Part of the fun of this gypsy photographer gig is going to new places and sometimes bringing your 'significant other' along. Not necessarily to help out, but instead to make a long weekend after my few days of work. As was the case last August when Bell Helicopter asked me to do an advertising shoot for them on a particularly scenic part of the Oregon coast.
The destination was Tillamook and the project was to shoot photos and video with a local HEMS operator who was flying a Bell 407. Bell's only real direction was to show the aircraft working in a setting that screamed 'rugged, remote and scenic Oregon.'
My girlfriend heard about the project and decided it sounded like a great opportunity to come along. She thought she'd hang out enjoying Tillamook and after I was done we'd take an extra day or two and drive to visit her long time girlfriend who owned a vineyard and winery a few hours away. I thought, 'sure, pack your bags!'
Arriving in Tillamook we meet up with my video guru, Shawn Adams and the helicopter crew from Classic Air Medical and began brain storming ideas for meeting Bell's photo concept. We settled on an idea to stage something resembling a HEMS scene response to a rugged portion of scenic beach. The crew suggested Shawn and I jump in the helicopter and they'd take us out to scout potential venues.
Of course, the entire Oregon coast was absolutely beautiful and choosing a spot was gonna be tough. But we settled on an isolated section of beach that met our criteria, allowing us to be isolated from beach goers and provide access for the vehicles supporting our shoot and of course with the correct sun exposure during our proposed shoot time. We were almost there but we still needed to plug in the 'actors' for the scene. We had the pilot and the HEMS medical crew. But we were missing one critical element... The victim!
I was surprised when my girlfriend stepped up and volunteered. This was uncharted waters for her and me. We hadn't known one another that long. She had recently retired from an upscale corporate job and I knew her as a Mercedes driving, Louis Vuitton handbag wearing, Nordstrom shopping... Well, you get the picture. So the thought of her volunteering to lie below a hovering helicopter on a remote sandy beach for an extended period of time never even entered my mind! Who knew?!
So the next morning we all met at the predetermined spot. There was a heavy fog layer along the coast so we resigned ourselves to sitting and waiting it out. Within a couple hours the fog had lifted enough where the helicopter could get to the beach. And thankfully the sun was still at a workable angle for the shot. So the rest of us piled into several 4x4 trucks and set out for the beach.
After getting a truck or two stuck and having to dig them out, we were able to get the show on the road. The medical crew made my girlfriend to look like a trauma victim from hell, even adding to the realism with a mock Endotracheal intubation. Then, when the helicopter came in, of course I had to assess the shot from a few different angles. So all tolled she spent about forty five minutes strapped to a backboard playing the part of a 'victim,' all the while being pretty severely sand blasted beneath that hovering helicopter. What a gal, eh?
By the time we were done she looked like a sugar cookie. She had beach sand stuck everywhere! But she was a good sport about things and that evening we all went out for a bite and a beer to celebrate. Later that evening it took her a couple more showers before she had completely rid her body of sand. By the time we were at her girlfriend's vineyard the whole thing was just a funny story to tell of her first experience with helicopters and her new boyfriend who, in the big scheme of things, seems like a pretty good guy.