Sunday, December 5, 2010

Looks Can Be Deceiving

All right, glancing over the images below, plucked from three recent, back-to-back self-portrait sessions - you might have a guess as to which was the easiest to snap...yeah? 

(Snapped on 11/28/10)

I wish I had some way of knowing what goes through people's minds when they look at this pic. (all of my pictures, for that matter) Of course, I hope that they're thinking, "Damn! How'd she do that?!" 

Truth be told though, this shoot was ridiculously easy...I shan't disclose the secret behind how I was able to clamber to the roof and then dangle from it in only 10 seconds. What I will tell you is this - I did not use a ladder, and the only "hard" part was being outside on a chilly autumn evening, wearing nothing but a skimpy neglige...

(Snapped on 11/29/10)

Ok then, so is this the photo that represents the most difficult shoot out of the three? I dunno, maybe...whadda you think? 

Nope, it isn't. Taking a header down a set of stairs is old hat to me, in fact before I fell in love with dash photography, simply put - I just really loved to fall, period. Hurling myself down random carpeted stairways was - for a brief period of time - my signature stunt...

My 10 year old son was the one who got me started on the whole thing. The first time he did it was in our house on a short set of wooden (ouch) stairs. I was frantically trying to get all four kids out the door, into the car and to school on time (for once) when all of a sudden, the crazy little bugger surprised his sisters and me by making the most terrific racket! On purpose, he'd tumbled down the steps, but what made it even more hilarious - was that he did it while using a pair of crutches. I don't mighta had to have been there to appreciate how funny it was. But I thought I'd die, I was laughing so hard (and I couldn't wait to try it myself!)

My favorite place to practice this completely useless skill, was at a downtown bar which has not one - but two fabulous sets of carpeted stairs. But after being asked by the bouncers (on two separate occasions) to, "Please don't do that anymore" - the gig was up. Forever after that, it didn't matter who was working the door, all of those guys had my number. Each time they stopped me to check my i.d. - they warned that I'd be asked to leave if I fell down the stairs (It was funny though, because the waitresses would enthusiastically ask, "So! You gonna do the "stairs" thing tonight?") 

After breaking a bone in my knee last summer, all stair-falling was suspended indefinitely. But my knee is (mostly) healed now, and so a few weeks ago I got the idea to resurrect the hobby for a photo shoot. The first place I went to ask for permission, was that bar with my most favorite stairs. I figured enough time had passed, that surely they'd forgotten me - and they had, but it didn't really matter. The bartender (still a bit confused by what it was that I wanted to do, or rather - why I wanted to do such a thing) kindly went and asked the owner if it would be all right, but returned with a non-negotiable verdict of, "No"

So now what? I racked my brain to come up with people I knew who had carpeted stairs in their homes, and as luck would have it - the first person I asked, agreed to let me use hers. (Thanks, K!)

I used the burst mode on my camera to capture each take (from start to finish) in five separate frames, but quit altogether after falling 5 times. The series of pictures all looked identical since each sequence of pics. was virtually identical. I decided - that to continue would be utterly pointless...

Despite the fact that across the board, this entire series of pics. lacked excitement in composition, color and content - I included one in this entry as an example of a shoot that some might consider tough to pull off. 

The pictures weren't great, and I got juuust a touch of rug burn, but logistically - this shoot was a breeze... 

I'm not saying that I've given up on the idea of photographing myself falling, but it seems to translate much better in video...

(Taken on 6/26/09)

(Snapped on 11/28/10)

The "stair-fall" shoot wasn't difficult, however the pictures left something to be desired. But instead of dwelling on my disappointment, I just filed 'em away and moved on. The scarecrow shoot on the other hand, thoroughly pissed me seriously - it made my blood boil, and still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. You're probably thinking, "Looks easy enough, so what in the world's the big deal?"...that's exactly what I thought at first...

The thing that got me so torqued, was dealing with the stick that I'd threaded through the sleeves. Trying to set the timer with the shirt all the way on, proved to be nearly impossible - since the stick prevented me from bending my arms. But if I left one arm out so I could set the timer (without knocking the derned thing off the table) when I did get my free arm into the sleeve in enough time to then strike some half-assed pose within the 10 seconds, seemed like something else always went wrong. Either the collar would get turned under, or my t-shirt would hike up, and there was no way for me to fix it before the shutter clicked...grrrrr...Adding insult to injury - that stupid, bloody hat (which was way too big for me, thus only loosely resting on my head) would fall to the ground while I was setting the timer or just as I was getting into position. I can't tell you how much time or how many frames I musta wasted - getting in and out of the shirt, so I could put the dagblasted hat back on my head.

Needless to say, out of the three featured here - the scarecrow shoot takes the prize as the most infuriating, frustrating and futile. The serene quality of the photo belies the inner (and outer) turmoil that - after a paltry 20 tries - got the best of me. I chucked that fecking stick into the woods as hard as I could, collected the rest of my things, and (angrily muttering expletives) stomped back across the corn field to my car.

(Snapped 8/08/10)

One of the reasons I love doing my self-portraits, is the enormous sense of sheer joy that accompanies each shoot. The scarecrow fiasco was an exception, but it wasn't a completely isolated incident... There's only been one other time during the last nine months, that a seemingly simple premise left me defeated...

I had gotten it in my mind that I wanted to do something in a ball gown, possibly alongside a rusted-out old car or truck? But before fleshing out the deets, first and foremost - I had to get the perfect dress for the shoot. I knew there was no way I'd find the exact dress that I'd been picturing, but the very next Saturday, after stopping in to the first thrift store on my list - I did indeed find - the exact dress that I'd been picturing! I swear, you guys - the froofy, blue ball gown in the photo above - is precisely the dress that I had in mind. From the vivid shade of blue, to the velvet bodice and the beadwork and the multi-layered tulle was seriously too good to be true. Never mind the fact that it was like 10 sizes too big - I could work around that (or so I thought...)

I made arrangements with an acquaintance to stage pics. with my prized gown, and a 1940's International truck that had been abandoned in his woods...What I didn't know until I arrived on his farm, was that the truck was several acres away, and the only way to get there was on foot...It was 100 + degrees that day, and the thought of toting the dress (which weighs an absolute TON) plus all my other crap, did not appeal. So. I asked if it would be ok if I did my pics. by his silos, which were close to where I'd parked my car - and he was like, "Yeah, take 'em anywhere you want"...*phew*

I'd arrived wearing shorts, a tank top and flip flops, and kept all of that on until I'd hopped the fence and was behind the silos, where I changed into my heels and the dress. I'd never bothered to try the dress on beforehand, but knowing that it was several sizes too big, I'd brought along a baggie full of clothespins...and here, my dear friends - is where the whole thing fell apart...

When I finally put the dress on, I realized that it simply would not stay up, unless I pinched about 4 inches of the thick velvet fabric (heavily adorned with glass beads, let's not forget) - together and fastened it securely with the clothespins. I never dreamt such a thing could be so difficult, but it was. The dress was heavy and hot, as was the air temp - and after about a gazillion failed attempts to pin the thick wad of fabric in the back, I was sweating like a muthuh, my make-up was running, I was cussing and I started to cry...I had reached a level of furious, that I honestly don't recollect ever reaching before while working on a self-portrait shoot.

I let the tantrum run its course, after which I did manage to clamp a few clothespins to the dress. (Little did I know at the time, but the clothespins were completely visible in at least 50% of the pics. - see above) 

All the fun wasn't over yet, though. Each time I dragged that massive monstrosity of a dress, back and forth between camera and pose - I'd have to quickly remove thorny locust branches which had gotten tangled in the tulle, and shake out the grasshoppers that were trapped in the skirt, while those horrible, ill-fitting heels dug deep, oozy craters into my feet. The whole thing just sucked, and I wanted it to be over.

Eventually, I couldn't take another minute of the misery, and in a huff I packed up my shit and went back was the only shoot outof all of 'em so far, that I can honestly say that I hated...that flipping blue gown nearly did me in...

I know better than to take any shoot for granted, I find it's best to be prepared for the worst - no matter how innocuous a concept might seem. Because as the scarecrow and the blue gown shoots have undeniably proven - you can't judge a book by its cover...

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