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…”
Well it has once again been a while since my last update from the road… So what have we been up to? Summer came and went by in a flash and it was probably the busiest summer I’ve had in 20 years. Since my last post we have been nonstop with one project after another. The last two months alone I’ve crisscrossed the country from corner to corner multiple times crossing the Mississippi 12 times for various projects. We’ve been to Arizona, California, Maine, North Carolina, Jamaica, Florida twice and back to Oregon on projects for Huffy Bikes, Merck Pharmacueticals, Miami Cancer Institute, Vista Print, High West Whiskey and Alaska Brewing. Most of these projects are still in post production or not yet released to the public so I can’t show them yet, but I’ll post them as soon as I am allowed.
It is hard to believe but it has been a full year since we first left on our journey across the country. It has been a whirlwind trip so far and we have no plans to stop for the foreseeable future. To date we have logged close to 16,000 driving miles and I’ve flown well over 30,000 miles on various jobs that happened over the last year as well. See our Google MyMap to see where we have been.
It’s been the experience of a lifetime…. we have been to some amazing places and met some really great people along the way not to mention shooting a zillion photos. I have to thank my wife for pushing me to do this as if it weren’t for her persistence we never would have left on this trip and the opportunities and projects that have come from it probably never would have happened. My American Worker Project took off with a bang and continues to garner great exposure. Back in July we shot hot air ballooning in Sedona Arizona and most recently I shot in the Firestone Walker Brewery in their wooden barrel aging plant. A few new proposed shoots to continue the project include potential shoots with the US Coastguard training at Cape Disappointment in Washington and also shooting with the brave men and women who fight the wild fires out that have been raging throughout California this summer. We have also been shooting a ton of travel related subjects featuring the many amazing locations we have had the pleasure of visiting.
Some of the best and most epic locations we had the pleasure of visiting included Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and Yosemite National Park. We took advantage of all these locations for the High West Whiskey project which is currently in post production and creative stages with the ad agency. I am very excited about the images we have created here and can’t wait to share them with you. For now these teasers from my Instagram will have to do.
As we steam headlong into fall things are continuing to look good as we are being considered for assignments and image uses for various projects for Chase Bank, STP, Fidelity Investments, and Orvis Fishing. Fingers and toes crossed on these as they look to be some really cool projects!
Stay tuned for future adventures as our fall calendar is packed with travel to Washington, up into BC Canada, (around Vancouver up near Whistler) and returning back down through Oregon… With later plans taking us back into California, Utah and Colorado over the winter.
I had the pleasure recently to travel back to Jamaica on an assignment for Vista Print. I always love going to Jamaica. The people there are always so nice. We’ve spent many a month down there traveling to all corners of the map on assignments for Superclubs Resorts, Jamaica Tourism and the like….
This particular assignment was for Vista Print. We were tasked with the mission to go to their international call center and photograph some of their most valued employees for a new customer service oriented campaign. These are the people that man their call centers and are responsible for sales and customer relations and support. Having a call center based in Jamaica is a bit out of the norm these days as most are hosted out of India. The folks that work at this particular call center are a special bunch. They all seem to genuinely love their jobs and it shows in the way they treat their customers. Customer service is job one but it goes beyond that. They have been known to develop ongoing relationships that go beyond what you would expect of even the best customer service employees. One of these fine ladies actually had someone bring her cookies when she was taking a vacation to Jamaica with her family. She tracked her down took time out of her vacation and brought her cookies! Safe to say they are very likeable.
Because of that, and the fact that they provide a quality product a very competitive prices, Vista Print enjoys a large percentage of repeat and loyal customers. The picture shown above is one of the many people we had the privilege of meeting and photographing. Her name is Saju. She had an amazing energy and was so pleased to be a star for a day for us.
As I recently posted, I have begun my new series, The American Worker Project which will be an ongoing project as we travel around the country, documenting the American Worker. I chose to start this adventure and visual assignment in my home town in Belgrade Maine. As many of you know I grew up in Maine and it is where we spend the better portion of each summer for the last 14 years when not off on assignment somewhere.
I figure what better place to start than the area you know best. I chose Hammond Lumber Company because it is a classic example of a good old fashioned family business with its heart and soul wrapped firmly in the people that work there. That and it helps that it helps that helps I am also good friends from back in our childhood days with one of the principles of the company.
Hammond Lumber is a company that was started back in the early 50’s by Skip Hammond with only $50 and a dream. It has been a staple in the town and now around the entire state of Maine ever since. For over 60 years they have grown from a small mill with 3 employees including Skip himself to a large company with 13 stores and counting with many many loyal employees, many of whom have worked there for 20 – 30 years or more. Hammond Lumber is one of those special kind of businesses where you know you are much more to them than just a number. They offer personal service that is rare these days, all at a fair price.
I’d like to thank Mike Hammond and the other great folks at Hammond for giving me cart blanche and basically unrestricted access to film in their main saw mill. Over the coarse of 3 days we shot a ton of video footage and stills of their hard working employees.
Here are just a few images from the shoot. Click here or on any of the images to see a larger gallery of images posted to my website.
Well at long last after hunkering down over the holidays we are able to post the first of many shoots to come for my new ongoing project called “The American Worker Project”. As we are traveling around the country we are getting the opportunity to meet and shoot all sorts of new people and things. The American Worker Project is a way to visually feature and document (both on video and stills) some of the wonderful people we are meeting along our journey. So far we have had the great pleasure to shoot in a lumber yard in Maine, lobster fishermen on a lobster boat, a man who hand makes wooden boats and also carves wooden boat models, an old friend and metal roof man, the owner of the oldest surf shop in New England, Amish dairy farmers, a train engineer and much more. Here are a few images of the first of many to come. Stay tuned….
UPDATE: Added more shots from new shoots, see below…
The earlybird catches the wake skater! Got up early on this morning to shoot wake skaters at Camp Modin. Nothing like waking up at 4:15 and on the water at 5:00 am on a crisp 52 degree summer morning in Maine. These kids braved the cold and never once complained. When it’s chilly like that the water actually seems really warm!
Here is a new personal work project I’ve been working on shooting drag racers.
Like most guys, I have always liked going to the races. The only thing better than going to the races as a spectator is getting credentials to shoot them. I have had the good fortune to shoot many races over the years. From Formula One, to assignments from Dodge to shoot the Nascar races at Homestead Motor Speedway & Daytona, to projects for Bloomberg Markets shooting events where the a private luxury car club rents an airstrip for the day to race a multitude of ultra high end supercars at speeds of well over 200 mph.
Of all that I have shot, nothing trumps the thrill of drag racing. The sound of the engines roaring as the cars speed down the track. The smell and sight of the smoke of the burning rubber as they do their burn outs. It is thrilling. These guys are fearless. From the souped up street cars rocking 800 horsepower knocking out 10 second 1/4 miles, to the top fueled dragsters with up to almost 8,000 horsepower that go from 0 to over 300 mph in less than 4 seconds. Many equate it to the forces you’d feel taking off in the space shuttle as it puts 5 to 6 times the G forces on you as you rocket down the race track. They are the fastest accelerating land vehicles on the planet.
I love getting out and shooting all this. As you kneel down next to them when they do their burnouts you can feel the sound waves pounding you like someone beating you repeatedly really fast with large heavy pillows. It shakes the ground under you and were it not for the ear muffs, would permanently damage your hearing. It’s unnerving and super exciting all at the same time. These are just a few images from part one of an at least 3 part series of shoots. We have both still and video shoots planned at the Top Fuel NHRA races in Charlotte Motor Speedway in March and the IHRA Nitro drag series in April here in West Palm.
To see more of my work go to the Speed Racer section on my site @ http://www.petebarrett.com/Personal-Work/Speed-Racer/1 or follow me on Instagram @PeteBarrettPhoto and stay tuned for more exciting stuff in the coming months!