Back in February I received a call from my good friend David Clendenin, a doctor and entrepreneur out of Boston. He tells me he’s starting a restaurant in the Beacon Hill part of Boston. It’s called PRESSED and will focus on inspiring a healthy lifestyle through in-house cold-pressed juices and a menu featuring local ingredients. Having worked together on various projects in the past he asks if I would be willing to create the visuals. I will have full control over the look and feel as long as I featured the restaurant offerings. We take care of a few other details and I sign on.

CONCEPT | This particular photograph (above) was focused on capturing the brains behind PRESSED; David and Ashley. It was a concept I knew I wanted to do from the start. A warm and inviting portrait. Something that reflected their personalities.

My initial thought is to get them sitting at a table talking and enjoying some signature dishes. I want to avoid the typical “inside-the-restaurant-looking-at-the-camera” image that you’d expect and instead find a way to integrate the rich visuals of Boston. Use the city as a backdrop. I sketch out a few ideas and add them to the shot list.

SCOUTING | A few months later the crew and I land in Boston for a 3-day shoot. First order of business is to begin scouting the locations we had chosen based off of Google Maps. We check out the restaurant, various spots downtown, and David’s personal rooftop patio. I’m immediately drawn to the idea of the rooftop. It fits perfectly into my initial idea. The south side of the roof has a beautiful view of the iconic Boylston St. and the north side overlooks an ocean of parks and Brownstones.

There’s only one problem: the forecast is a photographers worst nightmare. Not only are we hit with below freezing temperatures but as an added bonus there’s nothing but non-stop rain, snow, and strong winds expected.

While it’s not looking good I have my producer keep an eye on the forecast. If we catch a break from the rain and snow the rooftop will be our immediate priority.

VISUAL TONE | I want something that feels big. The cityscape should compliment David and Ashley’s wardrobe, the food should compliment the time of day…there are a dozen factors to take into account.

The truly important thing is to create an image that feels 100% Boston. This is a Beacon Hill restaurant, not store #429 in a multi-billion dollar franchise. It was created by local entrepreneurs who live and breathe the city day in and day out. I want the local community to recognize all of this in a single photograph.

SHOOTING  Over the next few days we manage to shoot 95% of the campaign even with the less-than-ideal weather. I opt to photograph their portrait indoors. While it works I’m disappointed I can’t get my rooftop.  It’s now 4:25PM on the last day of shooting when I look out the window and there it is…

…the sun is breaking through the clouds just as it begins to set. There’s no time to waste.

With only a few minutes of light, I sit down with David and Ashley and review the concept sketches while simultaneously selecting wardrobe. It’s fall in Boston so we go with neutral tones; sweaters and long coats. We also select a few signature dishes from the menu and quickly have them plated along with a handful of PRESSED’s signature juices.

Time to shoot.

By the time we reach the roof the sun is already falling below the horizon and spilling soft oranges and reds across the city. Absolutely beautiful light. However the temperature is hovering around 25 degrees and the gusts are around 18-20MPH. Not exactly ideal for what needs to appear like a relaxing rooftop dinner.

With limited time and gear I decide the best way to go is a Profoto Pro 8a Air flash head inside a 39″ Elinchrom Rotalux Deep OctaBox set about 4 feet away from where they will be sitting. The smaller OctaBox will be much more manageable than the 84″ in these conditions while still allowing me to get the motivated lighting I’m looking to achieve. Here’s a rough look at the set.

I have the OctaBox positioned, not only a few feet away from the table, but also a few feet in front of David and Ashley. There’s something appealing to me about the way the light falls at this side angle. In this case particularly it helps enhance the soft light pouring over the horizon while still allowing me to shoot up at a higher f-stop.

With the wind factor I start off shooting f/9 at 1/200 while the 8a Air sits at half power. I immediately realize that I’m not getting anywhere near 1/200. While it freezes the motion of Ashley’s hair in the wind, it’s making things way too dark.

I won’t sacrifice the depth of field so I drop the shutter speed to 1/50 and hope the wind calms down even for a few seconds. Not ideal when shooting handheld but it evens the balance between the ambient light and flash head and that is all that matters.

The sunlight over the horizon is nearly gone and I manage to fire off a few more frames. We’re done.

POST-PRODUCTION | With a 3AM call time for the airport there’s no time to pour over the images so I take a quick glance, star a few that stand out, and we pack it up.

I get back to Denver the next day and immediately get things backed up to the studio server. I go through again for a much more in-depth review and narrow it down to one shot.

Here’s the shot and how things look straight out of camera:

As always, the image is flat and fairly desaturated. My go to custom color profile built in-camera.

I start by tuning the color balance and pulling in contrast. I want the orange and red glow to be a predominate tone throughout the image. The sky, the trees, skin tones, wardrobe…even the table lends itself to a nice warm aesthetic. I give a slight green mid-tone bump to the blacks (David’s coat, rooftops in the distance, railing) and things are beginning to take shape.

The rail bothers me so I remove it and focus on balancing the overall tones for a warmer sunset feel. Once things look good I composite the bottle labels (unavailable on such short notice) and sharpen things up a bit.

After reviewing, the final delivered image:

Sean Hagwell