Welcome everyone to another installment of “OTRO”
Ok. This is one of those opportunities that doesn’t come around to often. Thus being “Rare.” And it all started with a Creative Director I know – Clinton. He gives me a call one afternoon and asks if I could come by the office to check out some layouts the team had come up with. I of course said yes and popped over. We sat down in his office with his Art Director – Ntobeko- and they proceeded to show me two layouts. They were simple in design, but the idea was HUGE! He then gets on his computer and shows me my own work and says he envisions that type of treatment for this campaign. I think my checks touched the corners of my eyes my smile was so big… really.
Let me show you what I saw… First the “Jumper” shot. How cool is that?
Then the “Studio” shot. I know it is not a studio shot, but it is toying with the idea of a studio shot outside, so go with me here. OK? How cool is this going to be!
Ok. Now my brain has kicked in and we are talking about ideas and then it happens….
Wait for it! Clinton says something to the effect of, “We really want to do both ads, but we have a tight budget and we need to see what we can achieve within the budget.”
Now in my usual fashion I am going to “regress” here and fill you in on something. “When it is to good to be true… IT IS!” Dammit! I knew there had to be a catch!
But… Hear me out here. I do jobs for a few reasons: 1- I really want to do the work! The idea or the concept is so strong I want to be apart of it. 2- They are paying me a huge amount of money. Pretty self-explanatory there. And 3- Because most of all my award winning work has been done because of the belief I have shared with my clients in knowing that this great opportunity will blow the clients away and maybe win us an award or two… So knowing all this, I was so excited to have the opportunity to quote!
Sorry about that… I am back!
But to be honest, the idea had me as soon as I saw it. I instantly stared picturing the Landy on a side of a cliff and just sky forever and our base jumper out in the middle of nowhere just starting to free fall… That gives me goose bumps! God I love my job! Most of the time anyway…
So after a great meeting with the guys, I head back to my office to start the process of quoting this shoot. Now a couple of things came up while Clinton, Ntobeko and I discussed everything. Remember the second layout? Yeah… the “Studio” shot. We need to combine that with the other shot to keep the cost down on the quote. So my idea was that since we had to get really high up to shoot the “Jumper” we would have to pass thru mountainous valleys. Thus we could shot the “Studio” layout on the way to our “Jumper” location, which was at the top of the mountains looking out over a valley of some type. Moment of pure genius on my behalf… Thank you very much!
I sat down that evening after work at a local establishment that I enjoy drinking a few good drams of whiskey at. Those of you who know, know what I mean! So I am looking over my equipment list and timings and thinking of how to keep everything super simple. After a few glasses of inspiration, it hits me! So I start writing down my plan and it goes like this…
I get our location scout out and searching for the two areas we need for the shoot. One being the valley with some cool rocks and mountain ranges in the background. Second location is that of a mountain top view looking over other mountain ranges and a vast expanse of valley floor to give us depth and dimension.
Once we have those images back from the scout we can then sit down and plan our shoot around the locations and distances to and from. I will then also know weather these are sunrise shots or are they late afternoon shots. All this combined with the set-up times and lighting will then give me a timetable to work from.
Now if you have not realized yet one of the hardest parts of doing a location shoot is getting your timings right. What I mean is that you need to know everything you need and how you will use it and when. Because a lot of the time you only have a certain “window” to get the shot you are looking for. So I personally always work a shoot backwards to get my time tables right. One of the little secrets I will share with you all.
Then I came up with a bit of something different… I know from personal experience that getting permission to use a “dealership vehicle” can be tricky and a pain with insurance. Especially since we are needing to drive it up a mountain and thrash on it a little just to probably get it where we want it to be. SO… I decide to keep costs and timings down we will NOT take the shoot vehicle with us on the location shoot. Yup. You heard me!
And here is why… I own a Land Rover Defender 110. I am very passionate about Landy’s and my truck is part of my team. Now saying all that, all Defenders are slow and in the Defender 90 there is not a lot of room for people and equipment. So if we want to bring the shoot vehicle – which is the Defender 90- on the location shoot we will have to bring two trucks, two drivers, two permits…. You see where I am going with this? Good. So by not bring the shoot vehicle with us I save costs and time. Also to be realistic the chances of us driving a 350,000 Rand vehicle to the edge of a cliff and parking it there is not the wisest choice one can make. I have seen with my own eyes what can happen when one “temps fate” with motor vehicles. That is another story for another time, but it ALWAYS ends in tears and one hell of an insurance claim! Also if we drive the shoot vehicle to the locations, I will need to have a car detailer come with us or bring my own detailing kit to clean up the vehicle and make it look good for the shots. This also takes quite a while and depending on how dirty the truck gets this eats into my “shooting window.” It is crazy how long and how much effort goes into these kinds of shots. You don’t just drive the vehicle over there, park it and just shoot it! Trust me! It never happens like that…
Now you may be asking what is the plan for shooting the truck then? And what a great question you have! The plan is that when we get back from our location shoot for all the backgrounds and scenes we need, we would then go and shoot the truck at a location I know in town. We will then match the trucks lighting to the backgrounds we have chosen and find a great angle and get to it!
Now we still have one of the most important elements to consider as well! The Jumper! Oh, yeah…that… The plan then is when we have finished with the truck on location we will then go into studio and match lighting and get the perfect angle we want for our jumper.
Ok… So there is the plan. I have put together my equipment list. I have all the other costing elements in order. I just need to give all this to my trusty in-house producer – Fagmeda – and have her put it all into a quote so we can send it over to Clinton.
I finish my drink. Put away my little idea book and look around as I watch the pretty ladies of Cape Town walk by…. Ah…I know. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it. Right? Why not me!
So I am going to fast-forward here for a few… your welcome! Ok. So we get all the costs together the next day and into the quote. It is sent off to Clinton and we go about the day. I had a shoot that day, so I was busy with other things.
Now about 3 months later I get a call from Clinton. You hear heard right. 3 months! It may seem like a long time to the mere mortal, but to us in advertising months can become days! Oh, Yes… my pupil…. Listen and learn…
“Hey Bryan. Clinton here. Can you talk?”
“Sure. Just hold on a second… What’s up?”
Clinton proceeds to say something to the effect of, “You know the Land Rover shoot? Well, we need to shoot it like this week… And we need to try and get the cost down….”
Silence fills the room as I gaze out the window and just imagine what else can I cut from the already basic budget… And how am I going to get a location scout out and back for us to set up the schedule for the shoot and then get it signed off. All in 4 days… These are the moments that one envisions an amazing sunset in some exotic location with a hot chick and a cocktail with the little umbrella and then out of nowhere massive black clouds roll into frame at high speed with wind and rain pelting down and just f@$k it all up!
“Bryan…. You there?”
I think I said something like, “Yeah…. I am still here…”
Clinton says something like, “What is your week looking like and can we get the new quote today?”
I said something like, “Ok. Um… I will give it some thought and you will have the quote in an hour or so.” But what I was thinking was… “Holy Shit! How in the hell am I going to pull this off in such a tight time period”?
Now just for the record I was shooting a pretty crazy shoot that day anyway and now I get more pressure and I need to have a few minutes to myself so I can figure out how to work the budget and check my schedule. And they say photography is fun! What ever!
So I suggest we all take a break for lunch and we shut down the set. I tell Lebo – my assistant- to keep an eye on everyone and I will be back in a few. I then let everyone know to start with out me and I would be back in a few. I remember this clearly… I ran up stairs got to Fagmeda’s desk and filled her in on the phone call from Clinton. She just looks at me in wonder…
“What’s the rest of the week looking like? And can I see the printed quote we did for Clinton?”
She says Thursday and Friday are open and hands me the quote. I walk down to my office and begin to break the costing down piece by piece. And then it comes to me. I can do this! A sly grin comes over me and I write down the new costs. The original plan was to send the location scout out for two days to find locations. Then come back and we would choose where we wanted to go. Then make the schedule and then head out to shoot for one or two days depending on the locations. But I came up with something even better!
Desperate times call for desperate measures and we are there! So the idea is this…. Wait for it…. It will be worth it… Myself, Clinton and Ntobeko will go with the location scout as he scouts and we will shoot what we like along the way. I just cut the budget in half and saved us three days! Whose da man! Now for the viewers at home we strongly don’t recommend doing what you have just heard without consulting a professional first! You may just screw it up big time…
I quickly call Clinton and tell him my master plan… Ouh, augh, augh, augh. That was my mad scientist laugh just in case you didn’t know…Nice isn’t it? He liked the idea and I let him know I need to check on the location scouts availability and see if he is cool with my idea as well.
I cruise back up stairs and fill Fagmeda in on the plan and the new costs. I tell her to get a hold of our location scout and see his schedule and to plug in the new costs and get them to Clinton…. ASAP.
I then run back down stairs and join everyone for lunch. Just for the record all that took about 15 minutes… Not to shabby if I must say!
That was a Monday. Clinton calls me on Tuesday and say everything is looking good from there side… except one little thing.
“And what might that be?”, I clearly remember saying.
Clinton says, “The guy we have chosen to be our jumper is not going to be available for the shoot after this Friday and we need to shoot him before then.”
“Oh, for f%#k sakes” is what I thought, but what came out of my mouth was, “Then we will shoot him on Thursday! How about that?”
Clinton liked it and we set the wheels in motion! Now I have to stop here and fill you in on a little “hick-up” with this new plan… I wanted to shoot the jumper last because I need to match him to the background lighting and the angle and height that would be established by the truck and rock face. Hard to do this when I don’t have any of this to work from! So in essence we are shooting the last thing first… not how you want start the shoot!
Thursday rolls around and Ntobeko and I are shooting every possible angle we can think of for the jumper and then flipping all the lighting around and doing it all over again. We are forced to shoot so many angles and lighting set ups because we don’t know what he will fit into because we have not shot it yet! Oh, my…. It is going to be one of those days… And it was. It was great! We got really nice stuff and our jumper guy was about to pass out as we were working him so hard. But we got a lot of great stuff and we just crossed our fingers that it would fit with what we were going to get.
Now if you have been paying attention thru all my rambling, you might have just realized that tomorrow is Friday and we have not mentioned anything about leaving tomorrow for the location shoot. That is because our location scout was all ready booked on another job. So we made a group decision to wait for him as he has a great spot that he knows about to take us to. So we make the schedule so that we leave Monday morning at 5am. You should know by now after reading some of these stories that we ALWAYS leave at some ungodly hour on these shoots! It is just the way it is…
So Friday we prep all the gear for Monday. I made the decision when quoting this job that we would hire a 4X4 to haul gear and all of us in. Also I needed our location scout – Greg- to be on the insurance of the truck as he would be doing all the driving and I wanted us to have a truck that could go faster than my Landy. Which must trucks do by the way…
So I had to pick up the truck on Saturday so we could have it for Monday. Around 4am on Monday morning I packed up the truck with all my gear which was packed very lightly as I would not have an assistant on this job due to the lack of space in the truck. So I then go and pick up Greg and then drive over to the agency and pick up Clinton and Ntobeko at 5am. We then let Greg take over to drive us to the locations he had in mind which were about 3 to 4 hours away. Did I mention that is was raining like mad and cold as hell on this wonderful September morning?
After the initial excitement of introductions all around and a cup of coffee, Ntobeko fell asleep, Greg was talking with Clinton in the front and I was enjoying the rare opportunity of being driven to location. I normally drive everywhere, but not this time. So I got to watch the clouds and scenery past as we made our way to the Mattrosberg Mountains – which is outside of Ceres. We drove thru the tunnel outside of Paarl and we entered into a visual wonderland of low sweeping clouds and dark wet mountains. It was amazing! If it had been brighter I would have made us stop so I could have shot some.
So a couple of hours later we are at the check in / pay point, which is a small wooden cabin at the base of some truly huge mountains. A very nice lady checks us in and tells us of the trail conditions and that they are pretty rough at the moment. We all look at Greg and he just smiles and nods. Nice one Greg….
We hop in the truck and head off. Now I am not going to make you sit thru the 1 hour journey to get to the top of the mountain, which by the way was only like 12 K’s! But I will say this: It took us about 2 K’s to find 4 wheel low on the shifter. 4 K’s of giggling and laughing because we are being tossed around like a bunch of rag dolls. A good 3 K’s of complete silence as we are driving on the edge of a very wet and muddy trail with a good 3000-foot drop off. No kidding at all here folks! Then the last 3 K’s or so in a solid white out of clouds. We couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us. All this excitement and it wasn’t even 8:30 yet! Got to love location shoots!
We finally get to the top of the mountain and park. We all just kind of looked at each other and then looked outside. Which was solid white! As we all got out to stretch the legs, a bone chilling wind just smacked you in the face. With a nice bit of frozen rain every few seconds to add that lovely “sting” that you needed to just make sure you were awake…Yup! All this way to see absolutely… NOTHING!!!! For F$#K sakes!!! So we all very quickly hop back into the truck and the silence is only broken by the howling wind outside.
“Ok… Well clearly we wait and see if the cloud lifts,” I say as I start handing out breakfast sandwiches to everyone. A consensus of no one wanting to do the drive back quite so soon meant that we got comfortable and waited to see what happens. Now mind you that it is around 8:30 or so… Around 1ish we had all walked as far as we could without loosing site of the truck in the clouds and it was only getting worse.
I proceed to say something like, “ It is not going to let up today, so lets cruise down and look for our “cliff and rock face” and also our valley shot for the “Studio” layout.”
So we all pile back into the truck and do the death drive down. I am glad I wasn’t driving! Or maybe it would have not be so scary if I was looking at the road the whole time verses how close to the edge we were…
We drive about two K’s and then we are instantly out of the clouds and into sunshine and warmer weather. Weather is truly amazing! And that is one of the reasons I really enjoy location shooting. You have to have complete trust in that “you will get the shot.” Because as we all know the weather will do what it likes, when it likes, and for as long as it likes… and that is just the way it is! One of my favorite sayings to clients is, “ I know you wanted a summer sunshine shot, but it just isn’t going to happen. So I am going to give you the best damn rain shot you have ever seen!” And if we have a weather day in the budget we just shoot it again then…
Well a couple of hours of shooting rocks and huge cliff sides and sky plates we manage to get down the base of the mountain. It has stopped raining and the sun is out and it is a beautiful day. We then decide to go for a drive and have Greg show us other locations that he was thinking of. So we drive all around the Ceres valley and neighboring areas.
To make an all ready long story a bit shorter, we find nothing we like. This is good and bad. It means we now know there is nothing we like, but also that if it doesn’t clear tomorrow on the mountain top we don’t have our shot… See bad news can be made into good news with the proper perspective!
So it is about 6 in the evening now and we are all hungry and tired. It has been a long day so we go to the hotel and check in. We all plan to meet at the bar- funny that- around 7ish. A shower never felt so good! Clean and ready for some dinner we all meet at the bar and have a few drinks to relax and talk about our plan for tomorrow. Well, we had such a good time at the bar talking we ended up eating at the bar and hanging out with the whole family who runs the “Ceres Hotel.” What a great bunch of people! Even Grandma was laughing with us and having fun… What a wonderful way to spend an evening. Finally it was time to call it an evening and before we all left everyone kind of looked at me…
“If we leave by 6. We should be at the base of the mountain by 7. Then an hour to the top makes it 8. What do you guys say?” It was something like that…
Everyone agreed and off we went. Now you know you are tired when you wake up in the morning to that annoying alarm clock on the cell phone and your bed is “PERFECT” except for the little section that you died in last night!
5:30 and I am walking down the hall and doors are opening and everyone kind of files out into a line of very groggy guys. We looked like the 4 dwarfs off to work at the mine! We pick up our picnic basket for lunch and we load up the truck with everything and off we go. It is still dark, but dawn is slowly happening. It is very clear and cold out. As we drive towards the mountains the light begins to show us what we have in store for today… And it was perfect! Clean blue sky and sunshine coming up…
We get to the cabin to check in again. Then head up. The trail is better today. It helps when you can actually see where you are driving as well the trail. So we get to the top and park. We all walk over to the edge of this cliff and can see for miles! And the drop is forever! Holy shit we are high up! There is a moment of silence that over takes us as everyone just looks around in awe…
I grab my 30-kilo backpack and grab the trusty Gitzo tripod and we are headed to the highest peak we can get to. 45 minutes later, out of breath and sweating like a pig I make it to the peak. I personally HATE physical exercise before 10 in the morning. It just puts me in a foul mood. That is why God made Assistants! But due to budget and space, I am my own personal Sherpa on this glorious day! We set up and everyone helps me. Clinton ended up carrying the tripod up, as I needed one arm to hold onto things as we climbed up to the peak. So Clinton helped me with my camera set-up. Ntobeko held the laptop and Greg was on Grad duty. Grads are filters for camera just incase there is a Rookie photographer reading this… We were a finely oiled machine as we cracked off a bunch of killer shots and angles. It is one of the most rewarding things to take a second and look at what we were are doing and where we were doing it. We are at one of the highest peaks in the Western Cape at sunrise looking out for miles in every direction… Just us and clouds. Truly amazing! Also you have to love it when every time you shoot your clients are making vowel sounds… “aaa, oooo, eeee…” That puts a smile on my face…
We climb down and do shoot all kind of elements that we might want. Valleys, rock edges, plants, boulders, you name it… Then it is time to wrap it up and go down to get our valley shot. But before we go we had to have picture of the guys… Check it out. Sandwich and all. (Left to right…. Greg, Clinton and Ntobeko.)
And yes that is SNOW over on the right edge of the mountain… Told you it was cold…
As we drive down the mountain I see a very interesting out cropping of rocks. I ask Greg to stop and we get out to take a look. It has all kinds of weird shaped rocks and looks very interesting… So we decide to go on a “little” hike over to them. Now if you are an experienced mountain person you know that a “little” walk can turn into quite an adventure. And that is exactly what we had. Over an hour later we finally get to the cool rocks. I am starting to get a bit tired now with all the weight from the camera backpack. So we take a breather and check out the rocks. And what a crazy location we found! All I can say it was like being on the moon! I can hear the Sting from the Police singing, Walking on… Walking on the moon… Dant, Danta…” I get out the camera and we start walking around getting everything that everyone likes. By now it has be to around 11ish and it is getting VERY hot out. Remember we are still in our winter gear from being up on the mountaintop earlier. So everyone is shedding clothing and we start the walk back. And yes it took another hour or so. All I can say is we were lucky we didn’t break an ankle or get bitten by snakes! Seriously!
We get back to the truck and Greg is there with a big smile. “Thought I lost you guys!”
We all relax for a few and cool off as we decide we have all the elements we need to compete all the shots. So we pack it up and head back to Cape Town. Ahead of schedule I might add!
Fast-forward and it is the next morning Lebo and I are at the studio loading up my truck with all the gear we need for today’s shoot. It’s the location shoot for the truck today and we need to be on location at 8am to secure our shoot area. So we get it all done and head out. The location is about 45 minutes away and it is a beautiful day in Cape Town.
We get there and secure our shooting spot. We begin to set up all our lighting and elements for the shoot, which is quite a lot of stuff. Remember this is the “Studio” shot so we need to shoot all the studio elements as well as the truck. The backdrop and stands. All the lights and packs and cords. And the interesting part is that we had to light our set and then light the whole frame so I could capture the set lit up. So it was twice as much lighting if that all makes any sense…
Lebo and I are working fast as the light is just about right for the background we liked from yesterday. So we set up everything and begin to shoot. I try a couple of different camera heights and a few different lighting set-ups just to give us some good options. As I am finishing up with the final shot, the wind decides to say HELLO! Now anyone who as ever set up a paper backdrop up outside knows, if you build it…. The wind will find you! And it did! Lebo ran over and grabbed the C-stand before the whole set blew away… I quickly ran over to the other stand and we both just looked at each other helplessly. The gust stopped and we had survived intact. So we dropped the backdrop down and sand bagged it. That was lucky, as we had just finished shooting!
Clinton and Ntobeko pull up right in time to see us holding on for dear life as the wind has its way with us. Perfect timing! I show them the shots we did and we then decide on the angle we want the truck and we pull it onto the paper background. We shot a few options there with some cool lighting and then we move on to the angle we need for the “Jumper” shot. We get the truck in some cool angles and do some nice lighting and we are there! We all take a break and look over all the shots and have some lunch. We decide that later that afternoon the guys will come by my office and we can look at everything and pick what we want to work with and get it all processed and ready for retouching. Clinton and Ntobeko head out to return the Defender and Lebo and I get on with breaking down everything and loading the truck up to return all the equipment and get back to the studio and down load the rest of the stuff.
I won’t bore you with the rest, but we picked out what we really liked and I told the guys I would process everything and start putting it together, as Clinton asked me if I would do the retouching. So Thursday I sat down and got stuck into it. A couple of rounds of revisions and we had something to show.
Clinton then says they are going to send it over to Global in the UK to see what they think. I am pretty excited about this, as I have always wanted to shoot for Land Rover World Wide! It is a bit of a dream come true for me personally….
Couple of days later Clinton lets me know they really like it! They made some great changes that we needed to do on our side and after a couple of revisions we were on our way. I can only comment from my side but I think it turned out “F$^KING AWESOME!!!” Next thing I heard was that the Global wants to use it for Posters in the UK! And that makes me so proud… They liked it that much!
And here it is…
And as far as the “Studio” shot went… You are going to have to wait a bit. But it turned out more amazing than any of us thought it would…
When it is released you will know, so check Locker 14 when you have the time. I am sure it will be on the main page!
Thanks for taking the time to read about this. I hope you realize that “making images” is so much more than taking pictures…
Until next time. All the best,
To see more images goto Locker14.