From a recent commission by the University of Texas
It’s always nice to see work in print and this week a big box of freshly printed Austin Event 2012 calendars came from my friends at Big Weekend.
We spent part of the last 11 months planning and shooting scenes around the Austin area that are different from the typical boring stock photos that a ‘city’ calendar would normally have. Memorable moments include sliding off an ice-covered road in an attempt to photograph an actual wintry scene (this one didn’t pan out), and the metal-art-picnic-table image was made during the hottest part of the hottest day of the year at 112 °F. The benches were made of steel, there was literal rump roast. I was sure nobody would actually show up for that, but free beer saved the day once again.
The cool thing about these calendars is that there are hundreds of things already scheduled out for your planning delight, including lesser-known events like the Hairy Man festival. Why didn’t we shoot that one? Ah right, it’ll be on your wall for a month…
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph several luminaries in the world of gaming. They’re also corporate executives, and what I like about these shoots is how different they are compared to the usual executive shoot. This presents some interesting challenges.
I like to have a battleplan. The more preparation we do beforehand means less time spent fumbling at the shoot. First, I research the subjects, thank heavens for Google! Sometimes I learn something about their personalities that I can use in styling the picture, or at the very least, become familiar with their work and have something to talk about. From this, and from the angle the writer of the story is working from, I start to sketch what I want the image to look like, thinking about colors, compositions, lighting and how to relate it to the subject and the story.
There are always a lot of unknowns that remain when we arrive. The shoots typically take place on location at the studio, with no pre-shoot scout possible. Sometimes these studios are very large offices with dozens of people working there with plenty of interesting environments and space, and sometimes (such as Arkane’s above), there’s one room where the President’s desk is next to everyone else’s and we set up in the middle of the chaos, the background stands having only a few inches to spare. Then there are the subjects – will they have much time? What will they be wearing? – I haven’t seen a suit yet. How can we get them to open up? Will there be a PR person there and in a good mood? Game company execs have very different backgrounds than the usual executive, which I find usually works in my favor creatively as it brings the important element of spontaneity. There’s usually less ‘controlling the message’ and practiced smiles going on that gets in the way of making an interesting image.
Less is more, and there is always an a-ha moment where it is as good as it gets and it’s time to stop while we’re ahead; so I don’t shoot that many frames within a set – maybe a few dozen. After selects are made, I do my own retouching to achieve the final look that completes the story using my own creative vernacular.
Even with all the thinking and planning, I never quite know how it’s going to turn out in the end, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. So far, so good.
ps: I’m working on assembling a portfolio of sorts of these, I’ll have them here soon.
This was a fun job. Last month, after seeing these weiners, BBDO in New York asked us to photograph theirs similarly during South by Southwest, served from their client FedEx’s truck that they turned into a food trailer.