For the conceptual photographer, the process of creating an image is a complex weaving of elements to compose a world that resonates as real and believable with its audience. Atlanta-based John Fulton continually challenges himself to see beyond the limitations of a shoot by utilizing 3D modeling and image layering to craft sets and props. In an assignment for corporate airline company HondaJet, John envisioned a versatile series that blends real-life elements with rendered images.
At the onset of the project, John spoke with the senior art producer at Mullen, John Rosato, to create the first image that would inspire the rest of the campaign: the surgeon. The overarching concept focused on world-class professions whose work has an aspirational quality to them. These are careers that have been known to us since childhood, and the client felt that for each occupation portrayed the individual pushed themselves to achieve their dreams.
The final execution of the first image was very well received by HondaJet and so they hired me to capture and build three additional ads in a series entitled “Wings”.
The team collectively agreed that they would need some authentic details despite being assembled mostly in post-production. While their budget allowed for some genuine props, like a $6,000 astronaut’s suit, John used stock imagery to provide the other unattainable elements and sets.
We had many creative sessions about what types of visual cues would connote authenticity to the individuals working in the fields that would be portrayed.
For the racecar driver, the pit crew is seen holding two Formula 1 tires, which to John’s disbelief were simply not available for any price. He began experimenting with 3D modeling to recreate the tires and edited this over portraits of the talent. To bring authenticity to the racetrack’s environment, John drove to the Atlanta Motor Speedway to capture the track and stands that would make up the background and foreground of the image.
When it was clear that some 3D modeling magic was needed, I began experimenting with the basic geometry so I had rough renders to align with the photographic elements during the shoot.
While the agency had sourced talent for the surgeon, race car driver, and astronaut, they decided to find an actual music conductor who would authenticate their vision. John credits his producer’s connections as invaluable, as they also allowed for him to photograph a 40-piece orchestra inside the Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga, TN.
On a project like this, having an experienced and capable producer that has connections throughout the region is one of the most important and necessary factors.
The series was executed in a few installments and each image required an in-depth process before John felt that it was complete. To render the symphony on top of the tiered stage, he took care to shoot the musicians 2-3 at a time so that they are seamlessly arranged in a semicircle behind the director.
John states that a single portrait took between 40-50 hours to complete in post-production and the final product resulted in 10 different 3D-modeled elements combined with dozens of still frames. He’s not intimidated by the effort it takes to pull off each hero image, and meets each challenge with solutions that fit the limitations of the project.
Bringing all of the source elements together in post-production ended up being one of my favorite things about the project.
John’s dedication to the project enabled him to deliver images that convey a much larger production than what he worked with. While this type of photography is hard to envision at the onset, it can save a client thousands of dollars to entrust a photographer like John to bring it together.