We were first introduced to the work of Brittany McLaren through her project Meet the Quirkies, whose lighthearted subject matter and bright, poppy lighting style caught our eye. Since then, she’s been hard at work shooting more projects and graciously filling us in on the details. Read on for her account of the shoot, a behind the scenes video, and the images themselves.
I’m very pleased to share my most recent personal series, “The Girl Returns.” I’ve always been fascinated with that delicate period of time as one passes from childhood into adulthood and wanted to explore it photographically. I sketched out a series about a girl on the cusp of becoming an adult – rejecting and leaving behind adult constructs and manners to become carefree, wild, and joyful. The title, “The Girl Returns,” references the fact that while she is making a journey she is also making a return – to nature (as in wilderness) but also to a more raw, basic state of human nature itself. Throughout the course of the imagery, the girl sheds her clothes, her hair falls down, her makeup smears off. While original sketches involved a lot of interior shots, I decided to take advantage of California’s gorgeous “winter” weather and shoot everything out in nature, from beginning to end.
Our biggest challenge on this shoot was time. I typically pack my shoot days (breaking down the schedule into as little as 15-minute increments), but this shoot was particularly ambitious. We shot in 5 locations scattered around Point Reyes National Seashore, but they weren’t always particularly close to each other or easy to access. We had to hike down mountains and traverse streams to reach some of the more remote locations, meaning about 50% of our entire day was spent in transit instead of shooting. For one of the shots, I literally had seven minutes to execute – light it, shoot it, hop into our cars and move on to the next one.
As a result, from a technical standpoint we kept our gear really, really light and mobile. We used one Profoto Pro-B2 battery pack with two heads, a Softlight Reflector White, and a Magnum Reflector as well as a couple bounce/fill cards. We never had more than two heads going (plus reflectors) for any one shot.
A lot of people don’t like shooting in the middle of the day, but I absolutely adore using the sun as a backlight. I think it’s a really effective way to work with your surroundings and I also really like the bright, pop-y quality it often brings to the imagery.
Putting together a huge shoot like this in one day would be a challenge for anyone, particularly when it’s a personal project on a tight budget. One of the things my mentors constantly instilled in me was the importance of production value and I could not have done it without weeks of planning, scouting, casting, and storyboarding. My production packets are thorough – typically in excess of 40 pages – and break down every last detail.
Preparation and good communication are the key to wrangling 12 people from location to location on such a fast-paced set. I am also very careful when building my teams; I pick people as much for their talent as for their positive energy and attitude.
Liking the people you work with and having fun on set is of paramount importance to me. After all, what’s the point of creating beautiful art together if we can’t all have a good time while doing it?
See more of Brittany’s work at brittanymclaren.com.
All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Brittany McLaren, all rights reserved; story is ©Profoto. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.
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