I was rudely awakened at 2am by an invasion of models. Normally not something I would object to but in this case I made an exception. With hindsight it was a bad idea to share a room with the hair-stylist as there was always a chance that it would be easier for the models to come to him rather than moving all his kit to them. Ok I could just about sleep through the hairdryers and the inexplicably high spirited chatter, my assistant was doing kit checks, and behind the scenes shots, I could do another half hour doze. But then there started up a noise like somebody had thought to bring in a petrol lawnmower to give the shag-pile carpet a nocturnal cut. The bloody make-up artist’s bloody pneumatic airbrush bloody thing making a bloody noise that stabbed my bloody brain!
Might just get up then. At least I could use THAT shower…er…no, everybody would see. I got dressed and went to find the client who was the only one not to disturb me.
He wasn’t in his room so I went downstairs to find him. He was to be found in the bar with brandy glass in one hand and an unlit cigar in the other (probably both blagged). Obviously he had not thought it worth going to sleep for an hour. He was having an argument with a drunk. A wealthy looking gentleman, but definitely drunk. Our client, as I have said before has the gift of the gab, but he can often be so good at talking that he fails to listen. His single audience member was looking quite angry. And he was definitely drunk. Quite obviously my client failed to see the warning signs – though he had been drinking, he was not inebriated, well at least not as much as the other guy. I took my chance and grabbed him by the arm saying quite loudly, “You know you can’t smoke that cigar in here, let’s go outside!”. So I dragged him outside and fortunately the other guy was far too drunk to follow. “What were you arguing with him about?”, I asked. “Well”, replied my client, “he dropped the keys to his Bentley and I picked them up for him because he was too pissed to see.” “Ok”, I said. “And then I told him that all Bentley drivers are tossers and he was screwing up the environment for everyone. And he should ride a bicycle.” “Oh,” I said. That’s all I could manage. “I think I was just winning him over”, said my client.
At that point a large, silver van pulled up outside the hotel. The bikes had arrived.
Out of the van stepped a guy, thirtyish, slim. Very, very grumpy to be out and about at this ungodly hour. Something that I empathised with at that moment in time. My client tried using his charm offensive which failed miserably. I stuck with a cursory but polite handshake. The bike guy was not won over – he avoided eye contact and growled in return. Who’s stupid idea was this to be working so early anyway? Damn.
Make-up and hair was completed in due course and we were off. The client, hairdresser and my assistant rode with me. We put in the models and the make-up artist in with the bike guy as we thought that might at least cheer him up. The client wanted to go in the van because he wanted to talk bikes but I managed to persuade him that it wasn’t a good idea.
The bike guy said he knew vaguely where the beach was so we were to follow. I had my faithful Tom-Tom set up as back-up. Which proved to be wise. Obviously having the girls ride with him in the van was not improving his mood. We knew this because he was driving like a complete arse. Going through red lights, exceeding the speed limit by ‘quite a bit’, he was now really expressing his displeasure. Safe in the knowledge that I could depend on the sat-nav, I drove at a more sensible pace. As we left Bristol the navigation unit then started to say that we were going the wrong way. Totally the wrong way. Noticing that the sky was already beginning to lighten, I told the client to phone the girls in the van to ask if the driver knew where he was going. He still maintained he did, but I was not convinced. Grudgingly I followed for a few more miles but the sat-nav was definitely convinced we were not going in the right direction. I asked the client to phone the van again. At this point we were on a roundabout. The van screeched to a halt and somehow I avoided running into the back of him. Heart racing I pulled level with him and wound down my window. As did he. We were stopped in the middle of a roundabout. Fortunately there wasn’t any traffic around. Or police cars. I looked at him. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. I pointed at him and then to me. “You follow me then,” I mouthed. The actual sounds wouldn’t come out. He shrugged again and nodded. “Right,” I thought to myself, “have it your way.” And then out loud “Buckle-up.” I am not a boy racer (not anymore) but I am an experienced driver who can press on when required and/or in the mood. It was now required AND I was in the mood. The rest of the journey was a blur of hard acceleration, hard braking and squealing tyres. Off the main roads the route became twister and tighter. I didn’t pull away too much as it would be counter-productive to lose the van, and it was just a van. The bike guy was really pushing the van to keep up, I could see them cornering sharply in my rear view mirror and wondered how much of the hair and make-up would need re-touching. My passengers were silent, as was I. Until about 5 miles from the beach (according to the sat-nav) my client lent over and said to me, “The tide will be out won’t it, Michael? You did check?”. My stomach knotted up as I replied, “Sure.”
We arrived at Quantoxhead village just before dawn. It was already light enough to see this picture postcard hamlet complete with thatched cottages and duck pond. The van pulled up soon after. In the silence you could here the hot exhaust of my car tick, ticking away. The bike guy gave me a wry smile as he got out of the van, I nodded back. The hair-stylist, assistant and client spilled out of my car, they looked a little disoriented but otherwise unharmed . “That was FAST!” exclaimed the client. “Was it?” I replied, as casually as I could. I looked over at the make-up artist checking over and re-touching the models and wondered if the slight flush in my cheeks was a sign of guilt at my immaturity? Nah.
“Perfect timing,” I said. The car park was situated in the church yard of the chocolate box picture hamlet. The parking charge was optional but we put in a couple of pounds per vehicle. It seemed rude not too.
We walked up the path in this idyllic little world towards the beach. It was so achingly beautiful all the effort to get here at this point dissolved into a lovely serenity. Even the bike guy seemed happier.
So we arrived at the gorgeous, rocky, unspoilt beach and touched up hair and make-up. And we waited for the dawn to break at just after 5am and we took the photos. The shoot lasted just over an hour. And we didn’t see another soul.
Perfection. Not in the photos or the project. But in the moment. Everything planned to capture THAT moment. By the time we arrived back in Nottingham 24 hours had passed. A 24 hour mission to achieve a series of photos.
At the end of the shoot we all took a moment of quiet contemplation. Looking at the limitless ocean and the majesty of the rocks, it felt almost spiritual.
As the moment eventually passed, we joked that next time it’d be nice to shoot in the Bahamas, but truthfully right then I wouldn’t have swapped that beach for anywhere else in the world.
But then my stomach spoke up.
Good, the client had blagged us breakfast back at the hotel.
So yes we could have shot the models in the studio and we could have photoshopped them onto a beachy backdrop. But then we would have missed the adventure wouldn’t we?
The pneumatic airbrush make up machine that I was very rudely awoken by
Hair prep at 2am
The make-up required a bit of touching up. Can’t think why….
Quantoxhead – so beautiful, so peaceful, so early even the ducks were asleep.
Imagine waking up to this every morning.
The bike guy was still sulking but even he couldn’t stay mad with this view (note the secret smile)
We had limited time to shoot as the sun was getting brighter very quickly
By the end of the shoot, sleep deprivation was beginning to get the best of us. So out came the shades.