Making of.. Sprayway Autumn/Winter 2013
This season followed on from previous shoots for Sprayway that I’ve written about here, setting out to create lifestyle images featuring next season’s range of clothes and equipment. The finished images get used right across Sprayway’s marketing materials.
The big difference for this season addition of Sprayway’s new Marketing Manager, Thomas Coxon. The plan for this season was use some new faces in front of the camera as well, with one couple featuring in all of the shoots (except the family/kids lines). I had a few models in mind who had been contenders on previous castings. Happily, Thomas and I both picked Nicky Yates and Neil Ovenell as number one choices from the short list. Even better, they both turned out to be be available when we needed them.
There’s always a lingering fear in the back of my mind when I start on jobs like this; it’s the fear that the weather is going be so awful that we just can’t any shots. The dread that I’ll spend three long days dragging two poor models and one client through a succession of mud baths and hail storms and have absolutely nothing to show. The fear that this season’s product launch is going to feature a catalogue that looks like an illustrated Dostoevsky novel.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a bit of bad weather (just as well, as it is a prerequisite to being a landscape photographer living in Cumbria). And we are shooting winter clothing after all. Bad weather is fine, as long as it brings a bit of drama along with it. Stormy skies make for better pictures than clear blue ones. The nightmare scenario for me is that we get nothing but a flat grey dirge and constant drizzle for the entire period that the models are available.
Which is exactly how our first day started. I end up taking shots just so I’ve got evidence that light really was that hopeless. And then the skies broke open. At sunset we got exactly the light that I had been seen on a recce two days before the shoot. Which was why I had made a plan to put the models at that spot, at that time. And suddenly I feel like I know what I’m doing again and I’m filled with confidence that this going to be the best shoot so far…
All of which is pretty typical of my relationship with the Cumbrian landscape.
This was the first time any of us had worked together, which adds an interesting aspect to any shoot. Thomas hadn’t commissioned this kind of shoot before, but he provided a fantastic brief for the shoot, along with very detailed shot lists, so we knew exactly what we needed to get in the can.
He also took on the role of chief Sherpa, hauling the clothing samples.
We used The Haweswater Hotel as a base for the three days’ shooting planned with Nicky and Neil. It has a fantastic array of scenery right on the doorstep, and somewhere that I’ve been shooting landscapes for years. I had a plan for each day, based on blind optimism that the weather would be perfectly well behaved, with a fall-back plan for when it wasn’t.
In the three days available we got lucky with the weather an unreasonable number of times. But that tends to happen and I’m starting to suspect that just maybe all that experience, planning and scouting plays a bigger part than I give it credit for…
Shoot First, Edit Later:
As always, these shots are essentially an odd mix of lifestyle and landscape. The landscape element demands that all of these shots happen with available light. There’s a constant trade-off between putting your models a position to make the most of the light falling on them, and getting the right angle and light on background. It is, by definition, a hit and miss affair.
In this digital age we don’t have to worry about how much film I can carry (or we can afford to process), and I love the freedom we have to try ideas. Some of my favourite shots come from defying convention (and occasionally logic) and experimenting. A process which also results in some of my least favourite shots, but we delete those. As long as no one sees them, they didn’t happen.
I’ve always believed that knowing which shots to deliver and which to bin has always been at least half of a photographer’s job. Maybe more so now than ever.
As ever, we were back to the Sprayway Family for the shots with the kids. These guys are so much fun to work with. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they grow out of Sprayway’s children’s sizes.
This season we had some new ideas for them, including a series of Back to School shots, to tie in with a promo campaign.
My kit list doesn’t really change very fast and is always pretty minimal. My main camera is still a Nikon D7000. I’ve had this camera for around a year now and it’s showing 40,000 shutter actuations. Still hasn’t missed a beat, still hasn’t let me down, failed or done anything unexpected. Where you’re lugging gear up and down mountains size and weight become a big issue, and the D7000 is pretty much perfect from my point of view. I also love the interface on this camera, the ability to store and recall complete sets of user settings has been a godsend when shooting candid shots on the fly.
My lenses haven’t changed in a while either. The 17-55mm f2.8 Nikkor is responsible for 99% of the finished shots. My very old 80-200mm f2.8 is there when I need more reach. I do also now have a 105mm f2.8 Micro VR Nikkor, for when I want to travel light(er). It’s a fantastic lens, but obviously what you gain in size/weight you lose in range.
On a sad note, this shoot saw the death of my favourite camera bag. My Lowe Pro AW toploader finally let me down. It was actually only the zip that failed, and may well end up getting resurrected. I think twelve years of continuous professional use is pretty good going for a bag.
Very New Faces..
We had some infant gear to shoot this year. Rather conveniently, I happen to have a very photogenic little model to hand… This is my son’s first proper days’ work in the family business.