Gold in the mountains

What will you sacrifice?


It’s an amazing story, as I have found most of them to be for Olympians and Paralympians, and they are stories that are worth being told.

This story starts when Noah was a teenager, moving his way up the semi-pro skateboarding scene and full of hope for a future in professional skateboarding. One word changed the trajectory of that path… Cancer.

In an instant everything changed, With the support of friends and family he won the battle against cancer, only to be faced with another extremely difficult question – “Do I keep my leg, and not have the ability to continue doing the things I love to do, or do I amputate it, losing a part of myself to start over?”

Where it all starts

This is where we begin, in a hospital room. Noah had just had his leg amputated, an extraordinarily difficult decision. Life had changed so much, so quickly, and now it was about to take another turn. This time it was a moment of hope. He couldn’t have known what was about to happen, but there was an ember glowing now that hadn’t been there before.

Grids are super helpful for shots like this.

This image was particularly important to me, it would set the tone and feel for the rest of the images. Even though we were in a location with power available I wanted to use the ELB 500’s, that way we didn’t have chords running all over the place and could easily move the lights any way we needed.

We rented a simulation hospital room and were able to create a really moody vibe using gels to make it feel like a TV was lighting him. Grids are super helpful for shots like this so you can control the spill of light and only cast it where it needs to go. On the close up we had one large gridded box acting as a “TV” with a blue gel, and a small gridded box providing fill for the background with a cyan gel. We also added a lRotalux Octabox 135cm (53″) to the scene with an amber gel to give it a pop of color.


Fresh Air

A breath of fresh mountain air was just what the spark in Noah needed to find the continued Inspiration on his journey. He found that in the mountains of Colorado, and soon began his training for this crazy adventure he was about to embark on. His training began in Steamboat Springs, and that’s where we went for our next shoot.

Naturally, since we wanted a beautiful sunset, it was cloudy and we didn’t get one. So what do you do? Well, you set up an ELB 500 with a CTO and a 7″ reflector, put it back in the trees, and blast it at the camera.

Then you grab your deep umbrella and diffuse it (because it’s easy to carry in knee-deep snow) and you make your own sunset! This is a simple two-light setup, but it did the trick for a fake sunset.


Support of your people

We fail to recognize is the incredible amount of people it takes to support and lift them to that place.

Behind every great human are teams of other amazing humans, amazing communities. In a world of social media and screens, it’s essential that you surround yourself with real tangible people.

You need to put in more sweat, more blood, more tears than anyone else if you really want to make it.

When I first planned this shoot with Noah we we did have quite a some awesome people show up to help us out. We had everyone move around Noah and reposition their hands until I had each piece of the image. We lit them with the 75″ Indirect Octa, two 7″ reflectors with blue and orange gels for flare, and two large v flats for fill.

There is really one thing that separates the people who achieve their dreams and the people that don’t, The Work. You need to be able to put in more sweat, more blood, more tears than anyone else if you really want to make it. It comes down to deciding what you will sacrifice for something, and these athletes are willing to give it all.

The real gold is in the journey

We didn’t want this shoot to be a guy standing with a gold medal around his neck, that really isn’t the point of Noah’s story. We wanted it to be an ending that showed the beauty of the journey, a crescendo in a symphony of life. Naturally that means you throw a ton of really messy powder at your camera and use a bunch of lights, while he does backflips on a trampoline!

This was one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever taken on.

This was by far the most complicated lighting set up of the series, we had an ELB 500 the Indirect Litemotiv Octa with diffusion behind the camera for front fill, a Rotalux Octabox 135cm (53″) with double diffusion, and an ELB 1200 above on a boom arm as a stop light, two deep umbrellas with diffusion on ELB 500s as sidelights, and two 7″ reflectors with orange and red gels on ELB 500s as rim lights.

There was a black background behind him for the first set, and when we switched to the white background we added two bare bulb ELB 500s to lighten the background and changed the gels to blue and green on the rim lights.

I can readily say this was one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever taken on, and I am so grateful to my team for hanging in there with me on this one. We shot in 5 different locations, all over Colorado, over the span of 1 week, and I am so stoked with how it all turned out.

We all pushed ourselves, and our gear, pretty much to the limit.

We all pushed ourselves, and our gear, pretty much to the limit to get these shots and I am happy to say we didn’t break anything! There were a lot of firsts, which always makes me nervous, but it also tells me I am growing as an artist and a person.

My challenge to all of you from this shoot would be to ask yourself one question “do I constantly feel like what I am creating is easy and comfortable?” and if the answer to that question is yes, then try something that scares you.


Will you fail?


Will you learn?