Unforgettable San Antonio – The Buckhorn Saloon

crisman san antonio tourism

How do you approach creating the impossible? When tasked with making photos that simply do not exist outside of imagination and concept, how do you bring those ideas to life? More importantly, how does it all come together? – These are just a few of the questions that we had to ask ourselves earlier this year when we began an unforgettable project for the city of San Antonio, Texas working with Proof Advertising. It’s been weeks of shooting, months of retouching, and thousands of photos later, but we are rolling out the first of these incredible ads – The Buckhorn Saloon.

When you’re asked to create a photo in a famous historic saloon with eleven talent, one NBA superstar, two priceless paintings, nine unique costumes, 55 taxidermy animals, and one former NBA superstar, the only correct answer is simply “Where do we begin?”

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn(a very rough take on the background plate for The Buckhorn from early on in the project)

It all starts with the background – the saloon itself in this case, a historic bar and museum located in the heart of central San Antonio. Being a famous historic building and popular tourist attraction, this location required some crazy logistics to get the shot. The first challenge was to photograph the space itself – requiring us to work well into the night, the only time the saloon was available and not mobbed by tourists.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn

There’s also the issue of how do you like a space like this, and even more importantly, how do you keep your lighting consistent across all of the subjects and elements throughout the final image. We worked very carefully and methodically while shooting all aspects of the image to make sure the direction of light and shadow corresponded with where the different subjects would be in frame.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn

Moving into the studio and to various other locations around San Antonio, we began to capture the remaining photos to fill in the space.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn

We rolled our production to locations throughout the city in order to capture the most vital elements of what San Antonio had to offer. Need the best fine dining? Simple – book the restaurant for an afternoon and have the kitchen whip up their best dishes.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn

Of course we couldn’t leave out the San Antonio Spurs, or forget former NBA superstar, David Robinson (yes he really is that tall – it is a good thing we packed the extra tall tripod for the shoot).

Over the weeks that we were shooting the various assets of this image, we realized the process was akin to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. This image and the entire campaign started out as a vision and an idea, defined but not definite, and as we photographed the elements it began to take shape, ever evolving as new pieces were created.


The best example of this jigsaw puzzle approach is the Komodo dragon hanging out at the foot of the bar. The creature was absent from the original sketches but we realized the importance of not only including the San Antonio zoo in this image, but also the visual significance and uniqueness of placing him on the floor.

chris crisman san antonio tourism advertising buckhorn

Every piece of the final composite has been meticulously planned and scrutinized, both visually and conceptually. Each element tells a unique story about San Antonio.


And there’s no better way to get the full effect than taking a look at the ad in it’s full glory online at http://www.unforgettablesa.com – You’ll be able to interact with the image and learn about the rich history and exciting places San Antonio has to offer. You can also take a closer look at this image in the New Work section on our website.

So how is an image like this possible – how does it all come together? Stay tuned later this week while we dive into the retouching that makes an incredible composite like this possible. We’ll break it down layer by layer for the full explanation. For now though, let us know your thoughts in the comments below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!

4 replies to “Unforgettable San Antonio – The Buckhorn Saloon”

  1. Ahaha got surprised when seeing the large version of the image, I know the pistol guy from somewhere… hmmm… http://crismanphoto.com/New-Work/11/ and I guess I remember the mexican couple from an old blog post, maybe bts shots.

    Two quick questions, dunno if these are planned to be said later here on the blog… how many days to take all the pictures and… did you guys took them all in San Antonio or there was something / someone left to be photographed in Philly / somewhere else?

    One more amazing job, it looks funny in the interactive version.

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