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!

 

Park City Powder Cat Guides – The American Worker #8

JohnnyStairStepsV2This entry into The American Worker Series led me way up high to some of the very best back country skiing terrain available in the country.     I was very fortunate recently to have been invited to join the guides of Park City Powder Cats on the beautiful 1000 Peaks Ranch in the high Uinta Mountains  just east of Park City Utah for two days during a storm that dumped well over foot and a half of fresh powder on of some of the most epic terrain I have ever ridden.   Over the two days I met some amazing people and got some really great photos while getting access to some of the most epic skiing and snowboarding terrain one can find.    *Note-  Some of these images need to be seen large to really get enormity of the terrain…. click the image to see a larger version.PCPowdercats1394PCPowdercats1553For those of you that have not heard of back country Powder Cat skiing,  you don’t know what you have been missing.    Instead of skiing within the boundaries of a ski resort and being herded with the hoards and masses up ski lifts where you are lucky if you get one un-tracked line on a powder day,  you are instead being brought up a private mountain in a heated Powder Cat coach that delivers you and 9 or 10 other lucky skiers and snowboarders to the top of some of the best un-tracked terrain in the country.    At Park City Powder Cats they have over 43,000 acres of private land to choose from.   That is an area larger than Vail,  Aspen and Killington Mountains combined.    What that means is you can go for days and days and never have to ski over someone’s tracks if you choose not to.       We are talking HUGE bowls of steep and deep riding in some of the lightest and fluffiest powder I have ever experienced,  which says a lot as I have well over 20 years on the snow.

A warning though….  a few good days here will literally ruin your experience at even the very best ski resort out there.    It sets the benchmark way high and everything else pales by comparison.  🙂

CatOnPeak1 PCPowdercats1604v2sqSo epic skiing aside,  my reason for being here was to shoot the people that make it all happen at PCcats.     I wanted to document the hard working ski guides,  snow safety and drivers that take people out day after day into some of the most incredible,  (yet potentially dangerous) areas to feed their nonstop craving for fresh un-tracked powder.       Over our two day shoot I had the pleasure of shooting and riding with their amazing guides Johnny,  Jason, Chris and Nancy.     These folks have the best jobs in the world and they are very good at it.    Their ever present positive attitude is infectious.     Though I guess it would be easy to be positive given the venue in which they work!

PCPowdercats0456Sq PCPowdercats1802sq It’s not all just “atta boy’s and good jobs” though,  in addition to making sure people have a great time,  this hard working team’s most important job is one of making sure your experience is a safe one.   You have to remember that this is the back country and it can be extremely dangerous if you do not respect it and know what you are doing.  Avalance potential is ever present in the back country and it is paramount that you know what to do and not to do.   Every skiier is given an avalanche beacon and a safety briefing in the morning before leaving base camp.    Before each individual run,  they tell you exactly where to go, or (more importantly), where not to go to keep you safe.    The guides work very closely with their expert snow safety patrols.   Together they constantly assess the conditions and determine where their next run will be and exactly what parts of each peak will be not only the best run,  but also how to best approach these runs to get everyone down safely without incedent.PCPowdercats0371

PCPowdercats0865sqTheir snow safety team are constantly out on the various parts of the mountain during the day cutting new lines,  knocking down dangerous cornices and throwing the occasional explosive charge to help mitigate much of the avalanche risk.    They work hand in hand with the guides to help them to craft the perfect day for their guests and keep them out of harm’s way.PCPowdercats0952-2v3The image above shows snow safety patrollers Dave and Wes setting a charge to help shake loose any dangerous snow that might potentially be a problem to their guests.   This particular shot was from Day 1 of our shoot way up high around 11,000 feet on a seriously steep grade with a dangerous cornice during one of the only moments where the visibility was good and not a complete white out.    Nothing like heading out to the top of the world and throwing explosives, all in the name of safety!     They have to be on top of their game and have razor sharp focus as without what they do,  as the guides would have no way of knowing what each face is doing on that particular day without them.

 

PCPowdercats1815webThis is General Manager and head honcho Ron.    This guy is amazing.   He is quite literally everywhere doing every conceivable job you can think of… from helping coordinate guests, to running a cat up the mountain to groom the cat trails so that the drivers can get the guests to where they need to be, to shuttling people out on snowmobiles that need to get to different areas around the mountain, to coordinating with a production company filming a movie on property.  He does everything and all with a constant smile on his face!   With him running the show and his amazing “Can Do” attitude it is no surprise that he has such a well oiled and positive team.   Good management filters down through the ranks and it shows throughout their entire operation.

PCPowdercats0265Last but not least are their team of talented powder cat drivers.    Without these guys at the helm they wouldn’t be able to deliver their guests to these amazing spots.    Make no mistake, their job is not easy.    They have to be experts at what they are doing.  These are large, HEAVY pieces of machinery,  they do everything from crossing running ice cold river beds to climbing up super steep grades and chugging through giant snow drifts that can take 5 or 6 tries to get through.    There are many times on any given climb when you look out the window and realize you are motoring up a steep grade riding on only a tiny ridge line with no room to spare on either side, and thousand foot drops to your right and left.    These guys do it without breaking a sweat!!

If you are an advanced skiier and you’ve never done this before,   you owe it to yourself to save up and go out and do it at least once.     I guarantee when you leave, you will leave craving your next opportunity!     You can reach them here to book your next trip!!

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Fishing Guide & Conservationist – The American Worker Project #3

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For my 3rd installment into The American Worker Project I chose to shoot long time Maine fishing guide Mike Guarino of Maine Wilderness Tours.  (Mike is the one in red)    I first met Mike back in 1998 on a stock photo shoot I did back in my Sharpshooters days.    I’ve seen him a bunch of times over the years and it occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a smile on his face.    He one of those guys that not only loves what he does for a living but generally seems to really enjoy life itself.     He does have a pretty good gig though,  there are worse jobs than going out in the great outdoors and fishing everyday.  😉

When I approached Mike this time with the idea of including him in The American Worker Project he was instantly on board.     He even recruited fellow angler Dr Peter Kallin to join us on this chilly fall morning to go out and create some great fishing stills and video.

Peter is not only a great fisherman subject but is also an avid conservationist.     In addition to a long career,   Peter is the Executive Director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance where he works tirelessly to help monitor and control the quality of the watershed in Maine’s most important resource,  its lakes.

Enjoy the images below.   I will be posting some video as well at a later date.   Stay tuned!

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Follow along on the map of our Journey…

I created a little map of our Journey around the country so far which documents where we have been, shoots we have done and also where we are headed in the months to come.    Be sure to check back on a regular basis to see where we have been and what we have in store.

You can zoom in on the map by clicking on the + or –  button on the left to better see each pin.    Also, the pins are color coded…  Red pins are places we have stayed along the way.   Green pins are shoots I have done and the yellow pins are places we are headed in the coming months.     Click on the pins for more details.   On the green pins there will be links to the images we shot at each location as I can get them posted to the blog. Click on the Green Hammond Lumber and Lobsterman pins in Maine for an example of this.

 

Splash! – A Very Wet Look Behind the Scenes.

Here is a very wet look behind the scenes of a recent book shoot.

“Ok Mike,   Just walk out on that rock and look out over the water.  Try to look natural when the waves come up and splash.”        SPLASH!!!!     “That was perfect!    Mike?   Umm… Mike?”     ;-p

Seriously though,   Mike was not harmed in these photos,   While it may look like he was wiped out,   he actually braved the waves relatively unscathed.

We will  be posting the final images soon!  Stay tuned…

Timefest… and a peek at the future Kessler time lapse system

Check out this video

For those that want to see more behind the scenes – and a PEAK AT THE NEXT GENERATION of time lapse tools from Kessler Crane – here you go! The new system will allow you to control focus, zoom, and iris! (along with the dolly/crane and pan/tilt head that are currently part of the existing system.)

 

 

Kessler TimeFest 2011: Behind The Scenes from Kessler Crane on Vimeo.

Cape Town, South Africa

We recently had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks of shooting and exploration.   Shot tons of new stuff for the portfolios, visited a few ad agencies to show the work, did a quick assignment and lots of exploring.   What a great trip!   If you have never been to South Africa, I highly recommend it.   It is an amazing place.   South Africa is a place that is area that is unique unto itself… far off from the areas where you venture off on safaris.    The people are great and the landscapes are amazing.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that travel always stirs my creativity.   Nothing like going to far off places and exploring and shooting things that are different from your day to day life or surroundings.   Driving on the opposite side of the road with a stick shift on the wrong side of the car is always an adventure.   Wandering around and finding penguins on Boulders Beach,   Baboons wandering the streets by Misty Cliffs and South of the lighthouse in Kommetije.   Watching the surfers paddle longboards in overhead swell at Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg on the Indian Ocean.   Finding 19th on Main in Kalk Bay and all you can eat curry… yum!   Climbing Table Mountain and watching as the weather goes from amazing sunset to socked in white out in a matter of minutes leaving you in a place that feels more like Iceland than South Africa.   A short drive outside of downtown Cape Town and you are in Stellenbosh, heart of SA’s wine country.    Just an amazing place full of diversity and many cultural influences.

Much of what we shot on this trip were wide landscape shots along with elements to add in objects and people later primarily for stock and the portfolio.

Here are a few teaser images of these places.   We will be adding in additional structural elements later to give a place to ground talent within the shots.

Traveler’s Takes the Scary out of Life.

ESPN Traveler's AdSo we recently had the opportunity to work with SapientNitro on a great job for Traveler’s Insurance. The job required shooting a guy from “the other team” pulling into a parking lot full of a sea of “home team” cars. Being the only person from “the other team” can be somewhat disconcerting to say the least. This tied in perfectly with Traveler’s tag line which is “Travelers takes the scary out of Life”.

Logistically this job was very complex. How do you get control and ability to prop an entire parking lot full of cars, fill it with fans and shoot a generic large stadium? Click more to read on… Continue reading

Heli Shot over the Everglades

Did some heli work shooting Airboats in the Everglades the other day for VISIT FLORIDA shooting stills for a print and for a TV campaign. Here’s a series of production stills of us making a low pass over the airboat shooting for TV.

Gotta give props to our PJ pilot from Cameracopters! Those guys know how to fly. Earlier in the day we were hovering over a 38 foot cabin cruiser on the ocean going about 40 miles per hour and we were so close I got hit by some of the bow spray from the boat!
Fun Stuff!

Technically Speaking: How we made the magic for Miami CVB Tourism:

Mural Shot:

As with all of the shots, we were tasked with combining the art of the selected artist with a location that could represent a particular part of Miami. As Miami has many different areas, these areas must be represented in some way in the various ads. This one was set in Coconut Grove and was to portray the feeling and flavor of the Grove experience. The Grove got it’s start as a sort of artsy area and has evolved over the years to a place where you can go and eat at various outdoor cafes, enjoy the nightlife, catch some live music, etc…

This shot was to show people eating outdoors at a café on the corner with a large painted urban style mural of a musical party on the facing wall. It was to look like late afternoon, moody, almost twilight. There are two people running on the sidewalk and actually jumping into the mural. In this situation, real life meets the art and art meets real life. This is repeated with the city skyline in the mural itself where it blends with the buildings and trees.

As with most of the shots in this campaign, we photographed several different elements to create the final image. Once all elements were shot we handed them off to retoucher Michael Kerbow from Skeleton Studios to create the composite.

We scouted a location that had an outdoor café with good light exposure from the east so we could shoot it and fake it for late afternoon. To save money on talent, the café people are actually people from the creative department from the ad agency. One of the models did not show up for the shoot so the left girl seated is actually shown twice but no one seems to notice. The running models were cast from a talent agency. We shot these models running and jumping separately on white seamless at a different location on another day to simplify the on location shooting. To the right of the frame was actually a driveway of brick pavers that led to a parking garage which started right where the girls rear foot touches the ground. We shot a side of a building elsewhere that would match the perspective and texture of the wall that we wanted to lay the mural on in post. This would make the mural painting look like it was actually painted on a real wall not just stripped in. We also shot multiple condo buildings and trees so that we could have them peeking over the building and melding with the mural.

The mural artist (Danny Fila) provided us with several pieces of artwork (from an album cover artwork he had done) that Michael then pieced together to create the wall mural. Careful attention had to be paid to create enough space for the models that were to jump into the painting. We had Danny paint additional art that could be incorporated into the frame as well, such as her painted arm, torso and leg, extra musical notes and a custom city skyline that we could match with the condo buildings and trees we shot. Once Michael had composed the scene in post, I asked him to darken it slightly overall to addto the late afternoon mood and also to add one extra ceiling fan and turn on the lights digitally as they were off when we shot them.

From there the image comes back to me for final color palette exploration and adding of the illustration and painterly effect. * When viewed closely at 50% or larger on the master files you can begin to see how the image was transformed into more of a painterly look where it almost starts to look like an actual painting where the pixels actually flow more like fluid paint than photo pixels. (see detail enclosed)

 

South Beach Waves Shot:

The Artist who’s work is featured in this ad is name Avner Zabari. He creates whimsical art furniture that is very much influenced by Miami and it’s architecture and landscape. (or waterscape in this case) See http://www.avner.com/showroom/index.php?item=166&prod_year to see the original piece before we altered it. In this ad we had to combine shots of the benches (which would make up a sea of waves) with a model diving, the Art Deco skyline view of South Beach (from over the water perspective) and sky.

Creating the classic skyline view of South Beach turned out to be much more demanding than one might think. In recent years, the city has planted a zillion palm trees between Ocean Drive and the beach. You no longer can see the Art Deco buildings from an aerial perspective over the water like you once could. To get around this we did several things. We scouted and shot some from a helicopter but it became apparent that there was no way to create this view by shooting it this way. The client purchased the rights to an old stock shot that had the basic angle and look of the scene we wanted. The problem was that the proportions were all wrong… it was not nearly wide enough to cover the wide canvas that we needed. To get around this, I went to South Beach and shot many of the buildings straight on and at slight angles to get a myriad of “puzzle pieces” so tospeak, so that we could add buildings to extend the canvas to the proper proportions. Special care was taken to ensure we got the correct approximate time of day so that the lighting would match the overall scene and thebits of the stock shot that would be used alongside my original artwork. We shot the diver jumping on a trampoline against a white seamless background. It was lit from below so that when you invert him in the computer to the correct diving position, he would be lit from the correct angle by the “sun”. Lastly the furniture itself was shot at the artist’s studio. The challenge here was that he only had 8 benches and the ad requires well over 100. We set up the 8 benches and shot them repeatedly at different positions and perspectives to give ourselves plenty of originals to use in composition. Shooting many distances and angles allowed for proper placement in the composition where the perspective has to match and look as if it is really receding into the background.

Once all pieces parts were shot, the task of assembly went to our retouching team. We were under extreme time deadlines on this one as the client had media placement deadlines that were looming. Michael started by putting together the benches, I knocked out the diver and delivered it masked to him. To save time we hired a retoucher out of NY who put together the preliminary building shots to form the background plate, Michael then extended this plate due to a last minute proportion change. Once all the ocean waves had been created using a sea of benches, Michael finished the composition of the final shot and sent it back to me for final color pallet exploration and illustration and painterly looks to be applied by me here in Florida. . * When viewed closely at 50% or larger on the master files you can begin to see how the image was transformed into more of a painterly look where it almost starts to look like an actual painting where the pixels actually flow more like fluid paint than photo pixels. (see detail enclosed)

Pool Strawberry shot:

This shot was to represent the culinary art of Chef Heddy Goldsmith. The Miami location represented is the pool of the historic Raleigh Hotel on South Beach. The creative challenge on this one was to create a pool full of strawberry dipping sauce and fill the Raleigh pool with it. We shot the pool location and models first. As most of the talent was going to be small we actually shot the same 4 models multiple times. We just re-dressed them in different wardrobe and shuffled their positions around the pool. I have done this many times when working with large groups that are virtually non recognizable and it works great to save money on talent. The material for the sauce was created by a food stylist in studio in a custom made Plexiglas container that we made special to recreate the perspective we needed. The original creative called for a mango sauce which is one of Heddy’s specialty creations, but the brownish orange color made the pool look more like a sewage treatment facility than an enticing sweet pool, so a creative decision was made to color correct the liquid to a pink. A hand model was hired to dip various fruits into the sauce. Our retoucher Michael then combined the elements and added reflections then the images was returned to me to explore and set the color pallet and add the illustration and painterly effects.

Orchid Dancer Shot:

This shot was to represent art of urban dancer Zedric Bembry. The creative here required a composition of multiple shots of Zedric to be put together in a way that made him create an orchid flower. The location setting was that of the mangroves in Everglades National Park.

The first objective on this one was to scout and shoot the mangroves, I wanted an area where I could flank the dancer on either side with a border of mangroves and have a visual path to guide your eye into the shot (which we placed the flower and dancer) to give it added depth and dimension. The background is made up of 5 different shots.

To set the direction of the dancer shot, we first had to pick which Orchid we wanted to shoot. There are literally hundreds of various species of Orchid plants. This one was picked for it’s vibrant color and fluid shapes. The flower & stem itself was shot separately in studio and created from 3 different plants to form the shape and composition we wanted. Where the flower bud meets Zedric was actually a blend of the bud and part of his body to start the premise of him being the flower.

We spent the day shooting Zedric in the studio. We had him jumping and hitting various dance poses which we then began doing low rez comps of the different dance positions while on set. This allowed us to create each piece that we needed to emulate the flower as close as possible. Custom made body suits and materials were used to give the color we wanted and also to create the illusion of flower petals. The center most prominent image of Zedric was styled in a more urban style to fit who Zedric really is.We opted for the more serious expression as it showed the concentration he exhibits when dancing. Smiles looked too posed and cheesy.

Again, composition of all elements were made by Michael Kerbow of Skeleton Studio, then finishing work such as final color pallet exploration, illustration and painterly effects were added by me.

Beach Sculpture Shot:

This image was created using a large wooden sculpture of letters that were placed into position on the beach then we sprayed the entire piece with spray glue and covered it with sand to make it look as if it had been sculpted entirely out of sand.    We then styled the beach and placed our children around it.   If you notice there is a multi ethnic mix of children used to signify the cultural melting pot that is Miami.