Silhouette of an oak tree under the Milky Way near Lake Sonoma, California
To say it has been a rough winter in my home in Lake Tahoe would be an understatement. The lack of snow and overall winter conditions this year have been downright miserable. Instead of sitting around and bitching about it though I decided to get out of dodge, refocus and head down to wine country and the coast to shoot some personal work.
Sometimes it takes an unexpected event to help reboot your creative energy and the California drought of 2014 has done just that. At first it was strange that I was wandering on the beach and hiking through groves of redwoods instead of shooting professional athletes in waist deep powder snow. However, it gave me time to reflect on my photography, my trajectory as an artist and what I hope the future will hold. I also got to make some great frames in the process (above).
I think the thing I thought about most over the past few months was the current state of the photography industry. It is a volitale one these days and staying visable is no small task. Content is being created at a rate never experienced in the history of the world and there is a lot of pressure to create MORE, MORE, MORE. As we all know though, more isn't always better. I think the largest conclusion that I've come to over the past few months is to make sure I am never sacraficiing quality for quanity. It is always the extra time spent that seperates a good frame from a picture that resonates through the viewer's eyes and becomes timeless. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of one project after the next and the never-ending pressure to produce. I'm fine with the pressure but I always want to make sure I continue to put my best foot forward. Otherwise, what's the fucking point.
The snow is starting to fall again and I am about to cram an entire winter’s worth of work into the month of March. In the end I’m fine with it though. The time spent over the last few months has prompted new exciting ideas and the need to phase out others. My conclusion is that photography always will continue to be a journey, perhaps without a destination. But as my good friend Trevor Clark would say, perhaps the journey IS the destination.
Stay tuned for a lot of new exciting projects that are in the pipes.
"Fall In Shenandoah"
It doesn't get much better than photographing in the fall colors of Shenandoah National Park. I just recently returned from a week long trip shooting in and around the park and it was a blast! The colors were popping and the light was incredible. As with all of the national parks, it is easy to see why this land was set aside for all to enjoy.
Several weeks before my trip I was worried that I wouldn't get to shoot in this amazing countryside. The government was shut down and the powers that be in Washington were all acting like spoiled little children at a playground. Luckily, about a week before my trip they managed to reach an agreement and reopen all of the parks. Our national parks are one of the things that makes the United States such an amazing country to live in. Even though I have no doubt the problems and disagreements with our nation's leaders will continue, for now I am just happy to enjoy our national parks again in this beautiful country that I am lucky enough to call home.
Over a week into my trek across the Sierra High Route, I crested a ridge in Bear Lakes Basin and looked upon one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen to date. I stood there with one of my best friends and backpacking partner Sean Cronin in complete awe. We hung out on the ridge for about an hour while I shot frame after frame of the scene as the light and clouds continually reshaped the landscape. After a hundred or so frames we had to pack up and head on our way to camp for the night.
While shooting the series of images I knew I had something special in the camera. Once I returned back to my studio I carefully selected my favorite frame from the series and processed it out to the image you see above. I was drawn to this particular frame because of the way the light splashed sporadically off of the landscape creating a surreal effect. I also loved how Ursa Lake (on the left) had a dark moody feel to it and Big Bear Lake (on the right) had a more inviting look. The juxtaposition of the two coupled with the light and clouds really brings the whole scene together.
Over the years this image has sold countless times to a variety of clients. Yesterday it was purchased by Microsoft for the cover of the Bing homepage. Of all the purchases and exposure this image has seen, I think the placement on the Bing homepage might be the most flattering. In the course of one day this image was viewed by millions of people, making it one of the most viewed images on the web that day. That's more exposure than any magazine or traditional print media could ever give these days. Thanks Microsoft! If you need any more work, you know where to find me
Avery is less picky about which pack I use. All he knows is if a pack comes out there is a good chance that he is headed into the mountains for an adventure!
My wife walked into my office the other day as I was packing for a shoot. I was in the midst of picking out which camera bag I was going to use and I had seven bags strewn out on the floor. She looked around, laughed and said, “Holy crap Rachid, do you really need all of those bags?! Seems a little excessive don’t you think?!” At first glance it was pretty funny but I began explaining to her why I had all of the different bags and what each one was for. After expressing my reasoning she seemed a bit more receptive to the whole situation and how important having the right bag for a job can be. That scenario got me thinking and, in turn, prompted this short article on the subject.
There are lots of important elements to photography: the camera, the lens, the location, the subject and the light. One thing I find equally important is the bag I use to transport everything. Every shoot is different, requiring a diverse amount of gear. Thus, the bag I choose to carry and organize everything has to be nothing short of awesome.
In my world I am constantly traveling, hiking, climbing or biking my way to different shooting locations and I need a bag best suited for the occasion. Sometimes I am just carrying one camera body and a couple lenses. Other times I am carrying multiple camera bodies, multiple lenses, flash setups and possibly even a video rig.
The common ritual before every shoot I undertake is to layout all of the necessary gear I anticipate needing. Aside from camera gear this also includes personal gear. Will I be traveling into the backcountry or the frontcountry? How much water will I need? Am I bringing food and, if so, how much? How many clothing layers will I need? Once I’ve got that figured out it’s time to pick the bag that is best suited for the job. My main goal is to pick the bag that will be just large enough to carry and organize everything without any wasted/empty space. That means things will stay snug on my back. If things are loose and slopping around, I will surely be miserable and not be able to focus on the task at hand, which is making killer content.
Personally I trust Lowepro with all of my camera bag needs. Over the years they have continually produced one great product after another and now I have been lucky enough to start giving my personal input into the future of their camera bag lines. One of the biggest leaps forward they have made is taking traditional backpack designs and integrating them into successful camera packs. This has been accomplished by taking the design of a pack that I would take on a normal day out and integrating key carrying features for all of the necessary camera gear. These packs, like the Photo Sport line, the Flipside Sport line and the Rover Pro line are, in short, game changers.
Additionally, the traditional camera bags still have their place. Traveling in planes, trains and automobiles presents a whole new set of problems. Many of these modes of transportation involve people other than myself handling my luggage. In these scenarios I need a bag that is padded and protected enough to withstand the shock of a disgruntled airline employee hurling one bag after the next onto the conveyer belt. For these circumstances I rely on the Pro Roller x200 and the Vertex 200 AW.
Here is a quick breakdown of the bags I own and what I use them for:
Lowepro Photo Sport AW – This bag is great for one day scenarios carrying one camera body, an extra lens, a small set of filters, cable release, a tripod and personal gear
Lowepro Photo Sport Pro – This bag is great for one day scenarios carrying one pro-sized camera body (Nikon D4), an extra lens, a small set of filters, cable release, a tripod and personal gear
Lowepro Rover Pro 45L AW – This is my bag of choice for one day or multiday scenarios requiring a lot of camera and personal gear. This includes short overnight backpacking trips.
Lowerpro Flipside Sport 20L AW – This is my bag of choice for one day scenarios where I need a lot of camera gear but limited personal gear. I love this bag for shooting commercial ski resort work.
Lowepro Pro Roller x200 – This is the ultimate bag for traveling in planes, trains and automobiles. It has a ton of room for gear, extra padding to keep everything safe and meets airline carry-on bag size requirements.
Lowepro Vertex 200 AW – This is my go to bag for traveling if I need the convenience of a backpack rather than a traditional roller bag like the Pro Roller x200.
Lowepro Flipside 400 AW – I still use this bag, just not as often as I used to. The Flipside Sport 20L has put this old workhorse on the back burner. I do however still find myself filling it up as an extra bag for my assistant for certain commercial assignments.
The scenario you are shooting will always dictate which bag is right for you. In my world, having a good selection of camera bags is essential to my success on a shoot. Every bag is different and has its advantages for certain situations. Which bag or bags are right for you? Well, only you can be the judge of that. Look at your gear and imagine where in the world your photography will take you and what you will need to make that killer content of your own. Therein lies the answer. Happy shooting!
Last fall I got a call from Lowepro asking me to shoot a commercial for a new bag they were introducing, The Photo Sport Pro 30L AW. I said "sure no problem, I can shoot that for you." They said "no, you don't have to shoot anything, we want you to be the featured photographer that introduces the bag." "Oh", I said, "well I better get a shave and haircut, ha! " Well, the bag released last week and the video above is my "Testimonial Video" on the bag. A big thanks to Josh Semolik, Canyon Florey and Lite Pro Gear for all of the great shots and making me look as good as I can. Also a big thanks to Cat Keenan and Nina for coming out and modeling for the shoots! You guys rock!
Oh, and the Photo Sport Pro is sick! Get yours at www.lowepro.com/photosport