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.