Desert Door is a new distillery making Sotol, an ancient spirit distilled from the desert spoon plant. As part of their initial branding efforts, they worked with the Austin, Texas agency Frank + Victor. They sourced a series of 360° panoramas of the West Texas landscape for use on the Desert Door website. Based on their previous working relationship, Creative Director Kristen Ross Napoleon selected Michael Thad Carter, also based in Austin, to photograph the panoramas. She also wanted him to capture some hardworking lifestyle imagery of the Desert Door team harvesting the Sotol plant.
The biggest part of the production was capturing four distortion-free 360° panoramas from different parts of the day at the same point in the West Texas landscape. The Desert Door website used these images as the main image and navigation. They reflected the approximate time in West Texas.
Producing these four panoramas involved significant pre-planning on Michael’s part to ensure perfectly repeatable, distortion-free results. In order to achieve this, Michael planned to use a pano-gimbal tripod head to help create multi-row, distortion-free panoramas. He took the time to go through the process before hitting the location. This was to ensure the process was duplicatable across the multiple shoot times.
Despite even the best-laid plans, when Kristen and Michael were heading west from Austin and still two hours outside of Big Bend National Park. The air conditioning in their truck quit, leaving them with the windows down in the 105-degree Texas sun. As far as technical failures go, this was but a minor setback. The rest of the three-day shoot went as planned.
The heat was also a challenge but it was nothing some good laughs and a few beers couldn’t cure.
After arriving in Big Bend, Michael spent time scouting out a position for the panoramas. It had to be close enough to the road to be easy enough to find throughout the four planned shoots, but remote and dramatic enough to provide a compelling 360° landscape. Colorful flags helped them find the location (even in the dark) and they created the four panoramas over 24 hours.
The heat was incredible and the scouting took a bit longer than expected but we ultimately found a spot that represented the scenery well and was accessible enough to reach the exact spot four different times.
The panorama images were processed and stitched on location to ensure that the final product would be workable. Additionally, the final post-production, retouching, and compositing were assisted by Wolf + Cardinal to finish the website navigation.
In addition to the panoramas, Michael’s task was also to capture brand narrative style imagery of the creators harvesting the desert spoon plants that will eventually become Desert Door Texas Sotol. These images have been used across the Desert Door website and social media accounts.
Both the client and agency are happy with how the website has turned out. The panoramas have left a lasting impression on Michael in particular, and he is eager to return to the Desert Door distillery in Driftwood, Texas, and the possibility of creating more lifestyle imagery of the distillation and bottling process.
A highlight for me was shooting the night scene. I’ve never seen stars like that in my entire life. I could’ve spent the entire night out there.
See more of Michael’s photography on his website.