Photographer Erik Almås was recently commissioned by Dassault Systèmes, a French producer of 3D design and product lifecycle management software. The images were shot around the world: Baker Beach in San Francisco, the New Mexico Badlands, Las Vegas, Wall Street, and the African Savannah.
Composite images are Erik’s forte and these photos are no exception. The wonderful tie-in is that these images show a world only made possible by the modeling software they promote.
Here is a Q&A with Erik by Bennie de Grasse to give you an insider’s look at the creation of the campaign.
Where did you draw your inspiration to create these images for Dassault?
In these concepts for Dassault Systèmes, we were blessed with some great ideas and concepts from Creative Director Ray Brennan at Frameworks. In the layouts there was so much inspiration in the visual contradiction between what we have today and what we can accomplish and aspire to do in the future.
My task in creating this campaign was truly in bringing the ideas to life in a soulful and photorealistic manner through pictures that in some ways suspended disbelief.
What was it like to work with the Lion and Bull? How did you get them to pose for your images?
Working with these large, powerful animals was quite amazing. Intimidating at first but as we focused on creating the image, that initial intimidation went away.
As for posing, the animal handlers are there guiding the animals with treats but that is about it. It’s really just observing, hoping the animal will portray something great and capture it as it happens.
For the bull this wasn’t quite enough…
To get the pose we wanted we ended up altering the bull using parts of our real capture and parts CGI.
How did you convincingly recreate the lunar landscape?
Creating a convincing lunar landscape happened in several parts. NASA’s image library is where we started. Every frame shot on the moon is scanned and online for the public to see.
We started with these as reference and built a surface from scratch, only using the original footprints from several of the Apollo landings. We traveled to Bisti Badlands in New Mexico for most of it and shot close ups of beach sand for other parts. For craters and the background horizon we did a CGI render.
To finish the image we shot the people in LA wearing a space suit and rendered the mining machine and buggies CGI.
These images seem to have a “Color Story.” Could you elaborate on your palate choices?
In all my work I try to be very deliberate in the choices of color.
In this case I started with the inherent color of the locations and then built on the elements of the story being conveyed in the image. I give contrasting and strong colors to the elements we want the eye to go to and similar tones to elements that are not as important or just accents in the environment.
With a charging bull for instance the lady in its collision course had to be red as this is the color of a bull’s attraction…
Then contrasting this with a dark blue landscape shot in the evening hours only made sense to make the idea of the image stand out.
Your images seem to always have a sense of endless sky, how do you create this effect consistently?
These larger vistas with an endless sky is just a part of my photographic DNA…
Growing up in Norway where the landscape is so apparent and such a part of our life has just manifested itself in what I connect with photographically and what memories I seem to be recreating in my work.
In many ways creating this consistently is just being who I am…
How do you conceptualize composite images before they are shot?
For me a composite image always starts with what I call the “unmovable part”.
I find what within the frame that is either the most important element or the one that is hardest to move or light.
This element becomes the constant, the “unmovable part”, within the frame which every other element in the composite will follow when it comes to light quality, light direction and camera perspective.
With this established, the elements take on their own life, working together to become the final image.
When shooting composite images, do you often use artificial light? How do you determine how to light your subjects, people, landscape, etc?
There’s not a set formula for my work and how I use the different light sources available.
What light sources I use are always determined by the story in the image and the mood we want to establish. In this case our light set ups and use of strobes were all done to mirror the light quality of our background elements and the “unmovable part” so that we could create seamless composites.
Your images always have a surreal qualities, Could you elaborate on your work flow and image-making process?
There are several sides to my photography and one of them is creating images rather than taking them, putting together parts and pieces to craft a new image. In crafting improbable ideas like in this campaign for Dassault Systèmes, it inherently take on a bit of surreal quality.
Beyond this I do find the myself a classic image maker seeking strong ideas projected in a beautifully quiet way….
And, here's a behind the scenes video from the photoshoots: