Twitter: coreyrich

Ask Corey: LEDs vs Hot Lights

Hey Corey, I’m a longtime filmmaker accustomed to using HMI fresnels on productions. As you probably know, there are some downsides to working with hot lights, and I’m wondering if you have any experience with LED fresnels? How do LEDs compare and can I expect the same performance? Thanks! —DJ, via Facebook

Great question, DJ. It seems as if LEDs (light emitting diodes) are popping up everywhere these days, and for good reason—they’re more affordable, more efficient, longer lasting, require less voltage, and don’t get hot the way traditional incandescents do.

When you’re comparing LEDs to a 1,600-watt HMI that gets so hot you could fry an egg on the fixture, there are both advantages and disadvantages. For example, one downside to working with LEDs is that, if you get hungry on a job, you can’t easily make yourself an omelet on your light.

HMI fresnels are traditionally used to light up sets around the world—but what are they? HMI stands for hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lamps. A fresnel is a type of lens that was originally developed for lighthouses, and in this context essentially refers to a lightweight type of lens that has the ability to focus light into a beam.

We’ve been experimenting with the Litepanels Sola lineup of LED fresnels. The Sola 6+ and Sola 9 have been with us on virtually every job over the past year. We’ve also brought in the Sola 12 on occasion, such as on this recent production for the International Gymnastics Camp, which you see in this BTS image.

Lighting expert Bryan Liscinsky whipping out a glorious LED-lit L-sit. He swears he wasn’t sore the next day, too.



The Sola lights contain the same directional fresnel lenses that you’re probably accustomed to using in traditional HMI fresnels—the only difference is the light source is LED.

There are huge advantages to using LEDs. One of the biggest ones is that you don’t have to wait for your bulb to cool to move it. HMI bulbs are super fragile and can easily shatter when hot. The bulbs also cost upwards of $600 each. This means that if a light has been on and you need to reposition it, you can’t really move it until it’s cool, which can slow down the entire production. (Of course, this also means you’ll have plenty of time to make that omelet.)

LED lights require a fraction of the power, which is often a huge advantage depending on your location. You can run an LED off a small generator or even a battery pack, whereas an HMI might decimate the entire electrical grid of that quaint old-world European village you’re shooting. With LEDs you also don’t have to worry about the bulb breaking or burning out—these lights will last virtually forever.

In interview situations, LEDs put off less heat, which, again, is bad for frying bacon but it’s good for interviews. With LED lights, you’re going to be spending less time wiping sweat off your interview subject’s face. The proverbial hot seat is literally less hot! And that results in better content—a better interview—simply because the subject will be more comfortable.

So, what are the drawbacks? LEDs are objectively less powerful than HMIs. When you’re working in that 1K and under range, we’re going with Litepanel Solas all the way. But as soon as you need a 2K fixture, we have to switch over to traditional HMIs.

For most situations, we’ve been really happy with the performance of our Litepanel Solas. I’d highly recommend giving them a try because they’re going to offer better performance and versatility most of the time. Let me know how it goes!

OK, who wants breakfast?

Latest Work: International Gymnastics Camp

If I had to pick one sport that everyone should do to provide them with a fundamental understanding of movement, athleticism, and self-discipline, it would be gymnastics.

I did gymnastics as a kid and saw how well that background translated into rock climbing later on. I was the kid in gym class who could do 35 pull-ups, and that, in turn, led to the invitation by one of my teachers to take me and brother out rock climbing for the first time. That invitation changed my life.

Last year, I felt some nostalgia for my youth as I traveled out to the Poconos of Pennsylvania to shoot a promo for the world-renowned International Gymnastics Camp, a summer camp for kid gymnasts.

Though it’s been a few months since this spot launched, I wanted to share it nevertheless. I am pretty sure it’s the most cinematic promo that’s ever been created for a summer camp! Hopefully, it attracts a bunch of kids whose lives will be changed by gymnastics for the better—just as mine was.

Thanks to the team at IGC for this opportunity. Also, thanks for the opportunity to discover that I can still do an Iron Cross!

Huge thanks to Dave Black my fellow Nikon Ambassador and friend, who helped put this together and who also happens to share a passion for gymnastics as well. And, of course, thanks to my own team for the gorgeous visuals and hard work. Hope you enjoy some of these BTS images and please feel free to comment with questions about our production!

Cool Stuff: Honnold Foundation

Alex Honnold at work in Africa. Photo: Ted Hesser


We are really good at celebrating athletes who achieve incredible, new standards in sports, but we should also be good at celebrating those athletes who are not only super-talented jocks but who also use their positions of influence to give back to society in important ways.

Alex Honnold is easily the most famous rock climber in the world. What’s so incredible is that a rock star like Honnold continues to lead a dirtbag, humble life devoid of all the usual “rock-star” excesses. He says he gives away 30 percent of his income to charities, including his own Honnold Foundation—a non-profit that supports solar-energy projects around the world that will help reduce our carbon footprint.

Alex Honnold soloing Equinox (5.12c), J-Tree. Shot during production of “WHY” Photo: Corey Rich


The Honnold Foundation is also now on Instagram—give them a follow!

It’s humbling to know and be friends with a guy like Honnold, who has just about every climbing record in Yosemite, from the first free solo of El Capitan to the Nose speed record, which he recently achieved with Tommy Caldwell in just under 2 hours! But what’s truly inspiring is how he has turned his career and passion into a vehicle for giving back. Thanks, Alex, for the inspiration and being a true leader in the climbing world.

News: “Story Behind the Image” Book is Coming …

What began as a way to answer reader questions about how photographs were made, slowly turned into longer stories about my life and career behind the lens, and is now in the process of becoming a book.

Story Behind the Image has been one of the more surprising and enjoyable projects that I’ve invested my time into over the past few years. And I can hardly believe that over 50 portfolio images and 80,000 words later, we’re reaching the final pre-publishing stages of what has become not only a memoir about my life and career as a photographer, filmmaker, and director, but also profiles of the people with whom I’ve spent some of the best days of my life.

I won’t say too much more about this yet, but you can expect to see different/fresh/new content in the book than what’s here on my website archive—outtakes as well as behind-the-scenes photos. We’re looking at early 2019 for publishing, and I’m looking forward to loading up the camper and doing a book tour with my family.

We’re not at the stage of taking pre-orders just yet, but stay tuned for more information when SBI hits shelves!

Ask Corey: How Do You Back Up Your Data? (Part 2)

Hey Corey, Big fan of your work and approach to shooting stills and video. I’m wondering if you could share your thoughts on backing up files and data, both stills and video. Do you have a workflow for when you’re out in the field? What about back in the office? Thanks for the advice! —Richard, San Diego

Hey, Richard!

Thanks for your patience as I worked to complete part 2 of my answer to your question. To recap, in the first post, which you can read here, I discussed my methodology and workflow for backing up files while out in the field.

In this post, I want to describe how we manage our files using our server back in our Novus office here in South Lake Tahoe.

Part of my delay in this response was due to the fact that our offices were in the midst of a major remodel, and I wanted to wait till our servers were up and running in order to showcase the sophisticated server room.

As with the first post, I’m going to try to avoid getting too deep in the weeds in terms outlining all of the technical details involved in this question and instead provide more of a philosophical overview on my methodology and approach when it comes to backing up data using servers.

Back in the Office

Back in the day, when it was just my team at Corey Rich Productions, we’d shoot to in-camera spinning drives, come back to the office, and burn all that content to CDs (and later to DVDs). I know I’ve just dated myself! But back then memory was expensive, and files were tiny.

Eventually, we moved our data storage from discs to spinning drives and servers. Early on, I spent an ungodly amount of money investing in an Apple Xserve RAID, which lived in my laundry room in a rack-mounted enclosure for years.

Ultimately, we upgraded to an early G-Tech solution at one-tenth the price and four times the storage! That’s the evolution of technology right there.


Again, the concept of redundancy comes into play back in the office.

The entire raw shoot exists on two hard drives, which live in two different locations. Typically, one hard drive lives in our office, while the other is sent off to the client’s office. Now, spinning hard drives, with all their fragile mechanical moving parts, do not like to sit unattended on shelves for months or years at a time. Thus, we’re in the slow and steady process of archiving all those original files and drives to LTO tape, a great stable solution with a “shelf life” of 30 years. Similarly, one copy will live at the office, one off-site.

We use our server to store all of the hero content. We portion off all the best footage, the final edits with media-managed files, and all the best still images and put them on our server. That server has triplicate backups, with two backups living off-site.

We also put our select final content online. We use an online catalog powered by PhotoShelter for all of our best still images, and our videos are on both Vimeo and Dropbox, often times password protected.

Here in Lake Tahoe, California, wildfire is certainly a real threat—as evinced by the latest tragedy across western California. If a biblical wildfire tore through the Tahoe basin and destroyed everything in its path, including our office, I’ve always wanted to make sure that our years of hard work would survive, even if we didn’t.

Backing up your data off-site doesn’t need to be expensive or very complicated. You don’t have to pay for a bank vault.

For years, the way it worked around here is that I would use my parents’ house, located 45 minutes away. Each week, my mom and dad would swing by to say hello, have dinner, and see their granddaughter. On their way out of town, they’d swing by the office and grab a pelican case with a set of backup drives in it. We’d handcuff the case to my mom’s wrist, she’d get in the car, and take it to her house.

Just kidding about the handcuffs!!!

Today, as I’m a partner of Novus Select and we now have our offices located in South Lake Tahoe, our memory needs have grown exponentially compared to the days when it was just Corey Rich Productions. We’ve graduated from a relatively small G-tech server to a 200 TB server: a G-Technology G-RACK 12 with a G-Technology G-RACK 12 EXP Expansion Chassis. Our new post-production manager, Nich Adams, has spent the past few months getting the server up and running, which we’re super excited about. Now, this new server allows our network of editors to work real-time from our server, while also providing a long-term backup solution.

Again, as technology changes, the technical solutions will always be different. What’s most important is understanding the philosophy behind the approach to making sure your hard work is safe. It comes down to reliability, durability, and speed. And, of course, redundancy, redundancy, redundancy!

Latest Work: Nose Speed Record

Consider what you can get done in two hours. That might be enough time for you to run an errand, mow the lawn, or watch a movie.

My good friends Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell recently climbed the freakin’ Nose of El Capitan in just under two hours—1:58:07, to be exact. (See Outside Magazine’s report). That means that they both ascended 3,000 feet of vertical rock climbing in less time than it took me to put together this blog post!

This might easily be one of the most significant climbing achievements ever. Alex and Tommy, who need no introduction, are two of the best climbers in history. To break the two-hour mark on the Nose they needed to train hard, push themselves harder, and take some pretty insane risks in order to make that symbolic leap of bringing the Nose time down to under two hours. This simple number, however, belies the amount of fitness, skill and extreme risk management that is required in order to move this fast.

In fact, the dangers of speed climbing were highlighted only a few days prior to Tommy and Alex’s achievement: On June 2, Jason Wells and Tim Klein, two very experienced Yosemite climbers, died while speed climbing on the nearby Salathé Wall of El Capitan. Also, last year, Quinn Brett, who once held the female speed climbing record of the Nose, took a 100-foot fall and broke her back, leaving her paralyzed. These tragic stories are a sobering reminder to the entire climbing world that climbing isn’t just a game with a stopwatch. In fact, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The adventure and climbing community has lost many talented athletes in the recent years, a shadow that follows all of us around, especially those who are pushing their limits. I respect that these are questions we must all answer for ourselves, yet I often take pause. Still, having seen guys like Tommy and Alex climbing first hand—often being the one to document their ascents either in the moment or during a re-enactment of their ascent—it’s obvious that they are taking these risks with equal parts respect and skill.

Kelly Cordes wrote about this topic in the aftermath of Alex and Tommy’s achievement.

A couple of days before Tommy and Alex would actually break the two-hour boundary, I drove down to Yosemite to document my friends on one of their training ascents for Sender Films, who is making a film about the Nose speed record. I hiked up the East Ledges and rapped down the Nose into a familiar position—a vantage from which I’ve spent lots of time shooting both Tommy and Alex and others. Despite having spent so much time shooting on this big wall, it’s always a little intimidating on that first rappel down the top of El Capitan, with 3,000 feet of air right under your ass!

That day, Tommy and Alex weren’t particularly trying to move fast—just iron out a few kinks in their system. They climbed the route in about 2.5 hours that morning. It seemed to be as casual as a jog for them both. “I hate to admit this, but I’m not even tired right now,” Tommy told me atop El Capitan.

The following day, they finally broke through. I’m really happy that they were able to do it, but I’m also happy that both of them seem to be done with speed climbing the Nose—at least for now, and maybe forever. Pushing boundaries is a great thing—but so is knowing when to step back and step away. I think that’s an important part of this story worth calling out.

Stay tuned for what is certain to be another excellent film from my friends at Sender Films about about speed climbing on El Capitan.