Golden Sands and Sandbags
I was lying in bed one day when one of my friends messaged me asking for some professional pictures. Of course I said yes, but I think I said it too soon as his response was "can I get them done today?" We've been living out in the desert for some time now and I've had plenty of time to scope out good shooting locations (though there aren't many). I agreed and told him to meet me at 1700 (5 pm) and we'll walk over to the spot. He responded with a thumbs up.
"Don't worry. I've got a place in mind"
"Golden Hour" was set to start at 1720 (5:20 pm) and, given that I didn't have any equipment other than my camera gear (Nikon D4; 80-200mm), I wanted to make the most with the lighting and the color grading. We met up outside our shipping container units and discussed quickly what exactly he wanted to get pictures for so that I could tailor my style. He said he just wanted them for his Facebook/Instagram feeds. He glanced around the area which was littered with cement structures filled with rocks and dirt and walled-in by container units. I nudged him saying "don't worry. I've got a place in mind."
Make it look easy
The area was littered with piles of green and brown sandbags, stacked one on-top the other. This was the place and shooting there was nothing short of a challenge. The land was flat and dust was flying everywhere. There were only cement structures, dirt, and sandbags... so we had to make do and quick because we had just entered into golden hour. I had him sit on top of one of the piles and model different poses with careful instruction while explaining everything that I was looking for in the shot so that he could understand. Then, I had him pose leaning against a wooden fence with the sun behind him. That's when he told me this would be his first professional photography experience ever.
I didn't know what to say after that. The pressure was on. I had to make sure that these were going to be the best quality pictures he had. At the time, I didn't have a lot of experience directing people on how to pose, but he took my suggestions, and made it look easy. I asked him to start walking, he did. I told him to stop, he stopped. I told him to do this and that with his hands. He did exactly that with ease and exact interpretation. Then, I asked him to pick up a sandbag and carry it over his left shoulder while looking over his right shoulder... And he did it. Not only that, but he held it for many minutes and picked it up multiple times while getting dust and sand in his eyes. It was difficult but he followed my directions and we got the shots.
It was authentic
The best part of this shoot was the nature of it. All of the smiles and grins and gestures were authentic. All of it was real. Yeah sure, the pictures turned out great, but the experience made it golden.