Photographer Douglas Sonders and Creative Director Scott Rodgers plan a photo shoot in New York from over 230 miles away and execute it in little time, using unconventional methods.
NEW YORK – It’s hard enough to organize a photo shoot, much less one in the biggest city in the U.S. But when Tier10’s Creative Director Scott Rodgers needed to shoot the all-new 2013 Honda Accord, he knew right away that this photo shoot would be much trickier than normal.
“We usually take about three to four days to plan and shoot new vehicles – in a city like New York, usually five,” said Rodgers, who is also a co-founder of Tier10. “But with less than 48 hours notice, we would only have access to the vehicles for six hours.”
While Rodgers, based in Washington D.C., was working on an advertisement featuring the redesigned Accord for a New York-based client, he felt that the manufacturer-provided photos of the ninth-generation model of Honda’s best-selling mid-size vehicle were not connecting with the local market. Rodgers and fellow Tier10 co-founder Scott Fletcher see this type of connection as a crucial part of the company’s strategy.
“As a consumer, it is much more effective to see a vehicle in an area you recognize or an area where you live,” said Fletcher, who also serves as Tier10’s Vice President of Client Services. “So we find it important to capture the vehicles in a natural environment, giving a distinct local feel for each of our clients.”
Rodgers and Fletcher made some calls on a Monday from the Tier10 offices and were able to secure two 2013 Accord V6s for that Wednesday – with the caveat that the photos needed to be ready the very next day.
For a previous Acura photo shoot in New York, Rodgers and long-time photographer colleague Douglas Sonders took five days. This gave them time to search around the city to find perfect shooting locations and then apply for permits to close off streets. For that shoot, they were even able to close off the ever-populated Times Square for their use.
For this Accord shoot, Rodgers again called on the Washington D.C.-based Sonders, whose photography has been featured on the covers of Time and Billboard magazines and popular websites such as Gawker.com. Even though a comfortable prep time was not an option for this shoot, Sonders has seen many similar time-crunch situations throughout his career.
“It was a challenge to have no real time and get this finished in half a day, especially in New York,” said Sonders, who was named one of Washington D.C.’s most influential people under 40 by Washington Life Magazine. “Since we didn’t have enough time to get permits or scout locations in person, we had to get creative.”
Rodgers scouted locations in New York City from the Tier10 Headquarters in Washington D.C. using unconventional methods that were not available a few years ago. With Google Maps and, more specifically, the Google Street View feature, Rodgers selected three prime locations that incorporated iconic New York City visuals – by the Williamsburg Bridge, by the Brooklyn Bridge to incorporate the Manhattan skyline, and in the Meatpacking District by the Hotel Gansevoort. He was then able to map out the route they would use to arrive at each location.
Once Rodgers, Sonders and a crew of four arrived in New York on Wednesday morning, they headed over to Paragon Honda in the suburb of Woodside. They were given the two all-new Accords, one black and one silver, packed the vehicles with the photo equipment and headed to the locations. Because they didn’t have enough time to get permits, Sonders used a loophole he was inadvertently informed of by employees at the permit office.
“As long as you don’t put a tri-pod down, you don’t need a permit,” said Sonders. “The worst that could happen is we’re given a parking ticket. Sure, we had to bend the rules a little bit, but we made sure to do everything as safe and quickly as possible.”
Therefore, while Sonders took pictures with his camera held in hand, three of the crew members held up the lighting equipment by hand and carried battery packs in a backpack, as they were also unable to lay down any wires. Douglas said that shooting this way – without tri-pods to comply with city ordinances – is difficult because he can only take one shot at a time, as opposed to the multiple exposures allowed with a camera held steady with a tri-pod.
In order to meet the short deadline with which they were working, Rodgers and Sonders found themselves editing photos any chance they had – whether it was in between location shoots, during a quick snack or while Rodgers was waiting for his 9 p.m. flight back to D.C.
“As a Creative guy, I live for days like this,” said Rodgers. “The sky is the limit when you are designing without constraints. Thanks to the tight deadline, though, I knew the shots I was looking for and we got them. Being able to edit on the road also makes things so much easier to meet a tight deadline. You will always find me with my bag with my Macbook Pro. As far as imaging software, Douglas has me addicted to the Nik suite of software, which just joined the Google family.”
The photo shoot also served as an impromptu test drive of the new Accord for Rodgers and Sonders, who found the camera-based forward-collision warning feature extremely helpful on the ever-congested streets of New York City.
“I’ve always owned German automobiles,” said Sonders, who currently drives a modified Audi S4. “But the new Accord was a real pleasure to drive. It had good handling, was very responsive and very nimble – impressive for a mid-size sedan.
“And the crash-avoidance system helped immensely against distracted New York drivers.”
While 2012 has been a pretty big year so far for automotive manufacturers, there are more launches of all-new vehicles planned for 2013 – with about 35 all-new redesigned vehicles being introduced in the U.S. alone. Rodgers and Sonders are already planning some big shoots.
You can follow their adventures on Twitter:
Scott Rodgers: http://twitter.com/scotty703
Douglas Sonders: http://twitter.com/douglassonders