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Forza Horizon 5 – Racing through Mexico

The cat is out of the bag! Nobody knew I spent a large part of 2019-2020 working on a secret project with a secret codename. Namely, I was doing research and reference photography throughout Mexico for the now widely known smash hit racing video game Forza Horizon 5 created by the genre-defining UK developer Playground Games and published by Xbox Game Studios. What an irony of fate that bookending the countrywide lockdown, I had such an unprecedented privilege to travel and explore some of the most stunning locations in Mexico on assignment! While I was entrusted with the coverage of such regions as Oaxaca farmlands, Chiapas jungles and Chihuahua canyons, my other two colleagues focused on equally stunning Baja, Yucatan and Guanajuato.

The immensity of my photo-gathering task aside, throughout the journey I was also facing some of the biggest challenges in my photography career – irreplaceable gear problems in the field, leveling up my Spanish immensely to communicate with curious locals and my security team, sudden debilitating snowstorms (yes! snowstorms in Mexico!), navigating dangerous road passages and sometimes making the call to change entire routes, there was even a tragic accident that called off my pro rock-climber assistant to lead a rescue operation in the mountains only he knew… Needless to say, without my awesome team members helping along the way, I couldn’t have succeeded. It’s true, this project truly changed my life! At the end of 2021, as the trailers and marketing materials were being released preceding the game’s launch in November, all I could do was marvel at the resulting achievement of Playground Games artists who transformed our photography and videos into the 3-D backdrop of the game.

To be honest, sometimes I think that this entire experience must’ve been a dream… When this happens I pinch myself and remember the words our project producer had written during the release: “Delivering this game under covid was a monumental task, and I know that created huge challenges for each of you while out on location. Somehow, against all the odds we have built an amazing game, and without your efforts gathering thousands of photographs and videos for us, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve the levels of beauty and authenticity represented in our game world.”

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