Valley photographer on Sea of Cortez shoot
by Joey Crandall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Rokis has been tinkering around with cameras most of his life.
He was drawn to photography thumbing through his grandparents’ photo albums as a child – struck by the ability to capture small bits of history in still frames.
“They traveled all over the midwest, and I just remember how amazed I was when I was a kid, that I could see those same places,” Rokis said. “That’s something that always meant a lot to me.”
It’s that same spirit of being able to bring some sense of adventure back to those who couldn’t be there that has launched him into his latest endeavor.
Rokis, 33, a business Intelligence Manager at GE Bently in Minden, has spent the last several years moonlighting as a professional photographer.
He’s shot some weddings, some outdoor adventures and even some commercial product for marketing. Last year, an athlete modeling outdoor apparel for one such shoot asked Rokis if he ever shot video.
“This guy starts talking about how he wants to swim the Sea of Cortez and how he is shooting a documentary,” Rokis said. “I thought it sounded interesting, but I couldn’t even begin to grasp the magnitude of what he was talking about.”
Several months passed, and the project stuck in the back of Rokis’ mind.
“I hadn’t shot any video before, and I just wasn’t sure,” he said. “But the more time went on, the more I looked into it, the more I thought this was just the thing for me.
“I called him up and asked if he was still looking for a second videographer. He was.”
The man, Paul Lundgren, had attempted to swim the span the year prior as part of a six-man distance relay team. He planned to swim the potentially world-record-breaking 80-mile Sea of Cortez crossing, once dubbed the world’s aquarium by Jacques Cousteau, under “English Channel Rules” meaning using only a pair of swim trunks and goggles with no in-water assistance.
The open water swim carries with it unpredictable currents, the danger of great white sharks, jelly fish blooms, and carnivorous squid.
“He made it from Point A to Point B 30 to 35 miles,” Rokis said. “When you look at the GPS from last year, at certain points he’s doing loops, the current was pushing him back. He really swam about 49 miles.”
The crew stopped Lundgren after 24 hours.
After they pulled him out of the water, and after they’d returned to shore, they discovered they’d been about five miles away from catching a favorable current that would’ve taken Lundgren all the way to the opposite shore.
“He felt like he’d left something in the sea,” Rokis said. “From that moment he knew he wanted to try it again.”
So Rokis ventured out with Lundgren and crew again this past week, for another attempt.
Lundgren swam 31 miles in more than 20 hours before ending the swim due to hypothermia concerns.
Rokis was the first videographer on this trip and was in charge of coordinating all of the shots.
“We are running about 6 or 7 Go-Pro set-ups and I have a 10-foot boom I can swing from a tripod in front of the boat which makes for some interesting shots,” he said. “I tell people what I’m doing, and they generally think it must be pretty monotonous and boring, because it’s one guy doing the same thing over and over and over again.
“I found it very diverse, though. Your subject is the same, but the setting is constantly changing. The water changes, the wind changes. You see a hammerhead shark swim by, or a whale jumps out of the water.
“The sunsets are indescribable. They are great here in Carson Valley, but there, there aren’t any mountains to break it up. It’s just unfettered light and the glassy surface of the water.
“You’re out there shooting any angle you can. With this sport, it’s not over in one minute or even two hours. You get 24 hours to be creative. You are cut off from everything. Your cell phone doesn’t work, no internet. I really love it.”
All of the footage from all three attempts will later be compiled into a full-length documentary by a film company in the future. Rokis said he’s enjoyed the entire process and would like at some point to make photography or cinematography his full-time profession.
“General Electric has been incredible to me,” he said. “I’ve been with them 11 years and thanks to them I’ve been to 22 countries now. It’s an incredible job.
“Someday, though, if at all possible, I’d love to make photography my every day job. That’s something I could do all day, every day. I just take these experiences and try to learn the most I can out of them. We’ll see where it goes from here.”
And here are more of Rokis’ pictures from last year’s swim. You can view more of his work at http://www.scottrokis.com/: