PDN Photo of the Day

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Austin-based photographer Jeff Wilson is a regular contributor to Texas Monthly. He’s worked for the magazine for over a decade, starting back when he was still employed full-time with the Texas Department of Public Safety as a forensic photographer shooting personal work on the weekends. Wilson pitched a photo story to shoot Texas high school football stadiums, and thus began his relationship with the magazine. After landing that assignment, Wilson left the lab and began assisting for Texas-based photographer Dan Winters, while continuing to shoot for himself. Via email Wilson told PDN, “If a freelance photographer can have a home, Texas Monthly is mine. I started my career there with photo editor Leslie Baldwin, and she still sends me my most rewarding and exciting assignments.” One such assignment was Texas Monthly’s August 2014 cover story, “Land That We Love.” Texas Monthly asked thirteen famous Texans (including Lyle Lovett, Lance Armstrong, Norah Jones, Erykah Badu and Willie Nelson) to identify their favorite places. Baldwin and design director, T.J. Tucker, commissioned Wilson for the feature.

“It’s pretty easy to not fully appreciate how huge Texas is until you have to cover it for a story. Austin is pretty much in the center of the state and I can drive 8 hours and still not hit the border. For this assignment, I drove over 5600 miles, flew 1300, and didn’t even get up to the panhandle. Shooting landscapes on deadline can be a logistical nightmare here, first because the distances between them can be ridiculous, and second because your best laid plans can go up in smoke when an unexpected thunderstorm rolls in on the only day you can shoot a particular location. That can be especially painful when you’ve just driven 600 miles starting at 3 am. In this case, some of the locations I was shooting weren’t chosen for a conventional beauty, but rather a sentimental one that needed to be translated into something that viewers could connect with. In others, I had to overlook more obviously photogenic views in order to make the visual work with the personal story behind them. I had to follow weather very carefully and be adaptable with my schedule in order to get the best light. There were only a few locations, mostly interiors, that were lit. For those, I took assistants along to help with the lighting. The others just involved being in the right place at the right time, which in a couple of occasions took more than one attempts. Overall, the piece took about three weeks over the course of a month to complete.”

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