What to do when it all goes wrong?

I was so excited to get the call from Dudley Brooks from the Washington Post Magazine. My father (who passed in 2016) loved this pub, and always saved the magazines for me. He didn’t know the first thing about photography, but he knew this pub always featured the best. When the assignment landed, I really, really wanted to call him and ask him “GUESS WHO WE’RE SHOOTING FOR?”

We pulled together our best team, and set to the task of building the cool conceptual set that Andy envisioned. Dudley was down with the idea from the start. Andy described it so vividly, it was impossible to not be drawn in. Here’s a little bts video of our set.

————————

How did you show the scale of one man’s fight against the soda industry?

“Godzilla and King Kong movies were my inspiration. Crossfit founder Greg Glassman standing in Soda City as a heroic giant, ignoring the attacks of the Soda City military. My goal was to flip the script—the city crushing monster as the hero, facing impossible odds and winning.” ~Andy Batt

————————

Ron Skrasek was our set designer and primary prop builder. Galvin Collins was our secondary prop builder and set assistant. I went to the store and spent $700 on soda, and it would be worth it. The vision was driving us all!

We didn’t have much time. Our first production meeting was Monday, and the shoot was Wednesday afternoon. Ron took off after the meeting to create the soda tanks. We all met on Tuesday afternoon to begin building Soda City. At 7pm, Andy’s vision was taking shape and we all toasted our success with a delicious beer.

Wednesday morning, we added the final touches on the set. Galvin’s soda planes were rigged, and it was all coming together. We stopped for a burrito lunch when I got a message from the editor. CALL ME.

My stomach sank. That’s never a good message to receive, especially 2 hours before we’re to begin shooting. I got on the phone with Dudley and was told our subject doesn’t want to leave his house. Ugh.

Dudley asked “what are our options?” This was our moment to shine. This was when 22 years of experience comes into play. Anyone can take a picture, but can they produce under this amount of pressure, for a dream publication, with less than 2 hours to go before it’s shoot time?

OPTIONS:

  • we photograph him at his house on a seamless background, and place him into our Soda City set in post
  • we change the concept completely and shoot an environmental portrait
  • we get him on the phone and try to change his mind

I had so many questions rushing through my brain, but the most pressing one was…where is his house? What if the travel time exceeds 45 minutes? Turns out, he’s less than 10 minutes away, just over the bridge.

We decided on the first option. It wasn’t ideal, but it most closely matched our creative vision. We had to hustle to get to his place, but did it in record time. We built a studio in his driveway and photographed him on a white seamless (luckily, it didn’t rain).

We were so rushed it was scramble to remember all the gear.

Galvin and I had to do a little “shake it off” dance before we left, to let out our frustration with the situation. The last thing we wanted to do was arrive at his place with an  angry cloud over our heads.

Our technique worked, the shoot went mostly great, and we were back in the studio, where the retouching heavy-lifting began.

The final piece turned out great, but keep reading…

Final art of Greg Glassman, before the WaPo lawyers got involved.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.

2 weeks before publication, we got another call from Dudley. This is when it really got weird. Our image was reviewed by the WaPo lawyers, and they were concerned our image was too ‘Coke-heavy’.  I really thought these kinds of problems only existed in the advertising industry!  Once again, we had to consider our options. The ‘Soda City’ set was mostly pulled apart, but the background was still up. We could reshoot a Pepsi tower and add another composite to the shot. Ultimately Dudley had one of his retouchers change one of the Coke towers in post.

Sometimes you have to choose your battles. We decided this wasn’t a battle worth fighting. If we had more time, we might have done it differently, but overall it’s still our shot on the cover of The Washington Post Magazine, and I think my dad would be really proud.

 

Bucket list assignment!
interior spreads

Here’s a little ‘behind-the-scenes’ treat for those that scrolled all the way down!

January birthday. February Robbery. What will March bring?

January started slow, as all attention was on throwing Therese (me!) an outrageous, over the top, detail-rich 50th birthday party. This was mostly a surprise, and understandably, not much got done on the business side of our life! Here’s the Photo Booth, just a small part of a huge party.

February, we got down to business getting more business, for exactly 9 days. Why only 9 days? Because on the 10th day, Andy’s office window was smashed, and $50,000 of gear was stolen. It’s a really strange experience,and the effects echoed for weeks afterwards. From paranoia about it happening again, to looking forever for that one cord, then realizing that was part of the theft.

The good news, though, is that we’re supposed to have a settlement check this week. So that’s something! A huge shout out to Tom C. Pickard, our insurance agency, and to Great American Insurance, our insurance company. It didn’t move as quickly as I would have liked, but they did right by us in the end.

$50,000 hammer. This is what the thieves left behind after smashing our office window.

 

What to do when it all falls apart?

Last week, we had a great opportunity to work with an actor/author that was coming through town on a press junket. We were excited to add him to our entertainment portfolio, and use the work in social media. The bad news? He never showed up. It sucked, and we were bummed.

But we aren’t easily deterred. The stage was set, what good would come out of putting it all away, and being mad about it all weekend? So we got onto Instagram, reached out to several local models that have shown interest in testing with us, booked h/mu stylists, and we were set.

Monday/Tuesday of this week, we made some exciting photographs to add to our sport portfolio, creating conceptually driven action and portrait shots, including video footage! Andy created dark, cinematic shots using moody lighting and gels to create an otherworldly effect. I can’t wait to get this work out into the world, but until then, here’s some hot BTS action!

Dramatic basketball photographer Andy Batt shoots with here with Canon cameras and glass, and Broncolor Lighting.
Photographer Andy Batt shoots basketball with Kojo Aidoo, with help from Galvin Collins and Tracy Schulz
Dramatic boxing photographer Andy Batt shoots here with a Canon C-300MII
Photographer Andy Batt behind the lens and flanked by Terri Lodge as Sonachi Umeh shows us his boxing moves
Dramatic athletic photographer Andy Batt shoots with Canon and Broncolor gear
Photographer Andy Batt shoots with Sonachi with help from Terri Lodge