Is the trail steep enough?
A few months back I was hired to travel to Spain to capture a set of 12 photographs.
I was truly excited as Spain, and its people, are very special to me. Work has taken me to this great country more than any other and I have been fortunate to travel across it several times to photograph ad campaigns representing their tourism industry.
This time I would not only go back to a place I love but also learn a good lesson.
One of my primary efforts in my photography is to tell a story.
A story that is compelling enough for its audience to pause for brief moment and take it in.
I start with my own experiences and find a way to relate emotionally to the campaign I’m about to shoot. This so I can stand in our location and capture an image that feels honest and authentic.
I think big brushstrokes;
It’s a grand landscape set in the tones of the blue hour. Up the hill comes 3 generations; father, son and grandfather.
That’s the picture.
I then ground myself in memories of me hiking with my own grandparents as a kid and what that felt like. I build an emotional frame of reference that greatly informs the image we are to create…
We have arrived on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. It’s 4.30 am and we are setting up in the dark.
With the cool color palette we want to achieve we have to shoot during dawn, prior to the sun comes up. It’s a small window that requires all prep to happen in the very early hours before the sun illuminates the landscape. After hours in the dark, wading in the way to plentiful cow dung, we are pretty much set to go.
I got my memory bank filled with hiking memories when the client shows up and says; “The trail is not steep enough.”
I quickly went from a quiet focus, being in flow, to an adrenaline driven focus of getting things done. It’s a massive scramble; When the sun hits the landscape our shoot window is over…
We have less than 30 minutes to find a new spot and set up again.
It was much later, when sitting down with the experience, I realized I had to ask better questions. I have heard it many times over: The key is not to be the smartest, but to ask better questions. In that moment I learned what the better question is:
What is the client’s story? How do they see it? What is their memory of hiking and what does their market research tell them about the grade of our hill?
I believe all photography in some way has to be personal to be successful but other peoples’ memories can visually be just as intriguing as my own.
I learned from my mentor early on to always listen to my clients, understand their idea and what they try to accomplish.
Now I also ask; what does this look like to you?