An Interview with Josh Himes
An Interview with Josh Himes

AM Time Lapse Cinematographer

Josh started with AM in 1991 while he was in college. After working in accounting, traffic and technology, he eventually ended up behind a camera - which turned out to be a perfect fit. We spoke with him about how he came into his profession and the processes he uses to find his most incredible shots.

AM: What’s your background in photography? How did you get started in your line of work?

JOSH: I started at Ackerman McQueen on January 3 of 1991. Not too long after that, I hooked up with Michael Ives. It was just a curiosity for me at that point because I had no formal training in photography, not even a high school class or anything. So, Michael was kind enough to show me the basics. He loaned me one of his old cameras, and I just started experimenting – and that was probably in ’92. So, it evolved from that to a full-time hobby when I moved to Colorado in ’96, and I would shoot stuff that Angus (AM Chief Executive Officer) asked me for. And it just kind of went from there. I would say it has been a gradually evolving passion of mine for the past 20+ years.

 

AM: What would you say is the majority of the type of work you are shooting?

JOSH: As far as work goes, almost everything I’ve shot in the last five years is all time-lapse related. Almost every frame of photography – of which there have been well over a million in the last five years – have all been towards the end goal of a time-lapse.

Outside of that, sometimes I’ll be out on the road and I’ll see something that interests me that has no application for work that I’ll shoot, but it’s just whatever I stumble onto at that point. And a lot of that stuff I’ll forget about, see six months later and think, “Wow, that was interesting. I should look at those files.” Some of Angus’s favorites from me over the years is stuff that resulted from those types of happenstance shoots.

 

 

AM: What kind of planning are you doing before you even leave the house?

JOSH: There’s a lot more than you would think. The very first thing I’ll do is general research on locations. For instance, last year I shot in NM, UT, CO, WY, MT, all the western states. And so I would try to make a general route that would keep me from hopscotching all over the west, and once I got a decent route, I would look for locations along that route. Then I’d get into the micro details to find out how the light would hit each location – and I’d be doing that for weeks before I would arrive there. There’s a lot of pre-planning that’s mostly done on the computer. And discovering those details ahead of time just gets me a little more prepared, even if it’s only knowing exactly where and when the sun is going to set.

 

AM: But then after all that planning, how many times do you get out there and nature happens and your shot is busted?

JOSH: Oh, very often. Think about it. How many times do you just see a magical sunset – not that often. Many times I would discover what I knew would be a homerun type of shot if the light and weather cooperated. Occasionally I would decide it was worth it to wait out 2 or 3 days of bad weather to see if things would work out. Occasionally it was worth the wait, but sometimes I never got it, and I’d just have to move on.

But then every now and then, I’d show up and see what I thought had potential, and then it would blossom into something way beyond what I gave it credit for. Sometimes you get lucky.

 

 

AM: What about the physicality of it? You’re not just pulling off on the side of the road for planned shoots.

JOSH: There are certain things that I weigh before setting out. Getting out of sight of the vehicle opens up a whole new world with possible problems in security. And after all my equipment was stolen in San Francisco in February of 2015, I became very security focused.

So when I’m out in a remote area, even when I’m out in the middle of nowhere, I still always have that nagging fear in the back of my head – “Well, is it worth it to leave everything behind and go chase this?” And then, when I’m able to convince myself “Yes, it’s worth it to take that leap” then I am willing to do whatever it takes to get to where I need to be. It may be a couple miles, or it may be a couple thousand vertical feet up the side of a mountain to be able to see in the valley on the other side.

There have certainly been times where I’ve carried way more equipment than I should have, times where I prayed that I was going to get out there without breaking a leg. I’d go out there and shoot and then I’d be trying to find my way back after dark. I remember one time in Pennsylvania, I was picking my way back over half a mile of moss-covered rocks in an icy creek. I told myself I’d never do it again – and then I did it a week later.

 

 

AM: What is a story of an extremely interesting and worthwhile shot?

JOSH: The process of filming the eclipse required an incredible amount of planning and preparation; it was equivalent to at least a month on the road of normal shooting. Even with all of the advance preparation and weeks of research, I still had to find the right location and then get lucky on the weather. After three days of driving 4WD roads on BLM land, I ended up in south-central Idaho, a place called King Mountain. I arrived the day before the eclipse and spent the next 24 hours testing and calibrating the tracking mounts, cameras, etc.

There were fires burning in the area, so I had to be aware of which way the smoke would drift during the 4-hour event. The sun was high in the sky during totality, so I needed a location that would allow me to use a super-wide-angle lens to keep the sun in the frame for the static shot, yet still look like a natural landscape in the finished footage. King Mountain ended up being the perfect location and all of the planning paid off. I approached this shoot as a once-in-a-generation event. I put a ton of work into it and it paid off; the final results were definitely worth all of the effort. After further reflection, I believe it was a once-in-a-lifetime shoot and quite likely one of the most focused efforts of my career.

 

 

 

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