Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Photo Shoot for the X-Files?

Last night's shoot began like most others. I arrived at the location, went in, located and introduced myself to the two models who were in make-up, chit-chatted for a bit, and then began setting up my lights and gear in the room I'd be shooting in. One of the two models I'd be shooting was Hungarian and spoke little English. The other was American.

The white seamless was already set up in the room where I'd be shooting. I had arrived somewhat late due to an accident on the freeway and the shoot's production manager, whom I had texted while driving and alerted to the freeway mishap, had someone set it up for me since time, as always, was an issue.

I began setting my lights up. Once that was done, I pulled my camera out of my bag, put a fully-charged battery in it and inserted a formatted, 4GB CF card. I then attached my Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 to my camera and another Pocket Wizard, a Plus II, to my main light. The other lights would fire via optical sensors. I tested everything: camera, lights, transmitter and receiver. Everything was working optimally. I then grabbed a battery charger out of my bag, one with a battery already mounted on it, and plugged it into a nearby wall socket. The battery on my charger registered as already being fully charged but I left it plugged in anyway.

I waited for my victims.

After a short wait, both models walked into the room I'd be shooting them in. There were both quite sexy! One was wearing a matching red bra and panty set. The other, the Hungarian, was also wearing a bra and panty set but she also had a matching garter belt on, albeit minus the stockings. Both wore CFMs. (Very high-heeled and stripper-trendy "Come Fuck Me" shoes.)

The first model, the American one, took her place on the seamless. I began performing my usual photographer/model verbal intercourse with her as I picked up my Canon 5D camera and turned it on.

Nothing. No power registered on the camera. I opened the little camera door, pulled the battery out and pushed it back in, closed the battery door and... still no power registered. I even smacked the camera a few times! (Being a technically-challenged sort of guy who believes in smacking things that aren't working right.)

Hey! Smacking almost always works on my Pocket Wizards when they get all glitchy!

Alas, smacking notwithstanding, still nothing... No power.

Although the camera was working fine just a few moments ago and I knew it had shown the battery as fully charged, I pulled the battery out and replaced it with the fully-charged battery that was on the charger. Still no power registered. The camera would not turn on! I kept swapping the fully-charged batteries back and forth, in and out of the camera, but still nothing. By this time, the model, a very experienced model and one whom I had never shot before, was looking at me like I didn't have a clue what I was doing in spite of my words to the contrary as I continued to fiddle with my camera and batteries.

Like a dumb-shit, I didn't have a back-up camera with me. No problem. The production company had a Canon 20D. I quickly retrieved the 20D, swapped my lens for the cheap kit lens that was on it, and inserted my CF card and one of my batteries into it. The camera came alive!

By this time, I had blown about ten minutes or so and, since we were on a very tight time schedule, I would have to cut short my shooting time with both models.

Since the 20D has a cropped frame sensor (as opposed to my 5D's full-frame sensor) I was somewhat limited in terms of my framing. The 24-70mm focal length of the lens I was using, coupled with the limitations of the room I was shooting in, meant I could only shoot 3/4 or closer shots even with the lens zoomed all the way out. No problem. Most of what I shoot for this on-going, 3-evening-a-week gig is framed as 3/4 body shots.

I finished with the first model and the Hungarian model took her place. Here's a tip for shooting Hungarian models who speak little English: Always bring up the word "goulash" when shooting them. They always, and I mean always, smile, get very excited, tell you (in broken English) how much they miss their delicious, back-home, goulash, and become putty in your directorial hands. "Paprika" is another cross-lingual buzz word that works well with Hungarian models.

(Note: Invoking "spaghetti" does not elicit a similar response with Italian models nor does most any other ethnic food or cultural dish have the same effect with models who represent whatever country or culture said food dish comes from. Go figure.

The Hungarian was also quite experienced at modeling and I didn't need to do too much directing, verbal or by physically demonstrating poses, or otherwise. (Always a plus when a marginally English-speaking model graces my viewfinder.)

After quickly finishing with the Hungarian -- the production manager was standing by all the time, continually tapping his wristwatch -- I had the first model join her on the seamless and began shooting some stuff with both of them engaging in a few, light-weight, semi-Sapphic poses. Suddenly, after a handful of clicks, the camera wouldn't lock focus and allow the shutter to snap. I kept trying to get the focus to lock but no dice. It simply would not cooperate! Now, both models were looking at me like I was a clueless dumb-ass.

I went through the battery in-and-out routine a few times. I turned the 20D off and on, checked everything (you know, like making sure the focus switch was still set to AF which it was) but all to no avail. Suddenly, the 20D turned off and wouldn't power back on. I began flipping the on/off switch on and off but nothing! Finally, the production manager abruptly announced I was done and the models were ushered into another area of the location house where a small video crew was standing-by, waiting to shoot them in some heavy-weight solo, as well as Sapphic, content.

Okay. By this time some of you might probably be thinking my problems were simply the results of some unfortunate technical glitches that coincidentally happened with two separate cameras at almost the same time. I was thinking the same thing.

I started to break down and put away my gear and strike the seamless. I swapped my lens off the 20D and back onto my 5D, pulled out the CF card and put it safely away and extracted my battery from the 20D and put it into my 5D. It was then I noticed I had left the switch on my 5D to "on" and that my 5D was now powered up and ready to go. WTF??? I put a battery back in the 20D and it also came back on!

I immediately went in search of the production manager. I found him sitting at a desk in front of a laptop in a small room he was using as a make-shift production office.

"You're not gonna believe this," I said to Max, the production manager. "But as soon as both models left, both cameras came back on and are working perfectly."

He turned, looked at me, and casually said in his usual, non-emotional, way, "Maybe one of the models has some strange, electro-magnetic force or something and it fucked up the cameras? That kind of shit happens, you know."

"Get the fuck outa here!" I said with a smile, not buying into his theory.

He then leaned forward and, very seriously, said, "I was talking with the blond, the American one, before you got here. She told me she's been dreaming lately about being abducted by aliens. She said it was a recurring dream."

I considered this revelation for a moment, then I repeated, "Get... the... fuck... outa... here..." very slowly and in a low, somber voice. "Now you're fucking with me," I added.

"Jimmy," Max said, leaning in close, "I'm dead serious. That's what she told me."

So there you have it: An X-Files-like experience? Has that one model been adbucted by aliens? Does she have some alien technology device implanted somewhere in her body? A device that screwed with my cameras? I don't know. But with all the technical glitches that happened, coupled with the model's claim of alien abduction dreams, it has me wondering. (Cue the Twilight Zone music.)

The pretty girls at the top are Courtney and Aleska from last night. Courtney, on the left, may have been abducted by aliens. (Those lucky freakin' aliens!)


Jason said...

I like the Aliens idea better because if that's not it it'll be time to pony up for a new lens it sounds like.

I'll gladly come out there so you can borrow my 24-70 if ya bring me with to the shoot. heh

Riley said...

It was groundhog day!

Anonymous said...

Well, if aliens really abducted her, can you blame them? I mean, damn.

Cool story though.

jimmyd said...

@jason-- I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure these cameras will, at a minimum, power up with or without a lens attached or whether the lens is operating properly.

Barbu M said...

Jimmy, I hate to say this too but it seems you have a circuit shorted in the 24-70 (or was it 28-70?).
The AF motor consumes a fair bit of power, and the flexible printed board band has thick leads in it; it's not that strange to break, and in particular positions (dependin on zoom/focus state) it could short a power lead.

Anonymous said...

jimmyD!! X-Files?

Jimmy, well my dad does have several entries in the “Blue Book” as an AGCW (Air Ground Control and Warning) guru from the Korean War era…. but, Aliens may not be the culprit here.

Also, it may not be a shorted lead, battery, or lens issue… all of could be the problem, but I doubt it.

You know I do a lot of site surveys for the government and I use my 5D and 7D exclusively, usually with the 2.8 L USM II IS on the 7D and either a fixed or the 28-135 on the 5D.

Several times this year in areas of high electrical radiation or high RADAR transmissions both the 5D and 7D have done the exact same thing to me, once, it was a signal jammer that was overloading something in the camera.
- Auto focus would not work or lock.
- Camera functions would not operate from the controls.
- Cameras would turn off, and not turn back on.

But, when I would walk out of the electrical room, the areas of radiation, or get away from either the aircraft transmitter or the ground transmitter both cameras worked perfectly again. I made a mental not of this, but really didn’t think too much about the physics or electronics of this.

Though come to think of it….aliens and the X-factor may kick in here….they say, exposure to aliens does leave a lot of residual radiation…… but, a high power source or transmitter close to you may have been the problem… or a cell phone jammer?


jimmyd said...

@Gene-- Hmm. I was at location house in the San Fernando Valley, one I've shot at numerous times. Never experienced this before but, who knows? Maybe there was electrical disturbances of some sort going on... i.e., other than electro-magnetic disturbances emanating from an alien device. :-)

The Mgmt. said...

You lead a rather strange life, Jimmy.

FWIW, I had a similar experience in a 'haunted' area. Took my then-new XSi out, turned it on, got warned that the spirits would get pissed that I was trying to take pictures of them, then got the ol' ERR99.

Camera worked perfectly ever since _except_ for the time I was doing product photography for a hoodoo guy.


RandJ-Photo said...

Check the memory card. I was shooting with one of my friends who also happens to be a Canon rep. She had teh almost released MarkIV that day. It suddenly stopped but gave an error code. She finally replaced the memory card even though the error code was different and the camera came to life.

I've also reseated the lens on Canons and revived them.

MarcWPhoto said...

I also tend to lean towards an unusual but completely natural explanation (the possibility that the lens was having a snit sounds good to me.) However, there *are* people who just don't get along with certain kinds of equipment. I for instance can't wear a watch. Cheap Timex, expensive Swiss, electronic, mechanical, doesn't matter. In less than a week any watch I wear regularly will stop working. I have no idea what causes this, but it's been true since I was in grade school.

Electronics can be sensitive to the damndest things, too. Maybe somebody installed a new wireless intercom in the house, and the American model was carrying a cell phone with an overdriven circuit, and the guy next door was testing his new ham radio, and.... blah blah blah. Sometimes it's not a single point failure, either.

Anonymous said...


I do this pretty regularly I'm afraid. Rich despairs of me. When I get really stressed or angry, random electrical equipment around me will stop working (if I'm lucky) or more often fry itself. We have the entire house and office wired for surge protection and back-up power supplies - makes no damn difference. It costs an absolute fortune to replace this stuff and I truly wish it didn't happen. One of my kids does it too, so it's obviously something genetic. If you Google it, there are thousands of people who do this. It's not actually that unusual (I keep telling myself that.)

For the record, I have never met aliens. Nor do I think they exist.

jimmyd said...

@Lin-- Just recently, on Netflix, I saw the X-Files episode based on you and your "powers." :-)