USCG - Air Station Los Angeles

A quick post about one of my shoots in Los Angeles this week, with some photos of the great USCG crew that I got to meet at Air Station Los Angeles...

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I was in Los Angeles on an unrelated shoot for a magazine client. I knew I would be arriving Thursday afternoon and would have the evening free before my full day shooting Friday. If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you know I am working on a personal project, documenting people at work through workplace portraits. I wanted to use my free time in LA for that project.

I reached out to the Public Affairs Officer at USCG Air Station Los Angeles several months ago, I explained the project I was working on, and how I'd love to include some USCG careers in the project. The request went through many levels and was finally approved. The moment I was told that I'd have the green-light to photograph the on-call crew on Thursday evening, I dove right into pre-production.

First step was a location scout. I couldn't come up with a shot list until I could see the location I'd be working in. When an in-person scout isn't possible, I use Google Earth. No Joke. On Google Earth I was able to see the Air Station's orientation, hangar placement, proximity to other aircraft, as well as where sun / shadows would fall in the evening. Once I had a good idea of where I'd be shooting, I knew I'd be limited to tight shots and low angles to hide the clutter of the airport that was around the USCG ramp. I knew finding good angles would be a challenge, but at least now I could compile a shot list of what I wanted to capture.

Through my research I saw that the crews at Air Station LA fly the MH-65 Dolphin, so I was able to combine what I knew had to be my shooting angles with complimentary angles of the aircraft and crew positions in the cabin. With the MH-65 being on the smaller side, I didn't worry too much about shooting wide enough to show the airport clutter. I wanted to come up with lighting diagrams for the inside crew shots, but since I couldn't find many helpful cabin photos of the Dolphin, I knew I'd just have to wing it when I got there.

The MH-65 flies with a crew of four. Two pilots, a flight mechanic, and a rescue swimmer. My goal was to capture portraits of each crew member in their respective roles and in their respective cabin locations. The pilots would be easy, cockpit shots were a given. With the swimmer and mechanic I needed to be more thoughtful. I went with the door/hoist angles for the flight mechanic, as it would be his job to operate the hoist during rescues, I think it worked well.

For the rescue swimmer, as his job is as much in the water or hanging from the hoist cable as it is anywhere else, I couldn't capture the full depth of what he does on this shoot. I ended up just shooting him as he would be enroute to/from their base while on a mission. I photographed him in the rear compartment of the helo from both the inside and outside. It was the best I'd be able to do, but I think it still worked. Perhaps in the future I can arrange a shoot with a swimmer in the water.

The two pilots were shot just as I planned, several posed shots in front of the helo, and several in the cockpit of them going through their preflight checks. The entire crew was incredibly cooperative and in great spirits. I couldn't be more thankful that they'd take an hour out of their evening to pose for me, and it was great getting to know them as individuals, their ambitions, their motivations for doing what they do.

So, to the flight crew that day, to the Public Affairs office, and to everybody else involved in my shoot, I cannot thank you enough, not just for taking the time to pose, but for what you do day in and day out. Thanks for a great shoot, and I look forward to hopefully shooting with you again someday.



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