Hey, Philly!

Well... The move happened in what I would call an overall successful manner. Packing everything was pretty simple and straight forward with help from a couple people... adult Tetris is not nearly as fun! The drive down, however, was less than stellar. The tow dolly straps kept coming loose causing extra stops thus taking longer. Of course, having to empty the truck was only possible thanks to my (new in real life) friend Richie.

It's slowly coming together here & I focused on getting the living spaces set up first so that i'd be able to feel like it's home even though everything is still new. The office is the next project & I plan on posting the setup soon so stay tuned for that!

Everything still feels weird, but I'm trying to get back into a routine quickly. I'm trying out two different crossfit gyms over the next few weeks to see which one I'll end up joining. Of course with that it's been my usual early morning work out, followed by my same routine of Sportscenter's Top 10, Shower, Breakfast, then coffee & get into the day. This has definitely already helped give some resemblance of home.

I've been using my Ridgid power tools a lot setting stuff back up ;) along with my rx100v & insta360 one X.

In trying to re-build routine, I've already gone back to my breakfast staple of eggs, peppers/onion/potatoes, then PB&J for lunch, and trying out local eateries for dinner. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

I’m trying to post the play by play on the Instagram- if you’re not following me there, head over & check out a story or two! @simoneisenbach

See ya later, CNY!

I can’t believe it but after having this city as a home base for better part of the last 30 years, I’m heading out.

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Utica saw me start & grow this business. Starting my business, I learned that it all comes down to relationship and work ethic. Starting a business is no easy feat, and my first year really opened my eyes to that. I've started to call it Strategic Hustle... Know where you want your business to go, and do whatever it takes to get you there. I’m so thankful that this place has been full of great friends & relationships that have made that hustle totally worth it. Business ownership is the craziest rollercoaster ride which extreme highs and lows which can be really tough on a person to handle. The hardest lesson I’ve learned here is that in the business world, people sometimes don’t live up to their word. This lesson has honestly sucked at times, but has helped me set & keep realistic and healthy business expectations, made me understand the need for clear communication, and the created a confidence in my business sense that will help me as I move into bigger markets & higher level projects. I’ve really learned that you gotta take a leap of faith & believe in yourself to land on your feet. The saying "if your dreams don't scare you then you're not dreaming big enough" is something I keep reminding myself of regularly. This move is scary in so many ways, but I also know that it's the only way I can really pursue my dreams. Small town cost of living & ease of location are going to definitely be missed, but I’m so excited to see what’s next!

Up Next? Philly! I’ll miss the convenience of being 5 minutes from pretty much wherever I need to go, and the comfort of knowing the limits here. But, I’ve always been a limit pusher & it’s definitely time for the next. I would thank everyone in Utica who's helped me get to where I am. The support that's been shown is amazing, and it's bittersweet having to leave so many fantastic human beings that I've gotten to know.

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So, keep in touch, CNY Fam. If you’re new to the business world of photo/video or you’re in the Philly area, I’d love to connect with you! Maybe we can settle the who makes a better cheesesteak with some on-site research?

Case Study - E4 Project / Part I

I’ve learned over the years that it’s impossible to know exactly where a project may come from. Our partnership with E4 Project began all the way back in 2016. A former development director and I both played in an alumni soccer game at Nyack College. When I randomly heard mention of Burkina Faso in post-game convo, an instant connection was made.  Who knew that a partnership was in the works?

Fast forward to early 2016, Dan joined the org and noticed my name in their system, listed as a photographer. We jumped on a phone call to discuss where things were heading in projects based in D.R. Congo, and the rest started falling into place. 

We came up with a plan of attack targeting some new programming they were working on along with trying to create better content to feature projects that were already in place. Knowing that everything could (and probably would) change at least five times upon our arrival, we kept our list & schedule very fluid. We created a hierarchy project importance and then brainstormed the types of content we were hoping to create for each project.

Our original plan was to head over in January 2017, at the same time a team of doctors would be there doing surgeries & training hospital staff. However, a government shut down delayed getting our visas in time. This meant Dane (my second shooter) and I got to hang out in New York City & have some fun waiting to see if the government would re-open before sadly calling it quits & heading home. 

It took a few more weeks before we finally got our passports back with approved visas, and then the challenging scheduling game of "when can we get everyone over there within the next 90 days”, thanks to 90 day visa timelines. This turned into a whirlwind of re-scheduling flights and lives. The journey finally began domestically on February 23 as Dane and I met back up in New York City before flying to Uganda. Knowing we would be running around on rough terrain, while not knowing the status of having a running vehicle, I had to be picky with my bag selection on this project. Thanks to being absurdly tall, I was able to carry-on a 65 liter F Stop gear bag (not suggested but it worked), and a small backpack with laptop & ronin-m body. Dane carried a rolling bag & smaller backpack onto the plane. 

The date change also tightened up our schedule in Nebobongo from 14 days down to just 9 days. Losing 5 days on location meant we wanted to set ourselves up for success by flying to Entebbe 2 days early so we could start getting over jet lag before we had to hit the ground running. We got to explore Entebbe and enjoy meals on the shores of Lake Victoria listening to Africa by Toto.

With how remote Nebobongo is, we couldn’t take a typical airline, which is how Mission Aviation Fellowship came in to save the day. They’re an amazing organization which flies into remote parts of the world transporting people and goods.

In the next part of our case study we will dig into the first few days in Nebobongo, and all of the ways we had to adapt for our environment. Be sure to stay tuned for it!

MVCC Cultural Series Talk- February 2019

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with students and community members at Mohawk Valley Community College a few times about working in Africa. Earlier this year I was given the chance to speak with them again, and of course I recorded it for the blog.

What's in my Bag?!

Ever wonder what goes into the bags on a “light” project overeats?? I have a tendency to pack “pretty heavy” heading overseas on a project. However once I hit base camp it lightens up pretty quick as some equipment is just brought over for redundancy. Since there’s no way to get replacement gear if something breaks I need to bring along two of every absolutely necessary tool (i’d ideally have three of each). This gets pretty bulky capturing both photo and video. That being said, with intentional gear selection I’ve been able to get all my necessities into two carry-on bags.

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Cameras:

Sony PXW-Fs5, a7riii, a7iii & rx100v
DJI Mavic Pro

There’s something about Sony cameras that they just continue working while being small & lightweight making them perfect for working off the grid. The third generation of a7 cameras have all the right features making them a true pro camera. The a7iii is my favorite all around camera at the moment.

Lenses:

Sony- 16-35 f4, 18-105 f4, 24-105 f4, 90mm f2.8 macro & 70-200 f2.8
Rokinon Cine DS- 24 t1.5, 35 t1.5 & 85 t1.5

When it comes to lens selection I’m a huge advocate of carrying at least 2 lenses at my must have focal lengths. I took a tip from Corey Rich mixing prime and zoom lenses that way I’m not carrying exact duplicates which creates a little more flexibility in the kit. While I love the longer focus throws of the Rokinon lenses, the lack of weather sealing has gotten me into some sticky situations.

Audio:

Rode NTG 4+ & VideoMicro
Zoom F1 & stereo shotgun capsule
Sennheiser G3 wireless system
Rycote Deadcat & shock mount
Shure headphones

Finding myself in a wide variety of situations while needing to be ready on a moment’s notice this kit has really helped solidify things. The NTG 4+ and wireless system stay on my Fs5, while the zoom f1 comes in clutch as a back up lav mic & ambient sound capture device with the stereo shotgun capsule.

Lighting:

Aputure F7(x2)
Litra Pro

When it comes to lighting I typically stay ultra light while traveling. These three lights paired with the ISO capabilities of the a7iii can get me through most situations. Plus, the F7s only require sony NPF batteries which is much less to carry than V mount/Gold mount batteries.

Bags:

Thinktank Photo Airport International 2.0
Fstopgear Lotus

I’ve been traveling with the Airport International since 2011. It’s a beastly bag which has taken all sorts of beatings and still looks almost brand new. Usually it stays at base camp when I get to a location, and carries the bigger items/redundancies not needed all the time. The Fstop gear lotus has been a great addition allowing me to carry all the daily necessities on my back & rig the Fs5 off a shoulder strap so I’m always ready to film.

Accessories:

Atomos Shinobi
Peak Design Straps
Tiffin Variable ND filters
Thinktank Photo Emergency Raincover (medium), red whips, and memory card wallets
Manfrotto mini tripod
Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Raincoat
Black Diamond headlamp


Case Study- The Root Farm

Case Study- The Root Farm

When beginning a project, you never know exactly how it will end up. In 2017, we had the pleasure of helping overhaul The Root Farm’s marketing which resulted in an explosion that none of us could’ve imagined including over 200,000 views of a single video in one month!

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VLOG- D.R. Congo W/ E4 Project Day 2

We capture some of the most incredible B-roll when a MAF plane comes in to pick up someone. It was a rare opportunity to capture video of a bush plane from a drone. We also capture some meetings, the malnutrition program (which has exploded), and more!!

VLOG- D.R. Congo W/ E4 Project Days 0&1

On February 28, 2017, we landed in the very remote village of Nebobongo, D.R. Congo. This was the start of a fantastic week of filming lots of great content for their future fundraising. We were able to capture a lot of great behind-the-scenes vlog content. Be sure to follow us for regular updates to the Congo Vlog!

Bye Bye Nikon. Hello Sony!

While we have been using Sony cameras for 2 years now, it has always been mixed with our existing Nikon kit. Using a variety of lens adapters & such pairing Nikon lenses onto the Sony cameras. The time has come to finally make a full switch to the Sony ecosystem. There's a few major reasons why we are jumping ship.

1- Easier workflow- Being able to set up all our cameras to have a similar look has already started making it easier to match shots from multiple cameras.

2- Pro Support- Over the last few years Nikon's once solid professional services has been making changes requiring constant gear updates as they began de-valuing gear more quickly than the IRS. Also, Sony gives 3 camera body cleanings into the small introductory price you have to pay with some other great features. Sony also has people you can call and know who you're talking to right away.

3- GAS- While trying to maintain two different camera systems the amount of equipment we had in the office was getting a bit ridiculous (yes it's weird coming from a company that's always upgrading/adding tools). 

So 2018 begins with a major shift that will allow us to work more efficiently & help our clients grow even faster. We are really looking forward to what's in store so be sure to stay tuned!

2017 Recap!!

Wait… 2017 is already over?! Wow it’s been one crazy year with lots of adventures, projects, and growing businesses which we have had the pleasure of helping. Recently we took a few minutes to look back at everything that happened in 2017, and well… let’s just say there’s a LOT!

Overall 2017 Stats:

  • 124 videos delivered

  • 1,583 photos delivered

  • 35 different clients (25 new clients)

  • Became a sponsor of the Boilermaker Road Race

  • Finalist Greater Utica Chamber Business of the Year Awards

  • 2 Humanitarian projects in D.R. Congo, Senegal, and Uganda

With so much going on we figured it would be fitting to bring you along a bit deeper on a few of the bigger projects. Some notable mentions include:

 

Boilermaker Road Race:

In early 2017, we partnered with the Boilermaker to refresh all of their PSAs for higher level sponsors. This included going to 23 different locations to film each sponsors video. We managed to capture 13 of these in 5 business days going all over Oneida County, and even down to Norwich. Our goal was to create a new fresh look that will last 2-3 years with slight changes in the graphics each year. 

 

E4 Project:

This project technically started in 2016 with a large amount of logistics and pre-production going into bringing a small team to Nebobongo, D.R. Congo. It wasn’t a project we could just bring anyone onto because of its extremely remote location. Just getting to/from the village took about 30 hours of travel on both jumbo jets and tiny bush planes. Originally the project was supposed to happen in January 2017, but due to Visa acquisition issues ended up getting delayed until Feb/March 2017. Dane from Greenz Productions came along as a second shooter for this project & really helped bring the details to life. We spent 9 days in the village capturing content which will be used over the next 4-5 years by E4 Project to do fundraising for many new projects they will be starting. We were capturing about 200gb of data a day shooting only 1080p video as we ran into some technical issues forcing us to shoot a certain way.

Originally we were supposed to have access to a large solar array for charging our gear. Upon our arrival we were informed that the transformer for this set up was sent with the wrong wiring diagram and wouldn’t be at our disposal. This limited our ability to charge equipment.  We were only able to charge each laptop, and camera batteries once per day. Offloading & backing up data took about 80% of our battery life on the laptops, limiting our ability to review footage. It also meant we weren’t able to use our DJI Ronin-M, as we couldn’t re-charge the battery.

We have already delivered 5 videos to E4 Project along with a large image library which they have begun to use. They’ve fundraised over $30,000 and counting using the media we created for them so far.

 

Root Farm:

Jeremy Earl, the Executive Director of The Root Farm, came to us with a very ambitious project wanting to completely overhaul The Root Farm’s visual brand presence. Everything from website to photo/video, including developing a brand voice for print and digital content would be updated. We put together a team of our strategic creative partners to help us accomplish this project. Early in 2018, we will be doing a deeper dive into this project so check back for that!

 

Mohawk Valley EDGE:

This was our third year helping EDGE with their Leading EDGE Awards. Every year we tweak things a little to improve upon the previous year. There were six award winners coming from very different backgrounds in our community. To help the 2017 class stand out from past years we introduced some slow-motion footage, RC camera car, and lighting tricks into the mix where it fit well. 

 

Copy of 2017 School & Business Alliance Keynote

Our local Boces in Oneida County hosts an annual breakfast for their SABA program. SABA provides opportunities for high school students to see what careers are like including job shadowing, career days, and internships. 

Simon was asked to speak about his start & unique career path as the keynote speaker for their annual breakfast. We decided it would be a good opportunity for anyone to have a listen as a way to better understand how we help our clients!

2017 School & Business Alliance Keynote

Our local Boces in Oneida County hosts an annual breakfast for their SABA program. SABA provides opportunities for high school students to see what careers are like including job shadowing, career days, and internships. 

Simon was asked to speak about his start & unique career path as the keynote speaker for their annual breakfast. We decided it would be a good opportunity for anyone to have a listen as a way to better understand how we help our clients!