You know those shoots where you get to the set and realize: today is gonna be rough? It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s raining. Your model is freezing and your fingerless gloves are leaving your fingertips numb.
But what are you gonna do? You’re a professional, and all you can do is grit your teeth and deal with it. It’s days like this that separate the wheat from the chaff, damnit, and who wants to admit to being chaff? Sure as hell not you.
There’s an upside to these shoots, though. When you put up with weather and obstacles that would send most people diving for the couch, you’re going to end up with shots that are out of the ordinary. Your models might not be bathed in glowing sunlight, but sometimes a dark sky can be exactly what you needed.
I had one of those shoots a couple of weeks ago. Internationally acclaimed chef Eyck Zimmer wanted some urban, gritty portraits that would showcase his personality and background as a native Berliner – a dream assignment for me. Food + creative weirdos? Sign me up.
The only problem? Scheduling an outdoor shooting – in Berlin – in early February. I’m a Californian, so I’m spoiled as far as outdoor shoots go. If a client or an editor wants to shoot something outdoors in CA, you have roughly 98% chance that it won’t be raining that day. No worries, mate.
In Berlin, on the otherhand, you’d better be ritually sacrificing memory cards to the weather gods for a week before the shoot. Or else have an indoor backup plan, which wasn’t really possible in this case. There’s just no way to shoot Alexanderplatz or the Berlin Wall from indoors. So we held our breath and waited.
The morning of the shoot, things were looking good. It was cloudy, but dry, and the sun was starting to peek tantilizingly through the clouds. My assistant and I gathered up our gear and headed off to meet Eyck. By the time we got to the first location, though, the sun was gone, and the wind was driving frozen rain straight into our faces. As we stood there, freezing, waiting for Eyck, I decided that it just wasn’t going to work. Neither he nor I wanted to be out in this weather, I was sure. But when I got him on the telephone and heard the words “I’ll be right there – we just had to pick up a pigs foot for the shoot” – I changed my mind. How can you say no to a pigs foot as a prop?
In the end, it was one of my favorite shootings ever. Eyck and I were both freezing, my hands were so cold I could barely handle my gear, and I had to roll around on wet, frozen cement a few times to get the right angle – but when I saw how the pics were working out, the creative drive took over and I loved every minute of it.
What about you? What are your stories from the trenches?