I watched through my lens as an airplane appeared to be flying directly at me, and I realized, the pilot had misunderstood my request.
True, it was only an RC plane made of a plastic shell stretched on a balsa wood frame. The pilot was on the other side of the runway operating it from a little radio box, but I suspect it would still hurt to get hit. Luckily, it only looked as close as it did because of my telephoto lens.
“Sorry, I think I misspoke,” I told the pilot. “I was actually saying it would be cool to get a photo of the plane flying low between us so I could get a shot of the plane as it passes you.”
“Oh,” he laughed. “That makes a lot more sense.”
He made a few passes like that and I got a few shots that were pretty much exactly as I had imagined them. In spite of a brief hiccup, this was an almost ideal photo opportunity.
As I have said. Photography isn’t always so easy. Communication almost always makes things easier, but sometimes nobody can do anything to make the job easier on you. When you can make requests to an event organizer about layout, that is the most ideal opportunity to get things right. You might not know what “right” is until you’ve had a chance to shoot “wrong”.
A good example was last year. I took a photo of our local school’s full army of employees. All of them standing, lined up in a few rows in a cafeteria crowded with tables and chairs. Nobody had asked me ahead of time, but that’s okay.
To get the shot I had to stand on a table far enough away to fit most people in the frame, but not far enough that I would get the tables and chairs in the shot. I also had to borrow a tripod from the school tech guys. Using the tripod I was able to get a few photos and splice them into a panorama, but there were a few people standing in the margins who were visually maimed.
When the superintendent spoke to me about this year’s photo, I made a suggestion that the staff should sit in the gymnasium bleachers where I could back up to get the photo. They even supplied me a ladder since this year’s photo was more square than horizontally rectangular. I still had to shoot over a volleyball net, but the photo turned out, and nobody got splinched.
This year’s photo did have its draw backs, however. The Panorama had the advantage of being three large file size photos spliced together. These photos collectively are better quality than the one photo I took this year, however, you always run the risk of splinching someone when you do a panorama with people in it.
It’s always about communication, and if the communication is poor, or the photo subject is uncooperative, it can make an ideal photo nearly impossible. This miscommunication can also be a little embarrassing. Our annual sport photos are often an opportunity for me to feel embarrassed.
As a man my age I have to annually figure out ways to delicately tell girls from a high school volleyball team(traditionally in very short shorts) why the front row cannot sit with their legs crossed in your school’s athletic photo. There’s also a common group photo position where there are three or more rows. The first row is sitting or kneeling, the second row is leaning forward with hands just above knees, and the back row is standing straight. In the case of groups of girls in shirts that are somewhat baggy on top, this pose is also a problem (trust me, there were many senior class photos in my yearbooks with this pose). If you are lucky, you recognize these positions before you snap the picture and the teams disburse. You don’t have to call up the coach and explain why the previous photos were inappropriate.
There are also times when communication in itself can be inappropriate. Take for example award ceremonies. There is an obligatory photo whenever someone is receiving an award plaque. Basically, just snap a shot of the hand shake or hand off of the plaque. Easy, right? Not always. It’s all about layout. If, for example, the plaque and handshake happen behind a table of honored guests, things can get difficult.
Now, there were four plaques given to this same gentleman that night, and the same thing happened with every single plaque. I could have told these two to please not stand up into the photo frame, but that would entail yelling over the sound of a clapping crowd, or telling them in the front of the room during the speeches between presentations. I am rude for the sake of photos more often than I like to admit, but that would have been a little far.
What’s the solution? Well, that’s easy. A posed presentation shot after the speeches are all done. You just have to approach the parties involved and ask them to pose for a photo. This is basically foolproof…
Or so you would think.