Should we run? Or the story behind a corporate shot over 16.000ft
It’s incredible the amount of time planning, making contacts, rescheduling and producing things when some assignments land at our desk. I would say most of the jobs do have this bureaucratic part and it’s important to recognize it in photography, put the time it deserves and charge for your time too.
This shooting was supposed to last one day, plus a two day trip to Huaraz. But those who have traveled throughout the Andes, during summertime, would agree that an accurate planning there is as tough as the rainy weather in this season.
Anyway… it was mid-February and I dared to enter the White Mountain range to accomplish my task. Capture a series of emotional, environmental portraits depicting the roughness of being a high mountain guide in Peru. The client produces top mountain gear and clothing and fosters an annual fund-raising campaign to help the farmers, taxi drivers, street sellers and teachers that would have been full time guides if their income was enough.
Abel “El Profe”, Renzo, Carlo and Juan were all set on a chilly morning and even it was nearly 7 am we headed to the mountain. Since the pictures required a snowy background we soon realized we were too late to start a trek to the glacier. Before 8.30am the clouds had already covered most of the valley and the snow was a bunch of gray, flat elevations. Nothing that would make the pictures look appealing. Yet I started shooting, worried the client wouldn’t pay for another day there. The first results were not so bad, but far from what I had envisioned. Not to mention the client’s expectations.
We agreed to come back the day before and I asked to come really early. So we jumped in the car at 3 am the next day and headed again to Llaca. After a few extra weight on gear and clothing (something like 22kilos) we started to walk, at night, towards the glacier.
After nearly 4 hours walking I started to ask myself if I wasn’t over-geared…Two camera bodies, a 35mm f1.4, a 16-35mm f2.8, a 28-70mm f2.8, a 70-200mm f 2.8, a tripod, two strobes, a remote flash trigger, light modificators. It was a little studio. I felt stupid.
Fortunately that feeling lasted little. When we got to the glacier Mr. Shy Sun honored us for an hour, clearing the sky partially. Dramatic shadows from the cliffs were cast over the snow and the strobes started to pay off.
I was kindly assisted by the other guides while I took the portraits of each of them. I was able to create a main light and a back light (sometimes it wasn’t possible, the batteries were suffering with the altitude and cold). It greatly improved the overall feeling of roughness. Then the weather started to change.
As I took some last shots from the most experienced guide, Abel “el Profe”, giving my back to the majestic glacier, I suddenly hear that crystal-like sound of ice being broken, followed by a bass, moving roar. Terrified I look in the eyes of Abel and asked: should we run?
He stared at the hilltop for endless three seconds…No, he answered, its a small one…
A few hours later we saw from a safe distance, as other small avalanches made it to the place we stood and how huge pieces of ice felt apart from the glaciers and create big waves striking the shores of the lake we passed earlier.
At home, I used a cross processing filter to enhance that feeling of hardness. The results are here. Hope you like it.