One Saturday evening, my assistant Chris and I walked into the five star Buck’s Restaurant where my good friend Andrew Welenken heads up the kitchen as Executive Chef. The hostess gave me a strange look and I wondered…why? Then I realized I was covered it wet mud and dirt from head to toe from taking a dip in the Ohio River earlier at the “Violet Lovejoy - Bond Girl” shoot. I sort of felt like an idiot and looking back I probably should have knocked on the kitchen door. Nevertheless, I tipped toed through the dining room and bar and found my way to the kitchen. I proceeded to ask Andrew about an upcoming fashion shoot I had on deck. It was for Scooter Ray Designs and pieces in the CORE line. I had only seen one dress from the line and I knew immediatly Buck’s Restaurant was the PERFECT location. I had to lock the restaurant down and with Christmas closing in, I had to do it now. Within several days Andrew gave me the go ahead.
The more and more I discussed the shoot with Scooter Ray the more excited I got and the more I found myself worried if I could pull it off. He wanted dark, de-saturated, low key light and a lot of drama. I’m pretty confident with capturing drama, but capturing the pieces at the same time could prove a difficult task. I did some research into a few other fashion photographers and their methods. Most used expensive studio lights with some form of large diffusion, I would be shooting with all speedlights. So I had to diffuse and soften the harsh light somehow, so I called in a friend Joey Goldsmith(goldsmithphoto.com) to assist and selfishly use his awesome gear including another SB-800 and his Wescott Apollo softbox. So with 4 speedlights, my 22" beauty dish and the softbox, my confidence was somewhat restored. But…
I was nervous. I had never done anything on this scale. 5 models, 2 MUA’s, 2 hair stylists, 2 assistants, and several onlookers for a total crowd of about 14 people. Chris’ small house was jammed with people getting prepared, nearly standing room only. As a matter of fact I spent the majority of the time outside to free up some room. Hair, makeup and styling started at 9:30am and went all up to about 12:15pm. Everyone involved was true professional, the work was completed in a cool and collective manor. I can’t recommend this team enough! We we’re pushing time because we only had Buck’s for about 3 hours. I went ahead of the group and prepared my shots inside the restaurant. At first I was a bit worried about the bright sunlight popping through the windows, I needed drama and so I wanted little to no natural light. But in the end shooting about f/12 killed the natural light pretty quickly. The models arrived and my first shot was set, I did two sets with two of the models and… I was unhappy, the results weren't what I was looking for. So I stepped back re-thought my setup and with a couple of light adjustments and some re-positioning, I had the lighting locked in. I asked the two models I already shot to step back in for a quick couple of shots with the new setup. All those shots made the cut (seen below).
I wanted to tell a story with these shots. I wanted this “New Years Eve” to be the night these characters would always remember. Starting as individuals and ending as individuals but the time in between; I wanted to stir the pot a bit and have these couples “mix and match” both sexually and racially, which is very unheard of in a old, high-class, “10 million dollars in the bank” society. Thank goodness I had the talent I did, otherwise I couldn’t of pulled it off. Thank you to the male models; Scooter and Dakota and the female models; Katie, Sunny and Slim.
Needless to say, Buck’s Restaurant was a challenge for me. A big challenge. I’m a pretty creative person, but sometimes my brain just falls short and I overlook details, I’m glad Joey and Chris we’re there to remind me of that and didn’t hesitate on the ideas. There was also a crowd of people! I had never been the primary photographer on a shoot with so many eyes on your back and ears open to you. But, I walked away happy with the situation, I only learned from it.
Time was passing and the shots we’re looking good. I was 70% confident with them. Until that is, the very last shots near a wine rack when that 70% went to 95%. I took a technique out of Josh Eskridge’s black book and used one light with a diffused beauty dish. I took two shots and I knew these were the closer, I handed Scooter an empty wine glass and asked the team to make it the “end of the night”. All performed flawlessly. As a small celebration to myself I took a shot of bourbon and we wrapped up the shoot as the Buck’s staff walked in the door.
Returning to my office later that evening, I was excited to get the shots imported and the editing process started. After some cropping, re-touching and a lot of de-saturating I had the line-up and the shots ready for upload. I’m pretty happy with the lot and I learned quite a bit from this experience.
Thanks again to Andrew at Buck’s for letting us take over for a few hours. And thanks to my awesome crew, you know who you are!