1. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where were you born what do you do for work?
I was born and raised in Ontario’s Ottawa Valley, and I went to school for Conservation Biology and Business. After graduation and a brief spell as a waterfowl guide, I made the (maybe not so) obvious transition to doing business development and directing for Rockhouse Motion, a production house that I’m a proud partner of. Rockhouse is based in the creative hotbed of central Kansas and we do all kinds of film and photography work, but we specialize in advertising in the outdoor space. I currently live in Canmore, Alberta, where I spend my time hunting, fishing, and otherwise frolicking in the Rockies.
2. Do you remember the first time you picked up a flyrod? What was the first fish you caught?
I first picked up a flyrod while visiting my neighbor Tom Adamchick, who was the flyfishing editor for Outdoor Canada. I got super lucky, Tom is a true badass and an excellent teacher who has traveled the world fly-fishing, and he was keen to try and convert me from the spin-fishing days of my youth. He loves brook trout so much that he actually dug and stocked a pond in his yard, so it was there that I managed to connect with my first fish on the fly.
3. I know you do a ton of hunting as well, how do you think these two sports relate to each other?
It depends. I think the way that I hunt informs the way that I love to fish. I love sight fishing and solving the puzzle to target specific fish. Don’t get me wrong, no matter how I get to spend time with a flyrod, I’m happy, but a targeted approach is always my favorite. With that said, I think it has a lot to do with hunting. Analyzing habitat, putting yourself in position for a single opportunity, and then the rush that comes with connecting on a standout fish are very similar to the way I feel hunting.
4. If you were stranded on an island in the middle of the Ocean, and you could pick one fly rod and one gun to have with you, what would you choose?
Orvis H3D would be my go-to rod, its got all the sauce of the H2 with a real improvement in accuracy, and durability as well (which is key cause I tend to break things). On the firearm side, I would go with a Beretta A400. I’ve always loved their shotguns, and the A400 is a monster. Durable, comfortable, and fits me well.
5. When did you start shooting photography/videography? Was there someone in particular who pulled you into this field?
I started when I was young. I asked for an underwater camera for my 10th birthday and shot a lot of blurry photos of smallmouth with it. I assume that my parents planted that seed somehow, so I owe them a thank you for that. As I went to school and traveled, I fell further in love with it, especially backpacking Australia and New Zealand. I found myself centering my days around sunrise and sunset, getting a similar thrill from a standout image as I would from shooting/catching something. Things happened pretty fast from there, but as far as doing it full time as a professional, I owe my thanks to Matt White and Dustin Lutt, my business partners, for inspiring and encouraging me to take it on within my role at Rockhouse. Aside from Matt and Dustin, my late friend Andrew Brose was the guy who gave me the confidence to tackle this as a career. He was always the man in our community when it came to filming work, and when he said I had what it took to succeed, I took it to heart.
6. Do you think you have the best job in the world? If you weren’t doing this for work, where would you be?
I do indeed have the best job in the world. I get to tell stories on behalf of some of my favorite brands on the planet and travel the world to work with passionate and motivated people. I love the project orientation of our line of work, and the challenge of adapting our creative voice to suit the brands we work with along the way. If I weren’t doing this, I think I would be a serial entrepreneur, trying to start/grow/sell businesses in various niches. It’s impossible to say, this career path has been so influential in my life that its hard to consider the hypotheticals.
7. Favorite Drink?
Cold Beer. If I had to be specific I would say that amber ales are my favorite, with Kilkenny in cold weather, and Yukon Red in warm weather is the best bet. That said, as long as it isn’t too heavy on the wheat and fruit, odds are I’ll love it. I’ve never been much of a spirits guy, but I’ve been converted by Wild Life Distilleries here in town, and their gin and vodka are out of this world. Smooth and tasty, and much more packable for backcountry adventures. I guess I also enjoy Lemonade, but that’s not particularly exciting.
8. Do you have any role models in the fly fishing industry? What about a photographer who inspires you?
I’m extremely lucky to have friends that I fish with and look up to at the same time. Naoto Aoki (@naoto.aoki.photography) lives here in Alberta and has influenced my approach to fly-fishing more than anyone else, and has a beautiful honest style of photography. Simon Perkins (@sharptailmedia) at Orvis inspires me because he manages to successfully balance a corporate career with time on the water, which I am bad at. I like how Derek Olthius (@derekolthius) curates good instructional content and mixes it in with a great overall feed, and shares my appreciation for hunting big fish. All of those guys apply on the photography side as well, as well as Josh Hutchins @aussieflyfisher who kicks ass at underwater/split level imagery and tells a good story as a traveling guide. Matt Jones @matt.jones.photography does a great job too. I struggle to have role models on the fishing side without actually fishing with people, but I appreciate anyone who builds momentum for the sport and encourages people to get outside and spend time with the people they love.
9. Favorite person, you follow on Instagram?
As far as content goes, I love checking on our team @rockhousemotion, as silly as it seems. Together, on set, we are a wildly cohesive group, so it’s really interesting to me to see what images everyone chooses to share on their own time, and how they express themselves on social. They’re all pros, and together they have a variety of awesome work. Check out @matt_white_rockhouse, @dustin_rockhouse, @colinphoto_rockhouse. Aside from our team, I really find brands to be interesting, and I follow a lot of them quite closely. I guess the question says “favorite person” so I’m obliged to mention my love @loganraeross and my Mom @madawaskamo (don’t follow her though, or she’ll ask me a bunch of questions about what is wrong with her phone).
10. One book or movie everyone should read or see at least once.
Old Man and the Sea, my all time favorite book and its a quick and easy read. It’s such a simple story, but Hemingway crafts a truly timeless narrative with the simplest prose. I still cry at the end, sharks are the worst.
11. What’s been your favorite project to work on thus far in your career.
My favorite project was our film Beyond the Roar, which was a tribute to Andrew Brose who I mentioned earlier. I’m in the film, and I got to hunt, so I suppose it has an unfair advantage, but it was such an incredible experience to make, and it is such a genuine story, that it has really resonated with people more than the other projects I’ve been close to. I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to share the story of what was essentially my adventure of a lifetime.
From a commercial perspective, we are just wrapping up a Cabela’s anthem that I’m super proud of (although I can’t share it yet). For:30 second spots, these two for Sufix 832 are among my favorites:
For brand films, the ones we did for Orvis and Rapala really stand out to me.
We also just finished up a major fly-fishing project that I’m very proud of, The Forgotten Atoll. I think it really resonates with a full range of people, from folks who have never fished, to core anglers. It was extremely difficult fishing, but I think the emotion comes through on screen, and I really like the honesty with which Naoto talks about trying and failing, to catch a GT. It’s real, which isn’t always what you see in films. We were extremely lucky to have a great connection with the locals thanks to Brady’s connections there.
12. Tell me about your camera set up for run and gun shooting. For people who want to get into photography do you have any advice for them?
My go-to setup is a Canon 1DX Mark II, for both stills and motion. For fishing, I tend to also bring the SPL Water Housing when I can fit it in.
As far as advice goes, keep it simple. Don’t fret about gear, and if you do, buy lenses. Focus on taking a few exceptional shots instead of a bunch of good ones. Learn to be critical of your own work, and if that fails, find a group of people who will be critical of you. Learn to retouch, and get the most out of your images. As Colin, our editor says “tell them where to look, and tell them how to feel”. If you see something you like, figure out how they shot it, and then shoot it for yourself. Most importantly, don’t let the camera wreck the moment. That was a tough one for me, learning to enjoy the moment and photograph it at the same time. It is different for everyone, but once you figure it out the ability to enhance and immortalize the moment, there is nothing like it.
13. What’s next for Aaron Hitchins?
Like I said, I have the best job in the world, so I’m off to work on my ‘desert island’ brands. First to Vermont, for the launch film for the Orvis H3, and then to the East Coast with Beretta to shoot their spring/fall line. Then, hunting season in Alberta/Quebec/Kansas and whatever that brings with it.
Before all of that, though, hopefully, some Cutthroat and Bull Trout. I need to fish.
Find more from Aaron on Instagram @aaronhitchins