Friday, August 28, 2009
Dangerous Moments in Photography
I have been lucky. I have seldom been hurt during a shoot. But there have been some close calls, and, yes, I have suffered a few injuries. This is the story of one of those injuries, and let it be a warning and a wake up call to all my fellow photographers.
It began innocently enough. I was given a chance to beta test a software/hardware interface for shooting with a Phantom HD, a high speed video camera, by GVS Systems. It was a chance I couldn't refuse, as those puppies run about $5,000.00 a day to rent (with comparable software and hardware set ups). I arranged to work with friend and fellow photographer David Fischer. We were shooting in David's studio, a spacious, South of Market concrete building in San Francisco.
It had been a long day. We had covered a lot of ground shooting everything from tossing salads to water splashes to even balloons filled with propane gas. I had a near miss that morning when my first attempt at igniting a balloon filled with propane flared up a tad more vigorously than I had planned, but there were no lingering ill effects save for the smell of burned hair that permeated the studio through the rest of the day.
No, my injury didn't come from playing with propane. It was, as I have mentioned, at the end of the day. We were doing the last shoot (isn't always the last shoot?). It was an extreme close up of a soda can...and I was opening the pop top. Can you picture in ultra slow motion (1000 frames per second) the top being pulled off, the blast of spray and fizz, followed by a surge of frothing liquid? Not! The first shot produce a mere wisp of vapor. For the second attempt I shook the can before opening. A hiccup of vapor and a few bubbles popped out. Hmmmm, this time I shook the can more vigorously and even pounded it a couple of times on the counter top. Now we were getting somewhere! A healthy spritz of foam followed by a small geyser of foam bubbling out.
Now part of the problem was that I hadn't really anticipated the soda shot. It was just something we thought of at the last moment. We only had a few cans, and now only one was left. This one had to be good. No, it had to be great! I shook the can, then I shook it some more. I pounded it on the counter. I squatted down to the floor and pounded it on the hard concrete.
Suddenly, the can sprang a leak! Our last can! But there was still time! I leapt to my feet in an attempt to get the can in position and rip off the top. Well, I tried to leap to my feet. Instead, my feet slipped on the floor, slick from the stream of fluid shooting from the ruptured can. Now it wasn't the camera shooting in slow motion, but rather my vision of myself as my momentum brought me to a waist high horizontal position, where it felt like I hung for just a moment, before slamming to the floor. I lay there, struggling to catch my breath, half wondering how many bones I had broken and half being aware of the wetness spreading across my body from the still spurting can.
Hey, it hurt like hell and it took me three days before I could walk comfortably again!