A couple of weeks ago I received the assignment to travel to Hawaii and shoot a cover shot for a corporate magazine. My visit was scheduled to take place during a sales rep meeting where there would be a few hundred people attending. 50 or so of these sales reps have qualified for a company car and would be driving it to the event to participate in a road rally around the island of O’ahu.
The creative brief called for the shot to include as many of these branded, white company cars as possible in an attractive setting. Shouldn’t be too hard in a beautiful place like Hawaii right?
Hawaii is indeed beautiful, but unfortunately, thousands of people have figured this out and have made the island of O’ahu a crowded, bustling, difficult to get around in, overpopulated place. Real estate is at a premium and it turns out there are not too many open parking lots or photogenic places to park 50+ cars for the perfect photo.
My first idea was to analyze the proposed route of the road rally and with the help of Google Earth, try and locate some locations that might be suitable for the photo shoot. I was arriving in O’ahu a day early to give me a chance to drive the route and scout a location.
Right away I could tell from the images available on Google earth that the starting location of the road rally would possibly be the best bet for the shoot. The rally was beginning at a golf course surrounded by dramatic green mountains and palm trees. No matter what angle we shot the image the background would be attractive. I also spotted a long curved divided roadway that we would be able to line cars along each side.
This location also featured a circular drive with grass in the middle that would work for a large group shot.
With these locations identified I was feeling good about the shoot but I identified another spot along the route that looked like it would accommodate our group of cars for a backup location if the golf course didn’t work out for some reason.
With some virtual location scouting complete, I spent some time thinking about the how to accomplish the desired composition. I ended up using a 3D modeling software package to arrange some virtual cars and a virtual camera so I could get an idea of the type of setup that would best accomplish our desired shot. Within the software I could even simulate different lens focal lengths to see how they would effect the shot. I could also get an idea for what different camera elevations or distances from the lead car would do to the shot. This was the first time I used 3D software to visualize a photo shoot and it gave me a surprising amount of confidence on the day of the shoot.
I arrived knowing exactly how I wanted the cars lined up and what angles to start shooting without having to do a lot of trial and error on the location. I even printed a top down view of my mockup so I could instantly communicate to the drivers how I wanted them to park the cars. This step saved a lot of stress on my part and a lot of time on the day of the shoot.
The day before the event we started driving the route. We stopped at the golf course and I determined that it indeed would be our best bet. I took a few shots at the location and took a closer look at the divided roadway.
Below is one of the test shots I grabbed in the circle driveway in front of the venue. This is one of my favorite shots from my visit. I’ll make a note here that when you are doing commercial work, it’s not often that your personal favorite shot or location will end up working for the requirements of the assignment. I felt like this was a great composition and background, but it wouldn’t fulfill the creative brief’s requirement showing dozens of cars lined up. If you’re lucky, you’ll have time to grab your personal favorites as well as the assigned shot. Just make sure you make the most important shot your priority and worry about getting personal shots when/if you have time.
Once we got the cars in position, I shot a few dozen exposures at different angles and distances. Because of my preparation, the actual shoot didn’t take very long, even with me shooting an abundance of frames just to be safe. Below is one of the shots that will likely end up as the cover shot of the magazine. You can drag over the image to see some of the preliminary retouching done by the art director.
After reviewing the images, we decided that the palm trees in the center of the image distract from the composition, so those were removed as well as some of the other cars in the parking lot. A basic sky replacement and color corrections were also made. More retouching will be done before the image is ready to be sent to a graphic designer for layout.