Shot for Neiman Marcus, Smith's photo didn't show the armed ranger nearby. Rodney Smith

For me, photography is all about being outside in the world, and interacting with it—the most important thing is finding the right location. To shoot a book cover for Neiman Marcus, I’d gone down to Buford, SC, and spent a week with a location scout. It wasn’t until we passed this cypress grove an hour outside Buford that I said, This is it.

After getting a permit, we arrived with the model early the next morning. I’d asked for a little boat, and we’d also picked up the dress: a $17,000 gown from Milan that had to be shipped back the next day. So we had to work fast.

We put her in the boat, and I set up my Hasselblad and 80mm lens on another boat about 15 feet away. I’d picked this spot for the way lighting cast a reflection. The park wanted a ranger there, because there were alligators and snakes. He’s in another boat just out of the frame, holding a gun.

I shot one or two rolls of Kodak Plus-X 120 film—I still shoot film—and half an hour later, we left.

See more of Rodney Smith’s work at www.RodneySmith.com__.