Sylvania Web Series Follows Far-Flung Travels to New Mexico
Sylvania Automotive Lighting shares stories from the driver’s seat in The Light ShiftTM, a special look at how automotive lighting impacts those who work or play while the rest of America sleeps.
I am accustomed to getting up early for a sunrise photo shoot, but on July 30th, I had a call time of 3 a.m. and sunrise was still hours away in New Mexico. Starting at this ungodly time, a film crew followed my every move for seven hours, capturing footage of my photo shoot with the talented painter and flautist Tommy Vigil for The Light Shift, a web series created by Sylvania Automotive Lighting to highlight its premium headlights. In the docuseries, the company follows people who spend a lot of time driving after dark for their work.
The partnership with Sylvania couldn’t be more apropos. As a photographer, I spend a lot of time driving in the hours before dawn and after sunset so I can be in position to capture images during the “Golden Hour,” which occurs when the sun is at the lowest point on the horizon. The light is warmer and softer (as you can see in the photo below) compared to when the sun is higher in the sky.
I spent all of five minutes installing the Sylvania Silverstar Ultra bulbs in my dad’s Honda. I had no idea it was going to be so easy. I set aside an hour of my time, watched a short video on how to install the headlights, got out a pair of gloves and popped the hood. It literally took me five minutes to change both bulbs, even with the windshield fluid reservoir blocking the way on the driver’s side. With 55 minutes left to kill, I cleaned out the car to make it camera ready when the film crew arrived at the aforementioned ungodly hour of 3 a.m. on shoot day.
The crew’s headlights reflected off the walls of the kitchen announcing their arrival. After a few initial shots of me getting in the car and backing out of the garage, we set out under a canopy of darkness to reach the location I chose for photographing Tommy — a spot at the top of Los Alamos Mesa facing east toward the rising sun on the far side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
I’ve driven that 45-minute route between Santa Fe and Los Alamos many times during the day, but never at night. It’s really dark out there, making it an ideal place to put the headlights to the test. The premium bulbs are whiter, brighter an have a wider field of vision, which is helpful for spotting nocturnal wildlife on the side of the road. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to slow down for coyote crossing the road.
By the time we get to the top of the mesa, the sky is already starting to brighten, revealing a blanket of dark storm clouds. Even though New Mexico has 300 days of sunshine a year, we happen to be visiting during monsoon season in July and August. However, there’s a clear patch of sky just to the east, so we may get that golden light I’ve come to this spot to capture while photographing Tommy playing his Native American flute — with a film crew in tow no less.
When the sun doesn’t glow as hoped, I switch to plan B, using three strobes on a light stand to create the lighting source I couldn’t get naturally. It gives me some control to create dramatic lighting on Tommy. The concept I envisioned was to replicate the effect you might get as if I were to photograph him illuminated only by the headlights on a car.
When the shoot wrapped and the film crew had captured everything they needed, we spent some time enjoying the scenery from our vantage point. New Mexico is an incredible place to soak up incredible views that stretch on for miles and miles. Photographers and artists, from Ansel Adams to Georgia O’Keefe, have been drawn to the beauty New Mexico’s high desert and the quality of its natural light. And even with the cloud cover, all of us appreciate being able to do work here, too.
Check out the entire series of The Light Shift from Sylvania at https://www.youtube.com/user/SYLVANIALight, but first check out Episode 4 here:
I received no payment for this post. Thanks to the team at Sylvania and Weber Shandwick that made this experience not only possible, but also pleasant, including Ryan DeDecker, Sativa Ross, Christen Oliveto, Bryan Fenster and Nate Kostegian.