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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2007-10-30

Shooting 'Hell-O-Ween'
Tom Sperduto set up a studio at his friend's Halloween bash at the Holiday Inn in Bensalem, Pennsylania.

By Tom Sperduto

Photo by Tom Sperduto

Photo by Tom Sperduto
I have always enjoyed a good Halloween scare, but I was not prepared for the intoxicated, laughing penguin with a full cup of beer in each hand stumbling dangerously close to my Profoto 7B pack.

When my buddy Dan Smits called and invited me to set up a studio at his "HELL-O-WEEN" bash at the Holiday Inn in Bensalem, Pennsylania, I jumped at the chance. I was eager to shoot some portraits of costumed partygoers grave digging to the beat with loose inhibitions. As I arrived, the gigantic face of Linda Blair projected on the wall and spitting up pea soup should have been an omen of the fright to come. I was hoping to shoot my ghoulish portraits in a quiet area away from the ballroom. My plan was to scope out the partygoers I found intriguing and lead them to my lair. Things began to get interesting when I learned the only available space for me to set up shop was directly adjacent to a full bar and the all-you-can-drink beer stand.

"So how many people are you expecting?" I asked Dan while carefully eyeing how dangerously close the bar was to my equipment. "Anywhere from 300 to 500, I guess," he said. I quickly set up my backdrop with black muslin and attached my Elinchrom mid-sized Octabank to one stand and my Profoto beauty dish to another. I said a small prayer as Linda Blair laughed in the background.

Photo by Tom Sperduto

Photo by Tom Sperduto

A drunken man-sized penguin.
Due to the close quarters, I turned a drink tray into a desk where those photographed would sign a model release. Thinking this was brilliant improvising on my part, I failed to remember the simple fact that drink trays are for drinks. A fact that became crystal clear later in the evening when I heard the words "sorry dude" coming from the corner as I was shooting a human toilet bowl.

Once I dried off the beer-soaked model releases and my MacBook Pro that I expertly placed under the drink tray desk, I got back to work shooting portraits. As word got around that the portraits were fun, the line grew long and before I knew it vampires, miniskirt-clad devils, angels, priests, gangsters and pirates were all partying around my pelican case filled with lenses, packs, batteries and other tools of the trade. Almost in the blink of an eye, the room was filled with hundreds of costumed night howlers and the temperature was starting to rise.

As I managed to keep my small area clear while balancing on the ladder I borrowed from the Holiday Inn staff, the evening took another scary turn. While I was photographing the drunken female duo of Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" they began an air guitar solo in unison balancing on one leg, and moments later my Holiday Inn portrait studio came crashing to the ground and somewhat breaking the fall of the two laughing musicians. I was glad nobody was hurt, and made a mental note to not store grid spots behind backdrops used at all-you-can-drink Halloween parties.

Photo by Tom Sperduto

Photo by Tom Sperduto
Once my backdrop was righted and I cleaned up a few broken pieces, I was back in the swing of things and happy making pictures. It wasn't long after when the night took another turn down scary lane. A drunken man-sized penguin from the movie "Billy Madison" was exchanging unpleasant words with a scantly clad nurse ex-girlfriend and making the new boyfriend, LT Jim Dangle from Reno-911, very unhappy. The devil in Linda Blair must have laughed as the penguin and LT Jim Dangle in his plastic shorts and even tighter plastic top squared off inches from my gear. Lucky for me, the penguin stormed off and Dangle claimed victory to his beloved nurse.

I decided to call it quits before the angry penguin returned and began packing up for the night. As I began the first trip to my car, I contemplated a quick stop to the rest room since I held my water all night in fear of returning to broken bulbs and beer soaked equipment. However, I was quickly moved to the side by real police officers yelling "party's over!" as paramedics loaded up an ambulance with a costumed character who was ceremoniously thrown through the hotel's plate glass window. I quickly hustled to my car, loaded up my first trip and then began explaining to the officers guarding the door to the ballroom that I needed to grab the rest of my gear. Two trips later, I was safely packed in my car and after a few goodbyes to a few super heroes I befriended, I was on my way home. I contemplated listening to the "Devil went down to Georgia" as I felt I just cheated the devil, but at 3 a.m. I settled for NPR.


(Tom Sperduto is a freelance photographer based in New Jersey. You can see more of his images on his member page:
http://www.sportsshooter.com/tomsperduto.)

Related Links:
Tom's member page

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