Cannabis Times Shoot

Cannabis Times Shoot

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I worked on a cover shoot for Golf Course Industry magazine back in 2011, for GIE Media based in Ohio. The shoot involved a head groundskeeper and the story was about the great job he was doing taking care of the oldest public course in America. Fast forward a few years, and the art director for Cannabis Times, another GIE title, contacted me to shoot another cover story about grass of a different variety. In fact, they had me shoot two different cannabis farms for a couple different stories.

I’ve photographed presidents, royalty, billionaire CEOs and top executives and I’ve even shot in Cook County (Illinois) Jail a couple times, but the security at the two marijuana farms was the tightest I’ve ever encountered. I underwent a background check before I was hired for the shoots. Every door we went in required a key code to enter. And every corner of the facility, from the exterior to the cultivation rooms was under video surveillance. The State of Illinois regularly conducts checks on the facilities too. To say they run a tight ship would be an understatement.

I knew nothing about cultivating marijuana before I did these shoots and had never photographed in a grow room before. But I learned pretty quickly that they’re brightly lit... really brightly lit. Most of the workers wear sunglasses. But the color temperature of the hot lamps is something altogether different. My photos were coming out with a very yellow tint that needed to be corrected in processing afterwards.

Uncorrected 2500K raw file (left) and color balanced (2100K, +24 Tint) finished file

After shooting in the grow rooms, we moved into the lab, where their top ‘scientist’– if that’s what you call him– was tweaking the plants to produce the best strains possible. Again, I don’t understand any of it, but it was interesting watching him clip the plants, and siphoning off the resin in the lab. Apparently this guy was highly sought after; he was flown in from Colorado (where else?) on a regular basis to help out in their lab.

Both facilities are growing the marijuana for the potentially huge medical marijuana market. A lot of investors were involved in both facilities and there was a cautious excitement for the potential in their product.

I’ve never smoked pot- honestly, I have zero interest in it. But I was impressed with what I saw at these facilities. Yeah, some of the workers looked like they’d smoked too much weed, and there was a weird vibe outside one of the places, but the people in charge were professional businessmen and women and knew their stuff (and their cannabis).

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I’ve been in a lot of unusual situations in my career but these shoots were fun and I learned a lot. And that’s ultimately why I chose to be a photographer. I love to work in places few others get to see, collaborating with interesting people and having fun at the same time, and this ticked all the boxes for me.

Gear | Canon 1DX Mark2, 24-105mm f/4L II USM and 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM





The Trolls, the Trolls

The Trolls, the Trolls

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Thomas Dambo is an internationally famous Danish artist who’s known for his large wooden trolls. In 2018, one of my regular clients, the Morton Arboretum, commissioned Dambo to build several of the trolls to place around the grounds. A team of several builders lead by Dambo built the trolls on site, then installed them after a couple months of labor. I was asked to shoot them three times– first as they were under construction, then after they were in place (using my thirteen year old daughter as a model), and finally with a group of kids and their moms from an agency as models.

Since they went up, the trolls have been the biggest thing the Arboretum has ever done, shared all over social media and bringing in tens of thousands of visitors and boosting membership in a big way.

The best part for me though, was when I found my daughter’s picture was being used on a brochure for the Arboretum. I brought it home and showed her and she got the biggest kick out of it. Serious dad points.

Gear | Canon 1DX Mark2, Canon 5D Mark 2, 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, 24-105mm f/4L USM, fill flash



St Patrick's Day with the Taoiseach

St Patrick's Day with the Taoiseach

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One of the best things about my job is the variety of work. In my 25+ years of freelancing, I’ve shot almost everything you can think of, from presidents to worms (look for both in future posts!). I’ve been shooting for the British Consulate in Chicago since 2007. And they in turn have passed my name in to the Irish Consulate, who I’ve had the pleasure of working for since 2012. St Patrick’s Day is absolutely huge in Chicago every year– almost a million people crowd into the downtown to watch them dye the Chicago River green and see the parade.

My assignment for the consulate was to shoot the parade which would see the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Enda Kenney, walking at the head of the parade with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emannuel. I was to walk backwards at the head of the parade, photographing the dignitaries all the way down Columbus Drive. It was a surreal job, surrounded by dozens of Secret Service men, Chicago cops and assorted news media. I’ve never been in a parade before, but to “lead” the St Patrick’s Day parade in front of a million onlookers was something I’ll never forget.

At the end of the parade, I had to bail out (not an easy task with the crowd along the route 10-20 people deep) and make my way to a restaurant who would let me onto their wi-fi, so I could upload pictures to the Irish Times, who then ran the pictures on the front page of the Sunday papers the next morning.


Gear | Canon 1D Mark4, Canon 5D Mark2, 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, 24-105mm f/4L USM, 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM, fill flash



Stephen King

Stephen King

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In 2017, one of the most famous authors in the world today, Stephen King, co-authored a new book with his son, Owen. As part of his promotional tour in the Chicago area, an event was held in the field house of North Central College (who hired me to shoot publicity pictures of Mr King’s visit to the college). Over 3,300 people lined up to purchase the book and hear Stephen and Owen speak about their collaboration.

I have to admit, I’ve never read a Stephen King book (I’m a non-fiction reader), but it was fun hanging out with and talking to the Kings as they autographed books backstage before the event. I also got to talk with Owen about Maine (where Stephen lives and where I do landscape photography workshops).

Gear | Canon 1DX Mark2, 24-105mm f/4L II USM, 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM, 300mm f/2.8L USM