Last Spring Jake Magraw’s breathtaking time lapse video Seattle Dream reached 120,000 views in less than 2 days.
“When you’re at this really beautiful sunset, its hard to realize everything thats going on in front of you. Say you’re there for ten minutes, you can’t really grasp what had happened in that last ten minutes in nature and in the clouds. When we shoot time lapse you start to understand how much is going on, what direction the clouds are moving, how fast they are moving. Thats what got me so intrigued because every time you get to go back and relive what you just saw in this totally different way. There’s no way for us to see that in person because it is sped up so fast.”
Magraw and James Whelan paired up near the end of their second year in the photography program to start their business FStop. The working relationship they built in the program and similar styles made them natural partners. Since graduating they have sold time lapse footage to Century Link for an advertisement and a company that made a video for Microsoft. They have a goal of freelancing and assisting to build on their network, get to know the industry more and learn from seasoned photographers. Their freelancing allows them the freedom to do work they are passionate about. A kickstarter campaign got them the support needed to do a 10 day road trip of shooting time lapse in the Pacific Northwest from Oregon to Redwoods, you can read more about it here.
A non-stop flurry of image gathering, Magraw and Whelan camped out to shoot 4 terabytes of footage or some 20,000 photos of starry desert nights, Crater Lake. and more. All about providing a new way to view beauty in the world, FStop use innovative techniques and a quad copter to get the right arial shots. It sets them apart, “it is something that I want to be able to sell my company on: we can do all these cool arial time lapse shots”. Involving the Northwest community has always been a part of what FStop does. “We made T-shirts for our kickstarter and I was wearing one of them somewhere and some guy in an elevator asked if it was the local company because he liked our work”. In our outdoor oriented region, its easy to connect with the sweeping and evocative images in Magraw’s work; the the dramatic natural beauty of the Northwest in constant interplay with the dynamic urban landscape. Its hard not to feel a sense of pride of place when watching Seattle Dream.
He has a vision and passion for his work. But how did he get there?
Magraw’s time learning photography at SCCA set him up with skills and support. “I never shot manual before I got into school. Thinking of what I knew when I started school to now is so crazy. I really knew nothing when I got into the program, it gives people that room to grow.” Building self-knowledge over time, he worked on projects that established working relationships and to explore medium and style.
Reflecting on his time here, Magraw described one of the weirdest projects he worked on where he and two designers were given a strange object that they had to figure out how to market. The object was random and their job was to make it into a realistic product, make a name, website, and marketing plan. “It was just some weird little capsule and somehow we figured it would go into space. In school, you learn how to pitch really weird things.” Building skills of self-promotion and pitching are core to success in photography.
This has led F-Stop to exciting projects. The Seahawks season was filled with excitement for Seattle and they were asked to capture some of that energy in timelapse.
Preparing him for the best and worst of the work world, the projects provided opportunities of collaboration, completely necessary skill in the field of photography and design. During his time in the New Media class, a collaborative weekly class with the Graphic Design and Photography programs combined, he worked on a team to create an SCCA video. Through that project he realized the joy of working in video and collaborating with designers. Excitingly that video ended up being selected as promotional material for the program but his moment when he realized he was on the path for life’s work came through the support he received from faculty.
Focusing on a lot of product photography, a faculty member suggested one day that he try to replicate a photo of one of the biggest bottle photographers “looked at this product shot, by this guy that was at the top of his game and decided to try it”. It was a very technical shoot and he worked on it before knowing photoshop. The faculty member was was impressed the result and showed it to the second year students. Magraw knew he was on the right path at that moment, having faculty to push him to do things didn’t know was capable of or wouldn’t think to try. Without that support Magraw said he “wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Getting ideas and perspective on professional direction is so key in an excellent employment-oriented program. Magraw confessed he always thought that he would end up doing the type of steady work in a large company doing product shoots. Sitting down to reflect with a faculty member towards the end of his final year he was motivated to push himself to freelance and continue to do the time lapse work that he is so passionate about. Finding that sweet spot between your passion work and making yourself marketable is somewhat of a science. Magraw thought about that while a student. Not wanting to have to choose between photo and video and knowing that a lot of things are moving towards video, time lapse was the right fit. With time-lapse you are “Essentially composing and editing a bunch of photos but are making a video.” Staying nimble and bringing a number of skills to potential clients or to collaborations allows him to seek out exciting work. Magraw noted “James and I would love to shoot time lapse for the rest of our lives” but they see it as one specialty tool in their bag setting them apart while understanding how important it is to keep a diversity of skills and mediums to work with.