Spring has definitely sprung! The flowers and trees are in bloom, and everything is covered in a yellow veil of pollen. Another point to note is that this is the time when both warm and cold-blooded wild critters become more active.
A few weeks back, a local (and ahhhh-maaa-zing, might I add) photog friend of mine, Jamie Lawson, had asked if we could take my daughter out for a shoot concept she’s been working toward. So, Sunday before last, we headed out to the super secret squirrel shoot location, played a little dress-up with my little Miss Willow and snapped a few test shots. While trying to MacGyver a way to position a headband in the hair of a super-fidgety, super-excited two-year-old, I decided to have a seat in the pine straw bed, just off the path. I plopped down, not thinking about what could possibly be, eh hem, living in said straw. Anyone who has ever shot with me, or had a session with me knows I am not afraid to be all over the ground, up on a wall or whatever else it takes to get the shot. So, I didn’t think twice about my seating choice. After a minute or so, I shifted my weight off of my leg (because it was going to sleep…lol!), and I felt a sharp bite. I assumed it was a disgruntled bee or ant. It was quick, sharp, and made me jump….buuuuut I was in shoot mode. Apparently, I get pretty psyched about shooting, because it wasn’t until the next morning that I discovered a trail of blood had been running down my leg that evening. No, it wasn’t a bee. It was a (luckily) non-poisonous snake. I had one clear puncture wound and a scrape where the other fang would have gone in. My best guess is that it bit me at an angle and the other fang scratched me rather than going in.
My first thought, upon realizing what had happened, was to be grateful that it was me and not Willow. My second thought was, “Oh wow, what if it had been a client’s child?!?” Don’t get me wrong, my family goes on nature walks. I LOVE being out in nature! This isn’t an anti-natural shoot setting post. There is nothing more amazingly beautiful, to me, than getting out and shooting with a wooded backdrop, and honestly, it could have just as easily happen in my back yard. I have worked with some amazing families, but as I branch out from shooting familiar clients, I cannot guarantee how everyone would react should that happen on a shoot. Thankfully, I am covered in my contract and through my liability insurance, but I would hate to see someone’s passion for photography turn into misery due to a client injury during a shoot.
Still, my mind also went to all of the togs doing this as a hobby or just getting into the business. When you take sessions outside of a studio, there are inherent risks. In a studio, you have a fairly controlled environment. You can make sure walkways are uncluttered, cords are hidden or taped down, and numerous other safeguards. However, you cannot control the way a root grows across a path, or the various creatures, who’s home you’ve chosen to shoot in. Mother Nature herself has also thrown curveballs that were totally unforeseeable, such as the tragic accidental drowning of a Canadian bride, in 2012, during her trash the dress session a few months after her wedding day. She told the photographer she wanted photos of her floating in the water, wearing the dress. After stepping into the seemingly calm river, the wet dress quickly weighed her down, pulled her under, and into the river’s current. The photographer dove in and tried to rescue her, but due to the weight of the dress in the water, the he was unable to save her.
I am extremely cautious when it comes to my clients’ safety during shoots, regardless of the setting. However, even with the best foresight and planning, accidents do happen. My best advice is to photographers is to never take lightly the trust our clients put in us during their session. Make sure that you cover the possibility of unforeseen accidents and incidents with your client before your session and in your contract, and advise against client suggestions you feel to be inherently dangerous. Last, make certain that you have the proper coverage for yourself and your business in the event something does go sideways. Clients, never agree to a location, pose or position in which you feel unsafe. No photo is worth the possibility of getting a seriously injured or losing a life. Let’s be safe out there peeps!
As for me, no more sitting in random pine straw beds….but the (very lucky) photog in me is extremely happy with the resulting photo.