Friday, January 7, 2011

When your subjects have a sense of humor portraits are fun

The other day I was assigned the task of photographing a pair of swimmers for the Daily Ambush.
Because much of the sports staff is under the impression that they can think visually, they generally get a pre-conceived notion about what they want the photo to look like. The ideas the sports staff comes up with are usually really stupid. Then, for some reason the writer usually wants to be there to oversee the portrait process.
I'm not exactly sure what a sports writer, or any other writer for that matter, is going to do during a portrait photo session other than get in the way and distract the subject. Usually what ends up happening is I try to do it my way and bitch about the writer making it a hassle later.
Good portraits generally take time, something we don't usually get here at the Daily Ambush. Either the person who needs the photo to go with their story doesn't realize they need it and puts in a request pretty late or the person who sends me out to take photos doesn't give me enough notice. When someone comes to you four hours before you need to do something different and creative and says, "you have to make a portrait at this location at this time good luck," you get stuck sometimes.
Fortunately the last few days I've had flashes of creativity. Did you see what I did there? The pun? A photographer with FLASHES of creativity. I digress. Maybe my newfound creativity is due to the new Scotch I've been drinking, who knows.
So I find out I have to photograph these two swimmers and the first thought for me is, "something underwater would be neato." Since I didn't know about this before I came into work I didn't have swim trunks or my water-proof point and shoot. The point and shoot would have worked, but it was at home and probably has a dead battery. If I'd known I was going to be doing this a few days in advance I might have been able to get a fish tank to make some sort of under-water photo. It's a cool trick where you displace the water with the tank, put the camera in it and it looks like you spent a little money on a housing.
Neither option was available to me because of the ambush, so here I am again shooting my way out of it. The only way to do that is to lay down an overwhelming field of suppressive fire. I get killed in ambushes about 50% of the time. My flash of creativity for this assignment was to set up some remote strobes and photograph the guys falling backward into the water off the deck of the pool, firing the shutter as they splashed in.
Amazingly it only took about 25 takes. I really thought it was going to be a lot longer, getting two people to fall at the same rate is harder than it sounds despite what Newton says.
So here was my favorite:
 The splash is sweet and the photo is very unique. I like the fact that it tight and a little unclear at first. The expression of the guy on the right is a little off, but eh.

Because on any given day a photo editor can be your best friend or the biggest idiot in the world this is the photo which ran. I think it is anyway I don't read the paper so I can stay sane. I still like it and I don't really care one way or the other which one ends up in the paper, like I said I'll never see it. Having stuff run is mainly for contest requirements now anyway and you can cheat and throw the shit you want to enter on the internet 6 months after the fact and still qualify so who cares really?

The thing that made this shoot cool was when I explained what I wanted to do to my subjects and their coach everyone was stoked. "Yeah, that sounds awesome," was the response I got.
Anytime I get a good idea and the subject gets stoked on it I get very motivated. If everyone were as cool as these guys my job would be awesome everyday.

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