Lisa Calvo – Oyster Farmer

The sun had just begun to look over our shoulders as we approached the beach of Cape May Court House, NJ. Nature had beaten us to the punch on their morning assignments. Seagulls were flocking over their breakfast feast as the tide rolled away from the shore. There was a morning breeze that swirled and helped to offset the smell that was left behind. These were our first impressions upon arriving at Lisa Calvo’s oyster farm.

No matter who you are, there’s always a great sense of anticipation when you meet someone that up to that point you could only envision. The small cottage where Lisa stores all of the needed equipment blended in with the rest of the buildings on the paved but sandy beachfront street. Lisa was the first to greet us. One by one we met the rest of her crew – Patty Woodruff, Diane Driessen, and Sarah Borsetti quietly walked over with coffees in hand and sleepy eyes; a 6AM call time comes early for everyone. We muddled near the quaint cottage as both of our teams prepared for the work ahead. Once all needed supplies were loaded into the beach cart, we headed down to the water.

Lisa, Sarah, Diane, Chris, and Mike walking to the farm
Lisa and Chris amounts the rows of racks

As we waded through the knee-deep water of low tide, we approached a series of racks perched out on a sandbar. Each rack looked like a bed frame cut off just above the legs. Upon each rack was a layer of netted bags. Each bag contained an appropriate number of growing oysters. Different sections of racks accommodate oysters at varied stages of growth. Lisa’s team focused on a section comprised of matured oysters that were ready to harvest.

Netted bag holding oysters
Lisa, Patty and Sarah

After a short set up, the oyster team quickly fell into their familiar process. While standing around a metal table supported by sawhorses, they began to sort the oysters. Meanwhile, camera in hand, Chris transitioned into shooting mode. Using PVC piping as a gauge of size, the team divided the oysters into three buckets. One bucket was for ideal large oysters, one for less attractive large oysters, and one for those that needed more time for growth. The ideal large oysters go to market, small ones return to the algae covered bag and the ugly ones, well that day, we ate them!

Sorting oysters
Lisa, Sarah, Diane, Chris, and Mike
Chris enjoying an oyster

We spent the majority of our morning gaining a better understanding of the positive environmental impact of oysters. These uncanny bivalves are particularly efficient at cleaning the water they live and grow in. For instance, a single two-inch oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day. That is 16,800 gallons of water filtered in one year. Their presence in southern New Jersey has not only improved our dinner menus but also the cleanliness of the waters enjoyed on its coast. Lisa and her team are making a significant impact and at the forefront of a thriving industry. We are grateful for the opportunity and education from a world that we were always curious about. Perhaps you can put yourself in our shoes the next time you order a dozen oysters from Cape May.

Sophia Davis – Montana Cowgirl

On a beautiful summer day in mid- July, we traveled to Springdale, MT to spend the day with Sophia Davis, a genuine cowgirl. Sophi and her family manage and live on Lone Star Land and Cattle Company.  Our early morning drive towards the sun led us to what seemed like an endless dirt road. The conditions were arid and a trail of dust followed us for almost an hour. By the time we made it to Sophi our car was covered in an adventure appropriate coating of dust. 

After an anticipated meet and greet, we headed out to wrangle the cattle. With Mike at the wheel of a Polaris and Chris sprawled across the back bed, we followed. It was Mike’s maiden voyage as an ATV driver so you can imagine the communication with Chris was hindered. Mike was driving on rough terrain while Chris gave his best attempt at managing the camera and directing Mike.


Working so closely with these gentle giants was quite exhilarating. We watched, navigated, and photographed as Sophi weaved back and forth to maintain their forward progress. All of this in spite of these cattle clearly not excited about our foreign presence. In hindsight, it’s clear that managing us was much more challenging for Sophi than were the cattle.

Once Chris was satisfied with what he had shot, Sophi seamlessly returned the cattle to their pens and we all broke for lunch. We ventured into the town of Livingston for a quick bite. Livingston is a famous town that now is becoming a bit of a high west hot spot.

Before we returned to Sophi we took a few moments to explore some of the 50,000-acres of Lone Star Land and Cattle Co. property.  Traveling under the big blue skies one finds themselves in awe of spectacular views. The vastness of the plains was only interrupted by small herds of pronghorns feeding amongst the grass.

Pronghorn Antelope

When we reunited with Sophi she was accompanied by her two delightful children (Ella, 4 and Hunter, 2). With their help, we were given a thorough tour of the ranch and its inner workings. Following this, it was time to make our way towards the final stage of our adventure.

Sophi and Hunter
Chris and Ella

At one corner of the ranch was a field dotted with freshly cut & baled hay. If you grew up outside of the city, it’s always nostalgic to see these scattered across a monumental landscape. With Sophi mounted on her trusty steed, Lucy, we began to shoot. It was certainly one that we wish hadn’t ended so soon.

Montana is a spectacular space to exist in. With a terrain that only ends at grand and majestic mountains. Above in the sky, the clouds dance effortlessly. The depth of its beauty is breathtaking. It was an honor and a pleasure to capture the breadth of the landscape around us.


Daveed Diggs Portraits

chris crisman daveed diggs hamilton portrait photo

When our editors at the New York Observer called with an opportunity to shoot a member of the award winning cast of the hit musical Hamilton, we couldn’t say no. We were lucky enough to spend an hour with Daveed Diggs, the actor and rapper currently playing both the roles of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette.

chris crisman daveed diggs hamilton portrait photo

chris crisman daveed diggs hamilton portrait photo

We spent a morning shooting with Daveed Diggs at the Fraunces Tavern Museum in downtown Manhattan, coincidentally a historically significant location that the real Alexander Hamilton frequented during the 19th century. Couldn’t have asked for a better location.

chris crisman daveed diggs hamilton portrait photo

chris crisman daveed diggs hamilton portrait photo

chris crisman daveed diggs hamilton portrait photo

We owe a big thanks to our editors at the Observer for the opportunity and a thank you to the Fraunces Tavern Museum for providing such an awesome location. As always, we also owe a thank you to the team at PXL House for post-production and the final polish on theses shots.

Tickets may be close to impossible to get these days but head over to the official site for Hamilton to check out more info on the show. Also if you’re a Daveed Diggs fan, make sure to give him a follow on Instagram @daveeddiggs. Also make sure to head over to the Observer’s website to read their story on the star.

Questions, comments? Let us know your thoughts below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto.

New Personal Work: The Musician

chris crisman the musician conceptual personal work

We’re always striving to create new work that we’ve never seen before – some images that exist squarely in reality and others that require a bit more imagination to create and a bit more ingenuity to bring to life. When we’re in the studio concepting and brainstorming, ideas have a tendency to grow and build off of other ideas until everyone has a clear vision of what we’re after, whether it exists in reality or not.

For this new photo that we’re calling The Musician, both the location and the talent were born out of a brainstorming session that got us all a bit carried away, with thoughts and ideas that compounded and forced us to ask the question: “how can we shoot that?”

chris crisman the musician conceptual personal work

First and foremost we needed an environment for our photograph. From imagination to the internet and eventually to reality, we whittled down the list of possible locations from a worldwide search (ruled out – too many frequent flyer miles to travel to Europe on short notice) and eventually discovered a violin shop in the tri-state area that contained all of the pieces of what we were looking for.

chris crisman the musician conceptual personal work

Were those pieces necessarily lined up and constructed in the way that they needed to be for our concept to come to life? Not so much. But we knew that the reality of the space was merely a detail that we could overcome with a touch of creative retouching and post-work.

So we shot, and shot and shot, capturing as many angles and vantages on the violin shop as we could, knowing that the final space would be created as a composite of these pieces.

chris crisman the musician conceptual personal work

chris crisman the musician conceptual personal work

As for the character, we knew we wanted someone who would look eccentric and eclectic, someone who could match with and amplify the background we’d created. Simply enough, our casting call only asked for “unique looking” males and we let the magic of the search provide what it could. After sifting through a few pages of results, we knew immediately who our talent would be when we saw Geoff Lee – an actor and musician based in New York. Geoff was on-board and with the help of our talented prop and wardrobe stylists set to work creating his character.

In the end it all came together seamlessly, a space and character born out of imagination and brought to life through our vision. As always, we can say that the sum is greater than the whole of it’s parts, but those parts deserve a thank you. Many thanks to our talented model Geoff, Matthew Englebert on props, Wendy Oswald Kinney for wardrobe help, Megan Ambroch for makeup styling, and of course the talented folks at PXL House for bringing it all together in post.

Questions, comments? Let us know your thoughts below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!

Looking Forward – 2016

Crisman Forest Landscape

It’s that time of year again – time to take a moment and look forward at what opportunities and adventures await us in the coming weeks and months. Time to discuss and refine our team’s goals and ideals for the next 365 days, time to ask ourselves “what can we do differently, what can we do better this year? what can we create that will be new and different? How can we refine our craft?” Both practical and creative, we love to ask these questions and take even greater joy in answering them by creating new and inspiring images.

So what’s the plan for 2016? Isn’t it obvious?

Make new work. Make photographs and images that we’ve never seen before and create content that can embody our aesthetic and the ideas and vision of our clients. And as always, we’ll do our best to share.

2015 in Review – Behind the Scenes

We may have a few less blog posts to show for it than usual, but 2015 has been a year with just as many days on set and on the road as the past few before it. With any shoot there comes those wonderfully awkward test shots and cringe-worthy behind the scenes shots. Since it’s the end of the year, what better time and place to share them all here on the blog:

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015  chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015   chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

chris crisman advertising photography behind the scenes 2015

And there we have it – 2015 is all wrapped up. We’ll be taking New Years off, then getting back into the swing of things early in 2016. We hope you’re as excited as we are for what the new years has in store – happy holidays all!

Personal Work: Hot Air Balloons

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Some images come together quickly while others take their time, changing and developing over weeks and months to be fully realized. Our hot air balloon photo definitely falls into the latter category; a photo that has been on Chris’s mind for quite some time and one that the team has been actively chasing since January of this year.

As with many great (or terrible) stories, this one starts in Las Vegas. In January of this year, we decided to finally pursue bringing Chris’s vision for a dynamic hot air balloon portrait to life – after some research and  a few phone calls, we were booked for the weekend with special aerial access at a small hot air balloon festival in Mesquite NV, only a few hours north of Las Vegas. As far as we were concerned, this was our chance to shoot a sky full of balloons – the perfect background for this photo.

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That weekend in Mesquite, our team learned a lot about the world of hot air ballooning. We learned tons of information on balloons, safety regulations, wind and weather patterns, proper chasing techniques – the list of ballooning lingo goes on.

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Unfortunately, despite all this newfound knowledge, one thing we most definitely did not do though, was fly in a hot air balloon. After two mornings of 5:00am call times in the middle of the desert, we left Nevada empty handed due to high winds and unsafe flying conditions; it was a bust (despite and voodoo or magical efforts Chris may be making in the photo above… the wind was just not on our side).

Did we give up? Of course not. As soon as we landed back in Philadelphia, we were on the search for the next balloon festival we could line up.

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In the meantime, we were also searching for a truly amazing landscape to serve as the backdrop for this photo. We knew the perspective needed to be shot from the sky, so what did we do? Made sure we were carrying our cameras with us on almost every flight. It just so happened that a seaplane flight in Alaska provided the appropriately epic landscape we were looking for

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Finally in August we set our sights on a huge festival in New Jersey – flying up with dozens of balloons and shooting the whole time, we captured hundreds of photos from all angles. After discussing and sketching and planning the image for months, we all had a pretty good idea of the pieces we needed to shoot, but once the balloons all took off, it was honestly a bit of a free-for-all to shoot as much as we could. We’ve learned that hot air balloons are not exactly the most predictable type of vehicle.

cc2015025 - Balloon talent

cc2015025 - Balloon talent

cc2015025 - Balloon talent

Last but not least, all we needed were our models, and of course another hot air balloon to shoot them in. Surprisingly enough, this may have been the easiest part of the photo. We worked with Carter County Flights, a small family owned company local to Philadelphia to help us achieve the final piece to this photographic puzzle. All that was left to find two great models, dress them and shoot a few photos.

It may have taken almost a year to come together, but we’re so happy with this image – it’s not always applicable, but in this case the final product is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

When it’s all said and done, we owe a big thank you to everyone who helped bring this image to life: The fine folks at the Casablanca Resort in Mesquite NV, everyone at the NJ Festival of Ballooning, the various members of our team who traveled, assisted, or helped shoot parts of this image, and of course our very talented models from Reinhard Philadelphia. Thanks all!

Questions? Comments? let us know your thoughts below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!