I started the Hospice Photography program in 2009….prodded on by grief, by a need to act, by a desire to help……I had lost the most important person in my life (outside of my husband and, at that time, my 1 child). I was swimming deep in grief and my response to grief is work.
This is how I was made. I am built from worker stock. I remember the exact MOMENT my grandmother passed….my dad, ever the planner, went right into “planning” mode. He had the entire next WEEK planned out for everyone before grandma was even brought to the funeral home. That’s how we do. We keep busy and that saves us from needing to FEEL. It’s the battle cry of the control freak: “Here’s what we’re gonna do…..”
A lot of it is born out of fear. When you watch someone die, it’s many times out of great love….but it brings about that fear. That absolute truth that someday….that’ll be you. We all have an expiration date…and that’s a thought a lot of us don’t like to even have in passing. So, volunteering to photograph the dying for Hospice was partly a selfish venture. I needed to keep my mind busy in the midst of my own grief. I figured the more I confronted the inevitable truth, perhaps the more comfortable I would become with it.
Through the Kindred Spirits Hospice Photography program, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting many families who were showing the greatest amount of devotion to their loved one: watching them pass away.
Now, 6 years on, I can take a different approach to the work. It’s not longer “stay busy so the hurt doesn’t hurt as much”.
With each session I meet someone experiencing their very last days and I am forced to seriously evaluate the surplus of days that I may have left. Because, none of us REALLY know when it’s our time. So what are we doing? Day in….day out. Are we being purposeful? Are we making a mark? Are we making a difference? Or are we just hanging on and hoping not to screw up too badly?
One of my parents recently had a pretty serious health scare and it brought about all sorts of self-evaluation…like these situations typically do. How hard work is wonderful, it’s worthy of accolades, it’s how we survive, it’s how we succeed….but at the end, if the legacy we are leaving behind is only that we spent our lives on a proverbial hamster wheel, well then….that’s an incredibly scary thought.
Some things JUST.DON’T.MATTER. at the end of it all. How many Facebook likes or followers you have. How much you’re published. How many “atta boys” you receive. How many hours you log a week. Whether the dress is blue or gold. : )
It just doesn’t matter.
It’s led me to really try to get serious this week. Serious about recommitting to Dave Ramsey, which we did at the beginning of the year but I have felt us slipping lately. Serious about running Type A the way I WANT to run it: authentically. Serious about running Tin Dog the best way we can, bringing the best service to people we can. Serious that at the end of this ride, I will feel the whispers of a life well lived.
I’ve found the Hospice Photography program most definitely has a hand in my learning journey. I say to myself a lot that “we only have one life”, but often it’s as an excuse to do something I know I should probably have the virtue of patience to hold off on: spending money, taking a trip, whatever. My patience button is most definitely broken in many ways.
I go into these homes, I see the family gathered….I hear the stories told and the whispered thoughts and the memories and it’s all so overwhelming…but each and every time is such an incredible learning experience. What do I want my time to look like? What stories will be told when it’s my turn?
I am endlessly thankful for the invitation into this very private, very emotional time into someone’s life….in a family’s story. It helps in more ways than they know. While I bring some measure of closure and peace to them, I hope they know what they bring to me.
Now, I need to improve in the area of saying “We only have one life, I am going to live it with purpose”….”We only have one life, I am going to live it debt free”….”We only have one life, and I sure as hell am not going to spend it working round the clock for nothing”
I remember after my grandmother took her last breath, the group of family gathered in her tiny bedroom….watching her die…..sobbed. But, we collected ourselves…and then we did the only thing we could think of to do: we clapped. We gave her a round of applause….for a life well lived and a death met with dignity and courage.
We have one life.
And at the end, the only thing that REALLY matters is those who are there to watch you die.
The greatest measure of love.
I have received requests for mentoring/classes over the years and always made a mental note to put something together for people….never really got around to it until now, and I’m really excited about what I have planned for folks!
The class is Sunday April 26 10AM-7PM
This class is for folks who are either new to the DSLR game or who are having a hard time getting their DSLR to do what they want it to do. If you’re staring at that camera in your hand just wondering “How the hell does this WORK?!?!”….this is for you.
We are going to spend the day learning, talking about goals, shooting and reviewing our work.
You want to do this, we are going to have so much fun!
I am limiting this class to 12 folks (11 spots remain currently) for personal attention to each attendee. Light breakfast and a pizza lunch included.
$150 gets you the whole shebang: Class and Shootout with Review of Images.
That price is insanity, trust me! ….you want to jump on this!
Welp, Wedding Season 2015 is nearly upon us, friends. Soon your Facebook feed will be peppered with the best of our best efforts….each posting screaming, subliminally, LIKE ME….FRIEND ME…HIRE ME! Shameless self-promotion, oh we’ve got it!
We will introduce you to our lovely couples, showing you fancy shots of all of their carefully planned tidbits. We will drag our butts to our computers at all ungodly hours of the day to post previews and wax nostalgic about our latest shoot.
Ah yes, wedding season. The big show.
What you may not realize, however, is all the hustle, bustle, sweat, sometimes tears…..that goes into your average wedding day from the photographer’s perspective. It’s like a duck on the water…..all calm and serene on the surface…padding like a crazy person underneath.
So, I thought it would be fun to kick off the upcoming season with a bit of a “behind the scenes” look at an average “Day in the Life of a Wedding Photographer”
Disclaimer: This is not describing an ACTUAL wedding, just a generic “wedding” being used as an example : )
FRIDAY (night before)
Husband: Don’t you have a wedding tomorrow?
Husband: Is all your stuff ready?
Me: Yeah…..I’ll get to it….just after I see the end of this Supernatural….
Cursing the fact that none of my batteries have charged themselves….I’m putting all of my stuff in some semblance of organized order for the next day’s festivities.
SATURDAY (The Big Day)
We call this “sleeping in”….if Kidlet #1 decides she’s going to bestow a few precious moments of sleep on her poor mommy and daddy. More often than not, however, she’s climbing into our bed with an armful of plastic, pointy toys. I’m up…..I’m up.
Shower, mentally go over my “Inspiration” Pinterest list in my head. Try to remember to mix it up on the posing front today and try out that new lighting idea I had.
Makeup. A necessity. Without it, I look like I brought the Plague to my client’s big day.
Gee…..what black pants/black shirt/black shoes combo should I wear THIS week?
Settle for the one I can get buttoned (off season = 10 extra pounds) and head downstairs.
Breakfast. Must stock up. Lord knows when you’ll get to eat again today. So….I DEMAND ALL THE WAFFLES.
The OCD kicks in and I have to check, recheck, check again that I do, indeed, have ALL of my sync cords, Pocket Wizards, batteries, CF cards, and the info list from the couple. I will do this little checking dance about 10 more times before I actually leave…..and it’s pretty much a given I will forget SOMETHING and have to turn around at the end of my street and come back and get it. Usually it’s my phone.
I’m off. First stop (after the inevitable gas-up) is Starbucks. Grande Mocha with Whip. Whatever my second shooter wants…..This is a necessity. Almost as much as the cameras (Crap….I remembered my cameras, right??…..Pull over before I get on the freeway to double check)
Typically I’m off to Milwaukee….or Madison…..or Chicago. I’ve driven back to Milwaukee so many times I can pretty much space out most of the way there and write blogs in my head as I drive….or sing show tunes, whatever is tripping my trigger that particular day. Probably why I collect speeding tickets like some people collect postage stamps……
Pull over to a gas station. Pick up gum and a few snacks. Note to photographers, buy gum. You’re gonna want gum. Mints. Something.
Arrive at Our Lady of Perpetual Weddings (Note: Not a real church). Load my stuff up in my arms and try my best to carry my Pelican, umbrella, Alien Bee on a stick, and soft box into the church. Run into church lady who asks if I’m the photographer. Stop myself from saying “No, I’m the florist”
Introduce myself to church lady. Church lady lets me know that most photographers are like bratty little unkempt children and therefore I have rules I must abide by because some photographer LONG ago decided to climb on the altar and hang from the crucifix to get his shot. Typically I’m already aware of this and I nod and smile. Make it my secret mission to get church lady to eventually love me. Promise whole-heartedly not to leave the back of the church or touch their antique organ.
Bride and her entourage arrive at the church and huddle away in the teeny tiny bridal room, which doubles as the daycare center for the church during the week. Try to avoid getting the big clown painted on the wall in the shot with the bride being veiled.
Decide the clown may be kind of funny and include it in one shot anyway.
Remind all bridesmaids to eat something and get their ponytail holders off their wrists (PET PEEVE, TAKE NOTE). Head off to meet with the dudes.
Dudes are not dressed. Dudes are sitting around doing not much of anything. Fake a few “Dudes getting ready” shots and head back over to the girls. Note: Dude shots typically take about 15 minutes. Tops. Maybe.
Exception: If the guys are deciding to make a Top 10 list of sandwiches on the dressing room chalkboard. You stick around. Because that’s funny. Yes, this happened.
Dad sees bride for the first time. Tears all around. Good moment.
Grandma sees bride for the first time. Excuse myself to the bathroom to have a bit of a sniffle over that one. Darn weddings and their feels.
Priest stops me as I’m hiding my bags to reiterate what church lady has said about moving, breathing, or even thinking about lighting anything. Nod and smile. Nod and smile. Make mental note to take Communion and smile again to get in Father’s good graces. YOU WILL LOVE ME, CHURCH PEOPLE!
Spot Uncle Bob, affixing his 70-200 and positioning himself at the top of the aisle. Um…yeah. Sorry Bobbo……imma let you finish but…..I’m gonna need to stand here….just for a second. Flash Bobbo your best smile. Bobbo asks what you’re shooting.
KICKOFF! Adrenaline kicks in as the bridesmaids book it down the aisle at mach-10. BAM BAM BAM! Fire off shots of each gal in mid-stride….position yourself for the main entrance of the bride. Bride enters….everyone stands up and sticks their cellphones out into the aisle for their own shot. Bob and weave like a crafty honey badger to get “THE SHOT”.
Book it to the back of the church, avoid the ire of the church lady.
Mass is over, you may go in Peace.
Kiss kiss kiss…..and follow the happy couple with my lens as they exit the church. Pray hard to the Patron Saint of Church Formals that they’ve decided against a receiving line. (Why? Because those suckers take FO-EVAH and eat up all of your formal portrait time….among other reasons. Just go with me on this one)
Get reminder from church lady (who is totally taking a liking to me, I can tell) that we need to get our butts out of there in the next 30 minutes.
Hustle to arrange family formals.
Family formals are going swimmingly. Set up very large umbrella. Uncle Bobbo looks none to pleased with very large umbrella. Hence reason for very large umbrella. Sorry Uncle Bobbo, see you at the reception.
Head off to bridal party pictures. Position myself on Party Bus or follow party bus. Don’t have a preference really, unless the participants of party bus fun have questionable music taste.
Bridal Party Picture Location #1…..very popular place. Notice 2 other shooters with their bridal parties.
Do I know these people? If I don’t know them, who are they? Dang, there’s a lot of photographers out there. How come I don’t know them? Where have they been hiding?
If I do know them “Hey! What’s up! I know you! Funny to see you out in the wild!”
Stage West Side Story type gang-fight pictures between rival bridal parties. Good times.
Bridal Party Picture Location #2 – Bridal party has been partaking in the bus bubbly. Better make this one quick.
Ya know what, on second thought, why don’t we just do the bride and groom here. Everyone else back on the bus. Hang out. Have fun. Don’t throw up.
Park Ranger comes over and does his Park Ranger thing. Of COURSE I have a permit, Park Ranger….lemme just go get that out of my car.
Scarf previously acquired gas station snack.
Not really doin’ it’s job but hey, whatever. The bridal party got Jimmy John’s.
Get to the reception. Boogie inside super-fast to hide my stuff by the DJ booth, say ” ‘ Ello” to the DJ, and get in gear for the Grand March.
Realize the bridal party isn’t even CLOSE to being ready to do the Grand March and decide it’s safe for me to use the bathroom.
Realize while I’m IN the bathroom they suddenly got themselves organized and book it out of the bathroom to grab my camera and get the shots.
Aunt of the Groom pulls me aside to ask me to take a picture of their family MID-Grand March.
Send 2nd shooter to help out Auntie and follow the bride and groom to their table Mid- March because I know what’s coming next.
“CLANG CLANG CLANG”
Ok, now I can finish hitting up the bathroom.
My God, why didn’t my Second Shooter TELL me I looked like this!??! Ugh….
Rearrange outfit and comb hair. Decide no one will notice that your makeup sweated off hours ago….hit the floor again.
Sometimes I have a seat….sometimes my seat is a dark corner of the reception hall where I crouch like Gollum and inhale my mashed potatoes (PRECIOUS) until someone does something photo-worthy. I never really have a preference, as long as potatoes are in the mix.
Potatoes make everything wonderful.
Dinner. This is downtime….as most folks don’t really care for pictures of themselves eating. Don’t blame em. Get Kiddie Cocktail from the bar. Enjoy immensely.
Head outside to check out the sky. If the sky is particularly awesome, fetch the bride and groom and promise to be quick. Shoot awesome sky/nightime shots.
DANCING! Best part of the night. Set up your light and get killer dance shots.
Open dancing kicks off and you get to be-bop around like a crazy person to “I’ve Gotta Feeling” or “Shout”. Bet your Second Shooter $20 that you can guess the next song on the DJ’s playlist. Collect $20.
Kiddie Cocktail #2
Text husband to see what he’s up to. Kids are being crazy. Wish him well, they’ll be in bed long before I get home.
Bounce around the dance floor a bit more.
Cupid Shuffle….Electric Slide….Cha Cha Slide…..Chicken Dance….polka…..
Let’s toss that bouquet, folks!
“All the Single Ladies” means I gotta get in position. PLEASE DJ, don’t make them all stand in a circle. PLEASE……FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND GOOD.
Garter removal…..I typically try to position myself in front of a kid….so, you know, they don’t have to witness the debauchery about to go down. : ) Doin’ the mom thing.
CAKE! Mmmmm…CAKE. And coffee….Cake and coffee are some of my greatest occupational perks.
Gotta see if there’s anything else the couple needs…..typically this means group shots. Get all the bride’s sorority sisters together in a bunch….shoot shoot shoot.
annnnd…..**drop the mic***….we’re out.
Stop for french fries and a Mountain Dew. Because after a wedding this is the food of the GODS.
10:30 – 11:00 PM
Depending on where I’ve been, get home and realize that being on my feet all day, and then sitting for 2 hours, has rendered my legs jelly-like.
Get inside. Husband is up watching American Restoration or How It’s Made or some equally boring man-show. Unload all the stuff, throw Intervention or Hoarders on the computer to watch as I back up.
Start backing up those files. Now, some folks sleep on them. I don’t. I can’t. If I don’t get my files backed up THAT NIGHT…..the world will surely end….or something. Terrible things will happen, I’m convinced. So, I get my jammies on and I start the back up process.
Back up process done. Takes so long because typically I get distracted by the internet and forget that I’m downloading.
BED. I have “All of Me” stuck in my head. Stupid Ear Worm. My lord….I’m sure it’ll be something else this season.
Next morning get startled awake by my kid standing at my bedside needing to use the potty. Head downstairs and start on the blog.
Blog and then NAP! (If I’m lucky!)
So there ya have it, folks…..glamorous, I know, ain’t it? But, this is the life of a wedding photographer. Sometimes it differs in hours, in place, in time, and in happenings…..but there’s no doubt that we all go out there and tackle our wedding days like a boss.
Here’s to a KILLER 2015 Wedding Season, Shooters!
- THE OSCARS. I friggin’ love the Oscars. Even when they’re bad, I love them. And, well….they were kind of bad this year. I had high hopes for Neil Patrick Harris. He does such a top-notch job with the Tony’s. But, meh…I don’t know if it was bad writing or bad timing or WHAT….but 90% of the jokes really fell flat for me. It was a bummer.
That and Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t win. : ) He should host next year, at least if the jokes are terrible his buttery-smooth voice will make everything okay.
But, after having seen The Theory of Everything, I have to admit Eddie Redmayne totally earned every inch of that Oscar.
– The very BEST part of Oscar Sunday? The release of Mark Seliger’s photobooth results on Monday. They did not disappoint. The man is a friggin genius. He always gives me major inspiration for the upcoming season.
I mean, DUDE…LOOK AT THESE! This is modern portraiture. This is effortlessly COOL. (Copyright: Mark Seliger)
- And speaking of Oscar-stuff, we watched Whiplash, kind of on a whim, this week. We tried to watch Dumb and Dumber 2…..I would recommend avoiding that attempt at all costs. It’s 20 minutes of my life I can never regain. I say 20 minutes because that’s about as long as we lasted into the movie. It was that bad.
Whiplash, on the other hand, was phenomenal. Just great….even for a movie about jazz drumming. And I really dislike Jazz music. But this was a stellar film. Highly recommend it.
– We also watched The Theory of Everything, which was ALSO stellar.
– Realized this week that I kind of miss the ability to have sick days. I was not feeling very well for most of the week. Not sure why….allergies, maybe? Whatever it was, it dragged me down for a good 4 days. But I also remember feeling ridiculously guilty every time I did have a sick day at my old, “real” job. Not big on “sick days” in general. I’d rather be working.
– RIP Leonard Nimoy. Boo. I remember waking up early on school days to watch In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy. It’s the first time I ever heard about the Amityville Horror. What a great show!
– FINALLY finished the meeting room this week (with the exception of a table, which I’m still searching for). It’s been a seriously long time coming, but now I have a kick ass room to meet with folks and have premiere meeting for Seniors.
No back facade or entrance yet….but hey, I’ve learned the virtue of patience with this renovation. Big time.
– Found out yesterday that the Hospice DVD I contributed to, New Rules for End of Life Care by Barbara Karnes, won a TELLY Award!! Pretty exciting and glad I can contribute, even in the tiniest way, to helping people navigate the end of a loved one’s life.
– I’ve also been invited to speak at this year’s Hospice Volunteer Recognition Night. I’ve decided to not be nervous about that until it gets down to the wire and I realize I need to write a speech. Oy vey.
– Your business moment of Zen: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/03/stupid-is-the-brand-killer.html
Seth Godin, you’re so smart.
This year, I have vowed to up my customer service game. Create an experience. People can get good photography in a number of places, that’s nothing new….it’s the customer experience that keeps people coming back. I feel this year I got SO busy, especially with starting a whole new business with my husband, that I didn’t give this aspect of the business my full, undivided attention. It wasn’t on-purpose, but I need to really knock it out of the park this year. It’s my mission.
We’ve applied this to the record store as well. We tell ourselves all the time that our stacks may not run as deep as heavier funded stores….we may not have rows of the most hard-to-find and sought after titles…but we have really great stock and are always willing to go that extra step to find a title for someone. It keeps people coming back…over and over. It works, if you work it.
– Kicking around the thought of perhaps offering a beginner’s photography workshop this spring. I’ve had some expressed interest in this but wanted to wait until I had a good studio setting to make it happen. Keep an eye on your email inboxes for the announcement, once I get all of my little workshop ducks in a row.
– This week? Fun adult-type to-do stuff like the dentist and a mortgage refinance (PARTAY!!!) This weekend I have the Miss Beloit Princess Party that I’m volunteering for. 16 or so little girls getting their portraits made with Miss Beloit. Wonder if they would be open to a Mark Seliger type experience? : )
And this Sunday we kick off SENIOR SEASON 2016. I’m wickedly excited for Seniors this year. I feel like I’ve really hit my stride and I want to seriously kick it up a notch across the board this year. Offer the type of portraits unlike any other senior portraits in the area….and an experience people will walk away from happy and wanting to tell all of their friends. It’s a tall order…..but needs to happen. This is the year.
I have 7 wonderful models that will be representing Type A at BMHS and Turner….I have a functional studio (FINALLY!) and we are gonna make it happen in 2015!
So, if you’re a 2016 grad or know someone who is, they want to get in on this. Trust me.
– WEDDINGS? I’m still looking to fill some late 2015 dates (Sept, Oct, Nov) and have a smattering of Summer 2015 open, but not many. Just booked a wedding in Arizona and Minnesota….looks like 2016 and 2016 will be the years of gettin’ outta Dodge to shoot! I’m totally for this!
– Not too much with bustin’ out the big guns camera-wise lately…..I blame the weather….but here’s some shots of the studio meeting room. Eventually I’m going to get some better furniture, but I’m a thrifty gal, so that’ll all come in time.
© Type A Images Photography