"Have you ever landed up a hill?" The impact of the questions and the pilot's twinkling mishevious smile were lost on me as I peered enthralled out of the window at the fields of verdant green tea scattered below me. As the question sunk in I managed to splutter a weak "huh" and jerk my head forward just in time to witness us landing, indeed uphill, on the slopes of Ratelshook airstrip near Chipingi.
I am on the last of my 3 day whirl around the country with Miles Peech and his team from Metro Peech and Browne Wholesalers, with 7 stores already under our belt we are touching down to photograph our 7th before lifting off to our final destination, Mutare.
I am helping Metro Peech and Browne (lets shorten that to MPB to save my fingers and keyboard) develop a stock library of their stores, staff and products which they can use for their website, social media and print campaigns and I am having an absolute ball. Because of the tight nature of the schedule, 10 stores in 3 days, all the store managers were super organised and as a result the stores and staff looked fantastic which made my job all the more pleasurable.
The brief was simple, capture the stores and the services as much as possible but more so concentrate on getting great shots of the staff who are the lifeblood of the organisation. However, cautioned the brief, don't make them look too like stock images, these are our staff and they should look happy and proud! With this in mind off we went in our Cessna 208.
Due to the pre-warning the staff all looked rather dapper and were all very keen to have their photography taken (who wouldn't?), all I had to do was concentrate on the photography stuff and make sure the MPB branding was visible and things like name tags etc looked good. So the challenge really came in the form of making sure the staff looked good in their environment, even when dusting the store or working the till.
My brief also stipulated that where possible I should get a good mix of close shots of staff engaging the camera (like above and top) as well as a variety of full length shots both engaging the camera as well as working, like below.
The soccer teams...
Being on a shoot and working with people who are friendly and willing to pose is an absolute pleasure so as you can imagine we ended up with a lot of staff images in the bag. But nothing quite compared to the excitement, pride and jubilation when it was announced we would like to photograph the store's soccer team. Nothing brings people together quite like the shared passion for a sport, even if its for a few minuets in the middle of a work dat for a photograph!
The same can be said for the stores, except for the smiles and abject willingness of course. Each Store Manager ensured that everything was clean and the shelves stocked and packed well which again made my job a pleasure. The only snag was. luckily for MPB, the masses of shoppers going about their daily business. All the stores were busy and this made getting the shots I wanted a test of my patience, luckily I have a little left!
Another considerable challenge was the sheer size of some of the stores, especially the height of the shelving which would prove difficult to photography with a standard lens. Thankfully I was doing most of the store shots with a wide angle Nikon 24mm PCE lens which allows me to shift the lens up and down and from side to side. The lenses are traditionally used to correct the perspective shift that results in bent lines and buildings that look like they are falling over.
Another more sneaky but equally as usefull use is to tape a variety of shots as you move through the shift range of the lens. This allows you take vertical panoramics that allowed me to capture the height of the shelving, like below.
Luckily for me and MPB the lens works both ways and I was also able to shoot horizontal panoramics that allowed me to capture a wider view of the stores, especially when space was at a premium and I couldn't move back.
All in all the job for MPB was rewarding in so many ways for me as a photographer both from a technical and visual point of view. Most importantly of all the satisfaction that comes from knowing you have helped a client produce visuals that accurately portray their brand and people in a powerful way.