Photographer Jameson Clifton grabbed life by the horns when he boldly approached the marketing team at NZSki, a tourism company headquartered in Queenstown, New Zealand. He set the goal of getting a content creation role with the team for the 2017 ski season, and eagerly looked forward to revisiting the country after enjoying his past work expeditions in the country.
The team was impressed with my previous work. After discussion, I was brought in as a contractor to assist with the creative direction and develop photographic content aligned with the brand strategy. It really came to fruition through good timing, an intimate understanding of the snow sports industry, and a solid pitch. The ability to ski and an Australian passport certainly made things easier from a logistical perspective as well.
NZSki was about to undergo a major branding overhaul across its three resort locations of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, and Mt. Hutt, the first two in Queenstown and the last near Christchurch. Adding to the significance of the campaign were two major events taking place in the area, the Audi Quattro Winter Games and the North Face Frontier, a Freeride World Qualifier event. As a final caveat, the client wanted the resort’s sponsors and event partners, Corona, Red Bull, and Veuve Clicquot to be integrated into the images.
The multiple resorts, sporting events, and brand sponsors were all vital elements that needed to be incorporated into the content. Jameson knew that he had a lot more on his plate compared to previous assignments since he’d be coordinating the art direction as well.
It was great to be involved at a higher level compared to my experience on the majority of previous assignments. The planning phase involved interpreting the brand strategy that had been developed by the marketing, sales, and creative team, providing feedback and creative input where applicable, evaluating and identifying gaps in the existing content, creating an executable shot list, scouting the locations, developing rapport with the on-mountain personnel, sourcing a local talent pool, developing production schedules, and of course getting settled in a new country.
The thorough preparation was mandatory since there were plenty of variables in play. The scenarios Jameson had to capture ranged from athletes in action to kids and family lounging by the slopes and resorts. And working in the mountains wasn’t a walk in the park, with the weather maintaining its reputation as the usual spoilsport.
Working in the mountains, particularly New Zealand, the weather can be pretty variable. In general, capturing those epic “powder shots” with blue sky and natural lighting is significantly harder in my experience than shooting somewhere like Utah or Japan. Conditions were often hit or miss which led to postponements. That’s just something you plan for and contend with though.
Transport was another hurdle, with Jameson having to rely on carpooling and NZSki’s staff to go back and forth between ski fields and the resorts. But the biggest possible constraint on the project was the talent. Jameson had to use seasonal staff from the ski resorts to create the images, which can be a very different experience compared to working with professional actors.
This made communicating, coordinating around work schedules, and fulfilling some of the specific requirements of a marketing and sales-centric brief more difficult to achieve. Essentially, as the art director, photographer, producer, and production coordinator, it also involved a lot more time than I’d originally anticipated from initial discussions in the pre-production phase.
The project couldn’t have gone better, despite all the hats Jameson had to wear throughout the production. After months of involvement with the rebranding project, the images he captured will be used over the next 5 years in NZSki’s marketing plans. And while making some wintry magic with his camera, he also got the opportunity to experience some of his staple favorites in mountain living.
Skiing and comradery. No matter how long the day has been, working in the mountains is a blessing, it really is … Meeting so many great people from around the world, and seeing the imagery become a part of something bigger is really inspiring.