Unlike a still photographer working on a national print campaign, with a television campaign, the guy running the show isn't usually the one with the camera in his hands. Stableford directed the project, and certainly lent his visual acumen, but it was a creative collaboration with a team that included handpicked directors of photography who did the majority of the shooting.
"I hired fellow Coloradan cinematographers and outdoorsmen Anson Fogel and Kent Harvey as DPs," Stableford says. "They alternated, depending on their availability, as we shot the project piecemeal over several months to capture the best season in various locations. It was essential that we shoot the first of October for a few days in Texas and Louisiana, then we shot in Carbondale, Colo., and Aspen shortly thereafter—hunting, fly fishing, camping. We were scrambling to get done before the leaves changed, otherwise the whole thing was going to feel like it was fall. But, then we wanted the leaves to fall off, so we waited until late November and went to Missouri and Kansas to shoot duck hunting and bird hunting. Then, we went to the Florida Keys to go shoot deep-sea fishing for essentially one day at sunrise."
Every setup was done during the golden light of sunrise and sunset. It brought inherent beauty to the images, but it also made the setups stressful since everything was riding on a tiny window of ideal light.
"The bulk of the success of the shoot really hinges on the production details," Stableford says, "finding a beautiful location, casting great talent, hiring a top crew and, importantly, arriving at the location with the right tools to rehearse everything the day before the actual shoot. With the heavy lifting done in advance, the actual shoot itself is the easy part. If all goes well, you press 'Record' on the camera and call 'Action!' to the talent. It's not rocket science; it's simply a lot of hard work, long in advance of the actual 10-minute sunrise shoot."
Stableford and his crew used the RED EPIC as the primary camera in their arsenal, with Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIs and 1D Xs, as well as the C300, as second cameras. The photographer used his DSLRs for framing purposes and to collaborate with the DPs. He relished that collaboration, which not only is essential on a large-scale project, but beneficial, as well.
"This is the most fun, most meaningful part of video projects," he says, "which I actually love more than stills because there's more collaboration. By the time you get to the higher levels of campaigns, there's usually at least a couple of people with creative ideas. I think any good idea should have to be defended. It should stand up to argument. I present my ideas to the client, to the DPs, and we talk about this at length. And through that we have this tremendous collaboration that's so much better than if I had just run with this on my own."
So, how does a big video shoot differ from a big photo shoot? Stableford says it's night and day.