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What a day on location for a magazine looks like

I thought it would be interesting for me to share some details about a project I've did for Monocle magazine summer weekly in August 2017. I've been working for them on numerous occasions in my own country and in Europe, this time they asked me to go to Verbier a popular ski station in Switzerland.

Project description

The scope of the shoot was to illustrate an article about Televerbier the company who makes cable cars and ski lifts, I had to shoot the various equipments, take portraits of the CEO, take various shots of the summer activities in the station (mountain biking, paragliding, trekking and so on).

Gear

I took two cameras (always have two camera bodies when you're on location, just in case one breaks because you've dropped it off a cliff) a Fujifilm X-T2 and a Fujifilm X-Pro2 (they both share the same 24mpx APS-C sensor). I exclusively work with Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, I like the size and the ergonomics of them. They're perfect for editorial/documentary and on-location shooting.

With those I had the following lenses, a XF16mm F1.4 (equivalent to 24mm on full-frame, a great wide angle lens with zero distortion), the classic and beautiful XF35mm F1.4 (equivalent to 53mm on full-frame, my lens of choice for environnemental portraits) and the XF50-140mm F2.8 (equivalent to a 70-200mm on full-frame with OIS and constant aperture of 2.8, great for catching far away details).

I'm not a fan of changing lenses, specially when you're outdoor and when it's windy (dust particles easily go in). Not to mention being in the mountains, the risk of having a lens roll down the hill is something I'd like to avoid.

Planning

I arrived in Verbier at 11am after 2:30 hours of travel from Geneva and left at 5:30pm. I knew I had to be very mobile, with just a backpack and no tripod. The weather was very sunny, temperatures at the bottom of the station were very warm but when you go up to 3300m (10,900 ft) it gets very chilly.

I started with the portrait of the CEO, as he didn’t had much time allowed for me. I took photographs of him inside one of the cable car station (trying not to get crushed by the incoming cable cars was quite fun) as well as on the roof of a building where there’s an helipad. At one moment he received a call and I shot some nice images of him on the phone with the landscape in the background.

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Images taken during the day

In that single day (more like in those six hours) I shot 950 images and sent the client a selection of 150 images. You will find all those 150 images and a few more by clicking on the button below. For every image you’ll find the EXIF informations by clicking on the little info icon.

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Final selection

Here’s the final selection printed below, 5 images were chosen by the client. The left page is also shot by myself in Lyon, France.

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Why did I shot so many images?

You may think that 150 is overkill, but actually it’s really targeted on what the client needed. It’s very important to be selective but not too restrictive, you never really know what picture will end up printed. Also a few months after the publication date I'm allowed to license and sell the remaining images, hence why it’s good for me to have more than needed.

The client won't always choose the images you think are the best, so it's always good to shoot what catch your eye and do your own style (in addition to fulfilling the client requests). My personal favorites aren't necessarily the photographs that ended up in print, but that's often the case for this type of project.

 

Personal favorites

Here's a few of the shots from that day that I was really happy to see on the back of my camera.

 Here I like how weird the start of the ski slope looks like in the middle of the summer. The cable car arrival station looks quite retro-futuristic as well.

Here I like how weird the start of the ski slope looks like in the middle of the summer. The cable car arrival station looks quite retro-futuristic as well.

 
 I took that one from inside a small egg-like cable car, pulling my arms and my telephoto lens out and aiming using the flip screen, it was a bit shaky but this one ended up sharp.

I took that one from inside a small egg-like cable car, pulling my arms and my telephoto lens out and aiming using the flip screen, it was a bit shaky but this one ended up sharp.

 
 This one was shot through the window of a cable car, it's not perfect optically speaking (a bit blurry/soft) but I like the negative space.

This one was shot through the window of a cable car, it's not perfect optically speaking (a bit blurry/soft) but I like the negative space.

 
 I took a few of those two without them knowing, this one is my favorite because of how the landscape flows and direct the eye to where they are riding. I also enjoyed the patches of light and how they create contrast on the image.

I took a few of those two without them knowing, this one is my favorite because of how the landscape flows and direct the eye to where they are riding. I also enjoyed the patches of light and how they create contrast on the image.

 
 I couldn't resist walking in the tall grass for a few minutes to go up a hill where this artificial snow canon was standing in the middle of the flowers.

I couldn't resist walking in the tall grass for a few minutes to go up a hill where this artificial snow canon was standing in the middle of the flowers.

 
 It's always fun to frame subjects against a bright background using elements from the foreground.

It's always fun to frame subjects against a bright background using elements from the foreground.

 
 A classic composition that reminded me of the swiss painter Ferdinand-Hodler

A classic composition that reminded me of the swiss painter Ferdinand-Hodler

 
 I was trying to get a good angle of the snow removal truck when I noticed the paraglider coming into the frame, I just waited until he got into the right place.

I was trying to get a good angle of the snow removal truck when I noticed the paraglider coming into the frame, I just waited until he got into the right place.

 
 For this one I cheated a bit, I angled my camera to increase the sense of scale (the horizon isn't straight, but it looks ok because the cabine arm is almost straight). Note that I could have de-hazed the background more but I wanted to keep the contrast on the foreground and have the whole background fade away.

For this one I cheated a bit, I angled my camera to increase the sense of scale (the horizon isn't straight, but it looks ok because the cabine arm is almost straight). Note that I could have de-hazed the background more but I wanted to keep the contrast on the foreground and have the whole background fade away.

 

A note on processing

The images were processed in Lightroom using two different looks as a base, one that’s warm and sunny and another one used for the higher altitude images where there’s snow/ice. I usually apply a single base look then send a selection of images to the client and re-work the ones they select.

I re-did a pass and added a bunch of local adjustements to some images that needed them + a few zones of dehazing on the landscape shots. I always shoot with two SD cards, one acting as a backup. And on the way back home I always backup the files on my laptop and put the cards in my jacket, just in case someone would steal my camera bag or my backpack.

Let me know if you have any questions using the comments below.

 

ArticlesSamuel Zeller