2014 Year Review

A rope access technician from Abseilon USA makes a drop
above the space shuttle Atlantis at NASA's Kennedy Space
Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.                                          

A few weeks into 2015 now and I can finally pause and look back at the whirlwind that 2014 was. I’ve finally closed the year out, all but one shoot from 2014 is now archived, and I’m currently surfing the tidal wave 2015 is starting out to be.

2014 was the busiest year I’ve had to date, with that came some really fun projects, some exciting new clients, and a little bit of traveling as well. I look back through my favorite images of the year and then I compare them to my favorite images of the previous year, always looking for growth. I want to look back and see how my style has evolved, how my lighting has been refined, and how much overall improvement I've made during the year.
I really enjoy this blog post every year. Writing this is usually the first time I actually look back at the previous year’s collection of covers, tearsheets, and favorite images, as well as shoots. I also get to remember some of the incredible people I've had the opportunity to photograph or interact with. Meeting amazing people with amazing stories might be one of the greatest parts of shooting more editorial work, I really love it.

First, some of my favorite covers of the year:

Paradise Valley, AZ. Chef Charles Kassels in his kitchen at
El Charro.                                                                               
 I try to get a cover assignment at least once a month, either for one of the magazines I regularly shoot for, or, even better, a new one. Now, of course some months I won’t get any, that's just par for the freelance course, then other months I may shoot four or more, so that’s super fluid.

The covers I selected for the above image were some of my favorites  from last year because I really like the images that were chosen for the cover. Sometimes I know exactly which image will be the cover because it’s part of my brief, but many times I don’t know which image was chosen until just before the issue comes out. The first day of every month kind of feels like Christmas as I go to every magazine client’s site and check out the work I’ve shot and see the images they’ve chosen for each issue.

Not every magazine has art directors and creative directors, so many times the graphic designers who design the layouts will consult with an editor and they'll make the cover selections that way. When I submit my final images to those magazines I will often hint at some of my favorite cover options, lol.
Something to note, the only magazine cover from the above selection that isn't a very standard, cropped, traditional portrait is JEMS, a trade magazine. Trade magazines will often have more 'out-of-the-box' covers which are more dynamic than other magazine genres. Trade magazines are one of my favorite magazine types to shoot for because of that 'break the mold' editorial style.

As fun as shooting a magazine cover can be, it’s actually the full page or two page spreads that are the most fun to shoot. That may surprise some of you looking to do magazine work, but it’s true. More often than not, on editorial shoots, I shoot the ‘safe’ images that are on my shot list, or that are very traditional, or the ones that I know the client will love, but once the safe shots are out of the way, the real fun begins.

The ‘post-safe-shot’ shots are where all the stops are taken out, the subject can relax a little, and I get to have even more fun than I was having earlier because now we’re getting more creative, telling more of a story, more personality gets to show, and we can try anything because we already have the images client “needed” wrapped up. Not always, but what happens often is that the cover shot is pulled from the safe shots the client originally wanted and then the two page spread that opens the article will feature one of the more creative shots we did while just having fun. If you look back again at the covers I posted earlier, you can see how similar they all look. Magazines have a style they try to maintain and, with few exceptions, they like very traditional headshot type of portraits for their covers.

I made mention of the trade magazines being different. Trade magazines tend to focus more on the activity, or the context, or the location than they focus on the people. That's where, as a photographer, you need to plan your shots to really tell a story. Looking at one of the two page spreads above, the one with the police officer, the focus was a police officer administering the naloxone. The only thing the magazine was interested in was an image of a police officer with an intranasal Narcan spray, I decided to expand that simple brief into a story. I chose a location with contextual relevance, added a model to fit the story, and then used the magazine's basic brief as a jumping off point. I knew it would be a stronger set of images, so I made the decision to develop the shot list deeper. I say that because cover shoots don't always have the same creative liberties.

 Separate from editorial work is what I shoot for commercial clients and then my own personal work. This image was commissioned by Rural Metro Corporation to hang in the lobby of their corporate headquarters. The image features one of the corporation’s fire engines flanked by ambulances owned by Rural Metro subsidiaries Southwest Ambulance and PMT. Rural Metro is one of my favorite clients to have the opportunity to work with each year. I really love how this final image turned out, we shot for maybe an hour altogether as the sun was dropping off the left of the camera. The background has just moments of sunlight left while the emergency equipment in the foreground was illuminated with maybe 5 or 6 strobes.

From left to right: PMT Ambulance, Rural/Metro Corporation fire engine, and Southwest Ambulance.

I also had the opportunity to work on my ‘People at Work’ personal project this year. I try to arrange as many as I can fit into my schedule and one of the shoots I arranged for the project was with Phoenix-based rope access company Abseilon USA.

After having a great shoot with them locally in Phoenix, the images I shot for my personal project actually landed me a commercial assignment in Orlando, Florida. I was hired by CMC Rescue, the manufacturer Abseilon uses for much of its equipment and gear, to fly down to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral with a team of Abseilon technicians who would be replacing a bracket 250ft off the ground and directly above the Space Shuttle Atlantis. My job was to shoot the Abseilon techs utilizing CMC’s equipment for the project and it was easily the most fun I had shooting the entire year.

It was also the most tiring. After a full day of traveling to Orlando, I photographed all through the night. After I finished shooting at about 4am, it was time to get back to the airport for my 6am flight back to Phoenix. On top of the commercial assignment that came from the personal shoot, I was able to sell the images I took during our first shoot together in Phoenix to the manufacturer of the helmets Abseilon uses, KASK. KASK is an Italian helmet manufacturer that bought images for it's print catalog in the United States.

2014 was not without its ups and downs, its good months and its slow months, but I can look back and appreciate all that happened. I look forward to continuing the momentum 2015 is beginning with and to working with my longtime clients, as well as forging relationships with new clients. I have a long list of things I hope to accomplish this year, and I hope to grow both personally and professionally. I wish the same for all of you, thanks for reading.




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