In March, Pennsylvania-based photographer Ryan Smith was contracted to shoot images for Meritus Medical Center’s annual report. With the looming threat of the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital in Hagerstown, Maryland postponed the shoot until June. Even then, for the safety of their patients the client imposed strict restrictions on Ryan’s visit.
This was my first indoor shoot since the start of the pandemic and the first in which I had to wear both a face mask and a face shield.
When the client and the photographer originally planned the shoot in March, the request shot list included several very specific shots. Meritus Medical Center acknowledged the challenges these types of shots would pose when everyone at the hospital was required to limit contact and wear personal protective equipment. The client and photographer worked together to make the shot list more flexible, and Ryan was able to capture real-life situations in the moment.
I suggested a more documentary-style approach in which we planned to visit certain areas of the hospital at broad time ranges. It was freeing to be able to shoot images that naturally presented themselves and to direct naturally occurring actions.
Though Ryan was initially anxious about shooting at a hospital during a pandemic, his worries were assuaged by knowing that the hospital had low numbers of COVID-19 cases. Additionally, the photographer knew from his decade-long relationship with the client that they had his health and safety in mind.
Knowing that we wouldn’t be working on their COVID unit gave me confidence that I could shoot this with minimal risk.
Over the course of two four-hour shoots, Ryan photographed the non-COVID units of the hospital. He was not allowed to bring any assistants or additional crew members onsite and was required to keep a face shield on at all times.
Shooting with a face shield on completely changed how I shot. Instead of having my eye up to the camera’s viewfinder, I had to rely on the LCD screen.
With this issue in mind, Ryan rented a camera with a strong LCD display and robust focus capabilities. While there was initially a learning curve when Ryan had to adjust to using the LCD screen, the photographer found unexpected benefits to shooting this way.
Not being able to put my eye to the viewfinder because of the face shield ended up giving me an opportunity to shoot new angles that I might never before have considered. It also alleviated the pain of having my viewfinder fog up because of my mask.
In the end, Ryan was able to capture the requested imagery for Meritus Medical Center while maintaining proper health and safety regulations. His images can be found in Meritus Medical Center’s 2020 Annual Report.
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