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.
When 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.