Missoula

PROJECTS. PASSION. DIVERSIONS. LIFE. 2013.

With 2013 in the books and 2014 already looking to be as good or better, this might be considered just another obligatory end-of-the-year blog post. Sorry 'bout that. Nonetheless, I have been wanting to sit down and scratch out a few thoughts and comments on the year that just ended ... for my sake as well as yours. And because merely putting my fingers to the keyboard to recap the last chapter and focus on the next one just feels good. I'm going to cheat a little and start in September of 2012 when I finished shooting a creative project with my friend Lando (see herehere and especially here). Less than 48 hours later I took a rather decisive left turn by beginning a time intensive (200 hour), work-heavy and mentally-taxing Wilderness EMT course offered through Aerie Backcountry Medicine. I received training in swiftwater rescue, improvised litter constructing in the backcountry, mass casualty responding and a ton of emergency medical scenarios. I also spent time on the ambulance and in the ER. At the end of it all, I emerged as a (mentally and physically exhausted) nationally certified EMT. Why did I do this? The reasons are many, but at the top of the list is simply being a smarter and more prepared individual. Also, diving into something that was NOT photo related helped me see things in a different light and reminded me just how much I enjoy photography.

Three weeks following my EMT course, when I had barely caught up on my sleep, my wife and I had our first child. Esti Fallon Kemmis was born at 9:23 a.m. on December 21, 2012. The months following this day were a roller coaster of emotions and the kind of happiness that makes a person cry. Adjusting to life with Esti has been so damn cool that I have to pinch myself sometimes. Yes it's stressful, exhausting, nerve-wracking, mind-blowing, tiring and challenging, but if there were ever something to make a person feel like they were living life, having a kid is it.

As 2013 marched on, so did the projects. Every month of the year saw 2 or 3 Lando shoots get completed for the 2014 calendar. In March, I also photographed 40+ custom art skateboards for the annual On Deck art show I help put on through my work with the Montana Skatepark Association. I have photographed the decks for this show pretty much since we started doing it eight years ago.

In May I assisted Portland-based photographer Dan Root during Missoula's (in)famous Maggotfest. This is a several-day-long beer drinking tournament with a little bit of rugby thrown in for good measure. Photo-ops are endless and the characters that descend upon Missoula from all over the world do not mess around. It was great working with Dan and ultimately seeing his finished product on his site. He's got a great eye, and had a crystal clear vision for the images he wanted to create. Seeing this in action was a good reminder that vision is everything.

I gained a new client in 2013 in Adventurista Designs, a Missoula-based jewelry company. Ironically enough, this spawned out of a friendship I made in my above-mentioned EMT course. Originally, Adventurista wanted some images for use in a booth at a trade show in Salt Lake City. By the end of July I had created lifestyle images and product images from a couple different shoots. These images ended up being used at the trade show and throughout a lookbook ... which I also designed for them. All around, this was a great experience and a lot of fun. Most of all, I am proud of the outcome.

Somewhat uncharacteristic for me, I photographed two weddings in 2013. Weddings are not my forte', but in both situations, the pieces came together seamlessly and it made sense for me. Looking back at the images that I delivered to each couple, I almost think I should be doing more of this work. I genuinely had a good time doing the work and really, really like the results. Not to mention, when one of the brides told me that she had a living room full of family over to view the images for the first time, and everyone ended up crying, it made me feel good. It's a nice reminder that even though I look at thousands of images in a year, not every one does. And it's the content and the impact an image has on a viewer that determines its quality. Subjective and powerful.

2013 also saw me continuing my work for the Montana Council of Boy Scouts. "Incredible" is all I can say about the relationship that has grown between myself and the BSA. They have placed a ton of trust in me for two years running, and I believe the images and results speak for themselves. Thanks to my images, the images of another couple of photographers in Montana, a talented designer and a quality development director at the BSA, the MT Council won numerous awards for the quality of their marketing materials as compared to other councils in the US. Considering the numbers and budgets of larger councils, our team has scored a solid victory. I look forward to many, many more shoots - both still and video - with the BSA.

Aside from the above mentioned highlights to my year, I also had numerous images published in local outlets. I have been fortunate enough to work with The Missoula Independent, the Missoula Downtown Association, Destination Missoula, Five Valleys Land Trust, Missoula Economic Partnership and a few other local and regional organizations. Key word in that sentence, by the way, is fortunate.

There were many, many, many more moments that added to my 2013 being one of the most progressive, monumental years of my life, but I have to chop it off here. As I said at the beginning of this post, 2014 is looking to be as good or better. So, to that I say  ... onward!

PUBLISHED: MISSOULA INDEPENDENT

It's mid August in Missoula, MT and that means only one thing to an ever-increasing number of partiers, rockers, floaters, barbecuers and good-time-havers: It's TOTAL FEST TIME! Having photographed this gem of an event for the past several (4? 5?) years, I am stoked to see that one of my images has wriggled its way onto the cover of this week's Missoula Independent.  The shot is of No-Fi Soul Rebellion front man Mark Heimer doing his thing in the crowd at the Badlander. Seeing this cover gets me excited for this year's line up of bands. Especially some little known, soft rock emo band by the name of Red Fang.

PUBLISHED: MISSOULA INDEPENDENT

A photo I took on the opening night of Total Fest X made it into the Missoula Independent this week. It's a shot of Dane Hansen, aka Bad Naked, making a huge mess of the Top Hat's floor and himself. The text beneath the photo is a Pro/Con type discussion about Bad Naked's "art." Near the beginning of his performance (or rather ... "performance")  he tore into the paper mache whale he had on stage. I think ballons and candy were involved. Then, out came the fruit. Yep, wet, messy, sticky, gross, doesn't-belong-in-a-bar fruit. Some revelers were giddy with smiles thinking how cool it was. Others, like the people that work really, really hard to organize the event and the volunteers that had to clean up after him weren't so smily.

Personally, I thought the spectacle was barely more than that ... a spectacle, and I'm really glad my camera didn't get banana'd. Also, the music sucked.

LANDO.

And so it begins... For the past umpteen months, I have been working, ahem ... "working" on a project with a big, loud, weird friend of mine named Lance. He goes by Lando. He's a character to say the least. We decided to capture and present to the world many different looks of Lando and package them up, calendar style. With many, many nights and weekends spent shooting photos of things that make certain people cringe, kick ass help from our web developing friend and lots of eye rolling from others, we have officially launched Lando406.com, and have pulled the trigger on ordering the first run of Lando 2013 calendars. 12 months of half-baked photos of a big dude doing big things: mountain biking on an exercise bike, loving cats, and getting whooped at tennis.

If you are in or near Missoula on November 2, 2012 we will be having a First Friday-type opening and sales event of the calendar at Stockman's Bar on Front street.

I love having a personal photography project going on. There are many identifiable stages of the process, and right now, being at or near the completion stage, is always a good feeling and an even better reminder of why its important to keep at it. Laughter, happiness, accomplishment and all around good feelings are the reason to keep pressing on. We'll see how "successful" this project is in terms of being a money maker. But even if it falls flat, I've created something, and at this point it can''t be undone. It's out there and can't be taken back. Onward.

TREASURE BOWL

I love those moments when you know - without hesitation - that there is no place else you would rather be and nothing else you would rather be doing. This is how Saturday was for me. Spent the day at the Treasure Bowl skating, shooting photos, connecting with old and new friends, and watching some rather notable visitors tear it up. Lance Mountain, Jeff Grosso, Steve Olson, Duane Peters, Arto Saari and a host of others were here to mark the 10th anniversary of the bowl ... and maybe party a little. Here's some photos:

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TOTAL FEST XI

It totally came, totally kicked some arse, and is now totally in the books. Talkin' about Total Fest of course. And in case you're unaware, Total Fest is a Missoula-based rock fest geared toward lesser known, independent bands. Another way to say it is that TF is a living, breathing, performing laboratory in which scientists study how humans interact when subjected to three days of noise, youth covered in jean shorts and tank tops, former youth who speak of the "good ol days," while being subjected to a lot of other people's body odor. Funny thing is, the whole shebang is damn enjoyable. This was the fourth consecutive year I have photographed the fest. Each year has its own unique vibe, and this year was no different. Hard to describe, but I liked it. I liked that the first band I photographed was more or less a country band. A little bit later, it was a surf rock band. Enjoyed a dose of stoner rock. And to cap things off, some face-melting hard rawk. (it's spelled like that to emphasize how rocky the rock really was. got it?)

The weekend was also a great time to hang out and float with some good friends who were in town, float a river, drink a few beers and recreate scenes from "What About Bob." It's how all good weekends go, right?

Here's some photos:

LATELY

With the mercury topping out around 95 degrees in most of western Montana lately, it is obvious that summer is here fo' real. While that's hot, it's laughable by the rest of the country's standards. Nonetheless, I'll take it ... gladly! The hot conditions lately are responsible for me having a great birthday with family, attempting to do some river surfing on the 4th of July, shooting photos around town (between dips in the river), and generally enjoying some amazing evenings sitting around the fire pit (which is actually a wheelbarrow). Here are a few images from the last week or so.

DEAD HIPSTER

A couple weeks back I was asked by good friend and 1/3 of the genius that is Dead Hipster, Chris Baumann if I'd be willing to spend a Thursday night photographing them in action at one of their Thursday night Dead Hipster dance parties. This is kind of like asking a kid if they would like to stick their face in a bag of sugar. Obviously, I didn't need much time to think about it. Here are a few shots from an insanely fun Thursday night shooting at the Badlander. I can't thank Chris, Mike and Abi enough for allowing me to a part of the fun. If you ever happen to be in Missoula on a Thursday night and want to max out your fun-o-meter, go to Dead Hipster.

Aerial Silk on the Footbridge

You might remember from this post here that I shot aerial silk performer and athlete Bethany Stanbery hanging from a silk in the Bitterroots. Since then, we have been planning more shoots and brainstorming more locations. About a week ago, we conquered location number two. Made possible by Levi Parchen, who rigged up the whole shebang, the Missoula Police Department and the City of Missoula Engineering Division, this shoot turned out better than I imagined it was going to, given the challenges we faced. Once again, schedules, cold weather, rain, wind and some snow caused us to reschedule the shoot a few times. And then on the night that we had a green light, the college basketball team was playing in a championship game a short walk away which meant the possibility of too many people coming and going through the shot. But, in the end it all worked out and was totally worth it. And, just like our first shoot down the Bitterroots, the images created during this shoot had me reeling with excitement or a few days. Hell, i'm still reeling with how they turned out. I am very excited about this ongoing project and am excited to see where it leads. In fact, throughout this project, I have been reminded why I love photography so much. Everything I look at I try to figure out how we could rig a silk to it, where I would shoot from, what I would use for lighting, etc. It's projects like these that force you to look at your surroundings a bit different (and crawl around underneath a bridge like a crazy person) trying to previsualize a shot.  A bridge becomes a great location, as does a tree or a building, and then the mind is off to the races. In so many ways, it is exactly like another lifelong passion of mine, skateboarding. Having looked at curbs, loading docks, handrails and transitions for decades wondering how I can ride them, this project feels familiar.

MISSOULA'S BLOWIN' MY MIND

I've been getting pretty ancy lately to get up above the valley to shoot some photos of Missoula since all the autumn colors are goin' off. I finally got the chance tonight, and can't believe how incredible it is right now. I am so glad I got some photos since after living here for 35 years, I know all too well that the leaves will be on the streets in a few days and then they'll be covered in snow for months. Perhaps displays like this one are Mother Nature's way of easing us into the grey season...or maybe it's a cruel joke. Either way, Missoula kicks ass right now.