Sunday, April 28, 2013

Grand Canyon-A great place to do your next shoot

Dear Reader,

Last month a good client of mine asked me if I was interested in doing a photo shoot in the Grand Canyon. I made a search on Google and discovered that the Grand Canyon is about five hundred miles from Los Angeles or about a seven and a half hour drive.  In my motor home it took me about nine hours because I had to refuel a few times and I drove about sixty, a lot slower than most people would drive. Actually I had enough range to make it all the way to the Grand Canyon, I can travel about 900 miles on a tank.  I wasn’t sure if there was a diesel station in town.  There is a Texaco in town that sells both gas and diesel; I discovered when I got to the Grand Canyon Village. When I am on the road in a motor home, I like to take my time; I like to conserve fuel, that doesn’t mean I don’t push it, when I need to.  I am not trying to set speed records.  There were plenty of troopers searching like sharks to prey upon any would be speeders.  

I left at five-thirty in the morning and arrived at our hotel at two forty five that afternoon.  I checked in, with the production coordinator and let her know that I arrived and waiting for further instructions, she indicated she would call me later. I decided to check out the town of Grand Canyon Village.  This is a McDonalds, Windy’s, Pizza Hut, a couple of steak houses, pizza places and a number of souvenir shops.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, it is nice, rooms are clean; staff is awesome, plenty of parking for large and small vehicles.  The breakfast bar was amazing; there were hot food items like sausage, bacon, eggs, pastries, coffee, tea, a large seating area, TV and a newspaper.  For dinner we ate at the Best Western, for a Best Western, this is the most upscale BW I have ever been to; it looked more like a 5 Star Hotel.  The restaurant had a great menu and the food was amazing.  The bar served pizza, chicken and finger foods, with a good selection of wines and beers.  

The Grand Canyon Village is a tourist trap and I found the food, lodging and other items on the expensive side. What do you expect, from one of the most amazing places on earth.  We are not talking New York prices either, compared to NY, the prices for lodging, food and other stuff is reasonable.   Most of the businesses are on State Route 64.  There is a tram that takes passengers from the Grand Canyon Village for free to the Grand Canyon.

The downside to my job is that I very seldom have time to enjoy the locations that I go to; I usually arrive the day before the shoot, work for however many days and when the project is over head back home. The Grand Canyon is on my bucket list, it should be on everyone bucket list, it is beyond breath taking, there is so much to see and do.  If I had the time I would like to take a helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon, a Jeep trip into the canyon, a bus through the canyon and my personal truck to explore the canyon.  All the above options are all available in the Grand Canyon; Village except for my truck, sorry I need my truck. 

My photo shoot was unusual for the reason that there was a lot of traveling in such a short period of time.  Sunday I traveled to the Grand Canyon Village, as I indicated about a nine hour drive for me, Monday we shot in the Grand Canyon, Tuesday we traveled back to Los Angeles, Wednesday we traveled to a film set in Palmdale.  Most of the crew flew to the “Grand Canyon”, except the driver of the production truck which had most of the gear and of course me.  There is a small airport in the village, most people fly to Flagstaff or Phoenix, then rent a car and drive the “Canyon”.  The flight is not so simple, if you plan in advance one might find a direct flight to Flagstaff, and then you would have an hour and half drive to the Village.  Our crew flew first to Las Vegas, a short one-hour wait at the airport, then flew to Phoenix an hour flight, then drove four hours to the Grand Canyon Village.  On the way back they had to repeat this process.  This was one time I can say my motor home trip was faster than a passenger jet with less hassle.  Personally if I wasn’t driving my motor home, the train is a better option, then rent a car. Amtrak stops in Flagstaff, and you don’t have to go through all that security hassle.

On Monday we left early to drive to the GC, we actually drove through it; then stop about a half hour outside the park at a Navajo reservation.  A couple of Navajo rangers greeted us at the location, showed the crew where to park and then we proceeded to get ready for the day.  This is when the fun started; first there was a little rain, no problem.  Then there was a little wind, no problem.  Then the rain and wind hit us like a Mack truck.  Tables, chairs, our catering gear, heaters, anything that was not tied down was blowing down the canyon.  Eventually catering was set up in the RV, since it was raining so hard, the photographer shot a few photographs with the model relaxing on the sofa, the Grand Canyon in the background.  By the end of the day they got all there shots, the rain and the wind subsided. 

As I drove back to the Village it started to snow, a light snow, it was a beautiful way to end one my most interesting days.  The next morning I headed back to LA around eight in the morning.  I stopped in Barstow to get my RV wash, it was so dirty from all the rain and snow from the previous day.  The next morning I was up at four in the morning, heading to Palmdale.  No snow and rain in Palmdale, just blue skies and sun.  Ten thirty that night we were finished.

As a service to my clients I can scout locations for them, provide a comprehensive list of locations to lodge at, nearby grocery stores, dump stations, service station, truck stops and other vital information.  Since I have been in the business for over thirteen years I keep a good data base of all the locations I have been to, so call me Mike Green if you have any questions.

818 317 7099 LA/Palm Springs/San Diego
415 730 7127 San Francisco/Nevada
541 619 3934 Portland/Arizona/Colorado
206 777 5192 Seattle/Idaho/Canada
323 927 1546 Fax

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Village

Grand Canyon Village

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fort Ross-A great place to do your next photo shoot, commercial or film

I had a chance recently to work on a feature film shooting at Fort Ross, about one-hundred miles north of San Francisco off of Highway 1.  Fort Ross is unique to California, unlike the other forts that were built by the United States government, and protected by US troops.  Fort Ross was built and managed by the Russians.  This was the Southernmost settlement in the Russian colonization of the North American continent.  Fort Ross was a settlement from 1812 to 1841.  The architecture is very Russian, most of which was built in Russia, then shipped to Fort Ross.  

The film I worked on is called “Fort Ross”, a time travel tale shot in Russia and other locations in Europe.  The filmmakers built a replica of Fort Ross in Russia for the film.  Personally I wished they would had filmed “Fort Ross” on location, it would had helped the local economy and the local Bay Area crew like myself.  On the positive side they shot one day in Sausalito, one day at San Francisco Airport and two days at Fort Ross. Working with a Russian crew was an awesome experience, the Russians are very charming, and they were curios about Americans and America.  I am half Russian, second generation on my mothers side, so it was great talking to Russians about Russia.  

I regress, what makes Fort Ross such an interesting location is the fact it is uniquely Russian, not American.   The towers are rounded, there is a small chapel on the eastern end of the fort. There is a cannon for protection, but not a lot of cannons one would see on American forts.  This outpost was so remote for Russia, even if it had a thousand cannons, it would eventually be over run by enemy forces.  (Though I am not aware if Russia had anything to fear, California at the time was part of Mexico and they were trading partners.)  This was an outpost for fur trappers and hunters.  Since roads at the time were primitive, the Pacific Ocean was the best way to transport people, goods and equipment.   

There are so many great places to shoot at Fort Ross, not only in and around the fort, there is a small forest just north of the fort, next to the museum.  Beneath the cliff, there is a small beach, a windmill, a rock formation overlooking the coast and the forest to the East.  

For lodging there is the Fort Ross Lodge 707-847-3333, the lodge I stayed at; it was comfortable with a deep bathtub one could almost swim in, the room was spacious if not elegant.  Fort Ross Lodge is a series of cottages connected together in clusters of three to four units.  If you want something more high end The Timber Cove Inn 707-847-3231.  I did not stay there, but I did eat at the restaurant and the food was amazing.  The stars of our film stayed at the Inn, they were very happy with the accommodations, again this is more upscale and there are more rooms at this establishment.  We had a sizable crew about forty, therefore our crew stayed at several hotels.

There are a few gas stations on highway 1, there is one in Jenner, there is one in the town of Fort Ross.  If you are driving a diesel vehicle, you should fuel up at the Petaluma 76 gas station located at 4998 Petaluma Blvd, Petaluma.  There is also a dump station at the 76.  The best way to get to Fort Ross from San Francisco is to take the 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge and exit 479 Railroad Ave and go left. Right at Stony Point Rd, left at Robber Rd, make a right at Valley Ford Rd and continue on CA-1 past Bodega Bay.  From my experience highway 116/W, is difficult navigating some of the turns without going into oncoming traffic. Highway 1 north of Jenner is winding with some very tight turns, if you can it is best to travel during the day if you are driving a large vehicle.  

There a no major super markets near Fort Ross, so if you need supplies you might want to pick it up in Petaluma.  If you have any questions and or you need a motor home please call me Mike Green at 415.730.7127 or 818.317.7099.