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on Jul 11, 2014 in Friday Thoughts

How Our Photography Gives Back

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We first meet Brian a year ago. He was in a wheel chair recuperating from a near tragic airplane crash in his Ag Tractor. We were in the showroom of our dear friend, Brian’s partner when he was wheeled in. He had more rods, pins and sutures then you might see in an old Frankenstein movie. But Brian’s great laugh was still very much alive and in use. And his love of life and friends was greater than ever. So while he looked like death warmed over, his heart warmed up the room. A year later and he’s recouped and as you can see, doing just great. The only thing he lost in the crash was fulfilling a part of his great passion for flight. He can no longer fly any of his aircraft. While still very much a part of the business and a mentor to many other pilots, Brian isn’t in the cockpit. Sharon and I had just gotten off our flight, not even left our luggage in the lodge when we checked in at the showroom last week. We no sooner said our hellos to our friends when our friend Warren said, “I need you to take a portrait!” And with that, we were whooshed outside on the ramp and over to the fleet of Ag Tractors belonging to the partners. I was asked what I could come up with for a portrait of Brian and we started to look at aircraft, ramp, background and story to be told. We had a plan. The only problem is, we didn’t consult Mother Nature.

Time flew by, literally and figuratively as it was time to fly home. We were again with our luggage in the rental car back at the showroom when we decided to make Brian’s portrait. So right off the start, the clock was ticking until our flight home. Then, we had already dropped off part of my lighting kit at FedEx to ship home. Lastly, the skies were darkening as the afternoon thunderstorms which are so incredible in North Dakota were rolling in. Easy peasy!

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The goal was to take ~the~ photo of Brian with his Ag Tractors, the love he has for the profession and flight. We set up the portable studio of the Profoto B1 (B1 Flash, Magnum Reflector with Honeycomb Grid on the Air-cushioned Light Stand) shooting with the Df / 18-35AFS making one click (top photo) when the first burst of lightning lit up the field. We pushed it with a couple of more clicks than grabbed all the gear and ran into the hangar as the skies opened up! And there we stood as it just poured and poured and poured, the metal siding rumbling with each crash of thunder. The old 1939 hangar from the Ford National Reliability Air Tour is amazing hangar in itself, but leaks something fierce! As the skies released their energy, the great clouds were dispersing. It was now or nothing if we were to make the dramatic photo but it was still raining. Brian being the great sport that he is was up for the challenge (notice his t shirt in the bottom photo). So we ran out to the one Ag Tractor with Df / 18-35AFS in hand but brought a simple lighting rig of SB-910 / SC-28 and went click. The one light and killer reflection and the angry skies made it all come together in a single click. And while I’m talking photo technique here, it’s really all about knowing and pushing our craft for the storytelling.

Brian’s passion is flying and in particular, the profession and aircraft that nearly took his life. Them Ag Tractors and flying the patterns on the field in them is what Brian was damn good at. And while during the season, he get’s to live and breath the activity, there is a time and place though when it gets parked. While we didn’t have the opportunity to even start to move planes and fine tune the original, top photo, as it turned out going complex wasn’t needed. Mother Nature did it all for use with a flood creating the perfect mirror out of the tarmac with the addition of a simple, single, little light. The visual telling of this love affair didn’t require a lot of gear nor much time. Sometimes the best photo is the easiest, simplest and most straight forward. This portrait session was no more than a way of my thanking all the great folks in ND for their help and support in my projects. And while I thought I was paying it forward, the payment I received in the huge smile on Brian’s face when he looked at the LCD was overwhelming! Photography is such a simple craft but I’m always amazed how our photography gives back.