UpNorth Music & Arts Festival 2016

“So what did you do this summer?” This is one of the timeless questions that has followed us all the way from elementary school, and whenever I hear it I always smile and get taken back to the festivals that I was blessed to attend that year. 

2016 was a successful year for me in this respect. Memorial Day weekend kicked off my festival season with my first experience at Summer Camp in Chillicothe, Illinois seeing the likes of Excision and Big Grizmatic as well as one of the most amazing shows put on by Mother Nature in the form of an epic lightning storm. After a brief visit back to reality I escaped back to my personal haven at Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan (also a first for me). With the combination of amazing music, vibes, and one of the most intense light shows I’ve ever seen it was hard to believe that the whole place wasn’t held together by magic. 

However, both of these well established and heavily attended festivals have been completely dwarfed in my memory by the first annual Up North Music and Arts Festival in rural Copemish, Michigan. Having grown up in the area it was almost unbelievable for me to walk up to the greeting tent to receive my wristband and be greeted with the smells, sights, and overall vibes that transported me back to memories of all the other festivals I’ve attended. 

There’s something special about being one of the first people to attend and help establish any sort of annual gathering, and being a music festival only made being one of the first people at Up North even more special. There will always be a place in my heart for Up North, because much more than just a music festival was birthed that weekend for me: I proposed to my now wife in the forests of the Wanderland. I could have done this at Electric Forest, or on one of the many beaches that surround the Northern Michigan towns, but nothing could have felt more perfect than starting what is a magically everlasting and undying commitment in a place that was starting it’s own tradition with similar magic and love.

Even though the Saturday night was filled with rain that last through the next morning, it did nothing but make this experience more unforgettable. The crowd was wet, but our spirits burned bright enough to keep us warm and the celebration going long after the showers stopped. Everybody had there own reason for dancing until the sun came up; whether it was purely from the amazing music filling the air, the fact that they didn’t have to drive multiple hours to experience another festival, or the fact that the woman of their dreams just said yes to spending the rest of her life with you. It was the most amazing sunset I have ever seen.

If you were as lucky as I was to be at Up North Music and Arts Festival 2016 then you most likely didn’t need me to tell you just how special this place is, but if you were one of the many unfortunate festival goers that were otherwise preoccupied that weekend do yourself a favor and clear your calendar for Up North 2017. Come experience the love and togetherness that you’re familiar with already on an even more intimate level. Thank you to the creative team that took the chance on our little town giving us the opportunity to be great. Until next year, stay fantastic and remember to love each other just as you would in the crowd under the stars. 

Written by: Ian Smith

Special thanks to UpNorth Music Festival & Young Heavy Souls.

A Ballet Ruse


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with screen writer & director Darius Gardner on "A Ballet Ruse (An Act of Persuasion During Matinee)." This was one of those projects where immediately after I read the script, I was in. A moral dilemma of good and evil as it dances into a man's consciousness just as he's about to make a life changing decision. How could I not be interested? 


Another big draw from a cinematography stand point was that he wanted to shoot it all essentially in one shot. This meant a lot of planning and vision from the beginning. After Darius had put all of the pieces in place we began to map out the choreography of our ballet dancers, actors, & production crew. 


Onset in a ballet studio in the afternoon we all went over the choreography a few times and then went straight into shooting. We wanted to keep the camera motion fluid, but it real time, so I decided to shoot at 30FPS with full resolution. I had rented out a tokina 11-16mm lens and shot at 14mm with the aperture set at 2.8 for a slightly shallow depth of field and used my glidecam to create a dreamy effect. After about 4 or 5 takes we wrapped in the studio and moved to our final shot outside. 


After hours spent editing & color grading "A Ballet Ruse" was complete just in time to be submitted to the Western Michigan University Bronco Film Festival where it won the award for best cinematography. Huge props to Darius for making his vision become a reality and bringing me on as director of photography. 

Check out: A Ballet Ruse (An Act of Persuasion During Matinee) below. 

Constant Evolution

After some deliberation I've decided to begin blogging. Wow, that sounds boring as hell. I'll keep it brief since I'm much more of a visual person & I'll assume you are too. This blog will be more of a vlog, but (hopefully) won't be as cheesy as most in that it's not just me running around with a handycam filming my daily activities. 

It will be constantly evolving with any films that I haven't had the chance to post on the main page. I'll include the context for each film and a bit of tech-specs, if anyone is interested. 


Over the last few years I've had the pleasure to work with TBA Pro on multiple occasions, shooting event recaps all over Michigan for their various Womp Romps. It's always a good time to kick it with the crew and watch everyone let loose for a night.

Check out our most recent recap below featuring the funky beast: Filibusta.