I was in a bridal getting ready suite, everyone anticipating the moment where the gal of the day gets in her gown, assisted by her mom and grandma, the First Look approaching fast, and busy times ahead, when… my camera wouldn’t fire. I checked the "go-to bringer of heart attacks” button on my Sigma ART 50mm F1.4 favorite lens - nope the AutoFocus (AF) was not flipped from Auto to Manual. This is where my heart skipped a beat since diagnosing beyond this point is generally not easy, or quick. And that’s what I needed it to be, so desperately!!!!! I checked my settings - yep, we’re still in Manual mode on the camera, I flipped it to Auto, I flipped it to Aperture priority. I switched the camera off and then back on (the classic reset-and-pray method that generally works when laptop and other household appliance gremlins attack). Nothing! At this point panic started to set in. My trusty friend - my Canon 5D Mark III - the dream camera I had always wanted and have had so many amazing times with was betraying me, in the least opportune moment! What are my options?? I tried to stay focused, and sober-minded, commanding and willing my MacGyver brain to think of something genius next. I could call my 2nd shooter over to cover for me (thank God I’ve got them with me - I said a little prayer of Thanksgiving for the forethought that prompted me to book one). Nicole (my friend, and awesome 2nd shooter) uses Nikon. Dang it! I can’t borrow her stuff. I might need that girl to switch to Canon, for such a times as this precisely. A million other ideas sprouted and died, as too much time would be taken to try to put any impromptu fix-it plan in place. That was it. I needed to pull out my backup body - my Canon 6D. This was the time I was going to pull the switcheroo maneuver, and fast, before things got too busy, and before I get even more behind than I already was. So there I went to work - spare camera body (check!), new SD card (check!), check what’s on the SD card before I pull the format trick (check!), new battery (check!), affix lens (check!), put away my go-to-currently-in-the-dog-house camera body (check!). Ready, set, aim, auto-focus (nada), fire (same problem)! What the hell is going on???? It must be the lens! At this point frantically fast I put on my 24-70 v2, F2.8 lens, and it fires… Whew! Now, dang it, this bridal getting ready suite is too dark for me to go non-prime lens, I could really use that F less than 2 Aperture right about now… Grrrrr!!! I was painfully aware that I felt like I was moving in extra-super-slow-mow, with the time racing on fast-forward... 

With an audible moan, this is where I turn over to the other side... Bed sheets all messed up, it took me a while to realize that I was actually in Florida, ON VACATION, in bed, and THIS WAS JUST A DREAM! It was so realistic, so intense, I spring out of bed to check on my equipment, not realizing that (for reasons known, as in beach, and no sessions) I didn’t actually bring it with. It was stowed away, in my office, safe, and most likely in perfect working condition, if slightly offended I had ever doubted it…

As I tell myself to take a deep breath, and make a mental note to check on a few things when I get home, I’m realizing — NO ONE can prepare you for these wedding nightmares. You name it, I’ve dreamt it. Why? Beats me!!!!! Maybe my subconscious is desperately trying to process the large amount of unknowns I walk into every wedding. Maybe it’s trying to warn me, make sure I have a good plan for all the ridiculousness that couldn’t possibly happen. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above, with the unexpected scenarios I’ve seen happen thrown as cherry on top. Maybe, and quite possibly, it's the BBQ and pickle I ate before going to bed, causing my brain to regurgitate crazy-ass scenarios to torture me pointlessly while I try to catch some zzzz’s. All possibilities. 

If you are a photographer (be it new or seasoned), and you two have had some crazy dreams of your own, I just want to say -- YOU.ARE.NOT.ALONE. We’re apparently ALL insane, because the more photographers I talk to, the more I hear how this happens all the time, the crazier the dream, the more realistic. 

So, given I can’t control what goes on in my brain when the lids are shut, here is my rule of thumb for dealing with all the dreams. 

  1. No matter how crazy the dream seams, I always ask myself — if something like this were to happen, how would I deal with it? And, more importantly, how would I have prevented this stuff from happening? - i.e.: What is my system for making sure this doesn’t transpire? 
  2. How realistic is this apocalyptic event to actually happen? (was it just the sauerkraut talking, or is the scenario of everyone drowning in cream of onion soup a real possibility? In most cases I opt for a salad for dinner the next night, just to be on the safe side).

And, though the dreams make me feel like a total lunatic out on parole, here are some very useful things that have come out of some of the craziest of nights: 

  1. Gear Checklist - I use this every single wedding, especially on the far-away out of towners that are likely to be preceded by some crazy I-forgot-all-my-gear type dreams 
  2. Wedding Day Timeline Template including Family / Wedding Party shot list - Every bride fills one out, and I review it ahead of time, to make sure that I don’t get stuck with 15 minutes for something that actually needs an hour plus. 
  3. Backup camera body - I’ve got one, I cherish it, I hope I never have to use it, BUT if the need arises I’ll have one ready to go (a fresh battery and empty SD card already in it for a quick switcheroo move) 
  4. A 2nd shooter booked for most (if not all) weddings - 2nd shoters are not a luxury, they give me a bit more peace of mind against missing shots or any unexpected malfunctions, and put some of these crazy night thoughts to rest.
  5. A 3rd shooter (i.e.: assist/intern) for some weddings - The more the merrier! If I can help someone learn, and first hand experience some real life scenarios, and get an extra pair of limbs in return, all for a price of an extra meal and answering some questions — Deal! 
  6. A go-to shooting wardrobe and loads of comfy shoes (I’m pretty much always stocking up on the above when I come across something) 
  7. Google mapping and starring all locations for each wedding the night before so I know exactly (on my cell) where the ceremony, first look, reception, etc. are, and can pull up directions as well as contact info in a snap! 
  8. Always shooting on 2 cards, in case of anything happening to one of them. I also most of the times have all 2nd shooters shooting on more than 1 card (if their cameras support it). 
  9. Having 2 card readers at my disposal, in case I encounter a problem with one.
  10. Marking the date on each SD/CF card I use so I know how old they are, in case they’ve been in use for more than a few years and it might be time to replace some.
  11. CrashPlan backup, as well as a Time Machine backup, to protect my photos.
  12. Shutting down my computer periodically to give it a break — helps the Retina display stay good, and my iMac function at its fastest, because let’s face it, editing really does a number on any equipment! My desktop is equipped with max RAM, and it still starts moaning towards the end of the wedding season. ;)
  13. Keeping and eye on my gear, and that doesn’t just mean being attached to it as to not misplace anything. I also mean keeping an eye on how many frames I shoot during sessions and what shutter count my camera body is at, as well as how it's performing (especially the AF), in case some 'scheduled maintenance' is called for. Actually, I kinda wish lenses and cameras were like cars - change spark plugs every 10,000 clicks. I could do that! 
  14. A spare prime lens - This one is actually in the making at this time, due to a crazy recent dream… — For those moments when the light is really dim, or barely there, and in case my go-to prime decided to poop out on me. I guess I should thank the wedding gremlins for that Florida dream… Or, thank the mounds of BBQ Ribs from the Roadside RibShack I ate before going to bed.

With that said, most things I dream of can be prevented. Most things you might be dreaming of might just be crazy. Whatever it is - you can deal with it - be it devising a solution OR mixing in a salad. If you’re a newer photographer and could use some of the tools I’m talking about above - hit me up via the Say Hey form, and I’ll be happy to share.  

— Ester

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