In the midst of one of the most exciting projects of my career. Surrounded by great people and amazing music – this is why I do what I do. More to come soon.
In the midst of one of the most exciting projects of my career. Surrounded by great people and amazing music – this is why I do what I do. More to come soon.
For several years, I’ve been compiling a mental list of spots and campaigns so impressive or inspiring, they make me think, “I wish I had produced that” (IWIHPT). Some of these are simply wonderful examples of pure storytelling, while others, given their production value, must have been a dream to produce. With this, I am launching a new regular feature here on the blog, sharing my sources of awe and inspiration.
The first installment is a branded story from Google India. There is a lesson in here for every brand – stop trying to make the logo bigger, just let the product speak for itself. From a production standpoint, I really enjoyed the pacing and the subtle nuances throughout the storyline. As is a trademark to any powerful visual storytelling, this piece is successful no matter the language. Script and story aside – I will jump at any opportunity to travel to India.
Kudos to Google India and Ogilvy India for the work.
As had become a reoccurring theme over the past few years, quite a bit of my time this summer was spent on farms. Much of this was alongside John Fedele, producing a new spot and corresponding print ads for Dow Mycogen.
As is often the case on a production, I fielded numerous questions from the curious bystanders, most of which started “Why does it take so many people to make a commercial / take a picture.” I’m always happy to talk through the process and always end with “… but just wait until you see it all in action. That’s when it really makes sense.” Though, for all the questions I answered, I was the one that was getting an education that week. If you really want to experience what makes this country tick, set down your cell phone and go talk to a farmer.
This wasn’t one of those dreams where I’m riding my bike through an alpine wonderland without a care in the world. Nope, this time, it was real.
I’m somewhat hesitant to share my experience at Rebecca’s Private Idaho. Simply, I’m feeling selfish. I want this ride all to myself. I want to know that I can roll into Ketchum each year as if I’m in on a secret, suffering along with a small group of riders who share my same ear to ear grin. Yet, in the same spirit with which Rebecca Rusch shared her backyard training grounds with 250 brave souls, I will share my story with you. This event, and this community, deserve to be celebrated.
If I had the opportunity to sit down with a team and design the ideal mountain town, the result would be Ketchum, ID. My life and career have taken me through a wide variety of alpine communities – South Lake Tahoe, CA / Boulder, CO / Park City, UT / Bozeman, MT – all amazing places. But Ketchum, damn. All of the must-haves are in place: a great coffee shop, cozy bookstore, healthy (veggie friendly) restaurants, multiple bike shops, nightly live music and a great selection of beers – all surrounded by some of the finest singletrack on the planet. As a special bonus, it’s not difficult to find several of these offerings under the same roof. Power House has affected the standard by which I will now rate all towns. (Although not technically in Ketchum, but just down the road in Hailey, I feel it’s close enough to count.) This unassuming building, which looks from the outside like any restaurant you’d expect to see in a quaint little town, proudly houses a bike shop and fit studio, a great restaurant and one of the finest beer menus either side of the Mississippi. Drop off your bike, grab a seat at the bar and watch archive Giro footage while you enjoy an organic oat burger and a Trippel. Don’t forget to try their homemade habanero sauce.
So, back to riding bikes. I arrived a few days early so as to shake out my legs, stretch out my lungs and work through some nerves. Best way to do all of this at once was to attack the beast head on. As RPI drew closer, I had been studying every detail of the route – every climb, every decent. Though the ride was 94 miles in all, it was the first 12 that really worried me. We’d casually roll out of town on relatively level paved roads. After mile 2, just as the blood started to flow in our legs, the road would start to tip towards the sky a bit. Miles 3 – 6 would grow gradually steeper. After mile 8, it was game on – a 4 mile climb, whose grade at times would top 16%. Also, at some point along the climb, the asphalt would give way to gravel. If I could get through this, the remaining 82 miles were in the bag.
My initial plan for the days that lead up to the ride was a gentle introduction to this climb. I would ride as far as the pavement took me on Thursday, tackle the gravel on Friday, rest Saturday, all to be ready for the big ride on Sunday. Thursday morning came. After a big bowl of oatmeal, I kitted up, stuffed my pockets with GU and pointed my bike in the direction of Trail Creek Rd. My route that day gave me about 15 miles before I would hit the base of the climb, plenty of time to think. A year of rides had brought me to this point, a spring and summer spent searching for gravel, endurance and the steepest climbs St. Louis had to offer. (Much to my surprise and suffering delight, there are some pretty serious grades around town – though none of them are 4 miles long.) I thought, I rode, I took in the scenery, I even whistled a bit. At this very moment, life was good. It was one of those days in the saddle that miles just ticked by with little effort. Before I knew it, my odometer showed 15 and I started to climb. Feeling great, I settled into a rhythm and turned over the pedals. The road grew steep and signs started to warn of the impending end of the pavement, but I kept pedaling. I breathed, I kept my pace, I saw the edge of the gravel, but I kept pedaling. And there I was, in the thick of it all. Passes like I had seen only in black and white photos of the early days of pro cycling. Rock walls on one side of the road, a several hundred foot drop off on the other and a surface in between that required complete focus and dedication, but I kept pedaling. I pedaled until the road no longer rose. I pedaled to a plateau at the top of the pass, stopped my bike and leaned it against a sign that read “Sawtooth National Forest”. In 3 short days, this very spot would be the home to checkpoint #1 – a tent stocked with GU, Redbull and peanut butter sandwiches. I did it. I conquered my fear of coming in as a “flatlander” and tackled the first climb – and I felt amazing. And now it was time to descend. That sucked. For all the confidence I had on the climb, I was equally terrified on the descent. White knuckling all the way down, I carefully negotiated loose gravel and sandy turns atop 28 cm tires. Most people would likely be running wider tires with more tread. Did I make a mistake? Was I doomed to crash? I had the rest of that day’s 60 mile ride to think about it.
I woke up the next day with a fresher perspective. I had done my research and had ridden in similar conditions before. My issue was not so much that of gear choice, but rather one of nerves. The only way to work through this was to go back and try again. I found a different route to the climb, this one taking me through some “practice descents”. Then once again, I was at the base of the climb, then at the top. Let’s try this again. This time, I stopped thinking like a roadie. This was not a serpentine asphalt road in which you’re rewarded for staying low and diving into turns. I had to dig back into my years on a mountain bike and remember some bike handling skills. Butt back, shoulder loose, eyes forward, pick a line. Ahh, much better. Friday’s ride back to the hotel (with a stop along the way at a bicycle themed coffee shop) was much better than the day before.
Two events awaited me on Saturday – the Wagon Days parade, followed by the RPI riders meeting. If Ketchum hadn’t already impressed me enough, the parade sealed the deal. Billed as the West’s longest non-motorized parade, we were treated to a long line of carriages, buggies and stagecoaches, all drawn by horses. (If you’ve been reading along with previous posts, you know my love for horses.) This is a parade steeped in tradition – and cyclists are all about tradition, but sometimes we need to shake things up a bit. For the first time in it’s 50-something year history, bicycles were allowed in the parade. People had tried before, but much is her way, Rebecca was the first to break the barrier. Now mind you, these were no ordinary bikes on the street. Rebecca, Levi, Fatty and company proudly rode the parade route atop Buffalo Bikes. Distributed by World Bicycle Relief (one of the benefactors of the ride) Buffalo Bikes provide a previously unknown level of freedom and utility to the people of Africa. Where the closest school or water source is often 10-20 miles away, a bicycle can often by a life changer.
Aside from the bikes (which received a bit of heckling) the highlight of the parade was the precession of firefighters. The 3 weeks leading up to the ride saw Ketchum surrounded by one of the worst wildfires in their recent history. The fires not only put the ride at risk, but also threatened thousands of homes and a historic ski town. Everyone in the crowd had their own reason to stand up and cheer the crew as the walked past, having contained the fire and saving the day. For those of you that don’t know, Rebecca Rusch, 6 time World Champion, 4 time Leadville 100 winner and hostess of RPI is also a member of the Ketchum Fire Department. Seriously, could she be any more impressive?
With the parade over and lunch in my belly (there is so much good food in this town), it was time to head to the riders meeting. Time to sign in, get my race number and meet my partners in pain for the route that awaited us the next day. This is when the nerves really set in. I had a sudden realization that there was nothing more I could do to prepare. Tomorrow was the day. But for all the stress, comfort quickly came in the form of a big smile beneath a custom cowboy hat. There stood Rebecca, as excited to see all of us as we were to see her. We gathered around as she went over the rules, safety guidelines, suggestions and logistics for the next day. After some questions, lots of laughs and the send off of “most important, have fun”, I made my way back to the hotel. Water bottles filled, bike lubed, tires inflated, and all my gear in a bag by the door, I was ready, I think. If only I could fall asleep.
5:30 am is a time I reserve for only two things, sunrise production call times and bike rides. Aside from those days, it’s a time that doesn’t exist on my clock. Right on schedule, my alarm sounded and I was up. The day was here and, for his early in the morning, I felt great. I managed a good night’s sleep and I was ready, I think. I pulled on my kit, gathered my bike & gear and headed down for some breakfast – a bowl of oatmeal a banana and some coffee, because that’s what I always eat the morning of a big ride. (If you know anything of cyclists, we are very superstitions and sticklers for tradition). On to the start line. To arrive on Main St. in Ketchum, you’d never guess this was the first year for RPI. This was clearly organized by a woman who has seen a race or two. A standard list of questions and conversation flowed through the group that morning – “Where are you from?” “How do you know Rebecca?” “What layers are you starting with?” “Have you ridden the course?”
7:45 am – One last bathroom break. The word comes for us to take the line. After a few more announcements and reminders, Rebecca hums the National Anthem (she swore there would be no singing).
Sunday, September 1, 2013 – 8:00 am – Perfectly on schedule, the inaugural Rebecca’s Private Idaho departed Ketchum Town Square, headed towards the mountains. 250 smiles rolled off that line. The first few miles gave us all a chance to warm up our legs and wrap our head around what was to come. Looking at the skies, we had a beautiful day in store. Then, just as we all knew it would, the roads pitched up. Asphalt turned to gravel, casual conversation gave way to deep breaths, I found my rhythm – and I kept pedaling.
I’ll stop here to assure you that the remainder of this report is not a 94 mile point by point account of my ride. I know you have other things to do today – but also, there are not enough words to describe how amazing an experience this day provided. Instead, a snapshot cross section of the day. It was perfection on two wheels. It was an amazing day spent amongst rugged peaks and some truly wonderful people. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work. It was one of those days that made me realize how fortunate I am, as well as a reminder that we can all be happy but only if we choose to be. (I choose to be happy.)
I made the conscious decision early on not to occupy too much of my time with taking photos. I assure you there were plenty photo-worthy moments and backdrops along the way, and I love to document my life and surroundings. But this day was more about the ride. This was a day that I promised myself I’d be present, both in the saddle and in my own mind, enjoying every mile, so I kept on pedaling. Aside from the few photos I did allow myself to grab, I discovered after the fact that there were a few lenses pointed at me along the way.
The miles ticked by. Some faster than others. Some more painful than most, but I kept pedaling. There were conversations and some good laughs along the way. Then, after a solid day that seemed to go by too quickly, I was at the last aid station. All that now lay between me and the finish line was the same climb on which I started the day, but this time the road pointed down. A bottle refill and one more banana to fuel me through last 12 miles. Now in the home stretch, I was ecstatic and descending like a mountain goat (a somewhat cautious, possibly injured, yet certainly determined mountain goat). I found my line, negotiated the rock and sand. Then, before I knew it, the crunch of gravel beneath my tires transitioned to the gentle hum of asphalt – and I was off. Somewhere from deep in my toes I found an energy reserve and sprinted the rest of the way to the finish line. As I texted to my wife later that day, I freaking did it.
As an avid follower of professional cycling, a special surprise awaited me as I crossed the finish line. Rolling in, I hear across the PA “and here comes number 48, Blaine Deutsch across the line with a great ride.” This in and of itself was a nice treat, but the real meaning in the announcement was in the voice. The man behind the mic was none other than Dave Towle, “The voice of American cycling”. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, having Dave Towle speak of you over the PA is the equivalent of Harry Caray calling you to the plate, or Howard Cosell listing your stats as you take the ring. My dream of going pro never materialized, but for this one moment, it all came true.
As another little touch that made us all feel like a pro, was the presence of the SRAM Neutral Race Support. Typically seen only in top tier races, the SRAM car was there following us along the way just in case anyone needed a tool, a spare tube, or in worst case scenario, a spare bike.
These are the numbers that floated through my head as I walked around town square. I dropped off my bike, cleaned up a bit and enjoyed the after party. Rebecca and the crew at Smith Optics made sure we were well fed and hydrated, bringing in a train of food trucks and several kegs from which to choose. I chatted with the sponsors, hung out with Salty, shared stories with other riders, got a high five from Rebecca in passing and made a promise to myself and everyone else around me – I’ll be back next year, and I’ll keep pedaling.
The day after. Recovery on a borrowed cruiser, leaving very little option to go fast. See you next year Ketchum.
In addition to World Bicycle Relief, please check out and support the two other benefactors of the ride, People for Bikes and the Wood River Bicycle Coalition – all great people that understand a bicycle is an important part of a happy life.
A world of thanks to Rebecca and all the sponsors for an unforgettable day.
Production can be dangerous business. It’s not uncommon that projects have taken me to foreign, unknown lands or required travel across treacherous terrain. No matter the depth and detail that goes into the planning, there are sure to be some unknowns – primarily by the hand of mother nature or the human element.
A recent project provided it’s own form of danger, this time at risk is my wallet. Here’s the thing – I really want a horse.
Teaming up with the rockstar duo that is Halski Studio, I spent a beautiful (unseasonably cool) August day at Griffin Farms, surrounded by some amazing creatures. Charged with building a new library of images for Manna Pro, we covered a full compliment of equine disciplines – English, Western, dressage, hunter/jumpers and trail riding – all in one day. A dawn to dusk schedule left us all exhausted yet excited by a job well done. I drove home that night with a renewed desire for a horse of my own, as well as, finally, an understanding of the term “dressage”.
Many thanks to an amazing crew and to the staff and riders at Griffin Farms for a wonderful shoot. And a preemptive thanks to my wife for allowing us to keep a horse in the backyard (fingers crossed).
As a follow up to last winter’s shoot in a makeshift desert, I teamed up once again with Tuan Lee on another great shoot for Brown Shoe. This time we headed to a ranch, looking to show a new line of boots at home in a true equestrian setting.
This shoot illustrated the benefit of a meticulous scout for the perfect location. We could not have propped these settings any better than as they already existed. I’m a strong advocate for authenticity in imagery, and this place was the real deal. Working almost entirely with what was available on hand (along with a few supplemental details) an A-List of stylists brought it all to life.
Aside from the power of location, a wonderful photographer and an amazing crew, this shoot helped to confirm two additional truths:
In the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday I assigned myself 40 challenges. One of these was 40 images. I am constantly surrounded by images and image making, though I am rarely the one behind the camera. I have built a career around photography but never claim to be a photographer. Below are 40 images captured across 40 days. Not necessarily an image a day, but a good cross section of the time. Life, work, family, moments in time – all presented simply in the order in which they were captured.
The last three months has been an amazing trip through the world of production -
public health, horses, farmers, fashion, termites, tourism and CNN. The next three months look to be even better – bicycles, documentaries and foreign lands. To everyone that has helped make this possible – Thank you. I sure am glad you’re along for the ride.