Chase Jarvis RAW: Ninjas

This behind-the-scenes video details of one of my recent photo shoots involving crazy stunt men, hot and scantily-clad stunt women, smoke machines, weapons, trampolines, and a dilapidated warehouse.

Hopefully, you’re familiar with ChaseJarvis FRAMES, our concept of showing not just the hero shots, but EVERY image from a shoot sewn together into a short movie. If you found any merit in that, then you can think of this new concept as its kissing cousin. We’re planning to do this behind-the-scenes video with as many shoots as we can…and we’re calling it ChaseJarvis RAW. Sure I’m posting this as part of my continuing mission to show what goes on inside “The Black Box” of commercial photography, uncovering what’s behind images you see for everything from Apple to Zillow, Microsoft, Nike, and everything in between. No doubt that’s a lofty motive — but to confess, this is pure fun for us too. We’ve been shooting b-roll footage for a long while now, but this is our first attempt at packaging it in some reasonable, albeit unpolished, “raw” form for your digestion.

This particular piece — ChaseJarvis RAW: Ninjas — is from a shoot borne not out of a fancy client, but concocted simply from the creative juices flowing from our studio. I’m the furthest thing from a fantasy or D & D geek, but I have yet to be hired for a project that would let us pull a crew together, dress a few jocks up like crazy Ninjas, and have ‘em jump/dive/roll/fly around an old warehouse for a day. So what you’re seeing is simply the result of a few creative brainstorms, some research, casting, and scouting with the conceptual goal of creating a couple portfolio pieces.

Please pass this along to anyone you know who might find this entertaining. Follow up, make comments, ask questions, and let me know if this is fun or interesting at all. I read every comment and question posted here. Often the best stuff on this blog comes out of the conversations you start, so please do chime in.

Music courtesy of Head Like A Kite.

RSS readers can see the video clip here.

62 Responses to Chase Jarvis RAW: Ninjas

  1. Simon May 30, 2007 at 3:04 am #

    Nice! I found this on youtube last week!
    Its really interesting to see what goes on, and inspires people to make the same effort to get shots you guys do. Hope to see more in the future!


  2. Roger Horrocks May 30, 2007 at 6:05 am #

    Legend! Transparency is the way forward, and its great to get an insight as to one of your recipes for cook’in up great imagery. Keep those cameras rolling!

  3. Dave May 30, 2007 at 8:10 am #

    Thank you for taking the time to make this available! It is a great learning experience and very motivational as well!


  4. David Gibbons May 30, 2007 at 8:32 am #

    Very nice!

    If you do a piece that goes behind the scenes of the aerial or other imagery we have on Zillow, please let me know — I’d love to highlight it on our blog or the site.

    [davidg at zillow dot com]

  5. Oscar May 30, 2007 at 9:02 am #

    Super nice vid.
    Really nice for you to do all this for us newbies!

  6. Aaron May 30, 2007 at 10:38 am #

    Awesome man, you rock. That shoot looked like a lot of fun! Any chance we could see some of your favorite stills from the shoot? They looked amazing.

    Thanks for another glimpse into the black box. It’s exciting to see where photography can go.

  7. Susheel Chandradhas May 30, 2007 at 10:39 am #

    Wow! Really nice Stuff Here… I find it intriguing that you’re this ‘open’ about your photography. Just don’t give up on the “frames” version. I Love That Too!

  8. Mostly Lisa May 30, 2007 at 1:02 pm #

    you just blew my mind. seriously. how can you be so awesome?

    you are a daily inspiration. thank you for sharing!

  9. ::BS Productions:: May 30, 2007 at 4:46 pm #

    Dope! I love seeing behind the scenes like this. What kind of strobes are you using? Is there a light battery pack you’d recommend? I’d like to try putting some of these studio lighting effects to work in the field with my climbing photography.

  10. Chase Jarvis May 30, 2007 at 7:06 pm #

    Simon: a-ha! I did post it on YouTube surreptitiously for a quick test, then headed out of town – Simon caught me ;) before I could get it on the blog…

    For those who’d like to see a less compressed version, we posted it to in 16:9 format. Check it there…

  11. Chase Jarvis May 30, 2007 at 11:06 pm #

    Aaron: Couple of my fav stills at the end of the vid clip, but there are sooo many others… just finding time to work ‘em up is our challenge right now. We did throw a couple in the updated section of the site, so check them out there if you can.

  12. Chase Jarvis May 30, 2007 at 11:07 pm #

    susheel: I won’t give up on FRAMES–we’ve got many more of those in the hopper…

  13. Chase Jarvis May 30, 2007 at 11:08 pm #

    Hey ::bs: I’m using Profoto 7b, Profoto 7a, and Acute 2400’s. Love the 7b….

  14. Anonymous May 30, 2007 at 11:58 pm #

    Hey chase, I understand you’ve got a video guy following you…(duH) but who is that other guy who is taking pictures of you? Looks like he has a still camera?

  15. jeffery May 31, 2007 at 9:20 am #

    Wow, you’re really making an effort to show how you work. Thanks! I feel like I really know you and your style, and we’ve never even met. Keep up the great work, I’ll keep coming back.

  16. Aaron May 31, 2007 at 8:56 pm #

    Saweet, thanks for sharing man!

  17. zilin June 1, 2007 at 6:06 pm #


  18. Chase Jarvis June 2, 2007 at 9:58 am #

    Anonymous: The other guy taking my photograph during that shoot is a staff photographer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper named Scott Ecklund. They recently did a feature article on me and what we’ve got going in the Life and Arts section. To read the article check out – you’ll see some of the shots Scott was taking in the article of this shoot, behind the scenes…

  19. Phil Gerbyshak June 2, 2007 at 5:11 pm #

    Chase – you are one talented dude. Nicely done! Thanks for sharing your genius with us. I’m not a professional photographer, but I love great art, and you sir are a great artist! Bravo!

    And I’ll bet whatever your customers pay you isn’t close to what your real worth is either! WOW!

  20. David Airey :: Creative Design :: June 3, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    Hi Chase,

    You’re giving us some fantastic insight into your work. So much so that I felt compelled to write an article on my site about it.

    Keep up the superb work.

  21. Chase Jarvis June 3, 2007 at 7:15 pm #

    Thanks David: That’s huge coming from you.

    Friends, you probably already know about David’s amazing site ::Creative Design::, but in case you don’t, you must now go there. Seriously – git some! Make sure you have some time because there’s a ton of great content on a huge variety of topics. And the conversation there is quite engaging. He’s seen thousands of comments, literally. In addition to a design brain whiz, he’s even a budding photographer! Visit his site to see…

  22. Nathan (NeutralAngel) June 4, 2007 at 10:44 am #

    Chase, these last two video, Frames and Raw are absolutely amazing. It really shows your unselfish nature and I greatly appreciate your sharing a glimpse into your world with me and the rest of the world. Please keep up the wonderful work! You are an inspiration.

    Nathan Nontell

  23. Josh Bobb June 4, 2007 at 10:06 pm #

    Absolutely loved this and the FRAMES videos. Thanks so much, Chase, for putting these up! I think you’re doing the photo community a true service here and it looks like having a lot of fun at the same time. Kudos!

    I had one question. As a photographer, digital tech and assistant myself, I am curious how much time/money you find yourself spending on putting together portfolio pieces outside of your client work. I find myself putting in a ton of time and money into those and wonder how much a “big shot” (no pun intended) like you puts into CONSTANT portfolio development.

    Thanks again!


    Josh Bobb
    San Francisco & Western Mass.

  24. Ryan R. Dlugosz June 6, 2007 at 6:00 pm #

    Chase – this kicks ass!

  25. Chase Jarvis June 6, 2007 at 11:37 pm #

    Hey Josh: Great question. How much TIME do I put into this stuff, these kinds of self directed work??? As much as possible. The reality is that I can’t put as much time as I’d like to becuase, well, I’m a super busy dude. Crazy busy. BUT, that said, I’m heavily committed to shoot portfolio work on my own for one main reason: creativity. There’s nothing like shooting the crazy stuff inside your head. It feels good, it feels honest, and people notice. Since I quite literally bounce from one job to the next, creating time for this is a challenge. BUT guess what happens as soon as a job gets cancelled… First, I collect a fee becuase I have good AND FAIR (to both sides) contracts. Second, I have a “free” week or whatever to go nuts – That’s when we reach into our ongoing bag of tricks, or stuff we’ve brainstormed on long flights to New Zealand or sitting in the bar across the street from our studio, or during a sleepless night. We pull those out of the hat and we execute em and it’s amazingly fun and creative. Why do I do this? Its simple: very rarely do you get hired to shoot things exactly as you’d like to shoot them, or for only perfect clients that say “just shoot it however you want”. More often, Im hired to make some cool shots with X dollars, in Y location, with Z in mind. Now that’s really cool (still a very cool profession… best job ever!) BUT if at the end of the year, you’ve JUST done those, then what’s in your portfolio?? How do you get the jobs YOU want if what’s in your book is all stuff other people wanted you to shoot considering X, Y, Z above? You don’t get YOUR book, you get your book under the confines of XYZ. So by shooting what I want to shoot, whenever time allows, i’m able to keep my book my own. It’s the only way. (btw, my portfolio is almost entirely self assigned works even though I’ve got literally thousands of tearsheets and high production value ads from great commercial assignments from all over the world. Having your portfolio be more about work that you WANT, not just what you got, is a good way to keep things fresh…) Give it a whirl !! -cj

  26. Jay McLaughlin June 8, 2007 at 12:41 am #

    More more more!!!!

    Need lots more!!!!

    They’re inspirational!

  27. MaCanuck June 12, 2007 at 8:21 pm #

    Dear Chase:

    Thank you. Great concept, and I love seeing behind the scenes. It was informative, but more than that, it was inspirational.

    I’d love to see a micro-section of a shoot, too: for this one series of shots, here’s how we set up the lights, here’s everything that needed to be accomplished get this one shot; I love the overview stuff too, don’t get me wrong, but It’d be great to see the details….

  28. David June 18, 2007 at 7:58 am #


    For some reason, Ninjas has been down on YouTube for several days now. FYI.


    p.s. Still working on getting to WA in July for MSFT.

  29. Chase Jarvis June 18, 2007 at 9:05 am #

    David: Hmm. I’m in Hawaii, just cleared my cache on two diff browsers and it worked fine on both. Just had three other different folks do the same on the mainland and it worked fine for each of ‘em. Can you let me know what’s happening? Is it hanging on load? thanks. -cj

  30. Chase Jarvis June 19, 2007 at 10:16 am #

    Trent: thanks for the kind words. I’m equally inspired by the enthusiasm of this community… We’re currently concepting to put together a more sophisticated behind the scenes schematic for some lighting scenarios etc. We’re totally buried in work (and loving it), but it’s on the list of must-do’s. Thanks so much for the feedback! Keep sending your thoughts.

  31. Chase Jarvis June 19, 2007 at 10:16 am #

    David: thanks for the feedback, glad we’re all resolved and that YT is back on track…

  32. Tyson June 27, 2007 at 5:26 am #

    HAHA, that’s awesome Chase! Glad to see you put Morgan and Daetan to good use, they make great ninjas!

    Funny thing, I met Alvin on a Mervyns commercial I just did and from looking at your portfolio they used some of your photos as creative storyboards! Man you really are all over Seattle, every photographer I talk to seems to know you.

    Take care,

  33. Chase Jarvis June 27, 2007 at 10:45 am #

    Undaunted: I suppose it’s nice to be on anyone’s tongue, but it IS more funny, since I don’t do that much work in Seattle… seeing that it’s a smaller market. BUT I’m always grateful when I get to work here – great people, talented people. Nothing like working in your own backyard.

    Thanks again for connecting me with Daeton and Morgan – they’re good people. And of course I look forward to working with you someday soon.

  34. Mark July 20, 2007 at 8:58 am #

    Chase, Looks like I’m coming to the game late on this one, but I couldn’t resist posting…incredible images! Athletes are one of my favorite subjects, esp martial artists. The guy on the wall is stunning!

    I have been tremendously inspired in the last hours that Ive spent pouring over your stuff. I’m wondering if you would be willing to share your take on something another photographer told me as I’m getting started in my own career. He said that one thing that I need to do is work on a united portfolio that shows the unique vision that I will bring to any shoot. As it stands my folio is a bit of a mish-mash. I’m wondering, can you write a little (or do a vid) on how you went through that journey? How did you discover your own unique vision, how do you work to refine that and when doing concept shots like that how much time do you and the crew talk about not just the cool concept, but how it reflects the vision you want so that a person seeig your ninjas knows you could translate that vision to an ad for legwarmers?

  35. Chase Jarvis July 20, 2007 at 11:33 am #

    Mark: that would be one heckuva blog entry (or video), because it’s the key to a lot of what’s going on – and it’s a looooong process. The vid clip would be 12 years long ;)

    Jesting aside, I’ve added your request to my magic “list of things to blog about” so it will get something. How soon and how much is the question. What would be better is for me to connect with you via phone or something to just brain dump on you. Email me offline for this option.

  36. Mark July 24, 2007 at 1:04 pm #

    Chase, thanks for the incredible offer. I pinged your info@ email.

    p.s. ninja on the wall still rocks.

  37. Dylan Fairbairn August 17, 2007 at 10:57 am #

    I am 11 years old and your an inspiration!!!
    i want to become a pro photographer and be just like you
    if you want to see some of my photos hers a link on flickr
    your awesome!!!!!!!

  38. Chase Jarvis August 18, 2007 at 4:47 pm #

    Dylan: Thanks for the shout out! I checked out your race car shots. Nice going! Hard to believe you’re that good at only 11 years old. Keep up the hard work and you’ll have my job someday soon!

  39. Kimberly August 30, 2007 at 10:12 am #

    Wow Chase! Thank you SO much for inspiring us newbie student photographers! Your video clips remind me of why I got into photography in the first place. Being brain washed at AIS has stripped most of my creativity away, but watching these brings back that feeling of wanting to do something great, so thanks a TON!

  40. Aaron August 29, 2008 at 5:10 am #

    Really amazing to see the difference in colour rendered in the final photos…. And the lighting is a lot more dramatic than how the video leads to believe. Is there a lot of retouching to change the colours / brightness or is it mostly pure from the camera?

    Thanks for sharing!

  41. Tommy Peterson September 8, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    Ahh! the infamous Ninja pictures. Finally, i get a chance to see them. All i can say is wow and there even better than i ever imagined! great work!

  42. Sergei Rodionov September 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    Interesting shootout, thanks for sharing, mate.

  43. dee yan October 3, 2008 at 6:14 am #

    You make me want to buy Nikon again, anyway It’s a great job dude, i love your test.

  44. Daetan B. Huck May 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    I don’t suppose there’s anyway I could get some low-res copies of the pics from the shoot to show off, is there? Either way it’s awesome to see this up. Love your work, Chase! Sorry if the praise isn’t very concise; the keen, skilled photographic eye isn’t my expertise – it’s clearly yours!

  45. Alex Lee June 15, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Stumbled across your blog — awesome video!

  46. Christopher Chance September 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    Great video Chase! I bet the stills were hot.

    The crazy knife is actually called a “kris knife”. Your Ninjas are alright, but traditionally (and I know it means nothing to you, you just wanted a “look” Ninja’s used a straight sword called a Ninja-to or Shinobi katana, I also felt you should have added some shuriken (Ninja throwing stars) even if it were in post production as they look cool flying across a scene, they almost make the air sparkle in a still.

    Love your work, sorry if I seem nit picky, but I studied Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu with Stephen Hayes for 2 years. I have done a Ninja shoot or two ha! They are a lot of fun and can be loaded with a ton of energy with the right people.

    If you should ever do another shoot of this style let me know I can lend you some proper Ninja equipment, the curved swords you had were traiditional chinese Kung Fu swords, and I saw one Tai Chi sword in there as well. Most people get Chinese and Japanese confused, Ninjas= Japanese Karate= Japanese Kung Fu= Chinese. Sorry for the culture lesson, but this being the internet your not going to be the only one who reads this, might as well set as many straight as I can lol!

    Keep up the great work, I loved your Kung Fu video, I saw something similar to it on SYFY, yours was much better. Are you going to do any more snow ski shoots soon? I love those shots.

    Have a great week! God bless.

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