This is how I help businesses

In the fall of 2023, I worked with my first fishery in Northern California in the shadow of Mt. Lassen. I was contacted by an art director out of Vancouver who stumbled across my website and fell in love with the agriculture work I’ve been shooting here in the Bay Area and surrounding viticulture regions.

Mt. Lassen Trout Farm needed imagery for their social media content and wanted to visually capture other aspects of their business. This project included shooting portraits in multiple locations, product and on-location editorial imagery of waterways, numerous fisheries, drone photography, and imagery of their team members in action. With a broad swath of different types of imagery needed, I had to over-plan and bring the gear I thought I might need, especially since I was over 200 miles from my office.

When I arrived, everyone was excited to get to work. We immediately started capturing the packing of steelhead trout in Mt. Lassen Trout Farm’s new packing facility. This was important since Mt. Lassen Trout Farm started shipping their fish directly to restaurants all over California. Next on the list was photographing their new Sturgeon and Trout caviar line. There was no layout to shoot for, so I could photograph the product in a fun, creative way. The trick is to capture the product in multiple compositions so that a designer using the imagery will have many options to choose from when creating a layout with copy.

When asked what I love most, I say the adventure

After shooting the packing of fish, caviar product shots, beauty steelhead trout shots, and portraits of the owner Phil Mackey and daughter Katie Harris with the new caviar product, we packed everything up. We headed out to various waterways, capturing the source of the natural springs and rivers that feed the fish beds with a never-ending source of fresh, nutrient-heavy water for the fish to grow in. The trout farm properties were large and brown from the summer heat. They looked more like a Mars landscape with an immense amount of volcanic rock strewn as far as the eye could see due to an eruption over 1,100 years ago.

I was captivated by the area’s history, which is apparent in multiple locations near the fisheries. A lone chimney made of volcanic rock, most likely built by an early settler. Long unfinished volcanic rock walls are said to have been constructed by Chinese miners. The local inhabitants included vultures, rattlesnakes, bears, mountain lions, and Mexican cartel members who grow marijuana in the nearby hills. Trust me, I didn’t venture far.

The following day, I met the team at the headquarters facility outside Paynesville, where they raise Lightning Trout. These trout, golden in color and hue, rushed to the water’s edge as I got close. They were expecting to be fed, but instead, got their photo taken for posterity. Katie grabbed what looked like a fish net that had been through hell and back. I love photographing items with character and or patina and complimented her on her fishnet selection. Katie then told me the origin story of the net. It turns out that illegal marijuana growers in the area had left the net by a trout pool. They were going on the property at night and netting the trout for their evening dinners. I can only imagine how amazing those fish tasted. I never thought I’d get to photograph a lightning trout inside of a “narco” fish net.

Our next stop was an indoor fish pool where Mt. Lassen Trout Farm raise their enormous Sturgeon. I asked why the Sturgeon was being raised indoors versus in an outdoor pool, and it was due to the light that the Sturgeon was exposed to. It can manipulate the fish’s growth and fertility by limiting the amount of light. Like any farm, be it an orchard, crop, or varietal, a method is used to get the best results.

The fish begin their life cycle at the Mt. Lassen Trout Farm fishery, starting from eggs. They then raise them from troutlets to the fantastic size that I was able to capture. Each fish pool is monitored independently with the pool’s health, size, and the number of fish in each pool. From there, when ready, the fish will be transported by truck and end up in various lakes and waterways throughout California, where, eventually, the fish will be proudly caught by an excited angler. This fishery provides a fantastic service by continuously growing and releasing healthy fish into the waterways for everyone to enjoy.

The last stop was to shoot on-location portraits and team imagery at an outdoor fish pool. I set up my strobe unit with a 48-inch Octabox to create soft directional light. Due to the harsh sunlight, my strobe unit was set close to the subjects and at full power. Luckily, I have high-speed sync capabilities and could stop my shutter down to 1/8000 sec. This allows me to shoot with lower f/stops to achieve a shallow depth of field and create a more artful image.

Thanks to everyone at Mt. Lassen Trout Farm and Dave Mergle for the opportunity. It was an incredibly memorable photoshoot experience! Check out to learn more.