Do you want to know what I did last summer?

I’ve always felt connected to trees. I grew up surrounded by them and being an only child in a relatively remote area, I will always call them my friends. We heated our home with wood throughout the duration of my childhood. The interesting part of that is that we never cut down a living tree. You see, my father had the responsibility of managing a large forest parcel adjacent to our land which was owned by a family that lived about 300 miles away from us. They chose to have this land logged twice during my upbringing. When a tree is harvested, the loggers are usually only interested in the stock of the tree. what’s left behind is a normally a very significant part of the tree consisting of a variety of small to large limbs.

Titusville, Pa

In the spring of 2016, I was back home visiting my folks with my son, Calvin. One afternoon, Calvin and I decided to go on a long walk of exploring on my parents’ property. The great motivation for my son was to search for salamanders near our creek, Indian Run. On the way back from the creek I saw what I thought was a large fallen tree in the distance. We navigated closer to find an enormous Red Oak that had rotted near its base and had been forced to the forest floor by a significant wind storm.

Fallen tree and Calvin for size

My first impression of this fallen giant was its sheer enormity. It really was quite big and it appeared to have taken down another dozen trees in its descent. Another thing I noticed quickly was how beautifully clean it was for about the first 20 feet from the ground. After a few minutes of admiring the tree and of course taking some photos of the monster,  I decided to head back home and engage my father on our find.

Dad and Calvin examining the Red Oak

My dad was certainly interested in the tree and had a vague recollection of hearing an enormous crash in the woods a few months prior. He journeyed back out with us to examine the tree and he realized that this was the largest tree on his property.

Dad next to a cutting of the Red Oak

Fantasizing for a moment, I told him that I thought this tree could be preserved and given a second life through milling and repurposing the slabs, boards, or any other way you might want to craft it. He agreed and we wasted no time in beginning a process that one could only describe as a labor of love.

Fallen giant

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you a story about cutting up a tree.  Well, over the past decade I’ve found that diversifying my creative outlets has always led to growth in my photography and it’s creative expression.  The clearest example of this was in 2008 when the economy went through the great recession. Business slowed and instead of sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring, my wife and I chose to renovate our kitchen and the first floor of our house. Through this process, I was forced to make design decisions in a creative realm that was quite foreign to me. With my wife as a guiding light, I was forced to have an opinion on everything we chose to create in that house. I began to reflect on how those decisions could influence my photography and the design that it was packaged within. The tree milling process is quite similar and will force me to learn and grow in a creative space that is foreign to me.

Julianna

Back to what we actually did this summer. In a perfect world, this tree would have fallen on level ground that was easily accessible by a log skidder. In reality, this tree was on a hillside and if I wanted to drag it out of the woods I would at least need to take out a dozen healthy trees to drag it out of the woods. I hated that idea. Being someone who is willing to compromise, compelled to follow through on a goal, and always up for a challenge I decided to find a way. The solution was a chainsaw with a very long bar and a contraption known as a Granberg Alaskan Mill.

Alaskan Mill Starter Kit

As you can see, this device looks something like a metal shop experiment gone wrong. It really was the right solution. 

Handling this machine is nothing short of grueling. It took me about an hour to cut each of the 8 slabs you see. My body was wrecked after just one cut and I made a number of mistakes along the way. 

After milling the last slab of the first of two major chunks of the tree, my father and I still had to get the slabs out of the woods. Fortunately, my father has always owned a reliable tractor and a much more reliable trailer. Gravity helped us the most at this stage of the game and after about 5 hard hours of difficult labor, we finally got these 14’ beasts out of the woods.

Dad with his trusty trailer

The process has been quite rewarding. I still have a long road to go in finishing the conversion process, but when it happens I will surely be proud to show off the results.

Calvin and the 14′ cuts of the Red Oak

To be continued…

Fresh off a reboot.

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It’s been awhile.

2014 was a whirlwind. My family and I moved just outside of Philadelphia, we left our studio in the city, and we added another Crisman to our clan. On top of all that, I had my best year ever as a photographer. We shot 8 out of the last 12 weeks of the year and the smoke didn’t clear until January. I’m grateful for the all the wonderful changes, and excited with all aspects of our growth.

The world of commercial photography is changing. Because of this, all of our roles and respective responsibilities are constantly in flux. Over here, we have some new faces and new voices. Over the next few months I’ll let them introduce themselves. My hope for this blog moving forward is to let whomever is speaking be more honest and a bit less concerned about being a media outlet. This profession can be challenging, but also so rewarding when you’re really in it. I hope that hearing some unfiltered perspectives here will be of benefit to anyone reading.

We’ll consider this our first step into the new frontier.

Carry on.

The Meaning of Life in 10 Questions… Tim Tadder

There are some truly creative people in this industry. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be constantly concepting, developing, and executing or you get left in the dust. I’m fortunate to work with some really dynamic and inspiring people, ranging from art directors, to producers, to creative directors, photo editors, art buyers, and print producers. Instead of questions about email blasts, printed promos, and portfolio reviews, I think that it’s time that I put some of them on the spot to show us their meaning of Life. “The meaning of Life” may be a little far flung to answer in only ten questions, but hopefully these interviews will serve to distill some of the inspired and intellectual energy of the creatives that we work with.

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I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t know of Tim Tadder. This character makes some bad ass creations and his name just seems to pop up everywhere you look. I had the pleasure of spending a couple days with Tim this spring on a trip to San Francisco. We spent a long time talking about ourselves, and our work, and dreaming about pictures of the future. I am honored to have Tim share himself with us and all our readers. After reading about him here, please go spend some time with his work – you won’t be disappointed. Enough from me though, I’ll let Tim tell the rest…

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The Meaning of Life in 10 Questions… Ken Zane

There are some truly creative people in this industry. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be constantly concepting, developing, and executing or you get left in the dust. I’m fortunate to work with some really dynamic and inspiring people, ranging from art directors, to producers, to creative directors, photo editors, art buyers, and print producers. Instead of questions about email blasts, printed promos, and portfolio reviews, I think that it’s time that I put some of them on the spot to show us their meaning of Life. “The meaning of Life” may be a little far flung to answer in only ten questions, but hopefully these interviews will serve to distill some of the inspired and intellectual energy of the creatives that we work with.

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Meeting Mr. Ken Zane is one of the most prized gifts I have received in being a professional photographer. We have held this post for months waiting for the right time for him to get settled into his new career at Leo Burnett in Chicago. We were very sad to see him move on from Philadelphia, but in my heart I knew he would be a happier man back in Chicago.

I met Ken almost 6 years ago. He had just started at Digitas Health in Philly and we hit it off right away. We share many similar loves. The big three would be wonderful people, a well made drink, and deep appreciation for well crafted art.

Ken, thank you for sharing your time with us while you were in Philadelphia. We all can’t wait to hit the town with you soon in Chicago. Cheers!

1. Name one actor you’d like to portray you in a movie about your life?

Liev Schreiber

2. What is your preferred vehicle or mode of transportation?

Airplane, (with the exception of going through security lines). I find travelling on an airplane to be the one time to be without cell phone or email access so and you can’t be on “call” and are forced to relax. I have truly learned to appreciate that quiet time.

3. What is your favorite beverage for creative inspiration?

In the AM a smoothie made with Kale, spinach, avocado and blueberries, If it’s evening then a Belvedere Martini with a twist

4. Name your all time favorite band, singer, or album?

AMERICA- I can listen to “Ventura Highway” over and over again!

5. Name one place in the world that you’ve been and can’t wait to return to and why?

Hmmm Chicago, but I already returned here 🙂 so I would have to say Paris- It is one of the most inspirational cities I have ever been to!

6. What is favorite shoot you’ve worked on?

I can’t really pick one,as I find wonderful things and memorable experiences on most productions I have worked on. I have had the opportunity to work with incredible people ranging from Photographers, Stylists, Models, Producers, Creative Directors and Clients. One shoot that was very memorable  was my first car shoot, I had never worked on one before so I was a bit overwhelmed, it was a great challenge. We created a highway on a Tarmac in Los Angeles, I was blown away watching the photographer shoot from a crane 175 feet up in the air. We had stunt drivers and an incredible crew, the production was flawless. On the last day of production,  the photographer had himself strapped to the underside of a car in motion, to shoot a moving vehicle next to him, lots of adrenaline going there.

7. What is your philosophy on creating?

I think you have to trust your intuition to create. Don’t think, just do it. Read the book “Blink” it all happens in a moment.

8. Describe a defining moment in your career that has led you to where you are today?

I think all roads and experiences bring you to where you are, my background in Art and Photography genuinely contributed to where I am today, but if there was a moment I would say it was when I met Andrea Kaye at McCann Erickson, at that point I knew I wanted to be an Art Producer

9. Name one person you wish you could have a drink with and why?

That’s a tough question because there are so many people I would want to do that with. I would probably have to say my Father because there were many things I wish we had discussed before he passed away a few years ago.

10. If the world is ending in 2013, how will you change your life plan?

I would spend much more time with my family and friends. And I have to admit, since you posed this question to me in the early fall I have made the effort 🙂

Any questions for Ken? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or @crismanphoto and/crismanphoto!

The Meaning of Life in 10 Questions… Ryan Donnell

There are some truly creative people in this industry. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be constantly concepting, developing, and executing or you get left in the dust. I’m fortunate to work with some really dynamic and inspiring people, ranging from art directors, to producers, to creative directors, photo editors, art buyers, and print producers. Instead of questions about email blasts, printed promos, and portfolio reviews, I think that it’s time that I put some of them on the spot to show us their meaning of Life. “The meaning of Life” may be a little far flung to answer in only ten questions, but hopefully these interviews will serve to distill some of the inspired and intellectual energy of the creatives that we work with.

chris crisman 10 questions meaning of life ryan donnell

One of the best guys I’ve known in Philadelphia has packed up his family and moved to Des Moines, Iowa. I’ve known Ryan Donnell since our time working together at Wonderful Machine. He’s a clever gentleman and a talented photographer. Keep reading to take a listen to him and take a minute to get familiar with his work. You’ll like it. I promise.

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So you want me to talk about my Failures?

Last month Robert and I were down in Washington DC for a presentation on my career. At the end we took questions from the audience and one in particular struck me. The question was “What are your biggest mistakes or worst choices you’ve made in your career thus far?”

I’ve done a handful of talks and interviews and this was the first time a question like this has ever come up. Originally we were going to focus on a few questions from the Q&A after the presentation, but this one deserves some focus.

Going back to the question itself and to my failures, I think one of the mis-steps along the way would be when, in 2007, I made a transition from working at Wonderful Machine to being independent photographer. Before this transition I was growing my work and expanding my skills. The pictures had seen big jumps every year from 2004 to 2005 and I think I was in a really great place in 2006 to transition out of assisting and studio managing and into being an independent photographer.

Consciously though, I don’t think I realized the weight of the responsibilities in managing all aspects of my business being an independent photographer and as a result creatively I was trying to do things that were a step back – almost analog to a point. I was trying to work more minimally and had stopped thinking about photography from a progressive point of view. I had stopped pushing myself and stopped growing my skill set and in that sense I was working backwards. It took a while for me, almost until mid 2008 before I started to realize I’ve been heading in the wrong direction and not really making the next steps for my work. That was one a big one. That’s why I tend to call 2007 my “lost year.”

Another choice I made that I think may have been a mistake relates to a photo I made of Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback. Soon after it was released in Philadelphia Magazine, one of the major network channels was covering a football game in Philly the next week and contacted me wanting to use that photo and talk about it during the broadcast of the Eagles game. I asked for photo credit after they said they had no money to pay for the usage, but they explained that wasn’t part of their process. Ultimately the value of national exposure with that photo verses the monetary worth of five or ten seconds of broadcast would have balanced out – in retrospect I think that’s one I should have just given away.

One more mistake I think I’ve made in my career has to do with my landscape photography. Going back to day one of Photo 101 in college, it has always been something I’ve been drawn to and interested in. When I started shooting more portraiture, I think that I abandoned the landscape work.

Jumping ahead a few years to when I was actually making money through photography and was able to travel and take trips to great places like Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and all these beautiful places. When I would go on some of these trips – I think if I was on vacation I’d want to abandon my work. Now, I should say that it’s always nice to take a break, but this job is not always a job and if you’re in a wonderful place you need to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you, which is not what I did. On a few of those trips I didn’t even bring my camera and missed out on a few amazing opportunities. It wasn’t until 2010, coincidentally on my honeymoon, that I returned to making landscapes when I travel. I haven’t looked back since.

Speaking literally, there have been some falls in my career. In 2011 when working in Maui on the Travaasa Hana shoot, we were shooting on a pool at the base of a waterfall and I slipped and fell into the water, taking a 1Ds MK III and 24-70mm lens with me. That was certainly a mistake.

Last but not least – I don’t know if this qualifies as a mistake, but it certainly can feel like a failure in the short term. For some projects and larger advertising campaigns, we will often go to great lengths to prepare for the job. In the initial creative and bidding process we’ll go to great lengths to express our desire and drive to be part of the job. Sometimes we might spend a weeks worth of time trying to win a project – and when you know that you’re the right person for the shoot and you’re 100% engaged with the job, everything lines up and you know your numbers are fine then you don’t get the job, well it’s a big hit. Sometimes it takes a little while to shake it. When that happens though, you just have to persevere. You have to keep working and keep putting yourself out there and showing the world that next time, you’re the right guy for the job.

The Meaning of Life in 10 Questions… Lauranne LoSpalluto

There are some truly creative people in this industry. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be constantly concepting, developing, and executing or you get left in the dust. I’m fortunate to work with some really dynamic and inspiring people, ranging from art directors, to producers, to creative directors, photo editors, art buyers, and print producers. Instead of questions about email blasts, printed promos, and portfolio reviews, I think that it’s time that I put some of them on the spot to show us their meaning of Life. “The meaning of Life” may be a little far flung to answer in only ten questions, but hopefully these interviews will serve to distill some of the inspired and intellectual energy of the creatives that we work with.

In the fall of 2011 I made my first phone call to Heather Elder Represents. Not knowing who or what to expect, Lauranne LoSpalluto picked up the phone. After only exchanging a few words, the vibe felt good. We chatted for a while and the next thing I knew, my phone was ringing with a call from Heather. The rest is history. When Robert and I met up with Lauranne, her husband Mike, and their daughter Mary at a pop-up beer garden in San Fransisco earlier this year (her suggestion) I knew I’d made the right choice. I’ll let Lauranne tell the rest…

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