Rancho Ojai, pigs, and live action… Oh, My!

Published by | Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

With live action video shooting going full tilt in the production department these days, lynda.com producers and directors are always looking for new scenic locations at which to shoot content for the never-ending flow of courses released to the Online Training Library®. For a soon-to-launch title, Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography with seasoned photographer, Ben Long, finding a suitable location was even more challenging than usual. With only a day before shooting was to begin, we were forced to back out of our initial shoot location, due to a logistics issue. During an internet search I made weeks earlier, I had tucked away the information for a 233-acre, oak-covered ranch, situated on one of the best vantage points in Ojai, California.

With 360 degree views that included the Pacific Ocean, the Channel Islands, Topa Topa mountain, and the cities of Ventura, Oxnard, Simi Valley, and Camarillo, it seemed unlikely that the owners, who advertised the location for feature film shoots, would grant our small live action team access to their property at such late notice. Call it desperation, but, with only a couple hours before we were due to shoot, I dialed the number on the website and was greeted by the friendly voice of Michele, half of the husband-wife team of Michele and Michael Labadie—owners of this grand property known as Rancho Ojai.

As luck would have it, Michele had a soft spot for education, and especially for lynda.com, as she had recently looked into purchasing a subscription to better her web design skills. When I asked Michele how she’d feel about lynda.com shooting a course on her property that very day, she was thrilled to help us, even giving us the combination to the ranch locks, and asking for absolutely nothing in return. And, her generosity extended beyond that. She offered us a place to shoot as often as we wanted, even before we presented her with a complimentary multi-year lynda.com subscription. We were absolutely astounded by her graciousness, and excited to explore the viewpoints from Rancho Ojai. So the five of us, including author, Ben Long, made the 45-minute trek to Ojai, not quite sure what to expect, but knowing we had only a couple hours of daylight in which to create video magic.

After traveling a good five miles off the beaten path, we arrived at the top of the vista—and, oh, what a view it was. It was even more breathtaking than the photos at www.ranchoojai.net had hinted at. While we were getting our bearings and planning our shots, Michael Labadie arrived to share information about different vistas on the property and a bit of history. Before he drove away, he issued a most curious warning.

“Watch out for the wild pigs, especially the one with the white tusks,” said Michael. “They’re mostly tame, except for that one.”

With inquisitive looks upon our faces, we thanked him and began the quick task of setting up the camera equipment in a race against time. By the time the dust cloud settled over Michael’s tire tracks, the pig warning was just a distant memory. Our minds were set on beating the sunset to the finish line.

And beat it, we would. In the skilled hands of the lynda.com live action production team, including Loren Hillebrand, Andrew Brown, and, director, Jacob Cunningham, the equipment was set up in no time, and Ben Long, was poised to shoot his first scene. As Jacob made a few more adjustments on the camera, something most unbelievable was happening in the distance.

A line of pigs was headed up the grade, right in our direction. We tensed up, wondering if the tusked one would be amongst the group of 200-pound animals hobbling toward us. The pigs were not shy—zigzagging around the equipment, sniffing our shoes, nibbling the rubber tripod feet, and even playfully snatching Ben’s eyeglass case. We rolled the cameras, then watched and wondered if we’d have to shoot with pigs in the scene. Fortunately, that was not the case, as they disappeared nearly as quickly as they had arrived—heading for the mud pit on the other side of the field. With smiles on our faces as Loren yelled “action,” we knew this would be a shoot to remember. In fact, we could hardly wait for our next adventure at Rancho Ojai.

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3 Responses to “Rancho Ojai, pigs, and live action… Oh, My!”

  1. If you are ever up around the central coast area, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, let me know I know some great areas for shoots. Would love to help you.

  2. Terri Stone says:

    Ben told me about this the day after your shoot, and I didn’t quite believe him. But that footage was no fake! Fun back story.

  3. I guess this is proof that live action video shooting takes a lot of dedication. :)

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