Making of… Sprayway Autumn/Winter 2012 Location Shoots
I do regular commissioned shoots for outdoor clothing manufacturer Sprayway. Most of what I do for them is pretty simple; we take some models, dressed in the waterproofs, fleeces and baselayers that they’ll be selling next year, we take them out into the Lake District and we shoot some pictures of them having some fun. Almost all of which is easier than it sounds.
As the quality of the light plays the biggest part in deciding the quality of any picture, and we’re working in some fairly remote locations, we’re entirely dependent on nature to provide us with the goods.
OK, we could (and sometimes do) haul batteries and portable flash kit into the outdoors if we just wanted to light our models, but my brief for these shoots is as much about the landscape as the model. The fact that the brief is also pretty specific about capturing a natural and spontaneous feel is the final nail in the coffin for any thoughts of artificial light.
So what we’re doing is essentially landscape photography. As I’ll happily tell anyone who will listen, my landscape photography is a nice by-product of my love of being outdoors. Walking in the Lake District is what I would choose to do with my spare time; being a photographer is incidental. So a landscape shoot is easily organised. I put my boots on, drop my camera case into my backpack and head off. If I get a great picture, it’s a bonus. If I don’t, it’s just a great walk.
Even the most extravagant client is going to get a bit uncomfortable about paying models to follow me around every time I go for a walk, just in case. So we have to plan. As much as the Lake District weather allows planning.
The normal process is to look at the weather forecasts, pick a date in the near future, put everyone on standby for that day and make a decision about whether to actually go ahead the day before. We’ve only abandoned a shoot due to bad weather once. One other day that had been scheduled for Big Views was repurposed when low flying cloud reduced our options to rather smaller views. So not a bad record, but always touch and go with these things.
People Are Everything Too:
I’ve been been lucky enough to have some great local talent for our outdoors shoots. For mountain shoots I can call on some proper outdoorsy types, who happen to be self-employed, photogenic and living very nearby. Handily, they’re also very fit, and happy to climb that ridge ‘just one more time’ as many times as it takes to get the shot. They’re also quite capable of looking after themselves themselves safe in potentially dangerous places. In fact two of them happen to be Mountain Rescue Team members which takes a whole load of pressure off me and allows me to concentrate more on shooting and less on navigation and safety.
So far we haven’t had to abandon a shoot to an MRT call-out, but it’s bound to happen one day.
Children and/or Animals:
For the kids’ gear I happen to know a fantastic family, living nearby and with four little angels who are perfect fit for the prototype clothes that we get sent. The plan for these shoots is very simple; dress them up in the Sprayway gear and set them free somewhere picturesque. And try to keep up.
Knowing What to Leave Behind:
I quickly learned from my first shoot with the kids that the best kit to take is the simplest. When it comes to getting candid, spontaneous shots in the countryside, fast and light is very much the order of the day. Tripods, flashes, filters, reflectors and in fact almost all of my other gear stays in the studio. One SLR, for this season a Nikon D7000, a backup, and two lenses. And that’s it.
Lenses in this seasons’ bag (if you really care) are a very old, very battered 80-200mm f2.8 Nikkor and a relatively new and still shiny 17-55mm f2.8 of the same impeccable breeding.
Shiny new kit is all very exciting, but I’m the kind of photographer who prefers the tried, tested and familiar, especially when someone is paying me to get results. I bought the 17-55mm towards the end of last year and I’ve used it on slightly more than a dozen proper shoots, on location and in the studio, and it seems to be getting nicer to shoot with every time I pick it up. I’m consistently blown away by the quality of the images it can produce.
The aim, as always for this client, is for natural shots of real people doing real things. This season also included a new range of kids socks, which called for a slightly more contrived indoor shoot. Photo shoot days are pretty exciting events for the kids, so getting two of them to stay still long enough to get pictures of socks was almost certainly the longest single shoot of this season. Putting them on the floor, in front of the fire, with a chess board seemed like a simple set up. The fact that their version of chess is a little known variant of the game known as Bounce the Bishop made the whole scene somewhat more animated than I was anticipating.
This season I was asked to find some new faces for that hadn’t appeared in the previous Spring/Summer collection shoots. Having exhausted everyone we could find in the local-photogenic-self-employed-mountain-guide-pool, we had to come up with a new plan. I started casting for some professional models who were also into being outdoors on some of the modelling websites (purestorm.com and modelmayhem.com).
I happened across a recently engaged couple, Alwyn and Gemita, who fit both specifications perfectly.
We came up with a plan; the models would travel up to the Lake District, stay for a while on standby, and we would shoot them as and when the weather and light was doing good things. My theory was that in any given week you’ll get at least two days that will make for some good shots. Not necessarily nice days, you understand. When it comes to landscape photography nice and good are not the same thing at all.
I always start out with a list of key shots that I really want to get, mostly in places that have previously appeared in my landscape portfolio. Having been shooting landscape up here for more than seven years I know my territory pretty well. If I can get the models to these places, at certain times of day, during particular weather/light conditions, then I can pretty much guarantee getting some great stuff.
Timing is Everything:
There’s a path into little gorge near here that most people don’t know about. It’s not easy to get to and it doesn’t appear on any maps. At this time of year it doesn’t see a whole lot of sunlight, but when it does, it looks stunning. I knew if I could get my models to a specific part of that little gorge, on a clear day, during the brief window when the sunlight reaches the bottom of the gorge, then we’d get something special. Again, easier said than done, in being at the end of deer track that comprises entirely of loose rock, decaying roots and wet moss overhanging fast moving freezing water.. but worth the effort.
We made a couple of trips to Haweswater. The light a head of the valley is slightly unpredictable in the afternoons, especially at this time of year, but it does have its moments. Particularly on improbably calm day like this one turned out to be…
Just One More Day:
The most incredible luck with the weather caused us to extend the final shoot of the season for an extra day. We opted to go out to Ullswater for the final part of the more urban Lifewear range. The very nice folk at Ullswater Steamers were extremely accommodating and helpful. Particularly as I didn’t come up with the idea of using the steamer until breakfast the same day.
The Sprayway Autumn/Winter 2012 shoots have provided me with the opportunity to make some images that I’m really proud of, and allowed me to spend some time with some fantastic people in some truly amazing places.
What’s not to like..?
Originally Published February 2012 at: http://tommymartinphoto.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/making-of-sprayway-autumnwinter-2012.html