Capturing Exotica in His Lens


Advertising photographer Rob Gage has shot in exotic locations all over the world. With his powerhouse clientele, you would think he would be headquartered in one of the media capitals, like New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles. But Gage prefers to conduct business out of his home in Laguna Beach.

"Everybody said I was totally nuts when I moved here because no one lived outside of a large city," Gage said. "My feeling was that clients from out of state would really enjoy coming to Laguna Beach to do a job. For years I've been putting out-of-towners up at a hotel on the beach.

"If you come from New York or Chicago in the middle of winter, where there is snow everywhere, you can come here and get a room with the surf pounding at your door. People like that."

More than the climate, Gage's work and his mastery of logistical problems lure clients to Laguna.

Gage's clients have included General Motors, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, BMW, Toyota, Nissan and Chrysler. His campaigns include Chevrolet's "The Heartbeat of America" and the U.S. Army's "Be All You Can Be."

Gage's location shoots have included building a 100-by-60-foot lake, 3 inches deep, in the parking lot of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. It was done to create the effect of a girl tap-dancing on water. It took three days to build and 20 minutes to shoot.

"You do a lot of shooting to very extreme ends of the day," the 49-year-old photographer said. "You work at dawn or dusk because the kind of lighting most people want is reflected light instead of direct light. There is usually about 20 minutes at either time of day. I try to avoid shooting in the middle of the day. It's very hard to control that type of lighting."

Starting at 3 a.m for a sunrise shoot isn't something most photographers enjoy. It isn't easy coordinating sleepy models, stylists and clients. Shooting at dusk is much easier because everything can be set up in daylight.

Gage was born and raised in Pasadena and became interested in photography after taking a photography class in junior high school. He continued his photographic studies at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. After graduation, he moved to Detroit in 1965 to specialize in car photographs.

"I really enjoyed the people from the Midwest, but I couldn't handle the winters," he said. "I really despised the cold." After six years, he moved with his wife and two children to London.

"We had no job or idea where we would live and didn't know anyone there," he said. "My father had been born there, and I had always wanted to know more about it, so we ordered a Volkswagen van so we could travel though Europe."

They returned to London after five months, then moved to Laguna Beach three years later. This, he decided, would be his home.

Gage created a small office in his home, where he edits film and coordinates his location work.

After years of teaching at various workshops, this year Gage designed his own--the Stagecoach Photo Workshop, to be held in September at an old stage coach stop along the Feather River. The workshop will consist of two programs: "Dynamics of Location Shooting," taught by Gage and Chuck Kuhn, Sept. 16 through 21 and "Mastering Light and the New Technology," with Gage and George Lepp, Sept. 23 through 28.

Gage will teach a two-hour seminar at the Photo District News' Photo West '90 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 23. He will also be featured the last week in July at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.

For more information, contact Gage at (714) 494-7265.

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