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Posts from the ‘Advertising’ Category

Shooting the Super Bowl Commercial

When I began photography as a career, I often wondered what it would be like to do certain kinds of campaigns. Of these, I did wonder what it would be like to shoot a Super Bowl commercial. I imagined crazy sets where people barked orders down the line of command and the photographer or director in the center of it all, only being bugged when it is of dire importance.

The idea of this was something that existed in my mind and may indeed exist in real life. However, the reality that hit me when I was awarded this campaign was that I could determine what a set for a Super Bowl commercial looked like. On my set, we would have fun, and my assistants would be just as important as I was. We (my client, my crew and I) would relax and trust that true art would result.

There will always be photographers that feel entitled to scream at everyone on their set, but it is up to us (the photogs reading this) to not be one of them. Instead, treat your crew and clients as friends, and you will find that at the end of the day you will be able to share a beer with your friends and forget about work.

So with that said, here is the behind the scenes video from a Super Bowl spot made by a bunch of friends….

I would like to thank Andrew Belcher for taking the time to create this. Great job man!

The Super Bowl Commercial

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would begin 2015 shooting a Super Bowl commercial. Even further removed from the unlikeliness of shooting said commercial is … well… shooting said commercial in seven images. Not seven scenarios or seven videos, seven photos.

The idea, straight from the mind of Pete over at LaneTerralever, was to parallax a commercial. “What is parallax” you say? Think of when you were in grade school and you had to do one of those cheesy plays where every parent in the audience thinks that his or her child should be in search of a talent agency because they memorized 23 words and did not faint on stage. Sorry, got distracted there. Anyway, there is always a part in that play where some kid is on a boat made of a tricycle and cardboard, and they are in the rough ocean. In order to create this imaginary ocean in the elementary school cafeteria, they use whats called parallax. This is where they have on set of blue waves on a stick in front of the kid and one behind. The movement of these waves back and forth creates in your mind the idea of the ocean.

When broken down to its most basic form, we decided that we would create a Super Bowl spot using the cardboard waves on a stick principal. From there it gets exponentially more complicated.

Super Bowl parallax farmer

In order to captivate the viewer, the images had to be real, and they had to be very very very planned out. In order to have movement in an image where it never existed, we would need to plan space for the movement to enter and direction to make it natural. Also, we would have to shoot the shot, and then immediately document the reality that existed as we would need to create it and maintain its continuity to keep the viewer’s attention.

Super Bowl parallax scrap yard

The first thing that grabs the eye of the viewer in these shots would be depth, more specifically how three dimensional they feel. To help with this there was one lens that came to mind, the Nikkor 58 f/1.4. While many try to see it as a low light geared lens, it also has a little trick in it that makes it very desirable. It makes images feel 3-D.

Super Bowl parallax basketball

The next item of importance was the camera, the Nikon D4s. Now many of you probably know that my heart resides with the D3x, but for this project resolution was not the determining factor. After all 4k video is still only 8.8 megapixels. What mattered more to us was noise and high ISO performance as we would not be in a studio and environment would matter greatly.

Super Bowl parallax wine

Last, but not least, we would need lights that could be remote and enable us to shoot shallow, even in the day. Enter the Profoto B1’s. With the most recent firmware, they are able to shoot at any shutter speed. Proof of this rests in the above image of the man drinking wine. It was shot at 1/4000th of a second.

Super Bowl parallax instructor

With the gear of this shoot chosen specifically to produce the images, we started going to the businesses where the subjects worked and tried to quickly see what a day in their life felt like and create an image on the spot that would capture that, as well as captivate the audience. Some were easier than others. For example, ballet, which is an art form in itself, is very simple to create beauty from. However, shots like the farmer we worried would be more complicated. It was when we started meeting the individuals that would be featured in the images that we found the beauty of this commercial.

Super Bowl parallax ballet

What the technical side (the depth and movement into a frozen world) showed us was the beauty that existed in the moment. As one viewer told me, “it was as if the moment existed inside of my television for a split second.” As we shot more for the campaign, we learned and dialed in more in our approach. By the final image we were able to see the images that existed and how they would look and feel before we ever pressed the shutter.

As always, but more than ever, I want to thank the people that made this commercial possible and helped me as I tried to learn and dial in this approach.

Joe, Paul, Pete, Carolyn, Gary, Tena, Nick, Trevor, Andrew and Rob. I love you guys and am grateful to have stood beside you as we created this one.

Thank you.

Pinterest… whatever that is

So it is a new year and a fresh start… on another social media outlet that I know nothing about.

We have spent the last 3 weeks shooting a Super Bowl commercial, only interrupted by a quick stay in the hospital when my temperature decided it wan’t to see what the 104’s were like. A side note on that… they suck. All the cool stories we heard as kids about severe hallucinations were bunk. I was hoping that being in such a dire state would have at least landed me the ability to see people that weren’t there in my hallucinations, but no, all I saw were a bunch of different colored spots flying around the room.

But back to the topic at hand, Pinterest. While on set, I have been in conversations on multiple occasions that were usually preceded with, “so on Pinterest I saw…” Which got me thinking, okay, maybe should I try this out. After all, my New Years resolution was to look at social media less.

Then came the fun moment of truth where I went to select my url for my Pinterest page, only to find out that “BlairBunting” had been taken. I will admit, I was a bit bummed, and figured it was someone with the same name that got there first….. nope. It was another photographer (not named Blair Bunting) in India that was trying to use my name…. AND IMAGES to get himself some work. As you can imagine, this didn’t settle well with me… I had two glasses of wine instead of the usual one. In all honesty, I had a really good laugh at the fact that someone felt I was cool enough to impersonate… Bucket list… check

After a quick call with the very nice people at Pinterest, they resolved things and got me my name for my url. (a hit tip to them) So now here I am, writing a blog about a Pinterest page that I have done nothing with, but will soon… while the new website is being finished ;-)  (and that, my friends, is what they call a cliffhanger)

Running on Faith

If there is one part of my career that I could say that I have let myself down in, it would be not shooting enough editorial projects.

For many years all I shot was editorial, and I loved it. However the lure of high dollar advertising work was too much and I started turning down work in the editorial world to focus more on ad campaigns. In a sense I had sold my photographic soul to the devil. I will admit it, I made a mistake.

I had forgotten about the fun experiences, incredible opportunities and most importantly, I  had forgotten about the people one meets while on editorial assignments. This is not to say that ad work doesn’t introduce me to some very interesting people, it’s just that the barrier of entry limits the number that you will meet.

Runner Alicia Shay

Fast forward to a couple months back and Shape Magazine called me to see if I would be willing to do a photoshoot of a runner in Flagstaff, AZ. At the time Scottsdale was going through a heat wave, so I thought, “why not?” and drove the 2 hours to Flagstaff with my assistant.

Upon stepping out of the car in Flagstaff we immediately rejoiced in the 20 degree cooler temperature along with the large evergreen trees all around us… it was beautiful.

I rang the doorbell to a cute little house on a hill and was met by our subject, Alicia Shay. After a quick discussion of wardrobe for the shoot, we got in my car and the three of us headed to a nearby mountain preserve where she often does trail running. The location was absolutely stunning, I found myself going for a walk more than looking for the photo opportunities. To tell you how distracted I was by the landscape, we got to a spot that we decided to shoot our first shot at only for me to have forgotten the cables to the strobes in the car (almost a half mile away). Rather than transport all the gear back with us to the car, my assistant said he would run to the car and grab the cables while I set stuff up at the location.

While getting gear out of the cases I began talking to Alicia about her career as a runner and about her life. She told me about how she fell in love with running, and how it was an extension of who she is. It was a very romantic view of a sport that conveyed true passion and dedication. She had gone to college on a running scholarship and was expected to compete for the USA at the Beijing olympics in the 10,000 meter race. Running was her life, so it was only appropriate that it had her heart as well, as she met her husband while competing in college for he was a runner too. They got married only four months before the Olympic trials in New York where he was competing to qualify for the marathon race in Beijing.

Standing on the course, waiting for him to run by, the world as she knew it would disappear. Her husband Ryan collapsed only six miles into the competition. Although taken immediately to the hospital, he did not make it.

I froze as she told me this. I tried to act as if I was completely engaged to the conversation, but the truth is that inside I was heart broken for her. She was calm and continued on about what happened in the months and years that followed. Her passion for running slowly went away as it reminded her too much of him, until one day she stopped running. Injuries forced her out of the Olympic trials, and she was left to only watch them on tv.

As time went by, the idea of returning to running grew and Alicia began to run the trails of the mountains in Flagstaff. At this point in the conversation the clouds broke and the sun hit the mountain we had both been looking at. I made the comment that the trail where we were at was beautiful and extremely peaceful. She said it was a place where she is at peace. I knew that it was a place where he was with her.

It was a day that left me speechless and in admiration of the strength that Alicia has. I knew that the image we got was strong, but truly feel that seeing the will of human spirit that she has will mean more than anything. I left Flagstaff humbled and grateful for taking that assignment.

Dallas

This job has taken me many places, both in the physical and mental realms. I have seen diversity in cultures, in socioeconomic situations and personalities alike. However, in a journey that has seen incredible situations from around the world, I have never seen anything like last week in Dallas.

Upon leaving to the airport headed for Texas, I knew that there was plenty of news coming out of there due to the Ebola patient that infected his medical practitioners. As much as I encourage those around me to not watch the news, even I have moments of weakness where I hop onto CNN’s website to see what horribleness they slap on the page that day. Last week was of no exception to this macabre reputation.

To say that I saw fear and panic was an understatement, I saw absolute lunacy in the face of a situation that was most likely going to affect very very few. Nonetheless, the seed of fear had been planted in the back of my mind. Driving to the airport, I thought about what I would do different on this trip than what I do on all my other travels. Would I wear gloves, a mask, a class 4 bio suit? That little devil on my shoulder told me to embrace the chaos, to stand far away from anyone and not to engage with any person for my “safety.”

I got on my flight and wouldn’t you know it, a beautiful old lady from West Africa (Guinea) sat in the seat next to me. Part of me (the media based chaotic side) said, “maybe I should lean against the window and act like I’m sleeping.” However, I noticed that she was nervous to be flying. Now there is a choice that had to be made… let irrational fear control you and be silent or live logically and with compassion. It was a no brainer. I ended up talking to her for the duration of the flight, about her family, her culture, anything she wanted to chat about to keep her mind off flying.

Call it eccentric, but I feel that the moment we treat another person coldly for no apparent reason, we lose our humanity. There are some that will say that it was a risk. Yes, any conversation is a risk, life is a risk (trust me, I nearly spent the last month in a Chinese prison… something that I will talk about in time). But what is worse, going through life having been closed off to the world around over fear, or experiencing all that life has to offer with the very minor chance that something bad happens?

During my stay in Dallas, it was ever apparent of the elevated stress that existed in and around the city. I talked to cab drivers that had refused to pick up people because of their proximity to the hospital, I saw a man try to purchase his row of seats on the plane to guarantee no on sat near him. Fear had become the norm, and all logic had been lost.

Moral of the story… Embrace life, be it at any risk. Be the kindness to others that you need in your own life. Accept that your time is finite and learn as much as you can, about other people, cultures, existence. You will know yourself more as a result. Be passionately compassionate.

… oh, and stop watching the news

Giving Back

Of all the gifts and opportunities that we as photographers will experience through our careers, none are more important than the opportunity to help someone else out. From teaching others your craft to using your talent to enrich someone else’s life, there is no downside to giving back.

One such opportunity presented itself about a month ago when I got a phone call from the man that owns the studio I shoot out of, Floyd Bannister. A little background on Floyd… He is one of the most humble men I have ever met. On many occasions I have come to him with clients that were charity based organizations and he has let me shoot without asking for anything in return. When we produced the entire Fstoppers video of the Lamborghini photoshoot, he again told me that he was grateful I chose Loft 19 and that it was on him. I have had shoots where athletes have been in bad moods upon arrival and he sat me down and told me to not worry and that the situation would calm down and then I should shoot. It is for this and many reasons that I see him as a bit of a father figure in this industry.

Back to the phone call… He said that he was sponsoring a very small college’s football team. Many of the players on the team and students at the school were the first members of their family to even attend college. He then asked if there was any chance that we could give them a photoshoot to make the guys feel like rock stars and make their sense of accomplishment even greater. Without hesitation I said “yes.”

I began calling assistants and telling them that we had a shoot for Floyd and every single one of them immediately said they wanted to help. Incredible people, every one of them. I told them all to bring their gear to the set for I also saw this as an opportunity to teach.

The day of the shoot, we all showed up and began producing images and an environment that saw many of the players calling their parents to tell them what was going on. I was able to also start giving the camera over to my assistants and letting them gain experience on a set that isn’t possible in a big time shoot where a campaign is on the line. To say that this was a perfect day for me is an understatement.

We were able to help out a man that we all like, a group of kids feel important from the experience, and my crew gets to take turns shooting while I assist them.

It was a good day.

I want to thank Andrew to doing a behind the scenes on the shoot and all the guys on my crew that made this possible.

Bb: LowePro Ambassador

I will admit right now, every time I write a title like this or the Nikon, or Maurice Lacroix ambassador one, I sit back and think…. “you know, people are going to stop asking me to grab a beer with them if I keep this stuff up.”

Please know that, like the other endorsements, it means the world to me to have a company that I know and trust show such support. I can’t say much, but will say this… there are some VERY exciting things that will come out of this relationship. When LowePro approached me about becoming a LoweProfessional, one aspect that was discussed at length was, “how can we use this partnership to help people out?” From raising money for charities to helping educate photographers on how I go about my work, I wanted to make sure it was a contract that helped me give back to the community above all. Blair_Bunting_Bio_main

It’s an odd reality to be a part of and I find myself honored to experience it, but also missing what things were like before. To be honest, some of my favorite shoots I have ever done were the small editorial gigs where I didn’t make all that much and came home tired. Unfortunately, the calls for those go away when photo editors fear that they are wasting my time calling, and so such sponsorships have an averse affect.

It’s a part of this career that I never saw coming. I used to sit on the internet looking at who was with what company and think, “damn it would be awesome to be in his or her place.” However, it was impossible to see that said achievement would make people hesitate to reach out and ask for advice like, how I lit a specific photo or what gear I used.

To have fun and try to pay it back to you (my readers/friends) I have started calling random Twitter and Facebook followers every week to say “hi” and ask if they had any questions… (on a side note, the calls have been freaking awesome and I plan to keep on doing them when I have breaks in my schedule).

You guys are the reason great companies like LowePro have reached out to me, and I want to say not only thank you, but please don’t ever feel that I am in a different league and therefore am inaccessible… I am one of you and always will be. So whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Smoke Signal (the OG social media), please feel free to ask advice on cameras, watches, bags… heck, ask what I had for dinner, I really don’t mind.

One Eyeland: Best Photographers of 2014

If you recall a blog from earlier this year, I mentioned my joy and surprise at being selected into the Comm Arts Photo Annual, a collection of images that I always wanted to have my work be worthy of joining.

Another such organization who regularly keeps tabs on the best of the best in this competitive industry is One Eyeland. I was initially turned on to the organization through some friends who work internationally. Last March they put out a call for submissions, and I answered. I never expected much from it, but sent along 20 of my images for consideration.

Fast forward to yesterday when I received quite a package in the mail. Heavy for its size, I was uncertain of what it was. I didn’t recall ordering anything. When I opened it, I was greeted with this:

One Eyeland Book 2 blog

One Eyeland’s limited edition book is a sight to behold. It’s a gorgeous gold bound, heavy tome with the title “Best of the Best Photographers 2014.” Now I never would consider myself that as I am striving to improve my work every day, but nevertheless it is a huge honor to be included in the book.

The judging staff accepted all 20 of the images I sent, and asked for four images of my choosing to represent my body of work. I selected the promotional image for Animal Planet’s River Monsters, a photo of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds F16, the shot of the University of Maryland’s wide receiver, and an image that is very personal to me, the photo of Schumacher’s F1.

One Eyeland F16 blog

It’s a massive honor to be among these other outstanding photographers, not even considering their ranking. My sincerest thanks goes to the judges for One Eyeland and for everyone who helped me make my images possible. It’s one thing to be honored for an image that a client has asked for, it’s quite another to be recognized for a photo that simply meant a lot to me. As I’ve said before, Schumacher is a personal hero and just being in the presence of that car would have been enough.

One Eyeland Ferrari blog

My work comes from standing on the shoulders of many other amazing people. To all who have assisted on the sets of the images I’ve made, I’m in this book and am a part of this esteemed list because of you.

One Eyeland book 3 blog

How to Light a Football Player

Firstly, I want to thank those that sent over emails or messaged me on FB and Twitter about the new ASU campaign. It was a ton of fun to produce, and when my readers enjoy the shots, it is icing on the cake.

As happens a lot, many of the emails had the age old question, “how did you light it?” buried in there somewhere (often thinly veiled as an “oh, BTW”). So today I thought I would take a bit of time to talk about that, some lighting theory and show some RAW files from that and other shoots because I think this sort of thing needs to happen more often.

To be honest, this idea has been in the making for some time now. I have had the good fortune of meeting with quite a few agencies lately and have begun to see two very distinct approaches to photography emerging. The first approach contains a lot of lighting and a technical appreciation of what a purist would consider painting with light. The second one concerns me, it is an approach that more or less says flat light everything and …. (my most despised line) “fix it in post.”

I enjoy the approach of fixing things in post as much as I love listening to heavily auto-tuned music. Then again, for me auto-tune might make my singing voice a bit more angelic, but I digress…

Today I want to talk about a return to lighting because our clients deserve it, our medium deserves it, and we deserve it. Now there will always be things that can’t be done in camera, perhaps due to a location that makes it impossible to travel the subject to, or an action that endangers the subject or crew, and for this there will always be comping, and for those reasons there is nothing wrong with that approach.

So let’s talk about lighting, specifically for mood.

The first place that I went to develop my approach towards lighting theory was not a photo book, but rather my psychology courses in college. It was a common theme that as humans we feel comfortable when we know what is around or in front of us. A quick Shark Week analogy… I went for a swim last Saturday during the day. It was at my neighbor’s house, the pool was clear, I knew what existed because I could see it. Now put me in that same pool at night and we have a different situation. Even though all logic tells me, “Blair, you are in a pool,” I still am 99% sure that Megalodon has come back from extinction and will be remaking the beginning of Jaws with me any second.

Sharks aside, lighting is much the same way. The eye finds discomfort and intimidation in the unknown, and the unknown is where the light is not. The approach to making a subject intimidating should not be a mass of lights cranked to 11, but a single focus of direction where one light dominates and the remaining support the fear. An example of this that I shot a while back is this portrait of a football player.

bigpic

As I promised in the beginning, here is the RAW image from the shot to show where we take it on set before it goes into good ole Photoshop.

HerringRAW

And the lighting scheme: (notice that the powers of the support lights never go above the singular direction of the key, if we broke that rule, the eye would become comfortable)

topview

On the most recent shoot we approached things with the same idea, but incorporated action, so the singular direction source had to be broadened, but still contained. There are many people that approach lighting or even teach the one light approach, which I enjoy for it’s simplicity. However, if I may add an addendum; I think that it should be more of a single direction source approach (doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly). Remember, as photographers, we are telling a story, not just telling our viewer that our subject exists.

The final with smoke and plate:

ASU TRY2

The RAW test before smoke. This shot is actually a prep shot for the main image that involved smoke from a machine (camera left), but shows lining of subject and a disregard for any details that I don’t want my viewers to see:

pre smoke RAW

Believe it or not, one of the most important parts of lighting is the camera, and your knowledge of it. To best light a subject where you want to play dangersouly with shadows, you have to know and trust the sensor that lies at the heart of your camera. I was shooting on a Nikon D3x which lets me shoot more contrast out of camera with the safety that my shadows will exist when I open the file. I only know how far I can stretch the contrast ratio with my camera from practice. There will always be those that measure the heck out of a camera and it’s sensor, but to push one on set with a job on the line is an act of trust in the equipment you are using.

As with the need for consistent sensor performance is the need for consistent lights. For campaigns, I trust Profoto 8’s with my livelihood. The power is always sufficient to close down and delivery is quick enough to avoid blur. From there the rest comes down to build, reliability and standards that make it easy for me to tell an assistant what is needed, even when they speak a different language.

With an approach to technical lighting, and equipment that can deliver you will actually become more financially efficient. In what might take you five minutes on set to put up a light, you will save yourself hours if not days in post trying to create a texture that doesn’t exist because the photo wasn’t lit correctly. As photographers, we should crave perfection and do everything in our ability to create it. These are details that your clients deserve, and that will make you proud of your work.

ASU Football : 2014 Photoshoot

Photoshoots are not made by a photographer alone, they are a result of everyone that set foot in the studio that day and sat on the endless preproduction phone calls the weeks prior. When the campaign is released, it will carry the name of the photographer, but I would give anything for it to carry the names of everyone that stood behind and alongside us as we create.

Today’s blog will be a bit different that others as I want to talk about what others did to make a shoot possible, rather than ramble on about how I did this or that to make an image…

ASU TRY2

For the ASU campaign, the images start at the beginning of our working relationship when I was just a teenager. An ASU new hire named Becky trusted me to create imagery of athletes when I definitely had not earned such trust. Over the years she rose to the position of director of marketing and I am grateful to continue producing campaigns together, often with the simple direction of, “make something awesome.”

ASU TRY1

The next person on the set is the Creative Director, Chris. He usually stands on my right side and tosses out ideas for images and it is between us that the imagery forms. Periodically we will take a couple moments to step into a side room and discuss if we want to steer the emotion of the athletes in a different direction or continue on the given path. I trust his opinion and he trusts mine, it is a relationship that must exist between the AD/CD and photographer that makes a campaign successful.

ASU Runner

My assistants Rob, Brian and Ramsey worked to make the vision exist in camera. Not that they don’t always work hard, but on this shoot they did their job, and so much more. The first day on set was actually the day that I was announced as an Ambassador to Nikon and I was trying my hardest to respond to emails, texts and phone requests, all while prepping lighting and shooting. I can’t tell you how impressed I am watching how hard they work, and am grateful to have them on the team.

ASU TRY 3

Last but not least the athletes. Awesome, just awesome. One thing to note is that they are not models, and for many this was their first photoshoot ever. It is easy to take being on set for granted, but for some of them (the rookies especially) it can be insanely intimidating. While it is my responsibility to give them direction in a way that gets the shot that my client and I want, it is still on their shoulders to deliver the level of intensity that I need, and they did.

I am very proud of this year’s campaign, and want to thank those that made it, and hope that you all enjoy the 2014 ASU Football campaign.

GO DEVILS!!!