How many times have you had a killer idea, ran the entire production in your head, got super excited at the prospect of bringing that vision to life, but then let that idea fizzle to nothing and never take action? I bet never right? Yeah... I thought so. I'll be the first to admit that my biggest struggle as a photographer is to actually execute any of the ideas I have in my head, no matter how big or small. It's amazing how quickly inspiration can hit, but just like that fade away as we get overwhelmed with how busy we are, how hard the project will be, or just plain get lazy. It amazes me how common this is for me and I'm sure many others out there.
Earlier this week I was at my local camera store (because, you know, it's so much easier to buy gear that you think you need to create the photos you think you'll shoot rather than actually getting out there shooting) and ran into my buddy Matt Reamer. He was picking up a collapsible background for a project he loosely told me he wanted to do. The next day while I was wasting away on the internet, checking out how many new likes and followers I didn't have, I came across a link to a full series portraits Matt took the day before at the 4/20 festival on the Huffington freaking Post. For all I know he was on assignment by HP and had been planning this shoot for weeks, but either way the fact that he shot, turned over, and had published this incredible set of portraits within the eight hours sicne I saw him at the shop was nothing short of awesome. It left me with one very strong thought in my head, "DEREK, YOU ARE A SLACKER!"
With that kick of motivation, and idea came over me. A handful of my good friends were getting ready to fly out to New York to race bikes in the Red Hook Crit. I thought it would be cool to take each of their portraits as they were packing up and getting ready to head out for the big race. Without fail, I immediately started thinking to my self, "There's no way you have time to do this. They're all leaving in the next day or so. You've got all these other things going on. Nice try but it's not gonna happen." Nope, not this time, this time, I had to follow through and make a project happen. Before I could talk myself out of it, sent out a group text to all of them and tried to gauge their interest and exactly what I needed to do to make this happen.
Shot One - Marc Marino.
Marc was the first to leave and the one I had the tightest overlap in time to try and make things work. While I was hustling to get home in time, I came up with a loose concept for how I wanted to shoot him... the only thing was that the concept was pretty technical and something I hadn't ever tried before. I spent 10 minutes in my room trying to figure out of my idea would even work, then he showed up at my house with his bike and bags packed for the airport, and we got this shot in no more than 5 minutes.
Camera Geekery: This was a somewhat technical shot. To get the light trails I wanted from the cars i needed at least a 2 second exposure. Despite being at sunset, the long exposure meant I had to stop down to f/11 and STILL use an ND filter to expose the sky. This basically maxed out my Elinchrom Quadra pack, which had a 27.5" deep octo coming from camera left that I used to light Marc. Since I do not have triggers that will sync to the second curtain of my camera, I had to manually count down and fire the strobe to keep Marc in focus.
Shot Two - Dylan Buffington
If you follow my work, you might recognize Dylan from dozens of light test photos as he has been working as my assistant pretty regularly. This time, the focus of the shot was actually on him. I had a narrow time frame with him yesterday morning before I had to get to another job. I knew ahead of time that his front porch would get ideal sunlight in the morning so I imagined I'd shoot him there. The typical SF fog burned off just as I showed up and we lucked out with some pretty killer light. Is it wrong that I couldn't help myself from throwing a strobe up just add a little crispness to what the sun was already doing? Whatever, that what I do.
This will be Dylan's first time racing in a Red Hook Crit. He's been training his brains out and I am beyond confident he will crush it out there.
Shot Three - Chas Chistiansen
Later in the day, Chas and I found a window of time that overlapped a couple of hours before he left for his flight. I got my gear across town and met him at his house. He still had to tear his bike down which was perfect for the shot I wanted. It was getting a little cold out but I convinced him to move out to his back yard for the shot because, well, you'll see how cool it is. Luckily there was still ample daylight left and I just needed to add my got to octobox to get a little punch and pop to the shot.
THAT BACK YARD THO! Complete with a fancy patio, full on jungle, and of course a mysterious little jungle creature hanging out.
Shot Four - Erica Schwanke
Erica was the last friend I wanted to shoot for this project. She was having a birthday dinner for her roommate and invited me over to join. Photo shoots and dinner with friends, definitely a win win for me. Luckily Erica was walking distance from Chas so I threw my gear on my back and headed over. After dinner I scoped out her place and again decided the backyard was gonna be pretty awesome. I spent about 10 minutes rigging things up and BAM.
Camera geekery: Obviously, it was night, so we had to use strobes but I still had to let enough ambient into the camera to let the light bulbs do their magic. Otherwise, there is a 27.5" deep octo hiding up in that stair case and a big 53" octo just behind the left of the camera for a subtle fill. Both powered by a single and ever wonderful Elinchrom Ranger Quadra pack.
So that's the story of how I conceived and executed four photo shoots, in four different locations, in a matter of 36 hours and actually brought an idea to life for once. A huge shout out to Matt Reamer for the much needed inspiration. Of course a huge thanks to Marc, Dylan, Chas, and Erica for being the buds they are and letting me pull off this last minute little idea that logistically should never have even been possible. Hopefully you will all take these portraits as my send off of good luck at the races! Kill it dudes!
Notes about the riders:
Chas has raced in numerous Red Hooks as well and will also be racing for MASH SF and Cinelli.
I could be wrong, but I believe this will be Erica's second time racing a Red Hook Crit. She races for State Bicycle Co.