Testament Experience / by Lena Chavez

I got the call on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Was I available to do some male grooming on a two day photo shoot with a local metal band? Ummm, ya! I guess I had a bad phone connection because both times talking with two different people I thought they said I'd be working with "Pessimist". In the middle of getting the guys camera ready on the first day of shooting on Mare island I learned that was not the name of the band. I saw Tiffany a.k.a. Mama Tiff, one the bands managers pull out this leather vest that had TESTAMENT embroidered in white on the back of it. As I'm finishing up with the lead singer, Chuck, I asked her, "Is that the other name of the band?" She answered me, "Yes. Testament." Greeeeeaaat. This whole time, about a week or so I was researching a different metal band! I told them and we had a good laugh. Of course I know who Testament is. Being a native of the San Francisco bay area and having a slew of different friends, some metal heads, I KNOW who Testament is!! Awesome. 

Day 1: Call time 8:45a.m. on Mare Island, Vallejo, Ca. We arrived and set up shop. There was a huge winnebago  with a trailer attached to it. Dean Karr, director/photographer was shooting. After I got everyone camera ready we had a lot of down time. On every shoot I do, lighting is always the reason. It trips me out, so technical. We wait for the magic of the lights to happen. While we were waiting guess what movie was playing...Goodfellas! One of my all time top three favorite movies. After that Talladega Nights played. Mama Tiffany had provided a ton of fresh, healthy food for everyone. There was also Paul the owner of the winnie barbequing some sausages which were also delicious. It felt like we were set up in the middle of nowhere.

Finally, it was time to shoot. Last looks, the guys looked great. Hardcore. Tough. With the smell of fennel and the sound of mini blinds flipping in the wind from a nearby abandoned building, I stood behind Dean the whole time making sure they stayed camera ready, no hairs were out of place etc.. It was really wonderful to be around such creative energy. To see the process and see how his photo assistants worked their butts off was inspiring. There I was, watching Dean's creative process while he was smoking a cigar, snapping photos and making us laugh. He also took some shots with a polaroid camera. We were instructed to put the negatives in some water. Old school.

Day 2: A redwood forest in Guernville, Ca. We all met up in the east bay and hopped in the winnie. Drove about 100 miles. On the drive I'm standing up, bracing myself against a table, taming some wild hair to still look wild. Getting the job done. We arrived in the gorgeous redwoods, with the smell of nature in the air. Paul skillfully pulled the huge trailer into a spot. 

It's time to shoot. Me, the five guys in the band, Mama Tiffany, Dean, the first photo assistant Antonio, 2nd assistant Scott, and Paul the owner of the winnie and our faithful driver go hiking into the lush redwood forest.

Antonio was lugging a super heavy generator that I'm going to guess weighed about 60lbs. That generator was essential in making the flash go off for the fancy lighting...in the redwoods. We only spoke to the forest ranger once, she was cool about it. Mama Tiffany made sure we all behaved and respected the forest. I had a blast as part of the brigade. After about an hour or so of some spectacular shooting it was time to head to the second location of the day. West Oakland. We all hopped back into the winnie and Paul drives us about 70 miles. 

We arrive at American Steel Studios in West Oakland, Ca. Where a community of artists reside. Here's a couple snapshots of artist Karen Cusolito's work that astounded me seeing up close. 

Venus was in transit. Passing in front of the sun. One of the artists from the studios had a plasma welding mask he shared with us so we could safely see it. It was incredible. For me, magical. Several hours later we were wrapped! Done! Two full days of technical lighting and raw inspiration fueled me. You'll be able to see the photos in Decibel, Guitar World and Guitar Player magazines. Testaments 10th studio album, "Dark Roots of Earth" is scheduled to be released July 30, 2012. It was definitely an incredible, family style, two days. Until next time my friends!!

Fearlessly yours, Lena