Shooting Base Camp X: Three Hours on a Ladder

Base Camp X

If anyone tells you that photography is all about half-naked models and movie stars, then you need to give them a shake. Photography is hard work at the best of times, but the rewards are worth more than the financial incentives. The past three hours were spent climbing a 6 ft ladder in the studio to shoot the latest creations of the brilliant Graeme Cameron. I began working for his company, Base Camp X in the Spring, and have to admit that every session is an intellectual challenge to ensure that the products are represented accurately.

For any non-photographers, the issue is distortion due to the angle a long object is shot at. Unless you shoot directly overhead, then your image will display a weird shortening at the ends, thereby making an axe head look smaller than it is because you might have had to use a 24mm focal length to capture it within the frame. On my last session for BCX, I shot axes which required me to climb a ladder to adjust for the minimal distortion; on this session Graeme brought me the new line of canoe paddles – at 5 ft in length versus the 3 ft of a Titanis axe, these were a stretch for my studio. Thank god I was a rock climbing coach when I taught high school.

Base Camp XAfter an hour of ascending and descending the ladder with a tethered camera, I finally came up with a solid lighting arrangement and power ratio.  I do not suggest you try this without an assistant, even though I did, because one false move will leave you broken, alone and probably bleeding. No afternoon cocktail either; that would spell disaster. So with the hour in prep, I began the repetitive climbing and shooting routine until all of the axes, knives and paddles were shot on a white background.

The sweat and heat from having my lights on for three hours while climbing a ladder was not fun, especially after getting 6 tattoos yesterday afternoon. Still, I know the final product is accurate and shows the beauty of these tools. Plus, how cool is it to spend an afternoon shooting axes that pass through your hands  and that connect with you on a purely aesthetic level. The real thrill, however, was taking a couple of personal shots of the two pieces brought as my partial payment from previous sessions. For full transparency, I should mention that I invoice my work for BCX like all clients, pay the taxes on the final invoice price like all clients, but take my payment in the full value of his products. In other words, I pay the taxes, but put whatever money earned back into buying his tools. It is all above board, and I receive nothing without paying for his work. Therefore, anything I write in these blogs is not paid advertising; I buy his work because it is the finest quality anything I could hope to own. Nuff said…just thought I should mention that.

Base Camp X


Speaking of which, this is my new Airborne Redhead. Brilliant. While I am not really sure how much use this throwing axe will receive unless I move to the countryside, I have to admit that this is an intensely cool object. As a small man, the axe feels solid and like a tool that will probably find more use than I expect. This particular piece will also serve as a superb photographic prop; the colour and the size make it perfect for portraiture.

Base Camp X


Next up is the khukri knife made in Nepal for BCX…unbelievable. As a chef, I have a real appreciation for well-made knives, and this is one wicked piece of craftsmanship. While not a Japanese sashimi knife, it is equivalent in its workmanship and handling in one’s hand. If I had to rely on one tool should society ever crumble, out on a camping trip or to chop up an animal carcass for food, then this is what I would hold on to for dear life. In reality, this is a bush knife, and it makes me just want to head out into deep woods for a few weeks to run it through the paces. So yeah…bring on the end of civilization, because I am now ready. But seriously, these are beautiful pieces of functional art and craftsmanship that I feel fortunate to now own.

The paddle photographs are awaiting approval, but they should be featured either on this blog or the BCX Tumblr site sooner rather than later. Again, each of these paddles is a work to behold, but then use. The walnut, birds-eye maple, cherry [I think] and maple are distinct and done in two styles. I can only image the response when these hit the market. Despite the challenge of photographing each piece of wood, I could sense the special nature of each paddle. The call to use them was intense and poignant. Sadly, no canoe in the Tip Top Lofts. Now I just need to figure out where all of the half-naked models went to…never mind.




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