Ad Shoot - Proto Industrial Tools

Back in July I began talking with the team at Stanley Black and Decker about shooting for their new Proto Industrial Tools line. Part of that tool line is ‘Skyhook,’ a system of tethering tools to your wrist in order to prevent dropping them while working at heights. The shoot would feature Phoenix-based rope access experts from Abseilon USA, and the location would be one of their upcoming jobs scheduled in either Libby, Montana, or Houston, Texas, just a few short weeks from when we began talking. The time lines were tight, but the job would be an exciting one.

Abseilon USA SPRAT 3 rope tech Mike Duran inspecting a trolley system 600ft above downtown Houston, Texas.
I submitted full quotes on each location individually, as well as shooting in both locations, and included my thoughts and reservations on each of the locations. With only a week before the job was scheduled to begin, we ultimately chose the Houston, TX location. The Houston location would take place at 600ft above the streets of downtown Houston, giving unbelievable skyline backgrounds for the shots, however, Houston was also going to present the largest challenges between the two locations, the number one challenge being weather.

The entire week leading up to the shoot I had one single obsession, not the shooting schedule, not the shot list, not the location being 600ft above Downtown Houston… The weather. Only the weather. The weekend before the shoot the chance of thunderstorms dropped from 90% to just 60%, that was the lowest it would reach, so I was at least cautiously optimistic that this may work out after all.
Helmet-mounted GoPro footage showing Abseilon rope techs inspecting the building's trolley system while utilizing the Proto Industrial Skyhook system for tethering their tools.

Location for our Proto shoot, the 4 large
holes cut out of the roof is where we hung
for the shoot.
I left Phoenix for Houston late Monday night, landed at Hobby around midnight, rental car by 1am, in the hotel by 2am, with a 6am call time at our shoot location. At 6am exactly, the Abseilon team was unloading their gear and equipment at the building’s loading dock. I checked in with them, then needed to do some safety and security training required by the building owner, followed by a solid 2 hour safety briefing with the Abseilon team, and the building’s safety and management teams. Still stressing about the weather because this was a one day shoot, we seemed to be extremely lucky with fantastic weather all morning. That is, right up until we wrapped up the briefings and made our way to the 40th floor to stage our equipment. The fury which is Houston weather decided that was the moment to unleash itself on what seemed to be only our building. The building owner shut us down due to safety concerns, no actual work was going to happen that day, much less any photography.

Fast moving storm moving through the Houston-area while
shooting the Proto Industrial Tools campaign.

When the storm began rolling in, I sent a quick message to the client to let them know we may have some delays in shooting, and let them start thinking about whether they wanted to extend photography past the time I quoted them for, but now it was time to call them and see if they wanted to cut their losses, or roll the dice on a second shoot day. We all agreed that too much was invested to walk away now, so we decided I would stay in Houston as long as was necessary to complete the shoot. If it rained the second day, I’d stay a third, or a fourth, etc. Disappointed, it was back to the hotel.

Call time the second day was a little later, at around 7am we met up at the truck dock once again to unload all of our respective equipment. After the Abseilon team, and myself, got the gear stowed we headed down to the basement for the day’s safety briefing and to go through the day’s itinerary. We’d begin the work up on the 41st floor, hopefully nailing some of the key shots I needed for Stanley Black & Decker before the weather moved in on us again. The sky was overcast, and Houston weather is unpredictable, so I wanted to move fast with the key shots and then know I had at least something in the bag if we got rained out again.

Close-up of the Proto Industrial Tools Skyhook system in use above Houston, TX.
With gear packed up and the safety briefing wrapped up, we finally make our way to the 40th floor via elevator to store the gear, taking just what we’d probably need up the stairs to the 41st floor, and then finally just what could be tethered to our harnesses up the ladder to the barn doors that would open out 600ft above the streets of Houston. There is a lot of pressure when you are shooting a large commercial project with only the gear you can tether to your harness, keeping in mind the various equipment also attached to the harness for fall protection and safety. Worries about the weather, running through the shot list for the 100th time, questioning myself on the single lens I’d be able to shoot with while on fall protection, wondering how much battery life was left in the GoPros, all of that went out the window when we finally opened the doors from the incredibly warm crawl space out into the stormy, cool air, with its mesmerizing view of the Houston skyline.
Abseilon USA rope tech Mike Duran wearing the Proto wrist strap in conjunction with the Skyhook tethered tool system.

Proto Industrial Tools Skyhook system at work.

After 8 exhausting hours of shooting in a heavy harness, helmet, and safety glasses, 6 or 7 different storms passing through, and countless thousands of steps and ladder rungs ascended and descended, the Stanley Black & Decker shoot for Proto Industrial Tools was a wrap. There were definitely times I was cursing the weather for costing shots that would have been epic, but all in all, it was an absolutely incredible day of shooting with the team from Abseilon, the best in the business.

For the parting shot, a BTS from the helmet-mounted GoPro showing me in the doorway on fall protection while shooting.
I want to thank the team behind the Proto Industrial line for trusting me with full creative control in an environment I couldn’t control, it was a true pleasure working with you. I want to thank the team at Abseilon for being so incredible at their jobs and letting me tag along and shoot them doing what for them is just another day, and especially for making sure I could focus on shooting and not having to worry about falling 600ft.


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