By Ryan Hayter
At MSR, we strive to not only build great gear but to inspire others to get outside and experience what makes us so passionate about the mountains. Imagery that captures those real moments in the outdoors – whether it’s a breathtaking view, an incredible sunrise or a shared, though silent experience with friends – plays a big role in telling the MSR story and our reason for being.
What does it take to get the perfect shot for an MSR campaign? A lot of planning, good conditions, the right gear, the perfect location and a great mix of people. Last summer we worked with professional photographer Garrett Grove, who spent three days with MSR marketing coordinator Justus Hyatt and graphic designer Megan Bailey in the backcountry near Mount Gimli in British Columbia’s Valhalla Provincial Park to capture the new Hubba Hubba NX tent in its natural environment.
“Good planning and a good crew make a huge difference in the outcome of a photo shoot,” Garrett says. “We went into the field with specific images in mind and as a result, it was one of the smoothest shoots I’ve ever done.”
Garrett, who has been a professional ski and outdoor photographer for the past seven years shooting around the world for large outdoor brands, chose Mt. Gimli as the backdrop for the MSR photo shoot based on his experience skiing and climbing near the area.
“We wanted the shoot to have an aspirational feel but, like the product, be accessible to every backpacker. Gimli seemed like an ideal location. It’s close but not overly familiar. I had seen the mountain off the highway for years and had always wanted to get back there,” he says.
MSR hired Valhalla Mountain Touring owners and certified guides Evan Stevens and Jasmin Caton as models. “They’re great climbers and brought another level of expertise and authenticity to the shoot,” Garrett says. “The collaboration between everyone made my job so much easier. And Megan and Justus are great cooks.”
The MSR crew left Seattle early the first morning of the shoot and picked up Garrett in Republic, Washington, based in the North Cascades en route to the Valhalla range near the British Columbia border north of Spokane. Garrett says it was one of those endless, cloudless August days that make living in the Pacific Northwest a true privilege.
The crew met up with the guides and started a short but grueling ascent with gear to the base of Gimli Peak that tops out at 9,100 feet. The lighting was ideal when they arrived at the base so they scouted out a place to camp and began shooting immediately.
“It was such a beautiful day,” Justus says. “The skies were totally clear and we had one of the most unbelievable sunsets I have ever seen. The moon was so bright we were able to keep shooting into the night.”
The Pacific Northwest has long summer days, so the best lighting occurs before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m., with the most vibrant colors peaking at sunrise and sunset. This means early mornings and late nights for outdoor photographers, with travel time between locations and down time during the day when the light is harsh.
The crew spent a short night at the base of Gimli and started shooting again before dawn the next morning where they were greeted by a tribe of mountain goats that added their own authentic nature to the environment.
As the sun rose and the contrasts faded, the team packed up and moved on to the next location on Mulvey Lake, which involved a climb across a snowfield and a descent into a beautiful high alpine basin. Since the light was too bright for shooting until later in the afternoon, Justus and Megan took advantage of some down time, went swimming and dove off of an iceberg in the lake, while Jasmin and Evan went climbing.
There’s a reason we work for an outdoor gear company…
Of course, a lot of hard work is put in, too. The shot list included three different location scenarios, so it was important for the crew to shoot “smartly” (as Garrett puts it) and keep moving. Early the next morning they tore down camp and hiked to a steep ridge, which proved to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding destinations. Garrett was perched precariously throughout the duration of the shoot while Megan directed the scene and Justus, Jasmin and Evan positioned the tent. The moon lingered, visible into the morning and, working together, they were able to get “the shot.”
Five humans, three days, three lenses, two cameras and one tripod made it all come together in the Valhalla backcountry. In the end, Garrett shot 754 frames for five photographs that represent the true essence of MSR were selected for the MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent marketing campaign running throughout 2014.
“I have to admit it was pretty fun and felt like a work vacation at times, but our priority was to complete the shot list,” Justus says. “A lot of work and long days went into making the shoot a success. No complaints.”