How It Happened - The Long Beach Lighthouse

A few days prior to this photo being taken, I asked my dear friends in The Wild Life if they wanted to do a quick promo shoot. I hadn't taken any creative photos in a while and I had an itch. We planned for a Saturday, but Anthony had work at around 11am or so if I remember correctly, so we decided to do a sunrise shoot in downtown Long Beach. I don't often wake up early enough to watch the sun rise. But the idea of catching a few shots as the sun came up sounded like fun so I went with the idea of a way-to-early-to-be-awake meet time. I got to the docks in downtown Long Beach a few minutes before the sun began to rise. I wandered around the area looking for potential spots to shoot and found myself at the foot of a hill that lead to The Long Beach Lighthouse. I had never been there before. I had seen it in pictures but never looked at it with my own eyes. I grew up with a strong appreciation for lighthouses as they are one of my dad's favorite things, so I sat there for a while in the morning cold and silence while I waited for Kevin and Anthony to arrive. But the longer I sat there, and the more the sun started to peak up from behind the hill, the deeper into thought I fell. I don't remember how long exactly that I sat there, sipping my Redbull and smoking my cigarettes. But I remember thinking that I wished it would never end. I started to notice the little things around me. The sound of the boats rubbing up against their respective docks. The birds chirping. The light morning haze hovering over the grass. A man at the base of the lighthouse enjoying the morning view of the port and the Queen Marry. It was breathtaking. It felt like I sat there forever. Pondering my life's decisions and the hardships I had overcome, and the ones I was in the process of overcoming. I was lost in thought, half asleep and completely dazzled by what was in front of me. I noticed the sun perfectly sitting behind a tree in front of me silhouetting everything and I remember thinking wow, that would be a great photo, not realizing I had two cameras sitting right in front of me. Again, it was early. Kevin called me and told me that he had arrived so I picked up my cameras, one a 35mm film camera, and the other my dslr. I took a couple quick shots, not expecting much but hoping for the best as my landscape game needs some serious work, and I went to grab the boys. We went about our shoot for a couple hours, Kevin and I went and got some lunch and I went home.

When I got home I started scrolling through the photos from the day, picking the ones that I liked and stumbled on the shot of the lighthouse. I was amazed at how beautiful it was. I tried to edit it but everything I was doing was taking away from the shot. So left the shot how it was taken. Completely raw. And now it's one of my favorite shots I have ever taken. I had it printed and framed and gave it to my dad and now it sits right above the living room TV for all the world to see.


How It Happened - Obstacles

I met Kingdom Of Giants while I was on The Final Chapter Tour with Dayseeker. Right off the bat we hit it off. I knew very early on that these dudes would be close friends for a long time. After a few nights of getting to know each other they asked me what I was doing on tour with Dayseeker. I told them I was just helping out with my van, running merch if I was needed, and taking some photos here and there. I showed them some of my work and they asked me to film a live video over the course of the next few shows. So I did. Free of charge of course, because these dudes rule. They were stoked when they saw the result. So very little gear and even worse filming environments, and they still got a halfway decent live video out of it. When we parted ways at the end of the tour they asked what it would take to get me up to their home town of Sutter Creek, CA. to film a music video. I halfway jokingly replied with "gas money and Redbull" which is usually my answer for questions like that from dear friends. Little did I know that they would take me up on my offer. At first I was hesitant. Like most musicians and artists, money is scarce for me, and taking time off work is never a good idea. But they happened to catch me at a time in my life when money was not as much of a priority to me as my emotional stability. Coming off of a month long tour and being out of work, I was not in a very good financial state, but sometimes you have to suffer in order to reap reward. And I desperately needed something to help me clear my head.

Red (lead guitar) and I Facetimed back and forth for a few weeks, going over some ideas for the video but were not very happy with what we were coming up with. That, and some of the ideas were just plain impossible to pull off with no budget. So, in classic artist fashion, I scooped up my dear friend Paul Rhoda, packed my gear with no money and no plan, and headed for the creek. A seven hour journey from Orange County.

We arrived in Sacramento just in time to watch the boys play at Ace Of Spades with For Today, Like Moths To Flames and a few others, and then head back to their house (where most of the members live) in Sutter Creek. I didn't know what to expect of this town. But upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised. For those of you who have never been there... I think it's safe to assume none of you have ever been there... Sutter Creek is a beautiful little town. Secluded from any significant civilization. Quiet and calm. Surrounded by gorgeous wineries and vineyards. It kind of reminded me of something out of a cheesy small town based romantic comedy. However, they have quite possibly the best pizza joint I have ever been to in my life... bold statement, I know.

The next morning we gathered everyone in the backyard and starting drawing up some ideas for a story line. We quickly settled on a direction and begun preparing the sets and props. Being so unprepared for this production, Paul and I sat in the backyard while the guys cleared out their rehearsal space/Red's bedroom/garage and figured out a production plan. I was overwhelmed and a bit uncomfortable with the idea of going into this video so blind and unprepared, and even after a little bit of planning I was still a bit flustered. But at that time, I was in kind of a "I don't give a fuck let's just make this happen" mode because I didn't feel like I really had anything to lose. And Paul has always been great at keeping me grounded in times like this. Helping me guide my chaotic thought process and keeping me organized.

We covered the back wall of the garage/rehearsal space/Red's room with black fabric and pinned up a couple scrims that the guys had made for a tour, but were unnoticeably defective. After the set was set up I started lighting it. I didn't bring much lighting, two soft boxes with some underpowered white lights. But after we had settled on the type of look we wanted, I realized I had too much lighting. the room was small, and the shot was even smaller. I needed a tight directional light to achieve the side lighting we were looking for. I didn't bring any barn doors so Paul and I started looking for a make shift hood for the light. One of the guys, I believe it was Levi (bass) handed me an empty Bud Light 12 pack box. Genius. We taped it around the light and wa-la. Perfect. This proved to be a very useful light rig throughout the shoot. We appropriately dubbed this probably very dangerous light rig "The Bud Light Light."

After the first set of performance shots were finished, we brought in an old desk from Dana's (vocals) room and made it up to look like a fancy office. If you look closely on the desk in a few of the shots of Dana, you can see my Baldwin Media business cards in the holder. The desk sequence is supposed to be Dana reading the lyrics of the song to himself. Kind of like an internal conflict between the desire for fortune and fame and the desire to stay true to the integrity of his music. (In most cases these days, it is a near impossible feat to accomplish both). But unfortunately we only had one Dana. Se we dressed up Levi to be his double while we filmed Dana in a suit in tie as the 'fortune and fame' side.

We finished the desk sequence and filmed a few other things that didn't make the cut. We tied up each member and filmed them struggling to get free, being pulled from either side. Apparently this was very painful for them. And unfortunately their pain would be in vein. Only one of these shots would make the cut, and only for a couple frames. I won't tell you were it is, we'll see if you can find it. ;) I really liked how these shots looked cosmetically, so I was kinda bummed that we didn't end up using more of them.

The next day, we made arrangements to film a second sequence of performance shots on an Indian reservation near by. I wanted to do this at night and take advantage of the open space and lack of noise laws. So we borrowed a few generators and headed down to the reservation when the sun went down. I set up my lights after the guys finished setting up their gear. At first I wasn't too stoked on how the shot looked, so I moved some of my lights around to hopefully get some lens flairs going or something to spice up the shot a bit. We decided to place a few work lights on top of the guitar amps just to see how it would look, which I would normally never use because they are usually hideous looking on film. But, to my surprise, it was exactly what I needed to spice my shots up the way I wanted. It's amazing what you can do with absolutely no money and an open mind. It was blistering cold that night, so we left the cars running with the heaters on full blast so that we could warm up in between takes. Nothing worse that trying to play guitar with frozen fingers. Miserable.

We wrapped that night relatively quickly I think and headed back to the house. We were all exhausted, but still found a way to crank up some Architects and enjoy ourselves for a few hours before hitting the hey. We had one day of filming left, and we were pretty close to be done. So we had cause to celebrate. Or are least it seemed like it at the time.

The only shots left to film were the shots of Dana at the desk and the desk being lit on fire. Which I wanted to film at night on the reservation. So we spent the next day exploring their town and hanging out. It was a relaxing day. I finally found some time to settle my mind and reflect on the things that were troubling me in my life. It is quite humbling to spend quality time in a place you have never been, hundreds of miles from home, with people that you love.

That night we made arrangements to have the reservation's fire department stand by while we lit the desk on fire. So when we arrived there were 2 fire trucks and an ambulance waiting for us. We thought it was a bit excessive, but we weren't complaining. We set up the desk like it was the in previous shots inside the garage. This sequence was supposed to be Dana waking up from this internal conflict and making the choice to stay true to the integrity of his music. You can't read it in these shots, but his hat that he picks up and puts on says 'LIVE FREE'. It was supposed to be symbolic and kind of tie the whole scene together. But I didn't quite light the shot right and it didn't come out the way I wanted it to. Can't win em' all I suppose. We expected the desk light and the picture frame (which was just a picture of one of their t-shirts) to break on the first take of Dana throwing everything off the desk. But to our pleasant surprise, nothing broke. So, after a lot of joking about how much of a vagina Dana was, we reset the desk and I filmed the same shot again from a little bit closer of an angle.

After Dana spray painted their symbol on the desk, we told the firemen that we were ready to light the desk on fire. Apparently they were expecting us to blow it up, which explained the excessiveness. One of them walked over with a fire extinguisher and stood next to me while Red and Dana pored lighter fluid all over the desk and dropped a match on it. Nothing happened. After a bit of laughing, we heard a voice from one of the fire trucks yell "why the hell aren't you using gasoline?!?" We all kind of looked at each other, almost to confirm that we actually just heard that coming from a fireman, and then Dana grabbed the extra gas we had brought for the generators and pored in on the desk. Dropped the match and up it went. It was beautiful. Unfortunately I had never filmed a fire before, so the shot didn't quite do the fire justice. But it got the point across.

The next day Paul and I said our goodbyes and began our long journey home. I will never forget that weekend in Sutter Creek. And I don't know that I will ever have as much fun making a music video as I did that weekend. The boys in Kingdom Of Giants reminded me what its like to let go. Helped me remember that good people do exist. And I came home refreshed and driven to push myself to be the best that I can be. I didn't make a single dollar on this video. In fact, I'm pretty sure I lost money. But I would do it all again with these dudes in a heartbeat.

How It Happened - History

The music video for This Wild Life's "History" came about quite accidentally actually. Anthony and Kevin asked me to take along with them to the Vans Warped Tour Kick Off Party as they planned to announce that they had signed a deal with Epitaph Records and they wanted me to film their announcement so that they could announce it on the internet as well. They were set the be the opening act for the night. I had no plans to film anything other than their set. Simple enough day I suppose. However it turned out to be quite the contrary. We were driving down the 710 freeway on our way to Club Nokia in Downtown Los Angeles, jammin' some tunes and talking about what the future holds for them when suddenly the right front of the van slammed to the ground. Being in front passenger seat, this scared the hell out of me. My first thought was the the tire had blown but when we got out of the van on the side of this very busy freeway, we found that the right front suspension was obliterated. I picked up my camera and started filming right away, as this was documentary gold. I didn't have any plans for the footage at the time, but I was sure it would come in handy at some point. I was right. Kevin and I then ventured through a not-so-great part of town in search of a Uhaul (that Siri claimed was there, but was not) so that we could hopefully make it to the venue in time for soundcheck. We got hungry. We stopped at Mcdonalds. After several wrong turns and a very friendly Lyft driver, we finally made it to the Uhaul and made our way back to Anthony and the broken down van. We loaded all of the gear and merch into the Uhaul and were finally back on the road. We made it to the venue just in time for soundcheck. Surprisingly, all the staff was very understanding and helpful. Usually in these ordeals, being late for check-in and such, stage managers and promoters are not so light hearted. The dudes played their set and we spent the rest of the night hanging out with the other bands. I filmed as much as I could, but I also wanted to take some photos of the other bands so I eventually parted ways with the boys and spent the rest of my time in my photo frenzy. (If you have ever seen me shooting at a show, you know what this is).

A few days later, I was on the set of a music video doing grip work and helping out a friend of mine when I got a call from Kevin. I had sent him their announcement video compiled of random footage from that day, and apparently their management really liked it. They were having trouble meeting their deadline for the release of their music video for "History" so he asked if he could come over and throw something together with the footage I had from that day. I was an hour and a half from my house, it was 8PM and I had work in the morning. Naturally, I agreed. He came over, we ordered pizza, and we sat at my desk and banged out what is now the official music video for their single "History". It was released the next day. And has been quite successful.

I live for these kinds of things. Flying by the seat of your pants and living in the moment. Not letting a shitty situation ruin your day and making the best of everything.

These dudes rule. You can order their debut full length "Clouded" here: