Lucas regularly works with editorial and advertising clients that span the globe including: National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, ESPN.com, Men’s Journal, Outside Magazine, Men’s Fitness, Maxim Germany, FHM Australia, and the New York Times. His commercial clients include: G-Technology, Nikon, Red Bull, Lowepro, Manfrotto, SanDisk, Apple, Adobe, Garmin, Patagonia, Marmot, Gore-Tex, Marmot, and K2 Skis.
“As a professional, you have to separate yourself from the pack. You must deliver assets on time and have your clients trust you.”
It began with fly fishing. As a boy, Lucas Gilman’s dad would take him and his fly fishing clients to the far reaches of Costa Rica, New Zealand, South America, and beyond, always in search of the next great catch. For young Gilman, the landscapes were the true prize. They inspired in him a love of traveling and the outdoors that would someday help shape him into one of the most widely respected adventure photographers in the world.
Gilman is under no illusion that artistic vision and inspiration are solely responsible for his success, though. The technical side of his profession remains equally if not even more critical for keeping his business thriving.
“With the economy the way it is, every job is possibly your last job with clients, and what you produce is really critiqued a lot more than it used to be,” says Gilman. “There isn’t really the option to say, ‘Oh, it didn’t work out this time,’ because that client will no longer be your client ever again. Having trust in my drives, knowing that I’m going to be able to deliver assets as promised, is a real big concern. That’s why I use G-Technology drives.”
Stumbles on the Road to Success
A first glance at Gilman’s epic photograph of someone climbing a frozen waterfall might inspire wonder, both at the subject, the composition, and the technical quality of the image. But for Gilman, it was still a learning experience.
“That was absolutely miserable,” he laughs. “It was 14 below zero in the shade, just standing on a block of ice all day. The camera is rubberized on the outside, but the internal frame is magnesium alloy. It’s like you’re holding a metal brick steadily sucking the heat out of your hands.”
Learning experiences are never easy. Like most professional photographers and cinematographers we interview, Gilman has a technical tragedy in his past. Back in the era when 80GB hard drives were considered very large, he had one such drive fail on him with no warning. He describes the event as not being “the end of the world,” but he did lose work for two key reasons: 1) he was using consumer-grade drives and 2) he didn’t have a backup strategy in place. This is the hallmark of an amateur. According to Gilman, professionals either learn how to protect their livelihood — or they don’t stay professional for long.
Gilman notes that he used to buy storage products for the way they looked, the image they projected alongside his Mac equipment, always assuming that what was inside the box matched the quality of the outside. Too often, that was not the case. Moreover, he found a disturbing number of cases in which vendors started off providing professional-class storage equipment and then, without warning, changed to a lower class of drive performance.
“There’s nothing worse than taking a lot of time and effort into a system and then having that system go consumer rather than professional,” says Gilman. “I like the fact that G-Technology continually tries to provide resources and/or hardware equipment to support professional photographers and videographers in the film industry. I feel that they’ve made a real commitment to do that, which is important to me.”
Follow the Bits
About 70% of Gilman’s business is still photography (usually Nikon’s NEF RAW format), but the rest is 1080p MOV format video transcoded to 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 ProRes, depending on the end application. All stills and video save to pro-grade SD and CF cards, which then copy via MacBook to two G-DRIVE® mini portable hard drives throughout shooting in the field. These are 1TB USB 3.0 drives, and the transfers are simultaneous to ensure data redundancy as soon in the workflow as possible. When those drives fill up, two more get brought in. At the end of the day, the drives are geographically separated, often with Gilman taking one set and his assistant the other, taking care that both data sets are never in the same place at the same time.
When he returns home, Gilman takes one of his mini drive sets and copies everything either to two G-SPEED® external hard drive enclosures or to two G-RAID® Thunderbolts, so there are two copies in this location, as well. Gilman uses the G-SPEED® units for photos and archiving while the G-RAID® Thunderbolts fuel all of his video editing owing to their exceptional bandwidth and performance.
“I have no bottlenecks,” he says. “That’s why I rely on the Thunderbolt drives, which are configured as RAID 0 for that extra speed. This gives me a really seamless editing process, with no frame dropping.”
Bytes of Wisdom
Ask Gilman for his professional advice and you’ll hear one phrase often repeated: “Shoot everything and save everything.” He deletes nothing from his camera when shooting and refuses to self-edit in the field. Occasionally, this pays off. He notes having once been in Costa Rica to shoot a kayaking story. At one point, he pulled off to the side of a road and photographed “some random eco-lodge” for fun. Five or six years later, he ended up turning those photos into a story for Conde Nast Traveler, a job that not only paid for his trip but netting him a new client.
This “accidental” job was made possible by his practice of never deleting and being assiduous about organizing images so they’re readily accessible. Gilman makes copious use of keyword tagging. He also archives very methodically, believing that saving and organizing data is just as important as making the shots.
For Lucas Gilman, having the right gear is the backbone of his profession. In some ways he values his hard drives even more than his cameras and lenses, because once those zeroes and ones vanish, they’re gone forever. Nothing will crush a career faster than data loss.