Originally Published on November 3rd, 2014.
Bishop, California, baby!
Story by Karen Predmore
Images are an important part of telling the MSR story and we work hard to capture those moments that inspire our customers and show our products doing what they do best—enabling big adventures. This past summer, we started work on bringing our new WindBurner Personal Stove System to life through great imagery.
One of the first steps in this process is picking a location that is both beautiful and authentic—one that showcases the product being used in just the way our customers might use it themselves. Our photo library is packed with gorgeous snow and alpine imagery, so it was time to get some desert terrain in the mix. Because the WindBurner stove system is virtually windproof, we wanted to show it operating in challenging conditions. The relentless gusts found in the desert only made sense. Plus, who can deny the beauty of California’s Buttermilks?
At MSR, we are fortunate to work with some of the best photographers in the business. For the WindBurner, we wanted to capture both still shots and video, so we called in Scott Rinckenberger on photography and Kris Ostness on video. Scott’s approach to photography parallels MSR’s approach to engineering products. Quality should be inherent in the design—no unnecessary bells and whistles needed. With the WindBurner’s precision design and Scott’s mastery behind the lens, together they’d make a beautiful scene. Kris, a cult-hero to many ski film fans, has experience behind the camera that is indispensable. We knew it was going to be good.
All good trips start with the gear dump. Compared to big-budget productions, we are small and nimble, but any way you look at, there is just no way a photographer, videographer, producer and an art director can travel light with camera gear, computers, power sources and camping gear for seven.
After a flight from Seattle and then a few hours of driving through beautiful country we made it to the Buttermilks outside of Bishop. We had a little time to survey the scene before the talent arrived, pick the perfect camping spot and start to match the landscape with my shot list. Oh, and change a flat tire on the rental.
We rendezvoused with our talent and it was game on. I say talent because these models don’t have just another pretty face. With the help of Scott we partnered with three accomplished climbers and the most stone-cold pro I’ve ever worked with—Fynn the dog, a.k.a. FynnyPig. Being an outdoor model is not all fun-and-games. We ask you to wake up before the sun, then sit around forever, then climb/run/ride/ski/etc. the same 5 feet repeatedly till we get it “just right” and do it all as if it was the very first time.
It can mean pretending like it’s cold when it’s actually June in the desert, or looking cool and calm after three hours in the heat of a 100˚ day.
Chasing light—and wind—means that our crew woke an hour before sunrise to make coffee and get the scene set. We did our best to let the models sleep as long as we could. It also meant that we shot right up to dark to make sure we achieved every shot on the list. In the middle of the day when the light is the harshest and the heat is inhibiting we would scout for the next day’s list of scenes. All told, that’s a 17 hour day. Luckily we love what we do and feel privileged to do it.
One of the beautiful things about the outdoor industry is that most of the people you work with are people you like to play with too. Of course we’re all business when it comes to our deliverables, but we still managed to sneak in some midnight swims, desert rally racing and a handful of good old messing around.
Four days door-to-door, thousands of images shot, multiple pots of WindBurner coffee, one flat tire, one frantic bird-in-flight inside the truck, an awesome dog, and one very tired producer, and we wrapped the shoot and headed home. The wrap is always exciting—there’s a sense of accomplishment tinged with a bit of sadness that the fun is over. The whole process ends with a heartbreaking edit session where we have to narrow down hundreds of gorgeous images to a handful that tell our story the best.
As you can tell I love it, and can’t wait to do it again.
Karen kicked off her outdoor pursuits in the early 90s by climbing and living in a tent outside of Leavenworth, Washington for an entire summer. After a short stint living near Joshua Tree National Park, she moved back to Seattle and spent several summers completing every hike in the 100 Classic Hikes in Washington guidebook. She’s hiked the entire Wonderland Trail five times, including a speedy three-day trip in 2009. Recently her outdoor adventures are shorter, including bike riding, running, open water swimming, backpacking, lots of sledding with her wee ones, and the occasional trail race dressed as a bunny. She’s been a graphic designer at MSR for over 10 years, and is known for her uncanny ability for capturing birds in flight in all of her photos. She currently leads the visual look and feel of the MSR brand, from designing technical product instructions to directing out-in-the-field lifestyle photo shoots. She also recently discovered a scratch on her iPhone lens, which explains the birds.