Trail Portrait Photography for Merrell Shoes' OneTrail Marketing Campaign in Kentucky

On a hot day in August, I was contacted by a team from Merrell and Camp4 Collective, who were looking for outdoor photographers to participate in a group photo project. The concept was simple: one photographer in each state would go out on an iconic trail and capture candid portraits of the hikers and landscapes, all on the same day. No models, no athletes, nothing staged. The idea was to show how “one trail unites us all” as images of people all over the United States would be brought together in the final piece.

I got on board right away and after a few emails we easily selected Auxier Ridge as a Kentucky trail that was iconic, scenic, and offered good opportunities for images.

As Kentucky weather would have it, the day of the shoot (September 1st) started with blue skies and a gorgeous sunrise that quickly gave way to thunderstorms. I’m happy it did though, because it gave me opportunities, conditions, and light that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Since these images would potentially be used in commercial applications, I had to get releases from everyone, which of course started by explaining the project and learning a little bit about who they were. I met some fun folks that day, and there were smiles abound despite the inclement weather.

Post-shoot, I selected my top 20 or so images and sent them along to Tim Kemple, who made final selections from each state and processed them in black and white (he did the edits on most if not all of the images posted above.) Much to my delight, I found out these images would be on display as a part of the Merrell brand booth at the Outdoor Retailer Convention in Denver in November. I flew out and met with a handful of other photographers as well as Tim and the team from Merrell.

This was kind of a dream project– so often major brands want to execute highly refined, traditional marketing campaigns with specific image concepts and guidelines. In this case though, the photographers were free to capture without those guidelines, and present a series of images of real people from real places. There’s something special about that, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.

You can view Merrell’s interactive website by visiting