There’s nothing quite like the forbidding desert to awaken a sense of adventure and to remind us of our connection to nature. Hiking along the vast terrain is an invigorating experience that attracts outdoor enthusiasts again and again.
Founded by Noah Swartz, a fourth-generation bootmaker from the family behind the iconic Timberland brand, Erem footwear takes its inspiration from this sandy scenery. Erem has developed hiking boots that are designed to facilitate that experience.
On a recent assignment for the desert performance brand, Seattle-based lifestyle photographer Cameron Karsten merged his Pacific Northwest style with the dry desertscapes to create images that illustrate Erem’s passion for outdoor living and eco-friendly design.
I am very agile and nimble in my work, problem-solving on the fly and loving the challenges presented by being outdoors in harsh environments. My work reflects this characteristic and the authenticity of people who spend most of their lives outside.
Erem first reached out to Cameron about a year ago, and they discussed possible desert locations in his area. Covid precautions limited their travel options, and good desert locations in the Pacific Northwest were few and far between during the winter months. Covid scuttled plans for their first project, but they kept in touch over the next year until this project arose. Cameron suggested shooting in The Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada — a scenic locale for showcasing the boots’ utility.
Nevada’s oldest and largest State Park, The Valley of Fire boasts 40,000+ acres of brightly colored Aztec sandstone outcrops. The area is situated about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas and is renowned for its unique, red rock formations.
I proposed this spot for the ease of accessibility as well as the small scale of the park with vast massive features and the rough landscapes. I had never been there, so it was a thrill to visit and explore the region with a fresh eye.
In preparation for the shoot, Cameron had several Zoom calls with the CEO and their lead designers, reviewing talent options and the products they wanted to feature. The images were intended to be used in everything from collateral and websites, to print ads and social media. They spent a lot of time planning, with the talent selection being the most challenging aspect, as they wanted people who are not normally in front of the camera, but who love the outdoors.
We were both looking for vast epic imagery down to the up-close tight details. We wanted to show the boots in their intended environment, and in my work I love showing the scale of the world we live, care for, and play in.
With three full days of shooting in the desert, Cameron was allotted enough time to switch between capturing both stills and motion while hiking. This often required hiking the same trail twice, first for the stills, and then again for the motion.
The crew was just two models and me. We all got along because we all had ties to each other. The female talent was the wife of a good friend and the male model was a prospective talent my wife had sourced for a Filson campaign. They are both non-model talent – just individuals who love the outdoors, are outgoing and enthusiastic, and comfortable in their own skin. It made for an easy translation with a camera and lens.
I made this chipmunk photo on the first day. We were still exploring the park after our morning hike. This spot didn’t have much in terms of exciting terrain, so we decided to grab a snack and sure enough, since it was a frequented rest spot, these chipmunks appeared. With a few crumbs, it was easy to lure them to the boots. We had fun getting those playful shots!
It is a wonderful feeling when you find the right clients who cut you lose and trust you to shoot a campaign based on your portfolio. It was a simple, clean, uneventful but exhilarating project to be out in the desert alone with two colleagues, exploring and discovering the best places to highlight the product all on our own. No timelines, no set-up craft services, no walkies or base camp. Just the open sky and arid terrain to wander and showcase.
See more of Cameron’s images on Instagram.