True Story Films | AZ Lottery “Wonderful”
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AZ Lottery “Wonderful”

AZ Lottery “Wonderful”

When TSF called to ask if I could shoot the production stills for their upcoming Arizona Lottery spot, entitled “Wonderful,” I was standing in a backyard in Van Nuys, California. I was covered in sweat and dirt shooting a Ford commercial, working with two elements that, as a steadicam operator, I dread: kids and dogs. We were on day three of a two-day shoot. Yep, things were going slow and we had spilled into an extra day. So, needless to say, when they reached out to me for this assignment I was very happy: accompany the team from True Story to southern Arizona to take production stills – no kids and no dogs. Sweet.

Our adventure began with the four-hour drive from Phoenix to Babacomari Ranch, just outside of Sonoita, Arizona. An incredible location that revealed itself as an ideal set for what the campaign’s director, Cary Truelick, and the rest of his team set out to accomplish – taking the
campaign, “Wonderful,” dreamt up by the creatives at E.B. Lane, and bring it to life.

The shoot began with an Arizona sunset; the backdrop of mountains and tall desert grass made for a shooters paradise. The scene was picturesque and had all the classic Arizona warmth and beauty: sunset, cowboys riding across a wide landscape,

The natural lighting of the setting sun made for an ideal frame for the horses and their riders, as the sun slowly dropped. Our heroes became more and more back lit by the warm glow of Arizona’s palette, a magical blend of oranges and reds. As always the best thing about a sunset shot, it just keeps getting better and better…

As we made our way through the week the locations and talent began to shape “Wonderful.” My job was to capture the process. I got very familiar with TSF’s Canon 5D and was reintroduced to the power of “dust.”  So often, we were shooting at either sunrise or sunset when the wind and dust particles are busiest. One of my favorite stylized techniques is “the backlit lens flare.”  The technique is awesome for sunrise and sunset shots, but not so much for conditions with lots of blowing dust, requiring frequent breaks to clean the camera lens.

It’s amazing how such a small particle of dust on the lens can become so amplified by the sun firing right down the lens. Stopping the lens down completely (or darn close to preserve detail) and “pushing” the sun behind interesting elements in the shot, makes for some pretty sweet camera magic. Star patterned lens flares – so “cowboy” western, yet timeless and consistent with the feel of the AZ Lottery’s campaign.

By week’s end most of us were happy to see the rolling hills and vast country side of southern Arizona in our rearview mirrors. I, for one, took a lot more from my experience than just a sunburn and camera case full of dust. I took photos, lots of ‘em. I also rekindled my amazement for the beauty and variety of backdrops this incredible state has to offer. After 10 years of working all
over Arizona (And when I say, “all over” I mean it. Four year of trekking across the state with Alex Mitchell and the team from Arizona Highways was certainly an adventure!!)

Working against the elements – dust, windstorms and heat – and a field full of Longhorn Steer (yes, one of my on-set assignments included a series of long lens, backlit shots of dozens of massive steer that circled around me; funny, Cary
and Howie were “conveniently” shooting the cattle drive from a distance) is certainly hard work, but well worth it when the campaign comes to life. This campaign is certainly worth its title and my trade out of “children and dogs” for “dirt and cattle!”

By Mic Waugh, Stedicam Operator (and Still Photography Enthusiast)