In the midst of a very busy schedule I received a call from the Discovery Channel asking if I would be available to return to Dutch Harbor and photograph the newest season of The Deadliest Catch. The photoshoot fit in my schedule like the veritable square peg in the round hole. However, the Deadliest Catch is different, for it is a challenging photoshoot that if done right can present incredible imagery, and one that I wanted another shot at. I had photographed the season before and was happy with the images, yet knew I could push the envelope further if I had lights. However, here in lies the problem and true challenge of The Deadliest Catch….
To say that this location is “remote” is a small understatement…
Dutch Harbor is in the midst of the Aleutian Island chain of Alaska. It’s a 3 hour prop plane flight from Anchorage, and is perhaps one of the shortest runways I have ever landed on. For this reason it is not possible to fly in the lighting kits that one would need to build a proper “set.” Add to that weather systems that lead to flights being delayed days (in the case of some of the crew 8 days to be exact), and you can understand how this photoshoot justifies the descriptor “challenging.”
Fortunately, a phone call later I would secure some Photoflex boxes to compliment the sets of Nikon SB-900’s I would be bringing. With all my gear in one small Lowepro backpack and clothes in another, I was off on a turbulent flight to a desolate landscape, that was as beautiful as it was deadly.
Upon the first day photographing on the boats we quickly found another aspect of the SB-900’s that proved invaluable, they were weather proof. Many of the images from the photoshoot have an ambient light that is ominously dark, and this is because much of the photos were done immediately before and after the rain, and some were even photographed in the rain. Only a couple of days after the photoshoot the ships would depart for the season, so time was not a luxury I had, and waiting for clear weather was an option not on the table. As I step back from this article I realize how petty a little rain is compared to the waves and weather the crews go through in the season, so to the crews reading this, I apologize for whining (oh, and quick shout out to the guys on Time Bandit and Cornelia Marie).
On top of photographing on all the boats for the years promotional pieces, we also photographed in a makeshift studio at the Dutch Harbor Community Center. With little more than a black cloth draped behind the captains, an art director holding one light and Andy Hillstrandt (of the Time Bandit) holding the other we made a studio that rivaled any other. The ability to cancel out ambient not from power, but from speed made for a photoshoot that was perhaps one of the most fun one’s I have had to date.
Between the latitude of the Nikon D3 files, the high-speed sync, and the sea battered skin of the subjects, it was hard to create an image that didn’t captivate.
So with that, please enjoy some images from season 5 of The Deadliest Catch…