Pulling off this PR shoot to promote the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship was, for my client, six years in the making. And last Tuesday, it finally came together. The world’s greatest player in the world’s greatest bunker.
I was first called in for a recce early January under the guise of the expert in dune photography … a nice sub to have, which pays dividends in these parts of the world but may render me homeless back in Europe. We met up at the amazing Qasr al Sarab resort in Liwa. Sitting on the border of the Empty Quarter, the landscape is vast, stunning and without fail awe-inspiring. I’ve shot here on many occasions yet it never ceases to blow me away.
The drive is long and relentless; 3 ½ hours from Dubai on straight boring highways resulting in more time being spent on the road than behind the lens. All par for the course in this job though. We identified a few locations and played around with the theme, bearing in mind the brief amount of time we would have with the players. On my return and post bouncing a contact sheet back and forth between the client and the various agencies, shot no 10 was the chosen one.
The actual assignment, not a solo shoot, gave me the opportunity to work with golf photography legends David Cannon and Andy Redington. Both are on the books at Getty to shoot the full tournament and get the imagery live on the wires within moments. David did an identical recce the day prior to hunt down the location where I had shot ‘no 10’. They got close to the same spot, very close.
It’s so difficult to navigate in the dunes … a challenge for any driver … so the location was flagged, sample shots taken, a shooting sequence agreed and logistics put in place. Both Luke Donald & Martin Kaymar would be flown to the resort by helicopter … ah the life of a pro-golfer … then travel by 4×4 to meet us in the dunes.
Yet the perfect planning was not so perfect thanks to our referring to two different locations for that ‘no 10’ spot. The team was setting up but I just wasn’t convinced of our exact location. Yes, it looked amazing but the icing on the cake was missing. On my sample shot, there had been the slightest hint of a green valley in the far beyond but now, no matter which lens I shot with, it couldn’t be seen.
Time was ticking and this was bugging me so I went for a wonder and low and behold, found the original location. Damn! What to do? Make some noise? All credit to David and the team for finding a great spot so close by but still.
I decided to make the call and tell the client. Arguments ensued back and forth and there remained just 15 minutes before the players were due to arrive. The heli had landed and the boys were in the cars so the decision to move location or otherwise had to be made without delay. Move was the eventual call from the client; strong and bold albeit but a resounding ‘Move!’, which let me tell you, scored no brownie points for me!
The branding material was returned to the car to be transported further up the dune. The pressure was on so I ran ahead, thanking my long, strong legs for moving me quickly. I knew I was probably treading on the territory of others in terms of logistics and planning but the focus had to remain on just getting set-up. Again. The remaining cars were now in sight, snaking up the dunes and eventually, we were ready to go. Max 15 balls each so probably only twenty minutes shooting in total. Short and sweet. And whilst they are of course world leaders playing their game, I still couldn’t help feeling like a pin flag with balls landing so closely to my left and right.
It was great to see the diversity in our work. Three photographers and three lots of Canon hardware yet three very different results, which left the client with an extensive portfolio to choose from.
See, before the digital age, your choice of camera, plates, lenses or film would dictate your style but now all the DSLR’s produce the same result. It’s down then to the creative and artistic skills of the photographer to create stunning compositions combined with the technical skills required to get the camera to behave as you wish.
Originality and a unique delivery is key. I recall a workshop by Gregory Heisller who made this exact point; “With digital everyone use the same gear. The only difference is the fingerprint.” Looking back at my notes, another interesting comment was that in the film age, a photographer would be looking at the next picture but now in the digital age we’re looking at the last.
This one is for David … the world’s biggest name in golf photography tackling the world’s biggest dune. Good to see you hitting the dunes hard David and thanks for all the great efforts.
The end result was amazing; the client very happy and our work now life on the web. We honed our craft and delivered magic. It can be a bit risky to shift so close to ‘going live’ but at the same time, it pays to follow your intuition.
Another great day out in the field. On to the next …