Monday, October 9, 2017

Shooting Roller Coasters at Sea World | #BTS Behind the Scenes

Why to Always be Prepared for the Unexpected

Final Hero Image of the all new Mako rollercoaster at Sea World Orlando

    SeaWorld Orlando has always been a very special place for me. I can remember going to the park as little kid back in the, dare I say 90’s and having the time of my life.

    Now the park brings me back at an almost monthly basis with my wife to feed dolphins, ride roller coasters, and watch our all time favorite/largest performer, Tilikum, at one of the numerous “Shamu” shows through the year.
Park guests aboard the new Mako RollerCoaster at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, United States
    I was beyond excited when given the opportunity to shoot a few campaigns within the park! For the first shoot I had to capture a single image of the new roller coaster, Mako, with full attendance on board! I would be shooting in the morning before the park opened and only get 3 passes to get the money shot!

    "Let me also mention the fact I would have to be sure that 24 people would have to look perfect while hitting a bank at 70+ miles per hour."

Park guests aboard the new Mako RollerCoaster at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, United States

    After an initial scouting day and being shown the limited area we could shoot in, I decided on the one and only location that had the look they were going for. For overall image quality I decided to use the PhaseOne to get the best overall look for shooting backlit in the morning with a little added fill light from 3 Elinchrom Rangers. 
    Because of the amount of people that had to look perfect and I would only be taking one frame, I planned on using my Induro 3 series tripod to at least keep the angles the same for post editing reasons. 
    I also wanted to have a backup angle that would also be set up on burst mode that I brought along the Nikon D800 with Induro 2 series tripod. This way I could shoot with the PhaseOne and remotely trigger the Nikon to get two separate images.
Nikon D800 and PhaseOne IQ250 remote camera setups

Find the Elinchrome Rangers

    On the arrival morning the secondary client surprised me with a shot list that had three different locations on it. I was uncomfortable with the fact that I would only get one chance for everyone to look perfect at each location on the roller coaster.
    Luckily I did the “just in case” packing job and had a few extra Nikon cameras and Induro tripods that were originally going to be used for the Elinchrom Rangers set up.
    My assistant and I ended up setting up 2 other remote camera that were on the same receiver channel as the back up Nikon D800. I would be shooting through the Phaseone view finder as I was manually triggering a remote that would be triggering all the other cameras on set.
"This way the client would get all 3 angles covered, and I would be getting 3 chances to get the hammer shot from every angle."
A map of our camera positions and overall set up for this shoot

    An added benefit of the cameras being securely mounted in place on the Induro tripods, is the ability to easily edit the images and pick out and replace a few of the people in every shot to get the perfect image for the client (being able to swap out someone’s face covered in hair).
    This was a lifesaver for me with the turn around time, as I also had to fully change out the sky in every shot because it was unexpectedly cloudy and over cast that morning.
Original image without post-production

Final image with sky added in post-production

"This was a perfect reminder of the importance of always being prepared for the unexpected, even on a well-planned shoot. Bringing the few extra back ups ended up making the shoot smoother, professional looking for the main client, and possibly saving the shoot."
    As an added bonus after the shoot I was able to shoot a few images of the "performers from Sea Worlds "Clyde and Seamore's Sea Lion High"  This was the highlight of my entire day!  We got 15 minutes with the models and sea lion to capture a few additional images for summer time advertising.  With how well the sea lions are trained we were able to knock the images out in no time and get a few extra minutes to hang with the sea lions and get a few selfies!
Hero Image form Sea World's Clyde and Seamore Sea Lion High shoot.
Behind the scenes of the clyde and seamer sea lion high shoot.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Un-Covered | Japan with Shota Tezuka for Wakeboarding Magazine #BTS

A journey Unknown

    This is my story of the a journey undergone years ago to get the perfect image in a country that I have never been to or even know the language.  This entire journey to the final outcome has been one of the most memorial experces of my life.  I could not ask to change any of the high or lows!  There were so many people that I have met along the way that took me under their wings and showed me their country and culture that I may never get to experience on that level again.


    Print has always been the center of excitement of my action sports career.  Something about opening a magazine and seeing a photo that and athlete and I worked is surreal.  Cliche to say but the most coveted prize for me has always scoring a cover.  But when a phone call comes in saying that I got the cover of the photo annual, there is a whole new level of excitement; especially with an image that I have chased for over 3 years.  The below image is one of the images produced for the 2017 Wakeboarding Magazine Surf Expo/Photo Annual! I can not ask for a better spot for this location to be showcased.

    A little inside history on me; my first ever cover was the Alliance Wake photo annual!  I was lucky enough to have my man Garret Cortese give me that first opportunity that helped launch my motivation to push my self to photographer of the year the following year.

    Ounce again Garret reached out to me, this time from his former competitive magazine that he is now editor of!  He told me that my image with Shota Tezuka had been selected of the cover of the Surf Expo issue.  Garret then proceeded to explain that this would be his first magazine redesign as well as photo annual!  I could not have been more shocked and excited at the same time.  Garret has ben the one that pushed me in the past to get me to where I am at, and I can not thank him enough for producing my favorite cover of all time with the new mag!

In the Making

    A lot always goes into getting the hammer shot for the cover of a magazine.  But I always thought that dropping a straight emoji onto the front page would be pretty impressive.  3 years ago I went to Japan with Shota Tezuka to shoot a previous cover of Mt Fuji in the winter seen below.  Little did I know this would be the beginning to a drive to come back several times a year to immerse my self in the culture and find a way to make the perfect spot Shota and I had found work.  As I write this I also just realized that Fuji is another emoji, so I am 2 for 2 on dropping emojis on covers from Japan!

  The original cover was actually shot on our first of 7 days on location on Lake Yamanaka at the Base of Mt Fuji.  Our man Spencer Smith was coming over to film a TV spot for Shota called "I am Showtime" that week, so needless to say I got a lot of fun time in with the boys traveling around and exploring the area!
    If you do not know about the Yamanaka area;  I would break it down as the Great Smokey Mountains of Japan, except with one of the most recognizable mountains in the world.

 Our Dock next to the cabin in the woods
Our home base for the week
 Local fisherman coming in at sunrise in front of Mt Fuji
 The Chureito Pagoda overlooking Mt Fuji
They don't call it Swan Lake for no reason
 Daytime Wakeboarding was had
And Sunset almost freezing Temps wakeboarding was had
Shota loves the cold
Shota dad serving it up right as his restaurant in Yamanaka, Japan

    In good action sports fashion, we had to go out in Tokyo and celebrate getting the hammer shot as well as explore some of the blooming Sakura (Cherry Blossom) around Tokyo!

 Shota Tezuka checking out the Sakura in Tokyo
Possibly the busiest street in the world
Just one more we said

One More Time!

    I made several other trips over to Japan to work out a few locations and yet again explore the country.  I even made a 24 hour trip one time to capture some of the cherry blossoms in front of the imperial palace and meet up with the crew at Red Bull Japan to make the project I had in mind happen.

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

    A very long story short, Shota hit me up and said we have a green light and everything is dialed to get us down to a Tori on Lake Biwa we had found several years ago.  There was only one catch, I would have to come over for about 2 weeks!  Needless to say I booked my flight that same night!

    After staying the first night in Tokyo our journey brought us back to Yamanaka for a few days to try and get some warm weather riding in front of the mountain.  The weather was super cloudy and we spent most of out time riding bikes around the lake, dialing in the shots we wanted to get in Lake Biwa. We made a decision to go back to Tokyo for a night to kick it before heading down south to my new favorite city, Kyoto.

    Upon arrival to Kyoto were were picked up by my "professional" boat driver and non english speaking friend Macaroni!  We spent several days in the city exploring the sites and getting an unreal tour of the some of the temples in the area including the Kiyoumizu Temples with the Son of the Temple!

Bento and Bullet Train?

 Pick by Macaroni up at Kyoto station!  Stacks on Stacks
Mellow coffee stop at % Arabica (The number one Master Latter Maker in the world resides here)

The Crew with the son of the temple in Kyoto
Bamboo Forest and Chill?
The map of the endless shinto shrines in Kyoto, they are a lot longer than I ever thought
Shota Tezuka sizing up the Shinto Shrines

Getting the Shot

    The entire two week journey came down to and single 10 minute session at the 8pm sunset and another 430 am sunrise session the next day!  We ended up battle some heavy waves on our hour long lake crossing.  After all Laka Biwa is the largest body of water in Japan.  We fought off massive fishing boats, bad weather, and a protractor of angles that just did not want to work.  Just when we though nothing else could have been against us on the shoot, we may or may not have had a few engine problems.

The crew on Deck and Ready!

    When all was said and done the entire crew came together with hand signals and sounds of excitement when the shot was made; after all, none spoke english except Shota!

    The final image was shot from them shore of the Shirahige Shrine, a 1,900 year old structure that defines the area!  Shota and I had to use hand signals to "drop' him into the right spot on the wake to get him the in the perfect center of the Tori.  I was also shooting with 3 Elinchrom rangers to light the area and shota.  So we only has a handful of chances as well as one frame per try.  

Final Image for the Cover of Wakeboarding Magazine

Send angle Option for the Cover


        This is one of my favorite images from may history of shooting wakeboarding.  It has so many meaning behind the cover.  It represents a couple year long journey into the heart of a country that I thought I would never see, and is a perfect reprensatatinon of Shota Tezuka's home country.  

    The Shirahige Shrine literal translation is "White Beard."  They say all who cross under the Tori will have longevity, a prosperous business, and better luck.  There is also mention of a baby and match making but I may have skipped over that section :).  I love the fact that everyone gets the chance to cross that Tori when they open the Magazine and be blessed with a longer more prosperous future!.  



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Met a Guy on a Plane | Brian Deegan 38

The Impact A Random Person Can Make 

   It is not everyday that I jump into my seat and realize the person I am about to sit next to for the next few hours is one of the most amazing people in motorsports, Brian Deegan.  For those of you who do not know Deegan he is one of the most decorated athletes in Freestyle Motocross, founder of Metal Mulisha, and amazing race car driver.  He is also the only person to have competed in at least 1 X-Games event every year from the start.

    Needless to say it was one of the more entertaining flight I have had to Vegas in a long time.  I got to hear so many stories about what I used to watch with him and Pastrana and the whole metal mulisha crew.  The whole flight brought me back to being a kid and overly excited about everything action sports.  I was even lucky enough to catch a ride to the Global Rally Cross track with him and check out his car and the pit area before catching a ride to the hotel for SEMA the following day.

    A few months later he came into Florida with his whole family in his camper to do some training with his son and daughter.  Deegan hit me up to see if I would want to come out and shoot some photos of him and his crew out at a private track in Groveland.  I may or may not have jumped on the opportunity to shoot him immediately.

     Deegan had a few ideas of images that he has actually never done before.  One being one of my favorite images  of the berm underneath the heavily moss covered oak trees that ran in Transworld Motocross.

    It is always amazing when an athlete has an idea and it all comes together in the final image, not to mention it makes my job extremely easy!  For me seeing some one like Brian Deegan get stoked on an image we made still blows my mind.

     Working with Brian did so much for me  unknowing at the time.  I came back to my action sports roots in full force and had the drive I had lost with it.  At the time I had been working so hard on marketing and meeting new clients I almost lost the passion I had that brought me to where I was in my career.  Since the shoot with the Deegan family I have dedicated a lot more of may time for personal projects based around action sports bringing my dream shoots to life 1 year at a time.

    Check out a few of the final images and behind the scenes shot below.  Thank you Brian Deegan and your whole Family/Crew for the great time!



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#BTS Behind the Scenes Video | Red Bull and Cory Teunissen

A good while back I was approached by Cory Teunissen with an idea he wanted to do for a long time.  We were able to produce one of our favorite images ever, but it did not come easy!  Here is our favorite image form the shoot.  It was all produced in a single shot with no post processing after.

To save a ton of technical talk on my side, here is the link to the article that Red Bull Photography wrote up on our shoot.  Below is also another article that was written up on an outside perspective on the shoot.  Be sure to go all the way to the bottom and check out the full BTS video!

Nocturnal Collaboration

Leaders of the Pack    At the top of their game, great talents play for keeps. That’s precisely why, if your job is your passion, there is a thin line between work and play. When all the elements come together, the chemical effect is high-tech art. Recently, Australian wakeboard champion, Cory Teunissen lead the charge for this cutting edge night time photo-shoot. Veteran photographer, Chris aka “FlashGarrison” Garrison loaded up the f-stop RedBull “Ajna” bags with the Nikons and Elinchrom Flashes. The team working in close collaboration and synchronicity, would achieve the goal of one epic “Hero”shot. In total, a crew of seven met up with a 150ft Boom Crane, a jet ski, and two Supra Powerboats towed by Yukon XL’s. Thus the elements converged upon The Sunwest Mine.

Dinner time with the team

On Location    The Sunwest Mine, better known in the industry as “Gary’s Lake,” is a Limestone Quarry north of Tampa Bay, Florida. The water color takes on a gorgeous blue due to the sediment from mining the limestone. It’s a cool little place in the middle of nowhere, popular in the Wakeboarding world. Central Florida has a numerous variety of lakes, boats, and nice weather with barely any wind. It is headquarters to 90% of professional wakeboarders during the summer season. Cory typically lives in Orlando, Florida along with other Aussies pros, who return “down under” to Australia for the Southern Hemisphere summer at the opposite time of year.

The team working on how close we can get the 20x20 scrims to the water

Setting the Stage    Cory’s career started at a young age on water skis, and by age four was on a wake board. He moved on to break numerous records as the youngest person to add a slew of complicated tricks to his repertoire. From the “Switch Toe Side 900” at 13, to landing a “Wake to Wake 1080” at 15. In August of 2016 he won the Nautique WWA Wakeboard World Championships in Toronto. Cory’s current aim is to master double flips. At 19 years-old, he is a three time world champion and trend setter in the sport.
    This photo shoot came about through Red Bull Australia who wanted to celebrate Cory’s birthday and championship. Cory had seen a photo effect in a magazine that inspired him to apply it to wakeboarding. There is much more than meets the eye in achieving a shot like this, and it presents a puzzle in need of problem-solving. Award winning photographer, Chris Garrison, is known for his many years experience with extreme action sports and athletes. Cory presented his ideas to Chris, who knew how to accomplish the sophisticated effect using the contemporary yet traditional process. The objective was to create the photographic effect at night, of Cory’s silhouette against a white backdrop, above the crystal clear blue water, with a little bit of smoke.
    Before constructing the set, the athlete and photographer went out in the Supra Boats for a warm-up and to investigate the riding conditions. Physical data was to be collected in visualization of where to set the stage on land. Cory was in the zone. He relished the chance to perform for a fun and high-profile gig, without the weight of the contest jersey. The guys on land were unloading the gear and watching boats proximity to shore. The photographer’s boat driver is getting cues from Chris where he wants to be lined up with markers on land. The athlete’s boat driver is following cues from both Cory on where the launch area is, and keeping the right focal length from the photographer’s boat. The jet ski driver and lighting assistant followed in the wake behind Cory and his boat.

The backside of the setup

The Problem and The Solution    Quite a bit of planning would go into putting all the ingredients together. With every penny of the hefty budget spent and error factors ruled out to a minimum, the weather took a turn to the unexpected. As fate would have it, the normally calm and windless lake was now experiencing a storm front with 15-20mph winds.
    Originally there was going to be four 20x20ft scrims for the white backdrop. It took every sandbag, every heavy duty light stand, the 150ft boom crane, every ground anchor, and plus they went out and bought extra rope to tie down to the rental cars. Yet, with only two of the 20x20ft white background scrims, they were still lifting off the ground. In the case of the smoke machine, the wind actually helped. The smoke spread out nicely to fill in the gaps between and around the tops and sides of
the white backgrounds.
    The amount of details that needed to be conveyed between the drivers, athlete, photographer, and light assistants was crucial. Luckily, everyone was in shouting distance of each other. With half the previously planned backdrop in use, the shoot’s inherent challenge became twice as intense. Cory and Chris surveyed the situation and discussed logistics from where to launch airs to where to shoot from. When the rider went to connect with the wake, (the kicker or take of zone) he had not much more than a 6 inch area to nail it. If he was a foot off, he was already outside of the white background scrim area. Although everything had been planned to a T, the rare weather occurrence could not have been foreseen or else a different day would’ve been scheduled.

Cory digging one out on the way back

Technical De-construction    Perhaps the most important technical aspect of this shoot were the flashes, and FlashGarrison has his nickname for a reason. He’s established a reputation for his own brand of stylized and mind-bending technique. To capture fast action with limited
light is no small feat. Six Elinchrom ELCs were employed to do sequences and experiment with rapid burst and advanced functions for various style shots.
    The front-lit shots for the sponsors required Elinchrom Rangers providing heavy duty portable batteries for full power flash. A lighting assistant on the athlete’s boat handled a flash and battery setup to make sure Cory was fully illuminated for his split second grab in air. The jet ski driver followed behind with the second assistant to have the flash synced from both sides. Chris took his shots from a front angled perspective of Cory in the air. Essentially, you have a boat that’s running parallel to the shore. The closer Cory is to the white scrim background on the shore, the easier it is for Chris to get the shot lined up. From 100ft deep offshore, it drops to only 60ft at the shore, allowing Cory’s boat to go right along the shoreline. In pitch dark night, they’re coming from the black area straight into the light. The boat driver is going about 22mph, and has to drive straight past the background, through the lit area, go into the dark again, do a U-turn and come back through. From the athletes perspective, he has a 6-12inch area where he has to boost off the wake. He must get in the air and do his trick in the proper location, perfectly framed in either the upper right or upper left of the white backdrops. The athlete can barely see the little bit of white water from the wake and splash. Once he’s in the air, and moving at 30+ mph, all he can see is a little bit of white water below to try and land it. It is definitely visually hard on the athlete.
    Likewise, in pitch dark, the photographer had to manage his gear, focus on the athlete, and make sure all the strobes fire. For focal point and perfect framing, Chris’ boat had to be perfectly centered between both the scrims and then within a 25 to 40ft area between themselves and Cory’s boat. There’s another concept that most people won’t get when shooting on land, at night, with lights. Whether it’s snow, or cement, or grass; a lot of that reflects light. Water absorbs light. You can
see a boat perfectly bright. However for the photographer shooting towards the set, and the athlete lining up his marks, they’re really only seeing essentially 10% of that light when the lights are on.
    Plus being on the water, there’s not much benefit in using a tripod! The wind issue required tricky positioning for the photographers boat driver. The lake is 100ft deep, so there is nothing to anchor to. He’d have to go into wind and turn it sideways, letting it drift into the 5ft shot zone as the Cory’s boat was driving into it’s location. Technically, getting the 10-12 strobes to consistently fire on every image over distance and water also required workarounds. Using the Elinchrom Skyport Transmitter on his Nikon, when Chris clicks the shutter, a wireless signal triggers the strobes both on land and on the Jet Ski following behind Cory’s boat.
    After due diligence and tons of tries to get the timing and angle just right, there was mutual confidence that the goal was achieved. The final shots turned out epic and if you didn’t know how it was done, you might think it was Photoshop magic. On the contrary, the end results indeed represent the height of modern digital photography combined with years of traditional experience. The crew of nine, worked from afternoon to 4am to get that one “Hero” shot they were after; the silhouette photo
with the perfect blue strip of water, white background, and perfect timeless stance.

A version with a single 20x20 scrim

It worked!    Over the course of the intense around the clock production, it was only through close teamwork that success was realized. Chris was beyond impressed with the group synergy. He explains: “We showed up in the day with Cory’s original idea and hung out for a bit to visualize our strategy. We went out on to do a little riding session to get to know the lake, where to set the location up, the wind direction, and all that fun stuff.”
    If you do the math, a crew of 7 times a 25 hour shift and you have a substantial unified effort going focused on each shot. “It’s a big team effort,” says Chris, “You know, not only between the athlete and photographer. The boat and ski drivers, the light assistants, the smoke machine guy... there is so much work that’s going into it.” When asked if their were any memorable quotes of the day, Chris suggested, “Is it gonna work? (Laughing)” Elaborating further he says, “The set up was about 80% of the battle anyways. It was the hardest thing I’ve set up in while, for sure.” He estimated that all the marks were hit in unison on an average of 1 in 20 tries. There were about 5-8 passes that because of
the limited, back-lit lighting, plus the fast moving subject, the camera couldn’t lock focus to trigger the shutter. “You’ve already got the factor where the athlete may not be in the right location,” said Chris, “the shooters boat may not in the right location, focus is a massive issue. You want to take every factor you have and push it to the side. You want to try to narrow everything you can, and control everything that you can when it comes to error factors.”

The Author
Moolar (Moo Man) Devar is a self-proclaimed “eccentric,” and digital nomad. You may find him
in a far flung surf camp, trading websites and design work for beach front lodging in either prime
or off season.

Additional BTS images

Cory sizing up the situation as we wait for night fall.

Bradlee Rutledge playing test dummy.

A view from above

How many nightstands can a single Suburban hold.