UK photographer Jez Smith journeyed to the Red Centre recently on a Tigerlily Swimwear shoot.

Diary of a Desert Shoot


UK photographer Jez Smith journeyed to the Red Centre recently on a Tigerlily Swimwear shoot. While AT found its cover image, Jez found there were more challenging things than flies to deal with . . . 

Where exactly did the Tigerlily shoot take place? On an old abandoned film set, which is called the Ooraminna Station Homestead. It’s run by Bill and Jan Hayes, and there are cottages in the surrounding desert that people can stay at, so it was perfect for us. In the middle of the desert, isolated, incredibly peaceful, but with power and food close by! It’s about 40 minutes outside Alice Springs. We also shot in the surrounding desert.

In terms of location, does this count as one of the most extreme or remote you’ve shot in? It’s probably one of the most remote and beautiful!

What was involved in selecting the location? Finding a location was a long process. We discussed various locations around the world in a process that took literally months, but eventually Jodhi [Tigerlily owner Jodhi Meares] decided she wanted something quintessentially Australian, but she also wanted to move away from the typical “beach shoot”. Jodhi is always wanting to push the catalogues and make them fresh and different, so we started thinking about Alice Springs. We then contacted Chris Tangey at Alice Springs Film and TV, who was instrumental in finding the incredible locations around Alice for us. We shoot these catalogues over the course of three days, so it’s important that wherever we shoot has some variety, different types of landscapes and interiors. Once I saw the shots of the abandoned outback town set, I knew we’d found somewhere special.

The light and colour in your shots are amazing. Is that your favourite aspect of desert-style scenes? Or is there TOO MUCH light out there? The light in Australia is very hard during the middle of the day, so I often shoot at sunrise or sunset when the light is softer. However, on this shoot we decided that shooting out in the harsh light would also give the some shots a certain Australian Outback feeling, so we decided to use a combination of flash light and daylight, balanced to give the shots in the desert a crisp, clean look. The colour of the soil was a big influence on us shooting there; we really wanted to get that sense of the Red Centre, so shooting in the middle of the day with the sun beaming down onto the red earth gave the shots the almost surreal intensity that they have.

How cooperative were your models? There must have been flies everywhere! The models were amazing. It was actually winter when we were shooting, and it wasn’t warm. The sun was out, but it was actually quite windy and we were constantly spraying the models with water to keep the skin looking wet and “dewy”, so in some cases they were really cold and shivering in between shots and as soon as we’d finished shooting we’d wrap them in towels and dry them off to keep them warm. They were fantastically professional and made my job very easy.

So no flies to deal with? What flies? To be honest, I didn’t really notice the flies . . . I was too busy worrying about cold models and the light!

What’s the one piece of advice for anyone out there shooting in the desert? SPF30+ . . .

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