RAM Promaster ’23 Photoshoot

For the last several years I’ve been trying to move my work in the direction of automotive lifestyle, which blends my love of outdoor active lifestyle photography with commercial photography. I am already out in these amazing locations, shooting with talented athletes that live the lifestyle these car companies are selling with products like the Jeep Wrangler and Subaru Outback. I’d been setting up personal shoots whenever I had the opportunity with vehicles like the Toyota Four Runner and Ford F-150 Raptor.

In February, I received a call from a production company that last minute needed a stills photographer for a RAM Promaster shoot in Austin, TX, and said that my automotive lifestyle work had stood out to them, even though they couldn’t remember where they found my website. Regardless of where they found it, through Wonderful Machine or another photographer search tool, I was excited to not only work for this brand, but I currently lived in a RAM Promaster for the last two and half years! The client loved this tidbit and chatted at length with me about my experience.

It’s always an interesting, double-edged experience working as a stills photographer on a commercial video production set. On one hand, the production is massive and almost all of the difficult problems are taken care of, the talent and set design are perfect. On the other hand, I’m struggling with the video crew to get enough time to jump in and take my photos before they wrap the scene – and these big crews work FAST! The moment the DP says they’re finished the grips start tearing down lighting and moving everything before I get a chance to get my shots.

I also got to experience working from a Russian Arm Car (now called a U-Crane car [Ukraine] for where the factory was) for all of the driving sequences. Observing the U-Crane car driver, the Arm operator, the DP running the gimbal, and the subject car stunt driver all working seamlessly together using an unknown technical language was pure magic. The DP would say one word and all four separate parts of the machine would move in perfect unison.

It was amazing working with Trevor Hill and Daisy Cutter. Can’t wait to work with them again.

Mountain Hardwear Spring Campaign

Last fall, I was headed to City of Rocks, ID for a tourism shoot and was asked to produce and shoot a campaign for Mountain Hardwear. I was blown away by the landscapes in City of Rocks, which turned out to be an amazing location for the varied needs of the shoot. Friends connected me with the perfect talent for the project from Salt Lake City and all the pieces fell into place. It was great working with Chey Smith and Steven Frederick, and as always, Genevive went above and beyond as my assistant, PA, driver, and fire-runner.

The weather forecast for the day of the shoot wasn’t great. On our scout day, we had full sunshine, making everything look perfect. We had to deal with every type of weather for the shoot, clouds, wind, rain, hail, and bright sun. It actually ended up making getting different looks for the large amount of Mountain Hardwear clothes possible! The rain shots became some of my favorite from the day.

At one point, we were tearing down the tent and a violent rain squall came rushing in, almost taking the tent, Chey, and a lot of our gear with it! Luckily, Chey avoided being carried into the sky holding onto the tent, and we took shelter in our cars waiting for the worst of the storm to pass.

I have to share Genevive’s commitment to getting us a raging fire for the shots. The firewood we had was a little wet and was hesitant to start. We did get it started while Genevive went to another campsite to ask for some flames, but she came running back yelling, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” I’m glad I turned around and captured this!

Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Campaign

This fall I was asked to work on a project I was very excited to do: shoot a campaign for outdoor apparel brand Mountain Hardwear (click to see the photos on their site). The client selected Utah’s Uinta mountains for the location and used their ambassadors for the talent. This was a 4-day shoot, two days in the mountains and two in the studio. We shot in three different locations in the mountains over the two days, waking up at 3:30 to get the summit photos from Bald Mountain. The collaboration with Mountain Hardwear’s creative team was super fun, and I’m looking forward to more shoots with this great client!

Interesting Aside:
We were shooting in an alpine environment, especially on the first day of the shoot, and anything can happen at high elevation. We had to wake up at 3:30am to get to the summit of Bald Mountain before sunrise. When we were a couple hundred feet short of the summit, a storm squall rolled in, spitting lightning and hail, and we decided to call that part of the shoot for everyone’s safety before a frame was captured. But the squall passed after 15 minutes and before we’d gotten too far back down the trail, leaving us with amazing, tumultuous light. We watched as other squalls passed within a few miles of us, but we were in the clear for the rest of the day. Stormy weather can be a blessing in disguise because you get much more interesting photos than on a bluebird day.

Impromptu trip to Independence Pass

One of the benefits of living in a van is that when plans change you have everything you need with you. Last weekend, we were all set to go to a climbing area near Vail, CO, but when we were about halfway there our buddy had to bail. So we pulled off the side of the road and looked at our options. There was an area nearby that could entertain us for a day, then we decided to extend our trip for a few days and go check out Independence Pass. Genevive had never been, it’s one of my favorite areas in Colorado, and it was going to stay much cooler than lower elevations (It was in the upper 90’s in Denver, but it stayed in the 70’s in the Pass).

I call this Rock

Independence Pass is beautiful for a multitude of reasons, but on this trip, I was pulled towards the Grotto Day Use Area, aka the Ice Caves. I hadn’t checked out the cascades before, and I’m glad I did! It’s an incredible series of waterfalls. We got there right after sunset, so the light was fading quickly. I took advantage of the low light to do some long exposures of the moving water.

When I woke up the next morning the light was looking too good to not try to get more photos. I used a 6 stop ND filter to allow me to shoot with slow shutter speeds even in the bright morning light. I love both looks, but I think shooting slow shutter speeds in full daylight makes for really dramatic and interesting photos with the bright highlights that usually don’t exist with long exposure water shots.

On the way out after a few days of exploring several new-to-me climbing crags at Independence Pass, I saw this S-Curve with perfect light hitting it. I turned the van around and waited till a nice vehicle came around the corner.

I always love driving up through Independence Pass. It’s what I always dreamed Colorado would be growing up in Indiana.

A Ford F-150 Raptor in the Tetons

I started a road trip before all of Covid-19 craziness began in this country, planning on ice climbing in Cody, WY; skiing in Jackson Hole; skiing Snowbird & Alta; skiing in Tahoe; then making my way to Los Angeles for portfolio reviews with NYCFotoworks-LA. I was hoping to setup some shoots along the way, focusing on automotive lifestyle, but by the time I got to Jackson Wyoming, things had started to get weird. 

In a last ditch effort to try and make something happen, I saw a shiny white Ford F-150 Raptor at a trailhead and approached the owner. Ross was psyched to get photos of his truck, so we went searching for a snowy road. 

I had him drive his truck, spinning the wheels in the snow, past me closer than he thought was comfortable, but I kept telling him to get closer. Finally we got the right amount of throw in the perfect framing. 

I wanted to get a bit of a different angle, put on the 70-200 and had Ross do a few more laps. When he threw the backend into the embankment blasting through the snow, I knew we had the perfect shot. 

Camera: Canon EOS R
Lens: Sigma 35mm Art f1.8, Canon 16-35mm f4, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS v3

Utah Landscapes

I’ve been a bit behind on editing my personal work in the last year. So….here’s a post that’s about 15 months late. Utah Landscapes. I took a road trip with my girlfriend last November and December, living out of her Honda Element (Hotelement). We spent a bit in Indian Creek, Red Rocks (Las Vegas), Lime Kiln, St George, then made our way back to Colorado through the deserts of Utah.

Zion was incredibly impressive. I’m glad we got to view it from one of the highest viewpoints in the valley, Cable Mountaun overlooking Observation Point.

And then it snowed on our way to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was astoundingly beautiful!

Bryce Canyon National Park in the snowBryce Canyon National Park in the snow
Genevive sending Go Sparky Go! in Indian Creek, Utah. Bear's Ears National MonumentGenevive sending Go Sparky Go! in Bear’s Ears National Monument (Indian Creek)

Canyonlands National Park The Hotelement (Honda Element) parked in Moab, UtahOur home for two months (Genevive’s home for more than two years!) in my favorite campsite in Moab, Utah.

Living in a tiny space with another human really lets you know your compatibility! After driving around the west for a month we ended up going to Mexico for an additional month (also living out of the Element), and this proved to me that Genevive and I could work long term. This convinced me that we could live full-time in a van. And that’s the story of how the idea of Willard the Red Whale was born.

Lifestyle for Centura Health Hospitals

In March of last year, I got the opportunity to shoot a project for the Colorado and Kansas based hospital group, Centura Health. For the first project, I had to pull together a small team to work fast and light while shooting lifestyle of providers interacting with patients in two hospitals for internal HR materials. Later in the summer, I was to shoot several more lifestyle projects for Centura advertisements in 5 more hospitals. These projects included shooting in a T-10 trauma room during a simulation and getting taken up in a Flight for Life helicopter in Durango, CO. I loved working with the whole team. Looking forward to more!