After moving from Spain to the Philippines four years ago, photographer Francisco Guerrero has slowly begun adding local companies to his already long list of clients. Francisco’s clean and elegant style lends itself perfectly to travel and luxury assignments, and he’s often commissioned by publications like Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, Elle Decor, as well as high-end resorts worldwide. However, it’s been a bit of a challenge re-starting his business in a new country that holds different business practices and preferences in imagery. But recently, as luck would have it, a friend mentioned that BBDO Guerrero was looking for a travel photographer for their much-hyped Philippine Department of Tourism campaign. She passed his name along to the creative team and he soon got a call about this very exciting project.
Before approaching Francisco about the project, the BBDO team had already carefully sketched out the ads. Each image would highlight a different Philippine adventure, and would use variations on the tag: “More Fun In The Philippines.” They needed a photographer skilled enough to execute each shot as closely as possible to the concept drawings. It was clear that if the images “deviated too much from the sketches, the tag lines would not work.” Francisco was informed that the photos had to be taken 100% on-location, with little manipulation, as authenticity was a cornerstone of the campaign. The client wanted real images of the Philippines, not Photoshop creations. Francisco was happy to take on the challenge, and excited to work on the project due to his own national pride. He looked forward to exploring many spectacular locations across the country.
I have long been a believer that the Philippines is a fantastic travel destination and is yet largely unexplored.
Production began right away, and involved everything from securing coral reef locations, to figuring out how to capture a sea turtle pointing, and prepping for vastly unstable weather conditions. Their biggest challenge was traveling throughout the country with gear and a large crew—so things were kept light and crew was whittled down as much as possible. This doesn’t sound so tough, except when you realize one of the shots was underground, in the dark. Francisco reflects on this difficult to shoot, subterranean photo:
The underground image was shot at the Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park. It’s the largest navigable underground river in the world, and it is stunningly beautiful. It’s also one of the worst places for any photographer to work, combining a dark cave with a very wet environment. To add to our problems, we didn’t have the option to step on dry land for fear of damaging the stone structures, so we had to shoot everything from small paddle boats.
The creatives at BBDO and I decided that to get the image we wanted, we had to make it look like there was as a single light source from the boatman casting onto the whole scene. So that’s what we did. In the final image, the boatman is holding a sun pack strobe head and it acts as the key light. We had two other lighting boats just out of frame with supplementary lighting. The challenge was the cave itself; Pocket Wizards seemed to be suffering from interference, so they constantly misfired. Add to this the fact that the all the boats—the camera boat, the lighting boats and the hero boat—were all moving due to the strong current…
This wasn’t their only difficult shot though, as getting a sea turtle to appear as if it’s asking for directions turned out to have its own issues as well. But in the end, everyone, including the turtle, “really stepped up” and all the shots were captured beautifully. The clients loved the images and were extremely happy that the team was able to deliver exceptional images “from story board to final print, despite all the challenges.”
The final ads saw some prime placements, with the sandman shot hitting billboards in New York and London right before Christmas. Four of the other ads were placed in issues of Newsweek, and London had the underground ad placed in Piccadilly Tube Station. Six more shots will soon be released internationally. Francisco loved working on the project and said the campaign opened his eyes to many amazing locations in the Philippines.