Photograph from March 2002
Over the past
with Bass Player,
Art Director and
a shelf full of
and some dusty
some over the
next few columns
he can't remember
or they fail to be
The Boy scouts of Amerca have a motto. They raise
their right hands with three fingers skyward and promise to “Be Prepared.”
Not a bad motto, as mottoes go. It certainly has a more pragmatic ring than
“When in doubt, just add cheese,” or “Bros before hoes,” or “We’re Primus
and we suck.” And in general, I have found that living said motto will most
likely help lead down a path of success.
So, do you think I would follow my own philosophy?
I thought so.
MeShell Ndegeocello was the subject of my next shoot and as usual, I
went through my standard checklist before departing the office. Camera?
Check. Breath mints? Check. Strobes? Of course. I never go anywhere without
strobes. I like my shots to be tack-sharp, rarely shooting at anything
less than 1/200th of a second, and then using high-power strobes to burst a
1/10,000th of a second, image-freezing flash right down the middle of that.
If that don’t stamp a sharp image on 50 ISO film, nothing will.
With confidence (and joie de vivre) I collected my last-minute thoughts and
stood up to leave my desk when the phone rang. It was MeShell’s publicist.
“Are you heading over to the shoot? Just a reminder that MeShell can’t
shoot with strobes. They bother her.”
“Wh- wh- what do you mean, n- n- no strobes? I had instantaneously
developed a pronounced stutter.
“Can’t use ’em. See you.”
On the way over, driving in what could only be described as a road-safe
fetal position, I did my best to reassure myself that it was okay; that I could
shoot with whatever dim February light was left in the room. Too late to rent
any other lights, I would supplement the ambient room with the tungsten
modelling lamps in the strobe heads.
I felt now completely unprepared. I was no Boy Scout.
But I am lucky. MeShell was great to work with and managed to hold herself
perfectly still for the nerve-racking 1/8th of a second exposure duration
(an eternity in shutter terms). The lighting setup proved to deliver dramatic
and moody, rather than bright and sharp, and what resulted from all this
improvising was surprisingly much more beautiful than I had expected, with
golden, warm tonality courtesy of the tungsten lamps which I never would
have considered if I had blustered in with strobes-a-blazin’.
Subsequently, I have added this unorthodox method to my repertoire
and take time to convince myself regularly that it was a natural progression
of style and technique. (Paul, you are quite clever, aren’t you? Why,
yes, Paul, I am.) And now I can live the scout motto fully, except that lately
I have been putting a lot of cheese on stuff.