minute:72 : prepare

Starbucks: 7th & Redondo: Long Beach

When we started this project, both Eric and I wanted to attempt something creative with nothing more brought to the table other than a camera and our experience that has gotten us this far. No pre-production meetings. No predetermined props. No set. No preparation at all. Even the subject that we were to base our shoot on isn’t known until we arrive – we take the top newspaper on the stand at Starbucks, open it up to page 7 and whatever the second word on the page is, is the inspiration for our next 72 minutes.

So it was pretty ironic that our inspiration word for today was “prepare”.

We first sat down and started to prepare our shoot. Instead of searching for subject matter that works with our word, we decided that we had to figure out how we could put as much preparation into one shot as possible – and have it be evident that it was prepared. So we set out to create a studio shot without a studio. To pull this off, we needed things – lighting, a seamless background, and a model at the very least.

If the sun would poke out from behind the overcast clouds this morning, we would have lighting, so we kept our fingers crossed. As for subject matter, we were sure that we could find something on the street that would be worthy of a photograph. But how were we going to get a white seamless background at a coffee shop? We had to get creative.

We set out down the street to see what we could find. And luckily only a few doors down was a UPS store. We figured they had to have large roll printer paper that would work perfectly. They did. But since they never sell it without it going through a printer first, the girl working there didn’t know how to ring it up. It looked like a letter sized sheet of paper is the biggest that they would be able to provide us. One item off our checklist.

Since our seamless background was small, next was finding something small to shoot. The only thing around that was small enough and available in multiple options was the trash laying around the street. We figured that’s all we were stuck with, so we started hunting. It’s amazing how you can look at trash and start thinking “that trash just doesn’t cut it” or “hey, check out the color on that trash” or “I can’t believe you just touched that”. At least we had options.

We finally settled on a few pieces of trash that made the cut – one interesting bright green slightly-crushed Kool cigarette box, one black Camel cigarette box with a bent cigarette hanging out, and one crumpled bright orange food wrapper.

minute:72 : 3kingsWhen we were scouting for the place to shoot, we came across a red wall that had a silhouette of the 3 Kings on their camels. We took that as a sign that we were at our location and that we should start shooting the Camel box. So we set up right there on the sidewalk and started our shoot. Only a few minutes later the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds. We had to act fast and find some good light. Not only because we had 10 minutes left, but also because we didn’t know how long our lighting was going to be available. It looked like the closest street corner was going to be the new location. And up went our mini seamless backdrop in the right lighting.

We started shooting away. Turning the props, adjusting, shooting, adjusting, shooting some more. And although we didn’t shoot many different subjects this day, we did focus on a few and explored what we had prepared before us. But what came out of this was not what we had prepared, but a single moment during the preparation process.

One hand reaching in from above to adjust the subject. Preparing it for its next shot on the mini seamless just as one orange car happened to be driving by echoing the bright orange of the crumpled food wrapper. Not the original composition we were aiming for, but far more interesting than a lonely subject on white. I guess, some things you just can’t prepare.



9:05 am
Starbucks: 2nd St and Covina: Belmont Shore

Another overcast day in Long Beach in December. It’s cool out and the light is flat. There is water still on the ground from a rain a couple of days ago. Everything around tells us that a slow start isn’t an uncommon thing amongst everyone at the Starbucks where we’re meeting. After grabbing a coffee to get things moving a little faster we went to get our third word. Tension.

Tension – we can handle that. It should be easy, so we started our timer, sat down and looked up the meaning to make sure we think of all the possible angles.

The act of stretching. The state of being stretched or strained. Mental or emotional strain. This is going to be an easy one. Just looking up and down the street, we could see things that held tension. So we sat a bit more and enjoyed the leisurely start to our day.

The time came to get some images captured, so Eric grabbed his camera and turned it on. Shit! After processing and editing a job from yesterday’s shoot, the memory cards got left at Eric’s computer workstation. We have a camera, but no cards to capture anything. We let 20 minutes slip by and had time for him to drive home and get the cards, but we put one rule in place that prevented us from doing that – we can go anywhere on foot, but cannot drive anywhere else to complete our project. We are stuck with our iPhones and a timer running out on us.

We spy a Rite Aid down the street and figure it’s got compact flash cards to buy, so we run up there and find only mini SD cards. The FroMex photo lab is down the other direction few blocks, so off we go to only find that it’s not open until 10am, which would only leave us with 17 minutes after that to shoot. We had no other choice, so we decided to find what we could capture with our phones and then hit the photo lab at 10. Talk about tension.

All of a sudden, we are seeing tension all around us. We are walking faster, taking more in and overall, just feeling a rush that not even caffeine can supply.

10:00 am came and we grabbed a 2GB compact flash card for our final 17 minutes. The reconnaissance we did while we waited paid off. We captured image after image of the tension all around us. And quickly filled up the 2GB card. Now we had to trash images so we could fit better ones on. Great. Editing and shooting all in less than a half hour.

As we approached the end of our session, we came across a street musician, Johnny. As Johnny played his guitar, Eric removed image after image so he could capture this lifetime of tension that sat before us. We both instantly knew that Johnny’s passion in how he played was the result of a lifetime that hadn’t always been easy. The lines in his face were a testament to this. The way they converged into each other created a tension all their own. However, in contrast to all this, his music had an uplifting effect on us as we ended our time together. We both knew we had captured our image after all the things that went wrong this morning. Thanks, Johnny.