In case you’re dropping in on this post out of context, you should read yesterday’s post and things will all make sense. In short, I’m doing daily ‘diary’ entries while working on a campaign for REI in lovely Telluride, Colorado in hopes of shedding some light on what photographers and directors types like me actually do on a daily basis while on these week-long or multi-week shoots… Read on if this is of interest.
If Day 1’s title was Travel, today’s title is Scouting & Planning. Keeping in mind that we’ve shot in these parts before, we’ve done our parts (like here, here, and here – a reference to Scott’s post series about scouting from last month…) and we’ve already reviewed images from a local location scout; we’re sitting pretty good. We’ve slotted 2 days of scouting and today’s mission is the first of those days, planning to spend it mostly poking around atop the Telluride Mountain Resort.
And since the lifts don’t open till 10am here in the spring, we’re on an uncharacteristically mellow call time of 9:30. I’m up at 8, cranking out a few dozen emails and keeping up with the rest of my life. Since I’m working away in my room, I forget to eat again and the provided crew breakfast meal, so snag a breakfast burrito and coffee en route to meet up with our small scout crew of 8 or so–yours truly, plus Scott and Erik, producers, scouts, a guide from the resort, and the two AD’s.
It’s downright balmy in town. Sunny. Hot. I’m shedding layers, but as we ride to the top of the mountain, the weather turns. It’s cloudy like milk. By the time we arrive up top……the wind is howling. We guessed 50+mph and had that confirmed later in the day, and augmented with the fact that some gusts were clocking 70. Do some calculations of 20 degrees air temp and 70mph wind and you get some pretty crazy wind chill factors. Way sub zero. It’s downright cold. Ice pellets from the hills below us pelt our faces. It sorta hurts, but in a sick outdoorsy sort of way, it’s kinda fun. Certainly no ideal for the task at hand, but the show must go on.
We click off our skis and boards and do a good bit of hiking with a local guide and mountain supervisor, on the jagged peaks overlooking the top of the ski area. We hike for 30 or more minutes at 12,000+ feet of elevation. Holy heart attacks, Batman. I’m feeling my flatlander Seattle lungs and heart a-thumping, but it feels good to get out and get the blood pumping. A little pain never hurt anybody. In lining up some shots for the coming days, the wind is so strong that I can barely hold the barrel of my lens across the wind without being pushed over.
Suffice it to say that getting a steady shot is tough with a still camera and impossible with video. But we are getting what we need. Just the outline of the shot is enough for us to go on. We don’t need exact frames. Thank God this isn’t a shooting day. We’d be hosed. The wind, plus the closing out weather is painting a pretty grim picture.
[And you’re probably wondering about the gear through all this…. It’s fine. It’s tough. It’s professional quality. Battery lives are shorted and changing lenses without getting snow in those unwanted places is a biiiyatch, but it goes with the territory. Mother nature has little mercy on my rucksack full of electronics.]
But there’s always a bright spot in hiking around in this weather looking for your shots. And indeed, from atop that ridge, we spot a neighboring valley that looks to have some of the snow and mountain terrain we’re looking for. I ask our local production lead Tim if we can get over there to see it. “Only via snowmobiles, and it’ll take a couple hours to get us there from here,” he replies. But he’s game. He checks in with the Executive Producer boss Connie and they go talk over budget and logistics while the rest of us poke around up top for another 30 minutes or so and take a lap on the Prospect chair.
As we wrap up our scouting adventures up to, referencing shot lists, shooting sample snaps and assigning some locations to some particular shots, we reconnect with the producers at the lodge up top for some lunch. They share the good news that they’ve contacted the necessary people for us to access the neighboring valley with snowmo’s. Sa-weeet.
Note: Great producers are like magicians. With seemingly the waive of a hand, they can make almost anything happen. (see Kate’s recent post on shooting permits…) Creatives – never ever ever take that for granted. None of it. Ever. A great producer is gold.
We grab some cold sandwiches for lunch at around 1:30 in the lodge up top and review our current status on some napkins, charts, maps and hand gestures. We munch some gummy bears, water and coffee for desert and immediately thereafter head for the base area where we’ll soon be whisked away by our super-producers to the next valley over.
By 4:00 I’m on a snowmobile along with 5 other scouters and a guide named Mad Dog. (He’s human, but just proudly sports the initials MD. A lotta years in Telluride have turned MD’s namesake to Mad Dog. It seems fitting – he’s a great guy. ) In under 30 minutes, after a trail ride through the trees, we pop out into our destination. Lo and behold, that 50mph wind has taken the clouds away and we’re now in full sun, surrounded by epic, spiny peaks and fresh snow as far as we can see. This is the spot we’ve been looking for. We drink it in. And we’re taking notes, photos, analyzing sunrise and sunset times and paths…we’re getting to the nitty gritty because we know we’re shooting here. It’s gorgeous.
After another hour hiking around there on foot/snowshoes, discover of a nice snow cave, and some other clowning around, we’re feeling good. It shows on frozen faces and some clowning around. We’re decidedly happy with what we’ve found. The sun drops behind a new set of storm clouds approaching on the horizon (snow on the way?) and we snowmobile back to the cars and head back to town. It’s 7 something PM.
A quick change into street clothes and we’re out in town looking for some eats by 8pm. Our crew continues to trickle into Telluride via planes and cars…we now probably number around 20, building for a few days from now when the “real” work begins to our final number of about 30. Usually, as is the case tonight, we splinter into some smaller groups for dinner based on timing and tastes.
Erik, Scott and I duck into an Italian joint we know has good thin crust Neopolitan-style pizza. Three pizzas (sausage was the best), a Gorgonzola salad and a bottle of cheap red wine later, we’re nourished. We’re also deep in conversation about how we’re going to shoot a few of the pieces of this 30 second spot, scheduled to shoot later in the week. We’ve seen some locations and now we’re mapping what we’ve seen to our approved creative and all the details.
There’s a brief break in the spirited conversation. It’s 10:30 and there are cards to download (digital asset manager doesn’t get to set until tomorrow – damn…) and blog posts to write before bed. We bounce back to hotel. I’m awake till 2 working before I finally zonk. 8:30 call time for more scouting tomorrow.
I hope you’ll join me then.