This Is What Happens When A Small Beard Club Wants A Big Calendar.
In mid 2018, I was approached by our local beard club (Western Slope Whiskers). They wanted to create a calendar to help raise money for a local non-profit organization. While we could have taken the club members out to a pretty location and taken a bunch of shots, that’s just not how I work. I agreed to take the job, but I wanted it to be creative and maybe a little weird. I wrote up a plan for each shot and we spent 5 months slowly chipping away at the list.
Each image had its own unique challenges. Instead of being all technical in my explanations, I thought I would share a fun anecdote from each of the 12 shoots.
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This was the first image taken for the calendar. I’ve had some trouble in the past creating a wind look, but this time I came prepared. Turns out the perfect beard bender is a leaf blower just a couple feet away from a face. Fortunately, our model was a good sport about it. It worked well for me and even gave him a convincing natural wince.
After our first location didn’t work out I ended up going a pretty different direction. I was going for a lonely (but proud) man Valentine’s Day. I found this old claw-foot tub at a yard sale. After brushing off rust, relocating black widows, and adding a new coat of paint, we were ready. My metal-worker friend has this wonderful property full of future projects so we had very little set design to worry about. On the day of the shoot we set the tub in the early morning and filled it with water so it would warm up as much as possible by evening. The model had it pretty easy, all he had to do was take a bath and drink his wine and smoke his cigar.
I had scouted out this location about a week before the shoot. It’s a pretty remote area off a rough dirt road about an hour out of town. There are lots of great natural “sets” all around and a nice dirt patch for gear set up. On shoot day we pulled up and there was a huge RV parked in the dirt patch. Mom and dad were working the grill. The two young kids were running around tossing a ball. Their dog was running in between everyone. It was really a pleasant classic American vacation. So here we pull up in our trucks and out pops this dude dressed as a Satyr. We were clearly not classic American anything. Fortunately, the dad was understanding, but the kids did find something else to do inside the RV.
In late 2017 I made a rain machine out of some sprinklers and PVC pipe. My timing was a little off since the weather turned cold shortly after construction. When we decided to do an “April Showers” shot, I was ready. One problem, we put off this shot till November. Air temp was about 60 degrees and the water was straight out of the hose. It was not warm. However, our model was a true champ with zero complaining and kept letting me shoot till I was happy.
This shot was taken at the same time as March. We just crossed the road to find this little patch of grass in the Aspen trees. In a last minute bout of clarity, I decided we should add the Satyr from March in the background. It’s a nice little easter egg for anyone who ends up with the calendar.
I genuinely felt bad about taking this shot.
We found some wonderful friends willing to let us use their house for whatever we needed. I saw their pool and immediately knew it was perfect for this shot. They already had plans to winterize it, but they were willing to delay for a little while we scheduled everyone. Well, our schedule did not work with theirs. By the time we were ready to shoot, they had already turned off the heater. The water temperature was a brisk 57 degrees.
To make the process a little easier, I shot each model individually. As such, we didn’t need to coordinate all the action and end up doing 100 takes to get everyone in the right place at the right time.
Everyone was a good sport about the water temp, but they did seriously entertain the idea of throwing me in the pool so I could know how they suffered.
Our second woman in the calendar!
She had made her fantasy beard out of something like 100 champagne corks. Certainly a work of art and even more amazing in person.
I shot this portrait at the same time as January. It was one of the more stressful shots of the set. During transition, we got to see the sky darken and the feel the wind pick up. We only had a few minutes to take this shot before the storm let loose and I was scrambling to lower my light stands and get my gear inside.
This shot was a small consolation to our rather severe summer drought. If the water level in our water had been anywhere close to normal, we would have been looking for another location.
I had spent a couple weeks looking for a good fly-fishing location that wasn’t a 3 hour drive out of town.
My wife finally convinced me to take a look at a river section about 10 minutes from home. The water level was low enough for us to wade out pretty far and reveal some really nice rock features. It also just happened to line up perfectly with the sun rise. However, this sunrise is composited since one of my helpers for this shot showed up late due to a life and death emergency regarding early morning and Starbucks.
Later in the day after we shot, I was directed to a local news clip where the team used this same exact location to illustrate the severity of our drought. I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought this spot was photogenic.
This is our only recycled shot in the calendar. I had a wonderful idea for a group shot involving a corn field. Corn was already harvested by the time I got around to planning.
This shot is from a selfie series I did a few years ago. I didn’t feel great about reusing a shot, but wanted to ease the pressure of redesigning a shot. Besides, I thought this shot perfectly illustrated the transitioning of seasons and I had a pretty amazing beard.
This was the final image taken for the project. We had originally wanted to go for an Oktoberfest theme, but fell short in finding appropriate models and costuming.
I came up with this idea, but initially wanted it to be more Halloweenish. I wanted this guy to be scared that skeletons were dancing on his beard. Well, I couldn’t find any models that looked anywhere near realistic or affordable and I didn’t have time to dig any up.
I already had one dinosaur from a previous shoot so all I had to do was find an opponent. Problem solved. Dinosaur fight on a beard.
This shot was taken at the same house as the pool party. I can’t possibly thank the owners enough for being so accommodating. We brought all this food into their house and used their fancy serving dishes and candles and table.
The one issue with this location was that, in reality, our model was about 8 inches away from big windows. I needed a wall.
Several years ago, I came across some old fabric samples and decided to photograph them just in case I could use them for something. This one finally came in handy. Replacing backgrounds in photos is not always easy, but it does make a big difference in the aesthetic of this image.
This was a rather stressful shot for me. There were a lot of elements I wanted to be perfect and I just didn’t know how to make it happen.
This happens to be my living room in my home. I didn’t feel great about displacing my family for a couple days while I set up, but I really thought the location, space, and angle would work well.
I had completely remodeled the fireplace a few months prior and actually felt a sense of pride in discretely showing off my masonry and carpentry skills.
The big scare was finding a tree. I didn’t want to move our family tree and had no idea where to look to find a cheap tree. Just when I started freaking out, I saw my friend was getting rid of this fake tree because they had recently purchased an upgrade. Between this old tree and stealing my parents tree decorations, we were in business.
Of course, after the shoot, the problem was getting rid of a tree I no longer needed. I ended up taking it to my wife’s work Christmas party and using it as a white elephant gift. I spray painted the box black and with gold spray paint put “Beer” on the side. People were skeptical, but it did eventually get picked and then promptly was delivered to the dumpster.
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