Archive for the ‘The Story Behind the Image’ category

Wyoming Tourism Print Ad. The story behind the image.

Photographing the most dangerous animal in Yellowstone Park.

When the guys at Barnhart called me, to shoot wild bisons with geysers in the background in Yellowstone National Park, I figured it was going to be just another shoot.  I was wrong.  Bisons are the most dangerous animals in the park.  From 1980 to 1999 more than three times as many people in Yellowstone National Park were injured by bison than by bears.  On a previous assignment in the park, I was charged by a bull.  Fortunately I was close enough to my car to run in, step on the gas and peel out.  I knew this shoot had to be approached differently, it couldn’t have been scheduled with the client there or an art director.  It was too much of a liability.  It had to be handled like a “hunt” and after explaining the logistics to Barnhart they agreed to let me “Roam Free” with my assistant and do it on my own, with a flexible schedule.  I immediately called the Park to find out the whereabouts of bisons.  They replied “Bisons are in the rut (mating) and are roaming in the Lamar Valley in big herds”.  “Hummm… ” That’s the opposite side of the Park where all the geysers are and big animals in the rut and excited is not what I wanted. Not a problem.  Nothing photoshop and a getaway driver with a fast car will not fix (at least that’s what I thought).   I then researched about geysers.  Some are so unpredictable, that I could have spent the rest of my life waiting for them to erupt.  Old Faithful was going to be my only option and who cares if it’s surrounded by benches and herds of wild tourists…


The first part of the shoot was going to be getting the image of the geyser and  treeline.  We camped by Old Faithful and sat my watch to every eruption.  Waiting patiently for it to erupt “Here it comes!  pufh…”.   A little smoke, some steam, a couple of puffs, “Oh, is that it? I think this was a lame one…”.  I waited an hour for the next eruption.  Next eruption exploded to a million feet and I scrambled running back to get the whole thing with my lens that was too long.  It was massive and I was really working hard to get the whole thing in my frame when someone from the back asked. “Sir?  Do you mind if I rest my camera on your back while I take a picture?”.  That is a pretty acceptable request when shooting around old Faithful.  “Sure” I replied and kept shooting with my new friend.  I spent a day and a half fighting tourists and getting pictures of Old Faithful in every light situation I could get, to match the lighting of what the bison foreground might be.  Old Faithful was faithful but it sure had it’s own temperament.

Next part was going to be shooting bisons.  I didn’t want to use a telephoto lens and sit back from the distance and shoot.  I really wanted the viewers to feel they were right there in the middle of the herd.   I grabbed mid range lenses for a more intimate perspective.  The plan was to drive to Lamar Valley, find buffalos right next to the road, have my getaway assistant driver drop me off by the buffalo, jump out and start shooting and race away with the fast car before the bisons got me.   As soon as we arrived in the Lamar valley, I realized that the getaway driver plan was not going to work.  

Off The Deep End


How I ended up at the local jail in the British Virgin Islands.

Sometimes is hard to keep track of all images.  Last week I was browsing through book titles on Amazon and ran into this cover I had shot but had never seen.   Reminded me of the great adventure I had with Hodding Carter.  I was on assignment for Outside Magazine documenting  Hodding on his quest to swim the British Virgin Islands.   The story he wrote for Outside turned into this book.  We were to follow Hodding and his swimming partner Hopper (a.k.a. George McDonough) with my assistant Derik on a “support” boat and document their journey, both above and below water.  When I booked the boat online it showed a slick looking racing boat, with hot chicks on deck sunbathing.  Seemed perfect.  When my assistant Derik and I went to pick up the boat rental, the reality was very different.  After looking at the dilapidated boat I joked with Derik and said “I hope it floats”.  Little we knew that the boat would eventually sink during the shoot.  After being rescued by the coast guard, I would end up at the local police station for interrogation.   I was thrown into a room with a massive, scary guy, who had just been arrested.  He was trashing around with a killer look, punching things that got into his way.  I tried to disappear.  After plucking me out of the room they interrogated me for hours asking me the same questions over and over.  They held my passport until further investigation and they let me go.  I was at the police station for a very long time and I figured I would spend the rest of my life in Portola paying for a dilapidated boat that should have never been in the water.  Next day they escorted us to the sunken boat and after a coast guard diver inspected the wreck and mumbled with the boat owner and coast guard officer they offered to let me go if I paid $200 for the rescue of the boat.  It was a very happy moment in my life and the best $200 I have ever spent.  A few hours later I was on a flight back to Montana never happier to be on a plane.  Thinking about all the events, we came to the conclusion that the water pump had failed or never worked and eventually the boat filled with water and sank.  If you want to read more down below is an extract from Outside Magazine with a link to the article.


“In the Field with Paolo Marchesi

Outside has been putting Paolo Marchesi through the spin cycle lately. For our July and August issues, we sent Marchesi, a Montana-based freelance photographer, on location for two salt-laden features, Tim Zimmerman’s “It’s Hard Out Here for a Shrimp” about the lethal world of the Humboldt squid, and W. Hodding Carter’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin Swimmer” devoted to the author’s bid to swim the British Virgin Islands.

For “Shrimp,” Marchesi came face to face with man-eating Humboldts in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez while shooting diver Scott Cassell, but his most recent assignment to follow Outside Correspondent Carter for “Virgin” in the BVIs was decidedly more laid back.

Italian-born Marchesi had more than his share of Gilligan-esque adventures in the BVIs. Case in point: Seeing their dilapidated charter boat, the photographer muttered to his assistant “I hope it floats.” It sank a couple days later with Marchesi and his assistant scrambling to save the gear. “After it went down and we were rescued, the police took me in for interrogation,” recalled Marchesi. “I was thrown in a room with a guy who had just been arrested. He was thrashing around with a killer look. I tried to disappear. I was in there a long, long time.”

There was also the challenge of shooting Carter and his swim partner Hooper (a.k.a. George McDonough) as they swam from island to island. Their surfboard laden with gear, the pair was slowed enough for Marchesi to swim within range. For Carter and Hopper, a little extra security of having another person on the open-water crossings was comforting—that, “and, of course, the feeling that a shark would take the one lagging behind,” says Marchesi.

But Marchesi’s favorite shots took place on Salt Island where he met the solitary keeper of the island, Henry Leonard. Leonard lives alone on the tiny island, of which his family has been keepers for generations. They all remain buried in a makeshift cemetery next to his hut. “There was no light, no water, not a real house, just him and the island,” Marchesi recalled, “I felt lonely and sad for him but he didn’t seem bothered, from his little island watching the boats go by day after day.”


Leupold Golf 2014

Cold, cold and colder, these are the words that come to mind when thinking of this shoot.  I never saw blue lips on models before.  Getting sunrises and sunsets, in the middle of Fall, in Nebraska can be a gamble.  You need to be prepared for below freezing temperatures.  Many of the panoramic images were shot in several frames and composited into one image.  We could have used a wide angle lens and cropped to a panoramic but we wanted to maintain the prospective of a longer lens.  It was important to see elements in the background  to tell a story with the model on the foreground using the rangefinder.  A wide angle lens would have made everything look too far away loosing the details needed for the story.   To pan, I used reference points on the landscape and overlapped the frames handholding the camera.  Especially in critical moments, like the cover image as the sun was setting, I didn’t want to waste time using a tripod.  Who likes Tripods anyway?  The shallow depth of field images were shot with fast prime lenses, like the 50mm 1.2, shot wide open.  For lighting I used a combination of bounce from VCards and strobes, color balanced to match available lighting with warming gels.  Balancing the color temperature of strobes with available lighting is key not to make the image look “strobed”.  I try to keep the lighting to a minimal to maintain the natural look of available light.   If you want to see the behind the scenes click here.  If you enjoyed my blog don’t forget to like me on facebook.