Twitter: coreyrich

Cool Stuff: Ami Vitale, Dave Matthews Save Elephants

My friend and fellow Nikon Ambassador Ami Vitale is having a tremendous year. A couple of months ago, she won first prize in the 2018 World Press Photo awards in the nature category for her story on the work being done by the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in northern Kenya. Her story, which first appeared in National Geographic, offered a glimpse of hope for how local attitudes can shift from one based in fear to one based in conservation and opportunity.

That project was the basis for a video for Conservation International. Directed by Ami and produced through Novus Select, the film stars the musician Dave Matthews, a native South African and a passionate conservationist. After months of work, it’s finally finished, just in time to become a part of Dave Matthews’ global tour, as well as be shared on social media and online.

The film is also being used as a promo for a Prizeo campaign in which a $10 minimum donation to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary can potentially in you tickets to a Dave Matthews Band concert and a VIP trip to Kenya to see the sanctuary. More details here.

Though I wasn’t directly involved in this project, I’ve been happily watching it evolve and get stronger and better with each iteration. The footage is gorgeous and powerful—great job Novus DPs Dane Henry and Brett Lowell! Excellent directing, Ami Vitale!

Best of all, Dave speaks truth to the reasons why we all need to care about saving wildlife. Incredible job to all involved!

This story also struck a chord for me, as I traveled to this region of Kenya with Ami several years ago to profile her for a Nikon project that launched the KeyMission cameras. Ami’s drive and passion for wildlife, conservation, and storytelling never ceases to amaze me—and that certainly shines through with this story.

Hope you love this piece as much as I do, share it, and consider supporting Conservation International and the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary so that we can see more locally run conservation initiatives spread across Africa.

Ask Corey: Production Van Tour (Video)

A couple of years ago, I hinted at the news that we invested in a brand new 2016 4×4 Sprinter Van that we planned to convert into a road-worthy grip house that could reach any location, whether that’s in the city or mountains, curbside or remote, with all of our equipment.

 

Since then I’ve received a number of questions asking for a follow up on the status of our van. We figured the best way to show off the finished results would be to make a quick video tour through the van.

Check it out below. And let me know if you have any follow-up questions. Thanks to the companies whose gear stocks our rig, especially Nikon, SanDisk, FreeFLY Systems, Litepanels, Manfrotto, SmallHD, RED, G-technology, Connex, Kessler, and Lowepro.

And thanks to Scott Gabler at Bear Precision and Eban Kenny at Sierra Van Works for the incredible craftsmanship!

Latest Work: Making the Shot with Chris Burkard

Over the past few years, I seem to have carved out a little niche for myself in which I am given an opportunity to profile my fellow photographers and filmmakers for various clients. And although this wasn’t an intentional direction that I had set for myself, it has ended up becoming one of my favorite types of project. What I love is that I get the super rare opportunity to see how my colleagues work, think, and approach their passion for visual storytelling. And, of course, I get to hang out with my friends in really cool locations.

I’m pleased to share my latest project, which is a profile of my friend Chris Burkard for Adobe. We traveled with Chris to New Zealand a couple months ago and spent three days following him around some of the most stunning scenery in the world, documenting how he approaches his craft and plying him for lessons and tricks of the trade that we might all be able to find useful.

Chris Burkard is an incredible landscape, lifestyle, and adventure sports photographer whose still images have amassed him an Instagram following of over three million(!) people. Chris was an early adopter of Instagram and saw the potential with using this platform to showcase and promote his work.

In fact, I have Chris to thank for being on Instagram myself. Years ago, during an Adventure Photography Workshop in Jackson Hole, I was riding in a car with fellow workshop instructors Chris Burkard, Sadie Quarrier (National Geographic picture editor), Lucas Gilman (a fellow Nikon Ambassador), and Scott Wilson (then of The North Face), and Chris Steppig (organizer of the Adventure Photography Workshop).

“Hey Corey, are you on Instagram?” Burkard asked.

“Ista-what?”

“Gimme your phone,” he said, and he promptly downloaded the app and signed me up.

The first post I ever made to Instagram was a photo of Lucas Gilman tapping a keg.

My, how the world has changed since then! Instagram for many of us is a little less about the “insta” and more about presenting a polished portfolio of work, with captions that complete the story. We still like to drink beer out of a keg, however—that definitely won’t ever change!

Adventure photography is a tiny world, and I’m humbled to share the stories, personalities, and creative approaches of people like Chris, whom I get to call both colleagues and friends.

Hope you enjoy this latest spot, and that it inspires you to use your camera as a passport to the world.

Thank you to Adobe—especially Dan Cowles, Kristi Highum and Katie Perri—for the opportunity to create this film. You can watch it by visiting this Adobe landing page.

Thank you to Chris Burkard’s team: Ryan Valasek (aka Snack Farmer ), Mike Sandifer, and Jonathan Feldman.

And of course, thanks to the Novus production crew: Josh Marianelli (Producer), Dane Henry (DP), Sean Haverstock (AC / Gimbal + Drone Operator), Sean Milburn (Sound Recordist), Nich Adam (Post Production Manager), Cam Wood (Local Fixer), Rex Lint (editor)—and the rest of the Novus staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help create this film.

Additional thanks to Nikon, G-Tech, SanDisk, Litepanels, Manfrotto, FreeFLY Systems, Sachtler, Lowepro, and Relax It’s Done – Real Estate NZ.

Latest Work: “Trending Gold” Olympic Channel VR Experience

Every project is a stepping stone to other opportunities, and such was the case a few years ago when I had the honor of helping Nikon launch the KeyMission 360, a dual-lens action camera that shoots high-res stills and motion in full 360 degrees. That project was both exciting and challenging because it landed me and my team at the cutting edge of virtual reality filmmaking. I knew at the time that what we were doing was exciting, but I had no idea where this project would send me next.

Fast forward two years, and I found myself directing a series of VR (virtual reality) episodes for the Olympic Channel in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Over a few short months, I worked as a director with a production crew that visited nine countries. Using everything from the Nikon KeyMission 360 to the top-of-the-line Jaunt VR cameras, we shot hundreds of terabytes of footage and ultimately produced what I’m told is one of the longest episodic sports series ever shot in VR.

 

Viewing “Trending Gold”

“Trending Gold” is a full VR series that profiles a number of hopeful Olympians training and preparing for South Korea 2018. We profiled a women’s bobsleigh team from Nigeria, two big-air snowboarders from North America, and two ski racers from Europe. All the main episodes can be viewed on the Olympic Channel website.

The best way to experience these videos is with a Jaunt compatible headset using the Jaunt VR app. It’s really a different level of immersive experience that you just won’t get if you open up a web browser and try to pan around the video using your mouse. I highly recommend a headset but at the very least, please download the Jaunt VR app for your iOS or Android device—all of the main episodes are available in the app.

More info about Jaunt-compatible headsets and the Jaunt VR app is available on the Jaunt website.

Stay tuned because I’ll also be sharing stories and background about each individual episode and my experiences with the athletes over the next few weeks.

BTS of a VR production

One of the great aspects of this project was the opportunity to use any and every piece of VR-capturing camera technology currently available, from $100,000+ Jaunt VR cameras down to compact, portable Nikon KeyMission 360s. This was a production where technology played as much a role as our creativity, which was a fun challenge. In truth, this is just the beginning of a whole new world and way to experience immersive visual stories, through VR.

To kick off this series, I wanted to actually show you the Behind the Scenes (BTS) piece about my role as the director because I think it provides a good overview of what this series was about, and how we approached capturing these stories. My friend Bryan Liscinsky shot a majority of this BTS piece, and Eric Whalstrom edited this video. Great job to you both!

Please enjoy this BTS video on the Olympic Channel!

Soul Shredders

I think one of the great joys of being a director is the access it provides. That access could be anything from securing an incredible location for shooting, or it could mean getting to know a person really well and seeing the inner mechanisms of their lives and how they’re able to do such great things.

For this segment, I spent some time getting to know two very unique and very talented big-air snowboarders: Jamie Anderson and Max Parrot.

Jamie actually grew up near where I live in South Lake Tahoe. She has an amazing amount of natural talent and seems to be motivated as much by the lifestyle as the competition. She calls herself a “soul rider.”

Max, on the other hand, is a training machine who approaches big-air snowboarding comps with the kind of rigorous training that you’d typically expect of any Olympian.

There are lots of different ways to skin a cat—or potentially win a gold medal—and these two athletes certainly show that different approaches, attitudes, and lifestyles can produce real excellence. I’ll be looking forward to rooting them both on in South Korea next month!

For this segment of Trending Gold, we ended up doing two different trips to Canada to shoot with Max—first at his home in Bromont and later on the slopes in Whistler. This ended up being my first time to Whistler when there was actually snow, and, wow, it certainly lived up to its name as one of the best mountains in North America.

With Jamie, we shot three locations: first in South Lake Tahoe; then, another trip to Whistler (where we sadly got weathered out, which seemed to become a theme for this series). Finally, a second unit team met up with Jamie in Mammoth Mountain, without me present, to capture Jamie doing what she does best.

You can watch their segment here.

Ski Speed

Part of what makes sports so fascinating is that they are unpredictable. For this segment of Trending Gold, a VR series I directed for the Olympic Channel in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics, we profiled Slovenian ski racer Ilka Stuhec and Swiss ski racer Luca Aerni.

The focus of this episode involved capturing both Ilka and Luca in moments of peak action, training, and lifestyle. Due to frequent bad weather/conditions and several logistical issues, this ended up being the most difficult episode of our whole production. Multiple teams took numerous trips to Europe, everywhere from Switzerland to Slovenia to Italy, to capture Ilka and Luca.

But ultimately we persevered and came away with a fast-paced episode that hopefully captures what it’s like to tackle a mountain course at full speed. Unfortunately, Ilka ended injuring herself last year and she’ll be missing the Olympics this winter, though I know she’ll be supporting her team.

What this experience showed me is that to be an Olympian, you need to be talented, work hard, and have all the other obvious traits that go hand in hand with world-class champions. But you also need that element of luck. And as a director working in changing environments, that’s certainly something I can relate to.

You can watch their segment here.

Cooler Runnings

This is just a great story. These three women are going to be the first team, men’s or women’s, from the African continent to compete in the bobsled event in the winter Olympics.

Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga, all American born, will represent their cultural/familial homeland of Nigeria in Pyeongchang next month. Congrats to these three amazing athletes!

 

This was an incredible shoot that took us to Lagos, Nigeria, where we met the country’s Olympic committee officials and toured some historic stadiums and met Seun’s family. We also shot in Canada at the Olympic bobsled course. This story really embodies the spirit of pushing the limits and embodying the spirit of what the Olympics are all about.

 

Watch their segment here.

Thank You!

Huge thanks to the Olympic Channel and Jaunt for trusting in me to take on such a groundbreaking series, and to tell the stories of such incredible people. Big thanks to Doug Allenstein and Lucas Wilson at SuperSphere, and the amazing Colleen Kessler. I couldn’t have asked for better travel and production partners for this project! Looking forward to pushing the boundaries with you guys in the future.

A huge thanks must go to Canaan Rubin at Jaunt for his vision and drive. Also, a huge thanks to the VR editing team at Jaunt, a job well done!

We hired lots of local crew around the world, so thank you to everyone who pitched in to make our productions successful. For this project I also got to work with some of my good friends and regular partners in crime, including Dane Henry, Bryan Liscinsky, Bligh Gillies, and Ben Ditto. And of course, thank you to the Novus team back at the office, including Amy McCormick and Josh Marianelli.

And of course, thank you to all of the athletes I got to meet and work with on this project. Of course, some of the athletes are now realizing their dreams and preparing to head to South Korea next month. Some have experienced the harsh realities of being a world-class athlete, which include injury. Either way, this project would not have happened without all of you being so generous with your time and allowing us into your lives. Thank you to the Nigerian women’s bobsleigh team: Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga. Thank you to snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Max Parrot. And thank you to our skiers Ilka Stuhec and Luca Aerni.

tay tuned for more stories about our “Trending Gold” series!

And again, please enjoy this BTS video on the Olympic Channel!

Story Behind the Image: Syncing Up with Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and Kelly Slater

24-70mm lens / ISO 100 / 250th second  / f/5.6

 

When I was in college, I got an assignment to shoot a magazine cover and story featuring Jack Johnson, Kelly Slater, and Ben Harper. I knew of Ben Harper and liked his music. Jack Johnson was still an up and coming artist, and I’m not sure if I had ever even heard one of his tracks at that point. The only thing I knew about Kelly Slater, beyond the fact that he was a badass surfer, was that he had just broken up with Pamela Anderson.

I had no idea why these people were going to appear together in a magazine; nevertheless, I was humbled, honored, and psyched for the opportunity to photograph them.

The shoot was for a mag called Hooked on the Outdoors. If this were a shoot for Vanity Fair, there were 1,000 other more qualified photographers to call first. But this was Hooked on the Outdoors, so they called me.

The story was that Jack, Ben, and Kelly were all buddies who played music together, surfed together, and were going to save the world together. Though these details were technically true, the feature was largely ginned up by a PR firm seeking to promote a new album and tour.

This gig was outside of my wheelhouse at the time, to be honest. I was going to have to travel to the Hollywood Bowl, a large outdoor concert arena, set up a studio in an underground parking garage, and, within just 20 minutes, capture a bunch of portraits of the three subjects together, alone, and in various couplings.

The night of the shoot, Ben Harper was headlining a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Jack Johnson was opening for him. Kelly Slater was going to be an audience member in the concert. This explains the short amount of time I would be given.

I didn’t consider myself a portrait photographer and had very little experience working in a studio environment with lights. I’d much rather be 2,000 feet up El Capitan, hanging from a 10mm static rope any day. Still, I was excited about the opportunity to explore new creative terrain and potentially even rise to the occasion. Just so long as I didn’t totally botch it, I knew this job would lead to other opportunities. That’s what I love about this career.

Prior to any big assignment, I’ve noticed that we photographers are quick to justify splurging on shiny, new gear. There is a tendency, for better or worse, to spend our paychecks before we’ve even earned them.

For this shoot, I talked myself into purchasing a high-end SLR film camera. I already owned a very early digital camera but, at the time, digital files weren’t large or high-quality enough to hold a two-page spread.

Also, I really wanted a new camera.

I hired Max Becherer, a fellow photojournalism student and college buddy, to be my lighting assistant. On the day of the concert, we caught the first flight to Los Angeles. We rolled into the Hollywood Bowl at 8 a.m. and were struck by the arena’s grandeur. In the distance, I could see the iconic Hollywood Sign gleaming brilliantly atop Mount Lee in the rosy morning sun. It dawned on me that this was kind of a big deal, and my excitement grew.

We met the team of PR handlers that had arranged the shoot. They directed me and Max into a dark corner of a parking garage directly beneath the stadium.

“You guys can set up here,” the PR person said, pointing to a patch of asphalt littered in cigarette butts and dried gum. “The talent will be here at 4 p.m. sharp. You’ll have to be fast because we only have 20 minutes with them. That time is non-negotiable.”

“That’s why we got here so early,” I said eagerly. “We want to be sure that we’re ready so that we can be super efficient with our time.”

“Fantastic!” the PR person said. “After that, you are free to enjoy the concert. Here are some tickets for you guys. I’ll be back here at 3:30. See you soon. Good luck.”

Max and I went to work setting up our white seamless backdrop and strobes. We were finished with set-up by 9:45.

“I guess we just hang out now and wait?” Max asked rhetorically.

“Maybe we should figure out what the fuck we’re doing with these strobes,” I said, laughing nervously.

“Don’t worry,” Max said. “This is freshman level stuff.”

Max was as solid as they come. Methodical, smart, and fearless, Max was never afraid to charge the battlefield, metaphorically or otherwise, to get a shot. Years later, he became a freelance war photographer whose work ended up everywhere from Time magazine to the New York Times. This was the exact kind of person you’d want running your lighting op. I didn’t question him for a second.

While waiting, Max and I dreamed up different poses our models could assume during the shoot. We captured test frames using my digital camera. This was a common tactic at the time, and actually one useful application of this early digital technology. We were surprised by how good the lighting looked.

“This is going to be sick!” Max said.

The stadium was filling with workers who were running around and setting up for the concert, which was slated to begin at 7 p.m.

As 4 p.m. neared, I started getting nervous. A crowd had gathered around our little mock studio set-up in the parking garage, including Mark Anders, a friend and the journalist who was going to write the story for Hooked on the Outdoors. There were agents, PR handlers, and the magazine publisher. I showed the publisher my test frames on the back of my digital camera, and she was blown away.

“Amazing!” she said. She launched into a litany of suggestions and questions, which I had no interest in answering.

“Oh, hey, there’s Kelly Slater!” I said, and ducked away from the publisher mid-sentence.

Conversation with Kelly was nonchalant and easy. Turns out, there’s a lot of cultural crossover between climbing and surfing, so we instantly hit it off. He struck me as an intelligent, curious guy who wanted to know all about my world. I returned the favor and asked him about his thoughts about big-wave competitions and the ethics behind turning a dangerous sport into a spectacle.

“Thanks for asking about that,” he said. “Most people I talk to just want to know how Pamela Anderson is in the sack!”

We laughed, and before I could ask a follow-up—“Well … since you brought it up …”—Kelly ran off to find some water.

An outdoorsy-looking guy in a Patagonia hat, who wasn’t much taller than me, appeared. We started making small talk. Turned out we knew some of the same folks who worked at Patagonia. I was half-engaged in our conversation because I was running through mental checklists and keeping my eyes out for the arrival of Jack Johnson and Ben Harper.

When Ben Harper, whom I instantly recognized, arrived, I promptly ended the conversation with the guy in the Patagonia hat.

“Hey, man, it was great to talk to you,”I said, “but I’m actually doing a photo shoot with Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, and Ben just arrived, so now we’re just waiting for Jack Johnson to show up and then I need to get to work.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. But, um, I’m actually Jack Johnson,” the guy in the Patagonia hat said.

Ouch! There wasn’t a big enough shoehorn in all of Hollywood that could’ve pried my foot out of my mouth. I felt like a complete douche! Fortunately, Jack was really cool about it. He laughed and told me not to worry about it. It ended up being a great ice breaker and we all laughed.

Strangely, that fumble didn’t throw me off my game. In both athletics and the creative world, top performers talk about entering a flow state. I felt as if I’d entered that flow state during the shoot. Perhaps it was because, with just 20 minutes to execute, the pressure was on. Or maybe it was because of that initial icebreaker allowed me to loosen up—indeed, all of us to loosen up—and feel comfortable and free.

I also made a smart decision to show Jack, Kelly, and Ben our test frames on the back of the digital camera, which fired them up. In part, it was because they had probably never seen a digital camera before, but they also got to see firsthand how good the frames were going to look. This motivated them to put in the effort, and they started coming up their own clever or funny ideas for photos.

We were surrounded by around 100 people who were watching us work to create these pictures. The strobes were firing, the energy was high, and it all felt somewhat glamorous, though in a very down-to-earth way. I was fully engaged in the moment. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to shoot, and I was able to block out all of the other voices and people. It was just about me and my subjects creating the best imagery possible.

An agent tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Corey, it’s been 20 minutes. Are you done?”

And I said, “Yeah, we got it! That’s a wrap!” Everyone clapped. We high-fived. Beers came out. It was a pretty festive moment. The publisher shook my hand and said I did a brilliant job. I was on top of the world.

That’s when I looked over at Max, who appeared to be frantically turning through the pages of my brand new camera’s manual. His face was tomato-red.

I casually made my way over to Max. “What’s up, Max?” I said in a whisper.

“It’s 1/180th of a second,” Max said, pointing to the page describing my the film camera’s sync speed. “It’s not 1/320th!”

He didn’t need to say anything more. I knew. We’d just fucked the entire shoot.

The digital camera we had used to test our set-up had a sync speed of 1/320th. We hadn’t thought to check if our film camera’s sync speed was different. This was bad.

I had no other choice but to play it cool. I smiled, raised my beer, and clinked bottles with the publisher. Inside, I was utterly panicked.

My mind ran through the scenarios. When you shoot at the wrong sync speed, that means that your shutter curtain will cast a shadow across part of the frame—meaning there would likely be a big, ugly black stripe running down or across part of the frame, depending on how the shutter opens. The worst-case scenario would be if the big, black stripe landed right across my subject’s faces.

Max and I devised a plan. I would go to the concert with the publisher and agents and pretend to have a good time. Max would hang back and shoot a test roll of film using the wrong shutter sync speed. Then he’d find the nearest film lab to rush process the roll. This way, we would at least know if the black stripe was going to land in the middle of the frame (worst-case scenario), or at the edges (not ideal, but not catastrophic either).

I didn’t enjoy one second of the show, even though there was a big, fake smile on my face. I was panicked, silently considering crazier and crazier options. If Max told me that the black stripe was down the center frame, I decided that I would have no choice but to hire someone to steal my car—which held the entire shoot—light it on fire, and drive it into the river because there was no way I would own up to the fact that I had screwed up that badly.

As Ben Harper sang songs of peace and love, I sweated.

Finally, my first-gen cell phone, which was the size of a brick, rang. I picked up then immediately hung up. This was our signal that I’d call him back, as this, of course, was before text messaging.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” I told the publisher, who was rocking out with a big smile on her face.

Due to the concert, it was really loud in the bathroom. I called Max back.

“What’s the verdict?” I shouted. All I heard was:

“… We’re … totally … fucked!”

“WHAT?” I yelled back into the phone.

“THE GOOD NEWS IS, WE ARE NOT TOTALLY FUCKED!” Max shouted. “THE BLACK STREAK IS DOWN THE LEFT SIDE!”

“THE BLACK STREAK IS DOWN THE LEFT SIDE!” I screamed. People in the bathroom must have been very confused by hearing me yell this, but oh well. At least I didn’t need to pay someone to light my car on fire.

In the end, the magazine salvaged a usable cover by compositing two portraits into one cover. And thanks to some cropping and Photoshop work, they eked out a full feature using the rest of my photographs, including this lead image of Jack and Kelly behind a guitar and surfboard, respectively, which was my favorite portrait from the shoot.

At some point in the aftermath, I spoke to the photo editor on the phone and just straight up lied through my teeth when he asked me about the black streaks. I blamed the new camera for everything even though it was totally my fault. I had even thought that he had bought it, too. Years later, though, during another random interaction, this editor made a point of calling me out by casually asking, “Hey, you ever figure out that sync speed issue on your camera?” That floored me. He had known all along.

In Hollywood, the name of the game is “fake it till you make it.” I would really hate for that to be the lesson of this essay. Remember: we were in college, spending our weekends actually doing the careers we were preparing for. Maybe that should cut us some slack.

I will say this: don’t be afraid to go for it because you will learn a lot more from your mistakes than you will from your successes. It’s a lesson I’m constantly reminded of every time I happen to hear Ben Harper or Jack Johnson on the radio.

 

 

Cool Stuff: Candide Thovex Skis Grass

I was hiking up to 8,000 feet with my friends the other day when I realized there was no snow in sight. As we wait around for the snow to return to the mountains to break out our sticks, I was reminded about a video I’d seen a couple of years ago featuring badass freeskier Candide Thovex ripping down some idyllic European grassy hillsides. I looked up the video again, just for fun, and was blown away by just how good this piece remains. Great cinematography, really cool concept, and just an engaging, unique piece. That’s the true test: Is this piece still relevant two years later? The answer here is yes, for many reasons!

Hope you enjoy this throwback. And here’s to hoping for some actual snowfall.  Otherwise, we might just have to learn how to ski grass like Candide …