Photos for the Philippines

El Nido Philippines - © JGAERLAN via Creative Commons Flickr

El Nido Philippines - © JGAERLAN via Creative Commons Flickr

It’s been a while since the images coming from the Philippines looked like this. Since the landfall of Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013, the stories and photos on the news have largely depicted scenes of utter devastation. The statistics are overwhelming; thousands killed, hundreds of thousands homeless and without basic necessities. Problems like these do not heal themselves overnight, and though I salute the valiant efforts of the media and relief organizations who responded to the immediate crisis in the hours and days after the disaster, I am always curious about the story that continues once the news cycles have run their course.

The current situation is a story of slow recovery with the local communities largely self-rescuing and involves a staggering statistic: 90 percent of displaced people have resettled on the same plots, and are living in such shelters as they can devise with the existing very limited resources. This leaves these parts of the population even more exposed to future disasters than they were before the storm.

Gut wrenching images traveled the globe as documentary photographers and media outlets rushed to the scene of the storm, but these images of flattened villages and ships tossed ashore need to stand in contrast to something or they are too easily filed away as an abstract problem in an abstract place.

In my study of the Philippines in the wake of the typhoon, I grew aware of the storm and its effects to the country, but also had my eyes opened to an incredibly diverse country of over 7000 islands and a vibrant, happy and energetic culture. A world-class destination for sailing, diving, surfing, hiking, fishing and more, the more I learned about the Philippines, the more I felt the need to see it for myself.

My photography has never lent itself to the conveyance of news or tragedy, my explorations and subsequent captures are part of an ongoing search for the simple, the beautiful, the exotic, the adventurous. And yet, by applying this approach to travels in a land in need of desperate ongoing international support, I hope to inspire a new cycle of giving. Sublime beauty and devastating wreckage are two sides of the same coin, and each can illicit powerful responses.

As I travel through the Philippines for the next 15 days, I’ll have my eyes and mind open to what experiences and sights await, but my photographic goal will be to capture the beauty and soul of an amazing part of the world, and to share this beauty with everyone I can reach.

Upon my return, I’ll release a series of the best images for sale as fine-art prints. The proceeds from the sales of these pieces will be donated to the Philippines Red Cross, the leading relief organization in the ongoing relief and rebuilding in the affected areas of the Philippines. In the mean time, I’ll be sharing photos from the trip via Instagram (#photosforthephilippines) and Facebook as connectivity allows. The more people that take interest in this project, the higher the impact. Please share with your friends and communities, and help me bring visibility to the next phase of Philippines relief.

Doing it Right – ‘The Eight’ Snowboard Photography Project

You want to know where it’s at? The combination of passion and creativity. Art and Love. That’s why when photographer Gonzalo Manera dropped me an email to introduce me to his latest project, The Eight, I was totally on board. What is it? A beautiful 133 page volume of photography from eight of the most artistically gifted snowboard photographers in the world (BTW, the work of Thomas Stockli is beyond good).

The Eight - A Snowboard Photography Project

The curation, design, layout and production quality is all top tier. The idea is brilliant. I’ll let Gonzalo explain:

“With The Eight I wanted to give photographers the opportunity to show the world photo stories as they envisioned them, not modified by an Art Director or any commercial interests of a given sponsoring brand. The photographers are the ones deciding what material they submit. The final goal is to show amazing photography, no matter who the rider is or how old the photo is.”

No advertising and super high-end production value means that this pretty piece of work has a bit of a price tag, 25 Euro to be exact. But before you decide you’ll find your perfect mix of art and action elsewhere, let me share the final piece of this beautiful puzzle: you can download a FREE PDF version of The Eight from the website. If you love it as much as I do, help keep the project thriving by donating what you like online, or even better, order a printed version to keep on the table and impress your guests. It’s that good.

Freshies – A Few More from the Road

If you ever get the chance to hop in your car for a few weeks and check out the American west, do me a favor: take that trip. I’ve been back from my fall road trip for a little over a week, and have finally finished running through all of the photos I took. At this moment, these are my favorites from the second half of the trip. But back to the first point, please get out and see these places for yourself, there’s nothing like spending a month with a gaping jaw and an extreme case of overuse of the word ‘wow’.

As always, custom fine art prints of all of my images are available. If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!

Behind the Shot – Powder Magazine Dec 2013 Intro

A lot of my photography is done for the love of photography. But my ski photography, if I’m honest, is done for love of skiing. This is what makes it so sweet to have one of the most entertaining backcountry ski runs of the season yield a placement in the holy grail of ski publications, Powder Magazine. On this fortunate instance, I had a GoPro running as skier Brian Fletcher and I climbed, skied and photographed this northwest classic in the backcountry near Alpental, WA. Enjoy!

And here’s the placement in Powder.

Powder Magazine Intro Dec 2013 - Scott Rinckenberger

Powder Magazine Intro Dec 2013 - Scott Rinckenberger

As always, custom fine art prints of all of my images are available. If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!

What are the odds?

Scott Rinckenberger Meteor Joshua Tree

I’ve been shooting photos for 20 years. I’ve made my living in the profession for the last 15. I can count on one hand the number of times that everything lined up perfectly and a truly rare image was created. Now, I don’t want to toot my own horn about this shot, but the fact that, during a 30 second exposure, after a 10 second timer (during which I hopped down from the roof of my truck where the camera was on a tripod, and joined the scene by the fire), a meteor(or so they tell us) would enter the sky EXACTLY in the corner of the frame and explode in the very part of the frame that needed balance, just as I had finally worked out the correct exposure and lighting to match the foreground with the night sky, is beyond rare. It’s a non-chance. There is no way to plan for something like this. No way to even hope for it.

But lest you get the impression that I’m subscribing to a lifestyle of reliance on freakish luck, there is a deeper game at play here. Namely this: If you shoot enough arrows, eventually you’ll pull a Robin Hood and split the arrow that was already a bulls-eye. When I took this shot, it was the final day of my project shooting fall landscapes in the American West. Five weeks previous, I had left Seattle in my truck with no mission beyond creating and sharing beautiful photography as I chased good weather almost all the way to the Mexican border. Every morning, I was up shooting the sunrise. Every night, I was posted up somewhere scenic to shoot the close of another day in the great outdoors. From the Olympic rain forest to the Tetons, Yosemite to Zion, I was on an epic hunt. And, to be perfectly honest with you, toward the end of the trip, despite the thousands of images taken, and the enthusiastic feedback from the world at large, I was disappointed that I hadn’t captured a single transcendent image; an image that would make me want to burn my camera, a la Jimmy Hendrix.

Nonetheless, I needed a closing shot for the project. A shot that said, ‘thanks for joining me on this journey, and here’s to living the good life under nature’s roof’. So there I was, on the last night in the field, going through the motions. Legitimately not inspired, but professionally committed. Apologies to the idealists out there, but after a month of shooting the evening sky, you just plain get a little bit numb. But you’ve got to respect the process and do the work. Find a cool campsite, get a photogenic camp and fire setup, tweak the fire and tent to match the brightness of the stars, shoot a test image, make adjustments, shoot an image, another round of tweaks, shoot a photo, that looks pretty good, how about another for good measure, and WHAMMY!

My pal Hayden was the other guy at the campfire. His favorite part of the story? My response after I had climbed back up on the roof of the truck to review the image that I was hoping beyond hope I had captured. In my head: Exposure? Check. Focus? Check. EXPLODING METEOR? CHECK! And verbally (very quietly): “I’m done.” And those of you who know how the mind of an artist works, being done is a rare and beautiful thing.

As always, custom fine art prints of all of my images are available. If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!

Freshies – Black and White in the American West

I’m on a photo journey, as many of you know.  Thus far it’s taken me from my home state of Washington, through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and now California.  The purpose of the trip is to shoot fall landscapes, and as such, much of the work has been colorful by default; it’s the most colorful season of the year.  That doesn’t mean I’m getting soft, or I’ve lost my love for graphic monochrome images.  Quite the contrary.  Here are nine recent images from the road that thrive in the absence of color.  I’d love to hear what you think!

As always, custom fine art prints of all of my images are available. If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!

Freshies – Fall Road Trip Part 1, Washington

Greetings from Jackson, Wyoming; gateway to the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park.  Why am I here?  Because I’m on a hunt.  Not the dead animals hanging on the wall kind of hunt (although there is plenty of that going on in these parts).  I’m spending a month on the road, hunting for the most beautiful fall scenery in the west.

Throughout the course of the project, I’ll be sharing the photos on my Instagram and blog, as well as the Instagram and Facebook account of my good friends at REI.  I’ve been at it for a couple of weeks now, and was already up to my neck in beauty before even leaving my home state of Washington.  Since I’ve had a chance to edit and tweak the Washington segment of the trip, I am happy to present 9 tasty pieces of eye candy from the Evergreen State.  Much more to come as I chase the good weather south.

As always, custom fine art prints of all of my images are available. If you like my work, please follow me online at: FacebookInstagramGoogle+500px and Twitter.  More importantly, share it with a friend and give me a hi-5 when you see me next; let’s keep things in the real world here.  Thanks!

Being Broken is Good For You

Scott Rinckenberger Shoulder XRaySometimes you’re cruising along in life and everything is just dandy, and before you can even say oops, you’ve slammed your shoulder into a tree at high speed and now your arm doesn’t move quite right. It’s not necessarily a tree, or a broken shoulder. That’s just what it is for me right now. Sometimes it’s getting fired, getting a nasty illness or losing a close friend. It’s a punctuation mark in life. Specifically, the period at the end of a paragraph.

Unlike the break at the end of a paragraph, these forced breaks are unplanned and generally unwelcome, but they are no less important that the exclamation points that come with moments of triumph.

As a culture, we are lousy at stopping. We thrive on momentum and feel that any stoppage is inherently negative. I get it. And yet, while moving fast, we are unable to really define our path, the faster you’re going, the harder it is to change direction. Sometimes you need a tree to get in the way and put an abrupt and painful stop to your trajectory.

These forced breaks provide us with time to contemplate, to sleep, to really appreciate the gifts that we have the tendency to take for granted. Sometimes, by having our physical energy stalled, we find ways to amplify our mental energy. New ways to be creative, an ability to see things that we couldn’t see when hauling ass through life.

As I sat there in the ditch on the side of the bike trail nursing my freshly broken shoulder blade, I realized that there were perfectly ripe blueberries everywhere, and as I snacked through the pain, I though about how I would have ridden all week without ever noticing this tasty treat sitting just off of the path. And what had previously just been a blur became a tangible gift.

Embrace the breaks in life, even if they include bones or hearts.

How Do Your Photos Smell?

Remember the sensation of getting paid with real money?  You may have to think all the way back to when you had an allowance or stacked cash for mowing the neighbor’s lawn, but there was probably a point in your life when you worked at something for a bit and were rewarded with a handful of actual money.

Can you imagine how much more fun payday would be if you received your monthly salary or payment for a big contract in crisp $20 bills?  I mean a fat stack of 20s that you can feel, touch, smell and put under the mattress.  Beats the heck out of getting an email informing you that a direct deposit of x amount has been added to your account.  BORING…

What about shooting a roll of photographs and getting a crisp stack of prints back from the lab?  Some of you will remember this, others may be a bit young, but believe me, it was fun like getting real dollars for mowing the lawn was fun.

It’s not too late.  Go shoot a roll of film and drop it off for processing.  Don’t have a film camera?  You can have your camera’s memory card ‘processed’ into prints.  You can email photos from your iPhone to the lab.  Don’t shoot photos?  Find a picture you like and buy a print from the photographer.  Have it framed.  Thumbtack it to the wall.  Put it in a photo album.  Cut off the person next to you in the photo, cuz you two don’t kick it anymore, or draw a heart around them cuz you kick it a lot.

Tangibility makes things more real.  Get your hands on a photograph, take a whiff. You’ll dig it.


Watcha Doin’ This Weekend?

Scott Rinckenberger on Instagram @scottrinck

If you follow my Instagram feed (go ahead and take a sec to click on follow, I’ll wait…), you may have noticed a pattern. It looks something like this: an outing in the mountains, generally over the weekend, followed by daily posts over the course of the following week derived from this outing. Sometimes this program varies with assignments and travel schedules, but it’s a default that I fall back on time after time.

Here’s why I dig the pattern I’ve got going.

  • It’s a great inspiration to make sure to get out every week, not that I really need any extra inspiration…
  • It gives me opportunities to point and shoot with my phone at everything I find interesting without actually having to do anything with the photos or the internet or connectivity while I’m in the mountains.
  • The style of shooting is fast and playful. It also serves as a photographic test tube. Often, I find an interesting shot with my iPhone and immediately break out a bigger camera to shoot the same theme or subject.
  • It inspires people to get outdoors. I have heard time after time that people have visited either the exact place I’d shared photos from over the week, or they find something similar in their own part of the world. This is the ultimate reward.
  • Playing in the mountains, making pictures, and sharing the experience is the combination that drives my entire career. It’s just that simple.

So, despite a packed work schedule and a wedding to attend, I’m going to find a way to spend at least a few hours in the great outdoors this weekend, and I’ll be sharing the fruits when I get back to the real world.

I’d love to hear about it if you’ve got something similar up your sleeve, how to find you on Instagram, and while we’re at it, let’s all hashtag photos from the weekend #weekendstoke. So, whatcha doin’ this weekend?

The Exposure Trap

The Exposure Trap

There is something that used to be very clear to everyone buying and selling photography. It was a hard and fast rule upon which the value of a photograph in the commercial market was based. Here it is: The More People Who Will See A Photo, The More The Photo Costs To License. A photo appearing on billboards across the country is worth more than a photo that will run in a half page ad in the local paper. Simple, right?

Or maybe not. We’ve entered an era with a complicating circumstance. We, as digitally literate artists, have come to realize that much of our perceived value comes from building a brand and associated online presence; the bigger the better. So we share photos online, post videos of our shoots, write blog posts about our techniques. We organically grow modest but potent audiences, but we look around and see artists, athletes and celebrities with exponentially larger brand footprints. We start asking ourselves, why don’t I have that kind of following? What do I have to do to get there?

These questions are blood in the water. Swimming nearby are for-profit enterprises in the form of companies, magazines, websites and other big fish. They’ve got the audience you want. They have thousands or millions of people in their audience hungrily digesting every tasty bit of content they can toss out there. They always need more. So they call you. They call you because you are a great artist. You have beautiful images or great videos. They need your work, and they are willing to compensate you for it…with eyeballs. Yes, these are the very same eyeballs that used to cost the companies money in image licensing (see paragraph 1). Now they are using the eyeballs as the compensation. And it’s so tempting…

I’m not going to be grumpy and old-school and tell you that you should never engage in one of these transactions. I have happily handed images to certain entities for the opportunity to reach their audience. But at the same time, I think we all need to remind ourselves what exactly is taking place.

  1. These companies and brands are making money directly or indirectly with their social marketing, and our work is creating the value.
  2. The bigger the company and the larger their audience, the more money is being made with our images.
  3. Big brands who claim that they have no budget for this kind of marketing are being insincere. They just don’t want to pay.
  4. The more we say yes to the images for eyeballs deals, the weaker our position and the lower the perceived value of our work.
  5. There are brands that have a conscience and are willing to pay for this content that they use to make money.

I’ve been fortunate to have been able to experiment with some different arrangements to produce and share media with such brands as REI, Black Diamond, Instagram, Powder Magazine, Gizmodo and Olympus.  I can say conclusively that despite the large audiences that each of these brands brought to the table, none of the arrangements resulted in any earth shattering new numbers of fans or associated dollars to my business.  Instead, each has provided a modest and incremental bump in my online presence and I have learned to view them as such.

So the next time you have a larger fish than yourself offer to put your picture on their Facebook page because you’ll get amazing exposure, remember that they are making money, you’re not, and you better be able to justify it to yourself in a legitimate way (I’m talking about nuts and bolts, dollars and cents, business kind of legitimate), or you’re just being eaten. And little fish that get eaten never grow up to be big fish.

As always, you can fine me online at: Facebook, Google+, 500px and Twitter

4 Traits of the Greats

Dav, Ted and Christy surveying their domain at the base of California9 Days entrenched with Chris Davenport, Ted Mahon and Christy Mahon aka ‘The Power Trio of Colorado Ski Mountaineering‘ was an illuminating experience. In all of my years as a skier and adventurer, I’ve seldom experienced such a well-oiled machine.

When I was being interviewed by Powder Magazine about my time with the crew in Colorado, I was asked what it was like to be incorporated into the team. At the time I referred to it as ‘Ski Mountaineering Summercamp’. But as I’ve reflected a bit on the experience, and measured it against other times working with truly world class teams, as well as working those who missed that mark by a long shot, I’ve found that there are 4 traits that separate the truly elite from the rest.

1. Genuine Passion – This is the wellspring. To quote Macklemore, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot.” Every elite artist, athlete or thinker I’ve encountered reached the highest level because they put everything they had into driving at their greatest passions. Despite the blur of alpine starts and long days, every summit and every ski descent had the team giddy with elation, truly enjoying the gift of experiencing passions fulfilled.

2. Creative Vision – If passion is the wellspring, creative vision defines the water’s course. It’s what takes the pure stoke and molds it into something tangible, long term, and communicable. Chris decided to ski all of the 14,000′ peaks in Colorado in a single year, and to guide ski trips in Antarctica among countless other achievements. Here’s the thing about the creative vision part of the equation. If you find that it’s hard to explain your project to the general public, that no precedent exists for you to follow or reference, you’re probably doing something right. Don’t fear that which has never been done before you, seek it. No one with your skills, personality and approach has ever walked this earth. Chart your course.

3. Discipline – There are those who are great with passion and vision, and there are those who have tremendous discipline. The truly rare and expressly formidable are the people who have the passion and vision to create grandiose schemes, and the discipline to see them through. At the end of each day of skiing, when the siren call of beer and napping was resonating loudly around the base camp, each member of the team would unpack and dry equipment, download photos, post content online, research routes for the following day and repack the equipment for the impending alarm clock’s call. Stupid early every morning, the alarm would ring and within 5 minutes each person was awake and dressed, the coffee and food were on the table and the team would depart on time. Clockworks. This wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always fun, but it was the price to pay for executing a major objective day after day with a perfect success rate.

4. Great Partnerships – You can be the greatest in the world at your given passion, and still rot in obscurity if you don’t involve other people in some part of the process. Collective efforts amplify the skills and performance of the individual and all great exploits are made great by this amplification in some way. For Chris, this comes in the form of his selection of ski partners and collaboration with his sponsors and media contacts. Ted and Christy are ideal ski partners; expressly talented and well trained, but also able to provide individual skills to round out the team. Ted provides an analytical and even keeled approach which keeps everyone on route, while his wife Christy is an absolute joy to be around, sprinkling contagious enthusiasm wherever she goes. Add to that the world class equipment from Spyder, Kastle, Smith and Scarpa, an immensely comfortable RV provided by Spyder and a cornucopia of the finest food and beverage available via Whole Foods and you’ve got the requisite talent, gear and support to pull off an endeavor as ambitious as skiing the 100 tallest mountains in Colorado.

I’ll be honest. The bar is high when working with the greats, and it sometimes feels like a grind, but never once have I finished a project with a truly elite team where I didn’t leave with a sense of deep satisfaction at a job well done. As I search for my own path toward greatness, I’ll continue to seek collaborations with those who achieve at the highest levels, and to aspire to be one who not only finds inspiration from these collaborations but also deeply contributes toward the loftiest ends.