Prep Work.

I picked up an assignment, many years ago, to take pictures of Magic Johnson right after he gave a speech at a luxury Phoenix resort. I knew his time would be limited, so I arrived early, scouted a good location, and my assistant and I set up four high-powered strobe lights to properly expose him and wonderful Arizona sunset that would happen just as the shot was scheduled to happen.

But what DID happen was that the resort’s circuits weren’t up to the task of handling my strobes and their outdoor lighting at the same time, so my first test shoot blew a breaker and everything went dark.

I had to take a picture of Magic Johnson, and I had to take it NOW, no matter if my primary light source just went into the crapper.

Fortunately for me, I knew that resort pretty well and I knew the outside breezeways looked pretty good and went east-west so there was still light in them even as the sun was going down. I grabbed my assistant, my tripod and a flex fill, and away we all went for an impromptu available light shoot as the light slowly faded in the west.

And the chromes turned out pretty good. Good enough that I picked up two more assignments from the agency who assigned me.

Now think about it… if I hadn’t been familiar with the environment around me and I didn’t have that reflector and/or assistant with me and was inexperienced at slow shutter speed photography, I’d be completely out of luck and would have p!ssed off a basketball legend and not gotten paid by my client for the job.

Familiarity with your surroundings… having a backup plan and backup gear… recognizing what the issue is and working around it on the spot… why does that all seem so familiar? 😉

Oh, and if you get a chance to take photos of Mr. Johnson, do so. He was, BY FAR, the most approachable and laid-back celebrity I’ve ever photographed. It’s not an act with him.