Anja Ekstrøm's Desert Inspired Fashion Shoot Flourishes


Anja Ekstrom is a photographer that I am also proud to call a friend. Accordingly, she posted this recent shoot in our Facebook group that I was in love with and coincidentally, she used our Infinite Color Panel as a part of her workflow! I had to feature the images and ask her what went into them.

Below, she talks about how she came up with the shoot from start to finish that is just fascinating to read about!

You can click on each image to see it larger.

Anja writes:

Last year when visiting LA I shot in a dried out lake and an idea started to brew.

I wanted colours and desert to mix and I already knew that the model had to be a readhead with freckles. The LA blue sky had to play a big part as well. The coppery hair against the blue sky came to mind.

The Location:
I was searching for locations online and stumbled across the place were trailers and old diner signs come to “die” in Salton Sea, but were advised against it by several people due to safety issues.

And then I found Joshua Tree...

I knew this was it! It had the desert-feel I needed and still, gorgeous nature.

I started toying with the idea to rent an RV but the stylist said, “I think its cheaper to find a house on AirBnB” and I went, “OF COURSE!”

I found a house with the perfect backyard! It contained everything I wanted, so we didn’t have to travel between look/styles. We literally just opened the door and behold, the house contained old vintage suitcases and so much more we could use as accessories. After that, the storyline took a turn and magic was made!

In my mind, it was “just” going to be a fashion shoot.

That changed with finding these suitcases, old keys, and seeing James’ wardrobe for the model, I started to feel an Karen Blixen Vibe in the shoot.

Imagine this young girl arriving without a clue, to this African ranch on the savanna, and following her journey to becoming this STRONG resourceful woman who OWNS the ranch and runs it. It’s a story from caterpillar to butterfly.

I really got this vibe as we were shooting and I LOVE the results!

The Lighting:
It is really as simple as can be: sunlight and a silver bounce.

In hindsight, the bounce should have been placed from above instead of from beneath but it’s too late now. I love how it aggressively catches the highlight on the skin.

The Team:
Cianne Denize (muah - @Ciannedenize) and I go back a while and have worked on more projects that I can count in Denmark, and since we both were in L.A. (she is SO damn talented), it was never a question of “if” she was gonna be in this project - she didn’t have a choice.

James Harris JR. (stylist - @jhjstyles) and I talked a lot through IG last time, but never got to shoot back then, so this time we had to… and what a collaboration! He is a genius stylist.

Madeline Ford (model - @madelineaford). I scouted her on IG and I am so glad that she and her agency said yes, as she fit my vision to a T! Her look and vibe was exactly the one I wanted for this shoot.

My assistant Celia Schow (@celiaschow), is my America-wifey she is a dear dear friend who was key to get this project rolling as she was the glue to keep all the loose ends together.

Stefaniya Nazarenko (retouch - @stef_nazarenko)
Stef and I also go back, and I am so thankful that she gets me, my vision, and my “OCD” perfection as she has my same sensibilities with retouching. I knew I had to ask Stef to help me, as this series alone was 32 frames! And luckily she saw the beauty and potential in the series and was on board.

My post production thoughts:
Even though I brought a retoucher on board, she still followed my instructions and vision for every frame, including putting her own “sprinkle” on top.

What was key for me, was to enhance the glow, the freckles, and at the same time, really make the most of the nature, colours, and keeping it real. We kept the toning a warm tone to get that desert feel.

I think that all pieces fit perfectly and I simply think this is one of my favorite series of my entire career.

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Be sure to follow Anja’s work on Instagram and her Website!

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