When we arrived at Chicago's 39th street beach in two vehicles and a bag of Subway sandwiches, the place was crawling with cops. Five police cars scattered the parking lot with all occupants eating their lunches. Not good. I was there to do a run-and-gun photo shoot for a magazine on a budget and rightfully should have called the Chicago Film Office for a permit costing many hundreds of dollars. Not really an option. After unsuccessfully waiting for the cops to leave I decided that we were "art students" or shooting for Oprah (either usually charms the authorities). We unloaded the truck.
I was shooting a photo illustration for Runner's World Magazine about an online service that rates your body's recovery and advises you to take a break or go for a run. The creative direction was to show a runner resting in a chair while another considers that he should take a break too. It was winter, snowing, gray and blustery. Non-seasonal locations were limited, so I took it to the lake shore running path to avoid signs of winter. Or so I thought.
Under the layers of sleeping bags, blankets and improvised hats, these dudes wore extra-light running clothes.
Part of my job is to just get-it-done despite the odds. Beyond the cops about to bust me for lack of paperwork my other challenge was to make a blue-sky summer day of late winter in Chicago. This day began with light snow and the windchill left temperature hovering in the low 20's. A stiff wind along Lake Michigan sent white surf repeatedly topping the seawall, threatening my electronic lighting gear. We pressed on.
The lake frequently overtook the seawall threatening to drench our gear.
We placed the props: one $30 reclining chair from Craigslist, one flag built from a trip to Home Depot, and a table "on loan" from Target on the driest part of the path. Once lit the guys dashed out from under their blankets and sleeping bags. They assumed their positions and gave me 30 second performances before retreating beneath their cocoons. I had them repeat this drill again and again until I shot all the necessary parts for compositing (or rather, until I was about to get punched by two icy male models).
You'd never guess it was 20 degrees.
The skies cleared for a time toward the end and I shot the sunny sky which replaced the gray that dominated 99% of my shots that day. Within a few hours at the computer all pieces were assembled and the final was uploaded to the magazine. All extremities intact. The lessons learned here were two: Bring hot beverages to winter location shoots; everyone will feel better. And never fear a cop on his lunch break; he could probably care less.