Meditation? Yoga? Giant bag of weed? In the midst of a big photo production, sadly, none of those things are truly practical. On these types of photo shoots, where there are many, many moving parts, and the unknowable, unanticipated wrench in the works lurks behind every woebegone test shot you make, the photographer remains the eye of the storm. Whilst all rages about you as if you are an extra in the movie Twister (“Is that the same cow?”) you must find the secret place in your head which remains unassailable, yea, even meditative.
In Budapest, I had to light a museum for a fashion shoot, being one of four photographers worldwide chosen to introduce the Nikon D850, which, until I had a Z 9 in my hands, was the best camera I had ever used. It was a huge honor, and the lighting of this museum, I confess, was a self-inflicted wound. I wrote the treatment (amongst others) and Nikon Creative said in response, “We like it!”
All great news, until you have to put your photons where your mouth is. Big production. 20 to 30 thousand watt seconds of flash. Flash on cranes in the street, lighting the windows. (We could only work overnight.) Flashes everywhere. A falling statue, an escaping cat burglar, a sleepy security guard. A crew of about 30. Me on camera, and a live microphopne, all week. Casting, wardrobe. Did I mention something about being the eye of the storm? Trust me, more tk on this production.
A trait I’ve tried to learn through many years of big productions is to do my best to never let them see you sweat. Hence when the bug eyed PA hired by the film crew you’ve never encountered before comes up to you incoherently mashing together hyperbolic verbs and adjectives into a message of doom about how the electric circuit just got blown and the lights are down, and there’s a storm barreling towards the location of biblical power, you muster the zen to simply say, “Okay.”
I try to be calm on location, as best I can. There have been moments when I have fallen short of that state, and gotten a bit grousy, even despondent, but generally I try to float (outwardly, anyway) like a balloon over the fracas, and think ahead to the next couple of moves. You must remain resolutely polite and pleasant, and a veritable beacon of good natured optimism in front of the crew. And this team on this massive museum shoot, film crew, assistants, photo crew, and talent were just phenomenal – such a positive experience. I learn from every crew I work with.
The history of my success at this, and my occasional utter failure, will be the topic of one of my talks at Scott Kelby’s Photoshop World Conference this year, coming up very soon, running from August 30th through September 1st. I offer musings about the history of big productions, and also teach another class called, “At the End of the Day (Or the Assignment) We are Storytellers.” Both will be lively, fun, hopefully informative, and have a touch of photo history weaved in and amongst the present day discussion of all those pixels we have access to now.
Here’s the link to register for this year’s (still virtual) Photoshop World, one of the last remaining anchors in the photo calendar. Photoshop World remains a bastion of credible learning from solid photographers who have a depth of experience to back up their teaching, all mixed in with social media fun, interactivity and the astonishing magic of post-production, driven by vivid imaginations. Hit go for this one!