Photographer Spotlight: Chris Martin

Posted by: on Nov 1, 2017

Bio: Chris Martin is an Oklahoma-based luxury portrait and landscape photographer. Follow Chris on Instagram @chrismartintv or via the web at chrismartin.tv.

What’s your most memorable shot or shoot, be it challenging to capture or interesting subject?

My most memorable wasn’t exactly a success. It was August 21, 2017. Maybe it’s proximity in the recent past has kept it close to the surface. It was the day of the “Great American Eclipse”. Marketing a naturally occurring event on this level gave me quite a chuckle. I had been forced by my HMUA to take a vacation and just happened to schedule it during this momentous event. Living outside the path of totality I hadn’t thought much about shooting it but when the two events lined up, capturing 2 minutes of history was pretty much all I could think of. I became one of the millions of people bent on shooting the eclipse. However, I was one of a small group of people that wanted to create something much different than the standard coronal flare around a black disc on a field of black photo. I spent a lot of time mapping out the trajectory of totality along with prominent landmarks in its path but never was happy with the results of my search via Google Earth. I had basically given up on attempting the shot and decided to book my flight and at least try to enjoy a vacation. That’s when the stress really began.

Upon looking at flights on Southwest, I noticed the early flight to Portland, Oregon was landing 30 minutes after totality had swept through central Oregon. My heart rate spiked. It seemed almost serendipitous. While it wasn’t an original idea, I knew roughly what I wanted to capture and how I was going to shoot it. Now I just had to make all the faces of the plan come together. Because I booked a flight so close to the departure date, I didn’t have a great seating position but a quick trip to the counter in Phoenix (my single layover) bumped me to 4th in line from 60th. After stowing my gear, I conferred with the flight crew with the hopes of getting them to do a huge favor for me. The pilot was way ahead of me. He had stopped his vacation mid-stride to take that exact flight (and work the next three days of flights) just to watch it from the air. We compared notes and off we went. Everything was working in my favor. I was on the front row of the aircraft on the correct side of the plane. I had ample room to set up my tripod but I had to deploy the Case Air Wireless Tethering System to watch the scene since the viewfinder was crammed up against the wall. I was giddy. The kind of giddy I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid. No matter what, even if I didn’t get the shot, the whole experience was amazing. Everybody was rooting for me. The flight crew effectively threaded a needle. From 1000 miles away, they maneuvered a 70 something ton aircraft into a 70-mile wide shadow that was traveling a perpendicular path of 1500 mph. When we hit the shadow, I felt like I was watching 360-degree sunset. The whole cabin went quiet save for the whine of two engines propelling us through the air. Everything was perfect until we encountered what I knew was going to be the last roadblock; air traffic control. I have no idea how many planes were asking for course corrections but it was enough to frustrate the tower which denied our request.

I was shooting as quickly as I could and switching lenses to get as many viewpoints possible but it just didn’t line up the way I had envisioned. A “simple” 20-degree course correction for 3 minutes was all I needed. Ultimately, I got “a” shot, just not “the” shot. I wasn’t upset. It was better than not trying at all or doing what so many others had done. I shipped prints to the flight and cabin crews along with the two ladies that sat on the front row with me that became impromptu assistants for my antics as thanks for putting up with me. I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life. I’m looking forward to topping it in 2024.

I would describe my style of photography as…

I focus on a few primary genres; headshots, high school seniors, real estate and my absolute love – landscapes. As for a “style”, I wish I had some ethereal or esoteric response like “collectivist renaissance” but the truth is my style is still evolving. It’s a bowl of pre-frozen Jell-O that hasn’t been poured into its final molds. I don’t have a solid vision of what I’m known for yet which is totally fine. That’s part of the excitement of what I do with the diverse client needs with which I’m presented. I get to shoot a wide range of styles and experiment with light in every scenario. It’s cliché but I want to tell a story with the shots I take. As long as I’m accomplishing that task while keeping my clients more than happy, I’ll keep plugging along.

What image(s) are you most proud of from your photography portfolio?

My landscape work, specifically sunset capture, is my pride and joy. It’s also the least lucrative, which is totally fine. It’s my opportunity to disappear and disconnect. I find myself in places without cell coverage a lot which virtually guarantees a lack of distraction. One of my most popular shots was stolen and used as an entry in a National Geographic contest which it subsequently won. I didn’t find out about it for 4 days and by then NG had corrected the issue but it was cool to have that little experience with my work being appreciated on such a large scale. If ever I end up on the cover of NG, which is one of my lifelong goals, that will probably be the shot of which I’m most proud.

Can you describe your wireless tethered setup and light setup in the Lawton YMCA pool shot?

I partnered with the local YMCA to take headshot and action shots of their staff and board members. The idea was to get each of them either in their element or doing what they were known for or enjoyed the most athletically. The setup in the pool was fairly simple. I had two Phottix Indra 500 strobes on C-stands in the shallow (4 foot) end of the pool and a Phottix Mitros+ speed light mounted on a stand behind me on the deck. Batteries for the Indras were mounted just under the strobes and well above the water. We wake and splash tested the area in advance to make sure it was going to be a safe shoot. I tethered the Case Air to my iPad Pro for client approval during the shoot. It’s not every day I put any of my gear in the water and I didn’t want to do the setup again. Every few shots I’d wade over to the iPad and review the images as well to critique my timing and alignment. It’s amazing how much more can be seen on a 12″ screen vs a 3″ screen.

How do you use Case Air Wireless Tethering System on video shoots?

Case Air has become that nice extra feature I provide for the clients sitting behind the camera with me. It gives them a better sense of the shot but it allows me to keep a better eye on focus and lighting. It’s small and unobtrusive and lost cost enough to get the job done. Having the ability to power it externally from a battery pack gives me an all-day shoot capability.

What’s on your photography gear shopping list?

Besides more gear from Tether Tools? A bigger studio for one. Item wise though, there’s so much on my list. Sigma lenses. Canon 11-24 f/4 L. Really Right Stuff ball head. A killer set of carbon fiber sticks from 3 Legged Thing. I’m right on the precipice of switching camps to Sony. The amount of video work I do dropped me in the Canon camp years ago but Sony has stepped up their game and with the release of their a9, combined with how often I’m hiking or carrying my rig all day long, I think it’s only a matter of time and a ridiculous amount of my money of course. On the other end of the spectrum, I still shoot film on occasion and a Hasselblad has been a want for a long time.

The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…

I moved into this industry full time three years ago after ringing its doorbell and then running away most of my life. Choosing to be a full-time photographer was simultaneously the stupidest and absolute best decision I’ve ever made. It’s what I love to do. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s my day job while also being my after-hours source of relaxation. There isn’t a plan B. If somebody wants to be a photographer, and who doesn’t these days with the proliferation of cheap cameras, they shouldn’t mess around. Either decide to do it or don’t. It’s perfectly fine to be an enthusiast or a hobbyist, but if you’re going to make it your life’s work, if you’re going to claim and own the title of “photographer”, then consume every ounce of it. Eat, breathe and sleep it. Never stop growing and trying new things. Be inspired by the work of others without blatantly ripping it off. Make it your own. It’s an absolute privilege to capture irreplaceable, non-repeatable moments in time. That’s our responsibility and it shouldn’t be taken lightly (pun intended).

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