An Aotearoa Dis­cov­ery road trip

Dun­can Innes shares with Adrian Hatwell his ex­pe­ri­ence of ex­plor­ing Kiwi land­scapes for Land Rover New Zealand’s Face­book page

The Shed - - Assignment -

I don’t know if such a thing as a ‘dream job’ re­ally ex­ists, but when I hear work on a ma­jor com­mer­cial as­sign­ment de­scribed as “al­most like a hol­i­day”, I can see my­self be­com­ing a be­liever. Flash cars, beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions, and plenty of time to your­self — for one pre­cious week, Auck­land pho­tog­ra­pher Dun­can Innes was liv­ing that dream at the be­hest of Land Rover New Zealand.

As briefs go, they don’t come much more ap­peal­ing. The client wanted a pho­tog­ra­pher to get be­hind the wheel of the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport — a new pre­mium SUV — and em­bark on a scenic road trip through some of Aotearoa’s most pic­turesque spots. Along the way, Innes would shoot the car within var­i­ous land­scapes, cre­at­ing dis­tinctly lo­cal im­agery to be used on the Land Rover New Zealand Face­book page. The only rub — it had to be shot quickly. “I had to drive to Mount Cook and back in a week,” the pho­tog­ra­pher ex­plains. “The time frame was quite tight, but we man­aged to make it work.”

The pic­tures were for use in Land Rover’s Pin­point Face­book com­pe­ti­tion. Fans would try to guess where in the country Innes had parked up and shot the car for a chance to win some ex­cit­ing prizes, like a coast-to-coast he­li­copter trip in the South Is­land. The agency had a hand­ful of iconic pit stops marked out — Cen­tral Plateau, Kaik­oura, Lake Tekapo — and Innes had to hit them all be­fore the new car was needed back in Auck­land for pro­mo­tional duty the fol­low­ing week.

Once the plan­ning was sorted and Innes was handed the keys, it was just him, his cam­era, a nice car, and thou­sands of kilo­me­tres of open road.

“I had the mu­sic up, cruis­ing nice roads in an $80K car — it was pretty cool,” Innes says with a grin. “It was amaz­ing to have that time by my­self, all that free­dom.”

Mak­ing the job even more ex­cep­tional was the fact that Innes had never worked with the brand or its agency be­fore. Hav­ing seen the pho­tog­ra­pher’s port­fo­lio, the client was drawn to his moody land­scape work, hop­ing he could bring that nat­u­ral edge to this lo­cally fo­cused cam­paign. To iron out any teething prob­lems, the cre­ative team agreed to a trial run ahead of the full road trip. Innes would do a quick day trip to the Coro­man­del to get ac­quainted with the Dis­cov­ery Sport, demon­strate his ap­proach to the brief, and get a feel for the time needed per lo­ca­tion.

“It was a re­ally good idea, be­cause it put [the client’s] mind at ease, and I was happy I had achieved what they wanted in the day,” he ex­plains. “It was a re­ally valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence; it helped stream­line the process down the track.”

Hav­ing proven his met­tle, the pho­tog­ra­pher was away on his week-long ad­ven­ture. While he had a list of spots the client wanted him to hit — a list he was able to in­flu­ence to in­clude some des­ti­na­tions he’d been mean­ing to visit — where and how he han­dled the shoot was largely left up to him. The key caveat was that the lo­ca­tion had to be iden­ti­fi­able in the im­age but not too eas­ily: the idea was to have view­ers en­gage with the im­age and try to puz­zle out the an­swer. This re­quired a lit­tle lat­eral think­ing, find­ing ways to shoot iconic scenes in ob­fus­cated ways (like rear-view mir­ror re­flec­tions) or cre­atively avoid­ing overly fa­mil­iar fea­tures.

It was a chal­lenge, but Innes en­joyed the amount of ex­plo­ration time the process al­lowed him: “When I’m on a road trip with my fam­ily there’s no way I can get time to stop

and take pic­tures as much as I did [dur­ing this week]. I like to go down all the lit­tle roads I see and dis­cover what’s there. I can’t do that with my wife and child in the car.”

One of the high­lights of the trip was ex­plor­ing the rugged coast­line of Raglan. Known as a world-renowned surf­ing des­ti­na­tion, Manu Bay was on the list of hot spots to hit, so Innes took the Dis­cov­ery Sport for a drive through the bush to find a van­tage point over­look­ing the rolling hills and pound­ing surf. But while the scenery was pre­dictably gor­geous, the weather was a far less re­li­able el­e­ment.

“I came out onto the ridge­line and it was so misty I couldn’t even see the sea, I could only hear it,” the pho­tog­ra­pher re­calls. “So, I stopped the car and just lis­tened to the sea crash­ing on the cliffs be­low. It was very quiet. Then, for half an hour, the mist just lifted, I got my shots, and the mist came in again.

“It was amaz­ing, a real lucky mo­ment with a nice mood­i­ness to it.”

Tightly sched­uled as he was, wait­ing around for weather to im­prove was hardly ever an op­tion, but, luck­ily, per­fect blue skies were not what the brief de­manded. In­stead, Innes was to cap­ture the car in real en­vi­ron­men­tal sit­u­a­tions, so a bit of rain was no prob­lem. In fact, un­like the stu­dio-per­fect shots you’ll see dropped into most auto cam­paigns, many of the Face­book images show the car with dirty tyres and mud­splat­tered pan­els.

“It made it real and ac­tu­ally fit­ted with the brief bet­ter — it was more like me tak­ing it on an ad­ven­ture,” he says. “The client liked it be­cause it was more en­gag­ing for the view­ers, they could re­ally see them­selves in there.”

It also pro­vided the client with some authen­tic lo­cal shots, as op­posed to us­ing im­agery sup­plied by the com­pany’s in­ter­na­tional coun­ter­parts, which of­ten fea­tures cars driv­ing on the other side of the road, amid ob­vi­ously for­eign back­drops. And if the hun­dreds of com­ments and thou­sands of ‘likes’ racked up on Land Rover New Zealand’s Face­book page are any­thing to go by, the au­di­ence def­i­nitely en­joyed the lo­cal flavour.

While there’s no deny­ing the au­then­tic­ity of the road-trip images, Innes does ad­mit to a cer­tain amount of vis­ual trick­ery. Af­ter all, he was run­ning solo on this trip, so who’s driv­ing the car when he’s tak­ing the photos? For some shots, the pho­tog­ra­pher em­ployed a time-lapse set-up, re­turn­ing to the ve­hi­cle to drive up and down the road while his cam­era au­to­mat­i­cally fired off frames. In other sit­u­a­tions he sim­ply parked the car, ar­ranged the shot to ob­scure the empty driver’s seat, and added mo­tion blur in post-pro­duc­tion to make it seem like the sta­tion­ary ve­hi­cle was rolling down the road.

With him on the voy­age was his trusty Canon 5D Mark III and a host of clas­sic land­scape lenses, along with a few less-con­ven­tional gear picks. Innes had his first ex­pe­ri­ence with a GoPro dur­ing this as­sign­ment — shoot­ing through the wind­screen, with the cam­era gripped in his mouth (of course), he cap­tured some in­ter­est­ing point-of-view footage that he then sped up for ef­fect. He also uti­lized a 17mm tilt-shift lens to cre­ate shots of the in­te­rior look­ing out onto the land­scape. The cam­era move­ment al­lowed for sharp fo­cus on both the de­tails in­side the car (in­clud­ing re­peat­ing Land Rover lo­gos, which the client loved), and on the wilder­ness be­yond the bon­net.

The re­sult­ing images were a hit on Face­book, and the pho­tog­ra­pher en­joyed be­ing able to jump onto his browser and see re­ac­tions to his work. As well as guess­ing where the Dis­cov­ery Sport was parked, Face­book fans were asked to share their own per­sonal sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences with the place in ques­tion, lead­ing the Pin­point cam­paign to gen­er­ate a lot of very in­ter­est­ing en­gage­ment. So, it’s not sur­pris­ing this sort of so­cial-me­dia shoot is some­thing Innes is run­ning into more fre­quently th­ese days.

Says Innes, “It’s of­ten a cam­paign for print and they’ll run a sep­a­rate cam­paign for so­cial me­dia, but more and more it’s stuff that’s just for so­cial me­dia. There’s quite a high turn­around, and maybe the bud­gets aren’t as big as [they are for] an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign, but I get asked for so­cial-me­dia shoots more and more by clients, and for web­sites, too.”

Look­ing to the fu­ture, Innes says he’s ex­cited to work with more clients who have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his own per­sonal style. In his three years as a free­lancer, his big­gest chal­lenge has been try­ing to stay true to his de­vel­op­ing artis­tic vi­sion while still pleas­ing com­mer­cial clients.

“When you start out you just say yes to every­thing — what­ever comes your way to help pay the mort­gage,” he ex­plains. “I’m get­ting a bit more spe­cific about the jobs I take, it kind of gets to that point where you can be a bit picky.”

And while it can’t be fast cars, scenic views, and high­way free­dom ev­ery day, for­tune will al­ways favour those will­ing to glee­fully seize dream op­por­tu­ni­ties when they do come ca­reen­ing along.

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