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Anecdotes: Alpha Romeo Shoot

BTW, no Photoshop, straight out of the camera.

I love writing posts for this category, although I never know when an anecdote will pop into my brain. A story will come to mind when I’m going through my images looking for one that will help explain something to one of my online students with the BPSOP. While sitting at some restaurant having  glass of wine with some of my fellow photographers that has signed up for one of my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop a story will also come into my head.

I can tell you that over the course of my nearly fifty years of shooting there has been many. Some funny now but not so funny then, and some that are funny no matter how much time has gone buy.

This is one that wasn’t so funny then:

I was shooting a series of ads for Alpha Romeo, and the decision was made to shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. I had shot there before so I knew how it looked and thought it would be perfect for the kind of simplistic environment the Art director wanted; he wanted something Zen.

Through the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) my producer secured a permit to shoot. A contract was signed and one of the major points , if not the most important point, was that it was to be left exactly as it was when we got there; they were and still are very proud of the Salt flats and woe to those that mess it up in any way.

When a photographer is selected for the shoot, a car prep company is assigned, and it’s their responsibility to handle the car.

They unload it where you want, they take care of the detailing, and they load it back up in the car truck when the shoot is over. The photographer and his crew never so much as touch the car with their pinky finger for any reason; some of these cars are prototypes with no motors.

At first a small rut.

The two guys assigned to this shoot were from California and not the brightest stars in the galaxy. The hero car was in a long trailer pulled by a big truck, and I told Sandy where I wanted it unloaded. The salt flats are very hard in the middle and it gets soft the closer you gt to the edges; which is why it specifically states in the permit to not get close to the edges…which is exactly what Sandy did, immediately getting the back tire of the truck and the back end of the trailer stuck.

The rut got bigger, now it was time for a backhoe.

For the rest of the day he tried everything to get the tire out of what was then a small rut. Finally, after the rut became bigger, he went into town and rented a tractor to pull the truck out. Well it didn’t take long before the tractor was deep in the rut that was now closer to a gully.

So the next step was for Sandy to go back into town and rent a large back-hoe that would surely do the job…one would have thought…one would be wrong. Now the large back-hoe, the tractor, the truck and the trailer were all stuck in what was now a canyon.

Now it was a problem.

After two days we finally dug everything out leaving a thirty foot crater. Needless to say we took the car, set it where it would go, slept in the rent cars so we would be ready to shoot the next morning.

As you can see from the photo above, the shot turned out great. We had to use the back-hoe to put the dirt and mud back in the crater as fast as we could and make it look like we were never there. If it hadn’t looked like we were never there, I would have been banned from ever getting a permit with the BLM…anywhere…a little too stressful for my taste.


Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime. On July 30th I begin my 29th year at the Maine Media Workshops. I’ve had the same week since the beginning. It’s the week of the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland. It offers a completely different set of photo ops than one would expect when coming to photograph the coastline, lighthouses, and fishing villages of Maine. Come join me and spend a week completely immersed in your love for photography.

Send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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