We had the pleasure of "sitting down" with advertising and lifestyle photographer Chris Ross recently, to discuss his background, career in photography, and what lengths he'll go to to "get the shot." We caught up with Chris after a recent shoot that combined his love of fishing and getting in the water: documenting three expert flyfishing women in pursuit of flyfishing's grand slam in the Florida Keys. Here's what Chris had to say:
I have a degree in advertising from The University of Georgia and a commercial photography degree from Brooks Institute. At Brooks I was drawn to the coastal life and based a lot of my studies and subjects around the ocean and the beach scene. We had a school boat that would take us miles off the coast to the channel islands where we focused on underwater photography. After graduating I landed my first serious job with Costa Del Mar sunglasses who wanted to use me for both my above- and below-water editorial shooting style. My philosophy is to be a fly on the wall, documenting the entire experience. However, that does not mean I'm stationary; on the contrary, I am always in constant motion. Rig the fishing gear…hunt for the fish…catch the fish…jump in the water and release the fish, etc. If I can capture lifestyle in a way that pulls the viewer into that story than I have accomplished the mission!
Due to my risk-taking nature, my wife is not too keen on some of my adventures. However, it's this inherent risk, the essence of an adventure, that drew me to photography. I have been dragged by a bowline around my waist to shoot sailfish on the hook while running. I have been face to face with 18-foot white sharks without a cage for numerous National Geographic shoots. I have had to dodge families of Howler monkeys in the Panamanian jungle not happy with my presence...Whatever it takes!
This particular shoot was done to document a fishing feat that has not been accomplished by any woman in history. It’s called the grand slam of fly fishing. In order to earn the title, an angler needs to land three specific species of fish found in the Florida Keys on a fly: permit fish, bonefish, and tarpon. They must do this in one day's outing. The three women, amongst the best anglers in the US, all came from very different backgrounds: a college student from Florida, a mother of two who owns a fishing shop in Montana, and a young woman who is a fly fishing guide based out of Oregon.
The whole shoot was done in The Keys, primarily embarking from Islamorada and Key West. The sweltering heat was the biggest challenge for me. We had to be covered head to toe with sun protective gear as we were on the water from dawn until dusk for 5 days straight. I was just waiting for the chance to cool off in the water to get some underwater/split photography when they landed a fish.
Another challenge was the intense and quick changes in the weather pattern. The intense hot sun gave way to extreme showers that could blow in very fast. We were on very tiny flats boats with little storage so getting gear buttoned up was a challenge. On numerous occasions we had to delve deep into the mangroves in order to find that “honey hole” that held that special Tarpon that was ready to eat! Everything was done via kayaks; pulling ourselves under mangroves and squeezing through tight passages, it felt like we would never make it out of the vast maze-like network! The population of Bull sharks in this area are high and when you are concentrating on taking pictures of the food while underwater you really aren’t sure if you might be on the buffet as well!
Like all good fishing tales, this one has a happy ending. The young angler from Oregon caught the permit, bonefish and tarpon in one day, on the 4th day of trying. She's now the only female in history to have recorded a grand slam in The Keys!
PDN just announced the 2016 winners of The Great Outdoors photography contest in categories including Action/Adventure, Landscapes, Beaches/Underwater, and Wildlife/Insects. Open to both pro and amateur shooters, The Great Outdoors contest celebrates the beautiful vistas, diverse wildlife and adventure that make our planet so unique.
We’re excited to share that several Aurora photographers, which we entered into the contest, were selected as winners in 3 out of the 4 professional categories including Sean Naugle who won the Grand prize in the Professional Action/Adventure category.
Our first place winners included Paul Zizka in the Landscapes category and Sergio Villalba in the Beaches/Underwater category. Chris Schmid and Chris Ross were also selected as winners in the Action/Adventure and Beaches/Underwater categories. Additionally, 3 more of our photographers, Adam Clark, Krystle Wright and Alasdair Turner won with their own independent entries in the Action/Adventure and Wildlife/Insects categories, respectively.
Although it’s always a challenge to select only a few pieces to submit from our photographers’ great body of imagery it's also extremely rewarding and validating to have their fantastic work recognized on such a big stage by a wide variety of judges.
Congratulations to all of the winners!
Check out our photographers' winning imagery below and browse the entire winner’s gallery here.
Trying to choose which images to submit to a contest can be difficult. Even more so when the images aren't technically yours, but rather from many different excellent photographers, at the top of their game. It gets even more difficult when that contest is completely in your wheelhouse, like the PDN Great Outdoors contest is. Choosing out of the thousands of high quality images in a highly curated collection is like choosing which species of bear is your favorite bear. How can you possibly pick just one?
Therefore, we were thrilled to see two images we chose were judged as winners in their categories! Chris Ross's shark image took first place in Beaches & Underwater, while Ryan Deboodt's feisty orangutan was a winner in the Animals & Insects category! On top of that, three other photographers that Aurora represents (Keith Ladzinski, Jason Lindsey and Woods Wheatcroft) won, highlighted by Woods winning the grand prize in the Action & Adventure category.
You can see all of the winners in both the professional and amateur categories here or in the August issue of PDN magazine.