There’s something unnerving and exciting about packing a car full of clothes and setting off down Highway 101. I knew I wanted to shoot with windmills, sunflowers, and a quaint produce stand near UC Davis, but the rest was up to what the side of the highway offered us. Well, after blooming for only two weeks, the sunflowers were fried to a crisp by the merciless Davis heat. I was bummed that didn’t work out, especially after Frances scraped an arm to shreds as we ran through neck-high bushes to get to them. But our final stop, golden hour at Ikeda’s produce stand, more than made up for it. After tossing onions around for a bit and eating the freshest, juiciest green plums I’ve probably had (so this is what real fruit tastes like, juice running down to my elbows and everything), I unleashed one of my weirder ideas of the day: “Frances, do you mind if I tie you up with rope?” She was confused, but more than willing. So I wrapped her up and had her roll out from me, dancing/prancing/frolicking on steaming concrete in front of crusty potato chip sunflowers.
Early afternoon had us at a sugar factory, hastily running away from security, just after getting the shots we needed; high noon granted us abandoned trains to climb and rows of freshly seeded earth, both difficult terrain for Frances’ stilettos. During the 14 hour adventure was a pit stop at 7/11 for a pitiful lunch but extra-large slurpees to ease the heat, Alina Baraz remixes down the highway, a second round with security, and a quick dash onto somebody’s driveway to take photos with their yellow pickup truck. Frances was quick to adapt to every location, injecting her own creativity into her poses. She has the ability to command the camera, her poses reflecting an intentionality even in her fingertips—seriously, look at her fingers—and I found myself photographing a ballet under the summer sun.
Today’s antics are why I make photographs. As much as I love styling and scouting and preplanning, the spontaneity, sudden inspiration, and questionable decisions (reference stilettos on a train) that unfold on shoot day make everything memorable and worthwhile. It’s all about the adventure.