Fort Myers, Florida-based portrait and lifestyle photographer Brian Tietz has been shooting for Gulfshore Life magazine for nearly two decades and always finds a way to make it new. Last fall, Brian was cleared for takeoff as an FAA Part 107 certified drone pilot. Soon after, Gulfshore Life reached out for a new farm profile and cover option for its May 2023 issue. Brian was excited to incorporate his new aerial capabilities for the return client and help get this project off the ground.
I have been working with Gulfshore Life since we moved to Southwest Florida in 2006, I was transitioning from photojournalism to more editorial and commercial work, and they were my first stop when we got here. I usually get a couple covers each year and was happy they offered this one to me because I also shot a 14-page profile of the horse farm for the same issue at a beautiful location.
Gulfshore Life magazine is a regional, luxury lifestyle publication. Based in Bonita Springs, Florida, it features the people, places, and lifestyles of southwest Florida. The magazine was established in 1970. Its May 2023 issue included a profile on Shore Acres Farm, a full-service equestrian facility located in Naples, Florida, offering top-quality boarding and training.
In preplanning, Brian had the idea to include a few aerials in the farm profile and explore what new possibilities his drone certification allowed for.
I recently got my FAA Part 107 certification and have really enjoyed incorporating drone work in my regular assignments, it is a whole new avenue for creativity. There is a shot that I did with the drone that I based off of an old National Geographic image that showed and overhead view of camels and their shadows in the desert, I wanted to do that with horses and it worked great in the jumping arena.
For the farm profile, Brian worked solo without an assistant. His background in photojournalism informed his approach to this editorial project.
I try not to overly pose my subjects and instead get them comfortable and usually just have a conversation with them while we shoot.
The horse farm was really incredible, the owners Janie and Mike Yag did a lot of research here in the States and abroad in France before building a world-class horse farm in Southwest Florida.
In terms of challenges on set, Brian shared some of the extra considerations a photographer should be aware of while working with large animals on an equestrian shoot.
Horses can be a little sketchy around cameras and strobes, so I was a little nervous that I would spook them. But the farm had some great handlers that kept the horses calm and everyone safe on set.
For the cover option, Brian returned to the farm with a full crew, talent, and the creative director from the magazine.
For covers, we will generally bring in models, which is a little different but also similar in that I don’t generally have to do a lot of directing, we go over the basic look that we are trying to capture before shooting and then just let them loose. I may throw out a few suggestions but I like to give the models freedom to do their thing.
The cover shoot took place over two days, with two models and two looks.
The original concept was to shoot the horse and model on a canvas background, but the magazine decided to have me re-shoot it with a natural background instead — which was used for the cover.
Looking back on the project, Brian leaves us with the joy of returning to a subject matter from earlier in his career.
I really enjoyed being around the horses. My family lived in Lexington, KY, the “horse capital of the world” from 2004-2006, and I shot a lot of horse-related assignments while we were there. Coincidentally my daughter was born in Lexington, and I was able to bring her along as an assistant for the cover shoot.
See more of Brian’s work on his website.
Gulfshore Life Creative Director: Scott Glick
Stylist: Anna Ruiz
Duality Artistry – Hair: Traci Estrada
Duality Artistry – Makeup: Dani Taverna
Assistant: Ava Tietz
Wilhelmina Miami – Talent (cover): Cassidy St. Pierre
Wilhelmina Miami – Talent: Quinn Knapp
Shore Acres Farm Owners: Janie and Mike Yag
Read about more lifestyle photoshoots on our blog.