DATELINE—San Diego, CA. (July 3, 2009) Wendell Sweda made a return trip to this city from his hideout in Santa Monica. It was to be a grueling shootout for the cover of this book. This time, however, he remembered to bring his trench coat, while I supplied the heat—a Chinese-made Saturday Night Special. Unfortunately, it was Friday night and the gun fell apart after only 10 minutes. No sweat; I had backups. I came prepared, seven guns in all. I bought 'em the day before in a value pack at CVS—five bucks, marked down from $9.99. I couldn't believe my luck. 4th of July weekend you'd expect 'em to jack up the price on squirt guns. It was a real steal, even if it wasn't real steel.
I reached into my bag and selected an orange-colored blaster to replace the dud but—lo and behold—during the break, Sweda managed to patch up the weapon. Don't ask me how; he must've been packin' Epoxy, which doesn't surprise me. The guy is always ready for the unexpected, especially when he's around me.
Our first location was under a mammoth Moreton Bay fig tree in Balboa Park, where I set up a 39 x 72-inch aluminum Photoflex LitePanel—a snap to set up, even in the dark. Unfortunately, I should've packed a sandbag, because a stiff breeze blew in just as we started shooting. This had the two of us shouting, lurching, grabbing, and hand-holding. (No, not that kind of hand-holding.)
I used one studio strobe that was powered by a Tronix Explorer XT. Powerpacks can cost well over $1,000, but this beaut (made by Innovatronix in the Philippines) goes for less than $400! I didn't need the strobe's umbrella because I was using the LitePanel for bounce. Wait a minute—I take that back—I sure could've used the umbrella when the park's sprinkler system kicked in and put an abrupt end to the session. (Personal best: Fastest Set Break-Down.) We retreated to my car parked across the street in front of a church. As I was loading gear into the trunk, I looked up at the building. Spanish Revival; red clay mission-tiled roof, whitewashed stucco walls, two side staircases lit by lanterns casting a noirish glow.
I mounted a speedlight on the camera's hot shoe and had Sweda take a position on the staircase, gun in hand. He stuck an unlit cigarette in his mouth and I lay on the ground. I told him to point the gun right at me as I skewed the camera angle. In the viewfinder I saw a mob hit man. I was about to take my last shot on this earth. Didn't matter that the gun he held was green, I knew what color my blood would be. I told him to fire, then squeezed the shutter... [1/60 sec at f/4.0, ISO 400. Post-production: High Dynamic Range.]
Later, I put the flash away and shot the shadow in Fig. 31. Pure ambient light from a lantern provided a rich orange tone. I was gonna crop out the green barrel of the water pistol but decided to leave it in. Why be gunshy?
Fig. 31 A lantern's orange glow helped make this an effective shot.