Every now and then you get a phone call from a client and they need you to get out and make some pictures happen on the fly. In these cases you don't always have the best shooting opportunities set out for you.
With some assignments you often have the chance to research the topic of the story, call the subject and set up a time when the light works best. Typically, you are also afforded the time to work the situation in order to render the best batch of images for your client. In all cases, planning is the key to success.
However, from time to time, I do receive an assignment that needs to be cranked out fairly quickly. In these cases I do my best to bring back the same quality of work I would under normal circumstances. When I was assigned the shoot with Virginia homeowner Colleen Stephens the Times needed the photos immediately. The story was slated to run the following day and they would need ample time to edit and design the page for the next day's paper.
As soon as I got off the phone with Jose Lopez, a photo editor at The NY Times, I immediately called Mrs. Stephens, thankfully she was willing to push the original shoot time up by an hour, next I gathered my gear and was out the door. While en route to the shoot Lopez emailed the details of the assignment - just before arriving I pulled over, read the specifics and then brainstormed some different approaches I might be able to take upon my arrival.
Generally speaking, they wanted something to illustrate the smaller house she was forced to move into after her 5,000 square feet dream home was remodeled with toxic Chinese drywall and rendered uninhabitable. They also wanted a detail shot of some items that showed the effects of the toxicity of her former home.
Once I arrived I was fighting the noon light. It was almost directly overhead and the shadows cast on the lawn were all falling in the wrong spot. I tried several different options in order to get her and the house in the photo. However, from the angles I wanted it put her in the shadows and her house in the highlights.
In the end, I was able to find a few angles that worked to complement the story. A special thank you to Mrs. Stephens who was very patient and giving of her time.