Creating a whiskey colored landscape for that special Johnnie Walker moment

Earlier this year I was asked to photograph an ad for Johnnie Walker’s red label.

The idea was to create exceptional experiences where a special whiskey would savor and seal that moment at the end of the day. This done in a setting as golden as the liquid itself…

The process starts with finding that golden hued landscape.

As we did our research we looked at places as far away as Namibia and locations like Sedona and Valley of Fire in the US.

We ended up with a combination of locations photographing the landscapes in Nevada at the Red Rock Canyon National Park and the tent and its people in London.

My own Johnnie Walker moment however was not in the evening…

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Waking to the day while it’s still dark outside, heading out to location in anticipation of what the sun will bring when rising is always a thrill. After 20 years as a photographer the sensation of a sunrise has yet to wear off.

I often think about Homer’s Odyssey when I stand in the quiet moments of morning. He over and over refers to “dawn with her rose-red fingers” painting the landscape. Dawn represents the start of Odysseus’ journey and throughout the story the metaphor of dawn, and how it’s described, symbolizes his transformation/odyssey from immaturity to maturity and then fulfillment.

Dawns Rose-red fingers could not have been more apparent than when adding a pure red glow to those mountains at Red Rock. For me, it  was a couple of exeptional mornings in Nevada, and if I didn’t have to drive back home, I would have savored that moment and, with a big sense of fulfillment, poured my whiskey …

 

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Cheers,

 

E.

 

At the Baron and Baroness’ Castle, Tuscany

I often get asked what inspires me.

It all do I answer…

It’s not one thing but many things brought into consciousness that shape the excitement of creating pictures.

 

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A couple of months back I, through friends, got invited to a castle outside Tuscany. I don’t think any photographer could step into this place and not be excited to take pictures! It was visually stunning and truly inspiring.

As I stand in a place like this and take in the atmosphere I always ask myself about the stories this place have shaped.

Who has been standing at this very spot prior to myself? What did they do and what were they like?

Who would they remind me of? A character from a movie or someone I know?

Would they be a part of a recurring dream or some desire of my own? What in myself would I see in them?

 

From this mindset visuals start flowing and stories take shape. I then relate these stories back to myself and ask if I can bring my current life into it.

Something current that my heart is engaged in that will compel me to craft new images that has emotional meaning to me.

It then becomes a mishmash of ideas that somehow urge me to manifest them through pictures…

 

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I like how these images stand on their own as both a travel journal and simple emotional context the spaces carry.

The true gift of the time spent there though was what I took home. Both the place and the experience there subtly instigated a change in how I approach my work.

 

So I can honestly say; I’m inspired!

Inspired by a lot of small things prompted by the experience at an amazing place in the Tuscan countryside.

So what inspires me?

It all does…

What’s needed though to bring it “all” together is a compelling enough instigator which creates a reason to capture or express, and this place in Tuscany was that for me…

 

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Chris Botti for Genlux Magazine

It’s been 18 months since my last editorial assignment. This is way too long but we have been so busy with commercial assignments there has not been room to take on Editorial work.

 

My photographic assignment work should be a better balance of Advertising and Editorial…With editorial there’s a complete liberty to push boundaries, explore and try different things that opens my expression into new avenues.

In advertising, agencies look at the work I have done and see something in it they want to apply to their ideas and concepts. In many ways this is repeating myself, recreating something for the purpose of the ad. To look and push forward creatively one have to do personal work, and the editorial platform is a great outlet for this personal creative push.

With openings in the schedule I got really excited when Genlux Magazine called and asked if I wanted to shoot their upcoming cover story of Grammy winning trumpetist Chris Botti. Genlux Magazine’s Creative director Stephen Kamifuji is quite hands off in his approach and usually provide you with a theme or an overarching idea of what he wants the images to say or express.

We talked wind and sound and the air that flows through the trumpet.

How could we depict this idea of Chris harnessing the wind in a conceptual manner?

Among the ideas was Chris being on a raft with him creating the wind for the sails.

 

In the end this felt a bit literal and expected and I was more intrigued by the idea of him floating on air.

A dreamscape where the air inspire; Where he is in and of the wind, harnessing it’s power and floating within it…

 

As this idea matured I started thinking about context and how we would fill 7 pages. How would Chris Botti get there? What was the connection between him and the flying machine?

 

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A storyline emerged of him being in a personal library and the floating on air scene being more of his subconscious or space of inspiration, then taking him onto stage to perform what the air inspired.

With this very cinematic storyline it felt more like a film than a still story and I decided to go all in, creating not only the still visuals but a small film as well.

I have written about my thoughts on the still and motion disciplines becoming one in the world of commercial assignments so this was another great chance for me to create visuals across the 2 mediums.

In this I feel the 2 executions, both in the creating, execution and post all came together to create a seamless visual blend of still and film.

 

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In creating this I’m in gratitude to Chris Botti for his gracious attitude and generousity of time. His manager Bobby Colombi for letting us extend the concept to include Chris floating in the air and ofcourse Stephen Kamifuji, creative director of Genlux.

An editorial budget does not cover much of anything so I’m also grateful to the crew, all wearing several hats, pulling together a shoot which should have had 3 times as many people helping out.

Also a big thanks to my friend and world class DP Ketil Dietrichson for a true collaboration of cameras.

 

I’m truly excited about the result so please check it out. There’s the film, stills and a behind the scenes look at the execution.

 

 

 

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The Behinds the Scenes from our shoot day in Los Angeles

Using the desire for ice cream in my picture taking…

For every commercial assignment I take on I try to make the photographs captured personal. I try to find a viewpoint that is honest and relatable to me so that I can stand in the location as the sun comes up, or in the studio in front of the talent, and be emotional rather than practical as I press the shutter.

This way I connect to the purpose of the ad in a manner meaningful to my longings, desires and dreams and hopefully make the images captured convey a part of me that aligns with what the advertising agency want the images to say….

The idea behind these ads done for AndersonDDB out of Toronto was to tell the story of a longer path to recovery. A journey more than something immediate; about taking the long road…

 

We ALL want instant gratification so in this case it was easy for me to relate.

With all the distractions of our fleeting mind, doing the small things every day that will eventually lead to deep gratification in the long term is really hard. I struggle with this every day in the decisions I make. After passing 40, staying in shape has become an increasing effort. I often order French fries for dinner and ice cream for desert even though I know the saying: “Nothing tastes as good as being fit”. It’s that instant gratification getting to me…

I also want to deepen my craft of photography but I still make lousy decisions when it comes to managing my time, spending it on social media or watching a movie I have already seen, rather than editing images or shooting new ones.

I am aware of my mind seeking immediate gratification and I try my best every day to steer it in the right direction.

So the indecision of those moments of the immediate versus the best long term was something I could relate to and really cared about when shooting this assignment…

To stand at the crossroads of that every day decision where the immediate gratification is pulling at you, but then committing to taking the journey of the long road was what these images were about.

Both for me and for my client…

 

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And Please check out the Behind the scenes if you want to see how this came together.