Chris Sorensen Travels to Bogotá for Hemispheres
New York-based travel photographer Chris Sorensen has been working with Hemispheres — the award-winning onboard magazine for United Airlines — for nearly five years. During that time he has photographed a total of five features and has traveled as diversely as Shanghai, Nova Scotia, and Panama. For his most recent project, Chris went down to Bogotá, Columbia to photograph the cover of the magazine’s January 2019 issue.
The shoot included coverage for Hemispheres’ "Three Perfect Days" article, where the magazine highlights a city that the airline travels to. Featuring everything from where to stay, where to eat, and where to visit, this segment would showcase Bogotá’s culinary and architectural delights while offering advice on where to enjoy contemporary art, coffee, and cocktails.
Hemispheres sent Chris the story draft and shot list in advance. His planning then consisted of arranging a shooting schedule and lining up permissions. Photo editor Jessie Adler worked with local tourist bureaus, restaurants, museums, and other locations to make arrangements in advance with the owners, chefs, and guides. Once everything was scheduled, Chris was able to focus on the client’s primary goal: capturing colorful and graphic images that would illustrate the beauty of the place and the energy of the people.
On his first morning in Bogotá, Chris woke up early and headed to Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a Florentine Gothic Catholic temple from the early 20th century with a unique striped paint scheme. By happenstance, a great visual opportunity transpired: the first communion was being offered to dozens of grade school girls in white dresses, along with their families. Chris’s Spanish was just passable enough to ask the family of one girl if he could photograph her in the sanctuary. Although the image didn’t make the magazine, it was one of his favorites from the shoot.
His luck struck again at Teatro Colón. The building was closed each time he’d been by the nation’s National Theatre, but on his last day, a side gallery door was left open. To Chris’s delight, a harpist concert was in session. Not only did he catch a glimpse of the concert, but he managed to make it inside the gorgeous neoclassical building to photograph the harpist as she played.
“Sometimes you get lucky and the producer of the show being performed that night overhears you talking to the guard and not only lets you in, but gets the lights turned on and gives you a tour. Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time.”
What did you find unique about photographing Bogotá, compared to other places you’ve shot?
"The people were very kind and protective. They’re very conscious of making sure you feel safe and want you to enjoy their city because they are very proud of it. Everybody was very excited that I was there shooting a feature and had ideas of great places I should visit and restaurants I should eat at."
What was your favorite part of this project?
“Without a doubt, it was meeting all the wonderful people in Bogotá, which is always a huge part of why I love travel photography. I love the chance to meet people from different places and cultures and get to know them a bit. They were so open, helpful, and nice—both the people I was photographing and just random people on the street. It was definitely a highlight for me.”
Were there any particular challenges that you encountered in planning or execution?
“The biggest challenge on this shoot was the weather. People think of Colombia as warm and sunny, but Bogota is at 9,000 feet, and it’s filled with microclimates that make San Francisco seem normal. We had rain every day. When the sun would pop up in one area, it would be cloudy or raining in the area you were in, or would cloud up or rain again by the time you got to the location you needed to shoot. Obviously when highlighting a destination for people to visit, Hemispheres and United would prefer the image to have sun and blue skies. Thankfully we got just enough moments of the sun over my time there that it worked out.”
Check out more of Chris Sorensen at www.chris-sorensen.com!
Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page.