One of the biggest problems I have with what I do is that oftentimes the lead time on my assignments is so long that I’m hesitant to post images, or even reveal what I’m working on, until my client has had a chance to present the finished product. I’m normally not a “hey, look at me!” kind of guy, I don’t like being presumptuous, and I certainly don’t like giving away what a client has under wraps until, well, it’s been unwrapped. So this one has been a long time coming–almost a year, in fact. As I sit in Florida on the eve of what will be my third catalog and advertising shoot for the Golf Galaxy retail chain, this one leading up to the Spring 2014 product launch season, I’m pretty sure that it’s now okay to look back on and show some images from last January’s Spring 2013 shoot.
The concept of the shoot was simple–to showcase product and apparel, in a natural setting, using models who were cast primarily for their ability to swing a golf club. The goal was to capture not only the athletic aspects of the game with an eye toward the technical precision of the golf swing, but also the little moments in between that add to the enjoyment and appreciation of the game. In short, the creatives at Golf Galaxy and their lead agency, Martino Flynn, had hired me because I know not only what a good golf swing looks like and how to capture the best parts of it, but because I know the game. In over 15 years of covering the sport editorially, I’ve come to recognize the subtle nuances of what goes on between shots, what to look for, and how to communicate that feeling through still photographs.
My editorial background also helped in some slightly more tangible ways, as well. Our shot list was long, and our production schedule was short. This was going to be a “run and gun” kind of shoot; the client wanted an editorial feel to things and also wanted to make sure that there were plenty of images to choose from. After hashing things out a little, we figured that expecting 20 shots per day was not unreasonable*–and it wouldn’t be, if we did everything right and concentrated on maximizing our efficiency, relying on natural light and scouting the location ahead of time to come up with a game plan. We did that over the course of four scouting days–one in December of 2012, and then three days immediately leading up to the shoot in January of 2013.
We shot last year–as we’re doing again this year–at Grand Cypress in Orlando, Florida. It’s a great location in that it has three separate nine-hole courses, each with a subtle yet distinct character to them while at the same time (again, if “shot” right) the ability to pass for any parkland-style course in the country. In addition, it also boasts its “New Course,” an 18-hole design that is intended to remind one of the Old Course at St. Andrews. While I’ll reserve comment (not judgment, mind you, but discretion being the better part of valor, comment…) on the veracity of that last statement, I will say that it gave us the option of also shooting some “links-style” golf** as well. But more than that, the folks there are no strangers to commercial shoots, be they still or video. This sort of thing happens all the time there, which means management is used to the logistics, the sheer amount of people, and the needs–from production office space to catering to golf carts to on-site hotel accommodations–that such productions call for.
And speaking of things that such productions call for, I was aided immensely by some great people, from my digital tech Andrew Loehman to my camera assistant Jen Sens, from producer Norma Sardi (who assembled a wonderful crew of grips, PAs, caterers and wardrobe stylists) to associate producer Barry Zimmerman, who made sure everything ran according to schedule and that we didn’t miss a thing out of our 120-page shot brief. The client wanted and expected a lot from this shoot, and we did our best to give it to them.
As for the shoot itself, it was the kind of assignment I live for. First of all, it involved shooting golf–a sport I’ve grown up with and learned to love and appreciate. Second, it involved working the way I like to work–at a fast moving pace, adapting to situations and working around problems on the fly. And finally, it was an opportunity to intermingle an editorial approach with the niceties of a commercial shoot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out at a golf tournament and seen a beautiful tee box, or an amazing sunset, and said to myself, “Wow, I just wish I could pop a little fill light in there,” or “Kicking a little reflector in off the side would just make this so much better.” Well, this time, I could. Beyond that, I had the chance to work right within my comfort zone–long lenses, fast primes, relying on light, timing and composition to make the client’s ideas a visual reality. It was a chance, in short, to take everything I’d learned from working in the editorial world of sports photography and translate those skills into the commercial side of things, and do it for a group of people who appreciated the effort, and the results.
And so I was flattered and, of course, quite happy when I was invited back to shoot again this year. I’m looking forward to working with the same great bunch of people, and hope that this year’s will be as successful as last year’s was. And I may even put up some images a little bit sooner this time…
* I know. Art buyers, reps, commercial shooters are saying, “Huh? 20 shots a day? are you nuts?” Well, no, not really. But this also wasn’t your standard issue commercial shoot. We adapt to the client’s needs and schedules, no? I certainly could have hired 10 assistants, rented $30,000 worth of lighting gear, shot a thousand frames of the same thing requiring creative approval on very shot and revision, and agonized over one shot in the morning and one in the afternoon. But that’s not how the client wanted to work, and it’s not how I like to, either. Fortunately those present from the creative side were happy to stand back and let us do our thing, putting an enormous amount of trust in us to get us what they needed, virtually sight unseen, during the course of our three-day shoot.
** Yes, I put that in quotes just in case the purists out there (and I occasionally consider myself among them) want to point out to me that there’s no such thing as a “links-style” course. It’s either a links or it isn’t. I know that. You know that. But the people who design “links-style” courses, and the people who think they’re playing on a “links-style” course, don’t. Humor them, okay?