the photo show must go on

Today I was thinking of a photo shoot I once did for a top manufacturer of motocross (motorcycle) clothing. They paid me to attend a race and photograph their star rider in racing action wearing brand new gear they were about to release. Rather than photograph the rider on a closed course, I was hired to photograph him in peak action during an actual event on the pro racing tour. A decent amount of money was being spent and the clothing manufacturer had an important catalog and ad lined up for the images to appear in. Getting an exciting shot that was technically perfect would be critical.

I warned the client that the weather could be unpredictable on race weekend. They didn’t seem to want to hear that and insisted that this was the way to go. To cover my bases I asked for full payment in advance of the shoot, something I don’t think I’ve done before or since. The day before the race a Fed Ex package appeared with a check in it. I was on my way.

Unfortunately for everyone, race weekend turned out to be hot, humid and raining. The gear provided was a style that didn’t “breathe” and the rider complained it would be unbearably hot for him to wear during the actual race. He reluctantly agreed to don the equipment during the morning’s two short practice sessions. My time getting photographs would be very limited. Add in that the course was knee deep in mud and I may only have a couple snaps of the shutter before his shiny new clothing was covered in dirt and rendered useless.

Yes, this was bad planning on the part of the company. They were located in Southern California where it never rains and the weather is predictable. In retrospect they should have shot at a local race course in SoCal, where they usually did…but they wanted something different, a look they felt I could provide from here in the Midwestern U.S. (brown dirt and lush green trees). They didn’t envision things would go this particular way. Regardless, I was there to do a good job and even if it meant shooting just one action photo, it had to be a good one.

In all I shot about six slides of the rider while the gear was clean. The company wasn’t happy about the quantity of images but that was totally out of my control. Each image was perfectly usable for their purposes and the bases were covered. The photo shoot was a success, despite the odds, and that’s what’s expected when hiring a professional.

Today brought back memories of that particular shoot because of weather. High winds ripped through Cincinnati on Sunday, some gusts clocked at up to 75 mph, it’s been reported. Trees are down everywhere, as are electric lines. 600,000 area residents have been left without power and today (Monday) all area schools are closed, as are most businesses. Residents have been cautioned to drive only if necessary and long lines of cars are parked outside of the few gas stations able to open. While this situation doesn’t compare with the degree of devastation inflicted in hurricane territory, it has effectively shut down a large part of the area.

As you can imagine, conditions weren’t exactly perfect to begin a week long combination photo / video shoot at 8 a.m. this morning. My studio, Daylight Photo, is booked to provide the still photography duties for one of our very good clients, creating the bulk of visuals for their 2009 advertising campaigns. Multiple locations plus studio photography with talent are on tap for the rest of this week.

Pulling together a production of this size requires countless hours, expense and the participation of many. While we always have a contingency plan for weather, that plan generally accounts for rain or storms. This morning the job producer found herself dealt some cards no one could have imagined a few days ago. Despite thorough planning, here are a few of the challenges she was faced with at the start of our location shoot this morning:

  • Our client lives in an adjacent county which was placed under emergency, which means she would be waiting at home until receiving clearance to drive on the roads.
  • The company we were shooting for was closed (no power) and the products and props we needed were locked away.
  • Also, because of the closure, employees assisting on the shoot were told to take the day off with everyone else, unaware that we would continue working.
  • Power was out at the location.

The great thing about working with other professionals is that the day started out with a great mood and atmosphere despite cloudy skies and the obvious complications. The talent had arrived in town safely the day before and was ready to go. Wasting time is wasting money so the production somehow began nearly on schedule.

One of the downsides for photography on this day is that video would take precedence. After working through the kinks and bugs of the day we found ourselves allowed only 20 minutes to shoot with the talent. Despite the complications, compromises and “hurrying up to wait” of the day, a professional photographer is still expected to make the most of their given time. The photo results have to be professional, polished and natural looking, whether the allotted time is 8 hours or 20 minutes. The photo show must go on!