 

 

Bonneville Part 2… Collaboration with Smalldog Imageworks.

One of the great things about being a creative person and working in the industry that I work in is when your work inspires other creative and talented people who’s work you love and admire.   There are times when this brings about opportunities to collaborate with those people on projects that both inspire and benefit each other.  One such opportunity arose when Scott Dorman from Smalldog Imageworks  wrote to tell me how much he liked the first Bonneville posts I had made (as he is very much a fan of classic cars and bikes.)   This led to me asking him if he would be interested in working on producing a few more of these images with me as I am creating a whole series from this shoot.   He jumped at the chance and the result was the first 3 images here in this post. What is interesting about all these images is none of these  vehicles were actually in motion when I shot them.    I shot them and many other pieces with the final images in mind, but the actual scene when shooting was much more random with many layers of people and cars in the background.   When this happens and I will often have the final composition in my mind but knowing that there is no way to get it in one shot in camera.   Instead I will work to make sure I have all the parts at the correct angles and perspectives with many variations and options I need to make it a reality and build it later in post.  I incorporate a lot of this into my everyday work but Scott takes this talent and multiplies it times 10 and was perfect choice to bring these images into reality.  He’s a real pro when it comes to picking the right angles so the perspectives work as well as people, body positions, and adding motion, the flying salt, spinning the tires & moving the ground.  It’s no surprise that he is one of the most sought after retouchers in the business today.

 

Winter’s Here… Time to go Ice Fishing!

Winter is finally upon us!  Winter is finally here which brings with it all sorts of fun stuff…Things like heading to New Hampshire with friends to take in the annual ice fishing derby!   These folks are serious about their ice fishing.   What a great excuse to head out on the snow and frozen lakes to drink beer,  ride snowmobiles and have fun!

Miami Cancer Institute Campaign Rolls Out first 2 of 8 Executions.

Well after a long wait and much anticipation the Miami Cancer Institute has finally begun to roll out it’s ad campaign shot by Pete Barrett last summer.   Shown here are the first two in a series of eight ads which Pete and his team created for MCI working in close collaboration with Republica Advertising and Cortez Brothers Productions.  All post production and retouching of the images was done by Pete Barrett.  Pete also worked closely in collaboration with Saddington & Baynes out of London to create and later incorporate the CGI letter “C” element that is a recurring prop in all of the ads.  

This was a great shoot that involved a fairly complex production, something that Pete is very well versed in.  Working closely with Cortez Brothers Productions (who was also producing a series of TV spots for the client),   Pete and his team of roughly 25-30 people shot 8 different executions of final images that involved combining lifestyle shots of people in an environment with a large 3 dimensional letter “C” also in the shot which would be created digitally in a CGI environment.  This required shooting many elements to be layered and retouched into the image in post as well as capturing lighting, shadowing and size & dimension measurement info that would later be used in the creation of the 3D – CGI letter “C” element made by Saddington and Baynes ensuring that it would look like it was actually physically there in the space.   Still to come are 6 more ads which we cannot disclose at this time as they have yet to be released to the public but as soon as they hit the streets we will post an update.   Stay tuned!!

Fly Fishing on the Snake River – Jackson Wyoming.

So this spring we found ourselves all over the upper MidWest exploring the Yellowstone National Park region down on through Jackson, Wyoming and the Teton National Forest.   While we were there I had the opportunity to shoot several different fly fishing shoots both still and video on the Snake River.

The first shoot I connected with Reel Deal Anglers owner Rhett Bain who connected me with his head angler Brian Chamberland.  We were here during the spring time which presents several challenges.    The first is there is heavy snow melt pouring down the mountains so many of the rivers tend to be washed out,  running heavy and brown.   The second,  more dangerous challenge is this is the time of year when all the Momma grizzly bears are coming out of their winter slumbers with their new bear cubs and sightings are frequent.   These bears are quite beautiful when viewed from a safe distance but to  surprise them and wander between mom and her cubs could be a deadly mistake.

Given these factors we chose to do a float down the river in an area that was less blown out than other areas around.   We launched on the Snake just below the spillway from the  Jackson Lake dam one crisp May morning just before dawn and headed out to make some great images and video.    Unfortunately while the early morning light is great for photos it is not necessarily great for fishing here on the Snake as they have better luck later in the day when the light is directly overhead.    I opted for the better light for this shoot in lieu of actually catching fish in harsh mid-day light.

In the end while we didn’t actually have much luck bringing in the big one,  we did manage to get some really great images and footage.     Thanks to Rhett and Brian and our angler that Brian brought along as well!   If you are ever in the Jackson area and want to go out for a great fishing experience make sure to give them a call.  (just let them pick the time if you actually want to catch fish and not just make pretty pictures)  😉

 

When Life Gives You Lemons….

There is the old adage,   “When life gives you lemons,  make lemonade”     I find this is something that I have to put into play quite a lot in my life,  even more so now that we find ourselves on our ongoing “adventure of a lifetime” roadtrip across this great country of ours.    Traveling across the land hauling your life along with you is exciting but as you can imagine, it presents some challenges.

For all the prep and planning we do, life on the road can throw you curve balls when you least expect them and you have to just roll with the punches and see where it takes you.   Often times if you look for the positive you will find opportunities will present themselves….   There is nothing I like more than times when you find that you have mistakenly taken a turn down the “wrong road” or had a issue that waylays you, rather than becoming a problem… it puts you in a place you never expected, which turns out to be exactly where you were supposed to be.     What I mean by this, is an opportunity or an experience presents itself that you never would have, had if it had not been for that problem or mistake you made that got you there.   Some call it Kismet or even Destiny.    Whatever you call it,  if you keep your eyes open you find some pretty cool experiences and photos to be made.  See the photo below which I created on the one such incident…

Earlier this fall we were just wrapping up spending the last 6 months bouncing around the Pacific Northwest, up and down the coast from Northern California to Canada.   Now setting our sights on Utah,  I had mistakenly turned East too early, and instead of taking an easy cut across the mountains in a valley,  we ended up on a very narrow, twisty & windy road through the Shasta Trinity Mountain range.     This makes for a white knuckle ride when you are pulling a 42 foot rig….   31,000 lbs of fun as you make your way over hills and around narrow passages. Not only was it a scary drive on it’s own, but the skies were jet black as an impending storm was about to hit.  Just when I began to really curse myself, trying to decide if I should turn back or press on through, I decided to pull over next to the river that was following my path just before the skies opened up to dump rain on us.

What I saw when I got out that I could not see while driving, was the view down river to our rear.     Here was this AMAZING mountain river location with the most incredible light shining through the oncoming rain that was falling.   I am lucky that I always try to have my camera ready and I was able to capture this amazing scene as it unfolded before me.     The only thing missing was a fly fishermen to complete the scene which I then added in with Photoshop later.   It made for a killer book shot and will also no doubt bring in some decent stock sales opportunities down the line.     I call this shot,   “When a wrong turn puts you exactly where you are  supposed to be.”

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Another amazing opportunity that came from a bit of misfortune was when we were on our way from Park City Utah, to our March/April homebase of Breckenridge Colorado.  About 1/2 way there, in a little nothing town called Meeker CO, we had a mechanical issue with our tow vehicle which forced us to stop.   As luck would have it, there was a nice little RV Park just opening for the fishing season right on the river about a mile from where we broke down.       After checking in and getting the RV set up we set out to investigate our surroundings.   What we found was the little town of Meeker resembled more of a ghost town than anything.     It was during dinner that we asked the proprietor what there was to do in this town as we were going to be here a few days…  It was then that he mentioned that “every one is out at the dog races” for the weekend.

Turns out he was right because by the time we had finished with our dinner,  the little town was suddenly overtaken by teams of people with their dogs.    After talking with some of them I learned that this was the weekend the final races for the season where taking place about 40 miles away in the White River National Forest.   The exact directions I got from 3 different people were,   “Just drive down this road a mile and turn right at ‘the sign’ and follow that road 39 miles until it ends”   I thought to myself,    “Umm…. Ok.   that doesn’t sound weird at all” as I looked on the tiny road to nowhere on the map.   So the very next morning despite any reservations,   I set off in good faith driving the 40 some miles farther down this tiny road taking me farther and farther from the tiny town of Meeker into the wilderness….  all the while thinking, “this must be some kind of joke”.    After about an hour,  low and behold the road ended as I had been told it would and there in the middle of the woods was this mini winter festival of dog sled enthusiasts and about 100 dogs.   You knew you were here as you pulled up because of the sound… ALL the dogs are barking!   It’s quite exciting walking around and seeing everyone getting ready for the races.    I have never seen dogs so excited about getting ready to run.   As their handlers get them harnessed up and hitched onto one another they are loosing their minds, barking and tugging at their leashes.     They actually have to tie them off to their cars or they would just take off without them. All in all it was quite a cool experience & you won’t find a nicer group of people.   Everyone was interested why I was there and who I was shooting for.     I got a quick lesson on the happenings of the day and intros to the folks running the show from the Rocky Mountain Dog Sled club.   I even met a nice older gentleman named Mike who was having his 70-something birthday that day and heading out on the course racing his dogs.   He’d been racing for over 35 years and not about to slow down now.

As I clicked away watching group after group of dogs heading out onto the trail towing their various handlers on sleds and skis, (Skijouring) it struck me yet again how cool this is…   here I am stuck in the middle of nowhere with no-one who can even look at my truck until Monday and I find myself with this opportunity to shoot some amazing sled dog races, continue building my book and meeting some really great people in the process.  Turned out to be a great weekend!    I love my job!

 

So That Others May Live… The US Coast Guard Cape Disappointment for The American Worker Project.


So picking up where we left off,  our ongoing travels this fall took us all over the Northwest, ranging from the Oregon coast up through Washington State and onward into Canada to Whistler BC.  Which brings me to this current post and latest installement into The American Worker Project.

Over the course of several cold mid November days, I had the distinct honor and privilege of working with the brave men and women stationed at the United States Coast Guard Station, Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington.   After making contact with the station’s Commanding Officer LCDR Tom Condit, I was invited there to document the hard working members of the motor lifeboat rescue teams that patrol the turbulent waters off Cape Disappointment.


A little bit of history for those who are not familiar with aptly named Cape Disappointment…

Located at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean,   Cape Disappointment is known as one of the most treacherous and deadly waterways in the western hemisphere.     Commonly referred to as “The Graveyard of The Pacific,” the waterways in the area are so turbulent that since their discovery in 1792, well over 2000 shipwrecks have occurred and over 700 lives have been lost.   The reason for this, is an occurrence that happens when the large waves emanating offshore from Japan and the Aleutian Islands, charge across the Pacific and collide with the strong currents flowing from the mighty Columbia River, culminating over the bar at the mouth of the river near the jetty.   The result is incredibly turbulent water and high surf that is unpredictable and extremely unforgiving.

When someone is in trouble at sea,  stranded,  alone and taking on water, it is the US Coast Guard who answers the call.  They will go out in extremely adverse conditions and lay their lives on the line to rescue those in need.  As you can imagine this requires lots of training in often intense and hostile situations, so that they may be prepared to take on this task regardless of the conditions.

As I mentioned above,   I had the good fortune of being granted access into this world for a few days to document these hard working and dedicated men and women for my American Worker Project.   First off, I have to say what a pleasure and honor it was working with them.   As you would expect from any US military unit,   their level of professionalism and expertise were unparalleled.   During my time with them I was able to go out on onto the high seas several times on the dawn patrol “bar runs” that go out every morning at dawn.  The purpose of these runs is to give first hand reports of the conditions on the bar so that they can set any restrictions for the day for all watercraft entering or leaving the cut at the Columbia River.  I also got to photograph them working on both their 47 foot and 52 foot motor lifeboats as they did high seas surf training, man overboard rescue training. boat to boat rescues and towing drills.

The most exciting activity of the bunch, hands down was the high seas surf training.   I was reminded several times by the crew and Senior officers of how lucky I was to be included in this activity, as it is extremely rare that a civilian is allowed to go out in these conditions with them.   It is not something that I took lightly and did my best to capture just a little bit of what it is like for them out on the water.

The experience is amazing!  At times it is not unlike being in a huge washing machine as the boats are tossed around like toys by the power of these huge waves.     Imagine yourself standing roughly 15 feet off the surface of the water, tethered to the railing atop the upper deck of a 47 foot boat with 5 crew members, looking up at waves that are cresting easily 10 feet higher than you.   Your instinct is to want to go the other way, but instead the Surfman who is driving the boat sends us charging toward the wave, tossing the boat up into the air with a wall of water washing over you as you hold on for dear life and then brace for the next wave which comes only 6 – 10 seconds later.  Now consider this… the day I was on board for surf training was a relatively tame day for them.  While it was a white knuckle ride for me,  it was but a fraction of the conditions that they are actually able to handle.  Quite an experience to say the least, but all in a day’s work for these folks.

It was decided that I would ride atop the 47’ as it is the “drier” and more stable of the two boats in the 15-20 foot seas that we were about to experience.   Plus, this would allow me to get some amazing shots of the 52 foot lifeboat named “Triumph II.”   A boat commissioned in the 1960’s and one of four still in service today.     This boat has the unique feature of being much heavier, which means instead of riding up and over the waves, it tends to cut through them, resulting in some very dramatic views as you can see from the photos above and below.  The boat completely disappears from view, only to punch through like a submarine surfacing.   As amazing and treacherous as this seems, it is something this boat is well equipped to do, being that it is designed to operate in winds of up to 70 mph and waves in excess of 32 feet in height.

I imagine it was quite comical to them watching me as I tried to hold on with one hand while attempting to shoot photos with the other hand… all the while bouncing around like a tethered paddle ball, as we experience several G’s when our boat careened over a mountain of water which then proceeded to rain down upon us like a waterfall.   Now I like to think of myself as having my sea legs, as I’ve spent a great deal of time on water over my life, but I was definitely being challenged that day.   Funny as I may have looked, it was good that I opted not to use my normal surf housing but instead rigged my cameras with splash bags to save on the extra weight.   It is a miracle my gear survived in tact, but better to have a lightweight splash bag than something that ends up being more like holding a bowling ball on a roller coaster.   In hindsight it was comforting knowing that I was with highly trained professionals and that if something goes too horribly wrong, you can escape out of the surf zone and regroup… but one can only imagine what it must be like going out in a bad storm in seas that are twice as high and not just restricted to one small area, but rather go on relentlessly for hours.   To add to that, once you reach the people you are trying to save,  it often requires a rescue swimmer going into the cold turbulent waters to pluck them from the sea.   Bravery is an understatement.   Moreover their sense of pride and dedication in what they do is infectious.

Special thanks go to Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi for helping to connect me to the right people, To Lieutenant Commander Chief Tom Condit, (without his trust and permission I would never have gotten the access needed to create these images) and last but not least Sr. Chief Greenlief and the many other crew members that took me under their wings for a few exciting days on the water.

I have the utmost respect for what they do.   They put themselves and their lives at risk daily, doing whatever it takes to keep our waterways and homeland safe.   After hanging with them for just a few short days it really brings new meaning to the slogan used for many of the branches of the US military.   “So that others may live…”