The Eagle Heist was my second project for Harlan Publishing, in 2000. The vision the author had for the cover was very specific and ambitious, and my initial suggestion to the publisher was that he might want to give this project to a painter or illustrator. They both insisted that they wanted my work on this, and they gave me a lot of support in what I needed to meet their requirements.
The cover image depicts the first scene in the book, where an armored car carrying diamonds in Washington DC is robbed by someone who picks it up with a magnet on a crane and drops it into the Potomac. I told them we would not find a stock photograph of the Washington skyline that would do the trick for us, as the author wanted the cover to depict the actual location of the heist that he describes in the novel (it wasn't right in front of the Lincoln Memorial, but up past Georgetown on Canal Street). The only option was for me to go to DC and shoot the location myself. Then I could add the other elements in with Photoshop.
After I discovered that it was impossible to take a photo of the actual location of the (fictional) heist from across the Potomac River, much less have the Washington skyline in the shot, I decided to do whatever I had to find a decent location to take a photo that did have the skyline in it, and just show the heist somewhere in the photo. I got lucky when I found the Netherlands Carillon, right next door to the Iwo Jima Memorial, was open to the public. The Netherlands Carillon is a bell tower of several stories, and a great place to take a photo of Washington DC.
The other elements included the face of the protagonist, a man the author deliberately created to be a Wilford Brimley lookalike. The author was in fact friends with Brimley, and he agreed to send photographs of himself in the requested pose for me to add to the cover. After that I added the crane, barge and armored car, all from digital pictures I took.
The most difficult part of creating the image was to make it look like very early in the morning on a cold December day, which is when the first scene of the book takes place. The skyline and Brimley photos were both taken late in the evening in the summer, when the sun was throwing high-contrast shadows.
Next: Eye Of The Beholder