My friend and fellow outdoor photographer Celin Serbo recently photographed a campaign for Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent line in Norway. Celin spent 2 weeks this February with FA athletes Chad Peele and Carolyn George sieging multipitch ice in the western fjords region and came back with awesome authentic images and video.
When its just you, a camera and a couple riggers keeping up with top climbers in the wild, it takes more than just camera skills. Celin earned his chops from a lifetime spent in the mountains, and more recently as a professional guide. This kind of shooting – especially done for top commercial clients – is rare these days, and I wanted to talk to Celin about this shoot because it speaks to what great adventure photography is all about.
I’ve known Celin for years as part of that “brotherhood” of climbing photographers that you run into/hear about/recognize over the years, and like most of those guys we are both part of the Aurora Photos agency’s Outdoor Collection. Celin is based in Boulder, Colorado.
All images (c) Celin Serbo
Serbo : I got introduced to photography when my stepfather gave me a fully manual medium format film camera in the early 90’s. Long story short, I had a lot to learn and started by reading books, spending a fair bit of time in the dark room, and lots of trial and error. During that time I was pretty passionate about climbing, skiing, and biking so a camera was a natural additional piece of gear to bring along.
From 1997 thru 2004 I worked as mountain guide for the Colorado Mountain School, in areas such as RMNP, Eldorado Canyon, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. I also guided for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides in for a couple seasons.This gave me incredible opportunities to meet high caliber athletes, travel, and shoot. I was encouraged by friends to submit some photos to Patagonia, and to my surprise, got published. I continued on the path of guiding and part time shooting until 2004 when I made the decision to pursue photography professionally.
I’d love to say, “that’s when it all took off for me” but that’s not the case. It’s been a slow but steady process that is still evolving. I’ve had to work hard to expand my skills set and marketing strategies to reach a more varied clientele.
TBM : How did the Eddie Bauer shoot come about?
Serbo : I did a 3 day ice climbing shoot for them in Ouray, CO in March of 2009. That shoot was a success and it seemed we were on the same page with regards to their image needs. Their First Ascent line is a relatively new brand so the need for image content is pretty substantial. One of their athletes put in the trip proposal for Norway based on the incredible amount of unclimbed ice within the western fjord areas. Everything seemed to line up with schedules and budgets and I was asked to join the trip.
Due to budgets, I could not bring an assistant with me so I had to be as self sufficient as possible. It was mainly about documenting the climbs and keeping pace with the athletes. We did have two riggers, which was a huge help.
TBM : Your riggers were locals, I assume, who knew the area well?
Serbo : One of our riggers (Seth Hobby) is an American guide working and living in Norway. the other rigger (Adam George) was the husband of the one of the athletes and is a tremendous climber/guide in his own right. Seth knew the area fairly and steered in the right directions. Even with seth’s help, that terrain is so big that there was alot of scouting involved.
(c) Celin Serbo
TBM: How did it compare with some other shoots you’ve done, keeping pace with the
athletes on the EB shoot?
Serbo : A lot of the work i have done has been with high level outdoor athletes so this shoot wasn’t too much of a departure for me. however, it does present additional challenges. Fitness and a certain level of competence with regards to the activity/sport you are shooting is a must. Even though the athletes are well aware that they are involved in a photo shoot, they move fast. Keeping up and still creating compelling images can be challenging. I find that the athletes respect and appreciate it when you can display a reasonable level of competency in their environment and are much more willing to work with and for you.<
TBM : What did you use to shoot the behind the scenes video? Was video a component in your contract for EB?
Serbo : I shot all the video and stills with the Nikon D300s. I was really impressed with cameras performance. It gives you an amazing amount of creative freedom to switch back and forth from stills to video. We had some pretty nasty weather as well and the D300s handled it with no issues. Video was a component in the Eddie Bauer contract. The primary focus was on stills with a secondary priority of video. They are very active in multimedia content for both their website and in-store flat screen displays. I am finding more and more of my clients embracing this trend.
TBM : Do you see doing more video in the future?
Serbo : I am planning on shooting more video. I think in the very near future, will be an expected component to any commercial or editorial assignment. While the DSLR HD video is incredible it does have many limitations compared to dedicated high- end video. I think the crux will be understanding these limitations and finding the appropriate projects and platforms for this technology.
Check out some reports from the trip on the Eddie Bauer First Ascent blog here