Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Helicopter, an Aircraft Carrier, and a $10,000 Photograph - Dancers Among Us Reaches New Heights!

Last Wednesday I spent ten hours photographing five Dancers Among Us scenarios. ZDF German Television captured the day for a lifestyle segment to air this summer throughout Europe. It was an exciting and creative day. This is the story of the first unbelievable shoot, with more to exciting stories to follow this week.

I met Marcella Guarino at V.I.P Heliport before our helicopter was due to arrive. That's what I said- our helicopter. To put this in perspective, the cost for private access to a helicopter for a photograph is pocket-change. You know, just $10,000.

I have been trying for months to make this shot happen. It all centered on Marcella- she is no stranger to the helicopter experience, and she made a few calls. Late Tuesday night we got the thumbs up- we are free to shoot on the heliport.

...for fifteen minutes! If we go over, we have to pay. *Gulp*

Marcella warmed up and we practiced the shot as we listened for the hum of the rotors above us.

Behind-the-scenes photos by Travis Francis

The helicopter arrived and we were ushered into the waiting area. It was very dramatic. I had 15 minutes to get the shot, and I had no idea what it would look like when we got out there. We couldn't control the direction the helicopter would be facing, that was up to the wind. And I was told the blades would be turned off- absolutely, no exception, non-negotiable.

"But it would be so amazing. She's flying through the air just under the blades, and it will add this element of drama, and..."

Somehow that argument didn't sway them.

I wanted Marcella to look like a socialite on her way to the Hamptons, and she pulled off the styling perfectly. But the shot was still incomplete in my mind. It was missing an element, and I couldn't put my finger on it (I am not exactly a regular at heliports).

"Your helicopter is ready."

I turned to see a pilot straight out of Central Casting. Now the shot was complete.

"Want to be in the coolest photograph ever?" I asked. A big dork moment, but it worked!

We ran outside and got hit by a wall of sweltering heat. We started shooting and Marcella started sweating.

"Great! Go again. Beautiful. Again." We took thirty shots in five minutes.

We hid in the helicopter for a break from the heat. Marcella was wiped out. We reviewed the photos and saw several we liked!

As we were patting ourselves on the back, relieved that we got the shot so quickly, the pilot said casually, "How about this aircraft carrier floating by? Might look good in the background."

Fleet Week was over, and the sailors were passing by us at that very moment, pulled by a tugboat. We had five minutes left to shoot, and they would be gone in about two. We scurried back into the heat. Marcella shifted into gear, propelled by the drama of the moment.

Everyone was ecstatic. We finished in time, and the circumstances were unbelievable. An aircraft carrier rarely passes that heliport, and we were there to witness and capture it. That alone was enough to make the shot one of my very favorites.

Thank you to the folks at Heliflite for their extreme generosity, to the pilot for his amazing art direction, and to Marcella for absolutely everything else.

To view an awesome video of this shoot by Travis Francis, CLICK HERE!

One would think a scenario with a helicopter would be enough excitement to photograph for one day- just wait until tomorrow's post when the Dancers Among Us shoot continues! Breaking the law to get the next shot was nothing compared to what I asked Jermaine Terry from Alvin Ailey to do...