It wasn’t that the phone hadn’t rung for an entire year. It was that the shoots were always too risky; my urge to be on set was always overruled by my commitment to ensure that making art did not lead to someone contracting COVID. Yet once the vaccine began to make things safer, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I was behind the camera once more, and with that I wanted it to be an automotive photoshoot. In a way it was like dipping your foot in to test the waters before taking a plunge by putting a celebrity or athlete in front of the camera.
One week before what would be my only photoshoot of 2020, I received a phone call that broke me emotionally. My producer, friend and all-around incredible person, Eric, had taken his own life.
Eric had been diagnosed with an aggressive case of ALS last summer, which had taken him from super fit gym rat to a state in which he was unable to swallow solid foods in a matter of months. While the disease had physically debilitated this man that so many loved, it never took his humor. In his suicide note (which you can read here), he is as proud, funny and happy as we ever knew him. His death was one out of many good friends and family I lost in 2020, but it was the only time I let myself cry.
If there was a theme in automotive advertising photography for 2020, it would be minimalism. This not only applies to aesthetics, but also (and more importantly) to production. We have seen some campaigns attempt “socially distanced” productions, but the approach can sometimes go wrong, and with a vaccine so close it simply is not worth it. A few months back we found out what a virtually collaborative photoshoot looked like with a Porsche Macan. While it made for some great images, and good laughs, it still felt a bit, well…distant. However, there were some aspects from that production that we wanted to take to the next shoot; one in particular being the iPad.
Has COVID-19 impacted the look of advertising campaigns?
Maybe – but probably not by as much as you might think. What is impacted, however, is the way that a commercial photography set operates for the foreseeable future.
As an advertising photographer, you are responsible for everything that happens on set while shooting a campaign. This can range from not just the lighting scheme, but the choice of using craft services versus having a chef on set, choosing the appropriate camera and related equipment, and most importantly the safety of everyone present. This isn’t to say that there are not safety officers on set, or form specific trainers when we photograph professional athletes, but that the buck always stops at the photographer. For those that do commercial photography, we know that there are never ending insurance certificate pulls happening just to step foot on set. But how do we create when it comes to an unseen virus, and what will those campaigns look like?
We set out to see what collaborating on an automotive campaign would look like when done virtually. In the words of the always colorful Jeremy Clarkson, “How hard could it be?” TL;DR: Not that hard!
The traditional automotive advertising shoot involves the meticulous planning of every detail. It is typically a carefully scripted production with many moving parts that can involve road closures, permits, police presence, a large crew, a host of lighting and rigging equipment, and more. All of which is obviously much more difficult to produce in light of COVID-19 and current social distancing requirements, especially since some cities have returned to a near lock-down state due to a resurgence of the virus.
Every so often a photoshoot comes along that both excites you and terrifies you at the same time, and today’s article is about one such instance.
When I was in college, and more specifically in Russian History 401 at ASU, I got a phone call and had to leave class, much to my teachers chagrin. It was Getty Images (my rep at the time) with a photo request for me to photograph the one and only, Mike Tyson. To add a little stress to the mix, I had less than two days to prepare for the shoot and at the time I hadn’t worked with that many celebrities.
First, a little backstory to this piece… For much of my young career, I shot Canon. Be it the 1D, 1D2, 1DS, 1D3, 1DS2 and 1DS3, let’s just say I had a thing for the ergonomics of that chassis. In every camera I would replace the focusing screen with the cross-style manual focusing option and would never use AF. To make things even more difficult, I only shot primes. In the beginning the main zoom from Canon was the original EF 28-70mm f/2.8L, and if you have used one, you know the drawbacks. It was also a time when there were not a lot of solid third-party lens options; Sigma had never dreamed of an ART lens and Tokina was even further behind.
Before I going into this one, let me first lay a little groundwork for the background I have with Apple. A number of years back, I was in love with the iPhone 4S. I felt it was a phone made for photographers and supported it wholeheartedly, going so far as doing speeches at Apple stores about how their products catered to my workflow. As time went on, the light in which I held Apple began to fade, leading to writing the articles, “iPhone is not for Photographers” and “Microsoft: Photographers New Suitor.” In a nutshell, I was genuinely bummed since there was a certain amount of pride I took in using Apple products, for I was raised to love them by my parents, who used them as teachers.
The release of the Fuji X-Pro3 this morning came as a bit of a surprise to me; not what was unveiled, but the general reception to it. So many comments (yes, I know you’re not supposed to read the comments) of ridicule and annoyance were not what I was expecting. And as I read them (which I promise not to do again) I noticed an underlying theme that was a bit worrying.
There are many types of cameras available to us as photographers. I am not speaking about specific brands like Nikon, Canon, or Sony, but rather the approach and intentions companies currently have in regards to design language and intended function. Cameras like the Nikon Df, Hasselblad X1D and the Fuji X-Pro3 offer photographers a different approach to creating images.
Twenty years, they have gone by fast. I can remember the first time I saw a camera with a screen on the back of it at a sporting venue, and now a camera without one is considered vintage. However, the look of modern cameras is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to changes. Spending time with the Nikon D1 to create the piece on it really opened my eyes to what it was to take a photo in 1999, and how different it is now. I recently took out a number of different cameras from multiple manufacturers to see if I could put into pictures and words the difference among them.