I was asked recently about the first camera I owned and it made me think about the journey to where I am today.
Here are the cameras I have owned/operated over the last 30 years or so. Enjoy!
Kellog’s 110 film keychain camera maybe 6 box tops. 1987?
Kodak single use 35mm cameras – 90’s
Nikon FM SLR 35mm film camera with 50mm lens – 95-96
Canon 35mm film water proof Sure Shot camera – 96 on (purchase with Marlboro miles!)
Pentax ZX-50 SLR 35mm film camera – 96-07 This was the camera I used throughout college and on.
Nikon Coolpix p7000 digital camera – 04-on First digital camera, but I had no clue on how to store, process, etc.
Canon Rebel digital camera – 06 First used DSLR, still no clue how to process, organize, etc. and derailed shutter within the first few months in my procession!
Canon 20d dslr – 07-12 This camera also marked the time when I bought Michael Clark’s “A Professional Photographer’s Workflow” ebook. Or as I call it, “The Bible of digital photography management.” Do yourself a favor and buy this book.
Do you have a desire to give back?
Last summer I bumped into Nikki McGee, founder of EMG, Elevated Mountain Guides, while shooting an event in Salt Lake City. I quickly learned that she and a few others were headed to Peru in November to teach a wilderness medicine course at a school in Huaraz. I told her I would love to help.
Don’t get me wrong, photographing action and adventure is a blast, but recently I’ve been looking for ways to get involved with organizations that give back to the outdoor community and working with EMG fit that bill. And beside, our passions go beyond the outdoor activities we participate in. Right?… Or maybe it’s just my restlessness that has me constantly on the move.
So a few emails and phone calls later I was on a plane to Lima and then a bus to Huaraz. This project was a departure from the norm. Instead of focusing on an objective like a summit, climb, trail, etc., and creating shiny picture-perfect images, I had the opportunity to slow down and absorb things as they came. Fear and self doubt were ever present as I opened up to others and developed relationships, but as you probably already know, this world is filled with amazing people. So by the end of our short time there I’d gotten to know the vibrant outdoor community of Huaraz, made several new friends, and realized how lucky we all are to live in this stunning world we call home. The chifa, ceviche, lomo saltado, mountains, lakes, taxis, car horns, rooster calls, and markets left a lasting impression. And it was beautiful. So much so that I’m headed back with my entire family this June.
Elevated Mountain Guides (https://www.elevatedmountainguides.org) , EMG, is a nonprofit helping underserved communities access the outdoors.
It began as gathering and delivering used climbing gear to the technical institute in Huaraz and has now blossomed into teaching wilderness medicine in South America and developing youth after-school-outdoor programs in the United States.
My task was to come back with both still and motion pictures. The still images will be used for websites, printed brochures, social media, and to spread their message. The motion clips are used as the back drop to a voice-over taken from a few interviews conducted over the last four months.
Click the video below to watch this six minute piece, which is part profile, part event documentation, and 100% gorilla-style, going fast and light.
*Indoor climbing footage courtesy of Nicole Passeri.
Portrait : a painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.
“Louis, you shoot portraits?” It was late October and I was looking for an assistant to help with an upcoming editorial portrait shoot. My prospective candidate – a talented portrait and wedding photographer – was serious when he asked me the above question. In fact, it’s not the first time someone has been surprised that I photograph things other than adventure/action sequences.
Barron’s Magazine, November 27, 2017. Photos.
After receiving the request to create an environmental portrait of Daniel Chace I paid a visit to his office. I scoped different spots then noted what lighting equipment would be necessary. Next I visited the Bonneville Shoreline Trail located only two blocks from the office and scouted the possibilities. The direction given was to focus on an outside look, but if weather forced us inside the office would be our back up. The day arrived with cloud covered skies, but no precipitation. Just to be safe we set up a lighting rig in a conference room before meeting Dan and heading up to the trail. Once outside we spoke about children, skiing, running, investing and how life has a way of unfolding. We shot on the trail and near the Museum of Natural History then returned to the office with time to spare. So we shot there too.
Backcountry Magazine, December 2017. Photos and Words.
McKenna Peterson had been in my thoughts frequently this past summer. She was in the middle of her first season skippering a fishing boat off the Alaska coast when I reached out. I was hoping she could share some insights on fishing, backcountry skiing, being an professional athlete, her family and the lose of her father to an avalanche. Luckily, she said yes and the result is a piece titled, “Eyes Wide Open.”
Backcountry Magazine, November 2017. Photos.
Local writer Erme Catino reached out last ski season to see if I could help create photos for his piece on Luke Hinz’s attempt to ski all the lines listed in the Wasatch’s steep skiing guide, “The Chuting Gallery”. Luke was trying to tick all of them in one season while raising funds and awareness for local nonprofits. We caught up to Luke one cloudy morning in April as he hiked and skied the runs on Mount Baldy.
Outside, December 18, 2017. Photos.
In response to the question, “Louis, you shoot portraits?”, I chuckled then shared the details of the shoot.
We met Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski at a nature park that set the city skyline as the background. For forty minutes we chatted with the mayor and snapped away… You can see the article by Jimmy Tobias here.
Someone once told me that lifestyle photography can be some of the most difficult to pull off and I happen to agree.
In July I received an email from Dan Holz, the photo editor at Osprey, asking if I could create new images of their Tropos and Talia packs in an urban setting. Street cars, city streets, and coffee shops? Find a male and female to play the part? And have it done in a week? – Sure thing! I replied and then felt my stomach drop.
Turned out I have a friend who owns a coffee house located not far from a streetcar stop in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Check. The week prior to the email, local skier/marketing guru Rob Aseltine happened to reach out asking to shoot some lifestyle images to add to his portfolio. Check. And Rob told me his friend, an Osprey ambassador and endurance athlete, Kelly Halpin was coming to town in a few days and was totally down. Check, and check! That was hard. Next up was “The Plan”.
My approach to lifestyle is fairly simple. Create a reason for the people to be where they are or make it look like they are actually doing what they are doing and hope that everything works out. The basic storyline was two people commuting to a work meeting/or to remotely work at Sugar House Coffee. I reasoned that if we gave everyone a purpose we just might find that quiet, and believable moment. Luckily, both Kelly and Rob had actually done that exact thing at Sugar House Coffee so it wasn’t such a stretch… All I had to do was push a button.
Over the last 6 years I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Osprey Packs. In addition to making quality products, their team is filled with incredibly talented, patient, and giving people who keep offering me a place to expand and explore. Here are a few selects from that day.
Since November I’ve shot more than 30,000 frames of skiing and snowboarding. Of the countless days only three were paid and the rest were done on speculation. This season a dozen images made in previous years were published in magazines and online, half a dozen were used in advertising campaigns, and the rest remain on a hard drive or two… After all the early mornings, late evenings, travel, sleeping on floors, ingesting cheap food, and bad coffee you’re probably wondering – Why shoot skiing and snowboarding?
The simple answer is the snow sports industry, brands, and corresponding magazines need new imagery each and every season depicting the latest gear, destinations, and characters. Why do they need new imagery each season depicting the latest? To help drive their sales, push profits up, pay employees, contribute to the economy, etc. The more interesting question is the What For? or what’s the reason I keep doing this?
I’ve focused on shooting snow for the past decade. The first time money was involved came six years ago when I was given the opportunity to work with a brand and their ambassadors (the athletes totally saved me). Since then it’s been a roller coaster ride. Rising high by landing magazine covers, taking on editorial assignments, traveling with a production company, and being hired to create the next season’s print campaign for other brands. Then dropping low by going a full year without a single ski image published, no assignments given, and not one inquiry from a commercial client. In spite of this and operating at a loss each season I can’t seem to help myself from going out there to create more.
Twelve years ago when I chose to cart a camera along my goal was NOT to replicate the polished and predictable images we had been inundated with. I set out to capture a more aspirational side of traveling through snow covered mountains, to come home with something you could see yourself participating in, and ultimately, share an experience that relates and resonates a quiet stillness with us all.
Have I done that?.. Not exactly. That’s why I keep at it year after year.
There was a three to four-year period in my life where I spent about 30 hours a week on a bike. In addition to racing at the amateur level I worked and went to school full time. I didn’t do well at any of it so eventually I eased back from the wheels and stopped shaving my legs.
A few weeks ago Osprey Packs called and asked if I would be able to create some new imagery with two of their enduro mountain bike ambassadors, Syd Schulz and Macky Franklin. As luck would have it Syd and Macky were heading through the Wasatch on their way to a race in Sun Valley. So I offered them our spare bedroom and omelets for breakfast and they were keen.
We planned for two rides. One afternoon would be the Crest Trail, a Wasatch classic, and the second would be a few laps riding lifts at Deer Valley Resort. This would be ample time to make the images needed.
I’ve been fortunate to meet through life and work people who are talented and psyched to be doing what they love. It’s worth noting that yes, they are paid to participate in their sport, but that’s only part of the picture. As with most the athletes I know the “doing of the sport” is only half of their job. Syd and Macky are no exception and are not afraid to work. As we waited for afternoon to arrive and better light Syd and Macky were busy making calls, writing blog posts, building newsletters, making travel arrangements, and sitting down with local sponsors before we finally drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon and began pedaling at 5PM.
The Crest Trail runs at high elevations and until recently had snow drifts covering large sections. Our timing was near perfect as we ran into only a couple of snow patches and the rest of the trail was free and flowy. Syd and Macky went from work mode into full-on fun mode. 25 miles and about 1,000 feet of climbing later we were enjoying burritos at the house. Smiles all around.
Before now I’ve never really given much thought to how things may have turned out had I continued riding my bike like a fiend, but now that I have I’m sure I wouldn’t get to share as many cool experiences with great people doing amazing things in wild and wide open spaces.One more note on the work ethic of athletes. The day after the Crest ride we hit the trails at Deer Valley for a few hot laps before I set Syd and Macky free to ride at their own pace for an hour or so. They had a videographer to meet that afternoon and were scheduled to shoot some clips for an upcoming edit… Obviously it’s never ending.
Today ten things went wrong and everything else went right. It was a fantastic day!
This was the journal entry for my fourth day at the Meadow Lodge – a backcountry hut located in the Esplanade Range of British Columbia. 14 of us were half way through our self-guided week and I was thinking about the nuances of winter backcountry travel. Snow is amazing in the fact that by its natural tendency it wants to stay put. And at the same time, it’s filled with unlimited variables, many which can lead to instabilities and movement.
I believe the same can be said about business. How many things went wrong today at work? What went right? Navigating the business side of things is terrifying to me when I try to keep all the variables in view at once. With so many things that could go wrong it’s hard to venture out. But when you break it down and focus on the fundamentals it becomes a bit more manageable. For me it comes down to risk versus reward. What is the investment? What are the chances of return and at what level? What happens if there is no return? And can I cover the loss?
That day in the Esplanades I created a Wasatch-style skin track (f%&$@#!* steep) for no reason, pushed a line too far for comfort, didn’t bring enough food, forgot to reapply sunscreen, etc. The rights of the day; our group studied maps for safer passages, observed the terrain for recent activity, kept tabs on the weather, dug pits in the snow, communicated non-stop, drank plenty of water, we listened to each other, laughed often, had meaningful conversations, bonded, and skied powder all day long. Like I said, it was a fantastic day.
In my experience learning from what didn’t work or went wrong allows for growth, but staying focused on the positives and what went right is the key to forward momentum.
This winter season has been a productive one filled with personal growth. We had ice climbing, skiing, writing, exploring, and I met a ton of new people filled with incredible energy. If you have ten minutes to burn follow this link to highlights from the last six months. As the season transitions I’m looking forward to creating new climbing, lifestyle, portrait, and running imagery as well as heading to Denali to document a ski expedition. So far it looks to be another busy season, but there’s room for more. Get a hold if me if you have any projects we could team up for.
“Louie, you should try and make it look like you’re actually doing the activity. If it’s camping make it look like you’re actually camping, if you’re running make it look like you’re really running…” Five years ago I received this advice from a friend who had been working in the outdoor industry for nearly 30 years. I believe he was talking about authenticity and not suggesting my work was too staged, unbelievable, and ultimately, shallow… err, at least I hope he wasn’t.
Fast forward to July 2016. The Scarpa North America team had hatched a plan to create new backpacking imagery for their 2017 season. Being big proponents of authenticity the plan was basic – go backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and make photos of people using their products in the field.
Fully loaded for a night out under the stars five of us set out for the 9-mile hike. We wandered through scenic meadows and vibrant forests before being deposited into Stough Creeks Basin – a lake-filled canyon hovering near tree line with the summits of Atlantic Peak and Roaring Fork Mountain towering along the continental divide above. Stough’s was a fantastic mountain setting that we called home for a day and a half and also the perfect place to, “make it look like we were actually backpacking…”