I shoot people for fun.
Eugh… as a photographer, I know how cliché that statement is… Ah! I shoot people on the street as a hobby.
No – not getting any better…
**UPDATE** I finally got around to editing the video! Check it out at the bottom of the post, before the pictures (down there). **UPDATE**
At the beginning of September, my girlfriend and I took a trip down to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to enjoy an invigorating and adventure-filled time camping and hiking in nature’s majesty. Though we’d undertaken our adventures of years past with all the forethought of a labrador running at a barely opened door with an over-sized stick, we figured such a sizable endeavor warranted some grown-up planning. To be precise, the Smokies are bear country. Personally speaking, I was preternaturally excited at the prospect of crossing paths with a bear. The girlfriend – not so much.
You see, in my mind black bears were the tiniest and least-threatening of all bear species. Roughly the size of a large dog, with a demeanor more curious than anything else, they pose little threat to people – even less to those who aren’t afraid of them. Well, my proclamations of the friendliness of the species fell on deaf ears. In an effort to quell concerns, I purchased bear spray, a hunting knife, a riot baton, an alarm whistle, and a wildlife warning bell. This had the opposite effect than it probably should have. In my mind, I was now completely prepared to stand my own and come out victorious in the inevitable event of a bear attack. After all, we would certainly be strolling through bear-filled valleys and driving to the nearest Bestbuy to purchase more memory cards after we filled our existing 150gig of storage space with award-winning pictures of the majestic Ursus Americanus.
All told, we had line-of-sight to black bears for a grand total of 2.64 seconds. In case you’re curious, that’s not enough time to reach down pick up your camera, focus, and press the shutter trigger. Not. Even. Once.
This leads to the topic of the day: A brief list of stuff we learn in our extensive research of the Smoky Mountains National Park.
1. Your eardrums are gonna get jacked up. This should probably go without saying, but in our case, it was just something we didn’t even consider. You see, in the past 16 years I had not ventured outside an elevation level which, for the sake of clarity, we’ll refer to as “The Midwest.” That is to say, I’ve hanging around the flatest of the flat geography for the past half of my life. This situation became apparent once we reached southern Kentucky and began ascending rapidly. It’s something that’s easily accepted and quickly put out of mind. That is until you’re in the mountains, proper. When you spend a straight week and a half either hiking or driving in and around a mountain chain, you have 2 options: up or down. Suffice it to say, we went through a ridiculous amount of gum and spent more time yawning than a fellow student in Ferris Bueller’s economics class.
2. There’s no air. This is directly related to #1. If you aren’t a mountain dweller, or rarely find yourself venturing more than a few hundred feet above sea level, you’ve probably grown blissfully ignorant of the abundant of oxygen available to you in your day-to-day activities. It’s cool. So did we. During our preparation for the trip, we knew the up and down of the trails was going to be a shock to our muscles, as that wasn’t a common movement in our daily lives. What we didn’t consider, however, was how our activities would be impacted when something like 20% of our oxygen supply was suddenly not there. Factoring in a solid 30 pounds of camera gear, each, things like moving – at all – became rather more straining.
3. The road to the mountains is paved in hideousness. Have you heard of Pigeon Forge? It’s horrible. The mountains are incredible, but to get there you have to go through something equally incredibly but in the completely opposite meaning. I’ll set the scene: You’re driving through rural country towns in southern Tennessee. There’s a home-cookin’ restaurant every so often, pickup as far as the eye can see, and good ol’ boys sittin’ on their rockers on the porch drinking whiskey and spittin’ chew. Say what you will about it, but when it comes to cultural expectancy of a region, it hit the nail on the head. Then, in a span of no more than half a mile, the trees fade away, the neighborhoods disappear, the mom ‘n pop shops vanish, and you’re thrust into the middle of what can only be described as “Vegas meets gift shop meets Jed Clampett meets theme park.” It’s like someone tried to make Disney World in the middle of mountain country, theme it like an old Hatfield VS McCoy cartoon, funded by novelty shop owners, and develpoped by a board of directors whose motto is “Is it ostentatious, gawdy, and over-priced? Build it!”
4. There are no mosquitoes. Yes – you read that correctly. In the 10ish days we were there I was bitten by maybe 5 mosquitoes. But, like all things in life, there’s a trade off. Instead of mosquitos, the Smoky Mountains have spiders. Lots of spiders. Everywhere. They look like this. I’m gonna assume they’re the reason why there aren’t any mosquitoes. Other things the Smokies have in quantities, I didn’t think possible: Butterflies, dragonflies, salamanders, and centipedes the size of a standard Sharpie.
5. The Smokies are one step short of a rain forest. The “smoke” in the Smokey Mountains isn’t smoke. In retrospect this seems more than a little obvious. Smoke means fire and, well, if an entire mountain chain was continually smoldering… I guess I don’t know what that would mean but I’m pretty sure it would be a bad thing. Had I actually considered it, the concept of smoke would have seemed odd, but it simply never crossed my mind. So, nope – that “smoke” is actually “mist” – as in “water vapor” – as in “wet.” All the time. In all fairness, we did go at the start of the rainy season, but still. With the exception of back country camping, all campsites are in the valleys between the mountains. This means that each evening, the plentiful water in the air condenses and settles on things one may want to keep dry, such as clothing, bedding, firewood, and pretty much anything else that fairs poorly when it maintains a wetness level of “permanent.”
That said, The Smoky Mountains were one of the coolest places I’ve been. They’re part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, the oldest mountains in North America. You can feel it when you hike the rivers. It’s history, geologically speaking.
Check out the video (3/22/16 update)
Hooray! I’ve been waiting quite a while to share this one with you guys, but I had to iron out the finer details first.
Way back in the spring, I began doing video work for The Michigan Animal Rescue League. The promo spot caught the attention of one of their sponsors, The Urban Dog, an all-natural dog food and supply store out of Rochester Michigan.
After a fairly lengthy amount of planning and conceptualizing, we settled on an advertising project that would include a promo video, a series of ad posters, and a collection of interviews about the store.
Then the fun started.
Probably a good 80% of the dog owners I know graciously allowed me access to their furry family members. After a couple months of video, photography, editing, audio selecting, and post processing – the project is locked, loaded, and ready for you, the loving audience.
Also, be sure to swing by TheUrbanDogStore.com to see what they’re all about. I learned a lot on this project I wish I had known years ago about maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle for your dog.
And I’d also like to mention how massively thankful I am to everyone who helped my out and let me borrow your dogs for the afternoon.
Well hi there!
It’s been a minute…
I don’t know about you good folks, but this summer’s been a wee bit crazy. By “crazy” I mean busy, and by “busy” I mean I have projects coming out of my ears. There’s been corporate-y stuff, assorted events, videos, commercials, and one big-time marketing campaign for a regional company that’s about to go national… there’s also been a bunch of dogs (like you’re surprised).
But all that in time.
To get you guys caught up, here’s a little ditty from earlier this month. A couple friends of mine tied the knot at Indian Springs Metro Park in White Lake, MI and I got to photograph it. It seems that each summer I end up shooting one wedding. So, who’s gettin’ hitched next year?
This Tuesday my golden retriever, Murphy Riley Kopacz, passed away. He is 11 & 3/4 years old.
It’s sad. The events of the last 3 weeks cycle through my head on a loop and it hurts. But that’s where it stops. Everything else is happy and, frankly, hilarious. I just have to think about who he is and not about what happened.
He pooped on a shrew at the park in February. That kind of thing doesn’t happen. He hunkered down just as the little guy popped out of its hole to see what was going on… imagine what went through that shrew’s mind. Hilarious.
We ran out of dog food one morning when he was about 5. So we gave him a can of SPAM. You ever see a dog try to eat a cube of SPAM? It’s terrific. Every time they try to take a bite it slides across the floor.
I was about 22 when I was hanging out with him on the beach. A couple of rather attractive young ladies walked past and exclaimed how “OMG absolutely adoooooorable he was and if they could PLEEEEEASE pet him.” Knowing precisely how to use my dog’s charm for my own gain I of course said that they could…. then he brought them half of a rotting dead catfish. That one was probably funnier to him than it was to me.
Here are a few of the things he was by my side for:
He’s my hero.
If you knew him, you already knew how awesome he was. For those who didn’t, here’s a look at Murphy
Due in no small part to a connection from a close friend, I’ve recently begun some business with a local/national herbalogically-minded, interior decoration-based company. I suppose that’s a bit wordy, but it’s a pretty accurate description of what these folks do.
Basically, imagine a unit that allows plants to grow vertically on a wall instead of on the ground or in pots. Also, because each unit can hold multiple small plants, you can essentially plant designs on the wall that match the decor and such.
Over the past coupe weeks, we began work creating imagery for the new product from the company, the “Grovert.” It’s the plant-it, hang-it, grow-it yourself unit for sale at plant nurseries in the Midwest.
Here’s a bit of of the project – a few of my favorite shots. What do you guys think?