Story By Jenn Gidman
Images By Dalton Campbell
A Cinematic Approach by Dalton Campbell
With his Tamron 17-70mm F/2.8 VC RXD zoom lens, Dalton Campbell shoots stills and video for two extremes: a high-energy BASE jumping session and a more relaxed one with horses.
A Cinematic Approach
Dalton Campbell’s path into the imaging arena hasn’t exactly been a typical one. The Austin photographer and videographer initially attended automotive school and then went to work for a company that built roll cages for race cars. Next came a startup, launched with a friend, in which they completed fabrications for performance vehicles—an endeavor that proved successful until the 2008 recession, which is when people stopped scooping up items for their hobby cars.
That’s when Dalton decided to head to business school, and during that time, he started his own website design side business. He soon realized that many of the images given to him by clients to use on their sites were terrible. “I thought: What if I bought a camera and figured out how to take photos myself?” he says. “Something I very much enjoy doing is creating solutions for others, and this seemed like a solution to that particular photography problem.”
Dalton eventually added videography into the mix. “The two go hand in hand,” he says. “I love movies and cinematic imagery, and I realized the camera could do both. I think expanding my offerings like this also appeals to a range of clients, who often need multimedia collateral. Plus, it makes the job more dynamic for me personally.”
Dalton recently test-drove the Tamron 17-70mm F/2.8 VC RXD zoom lens for a pair of completely different shoots: a BASE jumping adventure in Arizona, and a more laid-back model session, complete with horses, in Texas. “I used the 17-70mm to shoot the BASE jumping video, which also had footage layered in shot with the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 VXD,” he says. “Both of those lenses are designed for Sony mirrorless cameras, which I’ve been shooting with for quite a few years.” He also tapped into the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 for the BASE jumping video. “All three of those lenses offer the quality and sharpness I’m looking for, and they’re effortless to use,” he says.
For the session with the horses, shot in San Marcos, Texas, Dalton recruited another videographer to record him taking pictures of his model, Torrie, and her horses with his 17-70mm. “We took these images and the accompanying video on her family’s property, where there are lots of horses running around,” he says. “I’ve been working with Torrie since she was 17, more than anyone else in my life. With all of her tattoos, she’s got a very unique, specific look, so I try to pull her into projects whenever I can, such as when I’m shooting for a T-shirt brand or a motorcycle company.”
Although his previous sessions with Torrie have typically featured warm, glowing light, “this was not that kind of day,” Dalton says of the overcast skies. “But what’s great about cloudy days is that I can shoot all day. If it had been a bright day, I wouldn’t have been able to photograph her for so long, all out in the middle of the open like that. And that’s where the 17-70mm lens came in handy, too. We’d been in and out of rain all day. Thanks to the 17-70’s versatility, I was able to run with just that one lens and not have to keep pulling it off in that misty weather, or risk exposing my sensor to dust.”
Those conditions also helped set the mood for the photos and accompanying video. “My goal was simply to walk around the farm and shoot a variety of scenes,” Dalton says. “I didn’t want to create too bright of a vibe, because that wouldn’t have worked with the available light. It had to be a little moodier, which also helped drive the music I chose for the video and how I paced the editing. The end result has a vibe that stands out.”
Because Dalton and Torrie have collaborated so extensively in the past, they enjoyed an easy, natural rapport during this session, which you can see firsthand in the video. “You might think there’s a Bluetooth implant in her that allows us to work so well together,” Dalton jokes. “But no, it’s just from years of working together. As you can see in the footage, I was able to communicate what I wanted her to do with just a simple, subtle gesture to move her chin down or bring her shoulder back. I think it also helped that she was already so comfortable with the horses, because they’re on her family’s farm.”
During post-processing for this session, Dalton based what he did with his colors on what the available light looked like. “I’ve got a range of actions and settings I’ve developed over the years that I’m drawn to, but it’s never formulaic—I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do until I’m actually sitting in front of the computer. I poke around, experiment, play around with different levels, and see what fits. It’s more of a finger-in-the-wind kind of editing. I don’t approach the job from a strict colorist point of view—I simply make shifts to the point where I know I like it and I’m happy.”
For the BASE jumping session, Dalton took a road trip just outside Phoenix to photograph and shoot video of two of his friends who are involved in extreme sports. “They’re a couple who travel all over the US by van,” Dalton explains. “She’s done BMX/downhill mountain bike riding, as well as some BASE jumping, while he’s a former motocross racer who now does something called moto BASE, which involves him riding a motorcycle off a cliff, with a separate parachute for both himself and the bike. It’s pretty crazy.”
Waiting for the right conditions was key, as the weather played a big part. “For BASE jumping, there are certain parameters you need adhere to, especially in regard to wind speed,” Dalton says. “You also don’t want to do a BASE jump when it’s raining or there’s too much moisture in the air. It was a little touch and go. In fact, we couldn’t actually shoot the first day we were scheduled to, because it was too windy and the conditions weren’t quite right.”
The session was an intense one, involving not one but two ascents up the mountain. “I feel like I’m in decent shape, but I’m not compared with younger people who do this kind of thing all the time,” Dalton says. “I had to carefully select the three or four angles I was going to work to get the coverage I needed, because I wasn’t going to keep climbing up the mountain to capture different angles with each successive jump. Two hikes up was more than enough!”
The versatility of his Tamron lenses helped Dalton capture all of the action on this challenging terrain. “What I appreciate about these lenses is that I can get down to F/2.8, which is the highest aperture I prefer to shoot at,” he says. “For a shoot like this, the ability to zoom pretty quickly while keeping it at F/2.8 allows me to capture a range of images—I’m able to capture some that look like documentary-style photos, others that look more like standard portraiture. The versatility of those lenses is key. When you’re hiking up a mountain and trying to keep your gear bag light, you want to still have a variety of focal lengths at your disposal when you get to the top of the mountain.”