Last spring, Oboz Footwear was looking to develop a new creative campaign that would emphasize the ruggedness of their gear in an authentic hiking and backpacking environment. Marketing Director Christian Mason knew he should call Seattle-based photographer Stephen Matera, who has many years of experience photographing outdoors in both lush and alpine environments.
Stephen and Christian had a long-standing professional relationship and personal friendship, dating back to the days when Christian was working at outdoor brand Kelty. Knowing he could rely on Stephen to pull off a great shoot and capture the essence they were looking for, Christian thought he was the obvious choice for this new campaign. The images would be used across their print, electronic, advertising, and trade marketing materials.
Oboz didn’t want this to look like a photoshoot, but wanted to capture the authentic feel of hiking, both the good and the not-so-good. The direction was for the hikers to look dirty, tired, and yet still enjoying the experience. This included purposefully getting the models dirty, rolling backpacks around in the dirt, and messing up the model’s hair, among other things.
The project would involve four different shoots, including an overnight backpacking trip. The shoots would take place in the Cascades and Olympic Mountains in Washington. Since the client wanted both lush and alpine locations, there would be a number of location changes throughout the shoot days. The most prominent logistical challenge would be to schedule the crew and the six models for the four shoot days accordingly.
Using my decades of hiking and shooting experience in the Northwest allowed me to consider a number of lesser known locations and to choose which location would work best for each day of shooting, including finding the best weather. Also, models were coming from a number of different parts of the Northwest so I had to find locations that were logistically reachable by everyone.
When choosing the locations, Stephen also had to be mindful of wildfires and smoke in the air. It’s relatively common for there to be smoke in the air in the late summers of the Northwest. This year, due to the high number of wildfires, the probability of unfavorable smoke conditions was very high. Without being able to predict when the winds would change and the smoke would appear, the planning had to be flexible.
Of the four days on location, the first proved to be the most challenging since it was split into two locations with about a two-hour drive in between. In the morning, they photographed in the rainforest and then moved to the mountaintops in the afternoon.
After shooting in the Northwest for a long time, I’ve learned to watch the weather closely and use it to my advantage. Often in the Northwest, there are low clouds in the morning that burn off in the afternoon, or sometimes it’s possible to get above the low clouds. We used the soft light from the low clouds during the forest shoot, and then planned to go to a location that I was about 80% sure we’d be able to get above the clouds. When we got to the alpine location, it was socked in the clouds. I thought we were going to get skunked on light and views, but as I hoped, about a half hour before sunset, the clouds lowered and we were above the fog and had truly incredible atmospheric conditions.
Overall, the shoot was a huge success, and the feedback from Oboz was incredibly positive. Stephen heard rave reviews from various team members at Oboz headquarters and from Cultivator Ad Agency’s Steve Moore, who assisted with creative direction on this shoot. Stephen hopes to continue working with Oboz moving forward.
I’ve been shooting hiking and backpacking for a long time. It’s great when a client comes to me with a different angle on something I’ve shot so much of. The creative direction on having the models be tired, dirty, and happy was different than what I’ve had to provide in the past. It was a good challenge and it helped me push my boundaries a bit and add some depth to my hiking portfolio.
See more of Stephen at materaphoto.com!