Shooting in Extreme Conditions

Prolific street artist Banksy is quoted as saying “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Photographer Tyler Shields has succeeded on both counts and in his latest video, he discusses shooting in extreme conditions.

I've photographed while overhanging the edge of a glacier during a blizzard, centimeters away from certain death, and I've shot directly in to the business end of a functioning flamethrower, but my antics pale in comparison to Tyler Shields'. The primary difference-maker is that Shields gets his subjects to really commit to the shoot by plunging them underwater in heavy garments, and hang on to a military parachute in a desert, in 50mph winds.

I couldn't disagree with one of his points and it's arguably the most important of all: preparation is everything. Details that are seemingly small become vital to your success; details like what footwear you picked out, or if you brought gloves. Not to mention, you then have to worry about your team and the model, who might not have anticipated what you had in stock for them. I can give you a brief example of when I failed at this, just off the top of my head. A few years back I shot a musician's album cover which had been dreamed up as ethereal but dark, with the name of the album being Eye of the Storm. The subject, me, and my assistants trudged in to some marshes in the freezing cold winter, and the model stood barefoot in a thin dress in minus temperatures while being fanned. I was frankly terrified she was going to get too cold but her commitment to the shoot was unwavering. In reality, I ought to have brought her lots of blankets and coats to wear between shots.

Eye of the Storm by Robert K Baggs

How do you go about shooting in intense conditions? If you have any anecdotes, make sure to leave them in the comments!

Rob Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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