In late August, I had an experience with a photographer that pushed me out of my comfort zone and into incredible pictures. His name is Benjamin Von Wong.
His work is amazing. He turns photography into an extreme sport, using his engineering skills to produce some of the most beautifully dramatic photographs I have seen, and pushing the envelope of safety and sanity to get his shot. I had seen a collection of images online, months ago, of an underwater photo shoot at a shipwreck site. The haunting backdrops were juxtaposed with graceful models in flowing dresses, appearing to be going about their business as if it were no big deal. The images were stunning, stirring, and certainly stuck out in my memory beyond the hoard of artistic expressions on the web.
He was planning a trip to San Francisco, and posted an inquiry on Facebook, if any models or designers wished to collaborate. My mother had just found his shipwreck photos, and followed the links to his FB page. There she left the comment that would spark this epic adventure in art. He checked out my fan page, as my mom suggested, and immediately messaged me to see if I would be willing to take some photos with him. Of course, I was thrilled at the idea, said “yes”, and proceeded to find one day where our crazy schedules would align with the stars.
It was a long day. It began with a nice layer of fog, which teased us with its cool morning softness. By the time we finished the first round of makeup, it had vanished, leaving us in the direct sunlight for the entire shoot. I wondered how Benjamin was going to pull this off, with the high-noon sun casting its sharp shadows downward. I also wondered how I would fare in the heat wearing all of those feathers. Ben had a huge crew of dedicated photographers and assistants who really made so much of the magic happen. They had already hauled tons of equipment to the site, and carved out steps in the cliff side for us to traverse, so that we could get to the spot Ben had chosen.
It was treacherous. It was extreme. It was sketchy, and it was painful. But, it was worth it.
I was asked to perch myself upon sharp rock formations, just above the crashing waves. Looking down was a tad nauseating, yet thrilling. Fortunately, years of ballet classes were now paying off, keeping me balanced and literally on my toes. It’s funny, how the most beautiful photographs require the most uncomfortable positions. I was guided to contort the muscles of my body into the most awkward of stances, while trying to find the balance point where I could sink the entire weight of my being onto a couple points of rock, with my mostly bare feet. Then hold it…. for what seemed like forever, and keep a calm and relaxed face.
While holding these, at times excruciating, poses, Benjamin would bound around the cliff side, sometimes dangling off the edge. Guiding those who were holding the lights and umbrellas, he kept shooting, over and over, working to fine tune the ideal light in a brilliant dance to complement what the sun was offering, until he found perfection. Then we waited, for the perfect wave. My thighs trembling and feet feeling almost impaled, one finally arrived, in the form of a sea dragon unicorn, and he got the shot. Thank god I relaxed my face.
That shot was our favorite of the entire day, but we still proceeded to photograph the two other embodiments, going up against more sun, high winds and changing tides. By the end of the day, my legs would no longer hold me in the dramatic lunges that were being requested of me. My feet were raw. We were all sunburned. The wind was almost ripping my headdress apart. I knew we were almost there… ten hours later, and still giving our all, though we were summoning the very last of our reserves. This is devotion. Once all the pieces aligned, we gave all that we had in order to sieze the opportunity that we had, to create something spectacular. We created something magnificent, and I am so thankful.
To see Benjamin’s blog post on this experience, go here: http://www.vonwong.com/blog/feartosuccess/