Project Backboard

Been saying this for a while now, but personal projects are the best, especially when they connect you with other like minded people. Which is certainly the case with Dan Peterson of Project Backboard. He’s been doing amazing things with outdoor basketball courts all over the country. Taking broken down courts and turning them into beautiful works of art that locals are excited to play on. Recently we visited a few of his courts in Los Angeles together, and I was able to talk with him first hand about the process and how things have developed over the years. I really applaud this project and hope that it continues to grow. If you want to check out more of what PB has done, go to their WEBSITE or follow along on their INSTAGRAM PAGE.

If you recognize the bridge in the Watts Oasis images, that’s because it is the very bridge from those famous scenes in White Men Can’t Jump. I personally love that movie and was ecstatic when Dan told me what it was.

Click here to check out some prints from my Hoops Project.

1) Where are you from and what place has basketball taken in your life (prior to Project Backboard) ?

I grew up in suburban NY during the heyday of the great 1990s Knicks teams and ultimately played a year of basketball at Iona College before leaving my official playing days behind.

2) When did you come up with the idea for Project Backboard(PB)? 

Project Backboard wasn't really my idea! I started the work just by painting lines on public courts in Memphis that did not have any just because I loved outdoor basketball.

3) How long/what did it take to get things going for PB? 

I got my first large grant about a year after starting Project Backboard but it was another year before I did the court with William LaChance in St. Louis that really got a lot of attention and opened the door for Project Backboard to become what it is today. 

4) What was the initial reaction? How have reactions changed since you started? 

The initial reaction was overwhelmingly positive and that is the reaction I have continued to get. That said, this style of court has become surprisingly common over the past 12-18 months that the reaction now may be a bit more restrained than the early courts. No one had ever seen anything like the William LaChance court when we first painted it.

5) How have you gone about getting funding for these projects? 

A lot of the courts are funded either by community or corporate foundations.

6) What is the process like from the original idea for a court to the final execution? 

The painting process is different for each court depending on what the artist has in mind for the court artwork. Sometimes its a lot of measuring and straight lines or curves and other times we create a grid across the entire surface of the court and drawing the artwork box by box. 

7) PB has teamed up with some big name companies. How have those relationships come about? 

People reach out and I respond! I am always open to collaborating but the successful projects have been ones were the brands are able to be a little less “corporate” in their approach and allow the artist the freedom to create and lead the project vision. 

8) What is the overall goal for PB?

For every community to have a safe and inviting basketball court. I love outdoor basketball and want to share that with others but, from my perspective, the way that will happen is when individual community members step up to help care for public spaces and hold those charged with maintaining those spaces accountable.

9) Any big projects in the works that you want to share? 

Yes! Looking forward to a few courts in the Bay Area and a court in Puerto Rico along with a handful of others.

10) Random thoughts on PB......

I appreciate all the support and, as I said, always open to collaborating and helping others follow my example so don't hesitate to reach out!

Street Photography

A new selection of images from the local streets of San Diego. You might wonder why I post these, as they have nothing to do with my “business” or commercial work, but I’d have to disagree with you. While the subject of the imagery is completely unrelated, the creation of them is very informative of the commercial work. Learning to see different lines and compositions will be directly reflected in my other work, so you can sort of consider this an exercise. And quite a relaxing one at that.

To see more of my street photography click here.


The Proper Barbershop

The Proper Barbershop is a special place that is right at home in Hollywood. If you want a show as well as a great cut, then The Proper is the place for you. The first time I visited was back in 2013-ish and there was someone sleeping one off in the backroom. From the time I stepped foot inside, the show was just naturally going on. The guys in there know how to have a good time all while getting shit done. The owner Vinnie is a good dude and a classic case of someone you shouldn’t judge just based on his appearance. Being the owner of The Proper and knowing it’s reputation, it would be easy to think that he’s just another Southern California bro with face tattoos. He’s the exact opposite of that though. And one thing I’ve been saying for years now, is that they are just tattoos, a vehicle for creativity and self expression. Vinnie is a really solid guy who spreads a lot of positivity and has a lot of support for his fellow barbers all across the industry.

Follow the shop on IG @theproperbarbershop and Vinnie @theedgebarber

Click here to read the last Q&A with Pig Barber.

Click here to check out Barbershops of America.

Click here to check out my barbershop prints.

“I think the industry has lost sight that we all cut hair and we all should support each other as it costs us nothing to support one another!”

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1) Where are you from and what did you do before barbering? 

I am from Los Angeles, CA and before barbering I was in high school and I actually was kickboxing and teaching kickboxing! But I had a friend who knew during high school that he wanted to do hair so when I realized that I was never going to have a life fighting I tried my hand at hair and absolutely fell in love with it!

2) Talk about owning a shop in Hollywood from a barber's perspective as well as an owner's perspective. 

Well owning a shop in Hollywood is more than what I originally set out for, my hope for the shop was to be a cool little neighborhood spot and this shop grew a bit of a kind of its own, not to say that is a bad thing at all but this shop became more of its own personality, the antics the environment and the bullshit garnered it quite the reputation! From the barbers perspective this shop is so rad, always busy in a transient town with constant walk-ins and never ending material for discussion, it is a dream. From the owners perspective I would echo a ton of that but the real difference is learning how to keep this place relevant while remaining true to the roots of The Proper and that has been the real challenge! 

Do you find that people come in expecting a show or a certain environment? If so, how do you deal with that?

  Over the years I have learned so so much and one thing I have learned is that the environment is just as important as the haircut itself! So yes, at this point in the shops life I do feel that people have come to expect the show that is The Proper Barbershop, and we happily oblige that expectation! Don’t get me wrong we love to sling our brand of BS and entertain but we also make sure we give a quality service!

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3) You also own a shop in Orange County. What lead you to open another shop there and what have you done to grow the business? 

My Orange County shop came out of the need for myself to not drive to and from Hollywood every day from the OC as that is where my family and I live, so in order to preserve some tiny bit of sanity I had to open a shop less than 60 miles away from me! To grow the Orange County shop it required having to penetrate the residential neighborhoods surrounding the center that my shop is located. We drove around with home printed fliers and stuffed mail boxes and most recently have run an add in the money mailer at the recommendation of my brother Cory Danger of the locally famous Golden Crown Barbershop! So that has been fantastic for the shop as well! I have found more of the rad local feeling I wanted in the OC shop as opposed to the larger than life persona of the Hollywood shop!

4) Who/what in the barber industry is inspiring to you? Who/what outside of the industry gives you inspiration? 

Inside the barber industry I draw a ton of inspiration from the team I am on over at Babyliss. I am surrounded by so many really talented barbers that all do something so different from my traditional style of cutting so right now it is learning to meld the new urban style I am learning with my tried and trusted traditional skill set and that has been such a breath of fresh air for me and my career! Outside of the industry I am inspired by culture, tattoos, art, design, currently I am super passionate about graffiti again and that is so cool to try to use some linear intersecting lines and bring that to my creative side of hair! 

Are you saying that you look at graffiti and try to use those designs in haircuts? How has that progressed for you? Do customers come to you for that type of thing now?  

I do draw some liniar inspiration from the cut lines in graffiti as well as all types of art. I try to evolve my style as a barber and as a haircutter every day. I never want to become complacent in this craft. As far as customers coming to me for designs I do have a pocket of those customers who allow me to express my artistic roots and freedom!

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5) Each time I've been in your shop, there is an exceptional level of comedy going on. Talk about that. 

Well the Hollywood shop as mentioned has become a place not just to get a haircut but now to watch and participate in the show! Clients are a part of our jokes and take things from inside the shop weather it be jokes or stories or jargon and apply them to their lives outside the shop and bring us some really epic stories that lead to some incredible real world comedy! Most recently we have a doctor who is a shop regular and his last visit he helped us diagnose that one of our barbers may have contracted an STI and once we realized what it was we just laughed it off and said “oh rad so it’s basically the common cold for the penis!” Well our client found this to be so rad that he vowed he would break the news to someone in the same fashion and this haircut. He came back and told us the story of the frat kid who came to him for the same STI and how our client was so pumped to let this kid know “don’t stress man it is just the common cold for the penis” and he had our whole shop rolling with laughter!

6) You are straight edge. What led to that decision/lifestyle? 

Ehhh that’s a whole ridiculous story but let’s just say that given my family history I knew if I ever started drinking I would be really good at it so I have always been way to scared to even try it! But being straight edge works for me so I intend to stay this way!

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7) What do you think about where barbering is today? 

Loaded question, I think barbering is in an interesting transition where it is less about the work you do and more about the way you look and how you present yourself while not working as if that translates to how good you cut hair? I think the industry has lost sight that we all cut hair and we all should support each other as it costs us nothing to support one another! If we all could band together in positivity we could then and only then start to effect real change! So I hope we can make that the new future together!

8) What do you do outside of the shop? 

Well I play ice hockey as well as have season tickets to the Anaheim Ducks and I raise my beautiful baby girl! I also love to ride my motorcycle. And may or may not be a part time plus sized model... no big deal!

I'm sorry, did you say that you're a plus size model? 

 I am trying out this new thing called..... sarcasm. I am not to sure about it but it sure is fun!

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9) Can you describe the psychology of running and keeping a barbershop moving from day to day. In other words, what is that thing that's happening when you notice everything is just clicking? 

I am not to sure how to answer this one because it changes from day to day. I just try to keep my shops busy because if we are all making money it tends to lead to good moods and a better working environment! 

10) Random thoughts/ramblings/advice on what you do....

I love this industry. It is all I have ever known. I have never had a real job so to see what we are now and how the internet has had such a profound effect on us all I can only hope that we can soon come together and determine a nation wide rate of service. If we all choose, we can force each other to better ourselves by holding ourselves to higher standards we can drop the hate and just be in this together! I love to support barbering. I wear only shop shirts and never my own! I take pride in putting on a pin of a barber or a hat or shirt as I am proud of my industry. It doesn’t hurt us or devalue ourselves to say that someone else is an amazing barber! It just boosts that we are all in this together. I want to do nothing but cut with my friends and constantly put out the best work of my life every day! Through positivity and friendship we can all push ourselves and each other to be the best and it doesn’t cost us anything to support one another! 

Anything else you want to get off your chest? 

Nope!

Al's Barbershop

Q&A number 6 with barbers from the book. There is so much to like about Al’s Barbershop in Alameda, CA, which is just across the bay from San Francisco. Inside and out, it’s a classic any way you spin it. Love this shop. Al’s still looks and feels authentically from the 50’s despite requiring a remodel before they could reopen the place. Such a small and old school joint that it doesn’t even have a bathroom. Just four walls and four chairs. There is almost a monochromatic feel to the decor and the place just makes you feel comfortable. Maybe it’s a combo of the colors, the light, and the crew? I don’t know, but either way, a very enjoyable place to be in. Joe Pollisky is the owner of it now, and there is a lot to him that doesn’t meet the eye, besides his perfect hair. His answers to my somewhat basic questions are great because they contain so much candid advice and knowledge. A couple weeks ago I was on a road trip up to Portland and made it a point to stop in and see Joe. Was even lucky enough to get time in his chair for a quick beard clean up. Thanks Joe!

Follow the shop on Instagram @als.barbershop or on their website www.alsbarbers.com and Joe @joe.the.barber

Check out the last Q&A with Cory from Golden Crown here.

Click here to check out the book.

“After dozens of shitty, meaningless jobs, it’s nice to know that I’m actually contributing to someone’s image, perception, confidence, and hopefully, success.”



1) Tell me about your life before barbering and what got you into it.

Before becoming a barber I did a little bit of everything. I worked office jobs for about 6-7 years before going to barber school. I hated every day of it. Previous to that, I DJ’d at a really low-rent bikini bar in Lancaster, CA called “Snooky’s.” A close friend of mine was DJing there 5 days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day. It was killing his relationship, so he asked me to cover a few of his shifts. The place was owned by alleged Russian mafia connected guys – I speak Russian, so they seemed to take a liking to me, or at the very least trusted me enough to get to work that night. Anyways, that place was a drag. I ended up sleeping with one of the dancers who then got 86’d the next night for being blackout drunk at work. I only did that for about 4-5 months before backsliding into office hell for the next long while. The entire time I was in a few different hardcore punk bands – did a little touring around the US. Unfortunately, not much came of it because I was too concerned with keeping my bullshit cubicle job than actually going out on the road with my closest friends and playing music. That’s probably one of my biggest regrets.

2) Your shop is an Alameda classic that has been around since the 50’s. Talk about how you came to own it, and you’re interest in keeping it (for the most part) the same as it was.

When I moved to Oakland from Los Angeles, I started going to Al’s as a customer. Paul Ehat, a close friend whom eventually became my apprentice (and now fully licensed barber) referred me there. Nick Vlahos was my barber. He and I became friends and after a while he mentioned that he was opening a shop in Oakland sometime soon because Al wasn’t ready to retire or sell the place to him. I started picking his brain about barbering. At the same time, I was also gathering information from Dylan Johnson, a good friend and barber that’s worked all over southern CA. I loved being inside shops, I loved the nostalgia. It just made sense to me – but I had zero skill. It wasn’t until really getting into Nick’s head that I realized the skill can be taught, it’s everything else about barbering that can’t be – the soft skills.  I eventually apprenticed for Nick at Temescal Alley Barbershop. After nearly 4 years of working at Temescal, Al was ready to retire and he approached Nick to take the shop over. Nick brought me in along with his partner at Temescal – Brad Roberts.

The place was a wreck. We decided that we definitely needed to replace the lathe and plaster walls and ceiling, so once that was demo’d, the electrical was so outdated and shot, that by code, we had to replace that. Then we realized that some of the studs were dry rotted, so those had to be replaced. Then the floor had asbestos, so that had to be replaced. It took 9 months to make that place look like it did in 1953. It’s clean and simple. I think people appreciate how minimal it is. Barbering is an uncomplicated thing, so there’s no reason why the space should be complicated.

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3) Each barbershop has a unique feel and different way of operating. Explain why you run your shop the way you do. How much of your personality do you see in your shop?

I think the shop is everything I want my personality to be. I feel like I constantly over complicate things in my personal life. The shop is my respite where I can’t over complicate even if I try. Al’s is staffed by my friends who see it the same way.

What do you mean when you say that you overcomplicate things?

I tend to think way too far into the future with even the most unimportant things. I overanalyze, worry too much, and I'm always trying to put pieces in motion so I can get an outcome rather than just letting things happen as they may. If you're building a house, that's critical. If you're just trying to plan a fucking weekend away, it's annoying and makes things come to a grinding halt. The barber shop is so simple and linear. Once I got over the nervousness of fucking up a haircut it became all about creating relationships with customers and maintaining a place that the barbers I work with love as much as I do. 

4) Barbering has changed so much over the years. What does it mean to you to be a barber?

I think barbering is about building a community. I think what’s changed is that some barbers have put more value on their own image than their customers. In my first year of barbering I can remember specific customers whose hair I really fucked up, but they continued to come back to me. As my skills improved, they didn’t point out how much better they felt their cut was. It was just one long conversation that’s lasted almost 6 years now. Barbering is more about being a friend, a confidante, a counselor, or just a sounding board. After that, sure, a good haircut is a nice thing to give them, too.  

5) There is a certain aspect of repetition to being a barber in that you spend a lot of time in the same place with the same people. Explain how you feel about that and what it does to your decisions about time spent outside of the barbershop.

There’s a level of comfort to seeing and standing with the same people every day. Even if they’re friends going into the working relationship, you learn things about them through their conversations with customers that you otherwise wouldn’t have ever known. We hang out outside of the shop more as family than friends. That being said, time away from the shop is extremely valuable. I’ve only recently come to grips with the fact that quality time apart from the shop is necessary. I try to encourage my work family to do the same.

6) Hardest lesson you've learned as a shop owner? 

 Leading by example isn’t always enough. You want the best for those that work with you and they’ll provide the best to their customers. Occasionally the awkward conversation has to be had so that there’s a shared understanding of how things need to run. I never wanted to be seen as anyone’s “boss.”

7) At the end of a work week, what is it that gives you the most satisfaction? 

 Pulling the hair splinters out of my hands is pretty satisfying. I think knowing that I made a lot of people feel good about themselves translates over to my own well being. After dozens of shitty, meaningless jobs, it’s nice to know that I’m actually contributing to someone’s image, perception, confidence, and hopefully, success.

8) Advice for someone trying to open their own shop?

 Don’t ever put yourself in a place where you think that your customers owe you anything. Remain humble and thankful – provide a great experience and in turn your customers will refer their friends, family, and co-workers. Just be patient and the customers will come.  



9) Anything in particular happen at the shop that stands out as a good memory? 

 I think it was the first day we officially re-opened. It was just me cutting that day, Paul was still an apprentice and hadn’t begun cutting during hours yet. At one point in the day, 4 or 5 customers from my old shop that happened to know one another were all there at the same time, just shooting the shit. It was what I’d imagined that barber shop should be: A place to relax and be amongst friends or at least friendly people.

10) Pet peeves?

Unreal expectations that a customer has for a barber and unreal expectations that a barber has for a customer.

11) If you could only have one tool to do an entire cut, what would it be?

 I’m not the best at any cut, but I try my best every day. One tool? That’s tough! If you don’t include comb, It’d be my shears. I think an all over shear cut is something every barber should be proficient at. If the power goes out… fuck it, a nice clean shear cut is the only thing on the menu that day. The great part about it is that you can create a ton of different styles, shapes, and textures with just shears.

 13) Where do you plan on being/doing in 10 years? 30 years? 

 Whether it’s at Al’s, or on a different venture, I hope that I’m healthy and still behind the chair.

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Street Photography

Have been greatly slacking on posts about my commercial stuff, but will get back to that soon. Not sure you can classify the below images as "street photography", but I don't know what else to call them? Either way, this style of shooting is something I have really enjoyed doing in my free time. And think it's very important for a photographer to shoot locally. Most guys put so much emphasis on traveling to exotic places, and that's a lot of fun, but what about your backyard? There is so much character in Southern California that gets overlooked by all the beautiful tourist destinations. Those little pieces are what I enjoy focusing on, and have recently started putting more effort into this project not just in Encinitas (where I live), but in all of "Southern California". It's a unique pocket of the world that is fun to wander around in, and I'm excited to see what this body of images looks like in 10 years. 

To see more of this project click HERE. 

 

 

Fly Fishing - Kern River

It blows my mind that I never bothered to explore the Kern River up until recently. Being only 4.5 hours from San Diego, it's a gem. In fact, I already regret posting about it, because I don't want anyone else to go there. It's hotter than hell in the summer, so most of the action has to be early morning and late late afternoon. Still haven't been up there in the winter, but can only imagine it's beautiful. Probably pretty sleepy too. 

Click here for more of my fishing/adventure photography

San Diego

I'm of the completely biased opinion that San Diego is the best place to live in America. Not that it's a stretch, but it's still biased. One of the things that comes along with living in such a beautiful place is tons of year round visitors who all seem to make the same pictures. Let's be honest, San Diego is a really easy place to photograph. Go to just about any landscape gallery in the country and you're sure to see a big framed image of Antelope Canyon (AZ), Horseshoe Bend(AZ), and Scripps Pier among many other overly shot landmarks. A long time ago I realized that I have almost no desire to photograph the landmarks. What's the point? They've all been shot a million times over. And I'm certainly not a landscape photographer, so I won't be making any money from the shots. I still think it's important to photograph the place you live though. So over the past couple years, I've slowly developed a body of images made in various parts of San Diego. You're not going to see any images of Scripps Pier or Lajolla Cove in this gallery, but they are still interesting in my opinion. And images that I feel are representative of San Diego. 

PRESS HERE TO SEE THE FULL GALLERY.   

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Roadtrip

Was back out on the road earlier this month. This time it was up to Canada for a snowboarding trip with a stop in Beaverton for a meeting with Nike. More on that later. About 2 years ago I realized that snowboarding is the only that will take the camera out of my hands. During any other activity I'm happy to watch from the sidelines just so I can shoot. On snowboarding trips though, the camera unfortunately spends too much time in the bag. I'm alright with that.  A weird thing happens on those trips though, because the itch still needs to be scratched. I can't not shoot for any extended amount of time or I turn into a prick. Especially on the road because you see images everywhere, which are hard to pass up. So I start looking for images in other places. Thus the reason for a completely random mash-up of images in this blogpost. 

Backpacking the Lost Coast

This trip had been a long time in the making. It was just a matter of getting the schedules of three different people in three different cities, to match. Luckily it did, because the Lost Coast in northern California is top notch. I left San Diego and drove north to pick up a friend in LA.  From there we continued on up to Morro Bay, where we stayed overnight to take advantage of a breakfast spot I had been previously very impressed with (my first time there they threw down a solid eggs benedict). Only this time, not so much. Oh well. Afterward, we kept driving north with a stop in Gilroy for some garlic ice cream and lots of dried fruit for the hike. Next stop was SFO to pick up the final piece of our trio, who flew in from Denver, and was lucky to get through security. Pressed for time, we booked it up to Shelter Cove, which  is a small and very remote town about 5 hours north of San Francisco. Didn't get there till about midnight, and decided to just sleep on the beach to be ready for the 7am shuttle. Which takes you about two hours north or south, depending on which section of the trail you want to hike. And it's a not a smooth two hours, so it won't be a portion of the trip you enjoy, but whatever. That all goes away when you get dropped off at the trail head (beach). Right away, you can tell that you're in for a good time. Some people bang it out in a day. Others take their time, which in my opinion, is the only way to do it. Otherwise you miss out on  some incredible camping. We were lucky enough to find some places where there was nobody around for miles. Literally. You'll also miss out on the opportunity to harvest fresh mussels at low tide, which happened to be early in the mornings for us. So we had mussels every morning for breakfast. Yup. There isn't a ton of elevation gain, as most of the "trail" is on the beach. But that doesn't make it any easier. You'll be hiking on anything from fine sand, to large boulders, with only small sections of actual packed trail. A couple things to be careful of, are the tides, and water sources. There are definitely some places to get stuck at high tide. And if that happens, you can get seriously screwed. Just don't be an idiot though. Bring a good map, check the tide charts, and you'll fine. There are plenty of things to do if you need to wait out the tide. Napping included. You'll see plenty of dead things along the way. We sure did. And it's bear country, so be aware. We hiked for a few hundred yards along fresh bear tracks. You can see in the last couple pictures what they did to the beached whale. No good. I know people have done this hike with their dogs. And I really wanted to bring mine, but am glad I didn't. The sand along the coast is brutal. Even walking on it in bare feet isn't fun. If you are going to bring your dog, make sure they wear booties. This won't be the longest hike you overdo, but it's very unique, especially for the U.S. The terrain and scenery is constantly changing, so you never get bored. At one point, my buddy actually found human remains. Full on skull and bones. We later reported it to the Ranger, who told us that the area is an ancient indian burial ground. So there's that. 

Roadtrip-California Coast

It's been done a million times over because you just can't deny the beauty of a roadtrip up the California coast. This wasn't my first time doing it, nor will it be my last. You'll never run out of places to see, things to do, or great food to eat. The small towns that peppered up the coast are top notch. And the harder they are to get to, the better. Images below are from a from Morro Bay, Big Sur, San Francisco, Sausalito, Point Reyes Station, Tomales Bay, Mendocino, Shelter Cove, and many other point between. This was part of a much longer roadtrip that went up into Canada, so check back soon to see those images.


Death Valley-Running

I've been living in San Diego for a lot of years now, and have no excuse for never visiting Death Valley until just a few weeks ago. With all the cross-country driving I do, it seems ridiculous that it took this long to visit a place less than 5 hours away. Either way, I was more than excited when a client asked me to shoot some running images out there. And can't wait to go back for more. It's a very unique place. Obviously. Massive and desolate. You could argue that is almost seems like another planet, and not many people would argue. We came out of there with some awesome shots, but this has to be my favorite. This style of image is something I've been working on for a while now. Trying to show the scale of a place compared to the athlete and what they are doing. About 70 yards away from the runner in this shot, I still wanted to use strobes in order to really make him pop. So we ran a 20ft sync cord from my camera to the Broncolor transmitter, and set it up on top of a rock, which was in direct line of site to the strobe. Have to admit, when we first started testing, I thought the distance was going to be too far. That, and the very nature of Death Valley, seemed like it would mess with the radio frequencies between transmitter and receiver. Hoping to head back in a few weeks to push the envelope. Stay tuned. 

Nikon D800e and Polarized Nikon 70-200mm lens. Runner lit with Broncolor Move Pack and MobiLed Head. 

Click HERE to see more RUNNING images.