Brown has photographed conflicts in Africa, vintage trains in China, and the electronica music scene in Cuba. He is best known for his series of photographs on the Libyan Civil War.
His work has appeared in books, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. While he has photographed lions, soldiers, and endangered habitats, Brown had never photographed a vehicle for a car company — until now.
Range Rover invited us to go behind the scenes for a day with Brown and of course we happily jumped at the opportunity.
Brown started his journey north from Portland, Oregon about a week earlier in a 2017 Range Rover to capture the “Ultimate Vista” shot in remote locations.
I flew into Seattle, where a 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury was waiting for me so I could catch up with the photographer.
The Silicon Silver SUV with an Ebony interior cuts a rugged, yet luxurious profile and is the perfect vehicle for such an adventure.
Under the hood, the Discovery packs a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine that offers 340 horsepower and 332-lb-ft of torque. The four-wheeler’s engine is mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.
I drove late into the night, past bright neon lights from Indian casinos, and into nearly complete darkness of the Pacific Northwest to meet Brown in a seaside town in the morning.
The Disco’s adaptive LED headlights with auto high beam assist are perfect for the dark, winding roads as I exit the interstate for Highway 20 and headed west towards the ship-building town of Anacortes. The headlights flick on and off automatically and adjust as I drive into darkened turns.
Its high beams also revert back to normal mode when approaching vehicles are detected in the distance. Using the SUV’s navigation system also helped make finding my hotel a breeze.
Anacortes looks ghostly after midnight. The Majestic Inn could make a great location for a Wes Anderson or a Stephen King film.
By the next morning, the town slowly creeps back to life; the sounds of seagulls, and a new dawn ushers in — another cloudy day.
I finally catch up with Brown at the inn. He has a small entourage with him that consists of the Land Rover team, two car journos, and a small camera crew.
He is tall, has dark brown hair, and wears a Southwest Native American flannel shirt, jeans, and hiking boots. He looks like an actor — maybe even one of the Wahlbergs — although he looks more Donnie than Mark.
Brown is from the area and grew up in the Skagit Valley, a farming community in Washington State. Over a hearty breakfast, Brown discussed his latest adventures with the Land Rover in search of the ultimate shot.
“We spent last night on San Juan Island and caught the 5 am ferry,” said Brown.
His team has been traveling together now for a solid week straight. They encountered plenty of wildlife including eagles, elks, and even some locals along the way.
“There was even a woman on horseback that galloped along side the Rover for a closer look,” he explains.
“We also caught some bungee jumpers diving off a short bridge.”
They were obviously caught off guard at the sight of the passing luxury SUVs in the middle of nowhere.
After our meal, I ride shotgun with Brown to try and gain some insight to his current endeavor. Having grown up in the area and working its fields as a youth, he knows it well. The valley we are in is filled with rich volcanic soil and is perfect for growing berries, spinach, and tulips.
“We shot tulips by Mt. Rainier before they got topped,” said Brown pointing at a lush field.
On a clear day you can see nearby Mt. Baker and Mt. St. Helena in the distance. Brown tells me his father is also a photographer. As a kid, they had a darkroom at home where he honed his skills at an early age. He later studied photography at nearby Bellingham College and worked as a newspaper photographer for several years.
Later, we stop at Pioneer Park and scope out the Rainbow Bridge as a possible location for a photo shoot. Brown takes off up a trail for a closer look. After a couple of minutes he returns and is excited about the new location. We get the Range Rover where it needs to be and observe the process in action.
Time passes, the light changes, and he eventually gets the money shot. Brown admits he has taken at least 9,000 exposures since he began his journey. Editing it all down is going to be an even bigger adventure.
“It’s way too many, but I want to give the client a variety of images,” he explains.
Brown shoots with a Sony Alpha a7s digital camera with a Leica glass lens. He started using this setup on his many trips to Cuba.
“Since I began using slow multiple exposures, it makes me more comfortable.”
We crisscross the Skagit Valley for the rest of the morning; snap a few more photos of the Range Rover, which is painted in Corris Gray with a black contrast roof, next to a field of bright yellow wild flowers. The supercharged SUV rolls on 21-inch wheels, and retails for $105,815 if you are looking to buy one for yourself.
After enduring another hour to get a couple of drone shots for a YouTube video, we hightail it to Mt. Vernon when it really starts to pour. The sound of the raindrops on the hood is steady, yet it is also very soothing.
“The idea of course is to show the place,” Brown tells me about shooting the Rover on location in the valley. “This used to be huge forest and there were trees everywhere.”
Now it’s mostly farmland and, Brown says, on a clear day, you can see logging clear cuts on the distant hills.
After lunch in Mt. Vernon, we investigate a muddy, clam location next to a state park for a possible background — it’s a bust (although the razor clams are quite tasty) and we eventually make our way across the sound via a ferry to Lummi Island. Another downpour ends our day of shooting in the wild.
Despite the heavy rains, the scenery and the photographs are breathtaking. We can’t show them to you yet, but tune in next week for the official photographs by Michael Christopher Brown and his search of the perfect vista in a Range Rover.
In the meantime, here is our exclusive gallery of some of the behind the scenes action to peruse.