GCU President Brian Mueller

Back in May I had the opportunity to photograph Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller for the latest cover story of Arizona Executive Magazine.

Every time a cover shoot is being scheduled I'm hoping for the subject's schedule to allow for an early morning or late evening shoot for obvious lighting reasons. That hope, however, is always short-lived as most editorial shoots seem to happen around late morning or early afternoon, as the subject's availability allows. As a professional, I have to make the most of any time and any location, but I still wish for the best circumstances each time.

As expected, the shoot was scheduled for 2pm, not the most photogenic time of day. So, knowing I'd be stuck with less than ideal lighting, I arrived about an hour early to scout a few locations and come up with my shot list. I was hoping to find some great shaded locations to incorporate into the shoot. This was my first time on the GCU campus, so I didn't have much to go off of other than the school staff's recommendations and what I'd see walking around. The university was incredibly accommodating, giving me great freedom to shoot anywhere I wanted, plus their media relations director walked me around to suggest a few places.

The first stop, at the school's recommendation, was a top floor outside patio that overlooked the GCU campus. Initially, it seemed like a great overview of the campus with some solid potential, however, I had a few issues with the location. First, while the background was decent, the time of day was terrible for the location. It was somewhat scenic, but flat with uninteresting light. Secondly, summer in Arizona is extremely unforgiving to grass, as evidenced by the dominant feature of this background. I planned on trying a few shots here, but wasn't in love with it.

Luckily, on our way to the outside patio, I noticed a shady breezeway that had a number of workable angles with different architectural features available. I liked that it was about 20 degrees cooler, which would keep my subject more comfortable, plus it was located between the patio we'd start at and the elevator we'd be headed to afterward. I knew that whether the patio shot worked or not, I could get an easy 5-6 looks from the breezeway.

Once I had my shot list and two locations, I began setting up on the patio. I used just a single main light with a simple umbrella and 5 sandbags due to the wind that was just now beginning. I decided to use lights on the patio and just natural light in the breezeway, so it would be a quick transition and require Brian to spend less time in the heat.

At 2pm, Brian showed up to the patio location right on time and with the university's marketing director. The moment I introduced myself to Brian I was immediately very impressed with his humble, down-to-earth, demeanor. Despite the afternoon's triple-digit heat and a dark suit, Brian remained pleasant and friendly. I kept him in the direct sun for just a few minutes before we made our way to the second location. All in all, our time together lasted about 45 minutes, and I think we got some great shots out of it.

I'm grateful to Grand Canyon University for their hospitality, as well as to Brian Mueller for his great attitude on a very warm summer day in Phoenix.


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