Thursday, March 7, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Photographers and Farmers never sleep

From time to time you get the privilege to work on projects that really fires up your creativity. I love a good challenge. It helps to make me a better photographer. 

From the get-go, I knew this was a client that had quality in mind. It's very rare to get layouts that the client has hired a professional artist to draw. Most of the time, you'll get a layout that has been cobbled together from stock images. If you're lucky, sometimes you get a story board with stock images and some sort of color palette. So as you can imagine, I'm impressed right from the beginning. 

Starting a conversation with the art director, it was explained that they needed the project shot fairly soon -- and it was the dead of winter. Everyone quickly realized that the original concept of shooting the project in the middle of farm crops wasn't going to work.

So the challenge became, how do we convey the farm feel wanted and still keep the visual message on point? Our client suggested we shoot it in a barn. Will that work?

The overall concept was to have a humorous, tongue-in-cheek feel of an AA-type meeting, where a group of farmers along with a product (Agrotain) moderator are participating in an "Agronomists Anonymous" counseling session. During our conversations we went from a "ha-ha" funny concept to a dark humor approach with a clandestine, voyeuristic feel that emphasized the dejected and ashamed plight of all the farmers. With the concept nailed down, we next had to figure out how to visually interpret it. As with many things, the answer evolved during the process journey. While spending a day and a half scouting looking for, and at, barns, the look of the images became mentally clear.

I came back and sent my scouting images along with a rough idea of the lighting and look I felt we should do for this project. The client agreed and we all raced to produce the project on time.

For a project of this scope, you have a lot of crew, equipment, and moving parts and crew that need to be thought through and pulled together.

Photo Assistant
Digital Tech
Hair and Wardrobe Stylist
Production Coordinator

Props and Equipment:
Motorhome for models and crew to change, relax and work
Equipment van
Space heater (the forecast called for some of the coldest temperatures of the year)
Fuel for space heater (used more than 60 gallons of kerosene to power a 400,000 btu heater)
Dry erase board and tripod stand
Farm tractor
Farming hand tools
etc., etc., etc.

As mentioned in past posts there are 2 things that allow for a great photo shoot --
1. A great client that hires you to do what you do best and then trusts you to do it.
    Thanks Deanna, Joe, and Kristjan for being such great clients!
2.  A great team behind you that makes you look good.
     Thanks Paula, Catherine, Phil, Kent, Sarah, Tiffany and Braden!

Many times I've talked about the business of photography being really about problem solving. This project was proof positive. Besides solving the visual challenges, you have production, scheduling and logistics to keep in mind. And of course, "Murphy's Law" always comes into play. 

As it happened, the days we were shooting were some of the coldest day of the year (10 degrees), thus the space heater and RV. The first day of the shoot everything checked out and we were all on schedule when Murphy came by for a visit. Just as we were about to start shooting the generator on the RV decided to quit. No lights, no power for the computer, no heat. Ugh! We got it running but 30 minutes later it quit again -- shutting everything down again. While we had rented a generator to run all the lights for the set and the blower on the space heater, there wasn't enough capacity left on that generator to power the RV too. We were fortunate to find power in the barn and ran an extension cord to run the computer and the cabin heater to keep everyone warm. All the delays meant we almost ran out of fuel for the space heater in the barn. 

Day two, Murphy decided to visit again. Upon returning to the studio from day one, I hooked the RV into the studio's power to run all the systems, including the RV's heater so the water didn't freeze. Well, that didn't work. As it turned out, there was a short in the RV's electrical system that drained the batteries and shut the whole system down. Finally got it fixed, but started day 2 (our longest shoot day) behind schedule. We finished the shoot around 1:30 in the morning and went to start the RV to go back to the studio and nothing!!!!  In the rush to get back on schedule, I had left the ignition key on. There we were in the middle of the country, everyone else had left, and the RV would NOT start. We had our equipment van but no jumper cables. Luckily there was an all night Wal-mart 10 miles up the road and they had jumper cables. We arrived back at the studio at 2:30 in the morning, all safe but worn out. 

The business of photography in much more than making cool images, it's about problem solving -- and always being prepared for the unexpected!

Turner Barn, Gardner, KS.

Shirk Barn, Lawrence, KS.

Loading the RV.

Our loaded equipment van.

Set-up underway at the Turner Barn.

Shirk Farm "campsite".

One of the products I purchased for this shoot was Camranger. It's a device that allows you to control every setting on most DSLR cameras remotely from your iPhone or iPad. I wholly recommend it. 

Up in the hayloft positioning lighting.

Making final checks to the camera.

Double checking images on the location computer.

Sarah, our make-up stylist, getting ready to put a "farmer's tan" on one of our models.

Going over images with our clients using Camranger on our iPad.

Crew and client thawing out in the RV.

Models sitting in for a group shot to ensure all the positions of the models worked as a whole.

We shot all the models separately so we could get the perfect expression for each one. This was critical to the whole campaign. It also gave us the ability to move each model into perfect positioning in relationship to each other.

We wanted to add a little atmosphere to show off the light source and make it appear as if there was dust in the air. We used a smoke machine to add our atmosphere.

The nice thing about using Camranger is that you can be anywhere on set and fire the camera. It also allows you to be able to preview a large image with the client even before it is imported to the computer for final approval.

Remote capturing lets you direct the talent more effectively.

Shooting individual models to put together in post.

What it looked like to the naked eye.

What it looked like with our lighting and post production.

A little model attention from client and make-up stylist.

With all our shoots we like to have a little fun and capture a few silly shots.

Photo assistant and client standing in for a lighting test.

Here is a link to show how we put all the images together in post production:

And, below are the final results. We are very pleased. What do you think?

Original Layout
Final Image
Original Layout
Final Image
Original Layout
Final Image