On the Road Again

by Fire Girl Jess on May 18, 2015

IMG_5872“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

Hitting the road tomorrow; off on another assignment, this time with Costa and IndyFly. See you all on the flip side.


On island time last fall, on assignment in Belize.

Working on island time last fall, on assignment in Belize.

As I was saying this morning over on Chi Wulff, there’s something awesome about packing for a trip in tropical climes.

Flips and shorts pack down a lot smaller than jeans, fleece, and heavy hiking boots, and for someone who likes to travel light it’s just good mojo. As I’ve been laying out my gear this morning for Tuesday’s flight to the South Pacific, I can’t help but grin. My traditional ratio of 80% gear to 20% clothing holds true, except this time the clothing pile looks smaller as it’s mostly made of bikini tops and flats pants.

Now the two Pelican cases of camera gear are another story but hey, priorities, right?

Getting pretty stoked to document this exploratory fishing / conservation trip with Costa and IndyFly in remote French Polynesia. We’re basing on a small atoll, checking on the health of the fishery and the possibilities of creating a sport fishing industry on the little island. Sounds like we have a good team, including several anglers and scientists. As for the fishing? Rumors of bones, GTs, and marlin on the fly.

I’ll miss next week’s Vermont Chronicles post on Chi Wulff, but rest assured that come June, I’ll be back in action with some tropical storytelling. Check Instagram for updates; as I have wifi I’ll update on the latest adventures.

In the meantime, go explore. Life’s too short to be sitting still.


Behind the Scenes: What You Don’t See

by Fire Girl Jess on May 13, 2015

Photo assistant Jenny Madsen enjoying a rare moment of down time in the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone.

Photo assistant Jenny Madsen enjoying a rare moment of down time in the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone.

Photography, simply by nature, is a bit odd. We—photographers—are tasked with capturing a slice of a scene—or an entire scene—and condensing it down into something to share. Often the story is told in bits and pieces, a portrait here, a scenic there, a couple of action shots thrown in. The goal is to share a feeling, a moment, much more so than simply a person or a place. It’s a hell of a job.

Phoebe Bean caffeining up in between shots.

Model Phoebe Bean caffeining up in between shots.

But it also presents a bit of a conundrum… commercial photography, especially. We can edit from behind the lens, capturing this and not that, one thing while leaving another off to the side and out of the frame. On commercial shoots, like this one a few weeks ago for Orvis, there’s a shot list—images the client wants for advertising purposes—that we’re tasked with capturing. The light is crummy? Too bad; create your own light. (And we did a lot of that on this shoot.) You’re tired and have slept a total of ten hours in the past four days? Suck it up, buttercup. There’s a job to do.

Coming back from a commercial shoot, I typically do a quick top edit, comparing and organizing against the shot list so it’s easy for the client to page through. During that process I set aside the few images I tend to take for myself and the photo team on the shoot. We’re often out working long hours, in weird places, in unsavory conditions. Ingredients for funny things to happen, and it’s always worth capturing those “outtakes” to share later on.

The back-of-Land-Cruiser photo desk. On the road somewhere between the Madison and the Gallatin Rivers, Montana.

The back-of-Land-Cruiser photo desk. On the road somewhere between the Madison and the Gallatin Rivers, Montana.

And often the best shots are those when we’re blurry-eyed, highly-caffeinated, and sprinting between locations. In Belize this fall, some of my favorite shots were taken when I was “kidnapped” (their words, not mine) by local fishing guides and fixers to go to a beachside bar during a supply run to town. On this most recent trip, it was laughing as we slammed various forms of caffeine throughout Yellowstone National Park, photo assistant Jenny climbing onto a boulder and moving into a beautiful yoga pose, and models Jackie and Phoebe suddenly taking off, bounding down a brushy slope and holding their arms up in a scene somewhat reminiscent of the opening of The Sound of Music. It was Hax the dog trotting cheerily into camp toting a dead vole. Or me setting up a makeshift image upload/review station in the backseat of Rudy, the old land Cruiser who served as our adventure companion and transportation on the shoot. Jumping between locations I could compare images to the shot list and make sure we had what we needed… not ideal, but it got the job done. I’ve had far worse workspaces.

Things just tend to happen. And it’s awesome.

And ironically, it’s the images of those random moments that tend to get clients really excited.


Today on Chi Wulff: Pausing in Montana

by Fire Girl Jess on May 10, 2015

Photo assistant extraordinaire Jenny moves into tree pose in Yellowstone.

Photo assistant extraordinaire Jenny moves into tree pose in Yellowstone.

Today’s Vermont Chronicles post on Chi Wulff brings a few more images from the recent Orvis shoot in Montana, with a fishing focus.

Hope everyone is outside playing on this Mother’s Day morning!


Adventure Creates Adventure

by Fire Girl Jess on May 8, 2015

Riding copilot on the flight out of Ambergris Caye to Belize City.

Riding copilot on the flight out of Ambergris Caye to Belize City.

Ever noticed how, when you break out of the routine and just “make things happen,” other things tend to happen? Good or bad, action begets action. Whenever you decide to try something different; to really throw your heart into a project, usually good things come of it.

A few weeks ago, I was pulling off the Missouri River at Pelican Point right as dusk fell. We’d had a long day—leaving Bozeman well before the sun rose, and floating a good twelve hours on the mighty Mo. I’d watched Bozeman guides Ken Stock and Jacob Hinshaw ply their craft on the big waters of the river, and even been able to fish my old familiar stretches a bit. Good for the soul. We were tired, sunburned (at least I was), and feeling pretty good about life.

So when my phone buzzed telling me we were back in service and I had emails waiting, I was a bit surprised to find an interesting query in my inbox. Did I have any interest in going to a remote atoll in French Polynesia in four weeks to photograph and document an exploratory expedition / conservation project with Costa and the Indifly Foundation?

Short answer: yes.

Several weeks later, I’m getting the gear together to go spend a few weeks in the South Pacific, wading through all the logistics of international travel and getting my underwater photography gear together. (And maybe dreading the 24+ hours of travel… just a bit.) I leave on the 19th and return around 1 June; won’t have contact with the outside world for the majority of the trip, but be sure to stay tuned for reports as I come back and wade through assets.

Bonefish. GTs. Marlin on the fly. And a whole new local culture to document. I’m a little stoked.

Huge thanks to the gang behind the project for thinking of me, to my team at Orvis for letting me continue to grow Fire Girl Photography while still holding down a full-time roll at HQ, and to all my awesome editorial clients (some tropical images coming your way soon). And to all you readers who take the time to follow along on these weird photographic adventures—well, you make it all worthwhile.


American Angler Clips and Contest News

by Fire Girl Jess on May 4, 2015

American Angler, Summer 2015.

Morning below Holter Dam. American Angler, Summer 2015.

Back to the real world today—always a bit sobering, but good things are in the works and I’m sitting here, about to delve into the photo-editing session from hell. Figured jotting down a quick post was as good an excuse as any to put it off just a bit. (Who am I kidding… stoked to see the assets gathered on the shoots over the past few weeks.

It did help this morning when, walking into the office, I was greeted with the latest issue of American Angler in my mailbox. AA was the first national publication to publish any of my work, and—six years on—continues to be a fantastic supporter and collaborator. No words in this latest issue, but I did manage to snag two full-spread photos. Once more, the assets generated during a season on the Missouri River prove to get it done.

American Angler, Summer 2015.

Caddis. American Angler, Summer 2015.

In other news, I was excited to find out last week that I won a first-place photography award in the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America “Excellence in Craft” contests. The winning piece ran in The Fly Fish Journal, about a boy and his dog (once more) on the Missouri River. Found out I’ve also apparently I’ve also been selected as a finalist in Mountain Outlaw’s portrait contest. (Once more, a ‘Mo picture. There’s something about that place.) I’ll be calling on all of you to help vote for the image in the months to come—stay tuned!


Chi Wulff Vermont Chronicles—Yellowstone Edition

by Fire Girl Jess on May 3, 2015

Back on schedule for the Vermont Chronicles series at Chi Wulff… in this morning’s post you can read a bit more about the recent Orvis shoot in and around Yellowstone National Park.