Inspiration at the Lifetime Agency

IMG_9392-2It’s been a busy summer jaunting about Europe building kayaks and taking pictures! I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the amazing 3e Lifetime Agency. Based in Minneapolis, they are the creative team behind Lifetime Fitness and quite a group of inspiring people themselves.

I gave a presentation on shooting photographs, of course, but when it comes down to it, I think to a large degree what I was talking about was Life. It was really about this quote from photographer Jay Maisel:

If you want to make more interesting photographs, become a more interesting person.

Life is best lived not worrying about the past and future so much as simply going on inspiration and learning to follow the power of saying Yes.

3e posted a blog entry. They were inspired as well and I found it amazing to chat with so many interesting people so dedicated to creativity and fitness together–a few of my favorite things.

http://www.thelifetimeagency.com/play/kiliii-fish-brings-all-the-inspiration/

The day I was almost swallowed by a Humpback Whale

“Sea Lions!”, my friend Tom yelled to me, barely audible over the chaotic roar of thirty lightning quick flippers, surfacing and disappearing in a boil of water to my right. Then one thumped into my kayak hull and I knew I had maybe 10 seconds. I pulled my camera away from my face, laid it sideways on my lap above a pool of saltwater on my skirt. 6 seconds… I nabbed my paddle, flipped it and planted it into the water with the awkwardness of going too fast.

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I could suddenly hear myself breathing as my heart became audible and I pushed backwards with a stroke. 3 seconds… A few more strokes and my kayak gained momentum and slid, frictionless, through the water, away from the sea lions. And then suddenly the sea lions vanished beneath the surface.

A quiet moment passed but I kept paddling, then swiftly raised my camera with one hand. Suddenly, the ocean in front of me burst open as three humpback whales lunged, enormous jaws agape, straight out of the water where I had been moments earlier. Those 50 ft whales with jaws 15 ft long pushed up and footlong anchovies shot everywhere, sparkling silver amidst white foam. That’s the goal. They were here for the anchovies. We were here for the whales.

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In Monterey Bay, California, anchovies school in large numbers and attract humpbacks who feed on them through a technique known as bubble-netting. The whales swim around a school in circles, releasing a steady stream of air bubbles. The fish won’t cross this wall of bubbles and become corralled into a tight ball, at which point the whales dive deep and come up, mouths wide open, swallowing ocean and prey alike.

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Tom and I had paddled out in our handmade traditional kayaks, having noticed the rare coincidence of a small ocean swell and whales not far offshore. We shot out of the marina a few hours before sunset, fully loaded with photo gear. Straight out of the gate we heard them blowing, the smell of a fish market lingering in the air.

Minutes later, a lone humpback surfaced in front of my bow, ten feet away. I stopped paddling and braced, one hand on my paddle, the other on my camera. It snorted and blew a fine mist sky-high, which landed all over my kayak and lens. I was still clicking despite my heart having stopped beating.

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An hour later, we spotted a group of feeding humpbacks and paddled to about 100 yds away, careful to avoid disturbing them. From afar I watched and learned the patterns of their behavior— first the whales would dive, exposing their tail flukes, and then the sea lions and pelicans would start diving in a frenzy. Moments later the humpbacks would come crashing out of the deep blue as they inhaled and strained anchovies through their baleen. The thing about wild creatures, though, is that they don’t stay put very well. The whales moved around us as I watched, and then they were amongst us.

Truthfully, despite having paddled thousands of miles in beautiful waters and having had lots of wildlife encounters, this one tops the list. To be in the gaping maw of wild creatures in their environment is a bit transcendental. As a person, I died that evening, and was born again, like a sudden gust of wind or a wild thing on a wild sea.

Filming Goshawk Nestlings by Remote Camera

I sure do love my job. I spent the night over in the goshawk woods east of Seattle about 100 miles, woke up, and worked with falconer Aaron Allred to install a remote camera. Aaron did a tree climb about 100-150′ up and placed the camera at a terrific angle and we ran 500′ of cable to our blind to kick back and watch the goshawks get fed and grab some terrific footage. Here’s a quick glimpse.

Amazing People and their Falcons

Hey folks, I’m a little behind on the blog so I’ve got lots of stuff to post. First, some shots from over the weekend with falconer and all-around awesome guy Aaron Allred. I took the opportunity to get to know Aaron by bringing some kayaks north with me to Deception Pass so we could paddle together. In the afternoon we visited the gorgeous cabin where he lives with his peregrine falcon, goshawk and dogs.

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Goshawks are the largest of the Acccipter family of hawks, those who are exceptionally agile in flight and have a speciality in chasing down other birds. Goshawks, unlike their smaller siblings, also take mammalian pretty like rabbits etc. Since we weren’t hunting and the light was beautiful I thought portraits from Aaron’s backyard view would be most appropriate. If you look closely you can see the Deception Pass bridge in the background.

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I’ve always been fascinated by falconry and so I was truly excited to glimpse into Aaron’s world and hang out with the raptors. The immature goshawk here isn’t being hunted yet as the season won’t arrive until fall, but Aaron’s relationship and understanding of the rather feisty hawk was remarkably fluid, an unintentional naturalist. Unsurprisingly, I am now looking for a space to build a hawk house of my own and apprentice into this ancient art. I’ll be back in the fall to shoot Aaron and the raptors on the hunt.

Feature in Au Magazine

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Au Magazine is Aurora Photo‘s quarterly publication, an amazing collection of shots by the best in adventure and stock photography. This quarter I’m humbled to be among the featured photographers alongside some amazing talents, covering combat photography to fine art. I’m also sad to say goodbye to longtime Aurora Director of Photography Peter Dennen, who has with this final issue moved into photo consulting with Pedro+Jackie.

Interviewed by Shoot for Thrill Podcast

Shoot for Thrill

Last month I was interviewed by Chris Smith (@theecjsmith), Founder & Host of the Shoot For Thrill Podcast. The podcast is one of the top podcast in iTunes and focuses on successful photographers that are at the top of their craft who desire to spur on inspiration and action in others. There are some great interviews with some fantastic shooters on there, such as Joel Grimes and Delphine Diallo, definitely worth listening to.During our podcast we talked about my personal background as a developing photographer, the path to inspiration through personal work, the need to assist, and the business side of commercial photography.In the interview Chris drew out of me not only my story, but also some struggles I went through, successes I found, and we even talked about some of the gear I use. I would love for you to hear the story of my journey. Take a listen below and let me know what you think. http://shootforthrill.com/kiliiifish

ALIVE: The life and death story of an Alaskan plane crash

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View the entire ALIVE series

Little Known Fact: Before I was a photographer, I was a wilderness survival guide, running courses on wilderness living on multiple continents. Last fall I was musing over concepts for a new personal campaign with HMUA/Art Director Lindsey Watkins when it hit me– with all the experience in survival, why not tell a realistic survival story? We decided to collaborate on illustrating the story of two Alaskan researchers whose plane crashes while flying over interior Alaska.

March 15th. Two geologic researchers from Fairbanks, AK were flying over the interior when a flock of geese smashed their windshield and forced a crash-landing in the Yukon-Tanana Wilderness. The pilot managed to prevent a catastrophic landing but died from wounds resulting from the crash, leaving a severely injured man and surviving woman alone in the vast wilderness region. With the onset of an late-season cold front and search area of tens of thousands of acres, there is little prospect of finding the crash site.

I don’t want to give away more than that in words. Here’s a story that is realistic about the difficulty and suffering of a survival situation and also illustrates the incredible capacity some human beings have to overcome the insurmountable and even thrive in the wilderness.

Shooting started in late November. My assistant and I hiked off into the Enchantment Lakes Wilderness in the North Cascades of Washington, armed with tons of outdoor gear and camera equipment. After a week of hard snowshoeing up the sides of mountains, I managed to get some terrific plates to setup our survival scenario. In January, we pulled together a fantastic crew in the studio to shoot the talent and the action, which were then composited together with the outdoor scenes to create the story of our tragic survivors.

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The result was surprising. Despite having storyboarded and then mocked up each shot with stand-in talent, I think we were all floored when actress Alyssa Kay brought an incredible intensity of emotion and expression to the scenes. While retouching, I found my own mental state to be a bit unbalanced after staring at photographs of her sadness in closeup portraits, as well as the degree of suffering model Andy Gregory exhibited with the help of SFX Artist Shawn Shelton.

Many thanks to our fantastic crew. In addition to Lindsey and Shawn, it took the considerable talents of Deb Tudor with wardrobe, Mandy Kehoe with props, and the assistance of Dalton Green, Casey Nation and Colton Running. What truly made this series come alive were the acting abilities of actors Alyssa Kay and model Andy Gregory, cast by Samara Lerman. Also I’d like to give a special thanks to Tina Yaw for her assistance on our production mockups, and pilot Jeff Chang with Rainier Flight Service who provided aircraft and flight time over the Enchantments.

It’s my sincere hope that everyone who sees this series walks away feeling a little more thankful for all the wonders we have in our lives. I know I am.

An Inside Interview on ROCK Photos with Deadpoint Magazine

DPM-Cover-SmallHey all, just returned from Hawaii to discover my interview with Mike Williams of Deadpoint Magazine, or DPM. This issue covers some great climbers (Ashima and Jimmy Webb), as well as four glorious double spreads of my photos from the ROCK series.

If you want a great inside look at how those images were made and don’t mind me rambling about artistic vision, then take a look inside! I talk about technical ability vs vision, production, and compositing adventure images. Oh, and you must excuse the Papyrus font– like adventure, sometimes it just happens.

Interview with Deadpoint Magazine