When we first saw Medicinal Light & Magic photos, we were struck by the moody sophistication, organic textures, and yes -- the incredible lighting. Now, we're excited to add Topstone to his artistic roster, with a series of photos and videos that bring together nature, winter get-aways, and those Topstone clouds. With an original track created by The Josh Craig, this is our mood.
Erik Hecht, aka @weedlightmagic, takes us behind the scenes:
Where are you based and what do you shoot?
I’m based out of Seattle Washington and therefore shoot cannabis and cannabis products in the dark.
You have a distinct visual style -- how would you describe it, and how did you develop it?
My cannabis ritual started as a sleep aid, so consuming it late at night in a dimly-lit personal space sort of became my aesthetic. I grew up in a hippie college town, so the only marijuana culture that I was exposed to was a tie-dye psychedelic eyesore. The culture really needs to move away from that style if it wants to be taken seriously, so refining the aesthetic of cannabis into something more mature is really important to me. I shoot it the way you would shoot a bottle of wine or a nice watch.
My work is colorful, but I’m very mindful about how many colors I use. Removing and avoiding specific colors, either by choosing not to shoot them or by desaturating/adjusting them in post production, is a big part of my photographic style. It’s the same way I like my cocktails; you get about three ingredients to make something good. Any more than that and it starts to taste like potpourri.
What is your shooting process like for cannabis? What’s is like on your set?
I make a living as a cinematographer, so I own a ton of lighting equipment. Using that gear feels like work though, so my cannabis photography is where I experiment with unconventional lighting techniques. I’ve shot way more cannabis photos with flashlights and mirrors than you’d be able to guess. I keep my process to a minimum as much as I can. Most of my shots are captured using just one light, two lights at the most. I’m incredibly particular about lighting though, so as a challenge to myself I never depend on using natural light unless I’m shooting outside. Controlling the light is makes it feel like art to me.
How do you like to use cannabis in your daily life? Any special preferences or rituals?
I use quite a bit of cannabis, so photographing it makes me feel a lot less guilty about smoking or vaping all afternoon and watching movies. Living in Seattle, I’m surrounded by nature, so I love taking the Topstone vaporizer out for a nature walk or for a walk to a local restaurant. I always finish the day off with some indica rosin in the Topstone with the single coil heating element.
What’s your favorite piece of camera gear? What makes the magic?
My favorite piece of gear is definitely my Sony A7rii. I’m a gear junkie and it’s rare for me to hold onto a camera body for more than a year before jumping to something new, but this camera really gives me everything I need. As for what makes the magic, the short answer is...me. I like to think of myself as the magic in the weedlightmagic equation. The light is the most important element though. Or the weed.
You shoot in gorgeous locations, like the snowy cabin in the mountains or hiking trails with waterfalls and views. What was shooting at the cabin like?
The cabin shoot was a blast, despite the number of times I smacked my head on that A-Frame ceiling in the loft. We tried to go on an ambitious hike around some abandoned train tunnels while we were there, but the snow on the road got too deep for my hatchback. The rest of the afternoon consisted of wine, vaporizers and a hot tub and was a significant improvement.
Any other favorite shooting experiences?
I’ve recently started doing photo and video work with some local cannabis producers. It’s been fascinating to get a glimpse into how some of these high end products get made in an organic and sustainable way. I’ve learned a lot about concentrates and how they can be created in a safe and clean way. Filming the guys from Leira hand-rolling cannagars has been one of my favorite cannabis shoots from a visual standpoint though.
We’ve talked about bringing freshness and creativity and a “story” to cannabis and cannabis products -- what kind of story do you hope people pick up on when they see @weedlightmagic photos? What do you want @weedlightmagic to be known for?
I’m all about destigmatizing marijuana, so I hope my photos can help more people realize that there are brilliant artists and craftsmen working in this industry. I don’t think I would have any interest in photographing cannabis if there weren’t products with high-end aesthetic value and thoughtful design. Cannabis consumption shouldn’t stay hidden and it shouldn't embarrassing. Products should be on proud display at home like a sculpture.