While many humans and canines have settled comfortably into domesticated life, some still hear the call of wild places. Together, these pets and people share a love for the outdoors, spending their days enjoying the natural environments we once called home. In a recent project for Purina Pro Plan, St. Louis-based photographer Lou Bopp explored the mountainous terrain outside L.A. to capture the adventurous joy shared with our pets when we return to nature.
As both director and photographer, Lou employs a unique approach to capturing life-in-motion. With a background in sports and action photography, his portfolio is defined by authentic images happening in real-time. This skill is particularly useful when working with our canine friends, who often never sit long enough without a few wranglers on set.
Lou’s partnership with Purina began during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and he’s been collaborating with them ever since. The Pro Plan team approached him with a strong creative brief that Lou resonated with immediately. The images would also be used for the client’s Million Mile Challenge, which would encourage physical activity and raise money to support pets in homeless shelters.
The goal was to create beautiful and dramatic photos that highlight an emotional connection between the human and the dog in the wild and also showcase their shared athleticism.
Once the locations were scouted and the shot list set, Lou headed to the Santa Monica Mountains, which feature some of L.A.’s most famous landscapes: Topanga Canyon, Malibu Creek, and Thousand Oaks. Their careful planning ensured that these locations were at their greenest, as some sites are only lush for one month of the year due to southern California drought conditions.
We were in some really amazing and rugged areas in L.A., some of which were pretty remote and required light hiking. Yet every location was more beautiful than the previous one.
While the locations were remote, the crew consisted of some 50 people, making the base camps and sets a whirlwind of activity and movement. Yet this only added to the energy of the photoshoot, creating an excitement that matched the talent’s objectives perfectly.
The energy was high, that’s the only way, low energy doesn’t work for something like this. We worked and shot non-stop, and for me, that is the best kind of shoot.
When working alongside a videography crew, it’s important to share the talent and locations effectively. Much like the canines on set, Lou found ways to always stay active, setting up multiple scenes off to the side with whatever talent and dogs were available. Working fast, Lou stayed present to the needs of each moment during the 10-hour shoot days.
A lot of the time I shared the set and took turns with video to capture specific scenes. We also had to be highly in synch with sun up and sun down, slivers of time that we needed to make the images within.
One of the hero images features a woman and her dog silhouetted by the golden hues of sunset, a breathtaking shot that required meticulous planning. The second hero image (seen below) also had to be taken within an incredibly tight timeframe. With the sun flare coming over the crest of the mountaintop and sparkling on the water, Lou had only a few minutes to capture this incredible jumping scene in action.
The dog and subject only had a few jumps in them, as the water was really cold. During the tech scout, I identified a few locations to fire multiple cameras and place assistants to get the most out of the time we had.
Lou credits his ability to collaborate and his out-of-the-box thinking as a few of the strengths he brings to every project. He kept his cool under pressure through a shoot that had no time for hesitation, providing the client with an extensive library of assets. He leaves us with this wisdom gleaned from many years of experience:
Surround yourself with the greatest people possible, have an open mind, embrace the unknown, and always take the high road, literally and figuratively. If you walk by a nice spot in a creek, for example, and feel inspired don’t be afraid to peel off with talent to grab some pick-up shots. When you’re in a location-rich environment and with the ambient light constantly changing, you see things differently.