November 15th, 2011

Just a short note from a lengthy backlog of blog posts:

As the first snows of the season descend upon the Cascades, I’m toning images from this summer’s photo shoot for Helly Hansen’s Spring 2012 Alpine Clothing Line. I had a great crew from Mountain Madness to work with, stunning weather, and one of my favorite locations: the Liberty Bell group at Washington Pass.

In my summer-reverie, I had to share an outtake the client didn’t choose.

If you’ve been to the Liberty Bell group, see if you can name this line!

Now…on to ski season, please.

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August 26th, 2011

My Kivalina work was recently included in a grant to the Open Society Institute by film maker Jenni Monet as part of her distribution plan. Subsequently, the photo agency Worldwide Image Navigation (WIN-Initiative), which holds an “image collection from the independent minds and unique creative perspectives of gifted photographers worldwide,” featured my work with a joint interview in their WINk Magazine, an online publication with a very attractive presentation. Click through to Page 75 to read the article.

The slow creep of things like climate change means stories created a few years ago are still extremely relevant. In 2008 I went to the remote Alaskan village of Kivalina on assignment for Germany’s Spiegel Magazine. My five days in Alaska was an amazing experience; having grown up in the northwest and having a librarian for a mother, I was exposed to many stories about native cultures. Reading about whale hunting is one thing, actually going out on the sea ice for a whale hunt is something I’d never imagined actually doing.

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July 29th, 2011

Colin Haley climbing in ChamonixBefore he went to Alaska this year, I had the pleasure of another bouldering session with Colin Haley. He’s built a life that puts him on an international circuit climbing and skiing in Patagonia, Chamonix, Alaska, Yosemite, and the Himalaya which means we don’t see much of him in the Seattle area these days.

I first met Colin in the winter, at the base of The Tooth, nub of a peak that’s fairly accessible from the highway. I’m not sure he could drive yet, but over the next few years he got his license, he went to college, and he kept on climbing. We did some Cascade routes together, some cragging, and I visited him on his first trip to Chamonix (where he was “studying” French).

While bouldering at the gym, he looked at me and said, “I think I’m the same age as you were when we first met.” It was a bit of a reality check for both of us. In that decade, or so, Colin has gone from bold and opinionated teen to professional alpinist; he is a sponsored athlete in a niche market so tight and so new (in the US) that making a living from it is possible for only the rarest few.

Colin Haley Climbing ResumeWe caught up a bit on some of the trips we’d taken and what our personal lives looked like, but mostly it was about climbing and laughter. That’s something I forgot–there’s a lot of laughter when you’re around Colin.

This month, in Climbing Magazine, is a feature in the Question-Answer format with Colin. My friend, Frank Huster has the lead image, Chris Wiedner (who left Seattle for Boulder) wrote it, and I’ve got a couple of historical images of Colin. One from a climb in Chamonix, and one from our first climb together: the NE Buttress of Chair Peak. When he was just 16.

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July 27th, 2011

When I walked into MediaStorm, on my first day, I saw the golden Emmys resting on the window sill and decided I wanted one. Not because I covet a trophy, but because I wanted to have the opportunity to help create something powerful and important enough to rise above all the others. And have an impact.

“What do you know about Pakistan?” Brian asked.

“Well, that they’re complicit in the war in Afghanistan but they’re also nuclear armed and an important ally in the region?” I shrugged.

He nodded, then told me he likes to walk into projects with very little knowledge so he can digest the content with an open mind. I made a mental note.

I spent three months working on this project, through several reviews, then handed it off to Eric Maierson when I left; he went through a couple more reviews. Doing a crisis guide on Pakistan is complicated. During that time I sat in on several meetings with the Council on Foreign Relations team, explaining and sometimes defending the edits I’d made. I wanted powerful and dramatic, but also true and factual. I made both.

The script I was working with came from the Council’s team–some of the smartest, most knowledgeable people on Pakistan’s history and politics. And, if they wanted General Petraeus for an interview, they could get him (and they did). The images and video I sourced were from the world’s best photojournalists and news videographers. It was awesome, inspiring, and I wanted to do the story justice.

And so, a year later, it turns out this project was nominated for an Emmy. That very same golden trophy sitting on the window sill at MediaStorm.

In late September, we’ll see if it wins.

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July 25th, 2011

It was an effort of putting one foot in front of the other and keeping my mind occupied enough that I could press on. It was mountaineering; not terribly technical, but physical, requiring some skill, and managing risk from crevasses, rockfall, and altitude.

At 14,000 feet I shuffled like a 80 year old, teetered like a drunk. Altitude is a hangover without the party. My head was starting to hurt and my nausea passed only after I dry heaved. Forcibly hyperventilating was the only way I could capture enough oxygen; even so, I was out of breath and, more annoyingly, low on energy. Two fast breaths for each step. I wanted more red blood cells.

(Mt. Rainier by moonlight. 13 second exposure, f5.6, ISO3200, using a rock as a tripod. Note the three lights on the mountain of teams on different routes starting their ascent ~2.00am)

For all the effort, it was also a huge relief. I’ve been missing the mountains. I hiked up the Muir Snowfield by the light of a half moon. I watched the sun rise from eastern Washington, spilling its light across the Cascades to brighten the dark valleys below. I made my body hurt, and in that hurt was presence and connection. Immediacy.

It was Frank’s idea to do it in a day from the car; it’s not uncommon, but most people choose to hike the Disappointment Cleaver, a heavily guided trade route, in two or three days. By doing it in a day, with optimal weather conditions (sunny and calm), we could lighten our loads and move faster.

Frank was great company and, as another photographer, understanding of the camera weight we carried and our pausing for pictures. His only complaint was that I was wearing all black on the summit, which isn’t so great for his photos. Fine by me. At that moment, all I wanted to do was head down to the thicker air below.

See more images in this gallery:

Deception Cleaver, Mt. Rainier – Images by Tim Matsui

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Posted in Canon 5D Mark II, climbing, outdoor industry Comments Off on BACK IN THE HILLS: MT. RAINIER, VIA THE DECEPTION CLEAVER


June 29th, 2011

I couldn’t help but write about another Tucker Walsh post at the Digital Naturalist because he interviewed Noah and Tim Hussin or America reCycled. I was one of the 103 backers who donated a (meager) sum to their Kickstarter campaign, and continue to enjoy their long-form storytelling as they bicycle across the country and document “people…finding innovative ways to come together and make revolutionary change on a local level, to regain control of their lives, rediscover independence, and recycle the American Dream.”

Along with their Kickstarter campaign, they won a $5000 grant from National Geographic, have a PayPal button, and manage to get by living simply on the road.

It’s definitely a commitment to a lifestyle, and having met Tim Hussin in the MediaStorm office (he’s another alumnus of the MediaStorm family…and another Tim) before he left on the trip, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of how the journey is unfolding. If you read the interview, you’ll find a lot of the MediaStorm ethos in the brothers’ words, as well as some insight in their process.

Say the brothers (and I agree):

“…it’s common that people hardly spend time producing their stories, so how can they expect people to spend the time to watch them? We spend months shooting and editing some of the longer stories in this project, so in the end 20 minutes of material isn’t really too much.

“We firmly believe that as long as a story is interesting and engaging, then people will continue to watch and listen. And it’s important to show and prove to people that the content you produce is in fact worth dedicating more than three minutes of your time to. Then, when people come to your site to watch whatever you’ve produced, they’ve already set aside enough time to watch it all. ”

Set some time aside, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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Posted in Canon 5D Mark II, coolness, inspiration, media, multimedia, work of others Comments Off on COMMITTING TO LONG-FORM STORYTELLING


June 20th, 2011

During my morning ritual of sipping coffee and going over the news, RSS, and social media feeds, I saw a post at The Digital Naturalist. It’s a profile on charity: water, an organization successful at generating buzz, getting people to donate, and then going out and securing clean water for communities in developing countries. It’s a simple concept, with a simple message, and it doesn’t hurt that its founder, Scott Harrison, used to be a promoter in NYC.

Tucker Walsh interviewed Mo Scarpelli, of charity: water, about the non profit’s messaging. For the non profits and NGO’s out there, I think the take-away is that charity: water emphasizes how important communications and social networking are to its mission. For instance, they have leveraged a new communication tool to become, they say, the first non profit with more than one million twitter followers. Tweeting can be much more effective, and is much less expensive, than direct mail–or even email.

The story of charity: water – The 2009 September Campaign Trailer from charity: water.

I can’t definitively say that charity: water is leading the way, but it’s a good example. The organization has raised millions in a few short years, holds creative and well attended events, has made some excellent partnerships, and helps average people get involved through innovative fundraising models. Additionally, with the help of substantial private donations to cover operating costs, the organization can commit 100 percent of public donations toward direct services (building wells).

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Posted in activisim, advocacy, fundraising, multimedia, NGO, non profit, technique, work of others Comments Off on NON-PROFITS AND NGO’S NEED STORYTELLING: WHY CHARITY WATER IS LEADING THE WAY


June 1st, 2011

Tim Matsui portraitWhile in San Francisco for my aunt’s memorial service (she died just shy of her 61st birthday), I looked through old albums my uncle and my mom pulled out for the service.

I don’t know who shot this one, but I had to make a copy of it.

Me, somewhere between five and seven years.

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Posted in family, iPhone, parenting, travel Comments Off on PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG BOY


April 11th, 2011

Part of shooting good video means capturing good sound, which is nearly impossible using an HDSLR. The solution I’ve chosen is to record audio to an external device and then sync the sound in post production using the Singular Software application “Pluraleyes” with Final Cut Studio.
The ergonomics of an HDSLR aren’t very conducive to shooting video. Add an audio recorder and microphone(s) to the mix and it’s even tougher–but it’s opened up a great market for accessory manufacturers who design HDSLR “rigs.” You can definitely do it yourself, but I’m not a terribly handy person. So I decided to go with a store bought solution.
I’m listing my kit as well as those of a couple other videographers whose solutions look quite workable (and which I might emulate if the situation calls for it).
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Posted in Canon 5D Mark II, gear, multimedia, technique, video Comments Off on HDSLR CAMERA “RIGS” – STORE BOUGHT (then modified)


April 6th, 2011

It seemed important to record the events that ended up in this piece. First, I was visiting my Grandma last year, and she’s got some stories. We’re celebrating her 90th this month. Second, it was Carol, who’s 60th we celebrated last year. That said, it is family, it is informal, and I wanted to participate. So, while I took my camera out, I was making snapshots and “snapshot” video.

But there is a short story here, one I wasn’t anticipating creating. It’s about family, love, and strength in the face of adversity. I pulled this together, from those “snapshots,” for myself and for everyone else who’s been in a similar place.

For the tech-types: I used a tripod while recording Doug. I had the mind to use a tripod and an audio recorder for sync-sound while interviewing my Grandma. Everything else was hand-held, using the camera’s audio input and, sometimes, the just camera’s mic. You’ll hear the automatic gain control overwhelmed.

I’m Going from on Vimeo.

Family and friends gather from across the country to celebrate my aunt Carol’s 60th birthday in April of 2010.

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Posted in Canon 5D Mark II, family, love, multimedia, video Comments Off on I’M GOING: A CELEBRATION OF LIFE


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