A long narrow hallway lined with tiny barred cells enclosing angry men flinging obscenities is what we expected to find at a maximum security male prison. The entertainment industry depicts the American correctional system as a scary place. So, when we were given the opportunity to enter Oregon State Penitentiary we were filled with excitement and a bit of concern.

As you might have guessed, entering a prison is no easy task. There are several obstacles to navigate in order to be approved for entry. First off, background check for all members of the entire crew. Second, a thoroughly vetted equipment list. This list was scrutinized and whittled down three times. Each list included visuals of what was included. A location like this is only possible with the use of battery powered lights. Without them, it would be difficult to get down to three bags. 

The third obstacle was squeezing two portrait subjects into a tight schedule during the facility lockdown. We reviewed the Tour Guidelines for visitors which informed us of their hostage policy that states there are inherent risks in visiting a correctional facility. After several weeks of back and forth with Oregon State Penitentiary, everything was set and ready to go.

Oregon State Penitentiary is nestled in the sleepy town of Salem. Driving through the town you wouldn’t expect a maximum security prison would live just up the road. If there was a maximum security prison, you wouldn’t expect it to be lined with large, lush trees and meticulously maintained landscaping. The stark difference from the picturesque greenery and the castle-like exterior of the prison is striking. We stood on the steps of the Oregon State Penitentiary with nothing but our gear, our IDs and just a little bit of nerves.

Once inside we went through a series security checkpoints. Every step of the process was efficient. The staff was friendly and helpful through it all. We quickly moved to our first location and set up to shoot in cell block D. Once we were in the heart of the facility, it was evident how calm and quiet space it was. Unlike our chaotic expectations, we felt comfortable in the space. Of course, there was a bit of excitement buzzing around, we were a photo crew, something completely out of the ordinary. Even with our unusual presence the men lounged in their brightly colored cells patiently waiting for the lockdown to end.

Our first subject was Megan Lowe, a Corporal Correction Officer at OSP. She began her career at the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI) in 2014. She was inspired by her father to follow a career in correction. Megan’s petite frame was weighed down by the required gear but her presence was enormous. Watching her walk down the block you saw her confident control in the space. She was one of the reasons we felt so safe there. She provides the order needed for peace.

We spent a few short but fulfilling moments with Megan. She allowed us to collaborate in her domain and we could not have asked for a smoother experience. Wrapping up in the housing block it was time to pack up and move on to our next location to meet Patrice, another staff member of OSP.  She is also doing amazing things but that is another story for another time.

To Be Continued…

Montana with Field and Stream

Historically, the flow of our year is defined by travel. The summertime usually provides a few breaks to spend some extra time with our families and that time at home to recoup is essential to our well being. However, when Field & Stream proposed an opportunity to work with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, all of that R&R was out the window. After a month long of uncertainty, our schedules aligned and we boarded a plane to Montana, ready to embark on an experience of a lifetime.

Yvon Chouinard

We set forth on our adventure through the beautiful landscape of Montana and we were pumped, to say the least. Thanks to Field & Stream we were on our way to spend two days fishing with Yvon and Kenton Carruth, Co-founder of First Lite Outfitters. Kenton is one of the nicest guys you could meet and if you are not familiar with THE Yvon Chouinard, then google him. We’ll wait… These two men live out life with a love of the outdoors as a guiding force. They both created clothing companies that cater to those who share that love of the wilderness. We traveled from Philadelphia, Pa to Augusta, Mt to spend some time in this majestic place and help tell the story of national public lands and the challenge to their future as a thriving place for future generations to enjoy.

On the road to Augusta, Mt

The plan was to meet in Augusta at Buckhorn Bar at 6PM. When we arrived at the quaint town, we noticed piles of sandbags scattered outside some local businesses. The town had recently experienced some seasonal flooding. The excessive amount of rain would show itself useful later in this tale. 

Augusta, MT

We arrived at Buckhorn Bar, passing under a pair of mounted horns as we entered. We walked into the dimmed lit neighborhood watering hole and found everyone already there with a beer in hand ready to eat. Fried chicken, the house specialty, was the cuisine of choice for the evening. Over a pint of beer and a basket of chicken, we began to get acquainted.

Buckhorn Bar

Once our bellies were full and thirst quenched, it was time to fish.  We hopped in our trucks and headed off to a nearby lake in Fairfield. Driving down a dusty dirt road, we chased the sun in hopes to take a few pictures before the day ended.  We made it with only a few moments left of daylight.

Fairfield, Mt
Fairfield, Mt

Yvon was the first to pull his fly rod out and began doing what he came to Montana to do. At the same time, with his tool of choice, Chris began documenting the gorgeous moment we were experiencing. 

Chris and Yvon

Unfortunately, the sun didn’t stick around and we were left to enjoy the tranquillity of our surroundings. Once the warm rays safely tucked themselves behind the mountains, we too packed up. Our shelter for the evening would be one of the few private hunting lodges inside Bob Marshall Wilderness. With an early morning ahead, we quickly settled into slumber.

Chris, Kenton Carruth, Hal Herring, Yvon, and Ryan Callaghan

6am arrived quickly and soon enough we were on the road again, this time to the South Fork of Sun River. Normally the water levels of the desired location run low. However, the recent flooding allowed us to travel by boat with ease. 

South Fork of Sun River
South Fork of Sun River

The seldom fished pools just above the Gibson Reservoir provide anglers a perfect scenario; low fishing pressure and a heavenly backdrop. The blissfully ice cold water was bustling with rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout. The fish in that section of the Sun River were not large but they were hungry and striking every fly that hit the water.

Kenton and Chris
Chris and Yvon

When you stand in the steady crystal clear current, looking around at the perfection of nature, you understand why Yvon and Kenton passionately feel the need to preserve and improve our public lands. The idea that future generations could be deprived of these experiences is epically tragic.  

Yvon and Garret Smith

Yvon uses his voice and resources to advocate for and protect our public spaces. His firm stance against the current White House’s policy to reduce National Monuments caught him locking horns with Utah Rep. Rob Bishop. Bishop called to his constituents and fellow Republicans to boycott Patagonia. What Bishop didn’t realize was that those he was calling to arms were outfitters and the boycott request had the exact opposite effect. Patagonia’s sales increased by 600 percent that month.

There are people in this country with plenty of funds that want to end public lands. They wish to divvy up the open space to private owners, which would keep hunters and fisherman at bay. This is not how Yvon and Kenton had envisioned our nation’s public lands in the future. They value a life experiencing the outdoors quite similar to that of Theodore Roosevelt.

“The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.”

Theodore Roosevelt
Yvon and Kenton 

On a personal note, our very own Mike Ryan was personally mentored by Yvon and caught his first ever trout on this trip of a lifetime. These memories have fueled his new found passion for this leisurely sport. 

Yvon and Mike
Mike and his Trout

Nature Conservancy: The Clean Cut

crisman ellsworth creek

Hi everyone! We’re super happy to to announce that the story we shot back in February for The Nature Conservancy has finally been released. Usually when we get the call from TNC, we need to prepare ourselves to go to some far off place and this job was no exception (and neither was the one we just got back from… we’ll be talking more about that in a few months!). This job had us go to southeastern Washington to the Ellsworth Creek Preserve to photograph their operation.

I’m sure a lot of people are wondering why TNC would put a logger with a fallen tree on the cover of their magazine… and that’s a good question. I’ll try to explain things as simply as possible. Back in the day (about 100 years ago), logging companies we’re cutting down everything they could get their hands on. They’d just completely clear cut entire forests – sadly, this is still happening as you’ll see in one of the pictures below. After a few decades pass, trees would grow back but the forest would all be the same height. There would be no diversity in the ecosystem. So TNC is thinning out these second growth forests to allow sunlight to get through to the ground and allow a natural diversity in plant life and wildlife to take hold while also creating jobs in the local community. Here’s a link to the story which is more detailed and explains things much better than I could ever do. (

I’ve gotta say that this was one of the toughest shoots we’ve ever worked on. It rained the whole time we were there.. which makes sense since it’s a rainforest but rain and photo gear don’t get along. The terrain was steep, slippery, and overgrown. Most of the time I was carrying a Profoto 7b pack and a small octabank through the forest and Chris had the camera and tripod. We were falling all over the place even with the spikes our contact had loaned us, all while trying to keep the gear dry. We took a beating but sometimes that’s what it takes to make great pictures. I’ll let the pictures below tell the story.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, walking up a tree he just fell in a second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.


Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Russell falling a tree in a second growth forest at Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Russell Shippey, timber faller, cutting corridor to pull out trees in second growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Kurt Bower, log loader, standing on back of logging truck with full load of trees at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Kurt Bower, log loader, standing on back of logging truck with full load of trees at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, overlooking the Ellsworth Creek Preserve , WA on 2/11/15.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, overlooking the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, taking measurments in old growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

Kyle Smith, TNC forest manager, taking measurements of an 11-foot-wide western red cedar at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Aerial views of the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/10/15.

The effects of clear cutting seen from the air neighboring the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Landscape of old growth forest at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/12/15.

Landscape of a healthy old growth forest. This is the scene TNC is trying to create by thinning the second growth forests. 

Tom Kollasch in old growth forest and with big cedars at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/12/15.

Tom Kollasch, TNC Willapa Program director, in old growth forest and with big cedars at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Darryl Waddle, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/13/15.

Darryl Waddle, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Rober walls, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve, WA on 2/13/15.

Robert Walls, choker setter, in the logging yard at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

And here’s a few BTS shots from our time in Washington:

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.02.30 AMA clear cut and the border of the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.03.15 AMThis is the machine that pulls the thinned trees out of the forest up to the lumber yard. It’s very heavy. The workers specifically said don’t stand under it…. Chris fell directly under it. 

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.03.40 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.03.56 AMWe drove down to Astoria to catch our plane to get aerial shots of the preserve. We had to stop here. 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.04.47 AMLighthawk is a non-profit organization that donates air time to conservancy efforts. Chris is doing business before taking off.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.04.24 AMGetting aerial shots in our Lighthawk flight. Apparently the air is really cold going 100mph and having your hand out there is uncomfortable.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.05.17 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.06.10 AMChris working with the crane operator in the lumber yard.



Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.02.55 AMAnd lastly, it was oyster season while we were there. These were the largest oysters we’ve ever had. They were the size of our hands. 

Studio Manager Meditation: Up in the Air

We work like crazy. As a studio manager/producer/assistant/blogger life very rarely slows down to the point where I can step back and reflect on it. When it does though, I find myself mulling over aspects of this job that might seem so inconsequential, but for me hold deeper meanings. I’ve decided to start this monthly series on the blog to take a minute and stop, reflect, and write about some of the aspects of being a studio manager that really impact me. These are my studio manager meditations.

chris crisman studio manager meditation airplane flying photo ph

Up in the Air.

Airports are never fun. Security lines twist and turn, trudging onward. TSA double and triple checks your gear – yes it’s a camera, yes it’s called a Hasselblad, yes you can scan it again and swab it and do whatever you need to, just don’t drop it. Past the checkpoint and headed to your gate, you’re one step closer to getting there, fingers crossed there are no delays.

Time to board, back in line. Finally on the plane and you can hear the baggage handlers tossing luggage into the belly of the jet – simultaneously glad we’re carrying on the cameras and hopeful the lights and softboxes make it to the next stop in one piece. If we’re rough on our gear, I can’t imagine how the baggage guys treat it. Cabin door closes, iPhone turned off, finally pushing away from the gate.

Sitting on the runway, there’s a curious excitement that I being to feel. This comes from knowing that something greater lives at the destination; we’re always moving forward. When we are traveling out to a shoot it’s the anticipation of the photos we’re about to make and when we’re headed home it’s the feeling of relief from a job well done. Increasing speed, barreling down the runway and we’re off the ground. No turning back now, we’re on our way – we are up in the air.

In the sky, hurtling along in a aluminum tube affords a somewhat uninterrupted opportunity to catch up on email or work through a backlog of photo editing, but the most value that I can derive from flying is the simple quiet that an airplane can offer. Turn off the in-flight wifi, close the laptop, block out the din of the cabin, and just enjoy the uninterrupted isolation that 30,000 feet can offer. Yes, I have things to do; there are always things to do, but they can wait.

Time off the grid is getting harder and harder to come by, time that is uninterrupted by the sound of a cell ringer, the ding of an iMessage, or the ping of a new twitter reply. I’ll take any chance I can get to unplug and pause for a moment – it’s really when I can get the best thinking done.

Subtract your fellow travelers from the equation, close your eyes for just a moment, stop and think. You’re flying – you’re moving forward.

Abalone Diving in California

So what do we do after a long week of shooting and traveling like crazy on the west coast? Relax? Kick back by some swanky hotel pool sipping drinks with umbrellas sticking out the top? Hell no. We get up at 4:30am, throw on wetsuits and dive into the potentially shark infested, icy cold Pacific ocean to hunt for gigantic sea snails, also known as abalone. Yes we might be crazy – keep reading to find out more.


Looking Back: Travaasa Hana Outtakes

This time in 2011 we were just getting back from our adventure in Hawaii shooting for Travaasa Hana. We’ve blogged about it, shared behind the scenes stills and video, and as I was looking through our archive recently, I realized there were a few outstanding photos that might otherwise never see the light of day. They’re ridiculous, bizarre, and definitely not flattering – keep reading to see some of our best Hawaiian outtakes.