There are hundreds if not thousands of photographers around us. But this photographer’s day is much more different than all the hundreds of others out there. He is from New Zealand and just by looking out of his home office window he already has a better view than most.
His day begins at the crack of dawn; precisely at 6 AM, which for some of us regular folk is still considered night time. Seeing as Chris is on the road for most of the year, he usually spends a lot of his mornings in glamorous hotel rooms. Room service and being able to spend time in some of the world’s most exotic destinations are rewards big enough in themselves.
Chris explains, “I have breakfast; usually fruit and muesli in the hotel restaurant, then it’s back to my room to pack gear, check the shot list, and mentally prepare for the shoot”. He sometimes even manages to squeeze in some all-important gym time before the shoot. This helps Chris to be more focused throughout the day and of course it means that he can enjoy the evening with friends and colleagues over a nice dinner and a glass of wine instead of sweating it out at the hotel gym.
The day begins at a tropical paradise called Fiji, and this is a commercial shot Chris is doing. So basically being a bit of a fashion photographer for a day. Already a pretty enviable beginning. A tropical island, hot weather, palm trees and beautiful women all around. Who could complain?
Preparation starts to happen at precisely 8 AM. Shooting at 9 AM. Again Chris gives us the heads up: “This shoot involves hair, makeup and wardrobe for the models, then continues on with setting up camera and lighting equipment for me and my assistant”. Then he meets with the creative director. This magazine shoot will involve both still photography and also a video team, so there are a lot of people whose schedules he needs to coordinate so that no one misses a beat”.
The shooting is in full swing until the clock hits noon. Chris and his team then take a bit of a breather and have an hour long lunch, somewhere on the beach under a palm tree and looking out into the turquoise ocean waters. Sounds like heaven. After lunch the shooting continues till approximately 7 PM.
The team manages to cover five different, exciting locations throughout Fiji. All of this and it’s only day one. Getting a serious amount of work done while sightseeing is one enviable example of multitasking. Chris explains that even though he is able to see a lot from a location where he is shooting, it also means a lot of work with setting up his equipment.
Hitting the afternoon slump gets everyone, even Chris, and even in a paradise like Fiji. How does he fight it? Do the beautiful, exotic, and tropical Fijian surroundings help? “When I am shooting on my own I can monitor my own performance and how I’m feeling, and I know when to call it a day and put the cameras away. Though sometimes if the light or the conditions are perfect I’d rather just keep shooting and deal with the tiredness later!”
Being the busy travel photographer that Chris is, part of the process is maximizing the opportunities he gets at every exotic destination, because “once you are gone you are gone!”, and so is that awesome picture of the moment.
When being part of a team however, the whole situation changes. This is when the whole team runs on a tight schedule which they try hard to stick to. This way everybody knows when will they finish, subsequently staying fresh for the following day.
“On a commercial shoot we try to keep our working hours to within ten per day, but it can go over when the shot list is big”, says Chris.
The reward after a grueling 10 hour day is a lovely team dinner complete with a beach view under the warm embrace of Fiji’s slowly setting sun.
The whole team chats about the day and enjoys each other’s company before they all retire to their hotel rooms to enjoy the warm sea breeze. What an awesome way to finish hard day’s work.
Chris and his assistant clean and prepare all the gear ready for day two. They charge batteries, empty out their memory cards and back up all the images. Chris also checks every image to make sure he got everything he wanted captured. All of this preparation takes him another two hours.
This is not your regular office job so there really isn’t a set finishing time here.
There are often many external forces the team has to be ready to tackle at a moment’s notice. Bad weather conditions, delays, flight cancellations, natural disasters. All of these have to be considered and Chris has to be ready to change plans in a split second. Sounds like a scene from Indiana Jones movie to us.
He adds, “Of course sometimes you just ‘see’ things that weren’t on the shot list but need to be photographed because they have the potential of being a winning image. So that’s when I have to throw the rule book out the window and just keep shooting!”
As exciting and beautiful as they may be, even shooting in the tropics can be exhausting and Chris sometimes finds himself yearning for some ‘me’ time.
“I usually go for a walk when I can, but other than that I don’t really get to relax as such when on a location shoot. I am switched “on” for the entire process and I guess I don’t really relax until I’m on the plane heading home after the project has been completed.”
However he feels that he can fully relax once he arrives home to New Zealand. Away from days in noisy and impersonal hotels, and unfamiliar – though tropical – environment. Only back home can he enjoy a cup of good coffee at his favorite cafe or head for a bike ride with his wife and kids into one of the countless, almost fluorescent-green parks in his neighborhood and breathe the in the scent of ‘clean & green’ kiwi air.
Like for most of us, eight is the magic number. Everyone knows that. Chris does too, and that’s why he strives to catch those 8 hours of good quality sleep whenever possible.
When at home he treats himself to even 9 or 10 hours. That is a true luxury and one of the biggest rewards he gives to his body, especially after a tough project. He continues on to say, “While away on a location shoot I might sometimes only get four or five hours a night for quite a few nights in a row. I am used to this and usually cope fine, but I wouldn’t want to do it for too long!”
In such situations he tries to calm himself down with the help of nature whenever possible. Even with just the humble chamomile tea! “Because at the end of the day I need to stay mentally alert to be able to create good images, so it is an important consideration for me as a travel photographer dealing with different time zones”, adds Chris.