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Adventure Sports Storytelling with Photographer/Filmmaker Corey Rich [EP 265]

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Corey Rich says that Long ago he learned the technical part of any job is 10 percent. Creativity, problem-solving, optimism, and surrounding yourself with intelligent, hardworking people are the remaining 90 percent. When you know how to be creative and assemble the right team, that's when all great things come. We talk about how he grew his photo career into prolific creative photo and video offerings that grace much of the media we’ve been drooling over for the past 20 plus years.

Show Notes

How were you introduced to the Outdoors and Adventure Sports Storytelling and Photography?

I was a gymnast as a kid, grew up in the Mojave desert. I was ironically about my daughter's age, seven years old in second grade, My second-grade teacher had an elite gymnast as a daughter and she thought it might be good for me to try gymnastics. I don't know if I was ever hooked on gymnastics, to be honest. I think I just liked the challenge of it even early on, it was hard. And then it became a huge part of my life, gosh, probably for close to 10 years, maybe a little less than 10 years. I became a pretty competitive gymnast who competed at the state level.

So one day we had a pull-up contest in junior high school and I did 35 pull-ups and one of the school teachers took notice of me and invited me to go rock climbing. And that weekend, my brother and I went climbing. We went to the Needles of California, a little spot called Dome Rock. And that was it. I was hooked. I just loved every aspect of climbing, the mental, the physical, the cultural components, the drive up to the needles with two of my school teachers, Bob Porter and George Egbert and I was hooked.

Then the next weekend I'd borrowed my dad's camera. Because I wanted to make better pictures, tell better stories of these weekend adventures. And I realized right away that my dad had a pretty nice camera, but my photos still suck. And I realized that it's not about the camera, it's about how you use it and how you think. So within a week, two passions were born. A passion for adventure, for climbing, and the passion for storytelling.

Where did the storytelling part come from? Do you have any storytellers in your family?

I think my dad was always this oral storyteller. He loved yucking it up, like shooting the shit with his buddies, in our kitchen or around a campfire. My dad was a scuba diver, big into back in the day when it was, a little more of the Wild West. Diving off the channel islands and you could actually bring home stuff to eat.

We had so much abalone, like hundreds of abalone shells in our backyard in buckets. He and his buddies every Friday after work, they would take off and they would get on a dive boat out of Ventura or Oxnard go out for two days. And they would come back with, wild tales of adventure and some food to eat. So I think I learned storytelling from him.

He always was a good storyteller. He would come home and tell some crazy tale of a kid blowing up and the sheriff coming to school and the parents having to get arrested, not always doom and gloom, but he could see the light. He understood the highlights of his day. He told even a better story of scuba diving, and so did his buddies.

Tell us about your first Adventure Sports Storytelling and Photography commercial shoot?

I started to shoot a ton of climbing. That was my passion. And it's worth saying that I simultaneously was really trying to just become a better photographer. So I started this parallel pursuit. I started working at the local newspaper taking on assignments for the Antelope Valley Press. Then in college, I went to the Modesto Bee and got two internships back-to-back in the summers. So I was learning to tell stories, editorial storytelling for the newspaper.

Then I took a semester off from college and drove around the Western United States, photographing rock climbing. And sent some unsolicited submissions at the end of that semester, one to Climbing magazine and one to Patagonia, the clothing brand. Much to my surprise, both of them called me within a weekend. Those were really my first climbing photographs to get published. One was the cover of Climbing magazine. It was a photo of my super close friend. Rikki Ishoy climbing at the Buttermilks right above your house. The other photo, I don't remember what it was, but it was a lifestyle photograph that published in the Patagonia catalog. That was really the first commercial paycheck I ever received. Those two first experiences really open the door.

I had the cover feature story and inside. And then Patagonia became my first real client because, commercial clients pay so much more, triple or quadruple what an editorial client pays. And Patagonia, I owe a lot to the climbing magazines and to Jane Sievert and Karen Bednorz with Patagonia at the time.

I started getting spec assignments where they would pay for my film and for the trip. Then they would license the pictures they wanted.  Then I think you're right, as my name started appearing in magazines and in Patagonia catalogs, the phone just started ringing more frequently. That opened the door to ad agencies calling and other outdoor brands.

How did you get involved with Novus Select?

20 plus years ago, in the early part of my career, I was just a prolific shooter. I was shooting all the time for the magazines and for Patagonia. And I owned all of that work. And so a big chunk of my income was relicensing that the images that I had shot. I might shoot for Patagonia or, for some brand. Then two years later I would be licensing those images again and again. This was the tail end of the heyday of stock photography. I missed the true heyday that was 20 years earlier, in the nineties. But a big chunk of my income was stock photography. At that point, my office was downstairs at my house in South Lake Tahoe. I had two staff members and one of them was dedicated entirely to licensing the stock photography business for us.

At one point a photographer and entrepreneur in the space, Jose Azel reached out to me or sent an email, I think he sent it to half a dozen photographers. And he said he owned a company called Aurora Photos, which had a very high-end stock photo agency. It was founded by a few national geographic photographers. Jose sent this email to a few of us and he asked Would you ever be interested in a brand that focused on outdoor adventure photography?

I was hit up for ideas like this all the time so I responded while flying back to Reno and I wrote a real simple response. I didn't know Jose personally, but I said, “yeah, I'd be interested, but I'd have to have some equity in the company“.

I landed in Reno, and I sent a hundred emails that I'd written while I was on the plane. By the time I'd walked out to my car, my cell phone was ringing and it was Jose on the other line. We had this long conversation about, what an ideal outdoor adventures stock agency would look like. Then we did an experiment and a few of us we all kicked in some money and committed some of our photography to create a collection. That was Dan and Janine Patitucci, Brian Bailey, Scott Markewitz, and Greg von Doersten. We all were the founding members. So we all did this together and it was an experiment. Some guys learned it was for them, some guys learned it wasn't for them.

Over time I was the last man standing, it was the right fit for me. It evolved over time into Jose and I being partners in Aurora photos. Then we created an assignment agency that was run out of New York City. That was originally called Aurora Novus. Meanwhile, the economy changed and we watched the ups and downs in our industry and the evolution of our industry. Eventually, it evolved into what it is today, which is Jose is no longer in the business, and Aurora photos sold off the stock photography agency side. Novus Select, which is the assignment and production company side is owned by four partners, that's Wyn Ruji, Lincoln Else, and Andy Mead. We have 13 full-time employees, we have an office and our office address, I love saying this we're at One One One One Ski Run Boulevard.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into Adventure Sports Storytelling and Photography?

Yeah, it just struck me recently that I think so often we look at the past what worked, what are the lessons that we can learn from the past, and how does the industry work? Of course, you should do that. You should look at what makes a great Adventure Sports Storytelling and Photographer, understand the craft. And understand what works from a business perspective, but never feel confined by what worked in the past.

Then I think we're truly living in the golden age of storytelling. It's right now. You're no longer beholden to a publisher, that you're begging to publish your photographs. You are the publisher, you own your channel or 20 channels. Whether it's podcasts, photography, books, just do your thing.

I don't have the answer, but it's, that 20-year-old kid coming out of college or dropping out of college right now to drive around in their, sprinter van and take pictures and shoot films climbing. Your career is not going to evolve the same way that mine did. I'm old school now. I was this guy that shot film and had mages published in print magazines, the 20-year-old coming out of college right now, they're going to be leveraging the internet. They're going to be leveraging platforms like Instagram and Facebook. They're going to be doing podcasts and they're going to be creating whatever the next iteration of a blog is. You're going to be shooting in VR, using venues on Facebook. And it's going to be more immediate and you're going to figure out how to monetize all of these platforms and you're going to monetize your audience.

So I don't have the answers, but I definitely recognize that this is an incredible moment in time from a business standpoint and from an Adventure Sports Storytelling and Photography selling standpoint the power has never been more in the hands of the content creator.

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Snippets

Transcript

[00:01:11] Welcome to the show, Corey. Hey, thanks for having me. It's a, it's really great to catch you up. It's been too long. Yeah, it's been a long time. I was trying to think. I think the last time we were together was one of the events in Jackson where we were. I forgot what it was. It was either one of those workshops or we were doing a product thing.

[00:01:29] I can't, I don't remember it, but yeah. It might've been one of the the summit adventure workshops, which sadly I'll admit there's still thriving, but I have every year I intend to be there and get pulled away for an assignment. You're still at the global traveler from what little that I can follow you on yours all over the place.

[00:01:47] We'll talk a little bit about that. I would say that's true up until I guess March of 2020 when the pandemic hit and I've, like many people, I think a lot of our lives really changed and evolved, during the pandemic of the last roughly year. And for me, it's I was doing a book tour.

[00:02:05] I had a book come out in the fall of 2019. Yeah. And I was doing a book tour early 2020. And I remember my last stop was in New York city and it was as the world was wrapping our heads around. What is COVID-19 mean. And I remember pulling into, I was staying at like a, Marriott property and I remember I'm w I did a quick workout in the morning and I jumped in a cab to go to the airport.

[00:02:33] And I remember talking to my wife and she said, why don't you stop at a CVS and get like hand sanitizer in the past? And of course I, I'm in New York city and I stopped to do CVS. And, there wasn't a tick. Hand sanitizer in the site or a mask. And I got on like my last flight back to Reno, Nevada to come home to Tahoe and except for one excursion over the last 12 months, I've all but been home and I've done a few driving assignments, but my world's really evolved.

[00:03:04]My, my business went from. You're traveling 200 plus days a year, and that they're directing in person or depressing the shutter in person to tons of remote, directing creative consulting, a few shoots where we gathered a crew when it felt safe, took all of the COVID protocols.

[00:03:24] And it's been, I have to admit this maybe the first time I'm admitting it out loud, but certainly in public, it's been like the most fantastic year of my life to be home. Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah. My seven and a half year old daughter, Layla. She wakes up at seven and a half. How'd that happen?

[00:03:42] I think she was like two last time I saw. Yeah, no kidding. No kidding. It's great. But it's been pretty amazing to be, she wakes up and I'm at the house unless I'm out ski touring or riding my bike and I'm home when she goes to bed. And I don't know, I can't say, I can't say that there's been a single moment.

[00:04:02] Where I felt this burning desire to get back on a plane and do a complicated sequence of travel to promote place during this year. And I think when it turns on it and I'll be just as excited as they used to be. To explore the open road and be out there. But I am soaking in every minute of being home and that'd be doing the same.

[00:04:22] Yeah. I would be doing the same. And we've all had, like you said, we've all been impacted by it in our own. I used to travel a fair amount too. Not so much since I came back to Bishop and settled into the work I'm doing now, like you on the road hundreds of days a year, and it changes you and it really.

[00:04:39] I think creates an adventure wanderlust, any that you look forward to, but then when it stops on the same, I'm you know what, this is cool hanging out here in Bishop and doing the podcast and getting to explore some of the area and stuff. Yeah. Yeah. I would say the only missing piece that's been a little hard is, here I am hanging out in South Lake Tahoe and.

[00:04:59] Certainly getting plenty of recreation, but the hanging out with friends has been a lot harder because of COVID. It's, I have two elderly parents that live nearby and definitely cautious around, I wouldn't say we're on the extreme side of caution. With COVID, but we're somewhere right in the middle.

[00:05:14] We're not loose and you're not overly cautious. But it's, it's. That's been a tough one. It's, some of my closest friends, we just can't hang out in doors right now. We're keeping the pod close. So of course the good news is that forest is more ski tours and mountain bike rides and that's a good thing.

[00:05:30]Yeah exactly. But it's, I guess it all comes down to. How do you adapt? Like how do you as a human being and as an entrepreneur and as a creative, how do you adapt in times when you know, you think it's going to be one way and then life deals you an unexpected card.

[00:05:46] And I think that's what the pandemic has been for everyone. That's the 800 pound gorilla still in the room. We don't know what the future is. And when we have this previous life that we're used to hopping on planes, not thinking twice about, hitting the road, but now, with, even with the vaccine, I don't know that this is ever going to go away for, maybe.

[00:06:07] In Layla's lifetime that then they won't be worried about it. It'd be like the flu for her generation, but for us, as we transitioned through, the fixes and the remedies and the vaccinations and all the different things, is that going to take two years, is that going to take 20 years? It's a an unclear future for us.

[00:06:24] Yeah. Yeah. I certainly don't claim to be an expert on that one. No, I have no idea. Could it be, could be the vaccine will solve it all and we'll be back to normal. That'd be great. Yeah. Yeah. I've definitely learned, and I think this comes from sort of mountain experience. It's, you learn to adapt and cope with whatever situation you're in.

[00:06:42]You fly halfway around the world and he planted right on an expedition and you plan for, dry weather, but it rains the whole time. And you end up wearing a trash bag for 15 days. I think we're in that world, it's, we're going to be wearing masks and there's going to be certain protocols and lifestyle changes that, know, we hadn't accounted for, but life will go on and even our industry will, it will go on.

[00:07:05] We're seeing that, we're still doing, we're slowly tiptoeing back into major production, 30, 40 people on a set and everyone's getting coat. COVID tests every day and everyone's wearing masks and social distancing and hand sanitizing. And there's a new role on the crew and it's the COVID compliance officer shoots.

[00:07:26] So it's, I think we, I think that's one thing we've proven is as humans. And I think certainly as storytellers, we're pretty adaptable people like we're, persevere and we'll adapt and we'll. Do it as safely as it can possibly be done. Yeah. And I think it's, as a society, we're making strides in the right direction with vaccinations and yeah.

[00:07:48] Yeah. Yeah. It'll be interesting to see how this, how this plays out for society, but also for the outdoor and photography video storytelling industries. Yeah. Yeah. That'll be fun to watch. Yeah. So let's start with how you got introduced to outdoors and adventure. Yeah. I, when I was a gymnast as a kid, grew up in the Mojave desert.

[00:08:08] And when I was ironically about my daughter's age, seven years old in second grade, My second grade teacher had a, an elite gymnast as a daughter and she thought it might be good for me to try gymnastics. And, I don't know if I was ever hooked on gymnastics, to be honest. I think I just liked the challenge of it even early on, it was like hard.

[00:08:30] It was scary and hard. My sister did gymnastics. She worked her ass off at it. Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah, no, it was. And then it became a huge part of my life, gosh, probably for close to 10 years, maybe a little less than 10 years. I became a pretty competitive gymnast competed at like the state level.

[00:08:49]And, but became a pretty good athlete, really strong learning, discipline, trained hard six days a week, sometimes three or four hours a day, six days a week. And sorry, was it did you, was it close? Did, could you just go to your side? Cause my sister had to get shuttled all around, know, and then as you get better, you get to go to the different club over here, which has a better coach.

[00:09:09] So was there a lot of commute time so to speak? We were in a pretty rural community. Actually, we lived in near the antelope Valley. I lived in uptake, a tiny town called Leona Valley. So it was 20 minutes to get to the gym. And and my mom and dad, they shut opening and there was this crazy moment where it was a non-profit gym.

[00:09:28] There was only, I think it was just one gym in town. And at one point we were losing the coach on my parents because I was pretty involved. They offered to let the new coach, they, we hired a coach from Michigan. He was like, some stud like national team member, just out of college. He moved into our house with us.

[00:09:51] And tell me on Xero is his name. And then my world really changed. Then it was like the coach lived in our house. So I went to the gym whenever Tony went to the gym. And I remember Tony rolled into town yet hardly Davidson, like with the. They're like, hi handlebars. And I was like 10 years old sitting on the back of his Harley, going to the gym.

[00:10:13] And Tony was a bad-ass. Tony was like he was the real deal, took it to the next level. I got so fit and it's definitely where I learned self-discipline and where I, I mastered the art of, pushing hard and forcing myself to live outside of the comfort zone.

[00:10:29] And Tony went on to produce a couple of Olympians, like just bad-ass girls. Like the girls team was incredible, but so Tony helped sculpt me into being this, pretty solid athlete. And so then one day we had a pull up contest in junior high school and I did 35 pull-ups and in one of the school teachers took notice of me and invited me to go ride.

[00:10:54] Cool. And that weekend, my brother and I. Went climbing. We went to the neat needles of California, a little spot called dome rock. And that was it. Like I was hooked. I just, I loved every aspect of climbing, the mental, the physical, the cultural components, just the drive up to the needles with two of my school teachers, it was Bob and George Egbert and and I was hooked.

[00:11:16] And then the next weekend I'd borrowed my dad's camera. Because I wanted to make better pictures, know, make, tell better stories this weekend adventures. And I realized right away that my dad had a pretty nice camera, but my photos still suck. And I realized that how it's not about the camera, it's about how you use it and how you think.

[00:11:35] And within a week, two passions were born in a passion for adventure, for climbing and the passion for storytelling. And I really. No in parallel, started to try to climb as much as I possibly could. And, in the gym, I started ad hoc training for climbing. And then I started consuming as much literature on photography as I possibly could.

[00:11:57] And that was it. Like I, I was on the track. I wouldn't have known them at what point? I don't know what the, I was 13 or 15, 13, 13 years old. They've got you over 30 years later, that would be my career. Where did the storytelling part come from? Do you have any storytellers in your family?

[00:12:15]I think my dad was always this oral storyteller. He loved yucking it up, like shooting the shit with his buddies, in our kitchen or around a campfire. My dad was a scuba diver, like big into back in the day when it was, a little more. Wild West off the channel islands and you could actually bring home stuff to eat.

[00:12:35] Exactly. It's, I always joke that we used to eat like abalone. Like it was ground beef. We had so much abalone, like hundreds of abalone shells in our backyard in buckets, but yeah, he and his buddies would, every. Friday after work, they would take off and they would get on a dive boat off of, out of Ventura or Oxnard go out for two days.

[00:12:59] And they would come back with, wild tales of adventure and some food to eat. And so I think I learned it from him and, he used to love telling stories about work. My dad was an educator. He said first the teacher at the high school level, then the counselor and then vice principal, and then became a.

[00:13:17] An assistant superintendent that a pretty big school district in the antelope Valley. And, I think he always, he was just a good storyteller. Like he would come home and tell some crazy tale of a kid blowing up and the sheriff coming to school and the parents having to get arrested, not always doom and gloom, but he just, he could see the light.

[00:13:39] He understood sort of the highlights of his day. Told even a better story of scuba diving. And so did his buddies, you know what? Great friends. And I think that's, I think that's where I learned it, but then it got taken to the next level. That's part of the climbing culture.

[00:13:52] I would get in the car with Bob Porter and George Egbert, my school teachers, and, for three hours on the drive to the Eagles, they would tell stories and then we'd get back in the car and tell more stories. And I think you quickly learn, I don't know, a climber that doesn't tell stories.

[00:14:07] I, I think that's really. That's part of the culture. I don't think I know an outdoor person that doesn't tell stories. That's part of the deal, right? Yeah. That's yeah, that's right. That's right. Half of them are true. And the other half wildly exaggerated and half of the story that they tell it, there's only like maybe 20% of it.

[00:14:22] That's true. The rest of it was Bellis to the Hill. Yeah. No, absolutely. So what was your first commercial shoot? I guess you had you shot. The climbing that you did. So that's your, probably your first outdoor adventure activity shooting, but what was your first commercial shoot? I started to shoot a ton of climbing.

[00:14:39]That was my passion. And it's worth saying that I, it, I simultaneously was really trying to just become a better photographer. And so I started this parallel pursuit. I. I I started working at the local newspaper taking on assignments for the animal Valley press. And then in college, I went to the Modesto bee.

[00:14:59] I got an in two internships two back to back summers. And so I was learning to tell stories, editorial storytelling for the newspaper. And then finally I took a semester off from college and I drove around the Western United States, photographing rock climbing. And due to unsolicited submissions at the end of that semester off one to climbing magazine and one to Patagonia, the clothing brand, and much to my surprise that, both of them called me within a weekend.

[00:15:29] Just some pictures. And that was, so unintentionally or, those two unsolicited submissions. Those were really my first climbing photographs to get published. One was the cover of climbing magazine. It was like a photo of my super close friend. Ricky is Shaw climbing and the table lands right above your house.

[00:15:49] And and then the other. Photo. I don't remember what it was, but it was a lifestyle photograph that published in the Patagonia catalog. And that was really the first commercial, paycheck that I ever received. And then that those steps, those two first experiences really open the door.

[00:16:06] To making money, becoming a professional photographer, probably open two doors. Yeah. Probably open the door for you. Cause you could see that, Hey, this is a thing. And then it also put you on the map so that other people yeah, definitely those two brands. I started getting published in like every issue of climbing magazine and then eventually rock and ice magazine.

[00:16:25] I had the cover feature story and side. And then Patagonia became my, my real client because, commercial clients pay so much more in a triple or quadruple what a, an editorial client pays. And Patagonia, I owe a lot to the climbing magazines and to Jane Seaver, Karen bed, Norris that Patagonia at the time.

[00:16:46] And, I started getting first spec assignments where they would pay for my film and they would pay for the trip. And then they would just license the pictures. They wanted Patagonia and it was some first assignments at climbing and rock and ice. And then I think you're right as my name just started appearing in magazines and in Patagonia catalogs, the phone just started ringing more frequently and that opened the door to ad agencies calling and other outdoor brands.

[00:17:12]And, it, it was a pretty steep incline like it up, I was a, nobody who, worked at a newspaper for two years to save up 3000 bucks to go on a road trip to the phone was blowing up. And I was having a hard time passing my classes in college because I was, I was on the road constantly.

[00:17:32] No, I never did three, three classes. Oh, it's so close. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it took a, monumental Herculean battle to even get to that point. I was just, the last two years of college. I I think without exaggeration, I was probably on the I probably only attended 20% classes and I, to this day, I'm surprised that I pulled that off, but, I know my dad would love one day for me to finish.

[00:18:02] I'm just not sure that's actually in the cards and these days it's, it's a whole different world. I'm not sure that college degree holds as much cache as it did back then. Yeah. So how did that get that, that said, just in case there's kids listening, I will say that I got a ton out of college.

[00:18:18] I, I, in no way would endorse while I didn't finish. I think, the only obstacle that might create as one day, I could envision myself being a college faculty member. And that might be a barrier, but who knows maybe I can convince twist someone's arm and to making an exception, but I will say those, My five years in college, definitely paved the way and opened the door to just life experience and exposure and, intellectual conversation and opportunity that I don't think I would have found had I just gone straight out of.

[00:18:53] Out of high school and to pursuing my passion. Yeah. Yeah. Same for me. I stumbled into the recreation degree and here I am, 30 years on and outdoor career. So don't, I just think that college is one of many options as we, as the world expands. Yeah. So how did you get involved with Nova select?

[00:19:09] When did that start at that start back then? Or was it a little later. There's a bit of a history there. Gosh, going on, I'm terrible with time. So I could be off by a decade. We will know the direction we will hold it, 20 plus years ago, in the early part of my career, I was just a prolific shooter.

[00:19:27] I was shooting all the time for the magazines and for Patagonia. And I owned all of that work. And so I was, big chunk of my income was relicensing that the images that I had shot, so I might shoot it for Patagonia or, for some brand. And then two years later I would be licensing it again and again, and it was the tail end of the heyday of stock photography.

[00:19:51]I missed the true ed that was, 20 years. Earlier, early nineties, late nineties. And, but I was making a lot of money, a big chunk of, I shouldn't say a lot of money, but a chunk of my income was stock photography. And at that point, yeah. My office was in my downstairs of my house in South Lake Tahoe.

[00:20:12] And I had one staff member. I had two staff members and one of them was dedicated entirely to licensing stock photography business for us. And at one point A photographer and entrepreneur in the space. Jose Ezell reached out to me or sent an email, I think to it, half a dozen photographers.

[00:20:33] And he said he owned a company called Aurora photos, which had a very high end stock photo agency. It was founded by a few national geographic photographers. And Jose had sent an email to a few of us and he said, if. Would you ever be interested in a brand that focused on outdoor adventure photography?

[00:20:50]And I was hit up for ideas like this all the time. And I responded while flying back to Reno. I have a laptop and I, that was way before wifi on planes. And I wrote. The response, real simple response. I didn't know Jose personally, but I said, yeah, I'd be interested, but I'd have to have some equity in the company.

[00:21:09] Otherwise, there's no point and landed in Reno, sent a hundred emails that I'd written while I was on the plane. And by the time I'd walked out to my car, my cell phone was ringing and it was Jose on the other line. And we had this long conversation about, what. An ideal outdoor adventures doc agency would look like, and then we did an experiment and a few of us we all kicked in some money and committed some of our photography to create a collection.

[00:21:35] Within Aurora. And that was Dan and Janine Patitucci Brian Bailey, Scott Markowitz, and Greg Vaughn doorstep. We all were the founding members. I was on the show a couple of weeks ago, actually. Oh, cool. Yeah, that's a great, yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. Oh gee. Legendary history. And so we all did this together and it was an experiment.

[00:21:58] Some guys learned. It was for them. Some guys learned it wasn't for them. And over time I was the last man standing, it was the right fit for me. And it evolved over time into Jose and I were partners in Aurora photos. And then we sat, we created a, an assignment agency that was run out of New York city.

[00:22:19] That was originally called it Roy Novus. And, meanwhile, the economy changed and we watched kind of ups and downs in our industry and evolution of our industry. And any out, eventually it evolved into what it is today, which is Jose is. No longer in the business and Aurora photos sold off the stock photography agency side is no longer owned by Jose or me and Novus select, which is the assignment and production company side is owned by four partners.

[00:22:50] Three of my really close friends here in South Lake Tahoe. And that's when Ruggie Lincoln Ellis and Andy need. And we have an incredible staff. We have 13 full-time employees and we have an office or our office address. I love saying this where one, one, one, one ski run boulevards. Easy to remember. Yeah.

[00:23:12]And yeah, so we were a production company slash Brit assignment agency. And we we still we'll have a foothold in the outdoor adventures, but it's not the bulk of what we do. We found this sweet spot where. A lot of our work is in kind of technology. We're, working for fortune 500 brands telling stories and that's, everyone from Apple to Google, to Amazon, others, other startups, and yet we still, we're all passionate storytellers.

[00:23:40] And so we're still working on. No documentary films, and we're still working on photo shoots that take us to wild outdoor adventure destination. One thing that we stumbled into is that. Damn, it's kinda hard to grow up and make enough money to pay a mortgage and save for your kid's college education, exclusively working in the outdoor industry.

[00:24:02]That's a that's I think the outdoor industry is. Beginning to deal with that as an entity, because it comes up on a few conversations and you start to see articles about it lately. It's I just had to go do something else, yeah. And don't get me wrong. I think it's for, three quarters of my career.

[00:24:17] It was amazing. Yeah. It's great. And it's it's I am who I am because of the outdoor industry. Many of my values are. I evolved and I established because of the outdoor industry and it's still a huge part of who I am, but we also, I think as partners that know this, we figured out this hack, which has, gosh, we can still do the work we love, which is the outdoor adventure work is a portion of it, but we can also do highly stimulating, challenging work in larger industries where there's a Z.

[00:24:49] One or two zeros added to every job on the invoice. And and yeah it's, it feels like a really sweet spot right now. We have an incredible staff of people that I work with a team. They're, I'm blown away every day, how impressive our team is each individual. But then as a team, how well we perform.

[00:25:12]We'll link to that in the show notes, you guys have always produced some great work yeah. Thanks. Thanks. Yeah, it's and I'll say, I appreciate you linking to us in the show notes. It's an interesting one. When folks go to the Novus website, folks will scratch their heads a little bit.

[00:25:25] They'll be like, wait, I thought he said they don't do outdoor adventure, but then you'll see are real. Or, it's not our main stage, then you'll see our real. And then there's a lot of adventure work and you'll see some of the examples of what we have done. And one of the interesting phenomena is when you're working in that, fortune 100 fortune 500 world, a lot of the work we do, we're just not allowed to share or take credit for.

[00:25:49] And and I think there's a bit of a. We as partners and as a staff, we've checked our ego at the door and said that's okay. That's okay. I think we're growing. It's like we're being paid to grow. We're doing challenging work. We're super proud of a lot of the work that we do.

[00:26:04] It's just, we have to, and we get paid well for it, but we have to own the fact that much of it. We can't put it on our website, but that's admirable because that shows that you're committed to the craft as opposed to the, you're committed to the client, but it really doesn't matter who the client is.

[00:26:19] You're all about the story and the imagery and all those things, which I think is very admirable. You guys are going to tell a great story and capture great images. Doesn't matter if it's, Novartis or. The Bishop here in commerce. It's going to be what it is, do what you do. That's great. Wait, do we have a piece up there by Novartis or did that's really hilarious?

[00:26:40] We do work for Novartis. Sorry to bother us. I just know, I don't know anything that's really flew to. I'm also, that you saying of artists, I think it's, there's a little nugget of being safe in that. The industry small, I I've known you for a long time and our paths have crossed paths many times and we'll continue to cross paths.

[00:27:00]We've actively had an internship program at Novus over the last first when it was Corey rich productions photos. No. The select we've had, dozens and dozens of interns paid internships over the years. And one of our interns be horn. He was from Maine, but had his mother whispered Switzerland and he, after he left us, he ended up with a job at Novartis in Switzerland and brought us in to do it, pretty major production in Switzerland, two years ago.

[00:27:29] And so I, the lesson in there is the network that you're building those relationships th it's really important to maintain quality. Relationships with people because it's, you never know where it's going to lead. And in the best way, we, we laughed many times when we were in Switzerland working with the orange, now our intern was our boss and there was, that was not lost on him either.

[00:27:54] He found great humor and the joy in telling us what we needed to do. That must have been fun. This podcast is a great example of that too. It's a collection of the people I've met over the years and also the connections that they've made for me. So it's yeah, it's just been, it's a great community and it's amazing where it takes people.

[00:28:14] Yeah. You start in the outdoor biz, but look it for you guys. It connected you with someone like Novartis, it's, you never know where the path is going to lead. So yeah, and for me, the in and just to close that circle or that. That thread, the outdoor adventure piece of my life.

[00:28:30]It's, I live it every day. In fact, I have to admit, I'm so glad that I looked at my calendar last night because I, right before I went to bed, I noticed, Oh, I'm doing this podcast because I, in my brain was going to get up at five 30 and go for a ski tour. And and I'm going, and I'm glad. So I get a dose of that outdoor adventure.

[00:28:51] Yeah. Every day living in tile. It's why I looked at Tahoe and there's no, and I it's true that I probably shoot an outdoor adventure picture. Every time I go out for an adventure, whether that's riding my bike, whether that's skiing, whether that's climbing, th the differences, I don't always bring my nighttime.

[00:29:07]I think sometimes I'm truly out there for myself. And if I see something amazing, I'd shoot a picture with my iPhone and it's more kind of a, a record shot, something that I it's a memory. It's a quick moment. I'm not always trying to publish everything that I shoot. Jesus, we won't go down this path, but the new iPhone 12 Holy cow, that you might be able to publish some of the hosts.

[00:29:28] Yes, no it's incredible. It's incredible. And I, yeah. But I, and then I also find that I can, if I chose to, I could fill my year with exclusively either non outdoor adventure storytelling. And I also know that's not the right balance for me, that I opened my door and said, my dog can come into my office.

[00:29:48]And but I do, I make certain, it's one of the realities is I need to make sure that every year I'm doing a few expeditions or kind of adventure trips and that I'm not exclusively telling stories, which are. No non adventure. I need enough of that to feed my soul. Yeah. And just from a, creatively and even physically, I need to go out and suffer and get cold and wet and be uncomfortable for a couple of weeks at a time multi-day stuff.

[00:30:18] Yeah. Yeah. It just makes me home and working on projects that don't make me as uncomfortable, physically more enjoyable. We're going to take a little break and give some love to our sponsor Wolfgang man, and beast should bring us here. And I know you and your pup have been itching to get outside Wolfgang man and beast celebrate the unique relationship between dogs and their people.

[00:30:39] They offer American made leashes and collars for your pup using only the finest American leathers and textiles, plus a distinctive collection of t-shirts and hats for you. Built domestically and transported minimally. They will be replaced, rarely visit the outdoor biz podcast.com/wolfgang and get your pup a new Leasher color today.

[00:30:57] I see wet slobbery kisses in your future. So is there a shoot in your past that was particularly Epic, either crazy weather. I've heard some of your travel stories. Those were pretty crazy stories. Cranky subjects. Yeah. Not cranky subjects. I have to say cool subjects. I've done a pretty good job of.

[00:31:18] Getting cranky subjects before I even commit to going on the trip. And there aren't many, I have to say in our industry, I think people have bad months or bad weeks on, on an expedition, but in general look, I've spent a lot of time around all of the best, many of the best adventure athletes and they're pretty solid.

[00:31:40] And even some of the folks that get bad raps, that maybe were a little quirky. A lot of times as the trip gets rough and the weather gets rough, those guys, their personalities get better. I was like that trucks out. It's all the stories come out and they just get committed. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:31:55] No, absolutely. Yeah. I don't know what my sweet spot. I'm still at the core. I'm a rock climber. Like I just love. The climate and culture. I love skiing. I love mountain biking. I love kind of adventure trips, but climbing is. Climbing is as special as it gets. There's just a certain breed of human that loves climbing to this day.

[00:32:19] I really, I still light up when I'm on a climbing trip and hanging on the side of the wall. This past summer, one amazing aspect of the pandemic was, again, I'm home and a year ago. Gotcha. Just over a year ago, we CRE pandemic even. My, our dear friends, Chris McNamara, and his wife, Victoria, were at our house and we're all gathered around the our kitchen Island.

[00:32:44] And I think Tim, you and Neil and his now wife, Sarah steel, or Sarah now, Sarah oatmeal. We're joking. We're always steals because she's Sarah Steele and we're all in our kitchen pre pandemic talking about couple's trips and the ladies, Sarah Victoria, and Marina, and my wife's let's climb El cap together.

[00:33:05] And the guys of course brushed it off. We're like that ain't happening. We humored them and sure enough, in the middle of the pandemic, we went and did a three couples ascent Zodiac. So yeah, six, six of us that the Zodiac and. And it was God, it was awesome. Not that my job was exclusively to take pictures.

[00:33:25] My job was to make sure Marina was safe and watch over the whole party, but it's just, a year has passed or had passed since I'd been on El cap. And it was a reminder of just like that's, I love that place. I love being in a big vertical environment, seeing the forest below and birds flying by and, looking through my lens, looking through the camera and making compelling images, it's just such a.

[00:33:50] It's a wonderful space to make images that has never gone away from me. It's still, I, that kind of lights the fire. Every time I start sending a line or hanging in my heart, it's with a camera strapped to my back. Yeah. I think rafting river on the river for me is that spot. I don't get to do it much anymore.

[00:34:08] We don't have whitewater here. My knees are so hammered. I'm not sure I can anchor myself in a book properly, but it's that's the place just same kind of thing. There's just action. There's water. Just moving things. There's things to deal with. It's pretty fun. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So when you get an assignment or would you go negotiate an assignment?

[00:34:26] How do you go about developing the story of the shoot? Do you ever, do you have a recipe in mind ahead of time or does it come up during the brainstorming session? How's that come about? Yeah. I'm a really collaborative guy. I, when a project comes up, I I think that's 80% of the reason I get hired.

[00:34:43] It's, there's a lot of guys, men and women. They can take a nice photo or shooter, interesting looking video. Yeah. But it's the approach and the story and the narrative and the logistics piece I think is honestly where maybe I shine the most. And then maybe that's through now just years and years of experience.

[00:35:03]I always say that the reason I get hired is not because of what I can do. It's because of the mistakes I've already made that I won't make again. It's really true. I I feel like so often I get hired and it's right at the beginning of the project, I can already identify the potential issues and that's what I ended up talking about for the first, couple of hours with the client is let's not do this because I can see this issue and let's not do this because I think this is the best approach.

[00:35:32] And so it's that process and approach that I really, I love the process and in the process comes the story development. And it's, a lot of brainstorming and talking and thinking, it's also the right team. That's the other it's interesting. Even in Hollywood, a director wins, an Academy award, the reality and they do a good job of it when they stand up and give a speech.

[00:35:54] It's not them. Because they were key. They were the CEO of the film. But the reality is there were know people that are super smart and contributed a ton and made thousands of decisions along the way that made that film work and not become a total disaster. And I think in any project that I do, it's sure it's me that at the end of the day, I'm responsible for don't eff it up, but there's also, Anywhere from one to a dozen people who are equally as engaged and involved in making smart decisions at every turn.

[00:36:28] So I do think, the secret is surrounding, one being committed. It's, being truly focused and. And trying to think like chess, you're thinking a few moves ahead. It's okay, if we do this, then what does that mean? What's the consequence, what's the benefit. And then it's surrounding yourself with the right team.

[00:36:47] It's not cutting corners. It's engaging the right people who have the right motivation, the right skillset the right time availability. And and then diving wholeheartedly into it. And and that's the process. The truth is like that is that is the process that I've been using for close to 30 years now, just in the beginning, it was in the beginning, it was mostly me.

[00:37:10] And I just did, most of the, I put in all the blood, sweat and tears, and then slowly over time, I had the ability to get other people involved and help. And it's not that, you bring other people in not to do the work for you. You bring other people in to do the pieces that they're better at so that you can focus on the stuff that, there's certain things that I'm the expert in.

[00:37:31]That's where my time should be doing. I shouldn't, my town should be going to that highest level story development. And decision-making the visual aesthetic. Some of the logistics stuff. Can I do it? Yeah, I probably can. Although I'll admit I'm some of the day-to-day how to do it.

[00:37:45] I've been a little detached from that now for years or the financial side of it. Could I do yeah, no, I was going to say that's part of the team too is make sure not only you have the right. Members, but you have the right members in the right assignment because you can have the right guy.

[00:38:00] But like you said, you get some guy who's a great digital editing guy, but you put them there sleeping bags. Yeah. The right guy. But makes sense. Yeah no, that's exactly right. It's the right people doing the right jobs with kind of the right mental attitude. That's, the other key is right. No, I've definitely met folks that are really good at what they do, but bad attitude.

[00:38:21] That's quickly they're off the team. I think Brian Bailey or  Kabbalah years and years ago, 20 years ago, I don't know if you know a legend in the, Adventure sports worldly. They gave me some kind of in passing some advice, which is look or people just want to work with people that they enjoy being around like good people.

[00:38:44]And now, I think I understood that then, but now I understand that it's not just clients want to work with people that they enjoy being around. As a, I'm going to say a director or the project lead. I want to work with people that I enjoy doing that. Whether that's our full-time staff at Novus or contractors that we hire, the person that's good at what they do that has, that just a little off, yeah, I can relate to that through some of the, the brand jobs I've had, over the years you get to, you get a great team and everything just comes along and then you get to a place where, Oh yeah, this is good. But I remember when we were at and it's like any sports team, any, like you said, expedition team, but it's all the same.

[00:39:19] Yeah. It's it's sometimes it's hard to read you won't you don't know, you'll get out there to go, ah, man, this is not quite right, you persevere like we were talking earlier, so yeah. So before your daughter walks in and let's talk about, she's about to wake up, I think you said, tell us about your book stories behind the images came out.

[00:39:37] And I think you said 19 2019, what spawned that day? Yeah. And the end of 2019 really came out of I was putting together essays for my blog, and this goes back, gosh, five, seven years ago. I Maybe even close to 10 years ago, when blogs were the thing. I found myself, I was working with Andrew Bisharat.

[00:39:57] Who's a very talented writer and very close friend of mine. Andrew and I were on it, usually on a monthly basis every now and again, we'd crank out two in a month picking a photograph and then telling the story behind that image. And and gosh, we, it started out as just a fun project.

[00:40:13] And then, we published like 80 of those essays over a few years. And, they were anywhere from, 500 words to, 3000 word SS and they started out instructional. Usually it was like, how did I make this picture? And then we realized it just wasn't that fun to do, how to essays that the more I could tell stories of, how I bumbled and fumbled mistakes I made and, the caricature is if the people in the photographs, one, it was way more fun to tell those stories and to just, the engagement was significantly higher.

[00:40:45] And sometimes we got like hundreds of thousands of views on these essays. And and then of course we started publishing on the blog, but then we would publish on social media at Facebook at the time. And that got even more traffic. And, we got to the point where we had published, I think it was something like 80 of these essays in one day, Andrew and I looked at each other and we said, God, I'm going to be written a book.

[00:41:09] I guess it's here it is. It's going to require editing. Sure. And so we, I decided let's self publish a book. And so we went down this road of Andrew and I edited those 80 essays down to 50 ish that says, sometimes combining themes and, eliminating the, the less.

[00:41:27] Kind of interesting essays. And that was, fun, but difficult process to get it tighter. And we, Lindsay Thompson, one of our producers at Novus, we went down to San Francisco and met with printing houses, Lindsay and I hired a designer and we laid out the whole book and then I was.

[00:41:48] I remember I was flying to Siberia for an expedition and I was, it was a massive sequence of travel and I was going to be gone for a month. And on the first flight I needed to make the decision, which which printing house to use. And I remember thinking to myself What the fuck are we doing?

[00:42:08]Why are we going to publish this? This just sounds write a check for 25,000 bucks to print it. And two, we were going to have boxes of books and distribution and marketing in a book tour. And so I remember I landed somewhere in the United States, before the first international flight and I called Lindsay and I said, Lindsay, Like pause, pull the e-brake.

[00:42:32] We have the book in hand, let's send that book to a few publishers and just see if they want to take it off. So we sent it to Patagonia. They have a publishing division who sent it to the mountaineers in Seattle. And then I had previously 20 years earlier published a book with Chronicle books. And so we committed to.

[00:42:51] Giving them the first right of refusal. So we sent it to Chronicle and it was pretty awesome. I, disappeared. Like we had a sat phone, but we couldn't really, I couldn't even, it was really to call home and I went into the Siberian. Tundra for a month, three weeks. And when I came out, I called Lindsay when I got to the 10 to the first landline, and Lindsay said, Patagonia is super interested, but mountaineers is super interested and Chronicle is going to pass.

[00:43:24] They're not doing photo books and long story short, we went with the mountaineers. And it was the best decision that we made and it's great. Fantastic. Thanks. Thanks. They did a great job. They, they've probably evolved to 10% layout changes and some copy edits and but more importantly, we just had smart people that's what they do every day.

[00:43:45] Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That was great idea. Yeah. Okay. We had a distribution channel in place and we helped them. They helped us with the book tour. Yeah. No I, that we did 25 or 30 stops around the country tour stops, and that was super fun. And thank goodness it came out pre COVID and then, I did, I say, never travel.

[00:44:05] What are the things, what are the things you did? I don't remember where I saw this, but I saw a couple. Maybe you were on Facebook or something, but you were sitting with Layla on or reading. She was reading or she was picking the stories. That would be a great little thing. And if you guys out there listening, want to check these out, I think they're on Facebook, but some of those little interactions where that was cool.

[00:44:24] I love that. That was fun. That was right at the beginning of the pandemic, you asked why did I do the book? The truth is I did the book because I. I'm planning to live until I'm a hundred, but yes. Yeah. I got hit by a bus tomorrow. I wanted Layla to have that's cool. Some of these stories and if I hope it makes some other people happy along the way and brings joy to their lives, but I really wanted this to exist for Layla.

[00:44:50] And that was pretty fun at the beginning of the pandemic. I just impromptu started sitting down and reading her a chapter. Yeah. And so you got to pick the chapter, right? Because there were a couple of times you looked at and go really that's the one you're going to pick. Yeah. Yeah. That's exactly right.

[00:45:04] That's pretty funny. I wish I would've stuck to that and finished the book, but then, loosened up a little with the pandemic. Yeah. You can get back to it. Do I do one a month or something? Yeah. Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into. The photo game, the storytelling game.

[00:45:20] Yeah. I think about this frequently. Yeah. W it just struck me recently that I think. So often we look at the past what worked, what are the lessons that we can learn from the past and how is the industry work? And of course you should do that. You should look at what makes it great photographer, a great director, a great storyteller, understand the craft.

[00:45:43] But in terms of, and understand what works from a business perspective, but never feel confined by what, what worked in the past. And then I think we're truly living in like the golden age of storytelling. It's right now. It's right now. You're no longer beholden to a publisher, that you're begging them to publish your photographs.

[00:46:05] You are the publisher, you own your channel 20 channels, right? Whether it's podcasts, photography, books, just do your thing. Yeah. That's what I said. I like that be innovative. It's your job. I don't have the answer, but it's, that 20 year old kid. It's coming out of college or dropping out of college right now to drive around in their, sprinter van and take pictures and shoot films climbing.

[00:46:30]You're not, your career is not going to evolve the same way that mine did. I look, I'm old school now. I was this guy that shot film and. No, go ahead. Images published in print magazines, the 20 year old coming out of college right now, they're going to be leveraging the internet.

[00:46:45] They're going to be leveraging platforms like Instagram and Facebook. They're going to be doing podcasts and they're going to be creating whatever the next iteration of a blog is. Receding. And it's, maybe I'm already using the wrong and you're going to be shooting in VR, using venues on Facebook to with your phone.

[00:47:03]Some of the stuff these guys are created with the phone account. Yeah. Yeah. That's it. That's it. And it's going to be more immediate and you're going to figure out how to monetize. All of these platforms and you're going to monetize your audience and you're going to, so it's, I don't have the answers, but I definitely, I recognize that this is an incredible moment in time from a business standpoint and from a storytelling selling standpoint where the power has never been.

[00:47:30] More in the hands of the content creator then. Yeah, this is it. This is the moment. Your podcast, you own it. You're not beholden to anyone. You do whatever you want with that podcast. It's you can, you can put as much energy or as little energy into this podcast and growing it and monetizing it.

[00:47:46] And so I think that's the advice. Of course pay it, study the past, but it's your mission to figure out what the future is going to look like. And it's, I don't think the future has ever been greater in a storytelling standpoint. Yeah. And I say this a lot on the show and people are probably tired of hearing me repeat this phrase, but if, scratch your own itch because if you like it.

[00:48:07] I guarantee you, there are at least a thousand more people that like it, I'm going to reference the Kevin Kelly article on the thousand true fans. And these days, if there's a thousand, there's probably a thousand more of those. So do what you want to do and pick the channel. Like you say. That's great advice.

[00:48:23] I love that. Yeah. As we go to wrap here, if you had a huge banner to hang up in front of one of the trade shows, we've all been to these trade shows. Hopefully we'll go again. What would it say? What would a banner said? That's

[00:48:37] or we can go to a different, how about yeah. Yeah. I think it's actually, I think it would be, put your money in time in the things that you believe in, then I'd say, put your money in time where your mouth is, I think it's, I think there's. At whatever level you can do that.

[00:48:52] I think it's, we, for me I cared deeply about, being a steward of our environment and protecting our wild places. I also cared deeply about, now I have a little girl and I care deeply about our community and providing opportunity for. Kids that don't have as much as our daughter has.

[00:49:09] And it's one thing to say that, yeah. It's another thing to walk the talk support, to put money into the things that you believe in and to put your time into the things that you believe in. And it's a lesson I learned years ago, I was invited. To be on the access fund board of directors.

[00:49:25] And I, I learned it was a really pivotal experience. Actually. I learned what it meant to be a steward and to be philanthropic and to actually really help make change. And and I, I feel like now, that was at least 10 years ago, 15 years ago. And now as I still don't consider myself an adult.

[00:49:43] But I look in the mirror and I realized that somehow come in the door, but that's it's, put your money in your, and your time where your mouth is. Walk the talk. I like it. Yep. Said Corey, thanks for the time. It's been great catching up with you. I look forward to doing over a beer one of these days.

[00:50:00] Hey, my pleasure. Really good to catch up.

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