Looking back to when life was oh so much simpler, when the only worries in the world were getting your homework done before the sun had fallen below the horizon. Because if there was still light outside, there was still time to push around on your scooter. One of the most recognizable forms of transportation for anyone under the age of 15 or so, pretty much everyone has a special place in their hearts fo the two wheeled platforms that would carry us on so many adventures in our youth.
So when the Reelbros team received a phone call from the Razor worldwide office, we looked at each other and tried to imagine the adventure that would be in store for us this time. The team had been in the running for some of Razor's upcoming commercial video work, however there was more pressing need for some commercial photography. "Do you guys do photos too?", absolutely we shouted back across the phone line. Just like that we found ourselves loading up the wagons with all our equipment and heading out to Los Angeles for three days of photoshoots, capturing Razor products on location for their upcoming 2018 packaging revamp.
Arriving on location for the first day, we barely caught a few minutes of sleep the night before due to our excitement. The first location was a local park in the city of Cerritos, home of the Razor office, it offered us plenty of playground vibes and open pathways to scout, we were met with an overcast sky in the morning, the ground still saturated with rain water from the night before. Hoping it would soon dry up, as we aimed for a consistent look across all the product shots, even though we would be battling the changing sun throughout all three days. As photographers, we aim to control the environment as much as possible but when you bring a shoot to a location, more often then not there are variables that will always be changing, it is our job to adapt to these changes. The next three days would be some of the most challenging, yet rewarding I've personally had on a location shoot. The pressure was high and the schedule tight, but after all when is it not.
Once everything had been unloaded and setup, the models began to arrive and the schedule reviewed. We would have roughly an hour with each model to capture a close up detail shot as well as a full body action shot for the packaging, anything else was a bonus. For this particular shoot we would be employee a pair of 1200 Watt Profoto Pro 7 heads, in Chimera 3x2 soft boxes for our main lighting setup, depending on the location these would be backed up with some of our other 600 Watt portable strobes. As for camera setup we would be employee the new Nikon D810, its 36.3 megapixel sensor would allow us plenty of data and the ability to crop in if necessary on any of our shots. Paired with the Nikkor 24-70 and 70-200, we would have a wide range of focal lengths to use when capturing the action. Each shot would be communicated back to our computer via Tether Tools USB Cable and then displayed on our large monitor to get instant feedback from the clients creative directors. We created a mobile studio on wheels ready to brought anywhere on site, and the benefits of getting real time feed back on a large 27" monitor mean't after shoot image shorting would be a breeze.
Once a rhythm had been established the day started to move forward at speed, model after another we brought them through and captured our shots. At the beginning we found difficulty in trying to capture realistic in camera motion blur, while maintaining focus on the products and riders. We kept bouncing between frame rates anywhere between 1/60 up to 1/200 to fine tune our captures. After some conversation we opted for the higher shutter speeds that would capture some motion blur on the wheels, but would also have the scooter in full focus, any background blur could easily be manipulated in post production.
Our first day would wrap up around 4:30 or just as the sun tucked below the tree line, taking away any natural fill light. Just enough time for one last product that brought some spark to the sidewalk before we would be packing up all our equipment in the dark. Followed by a meal and some much needed sleep, but only after a full back up of the days captures for safety.
A new day, new location, and new challenges. This time we found ourselves a few blocks away at Cerritos City Hall, the complex would be the backdrop for the days captures. Following the lessons of the previous day we got right to work, using our 8ft x 8ft scrim to block out the direct sunlight, exchanging it for a much softer fill that would allow our strobes makes the details pop off the backdrop. For the close up shots, we setup the two lights on either side of the scooter, one was placed high and at the front to catch a highlight on the front tube, while the other was pushed in much lower from the opposite side to light the entire side of the scooter platform. Depending on the results of that we would also use a large reflector to kick up some light on the riders shoes or the wheels of the scooter.
The third and final day brought the team to the edge of the famous or infamous LA River. A sharp dirt embankment hidden just out of view of a major street. The perfect location for some of Razors more off road oriented offerings. One of Razor's biggest directives for the shoot was to capture real life action, after all we had left the studio behind for real environments. With a quick setup it was about 30 minutes before we started running our talent back and fourth up the embankment, clicking the shutter at the ideal moment just as he reached the appex of his turn.
After we wrapped up the dirt bikes and quads, we had a few hours before we needed to return to the day one location to wrap up the weeks shoot. Being that we were so close to the iconic LA River, the boys decided to head down the massive concrete side walls for some photo ops in the concrete basin. Besides the smell, getting to stand in the river for the first time gave me the feeling of being almost famous, I guess its the vibes that are present throughout the Thirty-Mile Zone.
We didn't capture any BTS when we got back to the park location that day, it was by far the most challenging light we would face from the sun. It made for some extremely contrasty shadows on our action shots, that we would spend precious minutes trouble shooting. The sun would finally fall behind the tree line again just as our last model was coming over to shoot. Quickly another 600 Watt strobe was brought out and shot through the back of the skrim replicating the nice fill light of the sun we just had. Once we were happy with the results, we called our final wrap. Three days the team worked from 7am till 4pm with back to back models, we shot multiple images of well over 20+ products, a successful application of everything we had learned over the years.