A silver lining to a dreary affair in Vienna

 

As we flew into Vienna we knew it would be a dreary affair. The forecast had low cloud cover, fog and rain during the time we were there.

I tend to stress my producer out. He keep referring to me once saying “you are sending me right into a storm. There must be some place one can shoot where the weather is good…”

 

This time however there was no way around it. The Fog off the Danube River and the cold late winter weather was not going anywhere.

As a location photographer weather is always on my mind. We spend a lot of time planning our productions around weather patterns to make sure we can create the images we want without getting us and the client stuck on location.

A mixture of seasons, vegetation and the other ingredients the shoot needs, like talent and location specifics, leads us to recommend a location to execute our assignments.

We have gotten quite good at it but at times it’s not avoidable to run into some bad weather…

The pressure to create great pictures however does not go away. And it is not just resting on my crew and me, but on the art director, the advertising agency and the marketing department of the client. In situations like this it is great to have clients you have worked with prior, who both understand and trusts the process and can roll with the punches a bit. The client was Crystal Cruises and the reason for Vienna was their new river cruise along the Danube River.

We were here to capture 2 landscapes of the Belvedere Palace.

As a great client the creative team at Crystal were on board for changing the focus and atmosphere of the shots to the very early morning and late evening where the interior and artificial lights would light up the Palace. This would give the landscape shape and make the best of the weather, which was enveloping Vienna in a wet blanket…

 

 

This assignment would be captured in 3 parts. The landscapes in Europe, the people in Los Angeles and the third layer would be created using CGI.

 

So we travelled home with our backgrounds captured, being quite optimistic about the rest of the shoot and how it would all turn out.

 

As with the prior images I have made for Crystal Cruises, these were to describe feeling or establishing an association with a feeling rather than a literal narrative.( http://blog.erikalmas.com/2016/04/12/a-dream-assignment/)

They were to depict how you would FEEL arriving at the Belvedere Palace with one of the riverboats.

Crystal is expanding into air cruises as well and a third image we were to capture was for their airline. It is exciting and refreshing when you start with a feeling to create a narrative within a frame. In this emotional state one start painting pictures and the mind goes: Having a cruise line in the air must feel like…..

Walking in the sky, or maybe Walking on air or lounge among clouds.

 

In a studio in Los Angeles with spaces to shoot both inside and outside we set out to capture the narrative of the extraordinary feelings of traveling with Crystal cruises.

The studio part was in this case a bit of a dance. Big dresses and a lot of movement where I’m observing, letting the talent be a part of the story and narrative rather than over-directing.

They move, I observe and capture.

And few weeks of computer work later, 3 set ups from 2 continents and one studio get blended together to create our final images. Below is a quick video with our layers and the final work…

 

The dreary weather barely shows.

It’s evening and in hindsight I keep thinking the images might be better this way. They are not what we expected when we started the project, but the unexpected makes us reset and work within the present moment. To let go of expectations and be in it without a preconceived notion of what it “should” be.

And to truly create this is where we want to be in the first place…

 

 

A big thanks to the creative team at Crystal Cruises: You are the best!!

 






Sheraton and mythology

 

Both as a person and photographer I’m fascinated by mythology and how it describes elemental psychological truths about the arc of life we all seem to experience. Myths speaks about a transformation; how we step into the unknown, face our fears and metaphorically “slay our inner dragon”

 

Joseph Campbell described this as the “Hero’s Journey” in the 1949 classic “The Hero with a Thousand faces”. This Hero’s journey permeates all storytelling. Star Wars, where Joseph Campbell was advising George Lucas, is the prime example and John Lasseter of Pixar stated they always reference the hero’s Journey in their animation process.

As a photographer I’m curious about how we can describe this journey, or at least create the feeling of one, in a singular photograph.

I have consciously worked on adding this to my personal work for a long time. (http://blog.erikalmas.com/2015/06/09/crafting-visual-stories-set-to-my-own-journey/)

It is not often I get to apply this to the fullest in my commercial assignment work, but got a great opportunity when approached by Venables Bell to be a part of their latest campaign for Sheraton Hotels.

In these concepts were Sheraton employees “Going Beyond” in helping their guests.

This effort can be described in many ways, but the creatives at VB had pushed this to a place of metaphors where the employees were crossing oceans, skydiving into deserts, climbing a mountain and riding across big planes in their efforts to help. In describing a part of the Hero’s Journey these concepts were spot on, and I could not have been more excited about creating these pictures!

 

In any picture and idea I execute I always try to capture as much as possible in camera. For this assignment it became a question of what was safe and what would give us the best chance of capturing the moments we wanted to create.

How do we photograph a boat in the middle of the ocean with a Sheraton employee elegantly posing with a tray of coffee service?

Or getting a 70 year old bellman with several suitcases riding a horse 25 miles an hour?

And how would we travel from sea to desert to mountain to planes in a relatively short span of time?

To best solve these questions we ended up with an approach capturing some images in two parts with a background plate and talent and some in camera.
The below behind the scenes captures some of the effort made in creating this campaign. In this process, all involved with the shoot did like the Sheraton Employees; Going Beyond to make it happen.

 

 

and the ads you will see placed out there:

Vermeer and a retouching challange

A couple of months ago I was approached by Adobe and their agencies to see if I would be interested in being a part of a campaign recreating stolen or missing artwork.

 

This recreation would be done only using images from Adobe Stock.

 

At first I dismissed the thought.

I’m a photographer and I live and breathe the creating images.

 

 

Yes, I use Photoshop as an extension of my photography to create visuals that is idea driven and at times improbable but the thought of using stock photography to recreate someone else’s art was not something I would be up for.

 

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That afternoon I went running.

A run always starts out heavy. Most of the time there even is a great resistance to put on the running shoes, and the first 10 minutes are always a mind over matter endeavor. After those 10 minutes however the body and breathing finds its rhythm and I go.

This is when I do my best thinking…

 

During this run it occurred to me this would be an amazing exercise. A lot of my work is inspired by paintings so why not take this on and use it as a way to learn what goes into making one photographically?

I had also been resisting retouching, spending more time outside shooting or working on other projects than giving time to the computer to complete some of my recent work.

 

So after a good run among the oaks along Thornsberry Road I decided to put my hat in the ring and take on the recreation of Vermeer’s The concert.

It was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, in 1990 and and have yet to resurface. It is thought to be the most valuable unrecovered stolen painting ever, with a value estimated at over $200,000,000.

Now it was my task to recreate it, only using imagery from the Adobe Stock Website.

 

 

I’m not good about time. My optimistic self always feel I can get more done in less time than actually required.

On my initial call with agency and client I estimated this to take about a week.

3-4 days to find the pieces and 3-4 days to retouch it all together.

 

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I have done a few major mistakes in my estimation of time but this was probably the worst…

Three weeks later with deadlines being pushed I had to call the image done.

It still however is a work in progress. I have revisited it a few times taking notes on revisions needed but for now it stands as is.

At 852 layers and countless pieces of imagery masked, tweaked and reshaped into a recreation of Vermeer’s masterpiece.

 

One of the questions I was asked after we were done was how I would take something like this on?

The only answer I have is; by not knowing what you are getting yourself into…

 

In my cluless estimate of time I’m glad I committed to the effort to create this homage to Vermeer and his work.

You can see a BTS and interview over at Complex here:

 

http://www.complex.com/style/2016/10/promo-erik-almas-use-adobe-stock-to-recreate-a-lost-masterpiece

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling the U.S.

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After the redesign of my website 2 months ago I have been working on updating it with new work and new categories. With this edit and all the new work that is retouched I now feel I have a website that represent where I am today as a photographer.

In this process however I realized one thing was missing til very recently: in the travel section there was not a library of images from the US.

 

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I find it interesting that my initial idea of travel would be of places outside the US. I have lived here for 20 some years now and it do feel more and more like home.
Us Europeans often speak of the US as one entity, defining the country as one place. This does not do this amazing continent justice at all. If one compare it to other continents the US does not have the regional language or culture, but geographically it is just as diverse as any other.

So I started to work on a category with images from my travels within the US…

 

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As a photographer I often get asked what my favorite subject is. If I prefer landscapes or people or the composite imagery?

The truth is that I like it all. It is juts different sides of myself…

Sometimes I prefer a quiet, contemplative landscape. It’s me and a camera and the space I’m in.

Other times I love to interact with people, get to know them and create an atmosphere that speaks to having fun and being in the moment or doing what you love.

 

Yet other times I’m a dreamer, creating the surreal or impossible or solving visual problems through my composite photography.

 

I like it all.

 

This series and edit of landscapes from the US became about a quiet bigness.

The vastness one often finds between the larger cities in this massive country is fascinating to me.

A classic idea in photography is to capture the moment between the moments.

This series of images is the spaces between places…

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Swing by the website and explore the full travel section; http://www.erikalmas.com