For me (or probably any photographer out there), there kind of aren’t words to describe the feeling of seeing a notification on my phone, or opening my email … and seeing a message from Rob Haggart, the dude behind aphotoeditor.com. Rob is an icon in this industry and has helped to inspire thousands upon thousands of photographers. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that he featured my VidCon promo on his aphotoeditor Instagram feed. And then, double that excitement when I saw that he sent an email asking if he could also feature my promo on his website. I was (and am) totally honored and still kind of giddy. Especially considering that I wasn’t even going to send this promo to him, and then when I did, further assumed that it wouldn’t make the cut. But alas … it did. And I am stoked. Thanks Rob.
Happening every year for the last 51 years, the Kyiyo Powwow is quite a sight to behold. Descending on Missoula from all parts of the US and Canada, Kyiyo participants gather at the Adams Fieldhouse at the University of Montana for two days of dancing, drumming and celebrating native American culture.
I have been to this powwow a few times in the past, but never have I attended specifically to create portraits of the participants. This year was different, and thanks to coordinating with the Native American Student Association (NASA) at the University of Montana, I was able to make it happen. As a photographer, I’d say there are few locations or events that could rival a powwow in terms of excellent subject matter. Sooo many colors, headdresses, interesting beadwork, feathers, face paint … and the list goes on. Every time someone came to my “studio” and wanted to have a photo taken, I got giddy and knew I was right where I wanted to be. Many thanks to every participant who worked with me.
It’s pretty hard to describe the feeling of casually opening an email from Pearl Jam (yeah, I’m on their list), and being greeted by a big ‘ol photo of Eddie Vedder that I captured at PJ’s recent show in Missoula. I definitely had a pretty reflective moment as soon as I saw this photo and realized it was mine.
Of course a photo credit would have been nice though ….
In the Peal Jam universe, today - August 27, 2018 - is a special occasion. On this day 27 YEARS AGO (!!!!), Pearl Jam released their album Ten. If you are anything like me, you just did a solid face palm realizing that you really are getting OLD. For fuck's sake I was 16 when that album came out. 16. 16! I can still vividly remember several occasions in high school when songs from this album were playing – at my friend's lake house, soccer game after parties, on the way to go snowboarding. It was definitely a definitive time of my life. Pretty cool the soundtrack from that era is still holding up.
With this lil trip down memory lane in mind, I am taking 10% off all the PJ prints for sale in my store through the end of this week. On top of all that, a portion of the proceeds will be going to the MSA. Good stuff right there.
Now go buy a photo and rejoice in the fact that your aging still sounds so good.
Full disclosure: When it comes to being a metal head, I do a pretty shitty job. There was a time, or times I should say, when I sort of, kind of made an attempt to go down the path of all things metal, but it just never stuck. While I do love me some metal music while skateboarding, or pumping through the headphones once in a while, I never managed to make it a lifestyle. Probably a good thing. True metal fans would be able to sniff me out a mile away and would probably dismember me with their teeth.
But none of that mattered when I got the text message asking if I were available to shoot Anthrax and Testament at The Wilma. I knew it would be an amazing thing witness, up close through the viewfinder. And it was. Better yet, when they took the stage and I got into the photo pit, I was the only one shooting. Free reign. No bumpin’ elbows. No jockeying for position. It was just me ... spittin’ distance from a metal band that has been a force for over 35 years. Here are some of the photos from that night.
Pearl Jam played Missoula’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium on August 13, 2018. It’s an understatement to say that it was a big night. But then again, every time PJ plays a show it’s a big night. Having the opportunity to photograph a band of PJ’s magnitude, and one that definitely played a part of my upbringing was a pretty cool experience to say the least. The 17 year-old version of me was/is stoked! Shit, the 77 year old version of me is stoked!
As usual, I was only allowed to shoot the first three songs from the photo pit, and was with about 10 other photographers. And being on the ground in a stadium with 25K people at your back, it was hard to capture an image that showed the experience, especially when my vantage point was pretty limited (they didn't allow a lot of movement in the pit). That being said, I am proud of the images I got. Here's a few:
Every opportunity I get to mix a bit of my photojournalistic background with the commercial side of things, I light up. Such was the case with this project for the Western Montana Mental Health center. The goal was to shoot simple photos that would go alongside their very personal, very real, and sometimes very hard to listen to stories of addiction and recovery. Each of the people pictured below have been through some hard times, but are working to turn things around, and live life in a different way. Hats off to them all.
Click here to read their full stories of recovery,
I managed to sneak in one last portrait session with an ON DECK 11 artist before the whole thing got swept away by the endless current of bidding, winning and shipping. Lucky for me Andrew Pommier drove all the way from Vancouver B.C. to Missoula to attend the show in person and was up for spending some time shooting some photos. Andrew has been in ON DECK several times in the past so it was great to finally get to meet him in person and hang out a bit. Not only was he willing to eat glass for me, he even helped put together a trampoline for some friends. Nice dude.
Anyone with a fraction of a pulse and who pays at least 1% attention to the happenings around Missoula, MT are no doubt familiar with the name Courtney Blazon. Courtney, with her instantly recognizable style, has had her work involved with many, many, many local and national events, publications, companies and private commissions. I love her work and think beyond the shadow of a doubt that she is deserving of all the success she earns.
Also ... she's a god damn delight to be around. During our shoot, which featured her skateboard for the ON DECK 11 art auction, there were times I didn't want to end the conversation by picking up the camera. She is so easy to interact with – and whether talking about her passion (obsession?) with blowing bubbles, love of shoes, her work habits, or a random dog rolling on a dead mouse – there was rarely a minute without a smile on either one of our faces. The weather (wind, rain, sun, clouds) was a factor on this shoot, as was a mine field of dog poop, but I loved every second of it. Thanks for being you Courtney!
In my ongoing series of photographing artists with their custom skateboards created for the Montana Skatepark Association's ON DECK 11 art auction, I knew that I had to include Theo Ellsworth. A million years ago, Theo and I grew up a few blocks away from each other, and attended the same schools all the way through high school. Although we knew each other casually, we never really hung out. Fast forward to today and it's fun to be reconnected through the art he makes and an art auction I help run. Life is funny. And fun.
As part of my ongoing series of portraits centered around the artists that take part in Missoula's ON DECK skate art auction, I recently got to spend some time with tattoo artist Ian Caroppoli. I photographed him on a Friday night at Blaque Owl Tattoo in downtown Missoula, at what turned out to be a totally great session and really enjoyable time.
As I set up whole mess of "stuff," Ian finished up with a few clients. We gradually transitioned to shooting, and were pleasantly joined by a handful of friends. Sometimes too many people present on a shoot makes me feel awkward, and sometimes too few makes me feel just as awkward. This session – spurred on by Ian's laid back demeanor and great attitude – was just right.
Ian is obviously a talented artist, whether his canvas is a skateboard or someone's arm. I hope to see his custom skateboard go for a lot of $$$ at the upcoming ON DECK 11 auction.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of photographing Missoula artist Larkin Matoon with the custom skateboard he created for ON DECK 11, which is an annual skate art auction put on by the Montana Skatepark Association. All funds from the auction go toward building skateparks around our great state. Larkin has been in the show several times , and each piece he has created has been an absolute showstopper.
So many times on a shoot, I end up either neglecting my settings, compositional goals, and ideas because I get so involved in a conversation with my subject – or vice versa – I forget to interact with them because I am only thinking of my camera.
Larkin spoiled me.
He was so calm and relaxed about the whole situation, and was so very easy to carry on a conversation with that I never felt too rushed or that it mattered if I stopped shooting to chat. Or, as was the case more often, he never minded that I cut him off mid-sentence to tell him to hold a pose or to redo a look for me. The result of being so comfortable on the shoot was some images that I am genuinely excited about.
Thanks Larkin for your contribution to ON DECK and for being so damn pleasant.
After seeing images of Rick's bike from his trip to the One Moto Show in Portland, OR, I knew I wanted to see more. Having photographed him in his garage before, I knew it was as easy as a phone call to set it up. I love shoots like this, where it's as much about the shoot as it is hanging out, shooting the shit, and generally catching up with each other.
This bike is impressive. It started as a few tubes of steel and a chalk drawing on the garage floor. Many months (years?) later, after having bent tubes to make the frame, cut angles to get the fork perfect, rolled every inch of metal to make the tank, and I'm sure a few choice swear words, it was finished. And then, in 2017 Rick set a speed record at Bonneville at 69.258 MPH.
Back in December, I was lucky enough to find myself reunited with the fine folks from VidCon in order to photograph another one of their events. This time, it was the inaugural attempt at putting on a show focused on the world of podcasts. Appropriately titled PodCon, this event attracted 3000 people from all walks of life to the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA to celebrate all things related to podcasting. As with VidCon, I love the energy, unique moments, freedom that each attendee has to be themselves, and the collective feeling of being part of something cool.
Check out some more images from PodCon in the gallery here.
No matter what circles you run in around Missoula, MT, you have most likely come across the name Smoke Elser. He has spent his life working as a backcountry guide and outfitter, is a staunch defender of wilderness, and has been on the receiving end of almost every award out there. The stats I keep coming back to that define Smoke the best are these:
- Add up all the nights he has slept on the ground, under the stars, sometimes in a makeshift tent ... it's over 22 years!
- He's racked up over well 60,000 miles on horseback.
Throughout 2017 I have been working on a promo video for the Montana Council of Boy Scouts that focuses on Smoke and his contribution to the things scouting stands for. Every time I walk into his barn near the doorstep of the Rattlesnake Wilderness, I have to pinch myself. Walls of saddles, horse bridles hanging over a workbench, antlers, tools, photos of special times in the backcountry. Really, it's more of a museum than a barn. As part of the video project, I recently had a quick photo shoot with Smoke. I love the images i captured and can't wait to see them as part of the BSA's annual ICL campaign.
After having my mind blown wide open after photographing VidCon 2016, I knew I had to do something with the images I created. But it wasn't until after VidCon 2017 that I was able to sit down and produce the kind of promotional piece I thought the experience deserved. It also gave me a fantastic excuse to try out Newspaper Club! I'm beyond stoked with these gems!
Stoked to finally be able to make a post like this one. I've been wanting a new run of promo cards for a looooong while now, but never got to cross it off my list. But once I finished shooting and editing the corn/braces photo with Sophie, I was so happy with how it turned out, I knew I had to get back on the promo card wagon. I'm glad I did. Not only was the design process fun, but having a tangible result to show for the efforts is always a huge plus.
Earlier this week I actually found myself on a press check at Alphagraphics in Missoula, scoping things out and nit picking colors on a run of cards for myself. I am fascinated by the working of a printing press and could stare it the sheets clicking their way through the machine all damn day long. The folks over at Alphagraphics, whom I have worked with a ton in my time at RMSP, couldn't be nicer. It's always equal parts business, catching up with each other, and laughing at something.
I just received the finished products today, after this press check on Tuesday. I love how they turned out. If you want to see them for yourself, send me a message through my contact page, and give me your address. While you're at it, sign up for my newsletter. You'll get approx. one email a year.
Holy smokes. This was a rather awesome assignment! I mean, I knew back in November when I was asked to join a group of adaptive skiers and snowboarders on a cat skiing trip that I would be in for an insane adventure. But having actually gone and done it, and now being able to reflect on it, it's so much better. As with any assignment, one of the best parts is the curiosity and nervousness that exists before it starts. This project was no different.
My drive to Whitefish was super relaxing, and I was super curious about what I was getting into. With reports of icy roads, crazy avalanche conditions, and upwards of 4' of new snow in the previous week, I just had no idea what to expect. When I arrived, I met up with my crew - 7 adaptive athletes and several "powder hosts," who would helping out during the week - in a nondescript room in the lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Coming in a bit late, I missed some of the introductions. But it meant I was right on time for a brief on-mountain avalanche refresher class. Never hurts. Also never hurts that the snowy peaks of Glacier National Park were the backdrop for the class.
The next two days were spent with Great Northern Powder Guides, riding in their insanely cool cat, up mountains, down roads, and all over the damn place. I kept pinching myself, saying "If the 23-year-old version of myself could see me now ..." This of course was in reference to all the damn days I spent boot packing or snowshoeing around the hills. Riding in the cat with the crew and hearing all their stories was beyond words. Humbling. Moving. Inspiring. Fun. Hilarious. All of the above.
Our runs were fun, although the snow had settled a TON and got kind of heavy under 50 degree temps. (Even though, there were plenty of stashes to be found). But the rides back to the top were the best. They allowed time to give (and receive) each other shit, talk, listen, laugh, close my eyes, and even watch some pretty great air keyboarding. Other highlights included: insane scenery, warm weather, blue skies, a fridge full of beer in the middle of the woods, the whole cat experience, fun dinners out with the crew, and meeting some of the coolest people I've had the good fortune to be around.
After the sleep deprivation exercise that is VidCon, I got to shoot a group photo of many of the VidCon attendees at Disneyland. Well, it's actually California Adventure or something like that, but having not slept that much for a few days, carrying a heavy camera bag, sweating profusely in the shadeless California sun, and feeling like a cow in the herd, I didn't really care which park I was in. I was just thankful that I had some pretty great volunteers to take me exactly where I needed to go. And before leaving for California I was told by the folks at Disney I wasn't eligible to have a ladder at my disposal since I wasn't an approved Disney photographer, or something like that. But to my surprise, my Disney contact met me there and couldn't have been a nicer dude. Turns out a ladder was no problemo! That means the rest was cream cheese!
The only real challenge I faced with this shot was how to make a group of this size – in direct sun, with limited time – look somewhat decent. Knowing that the situation was one of those, "it is what it is" kind of moments, I felt I had to do something outside of the normal photo bag-o-tricks to add some life to the finished product. My approach, first and foremost, was to have an approach. I knew if I showed up and just said "1, 2, 3 smile," the resulting photo would be pretty boring and stale. So, my game plan was to shoot three different "styles" of this situation. First was the simple, line' em up and shoot 'em down photo, or the CYA (cover your ass) photo. This was the boring "1,2,3 smile" approach. Nothing special, simple expose and compose. After that CYA shot was in the bag, my second plan was to switch lenses to a 15mm fisheye. This "trick" made the group look crazy, and the horizon all "bendy." This gave the whole scene a pinch of spice that otherwise was missing. Finally, my third plan was to shoot a sequence of the group doing the wave so that I could turn it into a .gif. I knew that even the slightest bit of motion, looping forever, would be eye catching when posted to various social media sites. Plus, aside from enjoying a resurgence in popularity right now, .gif's can be pretty hypnotic to watch.