I grew up seeing the craziest photos of the Southwest, massive arches, un-real rock formations, and the most intense red color. As I became more and more involved with a camera, I soon realized that creating my own interpretation of the Southwest was a must. I graduated High-school in South Lake Tahoe this past June (2015). Days before graduation I received a book from my favorite teacher from the High-school, he was my video teacher that I was able to become close with and developed a strong relationship through our love of film. Anyways, he gave me the book, “How to Make a Six Figure Income from Video,” I opened the first page, and read the text “Just Fu&*ing do it”. After struggling through twelve years of school, those words really hit hard. Years of day dreaming in class and trying to build a career for myself in school, I finally had the chance to JDFI (Just Fu^*ing do it)
After dealing with a weekend full of graduation parties, seeing lifelong friends for the last time, and too many thank you cards, myself and three friends set off to do something we’ve dreamed of through out high-school. So we packed up the car and headed out. Our mission: ski Mt. Hood, no ideas of how we were getting there, where we were staying, or how were going to pay for it. This was honestly one of the best learning experiences I’ve had, being on my own with no idea what I was doing. The only thing that I did know was that I was going to make it work come hell or high water. This summer I ended up putting 15,000 miles on my 2005 Toyota Matrix, Visiting 12 states, 2 countries, from Oregon to Banff, and everywhere in between. This was truly a dream come true.
I had a job at a TV production station in Tahoe that would pay me well, and let me take extended trips to awesome places. I had it all at the age of 18. I had amazing companies backing everything I wanted to do, and understanding from my parents, friends, and my community. Obviously telling your parents that all you want to do with your life is live in the back of your car, and enjoy the side of life that others seldom get to experience was a difficult task. So with that I was living out of my car in Santa Cruz , Ca. One week in August, and got a message from Derrick Lytle (a fellow Mountainsmith ambassador) asking if I wanted to join him for a 2 week all expenses paid trip to film an Ultra Running race through the Southwest. The race followed a 170 mile course from the Grand Canyon to the top of the Grand Staircase in Bryce Canyon. This was finally my chance to take on the Southwest desert landscape. It was pretty crazy for Derrick to hire an 18 year old kid living out of his car who he had only met once. But I couldn’t be more thankful that he did.
I knew I wanted to move to Salt Lake City, UT after I graduated, so before the shoot I spent three days in SLC looking for a house and a place to work. I ended up landed a sweet bachelor pad in Cottonwood Heights with some friends from Tahoe. After that I headed to our shoot assistant Cherri’s house to meet up with the team. To be honest I was completely nervous, I was in an unknown place getting ready to spend 2 weeks in the company of complete strangers. I met up with the rest of the team who included George Bruce Wilson (Three Peak Films), Derrick Lytle, and Cherri Marcinko. Bruce, Derrick and I were all Mountainsmith ambassadors.It was absolutely insane to see how one company brought us together to perfect and create our art forms.
I believe I counted 14 Mountainsmith bags being used on this shoot. We had some difficulty renting a 4wd car for the shoot. After meeting we decided that my 2005 Toyota Matrix would have to serve as the vehicle for the shoot. As Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, pointed out “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” and everything that could go wrong using this car would. We spent the first few nights getting to know each other camping in Zion, The Wave, and Grand Canyon before the shoot started. After spending a few hours with this crew I knew I fit right in. Bruce helped us all improve our Tinder profiles, the Cedar city girls were all easy matches. I laughed my ass off the entire time, from Bruces Rango voice to Derricks immense awkwardness and laid back humor, stirred in with my smart ass sense of humor, you would have thought we were on a stand up tour.
The next 10 days were some of the greatest memories I’ve made, working with people who understood my goals with cinematography, innovation and creating movement that has never been done. We shot the entire recap video in 4k, something the Grand 2 Grand race has never had. I dropped the crew back off at Bruce’s house in Orem, UT and drove through the night back to Tahoe. Ended up with a speeding ticket in the middle of Nevada too (how does that happen??)
I now happily resided in Salt Lake City, working at Backcountry.com. If you need advice on gear call the Gearhead hotline and ask for AJ Marino EXT.4812. Now realizing that I accomplished everything I wanted to this summer, no excuses, no money, and no bad times. Whats in store for next summer?
Here are some tips and stats thats I took note of this summer.
The Mountainsmith Modular Hauler makes for an awesome closet for your car. I had mine set up with all of my clothes, camping gear, and food (comes with a cooler). Set up the hauler vertical for a drawer type of storage. Or lay it down upright in your trunk for storage and organization. I am a very messy and disorganized child and I can say that the Modular Hauler helped me overcome my terrible lack of organization. It also comes in a mesh bag that I use to put all my dirty laundry in for the laundromat.
The Mountainsmith Parallax camera pack kept all of my valuable camera gear safe, dry, and organized. I had the complete trust in throwing around, dropping, and not soaking all my priceless gear while it was in my Parallax. It has three covenant camera access points, which helps to get the shot with out taking the pack off or ripping tripods off. I seriously love this pack, its been there for me all 15,000 miles this summer.
The Mountainsmith Haze 50 pack makes for an awesome pack to store all of my other gear, ropes, harness, toiletries, and other fun outdoor stuff. It was great having a pack with all my gear that allows for me to head into locations my car was unable to. I also used the backpack, while home in Tahoe, for backpacking trips around the area, with the goal of slowly taking down the Tahoe to Whitney trail. This pack was bulletproof, and proved that a lightweight 50 liter pack could serve as a muti-day trip, and ski trip pack!
The Mountainsmith Cavern pack, severed as my “around town” pack, I can take it to work, to a sweet bouldering problem, and still have the appeal of a modern backpack. I graduated using it for school, and now the Backcountry.com office sees it.
Miles driven: 15,00
Peaks summited: 10
Chedarwersts eaten: 52
Yerba Mate drinken: At least 15 gallons
Laughs had: 10,000
Red Hot Chili pepper songs played: I’d say 500-650
Most listened to album: Asap Rocky, At long last Asap, or Method man, The Blackout!
Best camp music: Pink Floyd
Oil Changes: 3
Flat Tires: 3
Money spent: All of it
Words in this blog: It’s a long one, 1,586
Time to get around to writing a new blog: I’m super lazy with a computer, 6-7 months
Cameras used: 3
Gigabytes shot: 3-4,000
Favorite place: Yosemite or Banff
For more photos and videos, Follow me on Instagram @aj.marino Also swipe right if you see me on tinder.
Great work AJ – your talent and drive will take you far amigo. Congrats and stoked to be a fellow team-member with you.
I totally enjoyed reading this, and was so glad that book I gave you spurred you on to use what was always inside you. Your creativity certainly knows no bounds- I’m proud of you, and hope, in my own 60-year-old- way to keep re-inventing myself as you have done. Thanks for the inspiration! Howard C
Stoked on you mobbing around in the Matrix