Spring fashion – day 1

The phone rang at 6:30 a.m. Usually, it would be a wrong number but this time it was my boss. He asked what was on my schedule today and I told him I was starting my week of shooting spring fashions.

The obvious question was, “what’s going on?”

Fierce storms hit Central Florida last night and 30 people had been killed by tornadoes, he said. This was the most deadly storm to hit here in recent memory. He was organizing the troops.

I told him we could cancel the fashion shoot, if needed, and that I was ready to go. It would have been the first time a studio fashion shoot was canceled because of weather.

But the Sentinel has a staff of 20 photographers and Bill was able to have enough people on this story without my help. Today, the newsroom was very busy. Tomorrow our A section – normally reserved for national and international news – will be de devoted entirely to the storm coverage.

As I wrote in my last journal entry, fashion photography conflicts with photojournalism in both style and approach. Today, the conflict seemed very clear. On the way into the office, I had to put aside my newspaper instincts and try not to think about the breaking news I was missing. Too many things can go wrong during a fashion shoot if you’re not paying attention. I’ve covered tornado damage before. Today, I needed to worry about the task at hand.

I had anticipated an easy day. The models, Jenni and Karen, are Magic Girl dancers for the NBA team in town. Yesterday’s home game was exceptionally exciting, with the Orlando Magic upsetting the visiting L.A. Lakers. Nick Anderson sealed the win on a 3-point shoot with 7 seconds left in the game. Shaquille O’Neal, a one-time Magic player, was sent home with a loss. I’d hoped the models would still be pumped up from the game. Instead, they both seemed a bit tired. One was just getting over the flu and the other one thought she was coming down with the flu. Both were glad they hadn’t gone into an overtime game yesterday because they weren’t sure they would have had the energy.

But when the lights were on and the camera was ready, they looked bright and happy. They were pros, and it helped.

Shooting in the studio is great because the photographer can control the lighting and you are not at the mercy of the elements. As last night showed, the weather is unpredictable this time of year.

But you don’t have the wider choice of settings that a location shoot offers. You have to work if you want variety in the studio. This time, we decided to use color background paper hung at angles across the white studio wall. Balancing on a ladder and using gaffers tape and some help from Debra Leithuaser, the magazine art director, I hung green, then red, and then blue paper as we shot each outfit.

The shoot was going well then near the end, the models began to get antsy. We found out that the modeling agency had told them this was a one hour shoot. We had planned and hired them for a four-hour shoot. The agency screwed up and the models were going to be late for their day jobs.

I shot the last outfits more quickly than I prefer, but today was devoted to the secondary fashion story and it was less likely that the last outfits would be considered as a cover photo. Sometimes, you have to make do.

By 1 p.m. the models had left, I had rolled up the background paper and packed the Hassleblad into my car trunk, ready for tomorrow morning’s location shoot. As I drove home this evening, the sky was partly cloudy but the wind was brisk. It’s supposed to cool down tonight but if the wind doesn’t slow down, the make up artist will have to bring extra-strength hair spray. And having seen the sheer, light-weight dresses we are shooting tomorrow, I hope it doesn’t get too cold.

A model with goose bumps is not a happy model.

Tom Burton

originally published on February 23, 1998 on digitalstoryteller.com

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