Gracing the back inside cover of EatingWell Magazine is this incredible farmer, entrepreneur and community member. I was delighted when EatingWell approached me to photograph Steve Alameda for another edition of their Tastemakers section.
The best part of this job is getting to know so many amazing people's stories. Steve was no exception. Not only is he an extremely hard worker, but one of the most genuine and hilarious individuals I've had the opportunity to photograph. Within seconds of meeting Steve on his farm in Bard, California I knew we would get along.
Incase you were unaware, Yuma, Arizona produces 90 percent of the United State’s leafy greens. 1000 trucks a day leave with up to 50,000 vegetables on them. It takes 20,000 people to harvest it all. This is not an easy life for those 20,000 farm workers. Many of them are traveling every day to come work the fields with tough wages to go along with the 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week. So in 2015 Steve started the Labor of Love initiative. What this program is: a vegetable grower or shipper (sponsor) surprises a farm crew with breakfast during the week. Work stops, and burritos, donuts and coffee are passed around and the sponsor spends time individually thanking the crew. Of course this is not a big fix for this tough job, but a little goes a long way.
Full Creative Control
One of the many things I love about shooting with EatingWell is they don’t handcuff me with tons of creative restrictions. The Art Director provided a creative brief that outlined standard editorial restrictions such as space for copy, portrait orientation, and who needs to be in the shot. Besides that they handed over complete creative freedom for everything else. As a commercial and editorial photographer this is not a luxury often given and it allowed me to experiment a little while on location.
How It Was Shot
Logistically this shoot didn’t present too many challenges. A 4 hour drive to the California - Arizona border didn’t allow for an easy pre shoot location scout, but I’ve shot a few farm related editorials now and knew what to expect. As you can imagine Steve is a very important and busy man. He’s also constantly working and traveling. He wasn’t able to meet with us until the middle of the afternoon. For those who haven’t been on a farm, there isn’t much if any shade available. So I knew we’d be dealing with a lot of hard direct sunlight. Normally I might try to utilize some scrims to cut down on the harshness of this middle of the day lighting, but due to the location this wouldn’t be an option. Utilizing powerful and portable tools such as the Profoto B1x allowed my assistant Sung Moon to stand among the lines of crops without having to set down a light stand. Not only did this save us from trampling crops which would literally cost these farmers money, but we were able to stay mobile and try out a variety of situations in the fields. To match the ambient light I used one of my favorite modifiers the Softlighter II and feathered our artificial light across Steve’s body and face. I utilized this setup for the entire shoot and allowed tons of flexibility.
Once we had gotten our primary shots necessary for the article we decided to wait around for the sun to go down. I had speculated based on the clouds in the sky we would be blessed with a beautiful sunset and I was not mistaken.
By the end of the shoot Steve was so into things he didnt mind waiting around for me to take a few extra photos as the sun went down. These were definitely trickier to light but thankfully the Profoto B1x allows you to dial down the power pretty low. Combined with a double diffused soft lighter ii modifier and a bit of feathering, I was able to create this Ford Truck ad inspired shot. The sunset was beyond beautiful. I didn’t want to leave, but we had plans to stop in one of the local restaurants Steve does work with in Yuma and a nice 4 hour long drive home.
This shoot will most likely remain one of the most memorable and fun experiences I’ve had as a professional photographer. Everyone was so nice and accommodating, the scenery was gorgeous, and the photos we created were perfect. I will no longer look at Yuma as just a pitstop between Phoenix and San Diego. I have a newfound respect for it’s hidden beauty.