There is a little beach in Brooklyn, between the bridges in Dumbo, that is one of my favorite spots in New York. Whenever I’m there I have this phantasy of going for a quick swim to Manhattan. So, when I was planning an urban sports shoot with my friend and Getty AD Sarah Foster, the image that popped first into my head was of course a swimmer preparing to cross the East River.
We mapped out a few more scenarios at that location and also scouted the beaches at the Far Rockaways in Brooklyn, since they were nice and deserted during a weekday. I didn’t want to pack the day too tightly since this was one of my earliest shoots with my (then) new digital back and we figured we’ll keep it easy all around by just shooting one model.
When it came time to cast I turned to trusty old Craigslist. I’m always amazed about the great talent you can find on this internet standby for apartment shares, used electronics, and sensual spankings. So, I sent the call out and got (amongst the usual fair share of weirdazoids) an email with the picture of a woman with an amazing body and in a pose that clearly shows that she knows how to run much better than the rest of us. I asked for a few more images and they were consistent with the first one. I gave her a call to see if she was available for the shoot and asked her if she was a runner. The answer was yes. Then I asked if she was a good runner. The answer was yes. Then I asked if she was a competitive runner. Yes again. And that kept going until I asked if she ever competed in the Olympics. And again the answer was yes. Then I fell off my chair.
The runner’s name was Aliann Pompei and she was an Olympic 400 m runner and a gold medal winner of the Commonwealth Games!!
We did the first shoots at the Dumbo beach and tried to cover certain variations of running, triathelon and swimming. We worked with two assistants and Alliann provided the running wardrobe, while I brought the swim outfits.
One of the weird things about shooting sports for stock is the need to remove any logos, which in case of Adidas gear means that you have to turn them into the brand with the 2 stripes. That always brings back childhood memories of anguished shoe store arguments with my mom who insisted that the cheaper sneakers with 2 stripes are as good as the ones with 3, and that no one would ever know the difference. Yeah, right.
Alliann worked up a sweat in seconds thanks to a spray bottle.
We had 4 heads with regular reflectors on 2 Profoto 7bs that we positioned around the model, or as close to it without putting them in the river and the camera was a Mamiya RZ 67 with a Phase One P25 back.
One of my favs was the jump-the-city set-up.
After the Dumbo beach we drove to the Rockaways. First was a close-up of Aliann’s legs on the boardwalk, which turned out to be much harder than anticipated. It took us an uncomfortably long time to get the timing, focus, and lighting all in a row, but in the end we came up with an image that’s been selling surprisingly well, and I’m glad we stuck it out.
On the beach we shot with only 2 heads since the surf made it too dangerous to put the 7bs on the ground. Each assistant carried a head and a pack and I shot on card instead of tethered.
At the end Aliann gave us a “game face” that I’ve been trying to emulate in every beer league soccer game since.