April 24th, 2013
I’m pretty certain this will be my shortest-ever blog post, but that’s alright. I felt compelled, proud, and excited enough to take a few minutes and get it out before beginning to pack for a “work” trip to St. Lucia. The sun-block and flip-flops can wait for a little bit.
A series of four images from a large body of work I had created last summer had been one of my entries in the 2013 RAF Addy Awards competition right here in Rochester, NY. The project, one of my favorites ever, was photographed for Wegmans Food Markets, and illustrates the workings of five western New York organic dairy farms that are suppliers of milk for products sold under the Wegmans Organic Dairy brand.
On March 14, the night of the big RAF Addy Awards ceremony, my cows happily came home with a Gold Addy clutched tightly in their little hooves, and I was just thrilled for them. Furthermore, (that one’s for you, Matt,) I had received an e-mail the other day stating that the same series of photographs had also won a Silver Addy at the AAF District 2 competition! This, being my first District 2 award ever, was an especially proud moment. So, now, the cows mosey off to the pastures of the AAF National Addy Awards for perusal by the judges there. We’ll see how it goes on May 3. I’m sure I’ll make an update here, if anything else comes up. For now, people, please just drink more organic milk. The cows thank you for your support.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark 3
February 17th, 2013
September has long passed. The seven-degree air and new-fallen snow on the boughs of the backyard fir trees seems so far removed from the dry heat of the desert canyons we camped in just a few months ago. Those canyon-river days are just below the surface, though, and if I close my eyes against the winter scene outside, I can be back there in just a few short moments.
It has been incredibly interesting and inspiring to witness the evolution of this film project that began taking shape on great trout waters in southeast Oregon in September of 2011. Not long after our return back home from that first trip out west, came the realization that there was an important story to be told, and after a couple of phone calls between here and Kansas, a few Friday lunch meetings over bacon cheeseburgers and cold beer, Matt Smythe and I suddenly found ourselves flying out to Kansas to get the ball rolling. We had made the trip to connect and work with the lads from Rockhouse Motion (Matt White and Dustin Lutt.) In doing so, the heartbeat of A Deliberate Life had begun to thump.
The intent of this initial excursion to Kansas was twofold, really. While a collaboration of this sort had been the topic of discussion for a short while, the four of us were still just getting to know each other, learning how to work together for the first time. We also needed to create a promotional video that would serve as a statement of intent for the larger film project, and that could aid us in drawing some support and sponsorship to move forward with. The resulting video was a four-minute piece that was filmed with a RED Epic and Canon DSLR’s, edited and finalized in a little over two days. Click here to watch the video. (It was during this trip, too, that Silo4 was formed – the name we’ve given to the collaboration of creative minds responsible for A Deliberate Life, but also one that will continue to live, and be a platform through which Matt and I can tell great stories and create cool stuff with other similarly-minded people.)
September 2012 found us heading back to those same waters we had been on twelve months prior. This time, though we had new friends along, and had a greater purpose – beginning to capture the story and imagery that would eventually become the final film and its trailers. Matt and I had flown across the country to Boise, Idaho, and were met at the airport by Matt White, Dustin Lutt, and Bryan Keeler, who had made the trip from Kansas and South Dakota, arriving just ahead of us. From there, we headed into town and connected with our friends, Rebecca Garlock and Robert Nelson, with whom we’d begin our journey. After gathering up our gear and taking on a few days worth of supplies, we headed west into Oregon.
Robert exhibited great prowess in keeping us all well nourished with his camp-cooking talents. I think we were all wishing he’d be along for the whole trip. We had been really nicely outfitted by Coleman Camping Gear, with tents, sleeping bags, folding chairs, headlamps, flashlights, lanterns – enough stuff to very comfortably allow nine people to stay on the rivers and film for ten days time. I really can’t say enough about what that kind of support meant to our project. A handful of other important backers had come on board very early on, too. Kast Gear, Thomas & Thomas, Howler Bros., SmithFly, Rio, Loon Outdoors, Fly Fusion, Brower Moffitt – all pitched-in to a lend a hand in a tremendous show of support for what we were doing. For all of that, we are so very grateful.
After a few days of filming in southeast Oregon, on the Owyhee River, we traveled eastward back to Boise for a brief re-charge, and then onward to the Idaho Falls area to continue filming on the South Fork and Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Colby Hackbarth and Brent Griffeth, of Kast Gear, were our hosts on the South Fork, and their families greeted our arrival with bear-hugs and a beautiful, Mexican dinner one evening. As with Rebecca and Ross, Matt and I had fished with Colby during our 2011 trip and had formed a friendship very quickly. During our few days with Colby and Brent on the South Fork, we set up camp at a site in Caribou National Forest. Our days on the river each began at one of the boat launches in Swan Valley, Idaho, that were within a short drive and would end around the campfire in the evening. (Due to a ban on fires during our time in Oregon, we hadn’t been able to enjoy any good campfires until now, and now, in the chilly evenings, we felt fortunate to have them.)
The final leg of our trip saw us meeting up with Ross Slayton for a few days on the Henry’s Fork. Ross was fired up to be back out on his favorite waters with us in tow, and was, once again, a great host to all of us during our time with him. During our final day together, we took a trip into Yellowstone National Park to check out some of the wildlife and geological wonders before rounding out the day with some fishing on the Firehole and Nez Perce. It was heartbreaking to only be in a place like that for a day, but I’ve got it marked high on my list of places that need a return trip.
The following month, Matt and I made our way back to Kansas to check out the three-minute trailer that Dusty and Whitey had created, spent a couple days laying out the structure of the 18-minute trailer, recording voice-overs and sifting through a mound of audio clips to pull out the key components for the greater story. Whitey had also connected with a very talented musical artist in Kansas named Tim Coons, who had graciously provided some of his gorgeous pieces for use in the film’s soundtrack. All of it just fit together so very nicely.
Before we knew it, the film had been invited to be part of the 2013 International Fly Fishing Film Festival, a.k.a IF4, and is now making its way around the U.S. and Canada, with future stops in South America. The “touring version” of A Deliberate Life is an eighteen-minute, extended length trailer that sits among some very fine company on the festival tour. The three-minute version of the film trailer can be seen on the Silo4 Vimeo page, here. Matt Smythe and I had the pleasure of representing Silo4 and attending the film tour kick-off in Denver, Colorado in early January. We’ve just recently made arrangements to schedule a stop in our “hometown” of Rochester, New York. The films of the IF4 will hit the screens of Little Theater on May 17. Tickets for all of the shows along the film tour may be purchased here.
I really need to give a huge holler and thank-you to a small handful of core-group friends who have given of their talents and their time to help Silo4 piece together some missing parts of our thousand-piece puzzle – logos, promotional and press-kits, web sites, movie posters, DVD packaging, so many things that have been made possible because of folks like Tim Winter, T.C. Pellett, and Rebecca Garlock. Another loud shout needs to be hollered at Luke and Michael Bantam of Dreamcast Idaho, Aileen Nishimura, Rachel Jean Morgan and Brian Forsmann for bringing their wonderful energy to our time together on the Owyhee. See you all again soon, hopefully!
I feel a bit compelled, too, as I sometimes do, to apologize for the sparse nature of this post. I could share so much more, and hate to sometimes have to condense things into just the basics. I think that to really tell the whole story of how this whole thing came to be, the energy and emotion that went into creating it, the friendships forged and the territory explored, so much more needs to be said. For now, though, I think it’s wise to simply let the film trailers and photographs express some of those things on their own.
Find Silo4 on Facebook, and give us a holler! And if that ain’t enough for ya, you can follow us on Twitter to keep track of by-the-minute developments!
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark3
August 27th, 2012
It was a really nice little surprise to walk into Wegmans a couple weeks ago and see one of my images on the cover of the Edible Finger Lakes summer issue. The image of a bed of chard, (taken from woodchuck eye-level,) supports a feature article about the Wegmans Organic Research Farm in Canandaigua, New York.
During the past several years of creating photography for Wegmans Food Markets, the days I’ve spent working at the Organic Research Farm are among my favorite work-days ever. Quite a few really enjoyable days have been spent, belly in the dirt, photographing gorgeous, organically-grown produce, and it feels really good to see the spirit of the farm represented so nicely in a quality magazine.
I apologize for keeping this post so very short, but am tying up several loose ends before heading to Idaho this week. I’ll try to add a little more interesting information as soon as I can!
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark 2
August 23rd, 2012
When I think of what the past two years has brought, I’m simply fascinated by the fashion in which paths and lives intersect. The way dots connect, lines form and then branch off at different angles, each leading to new connections, collaborations, opportunities, and friendships. Energies collect, combine and build. All of it seems to just propel you forward.
When I first began publishing posts in this blog section of my web site, my intent was to tell stories about projects I had photographed, show new work, to use each piece as a vehicle for prospective clients to get to know a little more about me, and what it’s like to work with me. This was a place for me to talk about my work and myself, and what I’d been up to lately. I’ve enjoyed that part of the creative process, and that type of outlet. It just seems like a fairly natural extension of what I do and who I am. In some ways, this post isn’t much different from the others. My gut, though, tells me that this one, or at least the reason for it, is maybe more significant. Deeper. More meaningful. For a wealth of reasons.
I have sat at this computer to write this post on four separate occasions. Each previous time, I wasn’t satisfied with the direction I’d headed in. Now, I just need to get this thing out. It’s probably not going to be the profound outpouring I had hoped for, but I’m going to be away from the “internet umbilical cord” for a few days and need to gather up a few of these scattered thoughts and jot them down.
The still images you see embedded in this post are from the production of the promo video we had created this past April, in central Kansas, to gain sponsors and supporters for the project, and to help describe our intent for the greater project, and the flavor in which it would be produced. Captured afield using a RED Epic and Canon 5D Mark 3 in the hands of cinematographers Matt White and Dustin Lutt, the promo video came together in just two days time.
In a handful of days, I’ll find myself standing on some stunning ground in Idaho, and in the company of some very, very wonderful people – Rebecca Garlock, Ross Slayton, Colby Hackbarth, Dustin Lutt, Matt White, Matt Smythe, Robert Nelson, Aileen Nishimura, and a sprinkling of others. We are converging on a handful of Idaho’s great trout waters to begin and complete the filming of A Deliberate Life, our short-film project. (Click in the film title to view the promo video.)
At a time when I’m struggling to find my own explanation for this project, I think it may be best to offer a statement that Matt Smythe had written a short while back for the Vimeo page that had been created to house the promo video. He writes:
“There comes a time in all of our lives when we let ourselves dream about living life on our own terms. When we wrestle with the decision to take a step into traffic, follow our passions and live deliberately – or simply let another day, and daydream, pass.
This promo video is the initial statement of intent for a much larger film project that will be set against the diverse, rugged and breathtaking Idaho landscape and three of its most celebrated rivers. A Deliberate Life will explore the stories of five unlikely friends who share the same love of fly fishing and their choice to lead a life according to their passions.”
It’s difficult for me, also, to truly define when this project really began for me. If I trace back all of the different lines and connections and events that had to occur in order for this thing to happen, the trail seems to go back for quite some time. This is likely a conversation best had around a good campfire. It’s pretty cool, when you think about it. All of us involved are excited about this thing. There’s a really great energy about the whole collaboration, and it’s only beginning. The promo video has received some really nice feedback since we started making it visible. Last week, Matt shared the following e-mail he had received from someone who had come across the video through a blog network that he follows.
That e-mail reads: “This morning one of the shops I follow posted the link to your A Deliberate Life trailer. The video was inspiring and hit close to home, because after 7 years in the Army, a couple of front line deployments, and 3 corporate years in and out of airports running the suit and tie gauntlet, I decided three weeks ago to no longer be that guy. The time has come to pursue my own passion for the outdoors and fly-fishing, versus “the expected.” The decision, completely outside my box and against the safe approach, finally just came easy, as also mentioned in the video. Freaked out and trying to figure out how it’s all playing out, I’m just running with it and seeing what the adventure brings. Anyway, the only reason for writing is to voice encouragement and to thank you. The video strengthened the confidence in my own personal decision and I look forward to the final video.”
I suppose this collaboration means something different to each of us involved. Though hearts and minds are aligned in this mutual vision, Each person has found their way to it by their own path. We’ve been thrust together into it somehow, though, because our passions in life have led each of us to this very point. Next week, the path leads us to Oregon and Idaho, and for a couple of us, Wyoming after that. (But that’s another project.)
You’ll have to check back now and then, please, for further posts, because surely they will come as this thing unfolds and evolves.
For now, please take four minutes to see what this is all about, and watch our A Deliberate Life promo video here.
There will be much, much more to share a bit farther down the road.
Camera: Canon 5D Mark 2
Promo video: RED Epic and Canon 5D Mark 3
August 1st, 2012
I’ve just recently completed what is likely one of my all-time favorite projects ever. During the past few weeks, I have visited five different dairy farms in western New York that supply organic milk to Wegmans Food Markets, for use in various products sold under the Wegmans Organic brand. Popular products such as Wegmans Organic Milk, Half and Half, and Super Yogurt head the list.
The days began early for my assistant, Amy, and I, but as early as we arrived in the morning to each farm, we still couldn’t stay ahead of the farmers and their families, who were wide-awake and into their hard work long before we were. We’d usually get to photograph the end of the morning milking, and then spend the rest of the day out to pasture with the cows, photographing them doing their work, and also capturing images of the farmers attending to their long list of chores on those hot summer days.
There aren’t too many ways that I’d rather spend a work day. Being outdoors in such pretty country, among good people and animals can be very soothing – even therapeutic. I know that Amy was feeling the same way. I think she’s got a special place in her heart for cows, and it seemed that every time I turned around, she was talking to one of them. One morning, she told me (in confidence,) that she secretly wished to hug each one of them as they left the barn in single file after the morning milking. I’m not sure the cows would have put up with that, but I suppose it was a nice thought, anyhow.
The handful of images you see here come from a large body of work created during five days of shooting, some of which will be selected for use in an upcoming article in Menu Magazine.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark-3
January 26th, 2012
This post has been a long time in the works. Not the mere writing of it, really, but the getting-in-place of the “necessaries” that all combine to make the post even possible.
For quite a few years, I’ve had several clients (from my previous place of employment) come up to me and ask, “Grant, when are you going to start your own business? We love what you do. When are you going to get out there and just do your own thing?” Well, I’m very proud and excited to announce that time has finally arrived. It’s here. I’m doing it. Now. I’ve spent the past several months preparing, getting geared up, and learning a great deal. I went “official” back during the weeks leading up to Christmas, already have some good projects under my belt, and a few others looming on the horizon. It’s rolling. Grant Taylor Photography has finally arrived.
It’s been a very unusual, crazy year with all of the huge changes that have gone on, the shifts in thinking and routine, the obstacles, the unknown. I’m feeling really good about it all, though, and am happy to say that this has likely been one of my favorite years ever. I’ve had some wonderful creative collaborations with very good friends, have met some truly remarkable people, gained some new clients, and I’ve put together several bodies of personal work that contain some of the strongest photography I’ve ever created. To me, that’s extremely energizing. Really cool stuff. The neat thing, too, is that this is only the beginning. Things are just getting warmed up.
One of the most (symbolically) important steps in my process of the past few months has been the development and production of my new business card. The printing of the cards seemed to really legitimize what I had set out to accomplish. It affirmed my intentions. It made this whole thing mine. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by good friends who are talented beyond description, and am thankful to have had their help and involvement along the way. Tim Winter is one of the people on that list. Tim is the brilliant mind behind my business card design, and the rest of my identity kit as well. It was a really neat process to go through with him, to see how he transformed and updated my existing name treatment, applied his own creative sensibility and what he knew of me, then projected it to the card, letterhead, envelopes, labels, website, all that stuff.
The business card was the first of the stationery pieces to be produced. Through the course of meeting with Tim and Kathy Prozeller, of XPEDX, we finally arrived on the right paper to use, and Tim’s idea for the use of silver ink not only would look cool, but also speaks to the use of silver in traditional photographic processes. More importantly, the combination of the two, married with the character of the letterpress method of printing, would really help to convey the look, feel and soul of Grant Taylor Photography.
We enlisted the expertise of Dock 2 Letterpress in the printing of the business cards, and their partner-company, Weekend Printer for the letterhead, envelopes and labels. I had met with Tony Zanni at Dock 2 for a couple preliminary tests, Tim finalized the artwork, and Tony placed the order for the plate. On the day we went to press with the cards, I was able to join up with letterpress guru, Dave Eckler at Dock 2, and photograph the entire, wonderful process as Dave printed my cards on a 1953 Heidelberg “windmill” press. From the initial mixing of the ink, through to the finished piece, I was blown away by the beauty of the process and the “stuff” involved. Gorgeous. It was fitting that these earthy, traditional-feeling cards be printed on an antique press, using old methods. My face hurt from smiling that afternoon. It all just felt perfectly right.
Dave was really incredible to work with, patiently answering all my curious questions, and explaining the hows-and-whys of each step in the printing process. After running some initial tests, he discovered that the openings in the small type would fill with ink, if the volume of ink on the plate was too great. After a few rounds of adjustments, he had it all dialed in very sweetly. Dave had also decided to reduce the amount of pressure that the polymer plate was being hit with. In the end, two gentle hits of silver ink, with a 24-hour drying period in-between each, followed by a harder, blind-deboss on the third day would get the cards where they needed to be. Gorgeous and legible, with that wonderful look and feel that only the letterpress process can provide.
I need to take a moment and express my great thanks to the handful of people who have been directly involved with the developing of my identity, branding and marketing pieces, for without their passion, talent and commitment, it would have been a real struggle: Rachel Spence, Tim Winter, Matt Smythe, Tony Zanni and Dave Eckler. I also need to give a shout-out to my very good friends, Dean Milliman, T.C. Pellett, Katelin Ryan, Mieke Smythe, Sherry Jackson, Kristen Valent, Stephanie Miles and Lisa Jane Roman, for the support, smiles and insight they’ve provided along the way. Thank you all so very much! It’s wonderful having you in my corner.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark 2
January 24th, 2012
September 9, 2011
We had truly been smiled upon these past eight days. Someone up there must really, really like us. I can’t explain it otherwise. I closed my eyes and turned my face to the sky, soaking it all in once more, taking one long breath. The water here was slow and slick. Only the warm breeze of the afternoon made its surface imperfect. And yet, still incredibly perfect. I turned back around to look at that one lone tree, half a mile off on the plain. A single cloud poised over it in a wonderful symmetry. Tall, golden grasses played in the wind all around us. The mountains on the horizon seemed a thousand miles away. Matt was twenty yards out beyond me in the river, and Ross was just downstream from us. Both of them were just tying, onto ultra-fine tippets, whatever size 22 something-or-other they had so very delicately selected from their very best fly box. Perfect presentation was of the utmost importance here. Weeks later, Ross would tell us, “Boys, that’s probably one of the toughest places in the world to catch a trout.”
The morning was filled with mixed feelings. Both Matt and I arose with purpose, and were eager. At the same time, we knew it was our last day on the water in Idaho for quite some time. We hated for the end of the trip to be close at hand. We would head back west to Boise the next morning, and hop our eastbound flight the day after that. During the planning stages of our trip itinerary, Matt had received an invite from our new friend, Ross Slayton, through their social media connection. Ross had so very graciously offered to show us around the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. The details had all been worked out, Ross took the day off from work, and picked us up at the hotel around 7am. We shuttled the gear into his Chevy Blazer and hopped in for the ride. Along the way, we got acquainted and listened to Ross spin some great yarns about his outings on the river, about fishing, and about life. He’d told us that today, were going to be fishing two of his very favorite sections of the river. The first was in the upper reaches of Cardiac Canyon, and later in the day, we would find ourselves farther upstream in the Harriman Ranch section.
This was one of a few days in the trip on which I’d decided to focus my efforts strictly on photography. It has often been a dilemma for me, having to choose between two things that I love so much, but realized that my greatest priority was to collect as many great images as I could before heading home. I kept my camera kit pretty light, with a Canon 5D Mark 2 body, a 50mm f/1.2 L-series lens, and a 28-70mm f/2.8 zoom. Spare batteries, lens cloths, Compact Flash cards, waterproof bag, that’s it. Even the laptop would stay in the truck today.
We paid our usage fee at one of the area campgrounds, and drove through the site to arrive at the river access. We’d be leaving the truck here and hiking a little over an hour downstream, then working our way slowly back up. The thin line of trail that wound through the woods along the river took us over boulders and deadfall, and occasionally made it necessary for us to wade the river where the trail became impassable. Wading the river was no cakewalk, either. Hard-edged rocks of all sizes lay under the dark water, sometimes obscured by vegetation, just waiting for the chance to threaten any shins or ankles that might come along. The going was slow. I’d often pause to photograph the guys ahead of me, and amidst Ross’s energetic chatter, Matt kept pausing to see if I was following along alright.
The country here was gorgeous. Again, different from any other place we’d fished in the days that had passed. Near the beginnings of the canyon itself, blocky, gray basalt ridges began to emerge from the soil. Downstream, these ridges rose up to become the canyon walls. Solid sentinels. Protectors of these waters. Along the trail, trees scarred deeply by the clawings of bears reminded us of our true position in the food chain. Usually not too much of a concern back east. (A week or two after our return home, the owner of one of the fly-rod shops we visited, and his friend, were attacked by a grizzly while hunting elk not too awful far from where we fished this day.)
Once we had arrived at our goal, Ross stood with Matt and shared some great insight on this section of river. Ross was an incredible wealth of information, particularly in the area of entomology. Bugs. Bugs that trout like to eat. Ross had vials in his pack that contained everything from stonefly larva to grasshoppers and emerging caddis. He’d collect these specimens during an outing to reference when tying his own flies to mimic them. At one point, Ross had reached into the water and pulled out a clump of aquatic grasses that were hung up under a log. He sifted through the vegetation, and pulled out several different types of bugs, explaining to us what each one was, and why they’d sought shelter among the grass, rather than under the stones in the river. We listened.
While the guys sought their own spots to fish, I began to work from the woods above and behind them, photographing the land, environmental details, and shots of Matt and Ross from that high perspective. It was important to me to pull back a bit, and create images that conveyed a true sense of space. Then, I’d find some good, flat spot for the camera bag in the woods, and wade into the river alongside them to shoot from very low perspectives, too. Back and forth, all morning. A couple times, I sat with Ross on the bank as he changed up his rig. We’d visit some, and I’d make some detailed images of his process. Each of the guys had some bites, and Ross landed a couple smaller rainbows. We were really hoping for something solid, and with some nice color, that we could photograph. Come on, boys. Catch something, will ya?
Hours had passed now, and I was starting to feel shot-out. The week of travel, early mornings and late nights was taking its toll. I’d accumulated over ten-thousand images at this point. Enough. Plenty enough. I moved a hundred yards upstream, and found a great tree-stump among some blow-downs on the trail, and set up camp there. I had packed the camera away, figuring the guys would be done soon, and kicked my boots up on a boulder to relax for a few. I had watched Matt pick his way across the river to a really good looking run. Ross was upstream from Matt, probably halfway between us. I think I closed my eyes for a few minutes.
My head lolled, and I snapped back awake. Trying to shake it off, I reached into my pack for a Coke and some beef jerky. Matt had settled into a nice rhythm out where he was, and I watched him. All of a sudden, during a drift, I saw him strip-set and raise his rod high. It was on! Crap! I could see that he was looking upstream for me, but we were too far away from each other to communicate very well. There was no way I could make it back down the trail through the blow-downs in time to photograph that fish. No way. “Aw, Hell,” I said to myself, grabbing the haul strap of the camera bag and slinging it over my shoulder. I whistled loudly to Matt, and motioned with my arm for him to come back across and meet me. I clambered over boulders and fallen trees, making the best time I could. I could see Matt picking his way back across, and still, he had his fish on. No way. Minutes later, we met up in a little protected eddy near the edge of the river. The sun was getting lower in the afternoon sky, and was behind all the pines on our side of the river. Miraculously, there was a six-foot-or-so area that was bathed in sweet, gorgeous, perfect light that filtered through a gap in the trees. I had Matt join me there, and we set to photographing his “Eleventh-Hour Rainbow.”
By now, the two of us had established a pretty nice routine. We wanted to have gorgeous shots of the fish, but not at the expense of stressing the fish out. Gentle handling and frequent underwater resuscitation were the key, mixed with short periods of photography. We’d got some good practice during the past week, and had it all down cold. That fish looked like Old-School Christmas ribbon candy, the iridescent way he glistened in the sunlight. Gorgeous color. Though he wasn’t huge, he seemed to pack a fair amount of attitude. We liked him plenty. Especially at this late-stage in the game. Within a minute or two, the fish was released, and he swiftly made his way back out into the currents. Twenty minutes later, we were back at the truck, and heading into the town of Island Park to check out the two main, local fly-rod shops.
After a bit of a break and chat with the fly-shop owners, and a couple of lousy Idaho Spud candy bars, we hopped back in Ross’s rig and headed up into Harriman State Park to fish the ranch section of the Henry’s Fork. Keeping with the rhythm of the week, it, too, was different from any other place we’d been. The Snake flowed in relaxed fashion through a broad, flat plain. God, it was beautiful out there. Stunningly serene. The afternoon sun bore down on us, and the breeze was warm as we geared back up. Realizing that this would be the last couple hours on the water for us, I did my best to absorb as much of it as I could. Every little detail. This stretch of the Henry’s Fork seemed to be a very fitting place to end our expedition. We wound down and relaxed. Wading was easy here. The landscape seemed vast, unlimited. Lone trees stood far off among the prairie grasses. The mountains in the distance were faint. Being there reminded me of how very small and delicate our spot is in this world. I could have stayed there forever.
I worked around the guys with the camera, getting some great casting shots of Matt, and some beautiful portraits of Ross. The fishing was slow, with Matt only getting one solid hook-up, only to have the fish come unbuttoned moments later. Defeated, perhaps, but not unfulfilled, the three of us stood there together in the water before turning our backs to it and heading out to the truck for the ride home. Until next time.
I really need to take a moment and express a tremendous, heartfelt thanks to the people that helped Matt Smythe and I make our journey truly incredible: Jason and Vicki Lindstrom of Flytooth (and family,) Rebecca Garlock and Robert Nelson, Sarah Bridges-Heusser, Colby Hackbarth of Kast Gear, and Ross Slayton. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Pretty sure we’ll see you all again.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark 2
January 15th, 2012
September 7 and 8, 2011
Neither Matt nor I were moving very quickly this morning. It actually felt pretty nice not to have to be geared-up before sunrise, hustling out of the hotel with camera bags and peanut-butter toast. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, got the room all squared away, loaded the Highlander and checked out of the hotel. Our drive to Idaho Falls would take about four hours. On the other end of it, we’d be meeting up with Colby Hackbarth of Kast Gear, and fishing with him on the South Fork of the Snake River.
Matt was at the wheel as I was editing images on the laptop and running the iPod playlists on the car stereo. Johnny Cash, Soundgarden, Ryan Bingham, Led Zeppelin, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Townes Van Zandt, Reckless Kelly, Beastie Boys, Alice in Chains, Chamberlin, Alison Krauss. Oh, and Iron Maiden. We passed through the lava fields and on up to Idaho Falls. If you ever find yourself traveling this stretch of highway, be sure to pull in to the truck stop at the exit for Eden. It has all the regular truck-stop stuff, but also boasts a “Garden of Eden” themed sit-down café, complete with a giant, red-eyed snake. The bathrooms were pretty clean, too, as I recall.
Once we had checked in to our new digs, Matt raised Colby on the phone and arranged to meet up with him in a church parking lot about 20 minutes away. We found the place eventually, exchanged handshakes and introductions with Colby, shot the bull for a few minutes, and transferred our necessary gear into his truck for the ride to The Snake. Colby had so very graciously offered to take us out on the river in his jet-boat, and we were not the sort of guys to turn an offer like that down. While most of the other folks fishing the river would be floating along with the current in drift-boats, Colby’s rig would allow us to cover more water with far greater ease, and to re-fish hot stretches that we had drifted through just minutes before.
On the way up the road, we stopped at South Fork Outfitters to gather a selection of flies that were the “hot tickets” for this river. Sex Dungeons. We found them in brown, olive, black and white color variations. Gorgeous, fat, drive-the-trout-crazy flies filled the sectioned drawer that the shop attendant had set on the counter for us. Somebody had been busy at their fly-tying vise. Matt also found himself a cool Simms hoodie that, as far as I know has been on him (or his daughter, Aleida,) every day since we got back east.
At the boat launch, Colby filled out the necessary paperwork while Matt and I transferred gear into the boat and got into our waders and boots. Once the boat was in the water, Colby took us downstream to give us the lay of the land and find a good spot to start fishing. From the very beginning, I was really impressed by Colby’s knowledge of these waters and his relaxed prowess as he navigated around boulders and challenging currents. Occasionally, he’d pull the boat onto a gravel bar and have Matt cast flies along a good looking run. If there was no action within a short period, we’d move on. It wasn’t too awfully long before Matt had his first fish.
Thunderstorms were threatening in the skies to our South, but they never came close enough to be of any real concern. We just kept fishing as the afternoon wore on. I was keeping pretty busy with the camera and laptop as Matt cast and cast and cast. Gravel bars, undercut banks, hot-looking stretches, bald eagles, and several really good fish. Rainbows, browns, cutthroats and cutty-rainbow hybrids. Oh, and those stupid whitefish. Yet, for every good fish brought to the net, there were probably something like ten strikes or slashes that weren’t capitalized on. That made the netted fish even more rewarding. Furthermore, they were absolutely gorgeous.
Just before dark, Colby ran us upstream to show us a pretty cool waterfall on one side of the river. As the boat ran swiftly upriver, our eyes and faces had to be covered against the blast of all the caddisflies that were coming off the water. Millions of them. The next day would be similar in structure, but on a section of The Snake that was farther downstream. It was this morning that I would hook a fish that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. It likely would have been the largest trout I’d ever caught, probably a 28″ class brown. Only, I didn’t catch it. Oh, I hooked it soundly, alright, and that sumbuck ran hard upstream for Montana, putting a gorgeous bend in the 8-weight rod that I had borrowed from Colby. My “moment of greatness” lasted all of ten seconds. The fish decided he’d had enough of that nonsense, and broke off in the rocks. Gone. Deflated. Humbled. God, I love Idaho.
We had a really great second day. The fishing was quite good, I was pretty excited with the photography I was getting, and the setting was stunning. We were in a dream-world. Gorgeous land, perfect weather, and fantastic people surrounded us. Oh, and the fish! I fished more today than I had on the previous one, but never did bring one to the net. I was enjoying photographing Matt’s successes, and all of the goings-on, and that was alright. For years, I’ve been torn by the sacrifices made when laying the fly rod down for the camera, but somehow, on this trip, I had come to terms with it. Perhaps the photography aspect has become more important to me as time has gone by. Great successes can also come when the camera is in-hand. Still, it felt awfully good to have a handful of cork and a solid fish on the other end. Some days, it’s a painful struggle.
This river offered so many opportunities for different styles of fishing. I said to Matt at one point that Colby seemed to have a nearly “tactical” approach to his methods. Not overly aggressive, but decisive and purposeful. Well thought-out. Always moving, seeking good-looking water, deciding how to fish it, getting it done, and if it didn’t produce, you moved on to the next thing. This approach surely comes from years and years of experience. Colby has fished these waters since he was just 8 years old. We waded and fished gravel bars, we drifted and cast into sweet runs and undercut banks, but not once during those two days did we stop moving. Not once. Colby’s camouflage boat and its 90-horse Johnson seemed to add a poetic attitude to the whole tactical approach, and was far removed in style from the relatively graceful Hyde and ClackaCraft drift boats that navigated their own ways downstream. It allowed us to get to where we needed to be. It got us there swiftly and surely, and with just the right amount of attitude.
I hated to see these days with Colby end. We were just starting to get in a really solid groove. Over the past week, Matt and I had begun to establish a routine. A lifestyle. On this trip, each segment had been quite different from the one before. Different in landscape, fish species, energy, fishing style, attitude, technique, and feel. We were getting close to the end now, and in many ways, both of us hated to see it coming. Matt was looking forward to seeing his wife and kids back home, surely, but I was really kinda wishing for another month or so out here. There must be some way. For now, for a couple more days, we would continue to live in this wonderful dream-world and soak up as much of it as we possibly could.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark 2
January 12th, 2012
It’s amazing how new events and re-adjusted priorities in the day-to-day routine can put an abrupt halt to the enjoyable process of writing and sharing stories and photographs right here.
I’ve been anxious to get back to finishing up the story of my trip to Idaho, but have had to keep it simmering on the back-burner the past couple of months. New priorities still loom, and finding the right kind of balance and rhythm among everything is much like trying to catch a greased piglet in a dark barn. It sure is fun trying, though. This week, I’m going to attempt to complete the series of posts encompassing the Idaho expedition. I’m going to try and keep things as condensed as I can, but we’ll just have to see how it all goes. Some stories just have to be told.
So, let’s go back to September. And Idaho.
September 4 and 5, 2011
Matt Smythe and I met up with our good friend, Jason Lindstrom, of Flytooth, at the hotel on what would be our third day of fishing. We were heading north out of Boise, into the National Forest, and to the Payette River. Jason knew of my desire to capture an array of dramatically different terrain during the course of the expedition, and had chosen this river for the stunning beauty of the land through which it ran. Nestled among steep, pine-laden mountains, the gin-clear waters of The Payette sparkled emerald-green as they coursed through the valleys that guided them. Smoke from distant forest fires hung thinly in the air, creating a wonderful-smelling atmospheric haze. Morning was cool, but as the sun rose high enough to shine into the river gorge, the day warmed up substantially. Matt and Jason worked the fish while I went around with the camera gear doing my thing. We regrouped from time to time, and once I swapped gear with Matt to see if I could coax any trout to the net. No such luck. I wasn’t overly disappointed, though, because we had come to such a visually gorgeous place, and I was getting some really nice photography done. Priorities.
At some point early that afternoon, I must have decided that I’d worked hard enough for a little while, and found a great spot at the river’s edge that offered a perfectly-shaped boulder next to a small eddy. I nestled into the spot pretty nicely with my lower half submerged in the cool water, and slept for about half an hour while the guys continued to fish that stretch or river. It was one of the most wonderful naps I’ve ever had.
In the end, what The Payette didn’t give up to us in fish, she more than made up for with her stunning beauty and calmly powerful energy. Surely one of the most gorgeous and inspiring places I’d experienced in quite some time.
The following day saw us connecting with Jason and leaving the hotel around 4:30 that morning. McDonald’s. Egg-McMuffins and coffees, black. We had a bigger drive ahead of us today. Up into the Sawtooth Range, beyond Stanley, to the Salmon River. We had to stop and take a quick roadside break not long before sunup. Unwittingly, we stepped out of the car and into 27 degree air. Yikes! It was nearly thirty degrees cooler than Boise had been, just hours before. I don’t think either of us was quite ready for that type of transition. Farther down the road, on the way to Stanley, we passed a frosted meadow in a large valley that was home to a gorgeous looking stream. After a couple miles had gone by, I gave in to the urge and turned the SUV around so we could gear up and do some photography in that meadow. The water in that stream was cold, and the air was even colder. Matt had ice on his line before too long. We shot a few different scenarios, and after about 40 minutes, headed back to the car and removed our wet boots and waders with numb fingers.
We rolled into the town of Stanley around 8:30 that morning, and found a great joint called Sawtooth Luce’s that seemed like our kind of place. We joined the breakfast crowd, and enjoyed large plates of eggs, potatoes and some really great farm bacon. Probably my favorite breakfast EVER. Sitting there with our coffees that morning, and looking southward the craggy peaks of Thompson, Cramer and Snowyside, I probably wouldn’t have cared if I never made it back east. After breakfast, we walked over to McCoy’s Tackle Shop to gather some new flies for our kits, talk with the shop owner and get the river report. Back on the road.
Similar to The Payette, the Salmon River was ultra-clear, and nestled into some really gorgeous, rugged country. Calm as it looked, wading it was not easy. It seemed that wherever I wanted to place my foot solidly, there was some odd-sized rock in the way that told me otherwise. As I recall, both Matt and Jason came up with some decent rainbow trout that day, but not nearly the same caliber of fish as we’d seen on River-X. This was completely different water, and a drastically different habitat. Whitefish also seemed like a bit of a plague on this river, and it led me to wonder how their presence must affect the trout numbers. We parted ways with the Salmon River in the middle of the afternoon. We had a long drive back to Boise, and were feeling the effects of our aggressive schedule. We headed east on the loop out of the Sawtooth Range, and then south, down through Ketchum, where we stopped for snacks and a stretching of the legs. The road then turned us back west, toward Boise.
The variety of landscape that we experienced that day was amazingly diverse, and all of it was impressive. Breathtaking, really. The vast, rugged mountains stood in such stark contrast to the flat valley floors that seemingly extended forever. Fencelines, fields and small herds of Pronghorn whipped past the windows of the Highlander as the sun set in the western sky. The next day, Matt and I would temporarily part ways with our friends in Boise and make the drive east to Idaho Falls to fish two more rivers. Ahead were new adventures and more perfect, beautiful days.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark 2
October 28th, 2011
Back in mid-September, I had the wonderful opportunity to join my good buddy, Joe Mayernik, aka “The Mayor of Nikville,” in the broadcast studios at WBER during his live interview with the Vermont-based band, Chamberlin. I was along to photograph during the broadcast, and for me, it was one of these great little “dream-projects” that comes up every now and then when things are clicking and the stars align just-so. It was one of those inspiring and re-energizing projects that tend to come along and give you a little “creative energy boost” right when you need it the most.
I had first seen Chamberlin perform at Water Street Music Hall on June 24, when they opened for another (dynamite) Vermont-based band, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. I was toting five friends along that night, Joe included, and, truthfully, we were there to see GP&N. I, at that point, unfortunately, had known nothing of Chamberlin. That, though, was soon to change. Big time. During the second song in their set that night, I can vividly recall Joe and I looking at each other with expressions that betrayed our unpreparedness for how truly great an “opening band” could be. Wow! Where’d these guys come from? They were really amazing. I still (and quite emphatically) proclaim that the entire show we saw that night at Water Street was the best live performance I’d probably ever seen, and I’ve seen some pretty amazing shows along the way! When I arrived home that night after the show, around 2 am, the first thing I did, before going to bed, was to log on to iTunes and buy their debut album, Bitter Blood. Chamberlin has quickly come to be one of my absolute favorite bands to listen to. Raw, pure, fresh, powerful, and just plain awesome. The music this band produces has real guts. Sand. Interestingly, I discovered the following day, that the Bitter Blood album had been produced by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals guitarist, Scott Tournet. Good, good stuff.
During the interview that afternoon, as I recall, Mark Daly, the band’s front-man, described Chamberlin’s music genre as “Indie-Rock with a Folk influence.” I would probably add that there is a modern twist in the unique blend of sound and energy that Chamberlin puts forth, and I really, really dig it. There are other elements too, in much of what they do, that I might describe as natural or organic. Combined with sweet rhythm changes, powerfully moving shifts in intensity, and dynamic, strong vocals, Chamberlin exhibits a really interesting and nicely-gelled blend of traits that each of the musicians contributes to. Eric Maier, the pianist and “supplemental percussionist” for Chamberlin was also along for the interview that afternoon, while the band’s other members: guitarist, Ethan West; percussionist, Jamie Heintz; and bass guitarist, Charlie Whistler were downtown at Water Street setting up and doing sound-checks before the evening show.
I had arrived to the WBER site a couple hours earlier in the day to set up a very modest lighting arrangement. The studio space was tight. The ambient light consisted of yucky, overhead fluorescent. This photographer’s nightmare. So, to add some life to the scene, I had brought along a single Lowell Caselite 4, a daylight-balanced (and bright) fluorescent source, and jacked it up high in the right corner of the room on a sandbagged C-stand. This would give me the direction of light that I wanted, add some contrast, put sparkles in the eyes of the subjects, that sort of thing. Simple, but effective. Just right.
I so enjoyed having the opportunity to experience and photograph the whole interview process. The studio space made for a wonderfully intimate setting, both for the photography and for the music. Mark had brought along his Taylor acoustic / electric guitar to play during the hour-long, live-broadcast, and wound up performing the songs “Turn Around,” from the Bitter Blood album, and Chamberlin’s cover of Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets” from their just-released Cabin Covers EP. In that small space, it sounded and felt really fantastic. Stripped down to the basic elements. Pure, powerful and perfect. One of the things that impresses me most about Chamberlin is their dedication to making recordings that are live. From what I understand, overdubbing in their studio recordings is very minimal. The result is that what you hear on the CD’s you buy, or on iTunes downloads you carry in your pocket are wonderful representations of what you’d get from these cats at a live performance. These guys are not only purists. They’re very, very talented musicians.
I worked around the tiny room during the interview, shooting with nearly wide-open apertures, and trying to catch natural, candid expressions, interesting compositions, the energy of the moment and the process that was unfolding before me. I didn’t have a sound blimp for the camera body, so I was trying to be conscious of my proximity to the microphones, and trying not to shoot too much during the quiet pauses in the conversation. Joe, the consummate professional, had inadvertently left his well thought-out list of interview questions at home earlier that afternoon, and was very gracefully improvising and going “off the cuff” during the live broadcast. Awesome!
I was really happy with the body of work that came from this short hour of photography. The collection of images shown here represents only a fraction of the “good stuff,” and it’s been difficult to edit down much further. For me, one of the greatest successes of this shoot was in its simplicity. I really love to work with pared-down lighting and camera gear, photographing people who are comfortable and in their natural element – especially in environments that convey a sense of intimacy or ease. The combination of these things seems to help me create images that allow the viewer to feel as though they were part of that moment, right there, among those who were photographed. Cool stuff.
The timing of this blog post is not entirely unplanned. Chamberlin, you see, is currently headed East on the back-end of a nation-wide tour and will once again grace the stage at Water Street Music Hall. One week from this evening, on Thursday, November 3, the band will be right back here in Rochester, NY. This time, though, Chamberlin is headlining and their guests are Wildlife. We will surely be attending with a larger group of friends this time! Tickets to the show can be purchased at Water Street Music Hall’s site. Hope to see you there!
Camera: Canon 5D Mark 2