Way back in February, Drake’s Brewing released Hopocalypse Triple IPA. The beer is still a sought after commodity for hop heads, despite the arrival of it’s hazy brethren. It’s available one day only, during the Hopocalypse Day beer release and festival. The label went through a wonderful redesign thanks to Mark Balane, and I had the pleasure of shooting the adjacent promo shot, which was a really fun challenge, using a very tiny a light source.
Every Hopocalypse Day has a theme, and this year’s dovetailed with the recent wildfires and PG&E blackouts in Northern California. We don’t normally get that close to home, but it felt appropriate, even if a little risky for sensitive folks (there were a few). Previous years embraced less immediate dangers, like an alien invasion or asteroids careening towards earth. Now that we’ve been through a pandemic, I guess anything’s possible in 2021!
The bottle shot is an important marketing component for a beer release driven beer festival. It needs to get people excited and embrace the theme as much as possible, to help drive ticket sales. Thankfully, we switched things up this year, moving from a standard 22 oz. bottle to a 750 ml. size, and most importantly, they were painted matte black. That meant no light reflections, which are a huge pain in the ass to manage in product photography.
Between the bottle and the theme, shooting in the dark was really the only creative option in my mind. So I tackled the challenge by setting up a dark room with a black background, and dusted off my tripod for a series of long exposures. The difficult task was coming up with a light source I could easily control, that wasn’t too bright.
It didn’t take long to remember that I had a small flashlight, just four inches long. I think a brewer left it on my desk a year ago. I flipped it on, but it was still too bright. The solution turned out to be one my business cards. I punched a tiny hole through it and held it over the flash light lens, which allowed me to regulate the brightness. Then I proceeded to black out the windows and cover every light emitting object in the room, including the fire exit signs (sorry OSHA), and apologized to my co-workers who were left to manage in the dark.
I can’t remember the duration of the exposure, but it was plenty of time to paint light over the label, back and forth with the flashlight, and up near the bottle cap, which was covered with black wax, filled with metallic orange flecks. Through trial and error, it took 10-12 exposures to get the light painting just right. I was really pleased with the results, and then did a fair amount of work in post production, adjusting color, contrast, and dodging the lettering so it really popped. It played well on social media. Until next year…