How I Got The Shot
I was on assignment, shooting a little American treasure called Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch for a client when I took this. It was the way home. As Route 66 always has been.
In this new, hopefully daily, post of how I got the shot, I’m going to try to get as detailed as I can on my process — but instead of zeroing in solely on equipment, angles and the pseudo emotion/science of capturing a moment, I’m going to go just a bit further out from the epicenter. Come along on my journeys.
Tuesday, Aug 7, 2018
My buddy Jon drove up from San Diego (at 2am, no less) to meet me at 4am in L.A. I didn’t want to wake the family with my usual coffee-making at that early hour, so while waiting for his arrival, I walked the long block to 7-Eleven. They had been advertising .99 cold brew on billboards around town and I had to know.
At 4am, the heavy moisture in the air creates a loud buzzing around the power lines — an electric whale song. I filled my cupeth with the affordable brew and walked back to see Jon was already there, vaping beside his car, surrounded by mist, street light, hope.
He with his Pelican and I with my many configurations of capturing equipment (I do it for you), climbed into my big Audi — Dolphin Gray — and swam quickly out of town. The 10 to some other makeshift highways and then, of course, the 15. As we veer off onto the old highway, it’s only a few miles to the destination, but between the offramp and Elmer’s place, is many eras of American history, playing dead along the side of the road in the disgusting desert heat. I’ve never found it romantic, though I know many do. To me, this is simply where you dump bodies.
On the way home, we skid to a stop along the brush and dirt that make up the desolate curbside drylakeside property of Route 66. The roadsides are the territory of both beauty and danger. Models and snakes. Animated lizards and broken lawn chairs.
“Time me,” I told Jon. I figured I only had a minute to get the drone up before either it or I dehydrated completely. I took my first shot and decided that I wanted it to shoot in portrait mode. I tapped at every available menu item on the phone until it did whatever it does to cock its little gimbalhead.
There’s a height to shoot this street where it just starts to look appealing to me. Any street for that matter. We used to describe it as a crane shot, before the remote controlled scarabs. It was essentially the height of a really tall ladder. And sometimes it was actually standing atop a really tall ladder. Today, the ability to get higher entices us to do so, but I like where it was, aimed forward/down, not all the way down. Like a buzzard might look heading by, scanning both the horizon, but also for a discarded body to pluck at. Granted, this may all be a movie I’m recalling.
I convert everything to BW on the way in. I had to un-convert these shots above, in fact, to post. Once in lightroom, the ability to bring gray tones down by color allows me to darken skies by adjusting only blues, lighten the road by adjusting yellows and oranges. Perfect, now it looks just like everyone else’s high contrast black and white photos! It’s okay, I don’t overthink it. There’s no time to ruminate out on Route 66.
Thanks for reading. Please follow along to get your daily photography fix. And you’re always welcome to see more of the black and white work on Instagram here.