Play Beyond!

A location scout friend often gives me a ration about the time I spend editing my digital captures when I'm on a project. "It's a freakin' waste of time man! Just download the card, size the pictures, crunch a site in Photoshop and be done with it already." SEE 'Just for the record' (Right) He has a wonderful DSLR he uses to scout with these days but doesn't know the difference between 'high'-quality JPEG vs. the 'medium'-quality capture or a 'low'-quality JPEG, much less what a Raw capture is, I'm afraid – and really couldn't care less. Pity. In my mind, this is just like an auto enthusiast purchasing a sports car and ordering it with automatic transmission rather than 'stick'. Why then own a sports car? 'Different strokes...' I guess.

I got into location scouting while working as a photo assistant nearly 25 years ago, initially assisting a local set dresser when she needed an extra hand on a television commercial she was hired on. In Phoenix, back then, when clients call 'the art department' one art directed, found and secured props and picture vehicles, dressed the set, scouted locations – whatever needed to be done to make the picture.
Let's go see some fotos!
Susan Volk hated location scouting. I had cameras and wanted to find a place for myself in film production as I was learning so much more about lighting by watching gaffers and the cameraman than I was working as a photo assistant at the time. I was new to Arizona and figured I could explore the state finding extraordinary sites I might use for my own photographs while assessing their logistical challenges in advance of an eventual call from a production intent on doing something special Out West.

Ever since I began making my art prints in college and then as I began to work on my rudimentary 'book' back in the early 80's, speculating I might some day become a Big Time Photographer, my work has always been more about making photographs, not 'taking' photographs. There is a difference. And early on in my production career I was blessed to fall in with a number of passionate directors and producers who envisioned making television commercials and images for print as some sort of art form. Their work, their excitement over what they were doing inspired me to spend the extra time, to get up several hours before sunrise and work well past sunet, in order to present them with sites I knew would really work for their treatment or layout notes – to understand what they had in mind to accomplish, then submit my interpretations of their directions in light I knew they would relish using to make the stories they were telling all the more remarkable.I pulled a lot of 14, 16, 18+ hour days in pre-production years past, when piers were already fed and in bed because to me it's all about the picture. After all, aren't we in this business to make pictures?

At times a dose of good luck is the key to landing a plum – like the good day I opened my email to find a short note from Aurelie Jezequel, a photo producer in New York City. She was prepping a major campaign for Sony PlayStation and showed me a layout the agency and photographer thought we might achieve at the Grand Canyon. They wanted to shoot out west in 10 days.

"Canyon" layout

I know that it takes four to six weeks to permit anything at the Grand Canyon; and that if an official crunching the paperwork feels uneasy about 'the concept', well, "so sorry". (Now I wonder what the Park Service might think of a skateboarder leaping from one cliff edge to another? In all fairness to the Rangers though, all you need do is spend a riveting evening dumbfounded by the anomalies in the gene pool recorded, then broadcast in 'real people video' programs. Or better? Squander some time watching the brain-dead relish their 15 minutes of fame in the 'Jackass' series of 'films' to understand why the National Park Service won't allow an obviously fanciful illustration to be made utilizing their world renowned, instantly recognizable site as the stage for yet another heart-stopping 'extreme sport' – like, uhhh... mesa jumping. You just know someone out there will attempt it for real!)

Besides, this layout just didn't look like 'the Grand Canyon' to me.
SEE 'Places That Double For Others' (Right) It looked a heck of a lot more like what I'd seen a kazillion times when I've scouted up in Utah instead. That's where I suggested we direct our attention. That's where Aurelie sent me to scout.

To follow are some favorite out-takes from my scout for the project along with several personal images I made during production and on the road back to Phoenix. The pictures-page ends with Markus Wendler's composite image, TBWA\Chiat\Day's 'Canyon' illustration used as just one of several building wraps they made for the E3 convention this past May at the L.A. Convention Center. I really loved working on this one.







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About places that double-for others

Steve Burger, this coud be East Africa this coud be East Africa this coud be Scotland this coud be the Middle East! this coud be the Middle East! this coud be the Sahara desert this coud be another planet, some other world