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!