Ever wonder what it takes to create the beautiful photographs and videos you see on our website and social media accounts? Today we talk to Brand Manager Ryan Lilly who recently flew from Maine to California to shoot the latest Ocean Kayak boats. 

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How do you choose a location for a shoot? Are you out there scouting in person? 
Scouting is tricky business, because there are so many factors involved: timing, budget, strategy, etc. Many times in marketing, you are trying to collect images at the last possible moment to fulfill a particular need. We are trying to get better at having a long-range strategy and plan in place, so we give ourselves a longer runway to collect the best images and video assets as possible. The best-case scenario is to scout in person, but in order to show diversity and to ensure you are capturing the right images with the right vibe and brand tone; you have to do some serious work scouting. Usually, I will leverage contacts in the area that I’d like to shoot. If I have a sales rep, a pro staffer or a friend in a particular region, I will pick their brain about potential locations. Afterwards, I go to work on Google Earth, travel sites, Google Images, Pinterest, etc. trying to pin down precise locations, angles, etc based on sun angle, time of year, etc. After all of that work, you hope and pray for the right weather…

What drew you to the Channel Islands for this shoot? How does it connect with the Ocean Kayak brand? 
Well, I knew that I wanted to do a shoot in California – Ocean Kayak was born in California and I wanted to get back there to collect assets to tell the story. Channel Islands was a hair-brained idea that Photographer Ian Coble and I came up with when planning for this shoot. The original idea was to shoot up near Santa Cruz, but given the fact that we had to conduct the shoot in September, we needed a spot that had consistently warm and sunny weather. So we did some research on which region would be best for that time of year and landed on Ventura. While talking on the phone and web scouting with Ian on Google Earth, we noticed Channel Islands was very close to Ventura. After a quick Image search of Channel Islands, we decided it was definitely the spot. Channel Islands / Ventura region perfectly represents what Ocean Kayak is about. The scenery is big and full of adventure. Ocean Kayak is about seasoning your life with salt – big fun, big action and the ultimate saltwater experience, whether it be hooking a giant Yellowtail out of your Trident 15 or surfing a beach break in your Frenzy with your family. Channel Islands and Ventura delivered the perfect backdrop to tell that story. 

Is there a lot of staging involved? Or do you just let the models and photographer do their thing? Is it a mix?  
Well, yes and no. If you do your scouting homework ahead of time, communicate a shot list to the photographer and models, and prepare all of the logistics and product ahead of time, you are freer to allow the shoot to happen naturally. I do believe choosing the right photographer helps, too. At Ocean Kayak, we work with a couple of amazingly talented, easy-to-work-with photographers: Jason Arnold and Ian Coble. 


Photographing kayakers in California…doesn’t sound like a bad day by any stretch. Is it as much fun behind the scenes as it looks in the photos? 
If you work hard ahead of the shoot and make sure you are as prepared as possible, you are more apt to have fun. That was my goal going into this shoot. I wanted to enjoy myself on assignment in this amazing place, so Ian Coble and I worked extra hard to pre-plan and pre-coordinate everything. By doing this, we were able to show up, collect the shots at the right times (morning light, sunset), allowing us to enjoy ourselves and collect impromptu images the rest of the time. In doing this, our models were much more relaxed too – they were having a great time together, and it shows in the photos! We were all having a great time. 

How do you find models? Are these employees? Customers? Professionals? 
It depends on the shoot, but in this case, I used a combination of recommendations of friends and colleagues as well as a modeling agency for the kids. None of the models knew each other ahead of the shoot. It could not have worked out better – everyone had great chemistry and by the end, were all friends! 

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For our full line of kayaks and accessories, check out www.oceankayak.com/kayaks

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