Keep Calm and Carry On

Being based in San Francisco allows me the opportunity to work with a lot of great tech companies.  I love this field work because it’s always creative, always new, and always well directed.

One of my regular clients is the excellent meditation app  I’ve been able to shoot everything from product to portraiture for them - and I thought that spread was about as wide a gamut as I could ever hope for in a client.  Until the reached out to me with an absolute dream job that I could have never imagined coming from the tech industry: Landscapes!

The in-app backgrounds for Calm are peaceful looping scenes of nature.  I use the app and I have my favorites…or at least I had my favorites, until I was given the chance to create new, exclusive landscape scenes for the entire user base to interact with.

Last Summer, Calm hired me to scout and shoot new background videos under the headings of, “Peaceful River” “Waterfall” “Rain on Leaves” and “Field/Meadow”.  All of the videos had to crop perfectly for 16:9 for desktops and conversely 9:16 for mobile - all from from 1 shot (not an easy composition range to manage!).  The scenes also had to be shot in perfect daylight conditions, and (without the camera moving) perfect “dusk” light conditions for Apple iOS’ night mode.  And, of course, they had to loop perfectly with whatever movement was occurring in view.  It was arguably a technical nightmare to execute on…but I thrive on this kind of thing - I couldn’t have been happier :)

Getting a landscape angle to work in both lighting scenarios was surprisingly challenging.  A whole set of criteria had to be met with regards to orientation of features, time of moon-rise, and clarity of evening skies.  Camera choice was no gimme either, but fortunately RED had just released its new Gemini sensor which meant that I could deliver the highest quality image in both peak light and near perfect dark.  Of course, this meant that I had a lot of weight to shlep into the backcountry with me - but hell, I was going to be spending hours with a beautiful view, alone.

This assignment ended up taking me from a lavender farm in Sonoma County, California, up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains around Tahoe, CA and back down to my backyard where I designed and built an outdoor “rain studio”.  I was challenged, sunburned, un-showered for days, and at absolute peace with myself for the entire week.  It was a beautiful experience that makes me think perhaps should start having me lead landscape workshops for their users!

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