Mesa Fire & Medical Department for JEMS Magazine

JEMS Magazine, November 2014 cover with
Mesa Fire & Medical Department.
Back in September I had the opportunity to work with Mesa Fire and Medical Department on a cover shoot for JEMS magazine. My work takes me to wherever my assignments or subjects may be, so having the chance to shoot in my own city was wonderful, plus, being able to represent the ‘home-team’ was a bonus.
MFMD’s Randy Budd submitted an article to JEMS about the groundbreaking technology they pioneered in non-invasive positive pressure ventilation and the editors decided to bump it up to their November cover story. As is pretty typical in these assignments, I was contacted about the shoot a week before the deadline, was put in touch with Randy, and pretty much left on my own to schedule the shoot day and complete the assignment.
With Randy being my point of contact with Mesa Fire and Medical, I sent an initial email to introduce myself and get a feel for when he and MFMD may be ready to shoot. Next, I asked JEMS magazine for a copy of the article as part of my pre-production process to research what I’m going to be shooting. Even when I know what the subject will be, I will always ask for a copy of the article, if it’s available, to base my shot list off of because there are often specific details the author refers to that can be critical to visually representing the subject. In this case, the article described an emergency call with a very specific patient description, matching the cover and a spread image with that description was going to be important. Lastly, while waiting to get a copy of the article, and while waiting to hear back from Randy, I began researching non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) to get an idea of what the scenario may entail and begin my preliminary shot list.
This stage of a standard EMS call was not relevant to our
shoot, however, I ask my Fire, EMS, or Police subjects
to run through a scenario the way they normally would
and it keeps them in the mindset of a real emergency.
This is important for expressions and for everybody being
where they need to be.

Randy and I began going back and forth about various details that were important to include from both his perspective and from my perspective, and after a few email exchanges we were able to set a date and agree on an appropriate location. I had read the article several times by this point as well, so I had a shot list forming in my head now that the location was set. The only detail left to confirm was going to be our patient.
The article referred to a fictitious female patient who was around 60 years old and suffering from COPD, having an aunt in her mid-50s, I reached out to see if she’d be willing to play the part.

With an age appropriate model, a date, time, and location set, and a shot list now fully developed, pre-production was done just a couple of days before our shoot date.
On the day of the shoot I arrived at the house we’d be utilizing, owned by a colleague of Randy, and was met by the crew of MFMD’s LT220 and a TRV (an ambulance looking apparatus used on basic medical calls). I met with them in the living room and walked them through the timeline of the shoot, the rooms in the house we’d be using, and how I’d like them to go about their roles. Whenever I’m shooting an assignment for a trade magazine, whether it’s about emergency medicine, or electricians, or anything else, this pre-shoot meeting is crucial. Shooting for trade magazines means that every single person who views these photos will be able to immediately recognize whether the subjects of the photos are doing things correctly, and will be experts in the same field as my subjects. Today, that means everyone who views this magazine cover and spread will know if my firefighter subjects are dressed appropriately, handling equipment appropriately, and treating our patient appropriately. It means they will know if my model is expressing the symptoms of the emergency call correctly, and it means the details visible match everything else, such as blood pressures, heart rates, oxygen levels, and the pressure levels of the star of this shoot, the NPPV machine, which need to be prominently displayed.

Something I talk about in each of these pre-shoot meeting with my subjects and models, when trade magazines are involved, is that I need them to treat this pretend scenario as if it were a real-world emergency, I need their conversations to stay on-topic because I need their facial expressions to match the scene, and I need them to prepare for and execute every detail of this case exactly how they would on an actual call. I work like this for two reasons, first, on an actual call every firefighter and paramedic knows what they need to do at any given moment of the call, so I don’t have images of people looking at the camera waiting for me to tell them how I want their hands or where they should be looking. Secondly, I do this because if they walk through the scenario one step at a time I end up with people trying to ‘freeze’ and their rigid arms and frozen expressions give that away every time. I need it to be real and I need it to look natural.
Now, what that means for me is that I need to light the scene in a very forgiving way. I’m going to be working around them, so I’ll be moving around a lot, shooting the action and the scenario as it unfolds in real time. I don’t ask them to stop, or to do something again, the moment I do that their focus breaks and they are now trying to act something out, and that will show in everything they do. As I’m shooting I’m looking for the details, I’m shooting vertical cover options and I’m shooting horizontal two page spread options, and the first time they run through their treatment I’m thinking of where I can move myself or my lights to improve the shot. I stop them just before they put the patient on a stretcher and we do it again, and then we will repeat the entire process as many times as necessary to get the lighting and shooting angles correct.

When I was comfortable with moving on from the first scene, of the MFMD crew assessing and treating the patient in the living room, we move on to the next shot. We pack up the living room scene and set up for a patient on the stretcher being moved to the ambulance shot. Once the patient is secured on the stretcher, the equipment is prepped for the new shot and the crew is in place to continue treating the patient while moving to the ambulance outside, I begin shooting again. We’ll go from just inside the front door to just arriving to the back of the ambulance as many times as necessary to dial in the lighting and the shooting angles until I feel like I have ‘the shot’ from that specific set. 

The last shot was going to be the patient, still on the stretcher, in the back of the ambulance with the treatment being continuous each step of the way. This last image set I decided to shoot with just natural light. It was late morning, and with the back doors of the ambulance open, there was more than enough light available to not need artificial light added to the scene. Shooting with natural light gave me the freedom to shoot from any angle without moving lights around, and to get the shot in just one take.
This entire shoot lasted maybe 90 minutes from beginning to end and I am extremely happy with the results. The crew from Mesa Fire, my model playing the patient, and Randy being on set to help with the technical details of the NPPV technology made everything come together smoothly and without any real hiccups. I want to thank JEMS for the opportunity, Mesa Fire and Medical Department for their work in moving EMS forward as well as their professionalism during our shoot, and of course our patient, my aunt, for agreeing to play along and get tied down to a stretcher with a mask strapped to her face on the cover of a national magazine.

If you’re a photographer interested in reading more about the attention to detail required when working for a trade magazine or commercial assignment, check back to my blog regularly, I’ll be working on a post about that soon.
Thanks for visiting.


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