I felt ready for the shoot. I was rested, my head clear, and the long drive to the location peaceful and smooth. I was meeting new clients at a park I’d only photographed in once prior, exactly a year ago. I’d liked the spot, so felt enthusiastic and inspired on this picture perfect Saturday morning.
When I arrived at the location I barely recognized it. Our unusually cold and wet winter had taken a toll on the tropical plants, the sandy beach and boat dock were submerged under water, and the trees had uncharacteristically lost all their leaves. This wasn’t at all the beautiful venue that it had been when I saw it last.
As I began photographing the family I struggled to find shelter from the strong contrasty light. The canopy of trees that prevented the overhead light from striking directly down on my subjects a year ago was now so thin and bare that it seemed I couldn’t escape the unflattering effects of raccoon eye shadows and compromised exposures. Add to this challenge two young boys who wouldn’t be coaxed into staying put in the very narrow areas of open shade that I was able to find, and it made for a stressful shoot.
As usual following a less than perfect session, I replayed it many times in my mind in hopes of learning what I might do differently next time. I finally realized that I get myself into trouble the moment I label anything as “good” or “bad”. I drove to the session declaring to myself that this was going to be a great shoot, and then minutes after starting I unconsciously made it bad in my mind. As soon as I compared this session to the years prior and decided it didn’t live up to my previous success, I in effect concretized it. This subtle but destructive mindset prevented the shoot from remaining fluid, and me from simply letting go and enjoying the process of following wherever it might lead.
I’ve decided that rather than beat myself up for my faulty thinking, I will give thanks for the opportunity this session gave me to again take notice of the ways I limit possibilities when I inadvertently make something solid by describing it as positive or negative, desirable or disagreeable. So in the end it ultimately was a “great” shoot for what it taught me. Although to be honest I’d have still preferred manageable light and many more successful images. Ü