Hard Times, High Crimes, Tight Deadlines

Photo by Derek Pell 

No time for the fireworks this year, I spent the weekend shooting. Sure it’s a crime to work on  holidays, but with deadlines looming I’m like Dick Cheney—above the law.

The night of July 3rd was a killer. Wendell Sweda made a return trip to the city from his hideout in Santa Monica. (Oops—erase that—make it “an undisclosed location.”)  It was another grueling shootout for my forthcoming book, SHOOT TO THRILL: A HARD-BOILED GUIDE TO DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY (Que Publishing), slated to hit bookstores in October, just in time for Halloween.

In fact, the work was so grueling Sweda managed to bust the gun I loaned him…a new, Chinese-made  LR 100 Saturday Night Special. But I wasn’t sore, I had backups, seven guns in all. I got ’em in a value pack at CVS—only five bucks, marked down from $9.99. Considering it was the 4th of July weekend, you’d think they’d have pulled an Exxon and jacked-up the prices on water pistols, instead of slashing ’em. So any way you cut it, it was a real steal…even if it ain’t real steel.

Here’s  a toast to CVS… but that’s all they deserve because practically everything else they sell is a rip-off.

While I was taking a break for a smoke, Sweda managed to patch up the squirt gun so it would cast a decent shadow. (I doubt it still holds water, but what the hell. Like i said, i got six more where that came from.) Don’t ask me how he fixed it, he must’ve been packin’ Epoxy,  which doesn’t surprise me. The guy is always prepared for the unexpected, especially when he’s around me.

Anyhow, I set up a 39″ x 72″ aluminum Photoflex LitePanel under a mammoth Moreton Bay fig tree. No pun intended but this Photoflex kit is a snap to set up, even in the dark. Unfortunately I should’ve packed a sandbag because a stiff breeze blew in  just as I started shooting. This had the two of us shouting, lurching, grabbing, and hand-holding. (No, not that kind of hand-holding. Admittedly the neighborhood is gay, but we ain’t.)  

I used only one studio strobe powered via a tronix Explorer XT. This is the powerpack  featured in the previous post, and it’s one of the best deals going. If you need portable power, snap this sweetheart up and save a wad of cash.

I didn’t need the strobe’s umbrella because I was bouncing off the LitePanel. Wait a minute, I take it back…I could’ve used the damn umbrella when the park’s sprinkler system kicked in midway through the session. It prompted a personal best for Fastest Set Break-Down. 

The photo below was a  test shot and I post it here only so you can identify the suspect and maybe collect a reward.

Wendell Sweda on the set in Balboa Park. Photo by Derek Pell 


The photo at the top of this post (optional title: “Squirt Gun For Hire”) shows two shadows on a stucco wall. Mix of ambient light and flash. It hasn’t been tampered with, either. The holiday spirit I found at CVS was obviously spreading because I got two shadows for the price of one. Again. See earlier post: Friday Night Lights (1/11/2009)


The weekend wasn’t all gunplay and work, I managed to get in some Cuervo Gold, while sitting on the stairs outside Zoom Street. Moon smirkin’ overhead, nice breeze, no bugs…it doesn’t get much better than that.

But I’m still on deadline…