For long-time readers of Field & Stream magazine, the June/July 2017 issue (out now) may look a little familiar. Indeed, it is a photographic recreation of the May 1961 cover featuring a young boy looking out of his tent at a fisherman wrangling in a fish. The idea was to capture both the excitement of the summer months and a sense of nostalgia and Americana.
To realize the project, F&S turned to Randal Ford. Randal previously shot a series of similar recreations for L.L. Bean, which had actually started as a personal project.
“Randal is exactly the man you need for such a job,” F&S photography director John Toolan told Folio. “He’s recreated several vintage images, and the final products truly stand as fresh works of art that you can appreciate on their own, without being aware of the original illustrations they’re mimicking.”
Randal got to work photographing the dozens of pieces that would be composited into the final photograph. For the foreground, they built the tent in a grassy park and found the right sleeping bag. For the middle ground, Randal photographed a whole series of rocks, several streams, a taxidermy fish, and a bunch of different splashes. They spent hours trying to capture the exact position of the fisherman.
“These photographic recreations are really challenging, because a painting is a painting; it’s not real. So when we go into create a photograph, it’s like wait, this doesn’t work like this,” recalled Randal.
Everything down to the position of the kid’s left hand peaking out from the sleeping bag was taken into consideration in order to match the photograph to the original image as closely as possible.
“Even the kid in the tent, it had to be done in so many pieces to get it right. The kid’s arm, and the drape, and the fold of the tent. To get his neck up high enough so his shirt didn’t cover up his head—it’s not a pose you can just go out and photograph and have it look like this,” said Randal.
Because of the season, a stock image was used for the trees in the background, as was the mountain, since Randal lives in Texas.
“I worked with an incredible retoucher who I’ve collaborated with quite a bit. The name of his company is One White Chair. He helped piece the whole thing together,” said Randal.
The entire process, from concept to prop styling to shooting to post-production, took almost two weeks.
“Summer has this timeless appeal, and so much of what we enjoy now, as outdoor enthusiasts, remains unchanged from what we loved in decades past. The June/July issue is a celebration of that. So we wanted our cover to acknowledge this rich connection we have with the past,” said Toolan.