Mad Max Apocalypse Photoshoot

A few months ago, I hit up my buddy Paul Miller, who is a movie director out of Southern California. Regular readers of my personal blog site may recognize Paul from my previous Mad Max Interceptor shoot. Paul told me that he is part of a group of folks that essentially constructs clothing, weapons, and even vehicles to re-enact the Mad Max post apocalypse in the Mojave desert, much like some re-enact the US Civil War. They are often referred to as "Wastelanders" after their annual gathering entitled "Wasteland Weekend".

First of all, this sounded like one of the most incredible things I have ever heard in my entire life. Secondly, for years I have been photographing portraits of cars that from popular films and the people that own them under a personal series of mine called the "Unicorn Project". This seemed like a perfectly appropriate and awesome opportunity to add to my personal series and add amazing content that I'm proud of to my portfolio.


A personal photoshoot like this may cost me a chunk of change out of pocket (travel, supplies, time, opportunity cost, gear rental), but the unique pieces I would create for my portfolio are priceless.

After setting a date with Paul and his "Wastelanders", I began to reach out to my friends (aka: people I could convince to work for cheap/free on this personal project) to assemble a team that included a clothing stylist to arrange clothing and additional props (Chanon Finley), hair and makeup artist (Maeve Kate Broadhurst), and people to help with various duties such as general photo assisting, and behind the scenes photo and video. I am very thankful that my friends volunteered to help because I couldn't have done it without them, especially without spending a fortune out of pocket.

Flying in from Washington DC, my home base, I travel with a lot of my own necessary gear in my camera bag and lighting cases. Although, I would need to rent some miscellaneous items such as a generator, some heavy duty light stands to withstand the desert winds, sand bags, and extra extension cables. Thankfully, many of the cool weapons and props would be provided by the Wastelanders. Whew, would have been difficult flying with that prop bazooka and chain gun from a DC airport.


The day for the photoshoot arrived and it was unseasonably cold and windy, reaching temperatures in the low 40's. These native Southern Californians were chilled to their bones with their teeth chattering and bodies shaking. It didn't help that our lead character, Chanon Finley, styled herself in an outfit that would leave half of her torso exposed to the elements (I felt so I sit here nervously laughing thinking about it). Thankfully, everyone mustered their best bloodthirsty post-apocalypse badass and pushed through.


My camera of choice was my trusty Phase One 645DF+ body with my 40 megapixel IQ140 digital back. I primarily used the Schneider 55mm, 80mm, and 75-150 lenses that day. The files are incredibly sharp and I am humoring giving away a few prints to some lucky readers :) .

I remember the end of that shoot well. We all retreated back into our home base, which was a hanger graciously donated for the day by Ron Griffith's at his shop Phoenix Auto Body (Ron specializes in creating vehicles for the post-apocalypse). My entire body was covered in dust from my propensity to roll around on the ground when I do shoots, my hair and clothing disheveled from the incredibly strong wind, and my body aching from being improperly dressed for the seemingly arctic temperatures. This may partially explain why I caught the worst flu of my entire life days later. I can only imagine how everyone else in costume felt!

I'll be honest, the day went by too quickly. There was a lot more I wanted to photograph, but that late Fall sun wanted to go to bed early. Thankfully, the Wastelanders seemed to really have fun and are letting me come back to take more photos soon. I am even seriously considering building a post-apocalypse vehicle, with the help of Ron Griffith, and attending this year's Wasteland weekend in full costume. Who's with me?!

Remember folks, personal shoots that you're passionate about keep your portfolio fresh and lively! Shoots I do in my free time like this one are what keep me busy with commercial, advertising, and editorial paid jobs.

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Hair/Makeup: Maeve Kate Broadhurst

Lead Character and Clothing Stylist: Chanon Finley

Awesome Behind the Scenes Video Footage: Jason Flynn

Awesome Behind the Scenes Photos: Nick Schultz

Location: Ron Griffith and his shop Phoenix Auto Body

Photoshoot Coordinator: Paul Miller (without him this shoot wouldn't have happened)

Retouchers (I do most of my own retouching, but once in awhile I pull in the big dogs to help give my photos an extra explosion of awesome): Justin Paguia and Filip Osowski

Assistant and great photographer: Nate Hassler

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logo_v2_478852_867438_611531225_o Ron Griffith

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Paul Miller Paul Miller




Behind the scenes photos by Nick Schultz:











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81a70842427011e28dc722000a1fbcbc_7 After parttyyyyyyy with my girls Chanon and Kate at my favorite Hollywood watering hole, Barney's Beanery. Without these two helping to plan things out and collaborate, I couldn't have gotten this shoot done right. Thanks girls!
Douglas Sonders's picture

Commercial Photographer (mainly Phase One medium format digital) and filmmaker based out of NYC. Started a site called to spread stories about well-behaved and positive pitbulls. Love cars, 80s movies, dogs, and adventure. Free time is spent traveling, sleeping, adventuring, or working on my baby, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1.

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So awesome, loved the final results!

Off topic: What was used on those BTS pics towards the end to get that grainy film look? Works great for this set. Cheers!

 I would guess that it's VSCO.

Great series! I want to play with cars like that! 

Very nice. Those people remind me of the movie "Bellflower."

Super. Final images are nice. Nice work Douglas