How I got that shot...Ryan Schude
Moving to Los Angeles eight years ago, Ryan Schude found himself reinventing his photographic style and feeling like a novice all over again. Prior to that, Schude lived and worked in San Diego as a photographer and photo editor for a small action-sports magazine; quite a coveted position for a new graduate. It was however, after his move to LA where things really started to take off for him. “During my undergraduate degree, I just decided that it was time for me to get out of the academic world and see what it was really like out there. When I came to LA, I was looking to create a new style. And even now, when I think I am going in one direction, it changes again,” Schude reflects.
For Schude, the pull between commercial photography and fine art will always be equally weighted. His personal style is also a continual debate as he struggles to find a concise definition for his photographic approach. “My style is still evolving. Right now, I would describe it as a blend of documentary and fiction,” he says.
During his first placement in LA, at JPEG Magazine, Ryan met magazine editor, Laura Brunow Miner, and was invited on a camping trip with a group of photographers. The annual escape from Los Angeles, Miner’s brainchild, has since become a large-scale creative retreat, called Phoot Camp, where approximately 40 photographers spend the trip working on personal projects, inspiring each other, and learning new skills. Needless to say, getting an invite these days is highly sought-after. Applications are now accepted from photographers from all over the world via an online application process. “These photography boot camps are a form of constant inspiration and we have really become a great community,” says Schude. “We are all able to pick and choose where we put our creative energy over the weekend and some amazing concepts have come out of it.”
During the camp, Schude became the unofficial group photographer, and found that he had a group of willing participants to help execute his series of large-scale production images. “Lauren Randolph and I collaborated on the pool party scene where we let everyone go wild and choose their own high school alter ego,” Schude says as he describes the pre-production work and the way in which the concept came to fruition. “Lauren and I went out to scout the location and ended up right where we started; at the house where we were staying that weekend. It was the perfect place for a ‘parents out of town’ rager,” he says. “You may have a big idea,” explains Schude, “but once you get there and start placing everyone, it’s hard to envision the scene.”
As there are numerous photographers working on their own projects during the camp, Schude was conscious not to monopolise too much time, and work as efficiently as possible. “Lauren and I did a scout day where we spent time finding the exact angles, working on camera placements, and sketching out where each action or interaction would take place,” he says. From there, he had a short window of time to get the shots needed to create the scene he had in mind. “The light changed very quickly and we really wanted to get the scene during that peek time of dusk,” Schude says, explaining that getting the shot was very similar to shooting a movie.
“We wanted it all to look as real as possible, so everything was shot in-camera at the same time, directed at the same time, and lit at the same time.” This approach meant that the post-production process was minimal with only a small amount of time required to blend the frames together.
As time was a consideration, so too was the budget, and if it wasn’t for the collaboration of everyone at the camp, it wouldn’t have been possible to execute such a shot. “We saved costs on styling and costuming as we gave everyone free range to create their own look. We also had a lot of help from other campers who bought their own lenses and lighting which we borrowed when needed.”
Schude used a Canon 5D Mark II with 50 mm L-series lens tethered to Mac Book Pro using Capture One. “The camera was triggered remotely using Pocket Wizards so that we could direct talent up close and release the shutter from anywhere,” he says. As for lighting, strobes ranged from a variety of Profoto acute 600R heads with grids, Dynalite 1000-watt pack with a softbox, slaved light bulb flash above the grill, and another Dynalite 1000 pack with a 30-degree grid super-boomed out on a high-roller stand over the roof to ensure full coverage. A Norman monobloc and another Profoto monobloc rounded out the lighting gear used to create the final shots.
Ryan Schude has recently released his first book, where the pool party scene has the coveted position of front cover shot. Through this book release, Schude has found an opportunity to not just talk about his unique process of photography, but to demonstrate it. “I wanted to develop [the book release] into a large scale thing – rather than talking about the images, I prefer to show people how it is done by creating a photo with them.” In a world where social media is making photographs disposable, Schude knows that the process is the one thing that will remain. And it’s in this process that he finds his inspiration which sparks the evolution of each creative vision.