What Makes A Great Action Photo
Okay, so I guess let's dive into this.
Yeah, I'm so excited.
Let's talk pictures.
I love talking pictures, man.
You have any just top level? You know, I have a few sort of philosophies, fundamentals, of what makes a great picture.
Well you start off. I'll follow, man.
Sure. You know, and I think some of the things we're going to say are really basic and you know folks in this audience and online might think to themselves, "I mean, come on, man. We know this stuff." But sometimes you need these reminders of very simple, basic philosophies, or principles. And one for me is photography comes down to three things: light, composition, and the moment. Right, those three ingredients. If you have amazing light, interesting composition, and you actually press that shutter at the right moment, you are at 98% of the way there. And maybe there's a fourth element, and I'm just making this up, and that's called magic.
Yeah, with that little dust that you sprinkle.
Yeah, yeah, that's ...
right, the magic dust. That's it. And I'll start by this photograph has four of those moments, (Chase laughs) four of those elements. There's the dust, which actually came in the form of sand, but layered on top of that interesting composition. Right? Subject is on the left third of the frame. Beautiful light and stunning moment. I mean this is... It's... And you know, I think that one test that I always use is if you look at a photograph, and you have zero reaction to it, guess what? It failed, like that's it.
Raw stopping power is the way I think about it. If you were walking by this photograph, and it was just on a wall some where, would you stop and look at it? And the answer is clearly yes. I mean you talked about sort of all those dynamic elements that went into this. This is... You don't have much if you don't have raw stopping power 'cause that's the first step in really enjoying a photograph. Is like, "Wow, did it make me look?" And then once you sort of lean into a photograph, like I would say I'm leaning into this one right now, then you can sort of see a path and a story within that individual frame. You know that's what video relies on is time and sort of distance to tell a story, and what a still photograph relies on is capturing an entire story in one moment. I think Pendrag's photo here certainly does that.
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. One other comment that I would make about this photograph, and I think we're going to touch on lots of themes over the next three days. One of the things I hear the most from aspiring photographers is, "How did they get that moment?" And I guess I'm just making this comment. We live in an era where we have access to cameras that shoot 12 and 13 frames per second, and as photographers we want this aura to exists, and we want people to believe that, "No, I pressed the shutter once, and like this was the frame."
People are laughing in the room here because everyone knows what a myth that is.
That's right, that's right, that's right. And I think if you're watching this online, this is a great take away, which is throw that out. That's not, that's not true. Thousands of photographs got shot to make this photograph, and that is okay. You know, we're not shooting film any more. It's cheaper to press that shutter than it's ever been before, but, you know, spray the scene. And maybe that's... Be intentional about what you're shooting, but do not be afraid to shoot a lot of frames because in that burst of images this happens.
Yeah, that's the dirtiest secret in photography. Is you got to take a lot of pictures to get the ones that you want, and I think there's a... You know, you adjusted about spraying. I think there's a moniker online like, "Spray and pray." Well that is actually not what we're talking about. We don't want to denigrate the action of actually like intentionally framing of a shot and then motorizing all 12 frames per second through this entire scene, and that's what was done here. And you notice like there's another thing that's just worth calling out here is there's only one track in that sand, and so it's like if this athlete doesn't like take care of their end of the business, or if you missed the shot, you have to find an entirely different section of desert just off to the left. But it's very much a repeat. You got to do the work. You got to take a lot of pictures in order to get these ones, and I think your point is super well made.
This is, this is cool. I'd never seen this photograph until I saw it in this deck shot by the one and only Chase Jarvis. And you know I think I go back to Chase's comment about instantly does a photograph effect you or not? And for me, as soon as I saw this pop up on my computer, I had a visceral reaction to the photograph which is... And then our job as photographers or as viewers is to ask yourself why. What is it about this photograph that engaged me or interested me? And, you know, for me there's a... I mean I'm just going to sort of stream of consciousness tell you going through my mind.
Yeah, go on.
The color palette's really intriguing. It's a really, it's a really inviting color palette. There's power and there's grace in what's happening in this photograph. In fact, you know, I talked about composition in the last frame I said, "Oh this really works because he's using the left side of the frame, the left third." Chase did the opposite. He did just dead center squared up this shot and made a decision about shutter speed, and it's this perfect moment. And, again, I'm going to venture to guess this wasn't one frame. (Chase laughs) Was this a burst of images?
This actually was one frame.
However, it was one frame replicated 100 times.
Got it, very nice.
So this is just one picture.
Are there lights? Are there strobes going on in here?
There are. There are I believe either three or four strobes.
We've got strobes above the water and below the water, and I think that's one of the reasons that there... For our images, yours and mine, I think we can look at sort of the last image, which was neither of ours, and talk about it through a very critically and on face value, but one of the things that I want to hear when we get to your images is a little bit of the story behind it because I think that's one of the reasons that people at home are watching. Because they're trying to figure out, "Wow, how did they get that shot?" Like what were some of the mechanics. And we can't belabor every one of these shots like that, but this is a great example why we thought to include this one because you think I'm underwater. I've done a lot of photographs of underwater. I'm actually not underwater here. I'm in a pool that has a glass section cut out, so you can see into the pool. And we've got strobes up above, my camera, and a fill flash up against that window under the water. And then it's just a matter of the exact 1/1,000 of a second to get this frame, and, this particular diver, he probably did this move like probably 20 or 25 times in order to get the perfect frame.
And see, you know, there are these moments in my career where, and this is a great example, where this looks like you're in scuba gear.
You know, with like a hard helmet on. You're like walkie talkie-ing in your hard helmet. (Chase laughs) When in fact you were sitting in a chair like leaning back. You know cuing--
Some Doritos, like--
Yeah, that's right. Cuing them on the radio. And I think those are those... You know, I'm always nervous when I end up in this situation where I'm so comfortable and I'm making amazing photographs because I know I'm going to pay dearly later. Because the moment will come where I'm suffering, and it's brutal, and it's miserable, and I want to be anywhere but where I am. But these are those backstories that I love. Those moments where it's actually easy to make an action adventure photo. It doesn't happen often.
Sure, it doesn't happen often. And I think, you know, one last comment on this one is you invited the sort of discussion around and your thoughts around the color palette. I think for me it has that raw stopping power because you don't actually know what's happening. It takes a second. Like it's visually interesting, but you need to stop. You need to go in there, and then you start to look at the bubbles and the sort of shape of the human figure. You start to look at a bunch of things. Or you can then your mind can go places.
Yeah. I like it. Nice frame. You know, this is, and maybe this is a great example of, while Chase was you know sipping lattes and sitting in a directors chair shooting that last photo, this is a photograph that I really paid dearly to make.
You had to go deep. You are far away from everything here.
Yeah, this hurt, yeah, this hurt. This is in Veracruz, Mexico and this is Dane Jackson. Dane is another Red Bull athlete. Arguably one of the most gifted white water kayakers alive today, and he's 20 something years old. He must have been 17 or 18 in this photograph, and this was shot... You know, I'm... There is no viewing platform.
No viewing going on.
That's right, there's no rigging platform. I'm hanging in a harness, and it's not that hanging in a harness is uncomfortable, it's that jungle environment. It turned out pretty uncomfortable. There's bug biting us. It's hot. It's humid. There's water dripping on my back, and I just can't get away from the water. In fact, one of the camera operators, Dane Henry, who was on this shoot, got stung or bit by so many mosquitoes we had to take him to the emergency room when we got back to the United States. And so it's... No one cares about that stuff at the end of the day.
It's, "Bring back the picture." You know bring back the photograph, and I'll... Let me also be critical because I am my harshest critic. This photograph is interesting, and I think it worked. I got myself into the right position, but to this day it bothers the hell out of me that there's water covering his face. Yeah, yeah, it bothers the hell out of me, but, and I shot this in that uncomfortable position four times, three times, and you know this is a big 40 foot, 30 foot drop and the kayaker can only do it so many times. And this I can't control. This is maybe with four more drops the water wouldn't be in his face, but that's the roll of the dice.
Well let me comment on something else. I think your point about the water... I mean that's one of the things that I noticed if I was asked to be critical about it, but let's, you know, honor what really went into making this. And this is the thing that I love about action sports, and what most people who are unfamiliar with this or just getting into it don't know is that you have to be so good at so many things. Like what is it? You know, you take... It took years of experience to get, you know, yourself comfortable in the climbing environment to be able to put yourself in a harness in a jungle. The travel that it took to get there. Knowing what gear to bring. How to get there. Where you're going. The scouting of the location to find this perfect place in Mexico thousands of miles from home. You got the right athlete that you were working with, and the athlete knew to work with you, who are a talented photographer, and then your intimate knowledge of paddle sports. Like knowing that in a white water kayaking environment that this is a great waterfall, that this is sort of what it's going to look... What body position he's going to have when he comes through that little gap and before he takes the drop. Like all of that stuff goes into making a great photograph, and for some at home like don't let that be a burden to you. That is a lifetime of opportunity to learn. And every, like every little step along the way you're going to see each one of those sort of features improve, and it's like celebrating the little successes. There's so much, you know, to celebrate this photograph. I know how much hard work went into it, and kudos. I think that's something that you do so well and so much better than some of the other people in the industry.
And I'll add to that. I think, Chase, you're making a great point. Which is we're supposed to be the experts in these areas, but all of us will have a specialty. It's our, it's our... We'll have a focus. For me, my beginning was in the rock climbing world, but, via rock climbing as that entry point, I've has the opportunity over my career to work in a lot of action sports, adventure sports, and stepped outside of action, adventure sports. And I think the key is being really honest and communicating well.
As soon as... And I think I'm going to be really direct on day three. I don't know the BMX world as well as Corey as he is, you know, he is an expert. And I'm forthright and honest, and I ask questions, and I'm a quick learner, and that's the key. It's communicating, you know, now I've shot a lot of white water kayaking. This was many years ago. I had lots of conversations with Dane Jackson where I appreciated what he had to say. I learned, and now I know how to show up in these environments, and I'm a pseudo expert in that environment. So it's just being open, and being honest, and communicating with the athletes and the people around you.
But let's call it what that is. That's a great frame.
Don't be too critical. That little water like that's something that's a little pretty.
Thanks. So immediately, you know, one of the questions... One of the things I think we strive for in photography and in film making, it's how do you surprise your audience with camera position? Right? We see the world as humans, you know, standing at five foot eight. I'm a little less than that, so my world is about five foot four, but the reality is that is how most pictures are taken, standing upright, you know, holding a phone or a camera in front of your face and taking a picture of the world. And so immediately I'm stopped by this photograph because Chase did not shoot this photograph standing at normal height.
This is pre-drone also.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So tell, yeah, how did this happen?
This was a shoot for a film, a ski film that was being made, and a lot of times these films will bring still photographers along. And this is, you know, a famous athlete. These jumps were made specifically for this shoot. The rest of the ski area is closed. We are in a ski resort with Stevens Pass in Washington, and, you know, you can see the pretty groom lines. All this stuff is really, really intentional, and that's one of things that when you can control things. Like what we were talking about earlier with the diver, there's a lot of worlds where you can't control the water in front of the face, but in this you can... I try and control as many of the things I can, and I'm hanging out of a helicopter. You know, talk about opposite skills that we talked about. Diving and climbing in Mexico. Now you have to understand and know the world of helicopters and be able to tether yourself in there, communicate with the pilot, communicate with the athlete, all in real time via, you know, radios. This is just a very simple shot of repetition. This particular athlete did this move many, many times, and we're flying over. Hovering in some cases and not hovering in others. Flying, like moving with the athlete. Trying to get the exact body position where you can see the skis separated, the pool, you get the grab. Like all those are little elements that are very, very critical in order to get. There's also a little tension. I turned the camera sideways, and this particular version has been slightly cropped in. But, again, it's a matter of this was a repetition thing, and, compositionally, you know, very, very intentional. But, again, it took so many pictures to get this exact frame.
I mean one of the philosophies I have is I'll often times shoot the safe shot first. I get it in the can. That CYA, the Cover Your Ass shot. And then start taking bigger risks, and because this is risky, right? There's a high likelihood you'd get up in the helicopter, it's not coordinated, the athlete...
It doesn't work, and so... And I think one thing that happens in my experience is sort of as your career evolves the stakes for each shot get higher as it turns out. (Chase laughs)
That's right. This is an expensive shot.
It was very expensive.
This costs, you know, $1,200 an hour for A star time or whatever that costs is. This is expensive to get up in the air, and then help it's all coordinated, and five minutes of fumbling down on the snow costs a lot of money. And so, anyhow, my philosophy is start safe, get something that works, the CYA shot, and then you evolve into like take bigger risks. Push it. Surprise the audience with where you're putting that camera.
Very much in line with that. Like get some good stuff in the can. Don't just start from zero and go to the epic, epic shot. Like it's really a process of building. It's not unlike a theater performance or a musical show where if you just came right out of the gate with, you know, your hit song, and you're not warmed up, you don't really know what the vibe is, and so you really... There is a collaborative thing that's going on where the photographers working with the athlete, and I think that's one of the things that, over the course of this show or this class, you're going to see those folks at home, and you guys sitting here on the couch, are going to see what it's like. How Corey works with the athletes 'cause it's so much a collaborative thing. It's not like you're standing back hoping that the right things come into being. You're intentionally creating. There's the world of photojournalism and this, the action sports world, sort of parrots that a little bit because you're documenting this, the lifestyle, these sports, these athletes doing these incredible feats, but there's also a lot of intention that goes into crafting these moments. And this is like I know exactly what trick the athlete's going to do. I know what time. I can see him taking off on this in run. It's all very, very closely tied, but that came up over. Again, it took a whole day to get a photograph like this.
Right, right. No I think that's a great philosophy. So this is... We're going to be shooting BMX at Woodward on Friday, and, you know, immediately my reaction is, "Beautiful light."
You know they are painting with light. You know, I would... To your point, Chase, around the evolving the situation, evolving the shot... And I know someone made this statement, and I'm just regurgitating it, but it's almost like you're sketching when you're taking pictures. You start sketching. You make it 70% through the sketch, and then you say, "Nah, that's not what..." You crumble up the paper and you start again, and that's photography. Or each time you're to press that shutter it's another sort of sketch on the paper.
And you're learning through this. You're evaluating every one of those sketches like, "Ah, this is where it went wrong, or this is where I could do better next time." And as the athlete's doing their trick, you're changing the composition.
Maybe a little wider, tighter, you're learning, and the faster you can learn, and the more master you have over your camera and the domain that you're sort of overseeing, the better your pictures are going to be.
And learning that willingness to say, "I'm 60% into this sketch. It's just not working."
Which, in photography, that means move. Right? It's move or change the light. It's actually... I think I made the comment painting with light. I'm going to venture to guess, it's a beautiful photograph, but I'm going to venture to guess that Daniel is shooting some light through these windows. Maybe this isn't just daylight. I could be wrong about that, but it's, you know, there's a lot of attention to composition. Where he's actually putting the rider in the frame and the direction of the light, which is creating this beautiful rim in this very warm environment. You know, the plywood and the walls is incredibly warm and then have this cold daylight just sort of rimming him. And, of course, there's just peak action. It's the moment. It's the... I go back to those rules, right? Light? Yep, the light's amazing.
Yep. Composition? Check, yep, he's in an interesting spot. You know, in composition I would add that dialogue where the conversation and background. It's you're paying attention to there aren't trees sticking out of someone's head or sign posts. You know, this is in a kind of a complex background.
You know there's rafters and pipes sticking out. He's put this athlete in like the perfect situation. And then moment. I mean it's, you know, it is the decisive moment. His hands are totally out. He's, you know, everything about this photograph works.
Yeah. I, again, attribute the success of this photograph to checking all the boxes that you just highlighted. Why don't we take 30 seconds and try and like be critical of this photograph?
And say what's not working.
And then maybe we can open up for a couple questions. We've gone through a few photographs here. We can invite some commentary from the students here in the class. But before we do, why don't you like throw some--
Sure, sure. And this is very similar to the critique I just gave of my own photograph. Why is there water in front of the guy's face? In a perfect, idyllic world, his hand would actually be separated from this rafter, and maybe the camera position goes lower so that this wheel is not intersecting with this window. And this nuanced critique, right?
This is an amazing photograph.
Yeah, but this is what the people at home I think that they want.
So I think you're going in the right direction.
That's right. And, you know, now I'm going to start to kind of going off the deep end here. It would've been interesting to add a rim from right, from camera right, yep. So that he's... There's yet more separation. Or maybe it's even kind of from behind. More rim.
To actually separate him from that background because frankly, you know, these windows are pretty hot. They're, you know, your eye... I'm not sure sometimes whether I'm going to the window or am I going to the rider.
Yeah, I think the biggest critique that I have of like... I get asked all the time to critique photographs. I find this continually valuable for me because it's keeping me sharp, but also that's what most people want. Is to deconstruct this. And simplicity is the number one attribute of a photograph that I suggest people strive for. How can you make the photographs as clean as possible? I think you can see that element of that forcing function I put on myself in the previous image as we've talked about that were mine is how can we simplify. And this is a rather busy photograph. There's rafters going all different directions. You got the pattern of the wood. And so, you know, if I was to give some critique to Daniel, it would be how can you put this rider sort of central? Right in the middle of this particular blank canvas area where there's not the... You know, you mentioned the point that his hands are interacting with the rafter there. Also, what can we do to separate the athlete, Kostya, off of that background? You mentioned the, you know, a bigger rim line not just from the natural light but maybe from some fill.
Or even shallow depth of field.
Like I look at this and--
Everything is in the same focal plane.
Plane, that's right. It's, you know, and again we don't know, Chase and I, how big this area is, but this looks like it's shot at at four or something. Or two eight on a 70 to 200 zoom. As soon as you get into, you know, you switch to a prime and you're at one four, all of the sudden you get this sexier image.
And so does the difficulty level up.
That's right, that's right.
Because then that athlete has to be in the right exact moment.
Your camera has to catch that focus.
That's right, that's right.
So I think one of the things that I would underscore here is that I think our criticism... Both our sort of celebration and our criticisms tend to be very, very similar. I think that's another point that, yes, art is subjective, but there are rules that govern aesthetic judgment. And why we, you know, you can show people four or five pictures, and like ten out of ten people will have a favorite. Or eight out of ten people will have a favorite. So there is, there are common characteristics, and that's one of the thing that when you're just starting out, I realize it's really fuzzy how that... Like, "Hmm, what are like?"
What makes this good, and if you listen to enough critique, if you critique your own images enough, and you ask for feedback from others, you start to see what is good and start to compare your work with the work that you see in other Red Bull photographs and magazines and what not and--
And I love to call that the collective subjective, right? I mean there really is, there is this--
Oh, I'm going to bite that, that's a good one.
I mean I've always felt that way. That the more you're engaged in these conversations, looking at the Red Bull Content Pool, looking at images in the magazines, or websites, or Instagram feeds that you love. It's, you know, it's not coincidence when an image gets 20,000 likes versus 500.
That's the collective subjective, and you don't have to be a photographer to actually identify whether it's a great photograph. My mother, your mother, the neighbor next door--
You're talking about my mother? (Corey and Chase laugh) I get it.
It turns out everybody has that same reaction.
It turns out that's the collective subjective, and the more critical and the more nuanced you get, then you can start talking about apertures and rim light.
Sure, sure. Well, before we go on, maybe we can invite a couple of questions if there are any from the guys on the couch here, students.
In particular to this image, I guess, what I may or may not have done is if there was an option to switch him into like a white shirt just to draw that attention off the red. I've been into like red on white lately, but how often would you guys change something about your subject or your environment to, you know, make the composition a winner? You know?
If it's available to me, I'm always about it. If there's a better set of clothing that I can put on the athlete... And, you know, better is also subjective because maybe for somebody bright white would be too much, and then you're going to worry about blowing him out with the flash. But if I can craft the moment. Like, again, this, one of the beautiful things about action sports is it's this really gray area. It doesn't have the sort of the guidelines and the rules around documentary photography. We're not in a war zone documenting. We don't want to be doctoring the photograph, but we're trying to make the most aesthetically pleasing and engaging image. So, yeah, I would take everything in my, you know, under my control to make the image that resonates the most. I don't know, what about you Corey?
Absolutely. And we'll dig into that very concept in segment two, which is just preconceiving what you're doing and sort of what tools do you bring to the job. And, in fact, I will show you a slide of Dylan Zellers' clothes laid out on the tail gate of his truck where we're actually making that selection for, you know, which shirt will you wear, what skis. And, you know, I'll say something to that point, which is we are at the end of the day, the photographer's responsible for everything that's happening in this photograph. You own this rectangle whether you turn it vertically or horizontally. And, you know, we are... This is a course that Red Bull is behind. He better have a Red Bull helmet on, and if he has a shirt that competes with Red Bull, you know, one, he's probably not a good Red Bull athlete. He has issues. But we're responsible for that stuff. You want to make sure there's, you know, there's not stuff in your frame that also takes away from the photograph. So it's not only making certain that he's in the right wardrobe, that the sponsor's helmets are on, that logos are in the correct place, but also that there's nothing counter, that's actually taking away from the photograph you're trying to make, or distracting.
So this is... Maybe I'll let Chase talk because I don't want to talk about my own picture.
It's awkward isn't it? (Chase and Corey laugh) So this is the way that I first came to know you is through your climbing work. And as someone who has dabbled in, you know, in basically all of the genres. And like you said earlier, we consider ourselves experts in some things and sort of sophomoric or new in other areas or less skilled. This is something that I really instantly gravitated to your work because you were able to get yourself in these places that so few of other people in the world could do. This, there is so many things about this that I like. I'm going to just list them one at a time. One, the light. Epic, beautiful, beautifully lit. Mother nature can provide some really amazing environments. It's the best studio on the planet, right? Being outside like that.
It sure is, it sure is.
You have an athlete clearly who's insanely talented, and you've captured them at a peak moment where there's a lot of stress, there's a lot of anxiety because we're in a moment, an intense moment. And there's tension in the image. Not only with the really the aggressive lines in the photograph, but, the athlete, you can see the muscles in the forearm. She's really, really pushing herself hard here. Go back to the composition. You know, if you divide the photograph into thirds vertically and horizontally, you're right on the intersection of that bottom third and that left third, so there's, you know, classic composition. You're right in that spot right there. And then, triangles. Like triangles, they create a dynamic sort of vision for photographs, and this, this image is made of in the triangle between the rock and the climbers hands, the angle that the rock is in the foreground is cutting through the frame, and just all kind of tension here. Light, composition, action. Certainly peak action. And then, again, I know what you had to do to get there, and you're not, I promise, you're not sitting in a directors chair on the ground.
I have to admit this is one where I'm as close to sitting in a directors chair as I could. I mean we are in a remote place on the planet. We're in Rocklands of South Africa, but... And here's the other reality of the still photograph: we get to decide what the viewer sees.
The ground is right there.
It's right here. I mean I think there are many frames where I just dipped right below, and all of the sudden it lost all the drama because Beth could put her foot down and touch the ground. But when shot on a long enough lens and I was conscientious of the edges of my frames... Because I think I literally was sitting on my backpack like this, and I'd wait for... You know I'm probably sipping water. I'm going to say whiskey.
It sounds cooler.
Red Bull and vodka.
Speaking of can I have a diet Red Bull? I'd love one if you could get one, thanks.
And, but this is one of those examples of it's just the perfect situation. The light is bouncing off the ground. This, you know, I've done nothing to light this, but then I paid--
That's right, mother nature. But you know what, when I look at this photograph, and this is an important point to make, or it's the reason I've been in this game for so long. This trip was a long time ago. This is Beth Rodden. Beth was and is one of the greatest female rock climbers of our time. But what I see is one of my best friends hanging on this wall, and that's the nature of the action adventure sports world is we're not showing up at a football game and standing on the sideline and pointing our cameras at guys with numbers running around in front of us. You surf, and you suffer, and you travel on planes and trains, and share taxis and hotel rooms with the folks that you're photographing. And it turns out we all grow up together. You know, we all started a phase where, you know, we are working with the Cody LaPlantes and the Dylan Zellers of the world, and we grow up together, and you watch careers evolve as photographers, as athletes, as directors. And there's something deeply satisfying about the relationships that you form in the action adventure sports world that I'm not sure you get anywhere else.
Yeah, having lived in many different worlds. Sort of spent time in the Hollywood world. On the fringes I'd say. I never really got deep there. In the commercial photography world with all the ad agencies and what not. I can say pretty overtly that there's a lot of... Those are all communities, but there's something when you're putting your life at risk. You know, like you clearly weren't in this photograph, but when we all have risked our lives in order to get things in the can, and travel to far, far away places, and gone through great, I don't know, a lot of hard work to get these photographs, that there is sort of a kinship and an community that forms. And in this, it's deeper and stronger, and I think a lot of folks at home that's something that if you're not aware of, that is a huge benefit to this industry and making these kinds of photographs. You have to really come together to make a lot of magic. A lot of... And we've talked about the crew, the people who are making this broadcast possible, but the same is true here. It's you plus Beth plus, you know, maybe you had an assistant. And you certainly had to travel far to get to where you were going, so--
Yeah, and I think just that long term of you create these bonds that last forever.
And it's, you know, this might have been probably... I've known Beth for 20 years, but today I can still call Beth for shoots and for opportunities. We now have kids. It's that there's something really special about that. To watch lives evolve in parallel.
And just for on the record, you don't have to want to make an entire living in this industry. Like I think you can want the life and so many, there's so much richness in making a photograph with a friend of yours like this. I think there's a... That collaborative spirit is something we don't, you know, I wouldn't want to take away from. Yeah, many folks are watching this broadcast want to make a living in a life here, but some out there just want to make a life and that's absolutely okay. There's a lot of richness that goes into that experience as well.
And I think to that point, Chase, I'm reminded of this frequently. In this case Beth happens to be one of the greats, but making great action adventure photographs doesn't require working with the best athletes on the planet.
You know, I look at the beginning of my career, and I still do this today. Photography is muscle memory. It's about just doing it a lot. The more you do it, the better you get at it. And it doesn't have to be--
All right, thanks, Katelyn.
It doesn't have to be with great athletes. I mean I think for the first handful of years shooting rock climbing I just showed up at the cliff, and whoever was there I asked, "Do you mind if I shoot pictures?" And I'd spend 12 hours with them and make cool pictures of school teachers, and attorneys, and, you know, accountants, and bankers. Whoever happened to be at the cliff that day.
We are talking about it being so sort of manufactured and focused and I'm an advocate of building it with the end in mind. Like what do you want this picture to be? Or your set of pictures, your career? But I think I started off saying, "Oh my gosh, you're going to pay me to shoot? Go around the world and skateboard and surf with my friends? That sounds incredible. I'd love to do it!" It really wasn't... There wasn't a grand plan, so it's important that I think the folks at home need to know that that doesn't have to be your end goal in order to make pictures like this. You can just go work with the people that are close to you and have fun.
That's true, that's right. I think that's really important. You know, I immediately look at this photograph, and this is not my expertise--
But that looks really hard.
It's just, you know, it's just as a human being that rides a bike and occasionally motorcycle, you look at this photograph and you look at what the athlete is actually doing, and you think, "This looks like a guaranteed recipe for like going of the handle bars." (Chase laughs)
Totally, yeah. Don't invite me to go over the handle bars because I've done it so many times. It's so painful.
But I think that's an interesting... You know, one of the things that I... It just did to me immediately is Dustin's photograph... You see this photograph and you think, "I'm engaged because I'm like intrigued by what's actually happening."
I mean it looks like in the next frame he is about to go over the handle bars because he's just nailing this log squarely. And it does not look like wheel is going to go over it.
Does it have that raw stopping power? If I was walking by, what are the elements that make me stop and look at it? You know, we talked early about the outfit. Red, just pops right off the background. It's obviously gorgeous light, both the natural light in the background and the fill. It's, you know, it's a really well lit, technically well lit photograph. So I certainly stop and look. And then when I look further I... What's the story of this image? Well, the... I would say that this, the line of dust, the back lit line of dust coming off the wheel where the rider has just been is the story here. That's, I mean, if you took that away, he or she... I can't tell who the rider is. Who's the athlete? Geoff, okay, so he might as well be sitting still because it stops so perfectly, and what we need, we need that con trail to sort of demonstrate that there's--
The athlete's moving through the image. And I think this has both those. That's raw stopping power and then the, "Oh, there's a narrative here." What is the narrative captured in this still image? Compositionally it's on the third line. And if I was to give any criticism, it is that it's so well lit that you might not... The athlete literally could be just posing there, but, again, that's super, super critical.
Maybe there's a fog machine right here? Dust machine just--
You've done it just like I have. Man, don't lie.
I...I... (Corey and Chase laugh) I'm reminded when I look at this photograph, I'm reminded that it turns out in photography a little bit of sacrifice goes a long way. The best pictures tend to be made early in the morning and late at night. And it's actually, it turns out, sort of hard to be out shooting sunrise light and sort of hard to be shooting sunset light because you'd rather have a cup of coffee in your hand or a cocktail in your hand, but if that is happening, you're blowing it as a photographer.
Like you're actually supposed to be out there shooting, you know, sunrise, sunset. And then--
So put the cocktail and the coffee in your hand at noon.
That's right, there you have it.
That's why we both have these issues at noon you'll see. But, and then you layer that on top of... And Dustin Snipes is a master of lighting. I mean if you follow his work, and you should, he is a master lighting guy. And when you layer that on top of he's in the right environment. I'm guessing this is sunset because you can't get these athletes up at sunrise. (Chase laughs) Because, but they're out at sunset and you layer, you have a great athlete, great environment, and then you layer lighting. That's a recipe for success.
So true. Let's invite some questions from the couch or you guys have any thoughts?
I just think everything you've been saying has been so on point. I really appreciate being here right now, and let's keep it going.
Happy to do it. Any other questions about this specific stuff we've been reviewing? Go for it.
Can you guys just talk about how you make this particular image a little better?
Sure, yeah, go for it, Corey.
You know, the one thing I will say about this image that does bother me... And, again, it's really easy to be the arm chair, you know, backseat driver here. But it's, you know, this bums me out. Like this whole pile of dirt. You know, it's this mountain range in the background is really beautiful. And even this sort of line in the background. That's unfortunate.
That, you know, that is a really ugly background or element on that left side of the frame. That said, that's probably a feature in this track, and, you know, he didn't have a tractor or bulldozer to move it.
Now, potentially, and, you know, Dustin's a master. And we don't even know what the circumstance. He might have had an hour to set this up.
And it's boom, boom--
30 minutes, 20 minutes, you know, maybe it was flagging some of that light so that it's, you know, that drops off in the background. Maybe it was getting a Bobcat and moving it. It's all scale. It's how much time do you have. Anything's possible in the world of photography. It's just how much time and money do you have and how much resource in terms of man power. You know, and I think that's an important theme for this whole, for this three day course. You know, a lot is possible alone. You just need more time. And so I'm going to have some folks helping me, mostly so that we can do this live. So we're not, you know, you don't want to watch me. Watching paint try is pretty boring. (Chase laughs) You don't want to watch me set everything up, but you can do this alone. Dustin might have done this alone. Maybe he had a crew helping him, but the reality is you start really breaking each element down of the photograph, and, for me, that would be it. How do you get rid of that background?
I think my focus for, again, I would dove tail with everything you said on the positive. Like there's so many circumstances we don't know going into the making of this photograph, but if we're going to be critical and just look at the photograph, I think it's a great photograph. I too am bummed out by that pile, and if we had a bulldozer, I'd definitely move it. And if I was on set and able to short of shape the construction of this photograph, I would minimize the light in there because the light that's hitting the rider is the same light that's hitting the, or similar light, that's hitting that pile. So we've really lit it up and accentuated it. I would think about flagging it or changing my lighting arrangement so that I didn't highlight that. Also, the tension between the bike and the rider and where that hits on that dirt mound. It's just, you know, we don't get a lot of separation here. I would invoke maybe getting a little bit lower so that the bike and the rider are sort of, this shape of the subject, is more cleanly separated from that background. That's a messy... You got the mountains, the dirt pile, and the top of the motorcycle all sort of converging, and it creates a little bit of a confusing or little bit messy, messy visual. But, again, we're talking... We're asked to like to throw mud at a Mona Lisa here basically.
It's a beautiful photograph.
And, and I, just because we've all been there, and you will be there. He's probably making the best possible photograph given the circumstance, which is he can't move back, he can't get lower, he can't--
Yeah, he's probably on a pile of dirt. He can't get the camera any lower.
That's right, yeah.
And if you zoomed in closer and went wider with the lens, he would, you know, tweak the shape of the wheel.
And, you know, oblong wheels don't roll, so you don't want to have a weird, all tweaked out motorcycle shot with a 15 millimeter lens up close.
Let's keep on trucking.
Ooh! I'm just, I'm taking it.
Sure, go for it.
I don't know who shot this photograph. I don't know what they're thinking 'cause water's not red, but no. This is an extraordinary photograph. You talk about like raw stopping power. There's not a person who watched this, who saw this come up on their screen, that didn't go, "Whoa." I think the fact that it is underwater and that it is red... So that's... There's a creative license there that you certainly leaned into. Unless he's diving into a pile of lava, you took, you know, you took artistic... You made an artistic choice to do something different with this photograph. And whether it was the filter, or in post production, or you gelled some strobes, or something like that, this right away captures the intention or captures the imagination of the viewer. I think the body position compositionally, the fact that you've got these sticks and other things in the air, it also adds to the narrative of the story 'cause I want to know more. I want to like, "Wow, where the hell is this person? What are they doing? Why are they down there?" And lastly, "What are they doing with their hands?" Like, "What are they reaching for? Are they just swimming? Is there some little fish in here? What's going on?" So--
It invites all kinds of questions that I feel like create that tension and the desire for the viewer to know more. Leave the audience wanting to know just a little bit more. If you don't close the loop, there's a little gap. If you tell everything, than it's not quite as exciting. Leave that little gap in there, and so I'm going to ask you to fill in the gap.
You know what I love, Chase, is that this is the third photograph. Because I think, first, I said about your diving shot I said, "In my mind, Chase is in like a hard hat with like a walkie talkie and he's scuba housing and..." It turns out I did absolutely nothing to this frame. We're diving in a cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula, and there's a layer of algae hovering--
Yep, yep. So it is this. There is zero manipulation to the light. I'm shooting in daylight white balance with the water housing. There's no strobes. This is actually just the sun coming through this little 10 foot entrance to get into this cenote because we were diving in water filled caves in the Yucatan Peninsula. And, and I just love that intrigue. That, to the audience, as an artist as a photographer, you see this and you think, "Whoa, he took some creative liberty. Like how did this happen? Are there strobes above or is there red filter? Is this heavy post production?" And that's the beauty of photography is no one knows how this was made. And so two thoughts come to mind. One, in our world as action sports adventure photographers, everything that we do is about our integrity. You know, I can tell you this story about this is just the light. I was shooting natural daylight. Or if I had gone in and use Photoshop or Lightroom to manipulate this or use the filter, all of that's cool, either is absolutely fine. My rule of thumb is just be honest 100%. Full disclosure all the time, and, so, but I love that sort of in a way you were fooled by, you know, what--
Or I set you up for success. (Chase and Corey laugh)
Yeah, yeah, maybe that. Maybe that idea. You just threw me--
No, no I think your point about sort of when asked about what goes into making a photograph, reveal it. And the sexy parts and the not so sexy parts as well, and I think that's one of the things that our job, and your job over the course of the next number of lessons that you're going to walk these people through, is to sort of help them. Help the audience, help the students, understand that, and so for example this. When you think about this image, you know, you revealed to us in this image and others that it really wasn't all that complex. And, you know, that's a thing that it's absolutely 100% within the rules to frame up that shot and take the ground out of the photograph in order to increase drama, and to put someone in a position where the slope looks steeper than it might otherwise be, or it's you are an artist, and you're creating. This is your canvas, and it just so happens right here that, you know, you weren't putting your life at risk, and you didn't have $100,000 worth of lighting and people on set to manufacture this photograph. You just took a picture.
And I think... I'm going to for a second to switch into the less the creative part here, but the business. In fact, I'm going to propose to Chase--
Right here in front of everybody? (Corey and students laughs)
I think for the last... We were supposed to for the last 15 or 20 minutes talk business or the industry of action adventure sports photography, but I think what we should do it just weave it into the--
So that we don't have to stop looking at pictures. And so I'm going to start by actually talking a little bit about my philosophy or methodology around the business of action adventure sports photography. This was a magazine assignment, and one of the rules that I have for myself within reason is that I just absolutely, unequivocally never say no to an assignment that's outside of my comfort zone. And my rationale is I've been diving for a long time, but I'm by no means an expert diver. Absolutely, you know, my father was a diver. I started diving when I was a kid, but I've gone once a year for the last 20 years. That does not make you an expert, but when the magazine called and they said, "Corey, we have this shoot. It's a water filled cave diving assignment. Do you think you can do it?"
And you say yes.
Yes, 100%. And in the back of my mind I'm thinking holy shit. Like how am I going to pull this off. And that's sort of my philosophy is always I will find a way. I will make this work even if I'm getting paid for two days, I'll spend 10 to figure that out. That's that mentality of... That's why this job's exciting because it's not the same thing everyday.
And so, you know, really what's happening here is, you know, his hands are in this perfect position because he's bored to tears as I'm trying to equal. I'm like not... Be like sinking and then floating back up because I look like a complete junk show right now under the water because I'm not an expert at shooting underwater environments, but I'm making it work. And so, you know, my philosophy in these environments is... And I'm totally forthright and honest with the athletes before I show up in the Yucatan Peninsula. I'm explaining to them like, "Look, I can dive, but I'm going to be much slower than if you get the Nat Geo guy that his whole life is shooting..." You know, Brian Skerry is a good friend of mine. He is the man when it comes to shooting underwater. If he saw me in this situation, he probably would have laughed his mask off because tears were filling it. (Chase laughs) But that's really what's happening is this guy is just bored waiting for me to try to get my act together so I can press that shutter and make a frame.
But it's not a part of the picture, right? We're all sort of building in our own narrative. And that's one of the things I think you should thing about when you're making pictures is you have your intention, but people are going to tell a million stories about your work. I've had people say, "Oh I love what you were thinking here with the..." And I was like, "Yep, exactly what you were saying. That's what I was thinking."
That's right. Usually I don't admit that I was fumbling. Usually it's just yeah I had this vision.
You know, I like as we talk include the business aspects of it. I think there's a bunch of things that you just revealed in your narrative there. You're really forthright about things. You are willing to put in time beyond what your contractual obligations is in order to get the shot. And sometimes on a commercial world you can't really do that because there's, you know, big budgets and lots of people.
But in a magazine assignment, which is you and an assistant, you know, traveling to Mexico in order to get this shot, you can put in extra time. And I think saying yes instead of saying no, and it's really critical that you... And, you know, sort of like this class. You're saying yes by even just watching this class and deciding that you want to take the next step in your photography career. And just know that the people that are at the top of their game like Corey are saying yes, and they're pushing themselves every single day. So you're not alone in feeling overwhelmed and wanting to lean in and continue to learn. Like just think about how you deconstruct this learning. You know how to dive just enough. You're willing to put in extra time. You're willing to be really honest with what you know and what you don't know, and that's just a great recipe for getting better everyday.
Yeah. I mean, I actually, I often times think about... And photography is very much in this vein. Embracing discomfort. Like that idea of embracing discomfort in life often times leads to some of not only the most satisfying photographs, but the best moments in life. And I think that's that power of yes. Yes I'll do it. Yes I'll figure it out. I know this isn't going to be comfortable, but, damn, I'm going to have a good experience and hopefully create a nice picture in that process.
I'm not going to critique this guy's picture.
That is an awesome frame. That is. I mean it's, again, it's that idea that... And I'm going to say just a few top level observations more as a visual. The camera's in a surprising place. I don't think you're standing, you know?
You know at eye level, five something.
I'm laying in the mud, bro.
Yeah, there you go.
So he's laying down. It's interesting light. It's compelling moment. Fantastic backdrop despite, you know, potentially conflicting lines. It's organized in such a way that it's aesthetically pleasing. You know, this is a wonderful photograph. I'd love one of you guys to give us a critique. I'd love to hear. I mean, you know, I think we've just talked about some of these rules. Does anyone want to? Anyone? I'm kind of putting people on the spot, but tell us what you think.
Well, yeah, first off color stands out to me, So red like I mentioned earlier. The fact that you're using a fisheye I think is great for this, and that's one reason I rented one to bring for this specifically for skiing. And just not seeing the bottom of the frame. So where is he going, you know? That just puts more emphasis on how intense that moment is. Like where's he flying off to? Is he going to pull a parachute or is he landing somewhere in the bottom? So I think that's highly successful. And, again, you got the rule of thirds going on. You have your, you know, frame top right and that's where that action is. And that, again, that drifting trail of the snow is really appealing. If you didn't have that it'd be a lot more still and stiff, and so I think that horseshoe kind of motion through the bottom really leads your eye up and around. And you get to that left peak then you come back and around and you look at it again. So just there's a rotating circle. I think that's super successful there.
And, Chase, am I making this up? Is your, bringing it back to business, my first memory of your work was actually in this ski world. Were your roots in the action world in the ski genre?
Yeah, that's where I did most of my early, most compelling work was in there, and I think it does... You know, I skied since I was this tall, and so it does have a lot to do with what you know best that helps you make better pictures. You know, we talked about your earlier experience in paddle sports. How you know some, but, you know, over the course of gaining knowledge you get to make better and better pictures. So, yes, there's a lot of my earliest work, and that's where I sort of I guess cut my teeth, to use that term, was in... And it's tough environment to make pictures. You know, it's very, very cold. Snow is very unforgiving. It's very, very dangerous. I've been in avalanches, and once you cut through some snow and someone skis, you can't, or theoretically, it's a less appealing picture if there's already a set of tracks in there. So all those things are a part of why I was good at skiing is 'cause it was really familiar material to me. So yeah.
Right. And, you know, I asked, I brought up this point. You know, my memory of Chase was in that ski world sharpening his teeth, and I think there's a couple of things from the business perspective that come to mind for me, which is whatever it is that you're the most passionate about, whatever you can become the expert on. It's this 10,000 hour rule, right? If you spend... I'm going to make this up. Chase shot 600 days of skiing somewhere in his lifetime, which makes him then an expert at shooting skiing. And then that skill set you can then apply to anything else that you photograph or anything else that you do in life, but it's becoming an expert at whatever that subject matter is that's closest to your heart. And from a business perspective I feel like, you know, that was my jumping off point. It was I became an expert in the rock climbing world. I applied 10,000 hours of practice to photographing rock climbing. Being in that conversation, and then at some point people looked at me and said, "You know, if this guy can hang off a rope and make this picture, I wonder if we can send him to the river to shoot kayaking pictures? Or we could trust him with an underwater camera. He always brings it back." And I think it's that idea. I never had a business plan, which was here is my one year plan, two year plan, three year plan. This revenue is going to grow. I had one plan, which is go out everyday as much as I possibly can and do what I love and try to make better, and better, and better pictures. And the marketplace, as soon as their good, hopefully they'll buy them. And even the buying part came later. It was just make cool pictures and be really critical of those images. And it turns out in the creative space, in photography and film making, if you're creating great content, there is a need. There's this burning desire for that content, and people are willing to pay for it.
Yep, not just making those pictures, but sharing those pictures.
There you go.
Because if you make them and you put them in your mom's basement, nobody knows they exist. So there are many lessons baked into what Corey was just talking about for creating images and sharing them, and I wouldn't say that the money just comes, but people do. There is sort of a meritocracy with great pictures if they're out there to be seen and shared. Your point about 10,000 hours. I'd echo that, and I'd add one little piece of topping which is that what you're doing when you're becoming an expert in one particular thing is that not only are you learning, but you're also learning how to learn. So you can take what you did in the ski and snowboard world for example. Okay, what are some of the ingredients to becoming successful there. It's knowing the right editors, being friends with the people who run the marketing departments at all the endemic ski companies, creating a community around you and your work with other interested people who want to work hard. Athletes are willing to do whatever it takes. So there's all these different elements, and then once you figure that out, you're like, "Wait a minute, great, now I have a little bit of a roadmap." And let's say I want to go into paddling or go into climbing. What was the blueprint for me to become successful in photography in snowboarding or skiing and how can I layer that in? That same approach. Like knowing the right people. Of course mastering the craft. What went into mastering the craft? And you can sort of lift, and stamp, and repeat. And to be fair, that's all I've ever done whether it's moving from one area of photography to another or even that same mentality about how to like sell my work and make a living and a life as a photographer. I deconstructed what it meant. Who are the right people? How is this done? What are some of the standards? How can I be different, not just better? And then I applied that even to the business aspect of it.
And the same is true for starting at, you know, CreativeLive or any other thing.
And I think something that I certainly continue to take notes on is you were, I mean, really a pioneer in the world of not just burying your photographs in your mom's basement, but actually embracing this idea of social media. And really in the world of photography, Chase was the guy that created the genre of talk about what you do, tell stories, share, put your pictures out there, let them be critiqued, and that is a key ingredient. I mean the world, you know, 20 years ago when I started taking pictures, or Chase did, it was about getting into print. That's gone. Turns out now it's about like, you know, getting it on your, you know, Chase was just Snapchatting before we started here. You know, I learned something already in the last 90 minutes, which was just, "Oh, Chase is Snapchatting. I better start Snapchatting." (Chase laughing) But it's really--
Just add me at Chase Jarvis. No, I'm just kidding. (Chase and Corey laughing)
But it really is about embracing. It's also what is the platform today for getting your work out there? And I think we have never been more empowered as photographers, as creative people, as folks with ideas and opinions to communicate to our people because we create our channels.
For sure. And I think it is as unique this particular time and space. It's the first time in the history of the world that we don't require permission to share our work at scale. You used to have... There were many gatekeepers. If you wanted to have your pictures in a gallery, there was the gallerist. If you wanted to have them in a magazine, there was the photo editor. If you wanted to have them in an ad, then there was the ad agency. And now to get your work out at scale, and now within five minutes you can have one, two, three different social accounts. You can post your pictures, and create sort of a platform for yourself to share at scale. And certainly you're the first person to look at the pictures, and then maybe you can loop your mom, and then maybe two of your friends, but over time that hopefully will build and grow momentum. There's lots of other classes and platforms to talk about how to grow that stuff, but ultimately this is a very, very unique time. The democratization of creativity, access to these tools, the things like this class is, you know, where we're broadcasting it live. People are watching for free all over the world. The opportunity, the burden lies on the individual to really take their learning and take their future seriously and apply themselves. And the world is your oyster. Or maybe there's some other trite there I could say.
No, it sure is. It is an amazing time.
It's a really fun time.
Let's see. All right, we wanted to include a portrait. We're going to shoot portraits by the way. Both at the ski resort in the park and at the BMX Woodward. And the reality is this is part of the craft and the business of adventure photography, action photography. If you go and shoot a Red Bull assignment, and you do not deliver a portrait. Fail!
Yeah, fail! You might not get the phone call again because it's not just about the peak action. It's also a compelling photograph of that athlete. Now, this, if I was hired for Red Bull to do this, I also failed because there's no branding in this image, but we'll talk about that. We'll get into the nuance of sort of what we're trying to accomplish. This is Kevin Jorgeson. Kevin and Tommy Caldwell about a year ago climbed the Dawn Wall, which is the longest, hardest free climb on El Capitan. And this is a... I love this portrait, but I would love to hear... I want to hear the critical critique, which I already know what some of it is.
Let's actually, let's kick it to the couch here. Don't forget to grab your mic and then tell. Don't tell Corey. Pretend Corey's not here.
Yeah, yeah, tear me apart.
Why don't you tell me about this picture.
It's lit beautifully. My only question is, "Is his hand black?"
I knew you were going to say that.
It was one of the first things that jumped off to me.
You know, the hand. I think it's just the light. I mean, you know, and the truth is we spent... You guys will meet Blythe Gillies later today. He's going to be... He works in my office. Talented photographer. Really talented re-toucher, and many hours got spent in our studio talking about his hand and trying versions of his hand. And I guess I can only say that this is what we settled on was the dark version of his hand was better because we just couldn't pull the same skin tone out.
Yeah and there's this conflict--
This is zombie-esque.
But flip the script, and if you could see all of the detail in his hand, then is it competing with some of the other areas of the photograph? Like what you really want the viewer to do is go. Look right into the eyes of the subject first and then sort of like, "Wow." Then you're sort of taking I the whole scene. But I would've had the same critique, so I think that you're astute to notice that. I appreciate it.
Maybe we'll just take his hand out. We're going to crop it.
Yeah maybe just crop it.
Maybe it's a square. I shot it kind of-- (Chase and Corey laugh)
You know, one other thing that I would say. And this relates back to opportunity and the business of our world, the action sports world. You know, I'm going to... The backstory to this photograph is I was hired to do a shoot at a crossfit gym, and so we brought in a ton of lights, and we had budget to do that, but I knew in my head. I thought, "This is cool. We have the facility. We have all this equipment." And I knew my clients had to fly out. I knew we'd have extra time, and so I just flew Kevin in because we were already going to have this environment and all the light. So it's leveraging opportunity. I wasn't there to make this picture. I was actually there to shoot crossfit, but I knew we were going to have this set up that was really cool. And so this is you got to take advantage of opportunities. It's just individually you say... And I was in the phase in my life where I just wanted to light everything, and I just didn't always have, you know, six Profoto packs to work with. But on this day I did, and I, I think I shot. Kevin, he happened to be near by, or maybe he flew in from Las Vegas. And I feel like we flew or drove one other athlete in just because why not? Like we can stay late. Everyone's excited. And you just, you know, leverage opportunities when you have, you know, the tools, or the facility, or the location, or just the motivation. You know, take advantage of it.
I love it. Lukasz.
So I think, you know, I made the comment earlier that that portrait might have been a fail if I'd turned that into Red Bull. And I think one of... No matter who your client is, whether it's Red Bull, or whether it's, you know, an apparel manufacturer, whether it's a car company, part of, unless the creative is specific to downplay the brand, part of your obligation is to somewhere in that story reveal that the client... Or you're trying to illustrate that Red Bull is a part of this photograph. And in the most organic way is your goal, so that it's not overt.
Yeah. No holding a plaque pointing at the--
That's right, that's right, that's right. And so, you know, there's plenty of critiques of this photo that I don't like.
You know, I, you know, there's couple of like pet peeves here that I'm just going to like rattle off. I hate seeing GoPro mounts or action cam mounts without a camera. Just take it off the helmet like if you can control that. I don't know why. It just bothers me. This tree is in a really unfortunate place. It's really competing with where this guy is. I'm going to venture to guess this is a remote camera, which is cool. And we are going to talk about shooting with remotes. I think it's on day three. He, you know, I'm not a fan of the chairlift in the background, but I do love like this snow. You know, just sort of this particulate matter in the air. It makes it more interesting.
Yeah, backlit. Yep, light is interesting, and they've done, this photographer's done a pretty darn good job of for Red Bull, including branding.
In a way that feels organic.
I have the same sort of critique I think. In my mind. It's a good shot.
Now this guy. I love this guy. (Chase laughs)
Speaking of stuff in the air.
The beautiful frame. I mean I'm just all of the sudden just this idea. Actually, you know Chase, I think I know the back story of this photograph. Is this, this was during an ad campaign. And was this on the shot list or was this something where you... Is this similar to that you have all of these folks in one place and you're just, "I'm just going to make some cool pictures along the way."
Absolutely the latter. I'm a huge advocate of, especially in the commercial world when you have your client on set, they by and large are spending a lot of money, a lot of time, there's a lot of pressure on them to come back in the same way that there's a pressure on you to deliver the best images. There's a pressure on them to come back at the art director, or the creative director, to the agency, or for the client. Like, "Hey, I delivered. Here's my work." And so there's this sort of a rhythm that you like to get in and delivering like increasingly more complex and better pictures. And usually there's a drawing that someone's made of, "This is, we want it to look like this, and it's an ad." I start there and I check that box as soon as I can because it does two things. One, it gives the client a lot of confidence. Like, "Wow, I'm really happy with this photographer. They can do the work. They can go in there, they can get the shot that was specced up in the mock ups or whatever." And then you start adding things. And once you've built up a little bit of trust and rapport on set, there's sort of, you just sort of unlock the next level of photography. Your creativity can really start to flow. You've checked the box. The client's happy and now that's when the magic happens. And that's exactly... You know, your context that you put on this photograph is exactly what's happened. We've got a couple of cool pictures, and now we're into like, "How can we take this to the next level?" And where we can take some risks that we might not have taken earlier in the day, or the week, or however long the campaign is. So I built up the trust. There's so many things going on right here. You know, communication. I'm in water communicating with a boat that's going 25 miles an hour that's 100 or, you know, 60 feet away, 50 feet away with an athlete. The timing, the framing. How to get that up against... All those things are coming together, and there's, again, that repetition game that we already played or that we talked about. But again--
And I would add to this. And I think everything that you're saying. It's not just that you satisfy the client first and then you start pushing, pushing, pushing. It also turns out that the riskier pictures in the end turn out to be the photos they like the most. Often times.
Oh for sure, yeah. And when I say, yeah, you check the box of delivering on what the client thought they were going to get and then you put your special sauce on it. Not to say you're not putting your special sauce in the first one, because that's your style. That's why you were hired. Ideally not because you were a monkey with a finger, but because you had vision. That's what got you hired in the first place. And if you're getting hired for anything else, think you should reconsider it. And I don't think you want to be a commodity or commodified work. You want to be able to make a picture that no one else can make, and put your special sauce on there. But you're exactly right. And it, once you get the trust of the client and the other athletes and the people involved, you can show them the back of the camera. And they start pushing themselves to do things that they otherwise wouldn't. So creating that community. That little micro community that comes up around every sort of individual photo set up is a powerful vehicle. And as Corey said many times, I would say 99% of the time for me, the client ends up picking something that they didn't think they were going to because you took... You know, when you're sitting back at the ad agency or whatever sketching what you think this could look like, you can't take all these magical moments into consideration, and this is the perfect. It's like bright overcast. There's some blue coming through, and if it was too much more contrasty, it'd be really impossible, you know, hard if not impossible, picture to make. So you're looking at what tools you have available to put in to make something unique, and you're going at it. And that's sure enough the client picks this image.
Yep, any thoughts? Any questions? It could be about photography. It could be about the business. Hit us.
I'm just wondering if you guys can take a step back to that moment for each of you when you were making that move from just a hobby to business? How did you know? Did people approach you or did you guys just put yourselves out there and try it?
I'll give you my 90 second version. I'll try to do it in 60. You know, I took a semester off from college. I saved up $3,000. I took out all the seats in my Honda Civic except the driver's seat, and that's an advantage of being short. You can sleep in your car.
Did you sleep in a Honda Civic? That's amazing.
But I drove around the United States and photographed rock climbing. I had a 100 rolls of film that I bought by saving money from a summer internship. And I had zero intention of turning it into a business. It was just following my heart. Doing exactly what I wanted to do. Photograph the sport, the art, and culture of rock climbing. And when I came back to school... My father made me sign a contract. He was an educator, and he didn't believe I'd come back to school. I landed back in the dormitories. I submitted 40 pictures to Patagonia and Climbing Magazine. And really until I saw the first paycheck arrive I had no idea that this could actually be a career. And I think there's a purity. I look back at it, and I'm glad that it was born out of just doing what you love and being super critical of the images. And there was, I think, there was this magical moment where I had no idea if I made great pictures on that six month trip or not, but the industry answers that question. And they answer it by you either get published. Today you get an audience online. People press like, or push like, click like. And in turn you get paid for it. And that's how it happens. If you make great pictures, if you create great content, guaranteed 100% you can turn it into a career. Make a lot of great pictures.
Yeah, you can't just make one. You have to make many. And that's actually part of the art. I think you nailed it, Corey. And what I would add to that is you don't have to know everything, but you have to know what the next step is. And what the next step is for you is so much about in here. It's like what feels natural? What can I do that I'm passionate about? That when shit gets hard for everybody else it's going to make them say, "Oh, I've had enough." Are you willing to take the seats out of your car? You know, take all your money in your bank account and buy film and go on a road trip? That's something that only you can answer what that is for you, but that's really all you have to know is the next thing. And certainly you can have master plans. You know, what's the saying about the best laid plans are something? One thing is certain, and that plan is going to change and evolve, but it's being okay with that plan changing and evolving and going with what your instincts are. Certainly you can learn a ton from classes like this and others, but what is going to put you on the path is following that sort of passion. And that's what you heard from Corey about him taking his first step. Because when it's time, the time is right for you to really start to understand the business aspect of it, you're going to take a class like this. You're going to watch wherever on CreativeLive or other places on the internet how to sort of make that next step. But there's a lot of steps in between here and there, and sort of figuring out what that is, that next step for you. Sure you can learn from other folks, but most of the answers are in here. Less of them are out there.
You guys talked early on about sometimes on a shoot things just go completely wrong. And maybe you're preset conception of how an image is going to turn out just kind of has to get thrown out the window. Can you talk about maybe a time when that happened to you and how you fixed it?
You know, I think that statement is 100% accurate. I was just thinking that, you know, my mantra of going into every shoot is, you know, "Plan for the worst. Hope for the best." And, in fact, I feel like the deeper I get into my career, half of what I'm getting hired to do is actually decide what's in that rectangle and press that button at the right time. And I think the other, maybe even more, is just to make really hard decisions. It's to bring all of your experience to the table. I've watched a lot of things not work. You see issues, and it turns out issues repeat themselves. So did you show up at a location, at a set, you realize as soon as you smell something is not right, it's your job at the photographer, the director, to sort of assess the situation and say, "Wait, I can already tell this is going to be a problem." And you nip it in the bud. And sometimes the issues you just can't, you can't see them at the beginning., but the start devolving into big issues. Then eventually it all funnels right back to you because you're the only guy there. You're shooting alone. Or you have a big crew behind you and clients behind you. And it's everyone eventually looks right at you in the eyes and they say, "Chase, what do you want to do? How do you want to handle this?" And, you know, those situations, I think it happens every time you walk out the door to take a picture. It sort of you are making the most of the situation. There's no such thing as a perfect situation. You are trying to make the most of the environment, the people, the cameras, the equipment. You know, that the rule in production is that it's never smooth, and you just have to get into the zen state of embracing it.
Yeah, I opened the broadcast with talking about how if you can you make photographs as an action sports photographer, you can really make them anywhere because it is this dynamic environment that so many factors, so many things, none of them can line up right at anytime. So what you end up being as an artist, and specifically an action sports photographer in this case, is an amazing problem solver because nothing... The weather's never like it was when you were back in your studio thinking about this shoot. I mean there's always something different, and it's the ability to think on your feet. And the more times... That's why I liked the say yes. Go because you're going to get yourself into some hot water, and you're going to have to figure it out. And early on make the stakes low. Like make it okay to fail and not make a good picture because it's just you, and a friend, and a skateboarder at a skate park. But over time you're bringing all that experience with you, and as Corey said, you start to recognize. Oh, the clouds are changing. It's going to get milky really soon. What kind of picture can I make now? What am I going to make next? There's this sort of... It's sort of like the same reason that people like they lift heavy weights to get strong, and it's actually the stress on the muscles that cause them to react. And the same is true, you know, as a career as an outdoor photographer. It's a very, very dynamic environment and things are always changing. I think the one huge takeaway for me is that tough times often create the most interesting photographs. And when the weather is exactly the opposite you like. It's just pouring rain and you're, "Oh my gosh, I'm in the park. I got this world class athlete. It's pouring rain. I got to come home with a picture." That's when you have an opportunity to make an unexpected photograph because the perfect light, the perfect athlete doing the perfect trick, people have seen that before. So when can you take that thing that's causing you problems and in sort of a zen like way lean into it and create an unexpected image? Those have been some of my favorite images that I've ever created. Or when I've encountered a challenge and found a unique solution.
And that will be us tomorrow in the park. It'll be raining on us. I'll tear up. Cameras will break, but that's what it's all about.