Take Advantage of Happy Accidents

"Blue" Featuring Veronica Mintegui

We've all had them before, those moments when something goes "wrong" and yet somehow completely right at the same time. These are the things we can't really control and that you probably would never have thought to do, but the universe seems to align and sprinkle a little bit of extra magic onto your project. Well, I had that cosmic-accidental-magic-attack during one of my recent shoots and I couldn't be more excited about it!

This stunning young lady is none other than THE Veronica Mintegui herself, one of my best friends in the entire world. We accidentally became BFFs well over a decade ago and that was definitely the best happy accident ever. The two of us have been wreaking havoc upon the small town of Watkins Glen and the surrounding area ever since ... mostly on her parents' house ... Like there was this one incident in which we thought is would be fun/hilarious (it was) to fill basically everything in her parents' house that could possibly contain something ... with Easter grass. I'm talking ... everything. A. lot. of. plastic. grass. You see, there was an after-Easter-sale and they were practically giving the stuff away - I mean, what choice did we have!? The microwave, crisper drawer in the fridge, drawers not in the fridge, all the extra room at the top of the cereal boxes usually occupied by air, every cup/bowl/pot/pan in the cupboards, even their dishwasher that was currently broken and taped closed was not left unstuffed. You get the point. Obviously we were in deep shit the next morning and had to clean it all up, but they still find random Easter-grass-presents-from-the-past to this day hahaha. Ummmm anyway ... what I'm getting at here is that we have a strange and wonderful friendship/sense of humor that I will never tire of. Also we are just so attractive as is evident in the below images...

Much of our major bonding time back in the day (other than terrorizing our families) was spent over our mutual love of art (plus being super strange and not caring who knows it - Yes, we were voted "most unique" in our senior yearbook, thanks for asking). She is an incredible artist who dabbles in painting, drawing, photography, decorating delicious cakes and ... basically anything remotely creative. Oh and she and her husband Oscar make the most adorable tiny humans whom they are happy to throw in the air for weird photo shoots ... 

Oscar and Veronica and I looking so fresh at my wedding.

Anyway, as I'm guessing most of you reading this already know, I recently hosted the Watkins Glen Flickr Gathering. Naturally, Veronica (who lives there) had no other choice but to come hang out with us fellow creative types. Like the magical chameleon that she has always been, her hair was currently in a fancy blue/green state. Among her many artsy skills she is quite the wizard with her face ... I mean she's good at makeup, because it's basically an art project that you get to wear on your face and show off all day, ammiright? So she went with the obvious blue theme and did some snazzy eye/lips/eyebrow makeup and arrived ready for me to create something!

Several of my favorite things happened while we were shooting. The light was pretty, my subject started off already looking awesome without any Photoshopping, and she had a suggestion/request that I was totally into. Normally I come up with the ideas for my image all on my own. Even if I'm just planning to shoot a simple headshot with some cool makeup and figure out what to do with it later in Photoshop, I'm the one doing the "creative lifting." (The only other time I can remember my model making a request was when Alex Currie said, "Ohh can you make me into a tree!?") Before we set off to shoot, Veronica had inquired the possibility of me giving her horns. Uhhh hell yes and I totally can, and I definitely want to. I had no idea what I was going to end up creating with the image we shot, so it was nice to know one detail right from the get-go. So, we got to the middle of the beautiful marshy area in which I intended to shoot ... when disaster struck!! The best kind of disaster, a happy disaster!  

This, dear readers, was the crucial moment when something magical happened that I think many people would usually have been like, "oh snap, let's get you the heck out of here!" But I saw opportunity and pounced. As I was getting my framing/camera settings figured out, Veronica says to me, "Oh umm, Robert I have terrible allergies ... and I just realized we are surrounded by ragweed which gets me the worst .... Crap, this always makes my eyes water like crazy and I think I'm about to start crying." Here is where I believe many photographers, looking out for their models and the time that went into their makeup would have high-tailed it up the trail and out of the marsh. I, on the other hand, am close enough to my model to subject her to a crazy allergy attack and simply said... "Do it." ... "Huh?" she replied, "Do it," I say, "Cry!!! CRY, VERONICA, CRY!

So uhh yeah, with the cruel and awesome power of pollen-y nature at her side, she turned on the waterworks like you wouldn't believe while tapping into her best sad/longing face game. It was perfect. Sure, her makeup was getting ruined, but it was only on her face in order to create some art in the first place and I was capturing a way more interesting shot than I had ever imagined. Suddenly, my simple somewhat boring portrait (as boring as a portrait of a girl with blue hair destined to have horns can be), was now full of emotion, interest, and story. Not only were there actual tears streaming down her face, but the makeup tinted them blue. BLUE TEARS, PEOPLE!! You just can't make this shit up... Ok, so you can, but it was nowhere on my to-do-list and I certainly was not thinking, "Hmm this picture would be way more interesting if she were crying blue tears." But news flash, it totally would be .... I mean is.

So basically what I'm saying is, thank you Veronica for being my best friend, for having a terrible allergy at the worst/BEST possible time ever, and for then letting me subject you to itchy watery eyes in order to "get the shot." And also, the horns ... I mean come on, how much cooler is this image with horns!? Such a brilliant idea. ALSO, it was not her intention, but the horns eventually led me to some other wonderful inspiration. You see, after placing them on her head I realized that it kind of reminded me of one of my favorite things in the world, "Saga." For those of you who don't know, Saga is a comic series that is nothing short of brilliant. I'm obsessed. You should be too. I'm just going to quote the beginning of an article, but then you should go read it so you can be convinced to read the series ... 

"Saga is a science fiction fantasy, set in a galaxy that’s as full of magic and monsters as it is spaceships and lasers. There’s a war between the planet Landfall, whose inhabitants have wings on their backs, and its moon Wreath, whose people all have horns on their heads — and this war has encompassed the entire universe. Our heroes go on an adventure that spans countless worlds, and includes epic battles, nefarious bounty hunters, and a ruthless robot that’s tracking them all down."  (Here is the article with ten reasons why you should be reading Saga.)  

I feel like having the gorgeous visuals of Saga (like the glorious spectacle above) dancing around in the back of my mind while I edited was yet another happy accident that led this image to be what it eventually was. It just infused so much more depth and story into the image for me that I'm hoping will bleed through to my audience. Oh and I'm just gonna go right ahead and pat myself on the back for the butterfly. *gingerly pats back* I thought it was such a cool touch to have a symbol of her people's enemy delicately perched on her shoulder. Since those on the planet Landfall all have various types of wings, I wanted to include some somewhere to have both sides of the war present. The fact that I found an image of a butterfly that was tattered and a little rough around the edges just sweetened the deal for me. I also ended up blending the stars into the background, because Saga ... because outer-space...   

So next time something seems to have gone "wrong," or just not entirely as planned, take a hot second to think creatively around the problem and see if you can swing it in your favor. Maybe one of your flashes didn't go off and your whole image takes on a new look you hadn't considered, maybe the wind suddenly picks up and blows all your subjects' hair in their faces, or maybe your model has a crazy allergy attack and cries epic blue tears? Who knows. Just be on the lookout for the unexpected and don't write something off that could be just what your image was lacking, that the universe was so gracious to illuminate for you. It's like my mom always told me when I was little and would complain about how I'd messed up my drawing, "Just turn the mistake into something else!"  

The particle texture used for this image can be found here.

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