Two weeks ago we released “Luna Blue,” the first of two music videos we filmed with mother/daughter duo Belles & Whistles. Today we have the pleasure of releasing the second video from our creative collaboration with them with “I’m Wild.”  

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Kelli walks down a dirt road for the beginning of “I’m Wild.”

The beauty of Nebraska isn’t just the wide open scenery. It’s the people, the open front doors and the help at every corner. We shot “Luna Blue” and “I’m Wild” simultaneously. Depending on the light and the scene, we could send Kelli and Jason to quickly change from one outfit to another. Each video has its’ own color scheme. “Luna Blue,” as the name suggests, has a bluer and darker tone, while “I’m Wild” is warm and light. To achieve these different looks while shooting simultaneously, we relied on our Sekonic C-500R Color Temperature meter. In the digital world many people have abandoned light and color temperature meters, but keeping each camera in sync for each shot made post production much faster and the final product better. “I’m Wild” is a visually open dialogue with sweeping views of the Nebraska countryside from the front seat of an old truck.
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Kelli drives the truck down a dirt road outside O’Neill, NE.

  About 90% of the scenery was filmed on and around Kevin and Katie Morrow’s farm, the dirt roads and sloping hills of northeast Nebraska. For “I’m Wild” we also got to go back to one of our favorite places - The Bassett Lodge and Range Cafe in Bassett, NE.
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Kelli in the opening scene of “I’m Wild” at the Bassett Lodge.

 
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Laura hand holds the RED for a quick shot of Kelli writing in her notebook for the beginning of “I’m Wild”

The Range Cafe is an old diner with classic old stools and a midwestern feel. The Lodge, which is attached, is an updated hotel that is locally owned and operated. If you ever find yourself in north central Nebraska on US Highway 20, we highly recommend stopping in.
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Katie run the Movi-M10 with a Nikon D5 and 14-24mm f/2.8 past Kelli in the Range Cafe.

Bassett itself is a classic small town, complete with a painted water tower and old Phillips 66 gas station. Before heading to Bassett we had told Jason Hahlbeck and his dad that we would love to shoot at the Phillips 66 station, but we couldn’t find the owner of the property. The Hahlbecks made one phone call. They, of course, had known the owner for years.
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Kelli in front of the Phillips 66 in Bassett, NE.

Laura calls it the Nebraska name game. Mention any landmark in any small town to a Nebraska native and within 5 minutes they will find a personal connection to the landmark, the town, and a person or people who live there. The final scene was shot on our final night in Nebraska. “I’m Wild” is an upbeat song and needed an upbeat ending. Belles & Whistles assembled their band and we all met in Loma, NE, a small town 40 minutes north of Lincoln. Once again, Jason came with his brother’s truck from O’Neill, which is a 3 hour drive.
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Kelli and Jason pose in front of the truck in Loma, NE, before filming the final scene.

“I’m Wild” was a simple video to shoot. We wanted the landscape and motion to tell the story. We relied heavily on the Nikon D5 and 14-24mm f/2.8 on the Movi-M10 to get the camera moving, but we also let a lot of motion move through the camera lens. For that we used the Nikon D5 with either a 300mm f/4 or a 400mm f/2.8 on a Manfrotto 509 Fluid Head and a 545B Aluminum Tripod. This configuration allowed us to move quickly and seamlessly through each shot.     Come see these areas for yourself this October. A few spaces are still available. Join our Photo Workshop! Nebraska Project Button

Most of my work is documentary in nature, whether it's daily life, portrait, sports or news. I'm working quickly and in a wide range of environments and conditions.

So for me there can be no one lighting setup. The gear, and how I use it, is as diverse as the subjects in each photo.

There is always a solution: Elinchrom.

Elinchrom flash systems have been my go-to lights for over a decade because the results are constant. I know exactly what I’m going to get out of each strobe, each light modifier, each power setting.

Over the last couple months I have taken my Elinchrom gear with me on a number of assignments and two stand out for the results and diversity of my subject matter.

The first shoot was a series, portraits and a video Laura Heald and I did on Officer Bobby White of the Gainesville Police Department and the foundation he has set up to build basketball courts for kids in the Gainesville community. 

The story started with a dashboard camera video clip that went viral. Officer White was called in to deal with a noise complaint. Kids were playing basketball in the street at 5 o’clock in the evening. Instead of telling the kids to stop, he picked up a ball and played with them.

My idea for the portrait series was to go back to the spot where this story began and make portraits of the kids in their environment. For that, the Elinchrom Quadra with an Elinchrom Rotalux mini octa was the perfect way to go. The setup is small and mobile, while still offering powerful and beautiful light.

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Bill shooting portraits for the basketball cop story.

 
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Bill shooting portraits for the basketball cop story.

 

Basketball Cop Pictures by Bill Frakes and Laura Heald for ESPN Dennis Darby, 16

Dennis Darby, 16

 
Basketball Cop Pictures by Bill Frakes and Laura Heald for ESPN Tyree Thomas, 16, sitting on the hoop that was in the street. Since the day Officer White arrived on January 15th, the Basketball Cop Foundation has built a court in his backyard so they no longer have to play in the street.

Tyree Thomas, 16

The second shoot was at the Invictus Games in Orlando. I wanted to make a series of elegant yet simple portraits of our country’s most inspiring athletes. 

I wanted the athletes to be separate from the background. It was their faces and bodies that were important, not the environment they were in. To do that, I used my Elinchrom 2400 w/s pack with a 59” Rotalux Octabox and a simple, muslin backdrop. 

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Swimmer Elizabeth Marks with her medals from the games. Marks was wounded in Iraq. Her tattoo is her life story and covers many of the scars she suffered while serving.

 
ORLANDO, FL - MAY 11:  Stefan Leroy, 25, and his service dog, Knoxville. Leroy served in the Army and is from Jupiter, Florida. He competed in track and volleyball.   Bill Frakes for ESPN

Stefan Leroy and his service dog Knoxville.

One of the best parts of our job is getting random, unsolicited inquiries from future clients and fellow artists.

In May, Jaymie Jones reached out. Jaymie and her daughter Kelli are Belles & Whistles, a country singer/songwriter duo out of Omaha, NE.

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Kelli and Jason paddle through the pond at Katie and Kevin’s farm in O’Neill at sunset.

They had seen the Nebraska Project and wanted to be a part of it. Jaymie offered time and music. She sent over a handful of tracks for us to choose from and we quickly settled on Luna Blue as a good place to start.

We had already made plans to be in Nebraska in early June, so we scheduled some extra days, called some friends for help, and made plans for another music video.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Nebraska over the last year and a half, but a of couple places have stuck out as favorites; places where we know we can make images no matter what. - A wilderness area near Hastings, NE. - and Kevin and Katie Morrow’s farm north of O’Neill, NE.

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Katie holds up a Sunbounce to light Kelli’s face at sunrise in Liberty Cove.

We told Jaymie and Kelli that we’d bring the cameras - a couple fresh-out-of-the-box Nikon D5 bodies and a RED Dragon - if they brought the props and a model, namely a boy and a truck.

They happened to find the boy and the truck in O’Neill, NE. Jason Hahlbeck is a rising senior at O’Neill High School and happens to be good friends with Kevin and Katie’s oldest daughter Emily. Things seem to work that way in Nebraska - everybody helpful, everybody connected.  

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Jason Hahlbeck on set.

This was the first time we’ve had significant time with the D5 in our hands since we shot My Nebraska last September and it felt good to be shooting 4k UHD with the same camera we use for making high quality stills.

For this video, we wanted to employ a lot of motion, so we rigged our EZFX jib and our Movi M10 with a D5, Nikkor lens and Small HD monitor. Katie Klann, the newest edition to the Straw Hat team, is fast becoming an expert at getting the Movi ready to go quickly.

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Kelli stands in a pond for a shot in Luna Blue while the SHV team preps the EZFX jib.

 
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Katie Klann running the Movi-M10 with a Nikon D5 and 14-24mm lens.

We wanted to shoot a majority of the video in low light, which the D5 is perfect for. We shot every day at sunrise and sunset. To make our lives a little easier, we camped every night so we were in place the moment we woke up each morning.

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Our camp site outside Hastings, NE.

For this project, we utilized the newest additions to our equipment case - two light meters from Sekonic. The Litemaster Pro (L-478DR-U-EL) is key when calibrating cameras. The Nikon D5 bodies are amazingly consistent, as are the RED Weapon and Dragon bodies, but they work very differently. When we need to mix files, the Litemaster Pro is our go to meter. The Nikons are extremely accurate when it comes to color balance, zero fluctuation between bodies. The need for calibration comes in multi camera production with the light coming from different directions, and in diverse ways. And then there is post production to consider. For documentary work, we want to present the light temperature and intensity as we saw it. For music videos that's not necessarily the case, and keeping things straight is a different challenge. The Sekonic C-500R Prodigy Color Temperature helps us calculate not only what is, but what we want it to be.

Overall, we spent four days with Jaymie, Kelli and Jason and shot two music videos in that time. Luna Blue is the first of those videos. We invite you to watch it on NebraskaProject.com.

A long road trip always guarantees new books, bunches of them.    

A few weeks ago in the Bay Area, I was visiting one of my favorite haunts, Keplers. A most excellent bookstore in Menlo Park.

A new book about James Brown by a man whose work I love caught my eye.

James McBride.

I bought a dozen tomes I'm anxious to dive into, but no question what I was reading first.

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From his new book, Kill 'em and Leave, talking about the South he writes, "..the land that produced him is a land of masks. The people who walk that land, both black and white, wear masks and more masks, and then masks beneath those masks."

In the Color of Water, he wrote this about his mother:

“Family love: It is firm footing, something to cling to in a frightened world, that seems to be out of control with war, turmoil, terrorism and uncertainty. It is our highest calling and greatest nobility.

So if you see a woman driving in Trenton with her blinkers on. Look out. Back off. Give her some space. She could go left, she could go right.  She could go into Heaven clear out of sight!  But no matter which way she goes, she's not likely going your way.

And if she is, don't bother her with any questions about it, or you'll get an earful of God.”

And in "Family. A Celebration of Humanity", he wrote this about mine:

“Many years ago, a young American mother named Agnes Frakes pointed out images all around her tiny Nebraska town to her four-year-old son Bill: a cat’s shadow, a pool of oil beneath a car, his own name etched in a cookie tray of caramel popcorn. The boy looked at the objects and saw nothing. ‘Look again,’ she said. ‘There is always more there than what your eye sees…’ Years later the boy became one of the most accomplished photographers in the world.”

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My mother, Agnes Frakes with my daughter, Havana.

I think of my mother often, and every Mother's Day find time to revisit a short film I created about her and her time teaching in a one-room school house in rural Nebraska. I invite you to view, A Teacher Remembered.

This week I'm at my favorite yearly event, Louisville's own -- the Kentucky Derby. It's my 34th trip to the Run for the Roses. Since my great buddy Dan Dry invited me to join him here in 1981, I've only failed to be at Churchill Downs once on the first Saturday in May. In 1994, my then boss and always mentor Heinz Kluetmeier sent me to Beijing, I think it was because he wanted the finish line to himself, but that's another story for another time. There's nothing quite like the Derby.  It's an event steeped in style and tradition. Rich in nostalgia. Drama. Intrigue. My gear list for this event is sizeable. I'm bringing 40 DSLR cameras, 44 lenses that range from 14mm to 600mm. 60 magic arms, 100 super clamps, radios, hundreds of feet of wire, connectors, tripods, and a bunch of other stuff that makes all of this work. The way I cover the race changes every year.  Which brings new challenges, new demands, lots of worry, and a whole bunch of stress. The first time I showed up to cover the race I had three cameras and three lenses. One of those lenses, a Nikkor manual focus 50mm f1.4 has been with me every single visit I've made to the Derby.

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05:   at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Bill Frakes for ESPN)

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05: at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Allison Hess)

I'm not superstitious. This little guy has earned a permanent spot in the rotation. Laura says I'm a softie.  Not everyone would agree with her. But I am sentimental. Most of my gear goes in cases and travels under the plane.  Only a few things get carried into the cabin with me. When I was packing and running low on space it was the one lens I refused to remove from my roller case.  Far from the most expensive, or fragile, but maybe the most precious. No idea how many images I've made with him, several hundred thousand any way, and while not all of them have worked out that's been my fault. overhead_100_W He's hung from the roof, he's been buried in the dirt under the rail, traveled through the crowds affixed to every flagship body Nikon has produced with an F mount -- at least 12 different models -- he's been left out in the rain, and under a blazing sun. Saturday, he'll be doing some heavy lifting again, attached to a D500.  And you'll see the results. Follow me on Instagram (@billfrakes) and Twitter (@billfrakes) for complete ESPN coverage of this year’s Derby.

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