Over the last year or so I’ve been working with an awesome new app called Future. They connect personal trainers with customers via a pretty brilliant phone and smart watch interface. Mostly I’ve been helping build up the back end of the app with a catalog of fitness videos that the trainers use to instruct the users with. At the end of this last year I finally got to work on the front end of things with a stills shoot focused on fitness and the personalities of the individual trainers.
The job called for clean, vibrant imagery that would inspire users and help them understand the trainers better. Future identified 3 looks per trainer, one in an outdoor setting, one in a gym and a standalone studio portrait. I wanted to give each look it’s own feel but still tie the styles together.
To do this, we scouted several locations in San Francisco, California that would offer hard angular shadows and shapes to break up the organic compositions. In the gym, with it’s constrained composition options and strong sense of angularity, I softened the lighting dramatically, giving the interior a prevailing sense of natural light. The portrait setup was a simple white backdrop with a 4 light setup that we put up during lunch time at Future’s HQ (I had too many yam fries and was rather uncomfortable during this part of the shoot).
The setup at the gym was a bit of a feat to engineer as the space was really cramped. I had to press myself into the opposite corner of the room in order to have enough space to shoot - but the backdrop was worth it. We hung a bunch of silk on the big window as the light outside was filtering through green trees and polluting the color of the indoor space. That made things a wee bit dark though, so we shot about 4800Ws worth of ProFoto light through the silk from various angles to get the shape we wanted. That big soft source was lovely, but we needed a little soft fill inside to wrap the side light around. Finally we added an “environmental” light hidden in the corner to give more dimension and to make it feel as if there were overhead interior lights that just happened to be ideally placed for the subject. I also found that a weight rack makes a good desktop for resting my tethered computer on.
I finished the job towards the end of the year and went into holiday hibernation shortly after delivering the images. Just as things we slowing down I received a really wonderful note from the client that helped carry me through to 2019 with a smile on my face.
“Josh and I are sitting around at the office right now, and talking about how much your latest photos have completely transformed our product! It seems subtle at first, but the quality (and diversity) of the photos really makes our trainers come to life. We’ve already integrated them into our homepage and our trainer profiles.
We expected it of course, but your work somehow keeps blowing us away! Thank you :)”
A few years back I made a conscious move to position myself as a director/videographer as much as a photographer. Turns out it was the right choice as I’ve been gradually seeing my photography contracts overrun with requests for video work.
I love the video medium as a creative space so much now. It’s much more involved and stressful than creating still photography, but the end product is just so rich and storied - even when it’s just a short commercial.
This last year I’ve been particularly slow on posting photo jobs because I’ve been completely buried in shooting and editing video. Not the worst thing for a freelancer :) However, I’ve been slow to share the video content and so this is my bid to start outing myself as the video producer I seem to be :)
Below is a piece of video that I recently finished for Osprey Packs. The behind the scenes of this shoot are also worth exploring below…
Alright, here’s some nerd talk about the gear we used on this job - then I’ll tell a little story about the experience.
-Canon 5Div (great 4K camera - however it broke mid shoot and we lost a ton of footage to shabby focus issues)
-Sony a6300 + Metabones Speedbooster + Canon lenses (fantastic 4K s-log footage - but this setup is a focusing nightmare and I’m no longer using it)
-Manfrotto video monopod (the thing with the ball joint at the bottom - love it! It’s also a poor man’s gimbal…in fact all “gimbal” shots in this piece are actually the monopod held upside down for weighted stability)
-Rhino Timelapse slider (beastly heavy, but beautiful for cinematic movement)
-Røde VideoPro Shotgun mics
-Lite Pro Gear Feather Crane (just the greatest invention for backcountry production work ever)
On to the shoot…
Travel from San Francisco, CA to Denver, CO was breezy and I arrived in the mile high city to beautiful warm sunny skies. The crew had already been there for a day (and night) and met me at the train in true America hungover spirit…I saved my complaints about having had such an early morning flight…
This shoot was probably one of the easiest backcountry accesses I’ve ever experienced. After driving the producer’s new TRD Tacoma up some of the gnarliest terrain I’ve ever seen a vehicle on, we only had to trudge our gear a couple miles in/up the mountains. However, conditions turned on us halfway through (as they are wont to do in high altitudes) and we found ourselves the next morning under a wind-crushed tent.
The winds continued to pick up throughout the rest of our shoot, making camera stabilization increasingly challenging (even our low-to-the-ground sliders were affected!) so we did our best to find ways to make the conditions work for us. Ultimately it played out well for the story, making the mountain as surly and tough as the copy we eventually recorded for the VO.
One of my favorite moments in the shoot was getting up at 4am with Alonzo to shoot the scene where he’s waking up to dawn in his 1-person bivy. The light and wind played so well together that morning that it felt like I was photographing a dream. I know that sounds overly poetic, but seriously, it was magical. The moose that walked through our camp at sunset one day was also not too shabby.
I’m so grateful that my career has steered me towards this kind of work. The opportunity to spend time in places like this, with people like these, making work like this is definitely not something I take for granted.
I’m excited to share that I recently got to shoot Osprey Packs new Levity/Lumina Ultralight backpacking campaign! The packs are awesomely featured while still coming in at an obscenely low weight - but most interesting to me is getting to tell an ultralight hiking story.
Hiking is this huge outdoor market that I’m fortunate enough to get to work in a lot - but as I shoot more and more of these products, it becomes more and more of a challenge to concept a lifestyle story that’s unique enough to stand out while still being on-brand for the client. Ultimately this story telling is the center of my work and where I really rest my pride as an artist (lighting, composition and styling aside). Ultralight hiking, as a sort of wild fringe of the hiking world is a fantastic subject to play with. The characters of ultralight culture are deliberately unique and the personal touch they bring to the sport (and it is more of a sport in my mind than traditional hiking) make it all that much more fun to photograph.
I knew when I was presented with the job that I wanted to find a landscape totally unlike anything I’d seen for a hiking story and I managed to convince the minds at Osprey that the Sonoma Coast would yield the vibe they wanted. I’ve spent quite a bit of time out there so I have a strong working knowledge of the possible locations and how to use them in the highly variable weather that permeates the area (I wouldn’t suggest someone less experienced with the location trying to shoot there…it’s a total crap-shoot unless you’re familiar with the patterns of fog, rain, wind, and glorious California sunshine). Even knowing the area well though, I was still pleasantly blown away by how much the landscape can change there in a span of only a few hundred feet.
Art direction was critical on this story for the client, so I couldn’t just pull any model for the shoot - there had to be a least one, truly core ultra-lighter in the mix. Enter Nick; of all my friends, he’s the only one who’s ever showed the remotest interest in my aberrant desire to do a 7-day through-hike with nothing but a bed roll and a trout rod - he was perfect for this as both model and consultant. He helped immensely in maintaining authenticity in the prop styling. I also wanted to represent a younger and femaler demographic in the shoot and was thrilled to have Ellen recommended to the casting. She’s a total savage and rose to the role brilliantly despite being a cyclist long before being a hiker/camper (keep your eyes out for an awesome mountain bike lifestyle project I’ll be shooting with her in the next couple weeks).
For the look of this shoot I wanted to make something that felt more intimate and put the audience in an almost POV experience. There’s a certain feel that 35mm frame with a 50mm lens imparts - somewhere between dreamy nostalgia and crisp documentary reality…so I decided to try to shoot the entire project with a 50mm prime (except for a few images that required a grander landscape feel, for which I reached for something wider). The final look feels like it could have been shot from the hip by a third, unseen member of the trip, which puts the viewer in a sense of ownership over the images. I love the look for this sort of aspirational, adventure lifestyle story.
There was a point during the shoot (which despite being for the Summer market, was shot in the Winter in Northern California…brrr…) where I felt like everything I’d envisioned for the story began to really line up. I had Nick setting up his personal ultralight camera system and photographing him and Ellen running half naked into the ocean (again…Winter!). It felt like everything I’d ever wanted out of a lifestyle shoot. It felt like the culmination of my entire career - like I’d finally achieved the vision of my work I’d always desired.
Then I got back to the studio to download the images…and the card for that section of the shoot corrupted! God, even typing that now months later, it still makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. Sigh. I sent the card off to multiple recovery labs but it was a total loss. I may never recover from the wound of loosing those images.
Fortunately, the rest of the shoot was more than enough for the client needs and I’m thrilled to see the work in circulation now that the pack has been released. Check it out at Osprey.com!