Today's Awesome Guest Blogger: Celeste Hope


I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Rick Sammon recently in Death Valley. Rick and Hal Schmitt were leading our LIGHT Photographic Workshop. These two photographers make a great teaching combo, and the locations, which we visited from dawn to dusk, were a photographer’s playground.

One night over dinner and drinks (the photo fun and learning is non-stop on these workshops), Rick and I talked shop – I like to call it “geeking out" over photos. I showed Rick  some of my images on my iPhone and he loved them! I was surprised and happy when he asked me to do a guest blog post. So here goes!

I’m fairly new to California and my most recent endeavors are creating images for my husband’s winery, Hope Family Wines. We both have creative minds and enjoy coming up with new ways to market the company’s brands. What better way than through imagery? Wine is to be enjoyed with friends anywhere any time of the year. Well I think almost anywhere…

Opening image:

My husband Austin Hope came up with this idea, I think it was a dream he had because he shouted “American classics are never left behind!” so loud I woke up and remembered his tag line the next morning. He explained his vision: “I want you to shoot this scene and you’re also the girl I’m holding over my shoulder." 

I do consider myself a muti-tasker but this seemed a bit challenging. All photographers are visual people. In order for me to really get something I have to see it, preferably through the viewfinde,r not on the other side of the camera. In the end this ad did work out effortlessly. We always use the people that work for Hope Family Wines in our images. Luckily Austin’s assistant is about the same size as me so she’s a perfect stand in while I compose the scene. Once lights are set up and people are in position I jump in… and into my husbands arms in this particular photograph.


We knew this photograph was going to show up in Wine Enthusiast’s Travel issue. I usually day dream about photographs or scenes I see in my head quite often when I’m supposed to be paying attention to someone or something else. One might call it ADD. I call it creativity. I envisioned a romantic scene on a train; people traveling to a far off place enjoying Liberty School Cabernet. During a marketing meeting someone suggested a plane instead. Good call- an empty train might have been hard to track down!  

I love Canon speedlites - so light and portable. Here I set up three of them, two with soft boxes to light up the front of the plane and our Hope Family Team. The third speedlite is inside the plane lighting up Robert, who is loading cases of wine for our “big trip."  With my camera on a tripod, our graphic designer and marketing manager directing us we nailed it. Creating these ads is definitely a fun collaborative effort.  The word Troublemaker was added in post-production a subliminal statement that we sneaked in. This is the brand name of another red wine Hope Family makes. I think it could be a new favorite of Rick’s. [For sure! - Rick.]


This image was my husband’s idea. Its very masculine yet expressive. The house was very dark and the living room compact.  It was a challenge to fit six people in the scene and light everyone in a manner where it didn’t look too staged or studio. We wanted it to look like a Speakeasy perhaps an underground poker game. Austin is winning big; the dead to Liberty School in his hand. Another small detail added is the Troublemaker poster hanging on the wall- again the subliminal sneak. I used two speedlites with soft boxes and lit up the cigar girl with a hot light.  To fit everyone in a confined space I used my Canon 16-35mm lens.


This scene I saw in a dream around the time we were brainstorming ad ideas for Esquire… girl walks through the front door alone to a holiday party but she’s bringing Liberty School with her. Going alone to a party is okay but never empty handed. The more people we add the more complex it gets. A light was set up to side light the entrance and speedlites were placed around the living room to highlight faces. I used my Canon 24-70mm lens, a favorite of mine. Getting all of us into character at the same time and keeping the character was a task. We’re not models. We’re co workers and friends enjoying the craft of wine.

Before I go, I'd like to share two of my favorite images from my workshop with Rick and Hal.

Above: Sand Shark

One morning I climbed up top of the sand dunes with Rick and waited for the sunrise. Waiting for the light definitely takes patience and some stamina climbing up the sand, but all worth it in the end. The landscape, textures, and colors are amazing. A must see for a photographer. I saw this formation of light and shadows in the sand… and thought “Shark." This image is one of my many favorites from the trip.

Above: Amanda channeling Diane

We had the pleasure of photographing Amanda Valena a model they brought to the workshop.  This image feels like a scene in a movie maybe because she reminds me a little of Diane Lane. I love the negative space of the blue sky and solid color sand below her. The lines are simple and elegant. The morning light is pretty perfect as well. Both of these images from Death Valley I shot with a 24-70 mm lens on my 5D Mark II. 

To see more of my work, please visit my web site.

Thanks again, Rick!
Celeste Hope

P.S (From Rick). Hal and I are running a 2015 Death Valley workshop. Stay tuned to the LIGHT Photographic site and my 2015 Workshops page for details.