Lots of us remember how it feels to break into a new career or pursue a passion (or both!). Photographer Cassady Kissam shares his experience in this full profile. The trials. The challenges. The surprises. The “happy accidents”. They’re all highlighted here in a candid piece we hope you enjoy reading.
Hey, if you have a similar experience, please share it on our Facebook page or leave a comment here.
Editor’s note:Trevor Clark is a professional photographer, adventure sports athlete and passionate observer of life. Jessie Stone is a doctor-turned-whitewater-kayaker, member of the USA Freestyle Kayak Team and passionate agent of positive change. Trevor was inspired to tell Jessie’s story of building and running a clinic that treats patients for malaria and provides outreach programs. So he took a chance on getting funding, packed a minimal camera/video kit and headed to Uganda. He shares the experience here.
What about Jessie inspired you to create not only a still and motion story, but start a fundraising effort?
Well, I think her story kind of just speaks for itself. I had known about Jessie and what she was doing for a while, but it was really when I met her at a wedding in Mexico (mutual kayaker friends) and had a chance to let her tell me about it that I knew I was going to tell her story. She was so passionate and determined that I instantly locked in on the idea of getting myself over there. Nearly two years went by with this idea in the back of my head, pulling on me, before I tried pitching it to editors. Unfortunately, that didn’t work very well as there just aren’t too many magazines with a budget to send someone to Uganda for a few weeks. I was really frustrated with the whole process and decided to just go and figure it out later. It wasn’t an easy decision. I didn’t have any jobs lined up. I didn’t have the money to float the expenses and the cost of a multimedia edit. But I didn’t want to give up on it either. I had heard about Kickstarter, but didn’t know all that much about it, so as a last ditch effort I put up a campaign and hoped for the best.
Tell us a bit about the Kickstarter idea.
Like I said, the Kickstarter campaign was a complete afterthought. This all came together right at the beginning of the crowd-sourcing/micro-funding movement and I really didn’t know all that much about it – except that it was worth a try. I was already committed to going and had purchased the flights, malaria prescription, vaccinations, etc… when I had this idea. Unfortunately, I only had two weeks until my departure so I had to set the funding goal end date for a few weeks after my return from Uganda. That meant that I would have no idea if I would get any funding or not until weeks after it was all over. With Kickstarter you have to reach your funding goal in time or you don’t receive any funding. I put it all together, then begged and pleaded with everyone I knew to help me spread the word. Here is the link to the project.
How did you imagine you would shoot this and which gear did you gather to make the job possible?
Luckily this type of water-related story fell right into the type of adventure imagery I am used to shooting, so I pretty much had all the gear and river skill set I needed to make it happen. It was pretty nutty though to pack my kayak full of gear – water-related and camera-related, and check that all the way to Entebbe, Uganda. Doing it all on my own, I knew that I would just be working out of my kayak on the river and out of my backpack on shore. With everything I was already taking, and the fact that I was the only one on the project, I just had to forego some of the fancier video techniques with cranes, sliders and all of that. It really was just me, a tripod and some bags.
Which Lowepro bags did you take along and why?
I always take the DryZone 200 on trips like this because there are always some crazy logistics on the other end. I had no idea if I was going to be getting off the plane and jumping into the back of a pickup during a rainstorm or if the place would be one huge dust cloud. It actually turned out to be both, somehow. That bag just allows me to have no concern about the safety of my main camera gear. And I can carry it on any airplane. It’s also a little less noticeable and you can move quickly with it, as I found I needed to do through some of the more populated areas. On the river I used some drybags that I have padded out with old foam and bits and pieces of other bags.
What was it like shooting in Uganda? How did you get your gear there and to the various locations? What made it easier?
Shooting in Uganda was pretty wild; it was definitely a new experience for me. When you’re in a place like that you really don’t want to have a ton of camera gear hanging off of you in front of a lot of people. It’s not that I really ever felt unsafe; it’s just that people there are in such a different position than any of us here in North America. You just don’t want to be waving it all in front of them all of the time. I really tried to be as inconspicuous as I could while still doing what I was there for. So I always just tried to carry the minimum amount of gear possible. And like I said, this wasn’t a project where I had an assistant or anything; so I couldn’t just put gear down here and there or have someone else hold it for me. I think the only way to make it manageable was to use what little amount of gear I could move freely with and make the best of it.
Are you planning other projects like this one? What’s next?
I am actually. This project has sparked a whole new direction on my work with Jessie and right now we are planning to get me back to Uganda later this year. This time, the project will be for Soft Power Health and I won’t have to do any more of my own fundraising. It’s really wild, but everything you do leads to something else.
Editor’s note:Friend of Lowepro and Getty Images sports photographer Ezra Shaw covered a variety of competitions, athletes and the celebratory mood in London. He took a quick moment in his hectic schedule to share his impressions with us as well as a few awesome images. Even though the Games ended a few days ago, we’re still thrilled by the excitement caught in Ezra’s stunning photographs. Check out his London 2012 Summer Olympics gallery on his web site.
Your schedule must have been pretty exhausting. What’s it like to cover the world of amazing athletes in this fascinating city?
Overall the Olympics were great. I had a variety of events to photograph – ranging from the main events such as the Bolt in the 100m Final and Michael Phelps in the pool – to the more obscure sports like Table Tennis and Fencing. I didn’t have much of chance to get out in central London, but I was amazed by how many people were at Olympic Park everyday. In addition to selling tickets to all of the events, they also sold tickets just to enter the Olympic Park and those were sold out everyday.
What was the most challenging venue?
The most challenging venue was the Cycling Road Race – it was the first day after the Opening Ceremony and because it started and finished near Buckingham Palace, there was even more security than normal. It was also difficult to cover because it started in the city and then went out about 50 miles before finishing back at the Palace. Getty Images had a total of six photographers covering the race which made life a little easier. My main assignment was to shoot the beginning of the race as the riders headed towards Buckingham Palace and then go get set up for the finish line. The race was pretty exciting because British cyclist Mark Cavendish was favored to win and spectators lined the streets about 10 people deep near the start/finish line. Unfortunately, for the British fans, Cavendish didn’t win, but it was still a great atmosphere.
Favorite Brit-food snack that kept you on-the-go?
We tried to eat whenever we had time – unfortunately, that means that dinner was usually around midnight when we were finished shooting for the day. During the day, I drank a lot of coffee, sneaking in a meal whenever possible. I was able to have some fish and chips the other night for dinner at a pub, which made me feel like I was in London, but for the most part, the food is pretty similar to what you can find in the States. We have a few photographers that love their food, and they have sorted out a few good spots near our hotel, so whenever we did have time for a real meal, we had some really nice food.
Most surprising moment you captured?
One of the most surprising moments was when Chad le Clos of South Africa beat Michael Phelps in the 200m Butterfly. Phelps was heavily favored, and was ahead the entire race, but was beaten .05 seconds. At the end of the race, Phelps looked over and watched le Clos celebrating.
Editor’s note: Our colleague and design director Rick is looking forward to attending his next adventure with the Summit Series of Photography Workshops. He’ll head to Jackson, Wyoming September 22 to join other wilderness shooters for an active week of photographing climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and more. He’ll share highlights of his trip this fall. A couple months ago I wrote about my terrific experience at the Summit Series Aurora Multimedia Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. I wanted to let you know about the Adventure Photography Workshop on the Summit Series schedule this September in Jackson, Wyoming. I’ll be attending along with Kendra our outdoor designer. We’re both looking forward to it.
They have an awesome group of instructors scheduled, including editors from The North Face and National Geographic Adventure, as well as photographers Corey Rich, Lucas Gilman and Sadie Quarrier – to name just a few.
Jackson will be a spectacular photography location at the end of September. The schedule includes plenty of time for shooting with guidance and techniques from the pros, as well as learning from the editors about the keys to success. Other topics such as career development, workflow and general insights into the business will round out the week.
If you’re looking to expand your photography in the world of outdoor adventure, this promises to be a full week of experience. Check out their site for more details and to sign up. The workshop takes place September 22 through 27.
Kendra and I will share insights we learned from the workshop and include imagery from this amazing part of the West when we get back. Stay tuned!
We’d like to thank Cristina Mittermeier for her generosity and insights, as well as Sony for co-hosting the Shooting Your Vision webinar with us. If you missed it, please check back to view the full webinar by going to our Ask the Pro page.
Here are a few highlights from Cristina’s presentation. She uses Lowepro’s Pro Roller Lite AW and SlingShot 302 AW as her go-to bags. And she is a big believer in being prepared and organized – in everything from packing redundant gear (“accidents can happen”) to cleaning supplies to a camera manual.
Cristina shared her ten ideas on unleashing creativity and telling stories with images. One fundamental idea is: research. Cristina is an advocate of spending the time and effort to know where you’re going and how you’ll get by once you get there. She spends hours on Google Earth looking at sunrise and sunset times, learning about ecosystems, memorizing a few sentences in a foreign language – all in order to be prepared and enjoy the shooting experience.
Shoot more than you need is idea #6. Even though it may seem like you’re shooting the same scene, you’re looking for something to change (the light, the perfect subject to move into the frame, an animal action). “Just keep shooting it. And when you think you’re done; shoot some more.”
One of Cristina’s most passionate photographic stories is to convey how people depend on marine ecosystems. She is always amazed “how much effort it takes people to pull out of the ocean just a handful of fish.”
Cristina Mittermeier is the founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), a consortium of some of the world’s best photographers who are actively working for conservation. Her work is represented by National Geographic Stock. See more imagery on her web site and learn about the work of the ILCP.
Editor’s note: Lowepro friend and sports photographer Kohjiro Kinno is shooting in London now with colleague Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated. We caught up with him (just for a nano-moment; his schedule is busy as you might imagine) to get a few impressions.
Your schedule must be pretty exhausting. What’s it like to cover the world of amazing athletes in this fascinating city?
The first few days were the most challenging. Opening ceremonies ended around 12:30am and after everything, I got back to my hotel around 3:30am. On the shuttle to our first venue by 6am. Some people didn’t even sleep. Probably got back to the hotel that night around 1am. Then back on the shuttle around the same time. This went on for 3 days. Everybody looked like zombies. After awhile you get used to not sleeping. Tempers are shorter; patience is put to the test. Little things start to irritate you. People are a little… edgy. You fall asleep on the shuttle bus and miss your spot. But after a week or so, things calm down, you start making good photos, all is good, you love everybody. You see world-class athletes with tears of joy, tears of defeat, the music of your national anthem plays…. Great Britain’s national anthem plays with EVERY Brit singing along. It’s the best.
What’s the most challenging venue so far? Why?
So far I’ve been to the Olympic Stadium (Track), Aquatic Center (Swimming, Diving and Synchronized Swimming), Field Hockey Stadium, Basketball Arena, and the Marathon Area. It’s been all easy to get to and easy to get in and out quickly. The photo staff the London Olympic Committee put together has been very helpful to make nice pictures. The most challenging part, no matter what the venue, is just finishing the day with a set of nice photos.
Favorite Brit-food snack to keep you on-the-go?
Wine Gums (kinda like gummy bears) and McDonald’s. Yup, we’re living large.
Most surprising moment you captured?
Being able to photograph from underwater during the Aquatics Competition. Especially the Synchronized Swimmers from underwater; it’s very surreal and yet very beautiful.
We’re extremely excited to present an exclusive (and free!) webinar with renowned conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier. She’ll present Shooting Your Vision on Thursday, August 9 at 11am PDT and 2pm EDT.
Cristina will share some of her techniques and insights, including how to sketch your shot, relying on research, the 30-60-10 rule, how to articulate your story and learning to appreciate and learn from failure. Passion and vision—as she so clearly demonstrates in her own work—will be key themes to inspire your photographic pursuits.
Cristina is the founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), a consortium of some of the world’s best photographers who are actively working for conservation. Her work is represented by National Geographic Stock.
Please join us for this very special webinar co-sp0nsored by Sony and Lowepro. Sign up here.
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