Michael Schnabel Gets Reflective for Lexus
Michael Schnabel has been capturing flawless imagery of gorgeous cars for most of his career. He’s mastered the form and delivers for his clients project after project after project. But every now and then he gets to work with a brand that wants to push the envelope, and when those opportunities arise Michael jumps at the chance. Most recently, he got the shot to work with Lexus again (after an award-winning campaign) and they wanted to explore the outer limits of what’s possible (and expected) in car photography. “On a previous project, we were very successful and we had a good relationship,” Michael explains. “We were building on the success and trust from the first project for this project. It was all about the New York vibe and a certain extent mood, atmosphere, lifestyle, but not too much about showing the car in its full perfection and shape and lines.” Michael used windows and other surfaces to add dimension and reflections to the photographs. We see only parts of the cars, or glimmers of them fit into a larger context and a larger experience.
Cars are the pinnacle of design: they bring together the cutting edge of engineering with the most refined taste. Any company would want to show off all that, but Lexus trusts their customers to recognize that Lexus is a lifestyle and not just whatever their latest model looks like. “They produced a super beautiful and rather fancy car, and they take a visual point of view with the story I was shooting for them where they are sophisticated enough to not even show the car in its full beauty,” Michael says. “Which I think is a statement towards the customer.”
Not only was Lexus willing to go in a direction counter to the rest of the industry, they’re also incredibly agile which made for a rewarding creative experience. Like on any shoot, Michael spent days with his team planning out every shot throughout a series of locations in New York, but when they arrived on the day to get the shots not every element cooperated. One afternoon in particular, where Michael had counted on bright sun but what arrived was rain. Michael was a little disappointed, but as he set up the shots and adjusted to the rain, the art director tapped on his shoulder and expressed how much he loved the new vision. “Here’s an art director who isn’t stuck to the sun, who isn’t stuck to a special quality and who isn’t afraid,” says Michael. “It turned out super beautiful. I adjusted myself to what it was, and that day the shots became even better than with the sun. So that was a really wonderful moment… It’s excellent for me to be given that freedom and that trust.”
As mentioned earlier, this isn't the first time Michael Schnabel has worked with Lexus, with a previous project earning a bevy of awards. Check that project out here.
Michael Schnabel Keeps Renault's Secrets
Renault is not a name we hear very often in the US, but in Europe is a mega automobile manufacturer. For their latest release of the Renault Scenic they wanted to strike a different tone from the industry standard and asked Michael Schnabel to help them do it. There’s a lot riding on the Scenic, it’s one of their best models, but the car company thought it was crucial to change the conversation. “It’s a really important car for Renault,” says Michael. “Classically it’s the Mom and the children and for their advertising it’s supposed to be the Dad and the children. So the Dad is driving the car and doing little weekend tours with the children.” Renault and Michael wanted to subvert the common expectations for men in the family and are using these ads to help them do it.
With all the focus that Renault gets in Europe they gain a lot of attention whenever they have a new car coming. For PR purposes that’s great, but it offers a challenge for when they want to keep new designs away from the public’s eyes. “They wanted to use my images to reveal the car,” explains Michael. “So having the car was secret, but they wanted to shoot the car, they did not want to do CGI. They called me in December and they wanted to shoot in January but they wanted sunny weather. No, you know, we’re in the northern hemisphere, sunny weather is tricky.” Michael had to figure out the best way to achieve the look Renault wanted while still recognizing the limits of nature. So he brought the shoot to Spain where he thought would be his best bet.
To get an urban feel while still stay private they took over an amusement park that’s normally shut down for the winter. That gave them the privacy they needed, but also meant they had to create a lot of the look from scratch. “We had to bring this whole thing to life,” says Michael. “We had to bring in plants, we had to bring in people, we had to bring in props. So it was kind of a little bit of a movie-style production. We had up to 60 or 70 people in a couple of days, which is exciting.” Not only were there a lot of people from multiple teams, but they all spoke different languages. French, German, Spanish. But they all came together speaking English and were able to turn this mini-movie into a series of images that Renault was able to use across all medias and markets to reveal their incredibly anticipated car.
The Past Is Present with Michael Schnabel and Infiniti
When Michael Schnabel was first approached to shoot the latest campaign for Infiniti, there was something nostalgic about what they were looking for. There was a dreamlike quality to the idea and it reminded him of work that he had done in the past, but hadn’t explored recently. For a lot of artists time and development only move in one direction, but Michael saw this as a new opportunity to visit comfortable expertise and discover new creative avenues within techniques he had already mastered. “When we saw the brief we thought it could bring something back from what I used to do and maybe be a little bit unique,” Michael says. “It worked out.” After looking over what Infiniti initially wanted, he realized that they could create a lot more work with the time they were being given. So they went for it.
Over the course of five days they shot the entire fifteen image campaign, going from Californian city to Californian city. It was a whirlwind tour that was as exciting as it was busy. “We were shooting in San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in San Diego. Obviously all exciting destinations,” Michael says. “I was excited to shoot in California, I used to live there, so it’s great to come home.” Michael teamed up with a crew, agency, and producers that he’s worked with before so it was a team that he knew well and worked together with masterfully. Those relationships were crucial when it came to creating a such a large swath of creative assets in such a short amount of time.
At one point Michael found that what his crew really needed was to take some time and refocus. For an artist, it’s all about creating a visual and emotional balance, and sometimes to create that balance you need to embody balance. One day they were working super hard all morning on a shot that was particularly tricky and taking more time than they expected. Once they successfully got the shot they broke for lunch a little worried about the afternoon. But Michael had a hunch that he should step away, just for a few minutes, and get inspired by the space around him. “Rather than stepping right onto set and behind the camera, I sat down for ten minutes and took a little break,” Michael says. “Refreshing my mind, sitting in the sun having a moment: that totally rejuvenated me. And then the next two shots were done in the remaining few hours. That was really exciting because we were totally working within a flow, the entire crew, everyone producing beautiful work under pressure in a short period, being successful, that was a very nice moment.” Once Michael and the crew were able to sit and pause and come back with fresh eyes, every element worked together seamlessly and effortlessly, bringing balance from behind the camera directly onto the images.
Michael Schnabel Uses All the Tricks for Infiniti
Cars are not people. They cannot be manipulated into emotional moments, a laugh or a pensive look. They cannot smile. Photographers who work with vehicles have a much more technical challenge than the artist who photographs people. The story that’s being told about the car has to be done in line, color, and atmosphere. Every tiny part of the composition must be considered, and nothing can be taken for granted. On top of that, cars are heavy, fast, and huge. They can be driven, but their power requires an incredible amount of precaution to keep everyone safe. There are so many obstacles to getting it right. Michael Schnabel has solved all of them.
In the small 10-day shoot, Michael and his team were producing 40 images along with four videos. “We had a big amount of work to do,” Michael says. “We had a great crew.” At times, that crew swelled to 30 people, including Director Matthias Berndt and DOP Willy Dettmeyer. After the marathon shoot was over, Michael says, “I was super thrilled by the results because I knew we got a lot of great work.” And then he adds with a laugh, “And I was super exhausted.”
This massive team effort helped to solve the first question: How does one capture the whole moving car while still keeping the look crisp and clean? When Michael shot the 2015 Infiniti Q70L, he captured images with a fantastic amount of movement while still remaining true to the luxury brand’s reputation of focus and clarity. His solution is a metal rig attached to the car on one end and the camera on the other. Michael explains: “The car is connected to the camera so once it moves forward, the camera moves along with the it, so the car is going to be sharp. But the background is blurred.” Once they have that variable locked in, the next thing to consider is how the car will fit into the environment.
Depending on the story that Michael wants to tell with the brand, they consider background and movement. For Infiniti they wanted the illusion of speed in a big city. Since the camera and car were one item, Michael could use some tricks to get the exact look he was going for without barreling down the streets of a densely populated city. So, he had the car pulled. “I need to capture a driving distance of about six feet,” he says. “That six feet is going to give me the impression of the car moving fast.” Depending on how fast the shutter speed is, the car doesn’t even need to be going particularly fast. It’s all about the composition.
To get the cityscape they wanted, there were an incredible amount of factors. From alignment of the street, to time of day, to geographical placement within the city, it’s all predetermined. “In this case we were in Miami because we had a lot of ocean vistas for this whole body of work,” Michael explains. But he also had to share the car and the locations.
Michael Schnabel brings Panasonic into the great outdoors
A camera is like a confidant, brought into rooms and spaces that are rarely seen. They’re only pointed at moments that are supposed to be remembered, and trusted to play sentry to those memories. They are machines, but they are also memory keepers. It’s easy to find camera advertisements with stiff and rigid product shots that are heavy on specifications and features. They tell a lot about potential, but show nothing in execution. When Michael Schnabel was commissioned by Panasonic for their Lumix campaign, they opted to go in a totally different direction. “They wanted to go emotional,” Michael explains. “They wanted to convey a story of people outdoors experiencing a beautiful day, documenting the day, and actually having fun during the day.”
To get this grand day, Michael, the models, and the crew all went into the mountains on the border of Lesotho and South Africa, crossing the boundaries over and over during the two-day shoot. They hiked, climbed, and drove over the mountainous terrain. All of this is right up Michael’s alley. “It’s the perfect combination for me,” he says. “I’m a total outdoor guy, I’m very found of mountains, I’m familiar with location shoots, I can handle the conditions. Perfect for me.” It made Michael the ideal leader for the intense shoot. Capturing the entire campaign in only two days was going to be a challenge on its own, but the beautiful location made it a little bit more difficult.
Like a lot of commercial photography, there’s more to the images than meets the eye. “We wanted to have summer images,” Michael explains. “But it was actually below freezing at sunrise.” The conditions were fairly harsh, 10,000ft on top of a mountain with intense wind (15mph) and 0˚C (that’s 32˚F), but you would never know it by the smiles on the models faces. To get a relaxed and authentic look from the models, Michael approached them as intimately as possible. He explained to them what they were doing, why their performances were so important, made them as comfortable as possible and then set them loose. “I try to let everybody have fun. And then capture the moments.”
Campaigns like this can be a little tricky. Once you get the models comfortable and having a great time, it requires the right eye to keep them looking natural and not cheesy. Big smiles surrounded by mountains is a tricky balance, but that's exactly why they hired him. Michael said Panasonic really responded to his Fine Art work that is solemn and still. “We didn’t want cheesy, and knew [Michael] wouldn’t let it go cheesy,” was the word around the set. That balance was struck, and what's left is two people, actually having fun, documenting their journey through the mountains on the border of South Africa.
Michael Schnabel Takes It to the Streets for Ford Germany
Michael Schnabel's shoot for Ford Germany differed from his other auto campaigns in several ways; for one, he found himself on the streets of Berlin, Frankfurt, and Hamburg waiting for parking spots to open up.
"Ford wanted to depart from very clean and retouched pictures and to root the images in real life, as though the vehicles were seen on the road and a photographer happened to snap a nice picture," Schnabel explained. "Some of the critical shots required scouting and permits, as usual, but for some shots, we drove through a city the night before and would return in the morning to park the Ford Fiesta or Mondeo – or come back in a few hours if a car was already there." Granted, the unknown caused a slight amount of stress, but, "at the same time, the flexibility provided plenty of opportunities," Schnabel noted. "The client trusted me and I trusted that things would fall into place." The concept also meant that street-scene elements like barricades, lampposts, bike racks, and hedges could be in front of the car and obstructing a full view.
Schnabel noted that the images appealed to the younger crew members. "Simply basing the campaign in Germany makes Ford more attainable for the people here, because it's not the Californian desert or a West-Coast mountaintop," he said, "It's around the corner from where they live ... where they see cars. They liked what we were doing."
Spyder Man Michael Schnabel Shoots Fifth Campaign
Can-Am Spyder once again turned to Michael Schnabel for its latest campaign. "This was my fifth shoot in a row for Spyder and it's always special for me," said the photographer. "In some respects, the shoots are structured, and in some respects, they're spontaneous. The team has a great energy and the project has a road-trip feel – we cruise around, change locations, and drive the vehicles. At this point, it's a gang of guys who get together each year for a Spyder trip."
The new pictures, made in Oregon, include people work and even images without Spyders in the frame. "We've introduced a lifestyle perspective," Schnabel noted. "I used to do staged beauty shots – the machines look best from certain angles – and they have been replaced by lifestyle shots. It's become a tad less static and a bit more natural." And Schnabel is already thinking about next season's advertisements: "I have ideas regarding how to take it one step further ... how to keep it evolving."
B&A in Communication Arts' Photography Annual
Four B&A talents are featured in Communication Arts' Photography Annual.
Stephen Wilkes is included in this year's edition for his editorial series " 'Flooded, Uprooted, Burned: The tracks of Sandy on the Shore,' a picture story showing the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy." Jamie Chung's "Live Mascots of the Southeastern Conference," which depicts Big Spur of USC, the Arkansas Razorback Tusk, Mike the Tiger of LSU, and the Auburn War Eagle Sir, is also highlighted as an editorial series. Joe Pugliese receives recognition for his portrait of Conan O'Brien in repose that ran with a Hollywood Reporter cover story. Michael Schnabel's unpublished image of the Stuttgart City Library by architect Eun Young Yi rounds out the bunch.
The quartet of projects were selected from more than 5,000 entries.
Michael Schnabel Photographs Spyder for Fourth Year
For the fourth consecutive year, Michael Schnabel photographs the Can-Am Spyder campaign. Michael headed to Colorado Springs and Denver where he brought everything from swimming trunks to thick winter jackets to accommodate the location's varying climates. Some shots were taken on high mountain roads, where altitudes climbed up to 14,000 feet, while others were captured in summery valleys.
This shoot saw Michael collaborating again with Creative Director Shawn Holpfer and Art Director Josiah Werning. The retouching was done by etizy digital artworks.
Michael Schnabel's Recent Photography Awards
Michael Schnabel's photography is honored with five recent awards. Brita GmbH awarded his series "White Land" the BRITA Art Prize 2012. Schnabel's photographs were selected from over 300 entries on the topic "water-lines-perspective." "White Land" is a series of raw, virgin landscapes captured at night and during the day. The series was also awarded in the Personal Work category in the PDN Photography Annual 2012. Schnabel's photo book Michael Schnabel 2001-2010 was selected in Photo Book category by PDN. Two other recent awards include the Bronze Award from Art Directors Club (ADC) New York and the Merit Award from ADC Germany.
Schnabel is also preparing to photograph the Can-Am Spyder for the new campaign. This will be the fourth time the photographer and the motorcycle company have collaborated together. Schnabel previously shot campaigns in California and Oregon. The fourth campaign will include city action and night shots, photographed in Colorado.
See more of Michael Schnabel's photography here. >
B&A Photographers in the PDN Photography Annual 2012
Every year PDN honors the best photography from the past year in the PDN Photography Annual. A panel of judges including art directors, editors, and other photographers, select the winners in categories including Photo Books, Advertising, and Personal Work. This year three B&A photographers, Stephen Wilkes, Michael Schnabel, and Joey L. make the list.
Stephen Wilkes and Michael Schnabel were both honored in the Personal Work category. Wilkes was awarded for his "Day to Night" series, which features photographs of New York City landmarks and locations captured over the course of about ten hours. Schnabel was recognized for his series of raw, natural landscapes. The images explore the boundaries of photography as it relates the paintings or works on paper. Schnabel was also awarded in the Photo Book category for his book Michael Schnabel 2001-2010 which accompanied his exhibition of the same name last year in Germany. In the Web Sites category, Joey L. was recognized for his personal site, www.joeyl.com.
Wilkes' "Day to Night" series was also awarded the Adobe Breakthrough Photography Award. The award recognizes artists creating compelling works of art through digital imaging.
The PDN Photography Annual 2012 is in the magazine June 2012 issue, on newsstands now.
See more of Stephen Wilkes' photography here.
See more of Michael Schnabel's photography here.
See more of Joey L.'s photography here.
Michael Schnabel for Mexico Today
Michael Schnabel photographs the natural beauty and everyday experience of Mexico for Mexico Today. The initiative promotes a positive image of the country as both an unrivaled tourist destination and a global business partner. In two ads, Schnabel captures stunning mountains and an innovative wind farm.
Schnabel shot the ads over the course of one week on two locations. The first location was in Oaxaca at what is said to be the world's largest wind farm. The area around the farm is incredibly large and the temperature the day of the tech scout was high, making for a difficult task in finding the perfect spot. However they finally found a nice pond with windmills in the background for photographing three small children admiring the landscape.
The second location was Sierra de 'Organos, a national park in Durango. A thousand years ago the park was an ocean and as the water receded it formed the mountains into astonishing round barrens. The crew chose two spots among the rocks to drill cables into and have professional climbers climb for the shot. Schnabel adds it was "breath-taking" to see the easiness with which the climbers moved on the rocks. He says of the overall experience, "It was an amazing job through an incredible country with a lot of good and hard working people!"
See more of Michael Schnabel's photography here.
Client: Mexico Today
Agency: Ogilvy LA
Creative Director: Jeff Compton
Production: Elle Sullivan Wilson
Art Director: Nazanin Arandi
Photographer: Michael Schnabel
Retouching: Recom >
Michael Schnabel for Ram
Michael Schnabel photographs the latest ad campaign for the Dodge Ram 1500. The tagline reads, "A vehicle that not only helps you do, but you get where you want to go." The ads are specially made for the Latin American market.
Schnabel photographed the trucks in Southern California. Locations included the desert and a farm where the crew spent two days. The concept was to show the trucks getting dirty in action. While most ads depict cars as beautiful and stylish, Ram wanted to show them as working trucks. For Schnabel the challenge was that while the brief called for capturing the truck in the mud, getting dirty, the truck still had to look good and desirable to potential buyers. Schnabel says he had "a vision of how it would work out and it definitely came through."
Schnabel's ads for Ram are out now in Latin America.
See more of Michael Schnabel's photography here.
Agency: The Richards Group
Art Director: Samantha Jimenez
Production: Team Halprin
Photographer: Michael Schnabel
Retouching: Recom >
Michael Schnabel Exhibits in Germany
Michael Schnabel exhibits his first solo show at the Osthaus Museum in Hagen, Germany. The show features a total of 52 works from the past decade. Photographs from Schnabel's most well known series "Nightscapes," are part of the show. The series includes images of mountains, ocean waves, and most recently museum interiors, taken at night. The newer works portray how art pieces are lighted and rest at nighttime.
The show also includes work from Schnabel's new series "White Land." The images of winter landscapes explore the line between abstraction and distinction. Schnabel wanted it to be a challenge for viewers to see what is pictured in each image.
Michael Schnabel's show will run until November 6th at the Osthaus Museum. Find out more information on the museum's website.
See more of Michael Schnabel's photography here.
Michael Schnabel Photographs the Latest Spyder Campaign
Michael Schnabel collaborates with Can-Am for the second time on the global campaign for the Spyder roadster. Schnabel previously captured the Spyder in the California desert in 2009. The latest campaign was shot in Portland, Oregon and the surrounding areas. The diversity of the locale was advantageous to the shoot, providing city, mountain, and coastal sets.
Schnabel captured the Spyder on location over the course of several days. Consecutive days of relentless rain created a challenge for him and the crew in the beginning. However, several hours of sun on the last day's coastal shoot allowed Schnabel to get the perfect cover image. For other images, mountain roads were closed so Schnabel could capture the Spyder being test-driven.
Schnabel will be collaborating with Can-Am on the Spyder campaign again this year. See more of Schnabel's photography here.
Client: BRP Can-Am Spyder
Agency: Cramer- Kasselt
Art Director: Shawn Holpfer
Producer: Louis de Fontanes
Photographer: Michael Schnabel >
Michael Schnabel Captures the Tirol Mountains at Night
Michael Schnabel has created five original photographs for Das Tirol Panorama. The new museum, dedicated to the tradition and culture of the Tirol region, opened March 12th near Innsbruck, Austria. Schnabel was commissioned to produce new work from his well-known "Stille Berge" series specifically for the museum. The five images of the Tirol Mountains were created during nighttime exposure over the course of four months in 2010.
Schnabel used an analog camera to produce the images at night. While most photographers today work with digital cameras, Schnabel needed an analog to create the long night exposures. He scouted several locations in the region at night and during the day before settling on the Tirol Mountains. The exposure times for each photograph varied up to four hours each, with the total exposure time for all five being twenty-two hours. The final images are 5'3" ft by 7'3" ft and are part of the museum's permanent collection.
See more of Schnabel's photography here.
Michael Schnabel Captures Hyundai's First Hybrid CarHyundai is releasing a hybrid version of the Sonata later this year. They aim to introduce consumers to their first hybrid car in a series of new ads shot by Michael Schnabel. The humorous tagline "It's 2011. So Why is This Our First Hybrid?" appears as Hyundai is explains why it has taken them so long to enter the hybrid market.
Schnabel shot the ads on location in Dallas, TX. The first ad was shot at an area home and features a man taking off from his home with a jet pack, hovering over the car below him. The image is a playful nod to the fact that Hyundai is debuting their first hybrid when advanced technology like augmented reality and even jet packs have been around for years. The second ad, shot at a local steakhouse, contrasts the sleek sophistication of the car with the casualness of the steakhouse. Hybrids have typically had a hippie-label attached to them, but Hyundai wants consumers to know the car is accessible to everyone. Schnabel enjoyed working with Hyundai's playful approach to the ads, especially the sense of humor not often seen in car ads.
The ads are appearing nationally now.
See more of Michael Schnabel's portfolio here.
Art Director: Tom Gibson
Photographer: Michael Schnabel
Copywriter: Steve O'Brien
Art Buyer: Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi
Production Team: Halprin
Communication Arts Photography Annual Winners: Jamie Chung, Michael Schnabel, and Stephen WilkesThe 51st Communication Arts Photography Annual looks at the best photography of the year, choosing 147 winning projects from the 6,075 entries. Among those to catch the jurors' eyes are Jamie Chung, Michael Schnabel, and Stephen Wilkes. Says juror Jane Perovich of Getty Images, "Original, authentically inspiring images that are emotionally accessible will continue to be the foundation for what informs us, makes us think and ultimately captivates us."
Pictured above: Michael Schnabel's advertising campaign for O2, one of the largest leading mobile telecommunications provider.
Photographer: Michael Schnabel
Campaign: Neue Wege gehen. Damit Sie es einfacher haben.
Agency: VCCP Berlin
Creative Director: Lars Wohlnick
Art Director: Michael Milczarek
Photographer: Jamie Chung Category: Editorial
Publication: ESPN magazine
Photo Editor: Amy McNulty
Photographer: Stephen Wilkes
Publication: Vanity Fair
Photography Director: Susan White
Assistant Photo Editor: Dana Kravis
L"urzer's Archive 200 Best Ad Photographers 2010/2011L"urzer's Archive 200 Best Ad Photographers 2010/2011 has recently been released. Bernstein & Andriulli photographers Stewart Cohen, Florian Geiss, Christophe Gilbert, Stuart Hall, Emir Haveric, and Michael Schnabel are featured for their work in Animals, Automotive, Beauty and Nudes, Children, Interiors, Landscape, Life, People, and Transportation categories. The 416 page volume includes art from 111 photographers that were nominated by ad agency art directors. L"urzer's Archive then invites the photographers to submit their best work and an international jury of 8 makes the final selections. Congratulations to Cohen, Gilbert, Hall, Haveric, and Schnabel for standing out among the 6,539 submissions.
Pictured above: Emir Haveric
Agency: McCann Erickson, San Francisco
Creative: Sari Hamman
Haveric's self-promotional work appears in the Animals section and his work for BMW with agency MAB, Berlin appears in the Automotive section.
Category: Beauty & Nudes
Agency: Euro RSCG, Brussels
Gilbert's work for Bogh-Art with agency Adopt, Brussels is also featured in the Beauty & Nudes section and his work for Bellerose with agency Happiness, Brussels is featured in the Children's section.
Agency: Red7e, Kentucky
Creative: Dan Barbercheck
Client: Baptist Hospital East
Publication: Zeit Magazin
Schnabel's self-promotional work also appears in the Landscape section.
Agency: CSS Europe, Birmingham
Client: International Trucks