Anatomy of a Photo Shoot

Altorfer_bioTonight is what I jokingly refer to as “photo shoot eve.”

“Photo shoot eve” differs from that “other eve” — Christmas Eve — in that I’m not awaiting the arrival of a bearded, rotund man clad in red velvet accompanied by a pack of flying reindeer; instead I’m praying that the photo shoot participants will be jolly, that it will not be -1 degree with a wind chill of -20, and that the camera equipment will work. And oh, yeah: that we can actually solidify the photo shoot schedule.

The week preceding a photo shoot is never easy. No matter how much pre-planning takes place between the photographer, editors, writers and designers, our photo shoots usually crystalize about 18 hours before the actual shoot. (Maybe it’s just us though…) The same is true for tomorrow’s photo shoot, which commences at 2:00 p.m. on the Mount Mercy campus. I don’t want to spill the beans on who/what will be gracing the cover of March’s Mount Mercy Magazine, but let’s just say that it’s required some pretty interesting requests and some incredibly patient alumni and current students to pull it together. I know the images will be worth it. I’m also very much looking forward to figuring out how we’re going to conceal the pregnancy of a woman in her seventh month…  Ah, all in a day’s work!

Tomorrow’s shoot has been very ably planned by Emily Muhlbach and Robyn Hepker, two of my favorite writers and designers (yes, I’m sucking up). They’ve devised the ideas for the visuals and constructed a schedule that will allow us to capture vibrant, distinct images to accompany what I hope will be a unique and memorable story. While I’m prone to freaking out because a schedule isn’t yet set, Emily and Robyn gracefully and diplomatically assure me that all will be well. After more than three years working with both of them and having fabulous outcomes each time, I should learn to relax; they always deliver.

As we prepared for tomorrow’s shoot, I reminisced on some other memorable photo shoots for the Mount Mercy Magazine. Here are some chart-toppers:

Think prison’s fun? Think again.

sacredspace_feature_winter2009In February 2009, we had the opportunity to visit the Anamosa State Penitentiary for a photo shoot for our cover feature on a prison reading program created by Mount Mercy faculty. It has been an incredibly successful and well-received program for students and inmates, and we were excited to feature this service-based initiative in the magazine.

However, the prospect of visiting a prison was daunting, even though the staff and administration at Anamosa were helpful and understanding and we had special guidance about what to expect from Mount Mercy Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Amanda Humphrey, who specializes in corrections work. Due to security restrictions, the photography equipment we could bring into the prison was limited, but we made it work. The stark visuals and unfamiliar sounds of the prison, however, are what put our group “on edge.” To enter into the main area at Anamosa we were checked through by multiple corrections officials, ID’d and then escorted to our various locations. I know that the chilling sound of the large metal doors clanging shut behind us will stay with me forever.

The perfect French fry: crinkle cut and golden.

GoingGreen_coverProfessor of Biology Will Kirkland was such a good sport for our most recent photo shoot, held this past summer. Dr. Kirkland and students are undertaking a project to convert cooking oil from the Mount Mercy cafeteria into biodiesel fuel. We wanted to stage the professor in a captivating pose that would be inviting to the reader; something that would make you want to pick up the magazine and dive in. We posed the affable professor with a French fry…but not just any French fry. The back story: it took an entire batch of crinkle cut French fries and two of us lining them up and narrowing down our “candidates.” Once we settled on the perfect French fry, poor Dr. Kirkland had to put up with our suggestions of how to tilt his hand in relation to his face. I’m sure he felt like a hand model by the end of the day, and was ready to return to his laboratory in Basile Hall.

An infectious laugh.

heartylaugh_feature_summer2008Rev. James Brokman, Mount Mercy’s former Chaplain, is a friend to all. Fr. Jim, as most people know him, loves to tell stories and jokes and is an avid Chicago Cubs baseball fan. In 2008 Fr. Jim was preparing to leave Mount Mercy in order to serve at parishes in northeast Iowa. We wanted to honor him for his commitment to Mount Mercy and the Sisters of Mercy with a story in the magazine. He was reluctant at first, but we persuaded him eventually. And we were so glad we did. The four hours we spent photographing Fr. Jim were some of the best times I’ve had at Mount Mercy. He has the uncanny ability to make you laugh. At the end of the day, my cheeks ached from smiling. What a good feeling!

I’m certain that tomorrow’s photo shoot will bring more stories and memories. I look forward to sharing those with you soon.

Until then, say cheese!