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Producer Amber Palson About Extreme Photo Shoots in the Most Remote and Dangerous Places

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For over 15 years, Amber Palson has been behind the orchestration of some of the top fashion projects in both magazine editorials and major brand advertising. 

You may recognize projects that she’s master-minded in the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Instyle Magazines. 

« Orchestrating » and « master-minding » are two words that define well the role of a producer. 

Today, let’s talk about Amber Palson’s journey to producing some of the most extreme and technical photoshoots.

Early career

Amber PalsonAmber’s talent in photography was obvious from a young age. She knew that her passions for fashion, arts and culture would all meet together one day, and shape her unique professional career.

Amber Palson worked with the most talented photographers in the world, including Mark Seliger, who was the first to notice her talent. Working in his team for 3 years raised Amber through the ranks to become one of the studio’s top producers.

As a renowned producer, many talents, celebrities such as Amy Schumer, Dwayne Johnson, and brands such as Urban Outfitters, Madewell, Athleta, Air Canada, and Aerie (American Eagle), can’t envision a shooting without her expertise.

She pursued her career as an executive producer in Hawaii, where she produced for Oprah Winfrey on 5 magazine covers.  Although she knew she had accomplished her dream career, something was missing in Amber’s life. As a proud Canadian and an adventurer at heart, she needed more action. !

Amber Palson, a woman and producer of action

“When I’m on a job, I give my everything. My client gets my full attention and devotion to the success of their project. On my days off I live for surfing, snowboarding and keeping my body and mind healthy. All of the aspects of my schedule support each other for life success.” —she says

By 2018, Amber was an established producer in the industry, confident and strong with her successful range of experiences ; but  she didn’t feel complete. 

« I like the seeing my clients’ creative vision and translating that into what’s necessary for locations, crew and logistics to make it happen. Every day is different, every challenge is unique. » – says Amber Palson 

Being a producer involves getting places, convincing people of a creative project, and negotiating with them to secure the best places, the best talents and being surrounded by the best in the industry.

« My job is all about relationships. I need the support of the hotel booker, modeling agencies and a location owner…it’s all walks of life and if I can establish genuine respect and rapport with my negotiations, I can give my clients more options to achieve success in their production. Being a good human is key to any long-term business project. » —she says.

Amber Palson

Taking production to the extreme

That’s how she developed her niche and became independent : In 2019, she launched Blue Amber Production, a full service production company based in Vancouver, Canada, in order to take care of her clients wanting to shoot epic high-end city locations, stunning Whistler glaciers and world renowned Canadian Rockies. 

Blue Amber Production represents everything that she loves, doing what she’s the best at.  All of her passions took her on an exciting professional path, and that’s Amber’s unique journey to success.

We asked Amber Palson about her latest projects and about her unique production work, in remote places. Here’s the interview:

What do you call “Backcountry Production » ? Is it a generic term for productions in remote places?

Yes, you got it! Really it just describes the nature of location of the shoot. Other shoots are either in-studio, city, or residential/interior environments. Shooting in Hawaii and Canada, often I will be taking a large crew to a remote volcano, jungle, waterfall or secret beach (Hawaii) or a glacier, snow town, mountain top with expansive views (Canada). Production on these is a unique animal and it’s my specialty (and my passion!!).

Why is it different?

– Often there isn’t road access and I’m handling logistics on boats, helicopters, snowmobiles, snowcats, seaplanes, off-road vehicles, anything to get large numbers of crew and equipment somewhere cool. I love a good 4×4 adventure!

– Accomodation closest to a remote area requires unique relationship-building with Concierges and hotel staff. Rapport is everything! If you take care of them, they will go that extra mile for your crew. It makes all the difference in a shoot when things go smoothly.

– The majority of brands coming to Canada to shoot are seeking snow.  And the typical timing for the shoot is in Summer!! So the trick is to get crew and equipment up a mountain high enough for there to be snow in the summer, while having an infrastructure for as close to high-end crew accomodations and healthy meals available.

– Often in active wear shoots, shooting in nature, we are using athletes, which requires experience working with non-model agencies, PR and management representations.

– There’s bears! and mosquitos! I have to anticipate nature! It’s a fun challenge to foresee how the natural elements will affect the shoot and my crew, and put in place safeties and comfort such that everyone is able to put their best work forward.

Amber Palson

Could you tell us about the Eddie Bauer set and production? We heard it was epic!

We shot in August 2020, on the Whistler backcountry glacier, with helicopter access for full crew (hair, makeup, camera crew, props, manicurist, clothing stylist, + all of our assistants) and equipment. And we flew in a portapotty!! We had to hire a mountain safety guide.

As an active outdoor brand, the location was a pinnacle component to the overall success of the shoot. They wanted epic backdrops to engage their customer. The location was aspirational and featured landscapes that were unique to the region and are specific to an activity. Models were casted to reflect diversity, health and life enjoyment.

Did you encounter any difficulty ?  

Mosquitoes!! We were all wearing nets! Also, we were shooting during a pandemic, so transportation logistics as well as writing and strictly following our Blue Amber Production Safety Protocols was key to keep everyone safe! The other thing related to the pandemic was that the client was unable to travel to Canada at that time. Having systems in place such that the client feels a part of the process, and that the department heads can get direct feedback easily, was an important part of this shoot.

The shoot was epic!! And the shoot made the cover of their catalogue! The shots looked amazing!

Amber Palson

How about the Urban Outfitters shoot ?

We shot this one in the fall of 2019, in the Canadian Arctic (Churchill, MB) + The Rockies, at a remote backcountry heli-ski lodge.

For the men’s shoot they wanted a small town feel with snow, and for the women’s shoot they wanted a fashion story combining skiing and snow play.

The morning we were scheduled to leave the back country it was snowing so hard, we weren’t even sure we’d be able to fly out! We almost got snowed in. But we were having so much fun that we all secretly wanted to stay.

Meghan Eng, Urban Outfitter’s in-house producer said on Instagram, “This was one of my favorite shoots of all time. Thanks to an awesome team we survived the Arctic cold & the polar bears and had a lot of fun making it happen.”

This shoot was memorable and we were in the “polar bear capital of the world’!! So I had to hire a bear security guard. He watched for bears and kept us safe!

Discover Amber Palson’s complete work : https://www.instagram.com/blue_amber.pro/?hl=en 

on Instagram @blue_amber.pro

Read more celebrity interviews at ClichéMag.com
Images provided by Mike Seehagel and Matteo Montanari