Monday, August 16, 2010

Reader's Digest Heroes

Dr. Michelle Henderson and her hero, John Ritter

I was fortunate enough to get two great Reader's Digest assignments in back to back months. The first story was about Dr. Michelle Henderson. This 51 year old orthopedic surgeon is a real athlete. She is an accomplished runner, biker, longboard surfer and diver. She tried out kiteboarding as the next adventure. She had met and became fast friends with expert kiteboarder John Ritter. On one fateful day in February, her new friend would save her life.

On a morning ride on the Banana River, Michelle became concerned with the high winds. She had already decided to quit for the day when a gust of wind carried her up into the air. She desperately tried to engage the safety release, but her lines started to get so tangled that she was unable to. Luckily, John who had been following, pounced into action. He caught up to her as she was bring tossed into the air and dragged under water. He was trying to get her cords released, when he lost his board. Not having the leverage, he left Michelle in the water. John left to track down his wife, who was nearby on a jet ski. John came back on the jet ski and performed a miracle save, jumping from the jet ski onto Michele's tangled kite line, dragging it under water and finally collapsing the kite. They counted over 200 turns in her line...

For the photo shoot, I wanted to make a beautiful portrait of the two during sunrise. Sounds simple, but everything on the beach is more complicated...
When you shoot on the water, you always need to be careful of sea spray on both your cameras and your lights. I took my usually assistant Jorge to man the Profoto light and the beauty dish and a new assistant, Jeff,  to just hold the cameras. You need to make sure you bring lots of extra towels and clean water. You need to wipe off the sand and sea spray immediately. All the extra gear you normally take with you you leave in the car. It is too hard to manage all the gear with the constant threat of salt water and sand.

We arrived about 30 minutes before the sun rise, and proceeded to the beach. It helps that her condo was right on Cocoa Beach, so there was no travel time from her place to the water. I tried to underexpose the clouds for the exposure. This exposure would change constantly as the sun rose. It gets brighter and brighter very quickly, so it always helps to shoot RAW. I used the Nikon D3 camera body with a 24-70 2.8 lens. The final exposure for the image they used was 1/250th of a second at F/11, 200ASA,

We tried many different variations with the kite, but in the end it was just too large, it took away from the people.  The photo of the two of them with the boards were enough to convey the idea of kiteboarding without being too dominant. Many times, the photo is really an easy thing to capture. You just have to place the subjects in beautiful light and just wait for the sun to rise!

As always, special thanks to my wonderful agents at Redux Pictures and to the wonderful people at Reader's Digest.