Photographer Erin Kunkel has been shooting travel assignments for Sunset for roughly a year before I hired her to photograph the February cover. I had been receiving promos from Erin for some time prior to her first travel assignment, watching her work evolve and loving what I was seeing. We eventually met Erin in our offices and I was truly excited by the mix of energy, beauty, spontaneity and thoughtfulness in her work. It was a true reflection of her personality. It was also evident from our meeting that she has a wide range of production skills.
February is our annual "Best Towns in the West" cover. In past years we have used a mix of stock and assigned shooting with mixed results. This year we brainstormed slightly more lifestyle/concepted ideas while maintaining the lush landscape tradition we are known for. In addition to the concepts discussed during our brainstorming process, we talked a lot about mood, energy, light, etc. Erin kept coming to mind even before the ideas were finalized.
The cover was assigned to Erin on a Friday, by Saturday mid-day I had scouting in hand of potential locations from her local contact, and by Monday morning we were off to Hawaii to shoot. The assignment was tight, not much time for pre-production. I knew from seeing Erin's book that she had done a fair amount of assignments on the North Shore of Oahu and was very familiar with the area. Upon arrival we had a half day of scouting and two full days of shooting, leaving the hotel by 6:30 AM,returning after dinner on the road, editing and sending off galleries to my creative director shortly after midnight.
The shoot days were long and we covered a lot of ground, including a long, uphill hike to the "pillboxes" (old army lookouts) above the town of Kailua. Erin's enthusiasm, focused energy and organization resulted in solid, and surprising images from each situation we photographed. She took our ideas many steps further and this resulted in a cover we were excited about. And, we had the best selling February cover in years. You can see more of Erin Kunkel's lifestyle, travel, portraiture and food work at her site, www.erinkunkel.com.