Friday, October 9, 2009

The First Day

She'd found me on Craig's List. A simple little ad, with no pictures, and nearly no information, other than "I have no idea what I am doing..."
And she hired me.

Michele and Daniel were my first clients. They had adopted a little girl together, and had already borne their own biological child as well. They had been together a long time, and loved each other very much. They were both calm, laid back and very happy people.

The wedding was set for the first weekend of June at Frasinetti's Winery in Sacramento. The ceremony outdoors, and the reception in a ballroom. I was delighted to find that as a youngster I had attended a second cousin's wedding at the same venue. What a comfort.

As I began my first on-set of hyperventilation the moment I opened my eyes that morning- a tradition I have now practiced before each wedding or session I shoot- I frantically tried to figure out what the hell I was doing. I started making calls. To strangers. A late night hysterical posting on IVillage had yielded the contact information of a wedding photographer in Chicago, who promised to soothe me out of my dillusional state within minutes. After a period of frantic note taking with Jane, I hurled myself into the car and started flying down the road to the venue.

I got lost. I started to sweat. The directions indicated I was supposed to drive down some deserted train tracks covered in dirt and gravel into what looked like a dump site. Thank the Lord this was a day wedding!

I absolutley could not convince myself I was in the right place. I started driving back and forth the length of the main road desperately looking for some other road which was not made of ground up rocks.
I had no idea what I was doing.

As the clock on the dash ticked on, I realized at some point I needed to swallow my Orange County snobbery and drive down the freaky gravel alley. Gripping the steering wheel and wiping the sweat off my face with a McDonald's napkin I found on the floor of my "house on wheels, " I rolled on. I drove and drove, squeaking by at a mere 5mph whipping my head right and left scanning for The Hole in the Wall Gang to come riding up to blow the lock off my trunk like poor Mr. Woodcock of the Union Pacific Railroad.

And then it was upon me. An oasis in the urban landfill. A winery. VOILIA! I was SAVED! (Why'd they hide this pretty place way back HERE? I wondered.) I found the venue. After throwing myself across the front seat in exhaultation at my brillance over instinctivly knowing to trust the MapQuest directions and turn on this pile of dirt called a road the first time (sixth) I suddenly realized my position.

Now I actually had to take the freaking pictures. S*%#!

I started to hyperventilate again. Where was that flipping McDonald's bag to breathe in when you needed one? This is why we DO NOT CLEAN OUT OUR CARS PEOPLE! Sometimes you need to breathe in a cheeseburger-scented bag to calm your nerves!

Unable to find the iconic bag, I reached for the phone instead.

"CECILIA! I NEED YOU!" I screeched.
"Alright, alright, I'm coming I'm coming. Where the hell are you anyway?" she grumbled.

I managed to ungrip my hands from the steering wheel and go in to see the bride and start pretending to know what I was doing.

A full 45 minutes of brilliant acting later, Cecilia, my savior in a pair of black slacks, pulled up in her beater car.

She patted my hand, and forward we marched, hummed, smiled, and snapped away through the rest of the morning and afternoon. I cut my lasgana serving in half and placed her piece on a bread plate during the reception. We guzzled water like two camels in the desert.

Then the calm kicked in. I don't know when it happened, but it did. My auto-pilot kicked in, and there I was, running around the dance floor, squatting on the floor, and bending at un-natural angles to get that "perfect shot" of Michele & Daniel's first dance. The persona that would become my professional exterior appeared and began it's first performance. The shots were gotten, the couple was happy, and I hadn't screwed too much up at all. (Took bridesmaids pictures in the full sun- baaaaad idea. I'm still sorry about that girls!)
I left with a pat on my back and a little more swing in my step.

A couple weeks later, my editing done, the DVD slideshow set to their own music compeleted, I met the new Mr. & Mrs. Northam at McDonald's to deliver the goods to the new official family of four. Michele's balance on the big day for my compete services totaled a full $50.00. As I handed the couple their discs, Michele told me with a somber face that she was just not at all comfortable with paying me $50.00. It wasn't right.

The sweat began to return...

Instead of my anticipated horror of the bride's hatred of my work, Michele broke into a smile, gave me a hug, and handed me a check for $150.00. Because I deserved it. We hugged, we parted, and it's been several years now, but I won't ever forget The First Day.

Even then, my style really was "mine."
the guys

michele and alicia




Amnah said...

I remember my first time taking pictures for a wedding too. It was for my first cousin. I was so nervous because there are no retakes! "I'm sorry Cindy, do you think you can put your wedding dress back on for me?" I was happy with the pictures and more importantly so was the bride.

Funny, I only took $50 for that wedding. I used it to buy a used flash for my old camera.

By the way, cheeseburger scented paper bag?? Yum. It's been so long since I've had one. Damn you "Super Size Me."

Amanda Good said...

I hope everyone of your clients value you for the tremendous asset that you are!

Dan and Janay said...

You are a good writer. Thank you McD bags for saving you! Love your work.
How can I get a hold of you? I know you have had problems with your email. I need to give you my new address so you can send me the CD's, but I don't know the best way to do that.
Janay Hunt

mel said...

i'm totally with you. the stress of shooting a wedding is like nothing else! i've done over a dozen now and still think i'll have a heart attack and die at 26 every time!