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 calm.com. 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 Calm.com should start having me lead landscape workshops for their users!
Over the course of my photography career I’ve ended up a a little more multidisciplinary than I’d planned. Falling into film production and now directing was never something I expected - though I love it and it consumes me now. The same could be said for my secret side project, Sonoma Bottle, or of helping to shape the visual aesthetic of tech brands like Pebble.com, Future.fit, or Calm.com.
Really I came into the world of content production hoping to be something between Jimmy Chin and Richard Avedon - I’ve always been pulled in these two different directions and that space between the two is where I’ve defined my own style.
For the last few years I’ve been receiving some recognition for the “Avedon” side of things (I don’t mean to sound so inflated as to actually compare myself to Avedon - it’s just a signpost to the portrait end of my work).
At the end of April this year I was offered the opportunity to escape the deluge of Winter rains in Northern California for a 10 day shoot in Patagonia. I knew I’d be missing a couple episodes of Game of Thrones since I wouldn’t be able to stream my HBO Go across the equator…but it seemed like a worthwhile sacrifice :)
Osprey packs had us on a secret mission for a new pack line they’re launching (shh) and I’d been recruited to direct a documentary style film for it. Obviously I can’t talk much about that project right now as it’s still in the editing suite, but I’ll be excited to share that when it drops (and hopefully slays at the film festival circuit).
Patagonia though, let’s talk about that. I have to admit that the core-climber in me was a bit sour at the idea of getting that close to Torres Del Paine and having to work rather than rage in the Alpine. But I soon overcame my limited perspective on what Patagonia is - as the place charmed the pants off me within the first second of landing there. “It’s more of an idea than a place”, says our friend Jackie Nourse.
Though I packed my climbing shoes between all the cameras, lenses, gimbals, audio gear, and computers I didn’t put them on once - and that was fine. It turns out that my other core passion (well OK, I’m a chronic poly-aficionado), food, was well attended to by Patagonia. Since South Americans don’t start dinner until 8pm, it meant that we had plenty of time after our daily wrap to dine out well into the evening.
One evening we stopped into the little palafito restaurant next door to our guesthouse hoping for a good bite. What we didn’t realize in our jet-lagged and delirious state was that we were dropping in without a reservation on one of the top restaurants in the realm of Patagonia, Cazador!
The pure magic of what we experienced that night spun me out into a culinary delirium. I determined immediately that I had to document Cazador. I stretched my (beginners: Chapter 1 through 5) Spanish to the absolute limits to pitch the owners on contracting me to shoot their cookbook - and they agreed!
I did a short test shoot the next day to document a piece of the experience, but what they do there is so much more than I could begin to capture in an afternoon. On returning home, Conde Nast Traveler ran a piece on the island that hosts Cazador with a couple of my images. To their point, “don’t miss the braised goose” - of course, the menu is SO seasonal, you might just miss it :) I’m looking forward to my next trip down to follow up with Mauricio and Alejandra and whatever endemic gastronomic wizardry they’re concocting.