Best Laid Plans

For almost ten years I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel with, and assist photographer Nick Del Calzo as he captured the stunning black and white portraits of living Medal of Honor recipients . Thursday, February 24, we had the honor and privilege of photographing 26 year -old SSGT Sal Giunta. In the tenure of my association with Nick, I’ve learned that no matter how much pre-thought, planning and preparation you put into a shoot, something will always throw a wrench in the works. Being able to react to those moments makes the difference between capturing the image you envisioned, or something less.

Yesterday was no different. Scheduled for a 1:30PM shoot at the USAF Academy, we left Denver at 7:00AM, grabbed some breakfast, and were about 15 minutes early to meet out hosts from the USAF Academy Public Affairs office. When I called to let them know we would be at the gate at 8:45, I was informed that due a schedule change the shoot had a been moved to 10:30, giving us a little over an hour and a half to unload our gear, set-up the studio, props, lighting etc. And then do a series of test shots so that when SSGT Giunta arrived we could get the shot, and allow him to keep his schedule.

Nick is a thorough planner, leaves no details out. He had contracted a second assistant, photographer Lewis Carlyle from Colorado Springs, who had worked with our Air Force hosts and was familiar with their studio and equipment. We had brought his camera and lighting gear, and I bought a small assortment of gear as well, just in case.

We met our escort, MSGT Chris DeWitt at the gate at 8:50, and by 9:10 we were at the studio, unpacking our gear and beginning set-up. After setting up the lighting in accordance with Nick’s diagrams we made a couple of digital test shots using the studio’s D200, Pocket Wizards, and an array of our combined strobes. We were on target for the new 10:30 time, and Nick decided to shoot a couple of Polaroid shots with his Hasselblad in preparation for the actual shoot, which would be captured on Kodak T-Max 100. We all quickly realized that “hot-shoe” on Nick’s Hasselblad was all “shoe” and NO “hot”, and would not trigger the Pocket Wizards without a small, PC to 1/8″ cable. Everyone did a bag check, but to no avail. Those of us photographers in the room that shoot primarily digital, (basically everyone but Nick), quickly lamented that we each had numerous cables at home, but… We then tried my Elinchrom Skyports and thought we had the problem solved until we made the final adjustments on the lighting and the combination of lower power, 3 and 10 degree grids didn’t fire the strobes we had slaved. All for the want of a 10″ cable.

SSGT Giunta’s reps said that if we were really pushed to get set-up by 10:30 they would shift back to the original time.  We had just about made that call when Mike Kaplan, of USAF Academy’s Photo Lab, returned to the lab, and low and behold, he had the desired cable.  So after a quick 5 minute scramble to reconnect the Pocket Wizards, we were ready for SSGT Giunta’s arrival.

So, even with hours of prep and planning, things can quickly get away from you.  One of the great things I’ve learned from Nick is that you just have to forge ahead, if you give up you’ll never get the shot.

Below are a few shots from the shoot:

SSGT Sal Giunta MoH

SSGT Sal Giunta, MoH and me.


2 Responses to “Best Laid Plans”

  1. Mike Kaplan Says:

    Right on!

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