The setting sun’s daily goodbye, whether it functions as a backdrop for an evening jog or a romantic walk with a significant other, is quite breathtaking. But symbolically, it paints a different story, as Baltimore’s Inner Harbor found out in the mid-1900s. Beginning in the 18th century, the red-bricked docks were once an epicenter of commercial activity where factories, warehouses, and shipping facilities were aplenty, but its maritime heritage all but vanished some 70 years ago. The end of the industrial boom brought disrepair and disinvestment, turning a lively locality into a place of ghosts and shadows.
By the 1980s, though, the city was keen on a turnaround. Revitalization efforts were underway, particularly in the locality of Harbor East. New investment followed, and today, it’s one of the country’s more successful mixed development projects. The area showcases an award-winning urban design layout featuring an iconic waterfront promenade. In addition, luxurious apartments, extravagant hotels, upscale restaurants, and ritzy retail outlets are all establishments to indulge in.
The city launched numerous campaigns in recent times to present this revamped version of the neighborhood to residents and tourists. For the latest push, they needed a photographer that could unveil the deluge of delights that await. Luckily, they found someone who’s a stone’s throw away in Washington, DC: Eli Meir Kaplan.
Having previously worked on a campaign for Visit Baltimore, Eli was an easy frontrunner for the job. The project’s Creative Director, Jess Brown, and producer, Rebecca Karamehmedovic of SWAY, were also previous collaborators of Eli’s, so the role of photographer was ripe for his picking.
Pre-production was underway by September 28 with the involvement of Harvey Agency. Eight locations were to be covered, including both indoor and outdoor spaces. The challenge? It would all be done in one day on October 20. So if we’re talking about a race against the clock, this was it.
An inevitable headache would be light. Even with the most meticulous planning, the sun could be uncooperative for outdoor shots. Eli needed certain images captured with the setting sun, especially those by a hotel pool and the promenade. He scouted the locations with the agency and settled on most of the angles ahead of time. To be even thriftier with time, they settled on a handful of talent who’d be recycled across the different locations, made to appear anew through the power of wardrobe changes.
On the day of production, it seemed like the team was prepared for smooth sailing. Many would have considered the narrow timeframe a death knell, but Eli found it helpful, igniting avenues for creative and technical experimentation.
I really enjoyed shooting on the Canon R5s. I had started using a tripod a lot on client shoots because I worried about the focus, even though I don’t shoot with one on my personal work. My digital tech automatically sets up the tripod because he’s used to it. But with the R5s, I can get away from that because the focus is so good, and I really got to utilize that on this shoot. Also, when shooting outdoors, I prefer 1000W strobes instead of 500W battery-powered ones because you have to wait a long time between shots with the latter’s lower power.
The absence of the tripod, thanks to the R5s, also made the crew lighter on their feet. After all, everything had to be wrapped up in a day. Having the same set of talent for all the locations was another advantage. Working with an actual couple aided matters, too, providing a foundation for genuine chemistry and expression.
There were a few instances of choppy waters when a shoot location was swapped last minute. On another, Eli got his directions in a jumble while moving to the next venue. He also lived through a scene that would ideally belong in a movie toward the end of its runtime.
There was a moment when we were racing with the sun going down, and the talent was still in wardrobe. They just made it in time to capture the shot — it’s the one of the office building with the Baltimore landscape in the background.
Eli may have been racing against the sun to capture those final few shots, but Harbor East is in no such hurry. After decades of neglect, the area is experiencing a change of fortunes and a resurgence in prosperity. A newer and better chapter is already underway, with the Baltimore Sun shining brighter than ever.
See more of Eli’s work on his website.
Client: Harbor East
Agency: Harvey Agency
Production Company: Sway
Creative Director: Jess Brown
Art Director: Rick Bowman
Producers: Rebecca Karamehmedovic, Vanessa Mack
Digital Tech: Chris Birck
Assistants: Matt DeBrucycker, Max Strode, Tom Sandner
Wardrobe: Pascale Lemaire
HMU: Jasmen Davis
HMU Assistant: Dee Felder
Talent: Lena Shen, Lindsey Weller, Kirk and Nazy Brown
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