“Trees are your best friends” was the first bit of advice for my inaugural assignment with Car and Driver. And no, that advice wasn’t given by a tree-hugging hippie with a curly fro, it was from the veteran videographer from MadRam11, the media leader in all things that involve 600+hp machines, big-ass vertical rocks, and mayhem… emphasis on mayhem. “Trees are your best friend because you can hide behind them when a rock bouncer gets out of control, which isn’t uncommon” he says. I quickly made friends with the biggest, sturdiest trees in Arkansas, for this was the 2014 Southern Rock Racing Series Finals… where the word “Finals”, translates to “let’s break as many parts on the last event of the year as possible”.
If you remember the last blog post about shooting the Ferrari collection, this feature is almost like that. No wait, it’s NOTHING like that, other than the horsepower numbers. These tube frame home-built monsters push anywhere from 600-1000hp.. and they need every bit of that horespower because they’re racing UP a wall of rocks, trees, and mud. Looking around the “race course” in the middle of a rocky forest lined off by frail plastic caution tape, I’m stupefied by the agenda that something with 4 wheels will be driving up the terrain.
I’m not even going to begin to further wittily describe the event, considering how masterfully Daniel Pund’s words illustrate the madness. I’ve done my fair share of writing, but Daniel is a true guru of the craft… so get to reading here.
From a photographer’s perspective, there was eye-candy everywhere I pointed my nose. The people, atmosphere, scenery, and beautiful beastly machines of controlled chaos made it hard to narrow down selects for the blog post… so F* it, you’re getting a long wall of southern rowdiness!!!
My poor excuse for a beard and steel-toed mud shoes helped me blend in a little better with the rootin-tootin crowd. I was born and raised in the South, but I admit I was a little out of my element with this bunch… AND I LOVED IT!! As the editor Daniel Pund so elegantly put it, “Natural Light tastes better than it has any right to.”
I did the best I could to illustrate the rock-flinging madness in pictures, but nothing beats seeing these machines muscle their way up vertical jagged walls at full throttle in person. Much of the success of the new sport of Rock Bouncing can be attributed to youtube videos, more specifically from the author MadRam11. The video posted above is just the event I covered… but watch their latest “2014 EPIC CRASH COMPILATION” to permanently have your jaw glued to the table.
If this is a preview of the random assignments that are in store for me with Car and Driver, then 2015 is going to be one hell of a wild ride.
Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian mountain chain resides Phil Bachman. He is a man that lives in the South, where trucks are regarded as luxury items, and a weekend of going “muddin” is to many equivalent to the Concours d’Elegance. To say the least, if you’re a common person living in the charming South, you are lucky to see a dozen Ferraris in your lifetime. Despite the unicorn-like rarity of a Ferrari in his region, that didn’t stop him from filling his garage with upwards of 40 immaculate archival offsprings from Maranello. How could this be in Tennessee!? This is on the same possibility scale of stumbling upon Ross Brawn and Flavio Briatore flinging a perfect 300 at the local hole-in-the-wall bowling alley.
But that is just the cover of the book, the uniqueness of the Bachman collection flows deeper than just a team of horses under one roof. Minus a few select examples (Two F40s, 288 GTO, 512 BBi Boxer, 250 GTL Lusso, and more) every Ferrari model has two things in common: they’re the final production car in a given series, and they’re yellow. “I see the final production car as the one that best exemplifies that model” Phil Bachman proclaims.
Whether you agree with his mantra or not, we can all agree that the Bachman Collection is breathtaking. And I was proud to be one of the few to lift up the skirt of his priceless garage to shoot and write for the distinguished Ferrari-only magazine Forza. I told my video-extraordinaire buddy Will Keown about the assignment and he jumped at the road trip to Tennessee. Which I’m glad he did, because he made this beautiful BTS video of the day, enjoy!: HIGH-DEF VERSION CLICK HERE
After a lengthy, but unforgettable discussion with the friendly Bachman family, Mr. Bachman had one more nugget of information: “I have a LaFerrari on it’s way in a few short years” he said with a modest smirk. “Is it going to be yellow and the last production model?” I ask… then immediately felt daft for uttering such foolish question. It’s good to know that after 30 years, Phil still has the same glow today that attracted him to his first Ferrari. The mark of a true veteran collector. This certainly isn’t the last time I get to shoot one of his cars in the Bachman stable.
Pepsi has been on a roll with their advertising lately, and again I’m excited to be a part of their latest project with NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne… and whew, what an action-packed day!! My main job was to grab on-location studio shots of Jeff and Kasey, but I would also be running and gunning around the GoPro Motorplex afterwards for action shots. So, I had to quickly switch my brain from studio, to journalism.
Being quick was the name of the game for this shoot since this project was a surprise for local go-karters Evan York and Steve Szabo. My assistants (Linhbergh, Sarah, and Will Keown) and I arrived when the sun was rising to setup the on-location studio to make sure everything was working perfectly… because, once Jeff and Kasey arrive, WE better be ready. No excuses. After literally 10 minutes with Jeff, and only 5 minutes with Kacey in the portable seamless studio, we focused our cameras to B-roll for the rest of the action-packed day for surprises and racing.
Doing the job for the paramount studio shots was the massive Phase One IQ260 with Profoto lighting (Check out my previous job with a Phase one to see how ridiculously brilliant this $40,000 system is). For the quick & dirty journalism-type photos my assistants and I used more compact cameras like the Canon 5DMKIII and Linhbergh’s Sony A7 sync’d to lightweight portable AlienBee monolights.
All-in-all, it was a jam-packed day where my shutter finger didn’t get much rest. As with any advertising shoot, there is no such thing as being over-prepared, especially when the window of opportunity for shooting the talent is the size of 5-10 minutes. My video-inclined buddy Will Keown followed the shoot from start to finish and put together this great short BTS video! I hope you enjoy… and remember the #1 priority is ALWAYS to get the image, and bringing lots of backup gear reduces the chance of a disaster happening. Once the gear is covered, it’s all up to the squishy thing between your ears.
Nearly 4 years have passed since my previous mailer. And let me tell you, a LOT has happened since then. My photography has matured, received more work, and made connections with bigger clients such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Pepsi, KFC, Porsche, STA-BIL, Harley-Davidson, etc. And now, I felt the time has come to accumulate my latest work and show it off… but if you know me, I don’t do simple.
Five years ago I had a desk job as an Art Director for multiple national magazines, which fortunately gave me a front row seat to photographers and illustrators sending me promotional mailers. Most were useless non-personal postcards or emails, but every now and then I got something that forced me to stop and look. As with anything when trying to find new business, you must be in the mindset that the people you want to contact, have no idea who you are. And that’s OK. But don’t make the mistake of only letting your work naturally fall in front of the right eyes, instead give it a push. I see it as my job to advertise myself. Considering the size of the agencies I’m sending these to, and the vast ocean of talented photographers available in the world, I had better make my first impression a good one.
The idea started out as expanding on my previous “GIVE ME A SHOT” mailer, but in a much more polished and mature way. I eventually thought of having bullet holes going through multiple prints at the same location, so when they’re stacked together it would make a noticeable concise hole. To take the idea even further, I thought it would be cool to include a bullet shell within the mailer to solidify the idea that each print has been “shot”. Get it?… OK don’t let me lose you… Actually, instead of creating a wall of words and going through my thought process, watch this video and read the captions below on how these 50 mailers were pieced together:
This is it! After a year of casually brainstorming, and sourcing the elements together, this is the fruits of my labor. Certainly longer than I had anticipated, but as a perfectionist I didn’t want to make any sacrifices when conveying my work to the top agencies in the country.
The guts of the mailer:
-Pelican case with my logo painted on the back (rubber feet included)
-20 5×7″ drilled lustre prints with 1 print detailing my contact info
-Hand painted bullet shell by my friend and local artist Christina Ramsey
-Custom foam cutout velcro’d in to precisely hold the prints, and hand painted shell
-Hand scored paper wrap with signed personalized note to recipient
-Snazzy business card
Trivial decisions like how to package and label the mailer were important, because after all, this is the first thing they will see. I went with a Caremail package because it’s rugged, yet environmentally safer than bubble wrap. I wanted the convenience of printing addresses at my office, so I rigged a way to seamlessly print Avery labels to the edge.
Why a Pelican case? If you’re a photographer, or remotely close to the creative world, you already know the answer. Nearly all production gear is transported within this iconic brand. A few were painted cyan and white in the beginning. They looked great, but I didn’t I didn’t want to obnoxiously SCREAM my name on the case since they would (hopefully) be keeping the functional iPad/tablet case. So I opted to paint the logo black on the back. Seems fairly simple, but look closely and you will see brush strokes. It compliments the hand painted bullet shells inside. Yes, I’m a bit insane.
This angle shows how snug the custom cut foam fits the 21 prints, along with a convenient notch on the side for easy removal. Notice how the drilled holes in the prints aren’t laser-cut precise? That is on purpose, I wanted the prints to have a jagged look as if shot by a bullet.
And this is the perceived culprit of the jagged holes in the prints. I don’t use the Canon 70-200 2.8L lens a lot personally, but I realize it’s one of the most iconic lenses ever made, and would easily be the most recognizable. The hand painted .50 caliber shell is also snugly put on display below a personally written note to each recipient. What’s the monster at the end??? I admit it’s a shameful attempt to have the reader go through all the prints to see…
…an info print about me. It’s something to express my personality, explain where I live, my clients, fun facts, and a few pics of my adventures. Oh yea, and a little terrifying Loch Ness monster I drew with the Wacom.
Drilling was a 2-step process. Jonathan had to use a small drill-bit, then the larger one for the final diameter, sharpening the bit every few hundred prints. Using just the final drill-bit was too much stress on the machine.
Break out the paint. Each Pelican case was stenciled with my logo on the back. I thought about just using a vinyl sticker, but paint shows a more personal permanent touch, whereas stickers are easily removed.
Slather on the paint, the more texture the better! Even from a few feet away, you can see the brush strokes in each letter. I let the paint dry for a good 15min before it got too hard for peeling off the vinyl stencil.
After carefully peeling off the vinyl and meticulously plucking out each “O”, “A”, “D” negative spaces with an X-ACTO knife, they were left to dry. The first few cases were painted with cyan and white. However, I thought if I wanted the recipient to potentially keep the Pelican case, then it should be more subtle.
You thought painting logos on each case took a long time? You haven’t seen anything yet! The main supporting element of the “GIVE ME A SHOT” campaign are the bullet shells painted like the iconic Canon 70-200 2.8L lens. I wanted the shells to look like the lens, but not to look too perfect as to show that each one is hand painted. Christina did an impeccable job of giving each shell enough detail to be easily recognizable, yet retain the texture that painting yields.
To make sure each shell was painted nearly the same, Christina drew a handy template. The attention to detail is maddening. Everything from the base off-white color of the lens, the silver/red line, to the red dot… I was breathless when she showed me the final results.
The Printshop was kind enough to lend me their HUGE space in Greenville, SC for 2 days to piece together every mailer…
…And lots of space is what I needed! Each recipient receives 20 prints, but each mailer is not the same. For instance, if I’m sending a mailer off to an agency that represents Cannondale bicycles, then most of the prints will be aimed at cycling and sports. If another one is aimed at an agency that works with a truck brand, then most of the prints will be the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter campaign.
And that’s it. Each mailer is personalized to each recipient. What is your reaction when you receive a letter in the mail that is addressed to “Or Current Resident”?… Exactly, most of the time it goes straight to the trash. If I’m going to make a first impression, I want it to be personal, impressive, and above all, memorable.
Many thanks goes out to my patient, and overly helpful wife Sarah (and our friend Leize). My friend Jonathan did an outstanding job drilling a precise hole in 2,000+ prints. Christina Ramsey blew me away with her attention to detail on the painted shells. And The Printshop for their huge workspace to organize all the pieces. Riker, the dog, however didn’t help much at all. He just sniffed everything. Thanks for nothing, Riker.