The greatest photoshoot that never was…

I’ll have to admit, I have a pretty cool job.  I get to travel around, meet new people, have some amazing adventures, and take some breathtaking pictures.  And looking at it from the outside, it looks really cool and carefree.  But things aren’t always as perfect as they seem.  The reality isn’t always as nice as the images at the end of the day.

Take yesterday for example.  The plan was to shoot the beautifully restored WWII bombers of the Collings Foundations in an air to air over the Golden Gate Bridge as they repositioned from Santa Rosa to Concord.  Remove the tail guns from the B-25, strap on a 4-point harness, and you have a the perfect photoship platform.  Nothing between you and the other planes, except for a 2,000 foot drop to the ground below.  Sound good huh?  Well, too bad it never happened.

The main challenge of this shoot was handling the logistics of getting to and from the assignment.  Since the planes were only flying one way, I wasn’t sure how to get back to Santa Rosa from Concord (approx 75 miles away).  So to the internet I went.

Public Transportation! Friend and Foe. And while you’d think that the SF Bay Area, being the large metropolitan city that it is, would have a unified, easy to use transportation system, that sadly isn’t the case.

The Collings Foundation Director of Marketing told me to be in Santa Rosa at 12 noon for the departure.  That meant, I had to get up at 6am, be at the CalTrain Mountain View train station at 6:45am to board the northbound train to Millbrae.  Once I got there, I found out that there is no direct shuttle to the airport.  So I jumped on the BART train up one station to transfer to the SFO Airport train back down to the airport.  Confused yet?  I sure was.  There I barely made it to the 8am airport to airport shuttle that was taking me to Santa Rosa.  The only highlight of this entire ordeal was meeting this nice commercial real estate from LA.  She and I chatted the entire 2.5 hour drive.  Very cool girl. (and if your reading this, hope you found a nice place to eat. 🙂 )

So I get there at 10:25am and head to check in with the Collings Folks.  “Hi, my name is Sagar and I’m the photographer and I’ll be flying with you to Concord and doing the photoshoot.”  And now for the words that a man whose been up since 6am and been traveling for the last 3.5 hours wants to hear:  “What photoshoot?”.   Lovely.  And that was the start of the 3 hour back and forth between me, my editor, the pilot in charge, the Collings Foundation’s Dir of Marketing back in Massachusetts on trying to sort out this debacle.

While I’ll spare you the gory details of the breakdown in communication, here’s the summary of the three hours:  It went from shooting three planes (the B-17, B-24 and P-51) over the Golden Gate Bridge out of the tail of the B-25, to shooting the B-17 and P-51 out of the side window of the B-25 (the B-24 had a maintenance problem and couldn’t fly), to just the P-51 from the side window, and then moments before take off shooting only the B-17 from the side of the B-25 through a hatch (but at least not through scratched glass).  So the Golden Gate Bridge was out.  But shots of the B-17 could still be something I could work with.

So at 2pm, we finally were lifting off for the 20 minute flight.  Engines roaring to life, off we went. 15 minutes later, I finally spot the B-17 a mile away off of our right wing.  And that’s the only time I ever saw it.  For some reason, we never formed up.  And 5 minutes later, it was gear down and landing in Concord.

Pack up the camera, stow the harness, and get to the BART station.  Then an hour and twenty minute, changing trains twice, and I was only at the Fremont Bart Station.  Luckily my Dad was nice enough to pick me up and take me to Palo Alto to drop off the 70-200mm L IS lens I rented for the shoot and had to get back by 5pm.  I got it to them at 5:10pm.

So $80 of transportation and lens rental yeilded me with exactly three shots of a small plane off the right wing. Not quite how I thought this day would have gone.

Moral of the story: Not all plans work out all the time; even with the best of intentions.

2 Replies to “The greatest photoshoot that never was…”

  1. Sagar – what a great read – sorry it didn’t work out. It sounded like an assignment to kill for and ended like a … a… dream – a bad dream. I’m sure though, with your great skills with the cameras, you will get a lot of opportunities that really pan out. Good story and the blog is great – thanks for pointing us to it!

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