Diary of a Shoot, Day 4 — Weather Is An Issue

Telluride 4.3

This here sign should not be laying in the dirt. We are in serious need of some snow.

It’s now day 4 of this project. But it’s the first shooting day. And shooting day 1 of any campaign, film, or project is always full of excitement, anticipation, butterflies. Doesn’t matter if you’ve done it 1000 times or only 10.

Our shoot day 1 had another rather friendly call time of 8am. Breakfast at 7, that is.  Wheels up to the first location at 8. I slept well for the first time in a long time. 7 full hours of sleep. But, my first glance out my window at 7:01 told me what I didn’t want to know……we were hosed on weather.

Deep, dark gray overcast. No snow in a long time, lots and lots of wind. A tough combo. So on days like this my excitement, anticipation, butterflies automatically goes into problem solving mode. And this isn’t just the case for me. For an experienced crew, this is true for everybody. At the professional level, everyone knows that you cannot control the weather. Everyone knows that the planning for this shoot has taken all possible weather forecasts into consideration. And everyone knows that the show must (and usually can) go on. It’s just ‘how’ that needs answering.

When you’re on a tight schedule as we are to create the assets we need to create, and the weather isn’t treating you right, our common approach to these situations is…… not “what can we cancel”, it’s way more “what can we shoot”. In short, all shots aren’t created equal. Some are wider, some have big expanses, others are details or can be tweaked or augmented to work in low quality light. In some cases, of course, you’re shut down (raining at a beach, etc), but in most other cases, with some on your feet thinking and a creative approach to problem solving, you can still get a lot of work done.

That was the case today. Our first 4 shots happened from 8:30 to 10:30. Half hour for each shot. We modified some angles of some, we compressed others, we over exposed some attempts at others still and we made things work whenever possible. We definitely scrapped some plans in the process, too.

After struggling through and actually making a couple decent shots using the above considerations, we moved the entire crew – per our schedule – to the lodge at the top of the mountain. 30 people or so to a location 3000 vertical feet and several miles. People, Gear. Equipment, you name it. No small miracle. Through a variety of transportation modes (skis, snowmobiles, snowcats, chairlifts, etc) exacted perfectly to plan from our producers, we were atop the Telluride resort by lunchtime. Lunch was coordinated with the mountain operations folks, lots of options. My lunch? Chili, some sandwich meat and a Vitamin Water ZERO. Onward.

The rest of the day – 4 more hours of shooting – was also rough. Super rough. Now atop a ridge, the wind from our scout day was back. Howling at 50+mph. It peeled hats off heads. It blew the furniture out front of the mountain top lodge completely off the hill in to a pile. It blew people over. In short, it was brutal.

Telluride 4.5

Between shots, you can see how rough the weather looks. Gray and windy like nobody's business.

Telluride 4.6

Wind is pummeling us atop this mountain. Blowing over furniture, skis, boards, and people.

But we didn’t sit around and scratch our heads. We applied the same decision matrix as above. What can be shot? What can be moved? What might actually look BETTER in these conditions if we accented A, B, or C? We pulled out all the in-camera tweaks, angle adjustments and what not that we could. We shot quickly when the wind was lowest and the sky was brightest. We took breaks when it was unbearable. We laughed. We thought hard about how to keep our production and our vision intact. We moved some shots to later in the week, and we shot the ones that screamed for authenticity where perfect weather wasn’t required. [That’s one really good thing about REI, is that their brand/stories always root in authenticity. Weather is not always perfect – in fact often times crazy weather makes for great adventures and great photos… so we can occasionally get cool photos out of really crappy days…]. You get the point. In short, we made the stuff that could happen, happen.

Telluride 4.7

Clowning around on a break, pretending our jackets were wingsuits. Damn near were, actually.

Aside: One great thing we’ve got access to in these situations is an on site digital asset manager, in this case Matt who works on the client-side of the relationship. He crunches all our data this week. And when everything is going peachy-keen, it’s fun to gather around the downloaded cards on set and check in and take turns high fiving each other. But that’s not today. Today the role of having those assets available for rapid review on a large monitor is deciding if it’s good. Does this photo #win (thanks Mr. Sheen) Today we used that a fair bit to check that the work we were producing was at or above expectations. Pleasantly, we actually made some images I liked. We’re weary and battered by the wind and the weather, but we made some good shots in impossible conditions. In many ways, that feels good. Good for the pride section of everyone on the crew’s brain when everyone can gather round the monitor and say wow.

In short the models were frozen, but superstars. The producers kept the logistics on point. The tech advisors an stylists froze with the rest of us and kept the cast looking top notch. All the while we shot 2000 still frames and a ton of video – no idea how much, but it was a lot– and tried to keep the crew’s spirits high.

Telluride 4.8

Yours truly giving instructions to some talent about an upcoming shot

Telluride 4.9

Scott's having a hell of a time changing lenses with outrageous winds blowing chunks of ice and snow over everything.

We wrapped at 5pm atop the mountain. Hotel by 7.

And as we gathered in the hotel bar for a beer, to talk more shop, dig into it, escape from it and keep it real, something happened. A beautiful thing. Snow started to fall from the sky. We watched out the tinted windows of our third story perch. Underneath the streetlights and shoplights snowflakes filled the scene. It hadn’t happened in weeks, until this very minute. Prior to now we’d been dealing with a winter that felt like February, but looked like May. But now, it began to dump.

The crew’s spirits, mine included, instantly shot through the roof. Rapid weather checks were made. This was a legitimate storm. Snow accumulations are predicted, just the thing to help us out.

We gathered the key decision makers from each department and quick plan was hatched and we shuffled around the next day’s agenda to re-shoot two of the images we’d shot this morning again tomorrow morning IF we got some real snow accumulation (make everything beautiful and white) or IF we had sun. The rest of the day’s plan would be again trimmed and shuffled to later in the shoot.

That plan felt like a good one. Now, with much needed weather upon us, a clear plan for how to maximize it, and a clear head, we were back on track.

Dinner at our favorite Mexican spot at 8. Back to hotel by 10. Check in with rest of my life till 11, write this up and prepare for tomorrow. Fingers crossed we get a bunch of snow. It’s still dumping as I wrap this up. Hope you can check back in tomorrow.

And thanks for reading all this.

59 Responses to Diary of a Shoot, Day 4 — Weather Is An Issue

  1. jeremy March 23, 2011 at 5:45 am #

    I read this like a good novel… even on my tiny itsy bitsy scale, I can take these things to heart, because it really is about “what shots can i get”…because nothing is ever perfect, and alot of times clients want a photo outside, in a shadeless open space, at 12 in the afternoon :-)

    thanks chase-meister.

  2. Bastian Achard March 23, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Thanks for that great, detailed report. I very appreciate that, after a long day of hard work!

  3. Nicolae Cioloca March 23, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    Just amazing how you handle the problems and keep a clear head in such a situation… others would freak out.

  4. Jean-Pierre March 23, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    Thanks for letting is follow your adventure. Great stuff!

  5. Carl Licari March 23, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    Fun and educational read! Thanks for taking the time out of your already full days to do this.
    You’re a trooper dude!


  6. SimonH (UK) March 23, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    This is true real life blogging at it’s best Chase!! Eagerly awaiting the next instalment. I feel as though I am right in the shoot with you guys…

    Keep it up and thanks for the inspiration.


  7. Patricia March 23, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    Keep it up, Chase. It is like being there with you. Tough weather to deal with but you guys seem to be handling it in stride. Hope the sun shines on you tomorrow and you have lots of new white powder.

  8. steven marcel March 23, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    love hearing about the process

  9. Sean March 23, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    “Chase Jarvis drinks Vitamin Water ZERO”

    There’s a campaign in that :)

  10. GaryB March 23, 2011 at 6:37 am #


  11. Ric March 23, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Your blogs have been fantastic and I love hearing about the process. Wish I could just take a week off from my job and be your gopher for a week.

  12. Clifton March 23, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Weather has it’s way in attempting to change a vision. I’m glad to hear that didn’t happen to you!

  13. einar March 23, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    I’ll be there!

  14. jetgreen1 March 23, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    Really cool. I cant get decent shots at an indoor swim meet with poor lighting and good lenses and cameras!…Cant imagine cold temps,batteries, cables,50mph wind, and ALL SORTS of people standing there looking at you to pull a rabbit out of a hat!

    Sounds like an extra Stella is in store tonight.

  15. Jimmy Williams March 23, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    Wow! What a great report. Thank you for being brutally honest. Things don’t always go as planned, but you are right (plus it’s a great reminder) that there are things we can still get done. You guys are rocking it out, thank you for taking us all along for the journey. I know what it’s like to be on top of that mountain in those conditions and your detail brings back all those memories. Be safe out there and hold on to the camera ;). Look forward to hearing more!

  16. Ed March 23, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Really love this series of posts….feel like I’m right there with you all.

    You might have already answered this in previous posts — what is your philosophy behind swapping lenes instead of having multiple bodies with lens ready to go?


  17. Joe Martinez March 23, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    What an awesome series of posts. Can’t wait to read about Day 5! Was there any lighting (even small strobes) used on this first shoot day? I’d imagine, with the insane weather, any large lights/modifiers were out of the question.

  18. Colby March 23, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    I look forward to reading the next installment every morning.

  19. Scott Nickell March 23, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Keep it coming Chase, enjoying being “along for the ride”.

  20. Butch March 23, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    This is great Chase! You’ve got me hooked on your shoot right now. Very good writing as well – not sure where you find the time to get these posts in, but they’re very much appreciated!

  21. Corby March 23, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Thanks for the great write up. It has been my morning routine all week to see what you got up to the day before. And I know what it’s like to fight weather and adverse conditions. I used to shoot a travel snowboard TV show. We arrive in Chile for 3 weeks of shooting and find out the airline lost out board bags, what do you do? Go to the beach and party, lifestyle footage fills as much airtime as powder lines. 3 days later we get our boards and head for the hills and the best trip of my life.

    Again great posts.

  22. Dmitry March 23, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Chase, I’m sorry for the translation!) I’m from Russia keep up your creativity! Well done, good work! I will wait for the next report about the day!

  23. Angelo March 23, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    Educational and inspirational. Thanks Chase (and the whole crew).

  24. bimal nair March 23, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    super inspirational! Everything you do and express out through your posts is an instant battery charger and kick ass dope. I Love what you do and the way you think ahead of every challenge and do further. Hats off to the whole crew who make such dramatic work fall in place with so much coordination and precision under such chaos.
    You guys rock! keep rocking :)

  25. Mark D. March 23, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Thanks Chase for bringing us into your world like you do. People often say oh “I wish I was a photographer or a musician,” or whatever. Yeah the idea is nice, but do you have what it takes to go the distance. What you have shown quiet clearly is the reality of what it takes to go the distance. It is a lot different than just having the idea of oh I might like to do something like that one day.

  26. Neil March 23, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Congrats on a great set of posts so far.

    I was gonna post a question to say how do you deal with weather or lack of the weather you want/need. I Think this post has gone a way towards explaining that.

    I’d love to see a comparison of the image you wanted to get vs the image you could get because of the weather. Maybe you could explain the brief for an image and then show us how you managed to tweak that brief or alter your shooting style to achieve it. A kind of here’s what I had planned vs here’s what I could get and why. That would be really cool to see.


  27. Jesus Hidalgo March 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    It’s very interesting to see how you guys deal with actual-real situations. I love getting the play by play image of this project. I don’t know how you deal with writing this post everyday, but please keep it coming…and good luck with the rest of the shoot!

  28. Matt Timmons March 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    The answer is more cowbell.

  29. Brian March 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Great crew, love the attitude…”what can we get?”.
    Bring back the gorgeous, sick and filthy brutha!

  30. Danielkphoto March 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Good luck Chase! Lovely post, thank you do much for putting thid all up :)

  31. TimR March 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    This is the best photography blog post ever. By anyone. Period.

  32. Danie Nel March 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Again nice one, man.

    From a balmy 25 Deg c Cape Town.

  33. Jim Denham March 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Another great entry to a real life story! Hope things went better today!

  34. Mark Dunlap March 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Chase. Great to hear about what you and your crew go through on a big production like this.

  35. Simon Fleming March 23, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    What a great series of posts on this shoot – thanks for taking the time again.

    I’ve just wrapped up a microscopic shoot in comparison to yours but had the same ‘Mother Nature at her worst’ scenario to contend with… move a shoot of two Aussie Rules football squads / over around 100 guys – from the planned location out on the oval to inside a microscopic clubroom.. don’t stress, just think fast and think laterally. Shots worked out beautifully.

    Good luck with the snow mate.

  36. a3 March 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    What a trip (metaphorically speaking)! Thanks for doing these, they’re great reads.

  37. Surly March 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Photography, you just point a camera at something and hit the button right? Pretty amazing stuff here, Chase. You’re earning every nickel. Thanks.

  38. Rob March 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Hey Chase,

    Crazy day! Of all the content you’ve posted over the years I’m lovin this.I look forward at the end of my crazy day to check in and see how yours went! What a great adventure story and view into your project!

    Keep it coming…….(amazed you can)


  39. Krys March 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    In stornch heterosexual manner, chase, I love you man.

  40. diala chinedu March 23, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    I came back again today to check in on this on going post. You guys really go thru some serious weather situations…I never would have tot things got that hectic…mother nature is unpredictable, sometimes good, sometimes not so much…again, great post

    PS: Your behind-the-scenes photos are better than all the photos in my portfolio :-(

  41. Kristiaan March 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    I read this, stuck behind my desk, in an office, in the middle of the Sydney CBD.

    This is my escape !

  42. Iz March 24, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    Another great post! I’m enjoying your post tremendously. Chase…. How do you keep your equipment (most important your lenses) clear from moisture and debris in those extreme outdoor elements? I’m always paranoid when I take my camera too shoot at the beach. The Oregon coast gets a little wet and windy.
    Thanks for a great nightly read.

  43. jan March 24, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    jeremy is right, this reads like a novel !! have not read this blog for a while when it became to “popular”, but now I am back I really enjoy it again. Really supers the kind of insights you get in top professional image making.

  44. Nicholas March 24, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    Chase, love the post, very enlightening as always.

    Also, I just want to say thanks, it is amazing how you can still handle composing such lengthy and detailed posts (Past few days as well.) even when you’re on location for a shoot, very very amazing I would say.

    Thank you for the effort, and knowledge shared. I’m sure all of us in the photographing community really appreciate it.

  45. nate parker March 24, 2011 at 3:42 am #

    immersive descripting and storytelling, replete with menu items! really enjoying following this-

  46. fas March 24, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    That is an amazing weather there, must be a lotta fun.

  47. Mathieu Wauters March 24, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    Thanks for the insights Chase and I have to agree with Jeremy -this reads like a novel! Your blog posts shows how you have to have a baseline schedule but be able to reschedule as opportunities arise (or disappear). Crossing my fingers for plenty o’ snow!

  48. Ana GR March 24, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    Fingers crossed!
    Thanks for posting, it’s so instructive of how top notch profesionals like you work whatever the conditions!
    Following everyday, looking forward next!

  49. Mark Petinga March 24, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Loving this series. Thanks, Chase and crew!

  50. Carlo March 24, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Yeah I actually almost burnt my dinner cause I was immersed at this

  51. Laurie LeBlanc March 26, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Really enjoy reading your daily posts and all the details that go into your shoot. I have to give you so much credit for shooting in those conditions!

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