I'm not a photographer

A photographer is defined as "as a person who takes photographs especially as a job." I'm not a photographer. To prove this point, I've declined two photographer "job" offers in the last two weeks. Don't get me wrong, I take photographs, but I'm not photographer. 

The distinction is I never take photographs as a sole job. I take photos as part of a larger brand piece or story telling endeavor.  I appreciate photography, enjoy photography and I use photography professionally, but I'm not a photographer. 

I'm fascinated by photography's ability to capture a moment, elicit an emotional response, and tell an entire story. I study photography style, photography composition, photography market trends, and photography's role in building brands. I use photography daily with the brands I work with, but, I'm not a photographer.  

Trek Travel recently asked me to guest post on travel photography / videography and I was happy to share my thoughts and experiences. You can see the entire post here.  The take home message is the same for all my pursuits.  Follow your passions, have fun, work hard, ignore the critics, and know who you are. And I'm not a photographer. 

Here is some of my favorite photography from the last year of travel.  



35 lessons in 35 years.

I started this annual reflection at the age of 31.  Each year I add a new lesson and a new fly. You can see from the image, 31 is also the age I found my love for Steelhead. In no particular order of importance…

1. It’s your life.  No two people are the same. Embrace the gifts, challenges, and opportunities given to you.

2. Nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems.  The bottom is not that low and the top is not that high.

3. Family matters. At least to me. Good, bad, and ugly, I know my family loves me and this gives me strength. Find strength in your family.

4. Find your passion. Branding, fly fishing….  Passions make life worth living and people with passions make the world go round.

5. Do what you love. This is generally the easiest thing for you to do. What you think about when you go to bed and what you think about when you get up? Do that.

6. Fill wasted time.  Road trip or long commute? Fill your iPhone with audio material you don’t have time to read.

7. Carpe Diem. I’ve heard for years: “you’re young.” Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it will never come.

8. Use your words. The brain is a powerful engine and words drive this motor. What you think and say is what you will become.

9. Stay on your feet. Sitting is bad for you. Run, walk, and stand as much as possible. 

10. Make lists. Simple “to do” lists have become my greatest productivity tool. Email, call, errands, projects, media, etc., all have their own weekly “to do” lists.

11. Buy tickets not toys. I have no shortage of toys, but reflecting back, it’s the trips I remember most, not the “things” I purchased.

12. Nobody is watching you. I’ve always thought people were watching me. What will they think if…? Don’t make decisions based on what other people will think, make decisions for your best interest.  (The 18-40-60 Rule)

13. Do your best. Win or lose you did your best, what more can you ask for? You gave your best.

14. You grow in the valleys not in the mountains.  Times get tough, that is inevitable. As bad as they may be, these experiences craft our character and build our strength.

15. Continuously learn. Read, listen, watch, write.  Never stop learning.

16. Everything is relative. Everything. A 15-inch trout is a great catch, until you land one that is 20.

17. Riches have nothing to do with money.  Today (2011), I'm going on a fishing trip with my dad.  At moments, it will be impossible to be richer than us.

18. Set Goals. I set about 50 goals a year each divided into six priorities in my life:  family, faith, fitness, finances, focus, freelance.

19. Tell someone the goals you set. This will increase accountability and likelihood of achievement.

20. Buy a dog. Health and happiness will follow. 

21. Eat right and sleep well. I used to think both were a waste of time and resources; I now realize they are two of the greatest inputs to energy and performance.

22. Be spiritual. Not offensive, wacky, sign-holding spiritual, spirituality that gives you peace and purpose. Spirituality that allows you to embrace your blessings.

23. Live where you want.   If fly fishing, running, riding, recreation, craft beer, and community are important to you, live there. If they’re not, live somewhere else.

24.  Love. Marriage is my most prized possession.

25. Don’t be a critic.  It’s easier to be a critic than correct; respect the man in the arena.

26. Find your happy place. Go there when you need to calm the inner beast. 

27. Cheer for something. I always assumed I’d quit caring about sport when I hung up my high school cleats. I now relish the opportunity to cheer for my wife and cheer for the HOGS–Woo Pig Sooie!

28.  Keep a few friends. You don’t need a thousand friends, just a few really good ones.

29. You lose 100% of the races you don’t start. If you try, you’ll know. The “what-ifs” will haunt you, so you might as well try.

30. Measure. If you don’t determine metrics and measure, its impossible to gauge progress.

31. Have integrity. Without it, what do your really have?

32. Experiment.  “All of life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

33 . Go down the rabbit hole.  Follow a passion, thought, idea, feeling, etc. as far as it can possibly take you. Once you've arrived at this point. Keep digging.  

34. Focus on Right Now. Cue the Van Halen. Vision is great, but I've found my best work gets done when I'm focused on the the next task at hand. 

35. Meet in person. No other form of communication (message in a bottle, blogging, phone, skype, text, social, etc.) can compare to the experience of meeting in person.  This holds true for all relationships, professional and personal.  

video, powerful stuff

Let's face it, video is pretty powerful stuff. It's why a movie is still a luxury and a well crafted film will bring an emotional response other mediums can't match.  The creative opportunities to tell a brand story are endless. What I didn't fully realize was its power with regards to digital content and conversions, at least until I read this article last night. The article covers more than video, but here are the video statistics that reinforced my gut feeling of.... powerful stuff. 

  1. The average human attention span is 8 seconds.  The average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. Source: Wikipedia
  2. Our brains process images 60x faster than text.  Change-up your text-to-image ratios and choose images that tell your story. Source: 3M Corporation
  3. 80% of your online visitors will watch a video while 20% will actually read content. Source: Digital Sherpa
  4. 75% Of Users Visit The Marketer’s Website After Viewing A Video. Source: Digital Sherpa
  5. 45% Of Viewers Will Stop Watching A Video After 1 Minute & 60% By 2 Minutes. Source: Insivia
  6. Videos Increase People’s Understanding Of Your Product Or Service by 74%. Source: Digital Sherpa
  7. Using video on landing pages can increase conversions by 86%. Source: Unbounce.com
  8. Up to 60% of all email recipients regularly turn off images. Source: MarketingLand.com
  9. Your Website Is 50 Times More Likely To Appear On The First Page Of A Search Engine Results Page If It Includes Video. Source: Digital Sherpa
  10. Adding video to your email campaigns can increase click rate by 300%.  Host your video online and create a thumbnail play button for your email. Source: Wistia
  11. Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product on an online retail site after watching a video. Source: Digital Sherpa

you can only use one

I've recently read multiple articles about how limitations can increase creativity (here's an example.) I agree with these findings and decided to set my own restrictions on the video above. It's probably not obvious at first glance, but the video above has boundaries I set at ONE. 

One camera: Go Pro Hero 4 
One camera mount: DJI Phantom 2
One sound track: Celestrial South, Marmoset 
One effect: Black and White 
One transition: Dip to black 
One composition: Rule of Thirds 

And then I stuck to my guns. Even to the extent of building my own composition grid in Photoshop and overlaying the video to make sure I met the Rule of Thirds (see example video frames below).  It's difficult to determine the relative creativity this process developed, but I do know limiting the parameters made it FUN, and this is the most important metric for me. 

 


A beer video without beer.

I've always claimed Big Sky Brewing Company was the first brewery to name a beer something that would taste bad: Moose Drool.  Big Sky Brewing Co.'s lack of fear and continuous drive to zig, when the industry zags, makes it one of my all time favorite brands. 

Knowing this,  I pitched, shot, edited, and published a video on this storyline. The video doesn't have a Big Sky Beer–or even the company name. All it has is a story of Sam Schultz, a Missoula hometown kid that shares the ideals of the brewery. Never give up and have as much fun as possible doing it. 


coffee shop photos, just for fun.

At about 2:00 p.m. today, I needed a break. I had been plowing through the to-do list since about 6:00 a.m. and wanted a creative outlet–from the creative work–I suppose. It sounds weird, but it's actually true. So, I grabbed a camera and ran down to Backporch Coffee Roasters, to take some pictures for fun. Besides, they're clients, and friends. The two usually go hand in hand. They didn't ask me to take pictures, or hire me to take pictures, I just felt like taking pictures of the finer details of an awesome coffee shop. Just for fun.  

   

Thoughts on building LinseyCorbin.com

I just finished a very special project: linseycorbin.com. Talk about a tough client.  My wife was my first BRAND and one that's still near and dear to my heart. Literally. As with all projects, there is more than meets the eye, so I wanted to share some thoughts and observations. 

Fancy is dead. The days of fancy frameworks are over. Most of these died with flash, but even today custom design elements, plugins, etc. cause more bad than good. They break in browser updates, and they're difficult to make responsive (responds to various screen sizes). It's the content (especially for athletes) and not the fancy framework that creates the differentiation keeps people coming back. Compare Google to Yahoo or Myspace to Facebook. In both cases, fancy died. 

Let analytics be your guide. The beauty of digital is you can see exactly how people use a site, what they care about and what they click on. It was a little disturbing to see the amount of time spent on photos of my wife, but I knew from the analytics the photo page was important.  The remainder of the site navigation was built accordingly. 

Establish a Hub and Spoke model. Linsey has hundreds of thousand brand impressions in various social media channels and media outlets. I call these touch points the spokes. Her website is the hub. The hub is always a richer brand experience than the spokes. It's also an experience you can measure and control.  In a dream world, the spokes are driving traffic to the hub, because the Hub is real estate you own. 

Don't build a Hub on real estate you don't own.  With the growth of social media, I've seen several athletes in this sport abandon their hubs. This is a big mistake as you lose reach and analytics to can monetize. You don't own social media channels. Thus, if Facebook issues a "pay to play policy" for brands – which they've done – you're at their mercy.  If you've build an audience on your own real estate, then you get to the call the shots. 

All design matters.  The framework of the website simple. (not by accident, see #1). As such, I knew the fonts and more subtle deign elements were critical to get right. I worked with Brian Lindstrom Trek Bikes and Newbaric to guide this journey. We also used some design he had created on cycling kits, and bikes to provide continuity of the site and other touch points.

One step at a time. Similar to winning an Ironman, the digital branding process is a grind. Nothing is built overnight and the ecosystems are constantly evolving. The latest version of linseycorbin.com is an improvement on many levels function and design.  What's more important is how we use this platform to create stories and unique brand experiences moving forward.  

Drone Video

I just completed my first video project using my Drone - which I've named Donald by the way. The objective of the video was to showcase the run course for next year's USATF Cross Country Championships in Bend, OR.  We made the video "course accurate" with hopes to capture the runner's experience. The two runners follow the course layout to the nearest kilometer. The distance overlays (0.5KM, 1.0KM, 1.5KM, 2.0KM - if you noticed) fall on drone shots at the corresponding distances. We also chose to sacrifice clarity (light shining through titles) for style points,  as the title of the video, press release, and video description provide the finer details.  

With that said, here's a look at the finished product. 

Here's to the Underdogs

My favorite stories are underdogs overcoming the odds. They always have been and probably always will be. For that reason alone, I loved last night's Super Bowl 49.  Initially, I was pleased to see that not one 5 star recruit (highest high school ranking) started in the game.  What impressed me even more is many of the game's heroes were not only considered sub-par out of high school, but also sub-par out college. Let's take a quick look at the underdog playmakers on each team. 

Patriots
Julian Edelman - Game winning TD - 7th Round Draft Pick 
Danny Amendola - 1 TD - Undrafted 
Malcolm Butler - Game winning INT - Undrafted 

Seahawks
Michael Bennet - 4 QB knockdowns  - Undrafted 
Chris Matthews - 109 rec yards - 1 TD - Undrafted
Doug Baldwin - 1 TD - Undrafted 

Obviously underdogs, and obviously difference makers in the biggest sporting event of the year. This fascinates me.  I love the power of the human spirit and what it can accomplish. Well done gentlemen, you just made my day. 

Bottling Ivan Video

I visited Missoula near the end of 2014 to collect some content for Big Sky Brewing Company and layout plans for 2015. Lucky for me, the brewery bottled Ivan the Terrible Imperial Stout the same week. Yellow is a prominent design element in this packaging, so I decided to change my camera settings to only capture this color.  In post production, I also added some overlays and transitions to provide a look and feel that aligns with the brand. 

In terms of messaging, my initial question was: "OK, what story does this tell?" Then, I reminded myself that our multi-media and multi-channel marketing strategy is telling the larger story over time. Each touchpoint has to have continuity with this story, but doesn't have to stand alone as its own saga. 

 

Meet the Brewery Mom

I recently spent the morning with Jane Lund.  We call her the BREWERY MOM at Big Sky Brewing Company. She's the mother of two of the brewery's faithful leaders: Bjorn and Kris Nabozney. She's also a critical piece of the equation. For over 19 years, Jane has produced the ART you see on the brewery's packaging and the wooden signs you see hanging from the tavern walls. I've always been impressed with Jane's work ethic and diligence she brings to her craft.  A roll up you sleeves and get it done mentality that has become part of the brewery's culture.

I thought this story was worth telling. So I did. 


10 black & whites

I split the last two days of October and the first two days of November on a four day Steelhead excursion with Deep Canyon Outfitters.  Thanks to instagram it's was my first trip as a hired "photographer."  I  returned from the trip only to find out I had been nominated for the #black&white photo challenge. There are no winners or losers to the challenge, just a grassroots, and  fun way to explore a new medium. I enjoyed this process so much, I decided to share my 10 favorites here as well.  Enjoy. 


my digital marketing resources

Today on twitter, I was asked for my "digital marketing" resources.  I thought this response deserved more than 140 characters, so I wanted to take the time share here.  

Blogs
I read on my iPad every night before bed.  This "digital marketing" reading list includes: Seth Godin, Dan Zarella, Brain PickingsHubspot, Simply Measured, and the Social Media Marketing feed on Flipboard

Podcasts 
I listen to podcasts when I travel. My three favorite digital marketing podcasts are:  Inside Social Media,  Social Media Marketing, and Duct Tape Marketing.  I also have a Lynda.com subscription I cherish.   

Books 
I've recently turned to books–yes books– in a quest to better understand the foundations of our digital behaviors, or just behavior in general.  For this insight, I've been reading Joseph Campbell for story structure and Steven Pinker for human nature. 

Well...  this is my list. I'm sure it's missing some gems. If you think so, email them to me at chris@corbinbrands.com Thanks in advance. 

 

 

a year in review

This time last year, Linsey and I decided to move from Missoula Montana to Bend Oregon.  We loved our previous 13 years in Missoula, but decided it was time for a change.  With this move, I decided to let my conscience be my guide, do what I love, and enjoy the journey.  I closed my prior work in the world of water and shifted all my focus to building digital brands. The tiles below highlight the work I've completed in the last 365 days. It's work I'm proud of–and more importantly–work I enjoyed.  I consider each tile a notch in the belt and a lesson learned. A big thanks belongs to the brands below and other support (friends, family, colleagues) that have played a role in the last year. 

Thank You. 

What I'm Made Of Video Series

I've dedicated the last 4 weeks to shooting & editing a 4-part video series capturing Linsey's journey to the Ironman World Championships.  The overall objective of the series was to capture the hard work, dedication,  and support for a dream to win a world title.  Linsey didn't have the day she had hoped for (12th),  but–truth be told–that's what makes the sport special.  In the wake of an "off" day, I'm reminded of this quote:

It’s hard to beat a person who never quits.
— Babe Ruth

In case you missed the series, I've embedded each video below.  A special thanks belongs to the media partner Triathlete.com and contributing sponsors:  Trek, Clif Bar, Saucony, SRAM, Normatec, and Kamut.  Also, thanks to Cue Songs for licensing all of the Bronze Radio Return songs heard in the video series.  


My first BEND brand

When I moved from Missoula to Bend, I made a list of local brands I'd like to work with in this community. At the top of this list was Backporch Coffee Roasters. In addition to enjoying their product on previous visits, I respected the vision, passion, and craft of founder Dave Beach.   For example,  Dave has refused  to serve me a single origin Cappuccino, because the freshly roasted beans needed to sit an extra day. This is a dedication I appreciate and a brand I want to build. 

I eventually talked Dave into letting me build a new digital brand in the form of a website and I'm pleased to present the finished product below. 

As  you'll immediately notice, the site map, structure, and design elements are simple. Very simple. This is not accidental, and we worked very closely to minimize the content and maximize the brand experience, based on how and why customers use the existing site.  

 

34 lessons in 34 years

I started this annual reflection at the age of 31.  Each year I add a new lesson and a new fly.  In no particular order of importance…

1. It’s your life.  No two people are the same. Embrace the gifts, challenges, and opportunities given to you.

2. Nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems.  The bottom is not that low and the top is not that high.

3. Family matters. At least to me. Good, bad, and ugly, I know my family loves me and this gives me strength. Find strength in your family.

4. Find your passion. Branding, fly fishing….  Passions make life worth living and people with passions make the world go round.

5. Do what you love. This is generally the easiest thing for you to do. What you think about when you go to bed and what you think about when you get up? Do that.

6. Fill wasted time.  Road trip or long commute? Fill your iPhone with audio material you don’t have time to read.

7. Carpe Diem. I’ve heard for years: “you’re young.” Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it will never come.

8. Use your words. The brain is a powerful engine and words drive this motor. What you think and say is what you will become.

9. Stay on your feet. Run simple and stand up.

10. Make lists. Simple “to do” lists have become my greatest productivity tool. Email, call, errands, projects, media, etc., all have their own weekly “to do” lists.

11. Buy tickets not toys. I have no shortage of toys, but reflecting back, it’s the trips I remember most, not the “things” I purchased.

12. Nobody is watching you. I’ve always thought people were watching me. What will they think if…? Don’t make decisions based on what other people will think, make decisions for your best interest.  (The 18-40-60 Rule)

13. Do your best. Win or lose you did your best, what more can you ask for? You gave your best.

14. You grow in the valleys not in the mountains.  Times get tough, that is inevitable. As bad as they may be, these experiences craft our character and build our strength.

15. Continuously learn. Read, listen, watch, write.  Never stop learning.

16. Everything is relative. Everything. A 15-inch trout is a great catch, until you land one that is 20 inches.

17. Riches have nothing to do with money.  Today, I'm going on a fishing trip with my dad.  At moments, it will be impossible to be richer than us.

18. Set Goals. I set about 50 goals a year each divided into six priorities in my  life:  family, faith, fitness, finances, focus, freelance.

19. Tell someone the goals you set. This will increase accountability and likelihood of achievement.

20. Buy a dog. Health and happiness will follow. 

21. Eat right and sleep well. I used to think both were a waste of time and resources; I now realize they are two of the greatest inputs to energy and performance.

22. Be spiritual. Not offensive, wacky, sign-holding spiritual, spirituality that gives you peace and purpose. Spirituality that allows you to embrace your blessings.

23. Live where you want.   If fly fishing, running, riding, recreation, craft beer, and community are important to you, live there. If they’re not, live somewhere else.

24.  Love. Marriage is my most prized possession.

25. Don’t be a critic.  It’s easier to be a critic than correct; respect the man in the arena.

26. Find your happy place. Go there when you need to calm the inner beast. 

27. Cheer for something. I always assumed I’d quit caring about sport when I hung up my high school cleats. I now relish the opportunity to cheer for my wife and cheer for the HOGS–Woo Pig Sooie!

28.  Keep a few friends. You don’t need a thousand friends, just a few really good ones.

29. You lose 100% of the races you don’t start. If you try, you’ll know. The “what-ifs” will haunt you, so you might as well try.

30. Measure. If you don’t determine metrics and measure, its impossible to gauge progress.

31. Have integrity. Without it, what do your really have?

32. Experiment.  “All of life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

33 . Go down the rabbit hole.  Follow a passion, thought, idea, feeling, etc. as far as it can possibly take you. Once you've arrived at this point. Keep digging.  

34. Focus on Right Now. Cue the Van Halen. Vision is great, but I've found my best work gets done when I'm focused on the the next task at hand. 

 

getting better

I've pretty much narrowed my goals to one.

Get better.

Two years ago I was watching Linsey race the Wildflower Triathlon in California. I decided to take my iPhone out of my pocket and shoot a video of the race. I edited the video on the phone and posted it to her YOUTUBE account shortly after she crossed the line.

Here's a link to the video.

Two years and 300 thousand YOUTUBE views later, I'm still shooting Linsey's race videos. In pursuit of my simple goal to get better, I've watched countless hours of lynda.com videos, purchased Adobe Creative Cloud, and, most recently, purchased a Sony Nex 5T. 

Below are two race videos from Linsey's 2014 race campaign. Even better, she won both events and broke the American Ironman Record in the latter.  Speaking of the latter, it began with 5,433 GoPro images and landed in the composition you can view below.

 I'm not good, but I'm better. And, this remains the goal today.   


life's more fun working with passion

I'm not talking about me (although, also true).  I'm talking about the brands I work with daily. No one better represents this passion for their work than Mark Miller at Precision Bikes. After 25 years as a jewler, Miller took the leap of faith for his love: Bicycles.

Ten years later, he has built something special in Lafayette, Louisiana.  He's built a bike shop with a culture and community that's infectious. So infectious, it pulls from a three state region (MS, TX, LA). Anyone can carry bicycle inventory, but you're hard pressed to find a shop with the passion than Mark Miller brings to the bike business.  

On my first trip, I caught this bug in Lafayette (as well as some po' boys, biscuits, etoufee, etc.). Fortunately for me, Precision Bike's digital BRAND didn't match the unique experience Mark Miller had created when you walked through the doors of the shop. This is what I love to do–build digital brands–so I jumped at the opportunity.  

This project consisted of a new digital brand and a video series. 

New Digital Brand

This process started with building an entirely new responsive website. The first and most important piece of the equation is the look and feel.  One observation, I made right away is nearly every bike brand is black, white and red.  Precision had already embraced this design, so the website also carried this brand continuity.  Mark made a strategic decision not to sell online, so we wanted to make sure the page creatively showcased the inventory he had on hand, as well as the importance of stopping by the shop and joining the shop culture, hence, the imagery of the groups rides. 

From an SEO perspective Precision Bikes is fortunate to have a content creating machine in the form Ruud Vuijsters (say that 3 times fast, or just say it once, actually).  He's blogging on a daily basis and Google loves content creators, so we made sure the blog streamed through to the home page for Google crawlers. The brands carried by the shop are also linked back to the blog. Finally, we established additional touchpoints in the form Google+ and a Youtube channel, to increase organic search traffic. 

Video Creation 

Once we built the website, we wanted to begin to telling the brand stories through the use of video. I flew to Lafayette (more biscuits, boudin & cracklins, po' boys, etc.)  and spent two days chasing Mark Miller with a video camera.  For the record, this chase begins at 4:30 am daily. I've included the first of a video series below: PASSION.  It's impossible to turn on a camera and not tell Mark's story of passion.  

As I made my video edits, I learned an important lesson: LIFE'S MORE FUN WORKING WITH PASSION.