Here in Oregon, the rain is on its way, so I squeezed in one more outdoor shoot before it’s too wet to really do it any more. The story of these photos is pretty simple. The story of how I managed to make them is anything but.
I’ve been reading a book that presents a bunch of exercises and projects that one photographer used when she was tired of her work and wanted to re-vamp her portfolio. I haven’t used any of those ideas yet, at least in part because when she would describe putting together all the elements of a complex idea, she would blithely refer to “throwing it to her creative team.” How could I possibly keep up with that? I didn’t have a creative team. At most, a shoot would be me and a model. That’s it.
So, a couple months ago, I recruited some friends and colleagues to be my creative team. The idea was that we’d be able to brainstorm ideas, and they’d be able to provide skills and resources that I just don’t have. This was the first project I did with their help.
We started from a couple of photos I had seen, taken by a photographer near Bend. She set up a brass four-poster bed out in a farm yard, brought a model out there, and did a gorgeous shoot. When I told her I was going to steal that idea, she told me to go for it.
I picked it as the first project because I thought it would be a little ambitious, but not horribly so. I think I misjudged it. Finding a location was surprisingly easy, thanks to a friend-of-a-friend relationship with one of the creative team. Dealing with the bed was excruciating. We didn’t have any access to a proper four-poster bed, so our brainstorming led to us figuring out ways to create something reasonable from camp cots and air mattresses, while building an arbor around it, to simulate the four-poster.
And then Pat had the brilliant idea of covering the arbor with branches. And after that, while we were attaching the branches, Miranda had the equally-brilliant idea of covering the lumber of the underlying frame with bark. By the time we were done, we had a structure that looked like it was growing up out of the ground. Add the bed from my guest room, and you’ve got a set.
After that, it was just a matter of gathering a model — I was lucky enough to have three who wanted to come and brave the pre-sunrise cold — and doing the shoot.
I’m pleased with the results, though I made the mistake of looking at them the day of the shoot. I stopped doing that years ago, because they never live up to the excitement of the shoot itself. A couple days later, when I can look at them a little more dispassionately, they’re lovely, but right away, any flaw is magnified. This time it was especially bad; a big advantage of the creative team approach was the fact that being a little accountable to them meant I couldn’t give up on the shoot when things got difficult, but at the same time, that also meant that I felt the pressure of their stakes in the final result. So, when all I could see was all the photos that were out of focus, or badly exposed, or just otherwise crappy, I basically melted down. I’m talking full-on, that’s-it-I’m-never-taking-another-photograph-again panic. Fortunately, within a couple days, I was back to being able to find the good in the photos, instead of just the flaws, and I’m even more resolved to let my photos stew a little before I take the off the camera.
I was lucky enough to have help on this shoot from a couple of other photographers, who had their own take on the shoot, plus some behind-the-scenes shots.
- Paul Deatherage
- Lonnie Mandigo (coming soon)
- Models: Mae Jones Aid, Rachel Pike, Kara Jenne
- Set Construction: Miranda Prince, Isaac Jones
- Special Thanks: Paul Deatherage, Lonnie Mandigo