I am not fond of studio work. It’s good for very specific portrait shots and more serious work and doesn’t have the artistic slant I like to give my work. Of course, anything can be reproduced in a studio, given the right amount of money, but why reproduce when we can shoot in the original?
Well, for one, studio work allows for a complete control over light and shadows, which cannot be obtained as easily in an environment where most things behave independently of your will. Oh yes, I have often wished I could simply make people vanish, move trees, and have the sun come out at will – it doesn’t work.
And that’s actually what I love about it! I shoot all over San Diego and many of my shoots involve interesting locations that require some level of physical work. The last two shoots found me mostly squatting, on my knees, crawling, laying on my back, and climbing on chairs and step ladders barely hanging on with one arm while holding the camera with my free hand. I am getting more and more in shape and am finding more ways to discover beautiful angles and shadows to play with.
A good example of typical guerrilla shooting was my session with Alex Julian and model Nataliya Joy Prieto. Alex is a wonderful artist who used Nataliya’s body as a canvas. We shot in a San Diego bar that caters to artists and that was open to the public during the shoot. This resulted in several challenges I had to meet to get the photos I was after.
I had to be flexible – wait for people to walk by, smile at the ones watching the art being created, and not get in the way of Alex as he was painting. I could not set up any professional lighting and could not have a crew of people holding reflectors. I also could not ask the model to pose a certain way – she belonged to the artist, 100%.
This resulted in Alex and I almost dancing around Nataliya. We soon adopted a rhythm that worked. We had one spotlight to play with shadows and that was it. I spent a lot of time squatting in a corner, leaning back on one hand and waiting for the right moment where Alex would move just enough to showcase Nataliya’s beautiful face.
I also spent a fair amount of time dragging bar stools and climbing on top of them, holding my balance while the stool precariously leaned against a wall at the just right angle so I could catch the suppressed giggle in Nataliya’s eyes as the paint tickled a tender spot.
We started the shoot at 10:30 at night and when I left at a little past 1:30 in the morning, Alex was still painting away. This is a shoot I will definitely sign up for again. I left exhilarated, exhausted, and sore and it all felt wonderful. Recreating that scene in a studio would have been impossible. This is why I will take guerrilla shoots over studio work any time.