Born and raised in the UK, commercial photographer Lee Howell spent several years travelling the world as a Formula One mechanic before moving to New Zealand in 2006 and swapping his spanners for a camera. Not surprisingly, Lee began his photographic career shooting motorsport, but he quickly developed his skillset and is now best known for his stunning portrait work. He has a knack for capturing natural and engaging images of people, and this has helped Lee attract a wide range of top commercial clients.
Late last year Lee landed a plum assignment for well-known outdoor clothing brand Kathmandu. The job involved travelling to New York City in January to create images for the latest Kathmandu winter campaign.
Before Lee travelled to the US there were a number of pre-production meeting with video crew, producers, creative team and a location scout that lives in New York. He was then provided with a creative brief from the in-house design team and a detailed itinerary from producers. The brief outlined the style of imagery Kathmandu were after, examples of composition and store window layouts, along with an extensive shot list. While the producers itinerary detailed all the logistics, travel arrangements, proposed locations, maps and possible activities.
“With this much planning, an extensive shot list, a video crew, jet lag and only four shoot days, there’s always a compromise between capturing real moments and just getting the shot,” Lee explains. “I often find that if I keep shooting, especially when the talent thinks we are done at that particular location or walking between locations when they are unaware, it’s the shots in between shots that really stand out.”
The main camera Lee took on the shoot was the new Sony α7R III. He also had a Sony α9 with him as a back-up body, although he never needed to use it.
“Having recently switched to Sony this was sort of a baptism of fire. There are a number of reasons why I used the α7R III – the advanced autofocus system definitely being one of them,” Lee says. “The 42 megapixel sensor is also awesome for a client like Kathmandu. Having such a high-resolution sensor allows for flexibility when it comes to the final output of the images. Kathmandu stores are full of large in-store displays that can be viewed close up. The last thing I want to see is my images up-scaled beyond what they can handle. The ability to crop portraits images from landscapes and still produce a printable file is great.”
In March, Lee was already making plans for his next Kathmandu campaign — this time he’s off to Tasman Glacier in Mount Cook National Park.