Bud porn has been around since, well...can’t really put a date to it. What we do know is that in 1974 a little magazine called High Times hit the scene and boldly documented a highly illegal culture. One that operated in the shadows, where privacy, security and trust were of the utmost importance. During this risky period in time, readers were graced with imagery of gorgeous buds, chunky plants and masked growers posing by their wares. It’s in these pages where we believe bud porn truly gained momentum.
Fast forward to 2019. Times have changed, cameras have changed and fortunately the need for heightened secrecy has greatly diminished. Nowadays, social media is flooded with growers happily smiling with their crop with faces in plain sight. Growers, breeders, and consumers all publicly flaunt their stash, and in doing so have upped the game for what cannabis photography can look like.
Enter Frankie Spontelli, a Denver based photographer with a good eye for ganja. Frankie has been expertly documenting grow rooms, dried flower and concentrates for a good while. And since this is what most would consider a dream job, we thought we’d ask a few questions to get a sense of what it’s like shooting pretty plants for a living.
What’s your story?
I'm originally from Cleveland, Ohio. After I graduate from college I made the jump up to Vail, Colorado working and living the ski bum life. While working and living up in the Vail Valley, I started to get into the cannabis industry managing dispensaries. After working a mix of roles inside the cannabis industry I shifted my focus to cannabis photography and marketing under my company Colorado Cannabis Photography.
How did you get into photography?
I've always been a hobbyist and took advanced photography classes in high school because it was interesting to me - there was a period of time where I wasn't shooting photography I was focused on producing music and DJing but I shifted that creative energy hard over the past couple years and directed it all towards adventure and cannabis photography. My work in cannabis photography is just part of what I do, my passion for cannabis photography also comes from a deep fascination with astrophotography and shooting landscape photography in the Rocky Mountains.
What got you into cannabis photography?
I think for many cannabis photographers it starts on the phone, like it did with me - once I had an entry level DSLR I just started bringing it into more and more settings inside the cannabis industry and asking ''Can I shoot some images?''. Persistence, learning about macro photography and just shooting a bunch on my own are the main things that got me into cannabis photography. I have a friend, Travis, who would let me into his home grow to shoot images of his plants so I could practice and help make some content for him. From there, I just started taking it to another level and watching/learning from other cannabis photographers in other states like Oregon and California.
What are the major challenges when shooting in a grow room?
Plant height, grow lights and the heat -- the heat can be challenging because your standing still with your camera set up while the timer clicks under the grow lights for at least a couple of hours. Take breaks, I usually wear sunglasses and drink plenty of water when your shooting in a grow room. Some grows use H.P.S. bulbs (luckily not used in 14er grows) and those throw a really nasty yellow hue all over the images so you need to be prepared with special filters to color correct this issue. Plant height is the final challenge, I've had to stand on upside down paint buckets in grows for hours to get to the right height for the images I needed. The taller the plants, the more challenging the entire shoot is going to be - the closer you are to the lights and balancing a camera higher up can be a real struggle. Quick nightmare story: one time I was completing some grow photography in a grow pod when all of a sudden the pod door locked and lights clicked off on me — I thought I was going to be trapped in the pod all night and was going to have to smoke my way out.
What are your favorite strains?
Lately, I've had so much work to get done that I gravitate towards a solid daytime strain, Sour Diesel, Tangerine Haze or Lemon G and because I've been consuming cannabis for a minute, at night I'm always searching for heavy OGs. I would say that Lucky Charms by 14er was one of the most impressive live resins I've smoked on in awhile, whenever I'm in Boulder I try to pick up some of my favorites by you guys.
What's your favorite part of the job?
Honestly, just touring and seeing all the different grows and facilities across Colorado and beyond - I've seen massive, multi-acre hemp/CBD farms and some of the most impressive cannabis grows in our entire state. Each cannabis grow presents a new challenge when it comes to the photography side but that's something else I like about what I'm doing. It's not always easy, mundane work - there is some figuring out when it comes to technique, gear, preparation and practice. I’m super passionate about the plant so the simple fact that I get to capture incredible images of cannabis plants is one of my favorite parts of what I do... I’m super fortunate for these opportunities and thank you big time 14er Boulder for having me out to capture the magic going on in your grow.
To see more of Frankie’s work visit coloradocannabisphoto.com