Mitch Ranger


December 14, 2018  |  Behind The Scenes
Once in a while a really unique project comes along. I was commissioned by a large food service company to produce original artwork for their new corporate HQ. When I was approached lots of ideas were thrown out, like darts to a board. One of the leading client ideas was to shoot macro photography of food. I felt strongly we should do something more original.  

The artwork was going to be installed at large scale, about 20 feet in length. I thought, what if we took a bunch of their food products and collaged them as if they were an abstract painting? An image that would consist of many of the foods that represent the company and, if we were smart, it could have duality thanks to the large scale. When a viewer is approaching it can appear as color, art, patterns…abstract art. As the viewer gets close, they’ll realize it’s actually the product of the company creating this experience.  

After some back and forth we went to a meeting with all the players to present the concept. My client was curious how I would be able to explain this to the team. Everyone wants to see what they’re getting before it’s created these days, and that can be a challenge when trying to create something original. Stock photography wouldn’t help, what I wanted to create did not exist. A sketch couldn’t convey enough emotion. So…I went shopping. I gathered a muted palette of root vegetables to create my canvas. Then some beautiful pops of color with fruits and vegetables. I went to my meeting determined to create a miniature version of what we would do. I explained the concept, but as expected words alone would not push this through. I rolled in my shopping cart and right there in the middle of the conference table I created a neutral canvas of my muted ingredients. Next I started dropping the pops of color on top, as if splattering paint upon the canvas. Laughs. Smiles. They loved it. Green light.

This would be quite the production; creating a 20 foot collage of food meant a lot of organization. To start, I went to a food show and took photos of nearly every product they had, hundreds if not thousands of images. I sorted them and picked favorites. We decided to target some groups of color, select some favorites, and organize them into three groups.

Next I needed to figure out how much to order, we don’t want to waste any food we don’t need. I also didn't want to run out while creating this on such a grand scale. I calculated the square feet of our final artwork, and then googled the size of each element I was using. Every ingredient has an approximate size. I thought about whether the art should have an even amount of ingredients, or if I should emphasize some colors and shapes and not others. Give more weight to certain textures. In the end I preferred asymmetry. So some ingredients got about 5%, some 10%, some 20%, some 30%. I converted those percentages to square inches and calculated how many of each ingredient we’d need. How many radishes, croissants, tomatoes, pineapples, peppers, and apples it would take, plus a 5-10% buffer in case of any surprises.

Keeping the food fresh while we constructed these was going to be important. The food should look fresh when photographed, and that can’t happen until the artwork is created. That meant a refrigerated semi-truck outside the front door storing 3 days worth of our ingredients. The plan was to create one unique final each day from start to finish, with the food looking beautiful for capture at the end of the day. We kept the studio extremely cold. My A-team was created with a mix of artists, stylists, food lovers, and collaborative clients.  

Passion was embraced when making these. During a lunch we were serenaded by an incredible local accordionist. We surrounded ourselves in a nurturing environment conducive to creating something wonderful. And this is what we did.



January 12, 2016  |  Behind The Scenes

For years I've been thinking about reinterpreting the bizarre fairytales we've all grown up with. They are so twisted, abstract, and creative. Screaming for a photographic interpretation. 

When I was younger, commercial work and what I'd frame on my own wall were two separate things. I'm happy to say that's no longer the case. It's great to be able to explore personal ideas, even better when you get paid for them.   

We did this shoot on a Monday afternoon, and it was as fluid as jazz. We had prepared with a fitting. I wanted the wardrobe to move in the air to show a clear sense of our action and whimsy, so we ran around the studio in different outfits while Michael snapped photos. I felt like a kid. My first ever cameo in my own imagery. We couldn't stop laughing.

The next step was to capture all the elements. Something that's important to me during the creation of composite imagery is to do things as naturally as possible. When I lit the subjects, I lit them like the scene. Exactly like the scene. When I put the elements in set, I used the backdrop so our tones blended naturally. We created bounce light that bled the scene's colors naturally onto the subject. We created a similar 3D groundcover on top of the backdrop ground so the colors and textures blended seamlessly. We created a light tent out of the actual backdrop so that the scene was naturally shown in the reflection of the metallic elements. It's all about the right ingredients. All shot exactly to perspective, height, and angle. 

I'd like to thank Amy, Wendy, Mimi, Wes, Jesse, Marco, Chad, and Michael. I couldn't have done it without you. 

Here's the dish ran away with the spoon. The first of many more...


Founders All Day IPA

January 26, 2015  |  Behind The Scenes
I'm happy when creating...happiest when delivering. From sketch to execution the Founders Brewing All Day IPA campaign is top notch. This project happened with vision and support from John, Jamie, Dave, Mike, Mimi, Leslie, and Glen. Along with coordination from the VanAndel Public Museum. Thank you all for the tremendous effort. It’s been endorsed with numerous awards, including the Graphis Advertising Annual 2014.  

So how did we do it? After the sketch there are many decisions to make. Do we shoot in studio? Do we shoot on location? How do we actually do this? I started with the decision to do these as naturally as possible. Shooting a bunch of elements and retouching in photoshop for endless hours to create what would essentially be a collage piece just seemed like too much assembly. It also felt untrue to the company we were creating this for, a company that prides itself on naturalness and craft. So with the trust and guidance of the art director and a talented crew we assembled this home brew from scratch. We photographed the actual IPA glass bottle, and put an overlay on our screen so we could literally stack, saw, glue, chisel, force, finesse, and hammer the exact shape together. Well…damn near it. 

In the end it took about 6 days of work. And if you really want to know, Contax, 80, Phase One, 6 eggs, 5 spotlights, 3 grids, 2 beauty dishes, 2 Octa’s, and a lone wolf.