Anything to Get the Shot
Wether photographing professionally or just snapping a pic with your iPhone, we’ve all been in situations where the difference between capturing THE shot or just more monotonous content only eludes us by doing something irresponsible, something dangerous, or something that can simply be summed up as stupid. Just get little closer to that edge, just hop that safety barrier for a moment, just hang out the back of a moving vehicle for one instant.
Luckily, for the most part, these situations oftentimes become a funny anecdote to share with friends over a drink. In other instances, those extra few inches reaching over the cliff’s edge and the additional few seconds spent panning in a spot you shouldn’t be in could end disastrously! For example, unintentionally laying in a bed of red ants and enduring dozens of surprisingly painful and irritating bites for several minutes while trying to get the perfect low angle closeup of a grazing Galapagos tortoise is funny, right? On the other hand, hopping a barrier and edging out over one of Iceland’s largest and most raging rapids is a different story. Getting charged by an angry rhino is a little worse, but a better example would be emergency landing a rickety fan-powered paraglider patched with gaff tape and seemingly built out of aluminum lawn furniture on a busy freeway, then quickly stashing your rig in a cactus patch that practically became your landing strip because you ran out of gas running from the Navajo Reserve Police and the US Department of Parks after illegally (unbeknownst to me at the time btw) buzzing Montezuma’s Castle historical site……well that’s a little more extreme!
In the Icelandic scenario, I was very courteously implored by the very gracious and very forgiving Icelandic park rangers that I had made a very unsafe judgment call, and was subsequently wished a pleasant day of sight seeing. I LOVE Iceland! The rhino in Tanzania was about three feet from impacting my passenger side door before we pulled away. In the case of the Montezuma flyby, a protected heritage site, we practically crash landed in the middle of a busy freeway while being pursued by the law. “Sick” Nick, my very talented but very crazy pilot and I touched down gracefully amid moving traffic and successfully merged onto an exit where we proceeded to stash the glider and our gear like a couple of common criminals on the run and made our quick escape. The danger Nick and I put our selves in was one thing, but putting unsuspecting drivers in harms way and disrespecting a protected historic site was quite unacceptable in retrospect.
Pushing the envelope is a reality of modern media and production, but taking a creative approach rather than making rash decisions in the field is your best bet for getting the shots you want and not risking shutting down your production or worse. If you can’t get close enough: get a longer lens. If you’re running out of daylight, plan a contingency day! On a side note, there are many places in the world where photographers have the opportunity to shoot imagery unobstructed by fencing and barriers, this would change quickly if Joe Camera happened to fall to his death while trying to nail his composition. Things happen fast on set and you will have to make instinctive decisions, but proper equipment and good preparation will ensure everyone walks away happy with footage they can’t wait to edit! Safe shooting all!
*RIP Sick Nick. Nick died in a paragliding accident barely a year after this event transpired.