For years I worked exclusively as a commercial photographer because…
Editorial work stresses me the hell out.
I’m a photographer that believes in “making” images, not “taking” them. So whenever I’m first documenting a story in real-time (ie. “Taking” photographs) I often feel a little sick to my stomach. Everything is moving so fast and so randomly that I can’t adequately process all the minutiae, the detail, emotion, light, etc that makes a good image. Dread sinks in and despite nearly 15 years in this profession, I slide into the pit of imposter syndrome, What if I miss the shot?! What if I’m the wrong person for this job?!
But then there’s this moment, this glimmer of inspiration, and the feeling lifts. I’m suddenly in it, the flow state where thirst and hunger subside and I start to see as the camera sees, the overlap of contrast zones, the subtext of my POV, the emotion that’s about to rise in my subjects.
There is still randomness, but now I’m one step ahead of it - now it’s mine to play with. The unexpected becomes magical and my work becomes an exploration of that.
The images I’m sharing here are from a commission that I was given by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a story about Tres Sabores Winery in Napa, CA. The winery is well known for using environmental controls for pest management - which in this case (you may have guessed) means birds.
My job was to document the harvest and the integration of bird boxes throughout the vineyard while a colleague (Ryan Bourbor) who specializes in bird photography worked the bird imagery.
I love how this shoot turned out - the haze of a nearby fire gave the sunlight a filmy look, the harvest that day was rich and juicy, my choice to opt for wider lenses gave the shoot a sort of special intimacy, and Julie Johnson (the proprietor) was full of life and joy.
I started the day at this shoot stressed out like I normally do on assignment - and I ended, as I normally do, excited about what I’d ultimately been able to make.
Stressful editorial shoots like this stick with me (maybe in part because of the trauma) and actually do a lot to inform the direction of how I make images from scratch (editorial or commercial). I have a mental catalog of tiny details that have emerged from the randomness and become the building blocks of all future work. If you could hear my mind the night before a big shoot, you might think I was a madman.
When I started my career I thought that the two worlds (editorial and commercial) were miles apart - but now I see them as two sides of the same coin. Now, even when I’m making imagery and controlling every aspect of camera, light, subject, and scene, I like to let a little randomness sneak in - just to see what magic is hiding around the corner.
THE SECRET LIFE of Treasure Island
PHOTO & VIDEO AD CAMPAIGN for Treasure Island Development Group
“…it was all worth it to hear the constant stream of enthusiasm coming from the client monitors…”
If you’ve ever taken the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland, then you’ve passed over Treasure Island. Technically you’d have driven through (a tunnel in) Yerba Buena Island, a natural cone of rock jutting up from the center of the bay, to which Treasure Island was attached in the 1930s.
Treasure Island has been many things over its manmade life, World Fair, Airport, Naval base, and most recently residential space. Yet, it’s arguably been ignored as part of the Bay Area’s landscape as 1000s of commuters speed past it between SF and the East Bay.
It’s now in the midst of a massive overhaul and facelift to modernize its infrastructure, improve housing, and update its parks and open spaces. When completed it’s likely to become one of the most desirable neighborhoods in San Francisco (if I do say so, myself).
“…we flexed all that production muscle…”
With the history and future of Treasure Island in mind, I was quite flattered to win the job to create a photo & video campaign promoting the lifestyle of (treasure) island life.
Creating a lifestyle campaign for an island that was actively under construction was the first hurdle. Other than a small corner of the island and half of the cove that divides it from Yerba Buena Island, nothing was ready for photography…
“…I challenge you to tell me which images were shot during pouring rain and which were shot with real sunshine 😎.”
Our team scouted the Bay Area for locations that looked and felt (from certain angles) like the proposed development on the island. It took a lot of work, but we succeeded eventually, though I won’t tell you where they were for fear of ruining the illusion ;)
The shot list was also HUGE, and very specific, which, in addition to the constraints of shooting at locations that allowed only for very specific angles meant that every shot had to be planned in very specific detail.
All this to say that, despite the free and loose feeling of this campaign, the production was a rolling behemoth of RVs filled with producers, clients, models, wardrobe, props, stylists, lights, cameras, film crew, a shooting boat, electric platform bike, security, and of course, me.
Having this flotilla of production to move around was at first a huge headache (have you ever tried to park in San Francisco?!), but when the weather turned ugly on us in the days before the shoot, we acknowledged, with grace, the latitude it ultimately provided us with.
As the weather shifted, we flexed all that production muscle to chase windows of clear sky, and to create pockets of shelter and simulated sunlight amidst the squalls. Seriously, I challenge you to tell me which images were shot during pouring rain and which were shot with real sunshine 😎.
This was honestly the largest production I’ve ever had the pleasure to work on. Despite my whinging about the cumbersome size, I never felt the weight of any of it because of the incredible team that worked tirelessly behind the scenes.
It took a lot of labor to make this thing work, but it was all worth it to hear the constant stream of enthusiasm coming from the client monitors from behind the camera as we marched through the shot list.
My most enormous thanks to everyone involved.
Director & Photographer: Kaare Iverson / Studio Iverson
Client: Treasure Island Development Group
Agency: Era Co
Production: Daniel Dobers Productions
Video: Coldwater Collective
Stylist: Lisa Moir
H&M: Sarah Ashton
Digital Tech: AG Digital Capture Solutions
Photo Assistant: Zachary Paul Raphael Gonzales
Razor Sharp Bivalves
PHOTOGRAPHING PRO CLIMBER Kevin Jorgeson
“…a sport that puts climbers high above a safe height with no ropes and a high chance of falling.”
When I moved to Sonoma County, CA some 8 years ago, I felt a little like I was unplugging from my roots in the outdoor adventure space. But I quickly discovered that this county is home to some of the most wild and visionary adventure athletes I’ve ever known. It was here that I finally found a partner to climb El Cap with, rode my first bike-camping tour, and met pro-climber Kevin Jorgeson.
Figuring out adventure sporting in Sonoma County took me some time - in part because it requires vision, imagination, and research to find the goodies.
This is still a land of firsts for many adventure sports and Kevin, who is known for his visionary pursuit of highball bouldering (a sport that puts climbers high above a safe height with no ropes and a high chance of falling), invited me along to photograph a new project far out on the rugged Sonoma Coast that he’d been developing.
“…local weather patterns that can generate deadly sneaker waves.”
We arrived at a massive boulder, somewhat bigger than my house, which had shorn free from the adjacent coastal cliff and tumbled down the hill. The route he’s spotted, now named Full Circle, starts in the intertidal zone-meaning that the bottom half of the route is often wet, and a successful climb requires knowledge not only of tide charts, but also of local weather patterns that can generate deadly sneaker waves.
I joined Kevin on a scouting mission to explore the project and assess ocean conditions. While he made a few attempts on the problem with a rope to secure him from falls, I calculated sun angles over the coming months to try to co-ordinate the best possible time to photograph the towering boulder.
The project wouldn’t be considered complete until he made a true “send”, which in this case meant ditching the rope and harness and facing a fall of up to 30’ onto jagged rocks and razor-sharp mussels. So we would certainly be returning when conditions were favorable.
“…’send’, which in this case meant ditching the rope and harness and facing a fall of up to 30’ onto jagged rocks and razor-sharp mussels.”
Finally, a day arrived when Kevin felt the conditions were right (and the sunlight was raking across the stone, just so).
With an athletic shoot like this where the danger is SO HIGH, there’s typically just one opportunity to get “the shot”. I knew though that I wanted to get both a horizontal and vertical composition at the same peak moment of action.
To do this I synced 2 cameras to the same shutter: one on a tripod composed for the horizontal image, and the other in my hands for the vertical so that I could roam around a little. Every time I pressed the shutter on my handheld camera, the second camera on the tripod took a picture at the same time.
I love the little spotter in the yellow jacket far below, fruitlessly holding their hands up - as though there’s any hope that they could help should Kevin fall.
What a great sport :)