Focus is a gift of mine. I have that intense type of focus where I can’t stop a project until it is complete. My focus has served me well over the years with a fantastic career in data management, building my rapidly growing photography business between my 9-5 job, and seamless DIY projects around my Creole Cottage in the Treme in New Orleans, Louisiana.
That is, until the day, where my keen focus got me in a stinky situation. Literally.
After being a high school teacher for 6 years, I knew I needed to kickstart my dream of being creative professional and I built a wedding photography business. Photography has filled me with joy for over a decade, and this day was my first official gig as a lead wedding photographer. I was equal meticulously-preparing and jump-for-joy-ecstatic. I had photographed months of portraits, family photos, surprise engagements and had been a second shooter at weddings, but this was my time to shine – I was the lead.
To prepare, I studied for hours, made lists and drafted spreadsheets. I even had my wife slow-dance with our dog to practice my off-camera-flash for that first dance every bride deserves a gorgeous photo of. I did everything I could to be the best wedding photographer, and it was all coming together.
The day started like all weddings, filled with joy and exceptionally beautiful. Throughout the ceremony, I bonded with the crowd as we shared laughter and tears while listening to vows filled with Beyonce lyrics.
After the ceremony, we quickly began family portraits. Photographing the bride’s family was seamless. The groom’s family was easy. We just had to finish up with the groomsmen shots. We were working on our final “GQ” style groomsmen whole group shot. I wanted to get a wider shot, more editorial, so I took a few steps back. I checked through my lens. The shot wasn’t right, so I took a few more steps back. I was so focused on posing and getting this shot I had in my head that I lost track of everything else around me. I took another look through my lens, and I needed just one more step back to get it right. I took the step back – and landed myself SHOULDER DEEP in the swampy waters of Armstrong Park. I was drenched head to toe and terrified that my memory cards with over 1000 wedding images were ruined.
Here is a GIF as the action happened.
Remember when I said I had completely planned out how to be the best wedding photographer for this day? Well, I didn’t expect this exact situation, but I was prepared even for this. I had hired a second shooter “just in case,” and she was able to take over while I quickly got myself together. Having purchased “water sealed” camera equipment ensured that when I rushed home (a short 4 blocks away, thank you to my wife for picking me up ) and backed up all my images they were all there and all perfect. My backup gear was prepped and ready to use at a moments notice.
Uploading the photos to my hard drive, I teared up a bit looking through the ceremony again as they were instantly some of my favorite images I have ever captured. I was so close to getting it all right. I quickly realized I smelled like the Loch Ness Monster and took the fastest shower of my life. Within 45 minutes, I was back at the wedding with my backup gear. My second shooter, Ileana Ortiz, handled everything perfectly and captured amazing photos in my absence.
The day was not seamless. It was full of last-minute changes, hiccups, and SO much joy. But that’s marriage isn’t it?
My wife and I just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary and our relationship has been full of last minute changes and hiccups. Looking back through, the hiccups become funny stories of the past as we support each other through life. I know this bride and groom are in it for the long-haul because of how easily they handled my unexpected swim together. Having this disruption mid-wedding could send couples into chaos. Instead, these two held each other close and kept it moving. Their wedding was so much fun.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the bride and groom who invited me into their day and handled my mishap so graciously. For Ileana, who was able to photograph when I was not. For all the guests who came up to me at the reception with hugs (thank goodness I showered) and words of encouragement.
It was easily the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. Despite the embarrassment and sheer fear of having lost images from the ceremony – the wedding went off without (any other!) hitches, and the love between the bride and groom was perfectly captured, with not a single image lost. Not a single image. They looked SO great in every shot. I was surrounded by the best possible people, and I (literally) dove deep into learning a lesson about checking my footing, no matter how great that shot is about to be through my lense!
Sometimes, (pond) mud is going to hit the fan you have to be ready for it. That’s life – heck, that’s marriage! For your big day, I can’t stress enough the importance of hiring someone who has a backup plan. I can assure you mine has been tried and tested so to future clients – I’ve got you covered. I can’t wait to shoot two more weddings this weekend, and I’ve promised my wife no more Loch Ness Monster smelling laundry anytime soon.
Here are some of my favorite images from the day. Full blog post from the beautiful Treme Wedding below.