Making the Shot: Vince Camuto Solare
Welcome to my latest post on Making the Shot, a monthly series exploring the process behind creating some of my favorite images.
This month we’re getting out of the studio and into the surreal beauty of Death Valley for the making of my image for Vince Camuto Solare.
I’ve been working with Yuthi Meas, the Creative Director on this project for years, ever since his time at Tommy Hilfiger. Like all of my long time clients we have a collaborative and trusting working relationship, which makes the creative process much more fun and rewarding.
The brief for Solare was “Sunset in the Sand Dunes”, and at first, was proposed as a studio shoot. This of course, was entirely possible and presented it’s own challenge. However, as adventure is in my blood and (ahem), I happen to be an Eagle Scout, any excuse to get outside is a welcome one.
So, knowing the richness of the California landscape that surrounds Los Angeles, I suggested we take this show on the road and make some authentic, on location advertising photographs amidst the dunes in Death Valley.
After some research, the Kelso Dunes in Death Valley ended up as our primary target. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the dunes to mess things up, they’re expansive enough to offer enough empty space and close enough to get to without too much trouble.
So, my assistant John McGillen and I packed up and set out for a couple days of adventure.
In order to be prepared for any situation, we brought a variety of equipment to help us achieve the desired result. My trusty Hasselblad H4D50MS was in tow – along with several lenses including the 35-90mm zoom, the 120mm macro and my favorite, the 300mm f4. We also brought a Nikon D800 with a 70-200 and a D810 with a 400/2.8. Some Speedlights, mirrors and diffusion rounded out the versatile yet portable setup.
No, I didn’t make john carry everything all the time. (image of john with all the gear)
The tricky part of desert light is that it only looks incredible for an unbelievably short (and stressful) window around sunrise and sunset – so scouting missions and pre-planning were critical to our success. I planned our first evening in the dunes to get a feel for the environment, the quality of the light, and the direction we’d need to place the bottle for the perfect combination of all three components.
In the end, we spent one evening and two mornings out in the dunes, perfecting our technique each session. We found that:
- The Nikon’s, while as good as it gets for DSLR’s, didn’t hold a candle to the depth and dimensionality of the Hasselblad. That was to be expected – and we really only brought the Nikons on the off chance we would use the VERY long vantage point offered by the 400mm.
- The morning light had wonderful crisp clarity to it, while the evening light had a gritty feel due to all the dust in the air. Both were stunning, and in the end we used a combination of frames painstakingly combined by LaBoutique to form the final composition. Can you tell which is which? (Hint – read on and I’ll give it away at the end)
- We loved the reflections in the polished chrome of the bottle, which add a subtle realism that would have been nearly impossible to re-create in the studio.
- We also discovered that an ice-cold beer after two days in the desert tastes really, really, really good.
THE FINAL SHOT
What I enjoyed most about this assignment was the opportunity to bring a refined still-life aesthetic and techniques – complete with focus brackets – out into the field. Thanks to John McGillen for wandering around with me, Jenn Wirtz for producing the shoot and Melissa Schneider for the brilliant agent-ing. I also want to acknowledge Yuthi, Treena and the entire team at Vince Camuto for their trust and the opportunity to embark on a photographic adventure in order create some amazing images.
Thanks for the memories!
(The main shot was a focus bracket from our first evening, combined with the mid-background from our second morning setup. The far background file was a plate of the mountains.)