On Location

Oh Baby !

I recently shot a magazine spread promoting a birthing center for a local hospital featuring families that had a great experience with their deliveries. The assignment required me to first shoot in the actual birthing area in the hospital then drive across town to photograph a family with their 8 month old baby girl who was also delivered there. Anyone who has attempted trying to get a great shot of a kid, let alone a baby, knows that to get that shot you have to be patient, quick, as well as catch a little bit of luck. In this particular case I'd like to think that my experience and preparation aided my chance at getting lucky.

Even though the hospital PR team had prearranged my visit to the birthing area, I know from experience that any assignment inside a hospital can be a fluid one. Nurses and doctors have more important things on their mind that setting up a 'perfect shot' for a visiting photographer.
Upon arrival my eyes began darting around for possible spots to get a quick snap of the Obstetrician I was scheduled to photograph. My next objective was to 'chat up' the nurses on duty. I'm no longer intimidated by the initial look on the head nurse's face when I tell her that I'm there to take photos of the doctor and possibly a mom and her newborn. "You want to what? Now?"

Fortunately I had photographed the doctor before so she cleared the path for me to not only shoot in one of the available birthing rooms but also gained permission from one of her patients to be photographed along with her 1 day old baby. The main thing at that point was to not to waste time. I made the decision to not set-up my lights but shoot with available light along with the flash on my camera. I was able to get all three shots within fifteen minutes!

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Next stop, the family across town with the eight month old baby.

When I arrived I found a lovely, but very tired, young mom who told me about staying up all night with her baby who wouldn't fall asleep. I promised her that I'd get my shots finished as quickly as possible and was then led by her two older children to the backyard that featured a large plastic playhouse. Bingo, I had a focal point to work with! Unfortunately the dad was stuck in traffic on his way home so I decided to begin without him. I pulled the playhouse across the backyard into position and plopped the baby right in front of my camera. The baby was in a good mood so I directed the older kids to scream and be happy and started to snap away. Believe it or not, the baby struck that poise you see in the top photo completely on her own! I knew I had 'The Shot'! When the dad did arrived home about twenty minutes later I had him stand in the spot behind where his wife had been sitting. A little post-production work completed the image.

A couple of quick family snaps later my shooting assignment was complete. Start to finish, two and a half fast paced hours!

On Location: the Salton Sea

Looking back towards the shoreline of the Salton Sea. ©2014 John Halpern

John has recently partnered up with long-time friend and colleague Ricardo Gutierrez, adding video filming and production to his list of creative services. Part of their latest video project was shot in San Diego and edited in New York, and always the curious traveler and location scout, John knew that he had to spend an extra day to visit the Salton Sea, a 2 hour drive from San Diego.

View across the Salton Sea. ©2014 John Halpern

The Salton Sea is a lake situated about 130 miles east of San Diego, it is 15 miles wide and 35 miles long, 225 feet below sea level and has a salinity content of over 40%. The only fish that can survive that environment is the tilapia, whose bodies and bones litter the edge of the shore.

Desiccated tilapia. ©2014 John Halpern

For a period in the 1950's and 60's there was an attempt to make it a family fun destination, but in current times John found the area to be mostly desolate. A local power company is now buying up a lot of the land, interested in taking advantage of the geothermal activity around the lake.

Ricardo by the Sea. ©2014 John Halpern

“I have always wanted to visit the Salton Sea. Ever since my rock & roll shooting days, I’ve thought it would be a great location to photograph a band. Seeing it did not disappoint.”

John stops to capture the scenery en route to the Salton Sea. ©2014 Ricardo Gutierrez