Behind the Photo: Magic Hour & Microspikes on Mt. Hood
By Rob Brooks, KEEN brand creative, design director
When I moved to Portland from LA two and half years ago, I did it without the promise of a job. At this point, my wife and I had figured out what direction we wanted our lives to go, and it involved relocating to a place that served all of our interests and a shared passion for outdoor life and conservation.
When we decided to make the move, I made a few rules for myself:
#1: Freelance for at least one year in Portland at as many different places as possible.
#2: Keep both feet in nature at least 3 times per week, even if it means turning down work.
#3: Don’t take a full-time job unless it’s with an outdoor brand, preferably one that cares about sustainability.
#4: Work for a brand that gives you the opportunity to apply your creative experience to do what you love.
After one year of contracting around Portland, KEEN came knocking and I gladly opened the door to what is now my current full-time job.
Having worked in the creative industry agency-side for the last 16 years, I had spent over half of those years servicing globally recognized alcohol brands. I worked on countless shoots, content series, and even Super Bowl spots. But the ones that were truly rewarding for me were those that didn’t require a huge production, the ones that required a bit more down-and-dirty and hands-on work, with a small crew and not too many parties involved.
That’s what made our photoshoot for the new Targhee Lace boot so enjoyable. It felt the way projects did back in college: jump in with both feet to get it done and have fun while doing it. It was even more rewarding to align my work with my own personal passion of exploring outside and for photography art direction.
The men’s Targhee Lace boot in action on Mount Hood:
For this project, I had a day and a half to plan and execute with our team. Fortunately, the stars had aligned, and I had the time to throw myself into it. Once our plans were in place, our photographer Morgan, videographer Tyler, local outdoor guy Zuma, and I met before dawn at KEEN HQ. I came with a mountain of my own backpacking gear and other team members pitched in with some snowshoes, microspikes and everything in between. We loaded up the Sprinter van and headed straight for Mt. Hood territory with a loose location itinerary of places to capture the product in action. I don’t think the crew (or myself) knew at the time that we were in for a 15-hour shoot day.
One thing that was extra special about this trip is that we all happened to have sample-size feet (men’s 9), so we were all able to test these boots in action. I can say with certainty (and not because I work for KEEN) that I haven’t hiked in a more comfortable pair of boots than these. From the ankle support to the agile, lightweight build, I felt comfortable while trekking through snow and ice for the entire day.
No one on our team had been up this way in a while and we weren’t sure what condition the trail would be in. We didn’t know if we would be snowshoeing, slogging through mud, or hiking on ice.
After our first shots were knocked out at the campsite, we were off to our epic reveal of the frozen Tamanawas Falls. No one on our team had been up this way in a while and we weren’t sure what condition the trail would be in. I had previously spoken to a ranger who warned of how bad the snow had been, but we didn’t have a current trail report. We didn’t know if we would be snowshoeing, slogging through mud, or hiking on ice. When we got there, we found out real quickly that we were going to spend the day on ice. It seemed that the snow had melted and frozen a couple of times prior to our visit. ￼ ￼ ￼
We were the only group on the hike that day that happened to bring microspikes, and I am thankful that we did! Hiking on ice is relatively new to me. I’m a hiker and a rock climber, and sure, we had a lot of ice where I grew up in the midwest, but I had never hiked on ice prior to this day. With the right gear, it’s extremely fun! It’s as if you’re a super hero, watching everyone else slipping and sliding down each switchback while you casually trek up the hill like Spiderman. It didn’t take long before we stopped seeing other people on the trail. Everyone else had turned back for fear of falling in a vulnerable spot.
After a few photo op stops, the team began to worry about how long hiking on ice was taking and that I was still planning on making two other stops into the magic hour. Without any service, I was having a real tough time identifying how close we were to our destination. We all decided to keep going and shortly after, we were greeted with a dreamlike setting of an ice-covered waterfall, glistening in the afternoon sun. High on life, immersing ourselves in this storybook setting, we were re-energized and knew we could keep pushing for the rest of our adventure. ￼ ￼ The remainder of our day involved another activity that I had limited experience with: snowshoeing. Nonetheless, I picked it up quickly and wished I had given it a go prior to this. We ended our long day wrapping after the sun went down. ￼
Tamanawas Falls, Oregon
On the two-hour drive back to KEEN, I began to realize the significance of the last 15 hours. I had just spent the entire day doing exactly what I promised myself I would do when I moved to the Northwest. I was with good company, and we were in our element. For this, I am thankful.