Shea Evans: The Artisans of Long Meadow Ranch

Nov 1, 2016
Photographer Spotlight

When Long Meadow Ranch reached out to Reno-based photographer Shea Evans to help them unify their branding, he was more than excited to get involved.

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Their business is a sprawling, food culture photographer's dream come true. They have three food properties: a larger restaurant, a small cafe, and a smaller boutique chef's table consisting of a farm, a winery, event spaces, and more.

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Located in St. Helena, California, Long Meadow Ranch owner Chris Hall was looking to build up his ranch’s farm-to-table brand through the eyes of just one photographer. Over the years, he has tried combining works from various photographers to show different parts of the business, but that approach lacked cohesiveness. While getting ready to create and launch a new website, he felt this was a great opportunity to unite the marketing, and looked to Shea to use his food culture photography skills to do just that. Chris trusted Shea to capture the food itself, but more importantly, the people and the environments that made up Long Meadow's food community.

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One of the aspects of this campaign that really stood out was the portrait work Shea managed to work in to the busy one-week schedule. Their goal was to highlight the incredible talent of the people involved with the ranch—in just one photo, they aimed to use props and appropriate backgrounds to demonstrate the story of each individual and their role on the ranch. People who worked indoors were photographed midday, while outdoors worker’s shoots were done in the mornings and early evenings to capture the best natural lighting possible.

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The most important directive from the marketing director, Farley Green, was that it not look like imagery from competitors or the kind of wine country portraits that are so ubiquitous they have become stale.

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Many of the portraits went smoothly; others came with a bit more complication. The biggest challenge for Shea was the final portrait of the owner, Chris, shown below. Originally not included on the shotlist, it was done as the last shot of the portrait series. Many of the more dramatic locations had already been used, and they knew his typical office working environment wasn’t going to rise to the same contextual level of the other images. This led to Shea becoming more creative with how the actual image was captured, rather than being able to rely on the still scenery to help set it apart. After a lot of brainstorming, the concept of Chris in action at the bar was the direction Shea chose. He wanted to keep Chris still and sharp in the image, while letting the restaurant move around him. After deciding the position, Shea lit and shot the still image of him standing by the bar, and then continued with follow-up shots of the wine and glass perfectly lit, and long exposure shots to capture the movement of the environment to fill the background with life.

After 45 minutes, we still didn't have a small hole filled in the center of the frame. Chris wandered back over to us to ask why we were still there - we said we were waiting for someone to walk in a particular spot to fill it in.  He smiled and said he would help. He went over to the spot and slowly walked back and forth until we got the right combination of movement and placement.  This means Chris actually appears in his own portrait twice, which he really got a kick out of! 

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Shea composited eight images to create this portrait for perfect placement of the different elements, then completed the image by tinting the white lighting from the strobe to make Chris appear lit by one of the many neon signs in the space. Ultimately the client was thrilled that they were able to come up with this dynamic concept last minute and execute it.  

Not only were they thrilled with this particular image, but with the week-long project as a whole. Shea has since been brought back to create more photographs to fill their marketing gaps, and to be the eye of the portraits of artisans hired since the original shoot, and in the future. Shea was delighted working with the Long Meadow Ranch team’s vision, and has been excited to show off this skilled, food culture series. 

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To see more of Shea Evan's work, check out sheaevans.com!

Tags: food photography long meadow ranch portraiture photography shea evans