By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 04, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Milwaukee cinematographer Travis Auclair spent most of last year with his eye glued to a viewfinder.

The 27-year-old University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee grad has helped document everything from flying pickup trucks in northern Wisconsin, to psychedelic rock legends in Portland and Jack White's haberdasher in Chicago, after getting his start filming his friends skateboarding in high school.

Auclair has kept busy since settling behind the camera full time after spending several years working around town in a slew of other production related capacities.

"I started shooting smaller video stuff for people that I knew in the production world a couple years ago and kind of transitioned into doing stuff like that full time about a year ago," Auclair said.

And what a busy year it has been.

The first season of "The Off Road Championship," a Discovery HD Theater series documenting the wild world of off road racing that Auclair helped film just wrapped, a short documentary on the Optimo hat company he shot with director and ex-Since By Man front-man Sam Macon is screening at the Wisconsin Film Fest later this month.

He's also in the midst of filming his first full-length documentary with Macon and co-director Faythe Levine that has taken the trio around the country as they explore the world of traditional sign painters.

"Even if in the winter time when it gets slow to the point of not knowing where your next job is, or you are running out of money. The lack of monotony the rest of the year is totally worth it," said Auclair. "You never have to go to the office. You are never going to the same place repeatedly. That's a big part of it."

Auclair bought his first video camera in high school so he could film he and his friends skateboarding which would prove crucial to his professional career, but detrimental to his skating.

"I like shooting stuff. I bought the camera because I skated and I'd go out with friends and we'd film each other but having the camera directly led to me not skating anymore because every time we'd go out I would shoot," Auclair said.

After dabbling in graphic design at UW-Stout for a couple years, Auclair decided to move to Milwaukee and study in the film program.

While working as a production assistant after graduation he would pay close attention to the guys filming, watching what they did and learning from them.

"It's a really technical but also creative thing," said Auclair. "There is the creative side: composition, color, light. But then technically you have to be able to know which direction should the light come from? What's the best way to light this scene, to get the shot that you want?"

And whether he is doing something exciting like sitting in on an interview with psychedelic rock pioneer Roky Erickson like he did at the Scion Garage Fest in Portland in 2009, or shooting corporate instructional videos during this year's NFC Championship, Auclair said the creativity and collaborative nature of filming makes it worthwhile.

"You have a whole crew of people behind you. You have a gaffer who is the chief lighting technician. The key grip who is going to rig the camera the best way to get your shot. It's a very collaborative thing between you and all these other people. It's cool," Auclair said.