For over 45 years, PSB Speakers has been driven by its passion and pursuit of true to nature sound. When PSB founder and chief designer, Paul Barton, started the company in 1972, his goal was to develop loudspeakers that would accurately deliver dynamic, natural acoustics. Through his work at Canada’s National Research Council, including his participation in the famed psychoacoustic “Athena Project,” Barton was able to create one of the world’s most recognized speakers, the PSB Alpha Series.
To reflect PSB’s unwavering dedication to true to nature sound, as well as its Canadian roots, all of PSB’s current speakers were photographed in some of Canada’s most lush outdoor environments. The final imagery highlights the brand’s heritage and challenges audiences to consider how something should naturally sound and how man-made speakers could do justice to the natural sound of a voice or of a trumpet playing. It was a concept that Chris Major, the Creative Lead from PSB’s marketing team, was not entirely sure would work.
“At first, all I could really focus on was the challenge,” says Major. “Placing audio equipment in a forest didn’t really seem like a great idea.” However, after working through various mock-ups, Major was convinced the concept was the perfect fit for the brand. “Canada is blessed with such a rich natural resource. It’s such an important part of our heritage. The idea was to use that to parallel the heritage that PSB shares.”
The next step was to execute the photography, which Major admits initially proved to be difficult. “The problem for me was getting the balance right. We needed the speakers to stand out but also look like they belonged in an environment that they weren’t built for.”
To help bring his vision to life, Major searched for a photographer who was experienced with shooting products outdoors. After reviewing various portfolios, Major discovered a Canadian photographer by the name of Rob Nelson. Having prior experience with shooting in the wilderness, Major was confident that Nelson was the right person for the job. “[Rob] has a variety of product shots that are set in nature, so we could see what was possible and how it could be tailored to the PSB brand.”
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Nelson was tasked with photographing all of PSB’s current models in and around B.C.’s renowned forests. “I’m happy with the outcome,” says Major. “This campaign rests so heavily on the photography. Rob really delivered and it shows he understood the overall theme we wanted to convey.” While the photographs taken by Nelson effortlessly articulate PSB’s signature natural sound, getting the shots proved to be quite tricky.
“I did not give enough consideration to the size or weight of the speakers,” says Nelson. Raised in Southern Ontario, Nelson developed a deep appreciation for the wilderness at a young age. Having worked as a photographer in the outdoors industry in both Canada and New Zealand, Nelson was more than prepared to tackle the challenges the shoot posed. “Hands down the biggest challenge early on in the summer was the ferocious mosquito population.”
PSB Speakers: What were your initial impressions of the True To Nature concept?
Rob Nelson: As someone who already owned some PSB speakers and loves to get outside it seemed like a cool idea and a great fit.
How did you go about planning the shoot?
I made sure I had some help, then pulled out the Backroad Mapbook and started looking around areas that I had been to and were great or areas that I wanted to explore. I had general regions that I wanted to check out and options to stay at but made sure to leave room for flexibility because you never know what’s around the corner.
What were some of the challenges you faced while shooting in the wild?
I’ve done a lot of camping both here in British Columbia and in Northern Ontario, and the bugs I encountered on our first trip were by far the worst I’ve ever seen. They were everywhere and didn’t go away no matter the time of day.
That being said there were a bunch of factors that I had to consider when planning these shoots, how big the speakers were, the weather, how far away the location was, who could help, the forest fire situation. We did have to turn around at one point due to the forest service road being closed because of the tinder dry forest. Navigation on the backroads was an issue at times with many areas not having cell service and the network of trails, road and dead ends being extensive.
How do you feel about using nature as a stage?
What better canvas? Everything is better and more interesting outside.
Why did you decide to camp out for the duration of the shoot?
Because it allowed much more flexibility in our destination and timing, not to mention it’s fun and I enjoy exploring the backroads. To be clear, I wasn’t hiking anywhere with speakers so these were camping locations we could drive into, but we still got way off the beaten track.
Can you walk us through your routine while you were out shooting?
Pick a general area you’d like to stay at that night, figure out the most interesting way to get there, then drive and be sure to get out once in a while to check out the creeks, rivers, forests, and cliffs for good spots to shoot. I quickly learned in shooting these that you’re going to need to get really low and somehow do your best to get the speakers to sit flat on something that definitely isn’t.
Sand is your friend, so are small sticks and rocks to use for shims. Also, this is where two people come in very handy because getting a speaker to stand straight is no easy task. Due to the size of speakers many of the shots weren’t too far away from roads, but it just goes to show there is beauty everywhere, even close to roads.
What do you want people to take away from your photographs?
I want people to see what a beautiful country we live in and that there are views and scenes everywhere that bring pure joy if we stop to look and listen.