Cover Shot on the Jan/Feb ’11 issue of Crawl Mag!

30 12 2010

The January/February issue #26 of Crawl Magazine features two articles that I shot and wrote and somehow along the way I ended up getting the cover as well!  The Guava Runner cover was shot near Minturn, CO on the Holy Cross trail.  As I sit here, snow falling outside, it reminds me of the awesome day on the trail.  We even saw a lynx up near the top of the trail!  The 4-runner on the cover belongs to Christian Guevara, who, like I, lives in Castle Rock, CO.  We actually grew up not far apart.  Kind of a small world.  Anyway, I am excited to get my 6th cover for the mag, but I am equally excited that it was a local garage built Rocky Mountain trail suppressor.

The second feature I put together for this issue was of a ’06 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, or LJ, that Jeff and Dave of Rokmen put together for a customer of theirs, Jake.  We called it “Rokmen’s Short-Armed Freak”.  Jeff and Dave are known for the low slung “freak” LJ setup that they put together using 40″ tires, a 2″ OME spring and short-armed suspension.  The details on the rig are immaculate.  Definitely give the magazine a peek next time you’re at Barnes and Noble if you don’t have a subscription.


Lunar Eclipse and a Little Landscape Photography

21 12 2010

I am by no means an astro-photographer, nor do I consider myself a landscape photog.  But, the past week has lent itself to both and I happily obliged and had some fun with the 5DII.

Last night was the crazy rare, ultimate, once in every 500 years lunar eclipse that coincided with the winter solstice.  Linnea, my wife, and I set the alarm for ~1AM to catch the peak of it and I shot for the stars. I shot an 11min exposure and photoshopped a more normal exposure over the top.  Kinda like a shooting moon, or shooting a moon, either way the moon’s been shot!

Early on in the week with the 5DII and 35MM1.4 in tow we went on a hike near our house.  I had a little fun with this tree that somehow managed to find a permanent perch on the cliff.  The sky was awesome and the colors in the rock and snow really attracted me to shooting it(while the wife and dogs waited…Moose, the dog, hates waiting for me to shoot photos).



BMX- Back to where it all started for me.

13 12 2010

My interest in photography started in high school – riding bmx bikes with my buds.  Clay Brown was publishing a local bmx magazine called Pusher BMX at the time and coached me through the basics of shooting pics with a SLR.  I had always admired the work of photogs like Mark Losey and Rob Dolecki in mags like RideBMX and Dig.  In school I’d spend hours thumbing through the latest bmx mags, studying the latest tricks and the photographic artistry of such photographers.  I was always drawn to the locations that lent themselves to a graphic photo.  BMX and photography have always gone hand in hand.  To me they’re both a creative outlet of sorts.  They get the neurons firing on all cylinders, coming up with new ways to look at things and creating something all your own.

Still riding little kid bikes, I managed to snap a few of my friends Sherwin and Steve in the C-ride, a fun little obstacle we found near a school this past weekend.

Good People in the Offroad Industry

6 12 2010

I did finally get up in the air to get the aerial shots of the construction project in Denver.  The flights are going to be getting cold over the next few months.  The heli has removable doors, conveniently, like a Jeep and we have been removing my door so I can hang out the side.  GET TO THE CHOPPA!

Anyways, I had a few offroad industry shoots last week.  First one was with Nick Sessions of Xtreme Engineering in Ft. Collins, CO.  He was looking for some images of a new 4-seater Wrath chassis that he had put together for a customer.  When it comes to rock crawling, XE and Nick put together some of the best looking and functioning rigs around.  I’ve shot 3 XE Wrath’s for Crawl Magazine and they’re always some of the easiest to shoot.  With an attention to detail like no other, Nick is more of an artist than most fabricators.  I could probably shoot one of his cars blindfolded and the photos would look great.  Every part of the finish product is detailed and has a style that makes shooting them too easy.  He definitely has the hot rod style and knows how to make a mean looking rig.

For the shoot I used my 2 Q-flash set-ups in his shop with the little midi-slave as an accent or fill if needed.  I was going for a raw look with the tools and stock in the background and the ambient lighting exposed about 1-1.5 stops under really helped bring the focus to the Wrath.  The coolest thing about the shoot was most certainly the chain hoist.  Honestly, I never know what randomness to expect and definitely look forward to every shoot, they are all adventures.  Nick has a chain hoist attached to a beam in his shop and with the buggy only being a roller with no drive-lines, plumbing, etc. we used it to flex the rig out just like shooting a complete car out on the rocks.  It actually worked out great.  He also needed a few shots of him welding for his website.  We took it a step further and added some branding to some of the shots.

Early on in the week, Val Douglas with Stay the Trail asked if I’d be interested in shooting their float in the 9News Parade of Lights, a Denver holiday tradition.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help out such a great organization.  So on Friday night, with my camera in hand, Linnea and I enjoyed the Parade and holiday festivities downtown.  Justin Lilly, Val, and the rest of the crew at Stay the Trail and the Responsible Recreation Foundation do a lot to help promote responsible and ethical motorized offroad use of the road and trail system in Colorado.  This year they partnered with Tread Lightly and Leave No Trace in the parade.  Working with everyone involved in the great outdoors seems to have been a great success of STT.

Stay the Trail Parade of Lights

I really do enjoy working with many of the people involved with the offroad industry.  Most of them are down to earth and truly enjoy what they do.

Trying to include the blog more in my photographic adventures.  So stay tuned!

Aerial Photo Flight Postponed…

19 11 2010

I had an aerial photo flight scheduled for yesterday morning.  It was part of a monthly project that I have been doing for a general contractor that is basically building a new city block in downtown Denver.  At first it seemed the wind might keep us grounded as it has a major affect on flight times.  Helicopters have to go much slower in gusty conditions and flying into it the wind just teases you with your final destination.  An airspeed showing 50 knots into a 30mph headwind results in a 20mph relative ground speed, something I have had to experience on a few flights so far.  Upon arriving at the airport the winds were calm and it appeared we’d be airborne in no time.

Anyway, the pilot Rich was going through the pre-flight checklist and found some play in the Robinson R44’s rotor assembly.  The specs on the bird allow for .060″ of movement and we had .75″.  It moved enough to change the pitch on the blades.  Come to find out a bolt was nearly sheared off, which would have undoubtedly sent us and the helo to the ground prematurely had we decided to fly.  Better safe than sorry with something like this, the flight was canceled.  Anyway, here are a few pics from the airport that I managed to snap preflight cancellation.

Hope to post more in the blog over the coming months.

Gaffing up the Lenses.

24 03 2010

As a photographer, you never know what situation will present itself.  You’ve got to stay on your toes and be able to make something happen no matter what a client or situation may throw at you.  A lot of the situations I end up shooting in are dirty and dusty.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Whether it is in the slag filled air in the back of a manufacturing facility shooting welding, or out in the middle of the desert at an off the road race; there usually isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.  There is only one problem; these shoots take a toll on the equipment, especially lenses.  I shoot with weather sealed Canon L series lenses.  They’ve always produced for me, but a few years back my 24-105mm F4L IS started to get some dirt and sand behind the focusing ring…and the more off road racing and 4 wheeling I shot, the worse it got.  This is my simple (very simple..) solution.

While in school we used gaffer’s tape for everything.  A cloth tape with a sticky adhesive that doesn’t leave a residue on anything.  It is definitely the photographers’ duct tape.  The do-all tool of the trade.  I’ve always kept a few rolls of the Permacel 2″ in my bag.

!!! This will only work on lenses with a stationary focusing ring (one that doesn’t move while the lens is auto focusing)!!!

Another thing to keep in mind if you do this, you will not have the ability to manual focus.  For a lot of the shoots I am involved with AF is the only way, as the situations can unfold very fast.

I start by taking a 1/4″-1/2″ wide strip from the roll of tape.  Something just wide enough to cover the seam between the focusing ring and the actual lens body is all you need.

I then wrap the seam all the way around the lens, being sure to over lap the other end, and to keep the tape tight to the lens the entire way around.

Then do the same on the other seam of the focusing ring.  This is the final masterpiece.  However simple it may be, it definitely keeps the grime out and helps avoid costly repairs.

Many photogs use a UV filter to protect the glass at the front of the lens.  I always use a lens hood as well.  It is more of a lens bumper for me as I tend to accidentally bounce it off of rocks, pipes, tripods, etc. from time to time.  This hood has seen better days.

2010 Griffin King of the Hammers. A photographer’s ramblings…

22 02 2010

KOH ’10- A week spent on Means WET dry lake bed in the Middle of the Mojave!

What a trip! It was great to get away from the monotony of the day to day and get out to the Mojave Desert to cover the Griffin King of the Hammers(KOH) race for CRAWL mag.  For those of you not involved with rock crawling or desert racing; this is the ultimate off road race, period.  It combines 30+ of the toughest rock crawling trails in the country with 100 miles of high-speed desert sections.  It’s what you get when you cross Jeep with Baja style Trophy Truck.

I was lucky enough to catch a ride with competitor Jason Pickett from Denver out to Means Dry Lake in Johnson Valley, CA.  After a late departure on Sunday the 7th, we stepped foot onto the wet lakebed Monday evening.  Means DRY lake is in the desert, the DRY DESERT.  For the few weeks prior to the race it had rained, A LOT.  So, what we thought would be a dry lake bed, turned out to be a very muddy lake.  Even so, RVs and campers lined the road all the way to the pit and vendor area.  It was a temporary city in the desert, AKA Hammertown.   Last time I was there two years ago there wasn’t even 1/10th the amount of people as this year.  Jeff Knoll and Dave Cole, the event organizers, hit the nail on the head with this race and it seems to gain in popularity exponentially every year.

The mud seemed to be a blessing in disguise.  The powder fine dirt and sand in this area wreaked havoc on my equipment last time I was at the Hammers.  Hopefully the 1DIII and 5DII would come away relatively unscathed.  Did I mention mud was also used as a form of amusement for some of the late night atv crowd at 3 or 4 AM?  That along with the ¼ sticks of dynamite going off 10 feet away from the RV made getting a good nights rest difficult.

With an early start Tuesday, I found myself shooting photos of Ian Johnson (Xtreme 4X4, ) and Jimmy Penner’s (of Essentially Offroad, ) KOH car.  Propane injected and rocking some Ford Ranger doors and bedsides, this southern style beast was undoubtedly ready for the Hammers.  Count on seeing more from this shoot in one of the upcoming issues of CRAWL.

Most of the teams spent some serious time testing and tuning in the week prior to the race.  Some were there a month in advance, others came out every weekend for months in advance.  Knowing how your car handles the varied terrain is a large part of preparing for racing in KOH.  While out shooting Ian’s rig I came across Brad Lovell testing with Todd from Fox shocks.

As just an observer, the process of adjusting the valving on the shocks seems fairly simple, yet nothing could be further from the truth.  The shock tech would watch someone make a few passes through some rough terrain, then make a few adjustments, watch a few more passes, and so on.  All the while never setting foot in the car.  Eventually the cars would just float across the top of the whoops(bumps).  Suspension is a BIG deal when it comes to going fast!  And trying to get a rock crawler to go fast can be interesting.

Jason Pickett, Aaron Dusenbery and Carnage Crew spent most of Tuesday tuning the suspension on the Axial car #4444 with King Shocks.  It was the first time the car had touched dirt, or rocks.  I was told that the first few passes on the whoops and rough desert sections were around 35mph.  By the time I caught up with them in the afternoon they were doing 65mph easy and just cruising across the top of the whoops.  When I asked Jason how it was, “fast!”. Apparently twice as fast as last year’s car.

On Wednesday, plans for photo shoots fell through.  I spent most of the day sans camera, just taking in the scene known as Hammertown.  With contingency occupying a major portion of Thursday, this was the last real chance the teams would have to make sure the cars was ready for the 8+ hours of brutality that the Hammers would certainly dish out.  Jason and Aaron managed to get out on a 20+ mile prerun to the first pit just before dark.  On the way back to camp it started to snow, something I thought we had left back in CO.

After shooting a few photos at contingency on Thursday I found a few features to shoot for CRAWL.  All I can say is Nick Sessions does some amazing work.  A couple super clean cars with a look undeniably Xtreme Engineering.  You’re going to have to wait for the articles in CRAWL to see…

Friday, race day…

The mad scramble of race day went surprisingly smooth.  The competitors started lining their cars up at 5AM.  Many probably didn’t sleep much the night before, they either spent it working on the cars or we just too hyped up for the big race.  Everyone had a 1% chance of winning, as there was 100 drivers in the race.  And although there were favorites, it would prove to be anybody’s day.

The starting line looked like the videos I had seen of the Baja 1000 start. Fans everywhere, race cars lined up, motors reving, the heli hovering above; everyone was waiting for 8 o’clock to hit and the race to start.  You could smell the anticipation in the air, or maybe that was just the race fuel.  I spent the first few minutes of the race waiting for a brave someone to get out on the course and try to touch one of the cars going by at 60mph+ only to be disappointed, I guess I’ll need to head south of the border for that.

Most of race day involved Brandon (CRAWL photog extraordinaire), Mike (CRAWL NW friend) and I driving John’s Duramax all over the California desert.  It still amazes me that Brandon only managed to get the truck stuck twice.  Way to go B!  Ha.  The first place I got dropped off at was near race mile 40. It was on top of a ridge overlooking much of the area, including the surrounding snow covered mountains.  The tranquility of being “out there” is probably one of the best parts of shooting offroad racing and rock crawling.

A few of my favorites from Race mile 40-

A rock trail called Chocolate Thunder was the next location I shot photos at.  Interesting name, and the story behind it doesn’t disappoint.

Approximately race mile 100-

There were thousands of spectators there for the race.  Chocolate thunder had around 1,000 people when I was there.  The next location, Sledgehammer, had what seemed like 20,000.  People were hiking up the actual race course when I got there.  When a car would come they’d scramble up the steep, loose boulders of the side of the canyon to get out of the way, only to come right back down and follow the racers up the trail.  I heard of a few people getting hit with boulders that were knocked down from spectators up above.  A man with a broken arm and a young boy with a cut on his head were a few of the confirmed injuries.  Needless to say I only shot a few images and moved on from that mess.

Eventual race winner, Loren Healy on his way up Sledge.  To go through LCQ and end up winning the big race is amazing.  Congrats Loren!

So what happened with Jason Pickett and Aaron Dusenbery in the Axial sponsored Carnage Crew car on race day?  They started in the 17th position.  When they took off the line they were seriously moving.

At mile 40 they were 5th car to come by me, which means they gained 12 positions up to that point.  Again, they were moving.  The car had more, but Jason knew from last years race that keeping things together and not pushing the car too hard would give them a better chance at finishing.

Every point at which I saw them they were with the lead group of cars.  The next sighting was on their way to Chocolate Thunder, they ripping their way through a sandy wash.  They’d lost a few positions at this point, 8th or 9th car through that section.  Apparently hydrolic fittings on the steering ram came loose and cost them about 40 minutes while getting things fixed .

As I was just getting to the bottom of Sledgehammer they were at the check point between it and Jackhammer.  They spotted me and threw what some might call the “Doyle”.

After countless hours of building the car, finishing it on the lakebed, and taking a largely untested car on the 135 mile 2010 Griffin King of the Hammers course,  Jason Pickett and Aaron Dusenbery got the Axial sponsored car back to “Hammertown” in 8 hours, 3 minutes and 24 seconds.  Good enough for a 10th place finish.

To show up with an untested car to a race like KOH is a gamble.  To come away with a top ten finish with said car is almost unbelievable.  The only problem they encountered was loose fittings on the steering ram, which cost them around 40 minutes getting fixed.  Not too bad considering they had to drive back to a pit, fix it, and drive back to the race course in the exact location they wend off course.  Don’t “what if?” yourself to much Jason.  You’ve got a spot in next years race!

Thanks to CRAWL Magazine for allowing me the opportunity to capture some of the action of the 2010 Griffin Radiator King of the Hammers.  Thanks to Jason, Laurie and crew for the amazing hospitality all week.  Time to get to work on the Ranger for next year, tool-shed pre-runner here I come.


This is just a sampling of the 5,000+ images I shot during the week.  The upcoming issue #21 of CRAWL Magazine will feature more of my work included in their massive KOH article.  If there is enough interest I may put up a gallery at some point.