I experienced the joy of photographing my first engagement session a few weeks ago while at a photography conference in New York. This session was significant in many ways for me and I learned a great deal throughout the process.
Logistically, I didn't have a lot of time to make it from JFK to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge where the session was to take place. I was scheduled to land a 4 pm, then taxi to the bridge which would take about 45 minutes. I figured I'd get there between 6:30 - 7 pm and shoot photos during the golden hour before sunset. My vision was sun-soaked photos with the Manhattan skyline in the background. Here's what happened instead.
My flight was on-time to New York but we ended up circling the city for an hour waiting for a runway to open. Our flight pattern looked like a Spirograph. We landed on a different runway than what was scheduled so the whole flight had to get on a bus and be shuttled to the appropriate terminal. Thank goodness I had carry on luggage because who knows how long it would have taken to get a checked bag.
I rushed to find a taxi and hopped in. My driver informed me that a water main had broken and all exits out of the airport were blocked off except one. It took nearly 45 minutes just to exit JFK! By this time it's 6:30 pm and also very overcast and dreary outside. OK, I tell myself, no sunset for the session but at least it's not raining.
It took over an hour to drive through rush hour traffic to get to the bridge, and about three quarters of the way there it started pouring!
All kinds of self-doubt started rushing through my head. I'll have no light, we won't be able to shoot outside, I've never shot in a dark city before, I've never shot in the rain before! What am I going to do?!?
But then I took some deep breaths and really tried to refocus. I thought about all the skills I've been working on for the past few years and reminded myself that I do know how to shoot in low light, even no light. Plus, the street lights were starting to coming on. I could make the light work. My sun-soaked sunset photos were a dream of the past but the rain and the mist was making the city look really moody and romantic. I could still get the feelings I wanted to capture without the sun. And my conference group was texting me as I got closer saying they were ready to brave the elements if I was.
I got to the location at 7:40, ten minutes before sunset. Thankfully, the rain turned into a heavy mist so while things were wet, we weren't getting soaked during the shoot. And most importantly, the couple was amazing!! They were happy, laughing, snuggling, kissing, and taking direction beautifully. We ran up and down the streets for the next hour, shooting until it was completely dark outside.
After the session I was really hesitant to look at the photos on my computer. What if my settings weren't quite right? What if the photos look rushed? I'm happy to say that I loved what I saw as a scrolled through the session. The wet streets combined with the street lights made the roadways glow and look magical. The mist half-swallowing the bridges and city skyline looked soft and romantic. My subjects looked so happy and in love.
I stated earlier, this practice session taught me so much. I learned how important it is to trust in myself and my abilities with my camera. I learned that it's important to have a vision but just as necessary to quickly let it go to make room for a new one. I learned to not fear a challenge, for those situations offer the most learning and personal growth. Most importantly I was reassured that I'm most definitely on the right path. I love what I do and I'm getting better with every session. I thank all the people who have trusted me to capture their memories and look forward to meeting new clients and telling their stories.