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What is Your Best Photography Anecdote?

What is Your Best Photography Anecdote?

Us photographers are bizarre creatures. It is as if holding a camera exchanges the focus of your preservation instincts from yourself to the camera and lenses. The camera's tunnel vision sometimes appears to extend to its user and all that matters is what is in that frame. Perhaps we are brave and valiant artists capturing beauty in whichever obscure corner we find it. Then again, perhaps we are idiots seeking notoriety through the capturing of the unique and the rare; the jury's out. Whichever answer -- or anywhere in between -- this common mentality among 'togs yields entertaining anecdotes.

Leave your best photography anecdote in the comment section and if we get some good ones, I'll make an "The Best Photography Anecdotes of Fstoppers' Readers" article to follow up.

I'll kick us off with what I like to call, The Shoot Out:

Early in my photography days, when it was still a new hobby, I used to like exploring with my camera. I do not live anywhere interesting, but nevertheless I'd roam forests and woodlands like a middle-class nomad. One crisp winter morning I upped and dress in the dark and decided to head over to some woods I'd spotted in the middle of nowhere for a sunrise landscape. I arrived and began my exploration with nothing but the sounds of distant birds and the crackle of the frozen floor under foot. I could see a clearing in the distance and the sun was starting to filter through so I headed towards it. The winter always feels quieter than the summer. I was still a little sleep drunk and I glazed over as I rhythmically plodded out in to the open. Shots rang out. Not my camera; firearms. Very close firearms. Have you ever heard a sound so loud and unexpected that you felt it in your lungs? I staggered towards a tree for meager shelter as if I had been genuinely shot and heavy rumbling began, followed by screams, whistles and mass movement. Honestly, it felt like the Vikings had returned with some modern technology. Through a flare of sun I made out tweed-clad warriors without a cause atop horses, lead by a pack of dogs, rifle-wielding countrymen, and even some sort of flag bearer who was waving it frantically. I had just walked in to the path of a hunting party who were very much in full flow and those screams were first at the small army to cease fire and then at me. I was so mentally ill-equipped for an early morning skirmish I'm quite sure my apologies were unintelligible and I bumbled back off in to the woods fizzing with adrenaline. 


Dani Diamond - Castaway

Ok, so three years ago I’m shooting a seascape on the coast of Malibu, California. It’s a gorgeous coast with crazy cool cliffs that come all the way up to the water. There’s around four feet between the cliff and the water; it’s really narrow. So, I’m walking down the coast with all my gear to find the right spot and I always shoot around sunset. So I’m sitting there shooting in this area of the beach that was a decent size. When I finish shooting just as the sun sets, I’m packing up and I start walking back along the coast and I realize the water has risen above my path back along the cliff — there’s no more beach left and there’s no way to get back! I turn around and walk the opposite way and there’s nothing until I reached the other side of the cliff which also had high water so I was completely trapped. I noticed a home-made wooden ladder that was falling apart but it lead to a ramp with a metal door. The door was locked. The door and fence was 25 feet in the air and had metal spikes on top so you can’t climb without ripping yourself but it was my only way.

So I take my camera bag and my tripod and I throw it over the door and then I climbed like a monkey over the fence. I make it down the other side and I’m in some dude’s back garden. This is not a house, it’s a gorgeous fancy mansion on a cliff in Malibu, who knows which celebrity owns it?! I sneak around to the front to get out and boom, there’s an electric fence seventeen feet tall and it only opens electronically for cars. I’m standing on this guy’s driveway — I’m not going to go knocking on his door — but the fence has barbed wire at the top too so I just start walking around the garden. I eventually find a tree with a branch that hangs over the fence and so I climb it, throw my gear down and then jump the seventeen feet.

Matt Georges - The Blair 'Tog Project

When shooting in the wild during the winter we sometimes end up in uncomfortable situations. I remember a particular RV trip in Interior British Columbia, Canada, a couple of years ago. It was -30°C and it was freezing inside the camper overnight so we had to put an alarm clock at 3AM just to heat up the car a bit before going back to sleep again. So, on that trip we were supposed to meet up with the Monashee Lodge people in a parking lot at 7AM at the very end of 50 kilometres of one-way road into a deep forest. We thought the best option would be to drive there just after dinner and sleep directly in the parking lot.

When we hit the road it started snowing a bit. One hour later it had snowed around 40cm, it was just insane and we could barely see the road. We were in the middle of nowhere in a deep forest, on a one way road, with no chance to turn around, in a big mama RV, trying to not get stuck. After three hours driving we got stuck though. There was way too much snow! So we started to shovel the road and try to get some speed to keep moving in the RV. We had to stop pretty much every 50 meters to dig out the tires again and again. After doing this for six hours non-stop we just gave up. It was still puking snow and the whole crew was so exhausted. We decided to split up and me plus two other guys would hit the road until the end just to be in time for our meeting. We got radios on to stay in touch with the crew inside the RV and we started to walk in the deep and fresh snow, at night, with a small headlight, without knowing at all how far we were from the end of the road. We walked for a few hours, really scared of crossing the path of any sort of wild animal and every little noise in this darkness was scary! Of course the radio was not really working so we couldn’t stay in touch with our RV base.

By the time we ended up at the meeting point the sun was already rising! The cat from the lodge towed our RV a couple kilometers to the final point. Snow conditions were all-time and we were ready to shoot in the fresh snow for a week! It’s not really a photo anecdote but more what happens before or after when we go on photo missions in the wild.


What's your best photography anecdote? Leave your story in the comments and remember to up-vote other ones you like.

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Ron Braithwaite's picture

I was a US Air Force photographer based out of U-Tapao Thailand in 1973-74. I was shooting slides for the base commander's slide show to be presented later in the week. I had the idea to shoot the base from atop one of the three water tanks on the edge of the base.

I climbed up the ladder with a couple of Nikon FTn's and a bag full of lenses on the third tank, then walked around the edge and shot a gorgeous photo with my 28mm showing the still water of my tank in the foreground, with the other two open tanks, and the the base, runway with all the big B52s and KC135 tankers, and the exquisite Gulf of Siam in the distance. Really a gorgeous shot.

When I got the shot, grinning from ear to ear, I started to look around. There I was, standing on an 18" wide concrete wall, with a 60' drop on one side down to bare concrete, 60' deep water on the other, and about 20' to the ladder. And I realized that I had on combat boots and a whole lot of very heavy camera gear around my neck.

I've never been bothered by heights, but that time I got down on my hands and knees and crawled back to the ladder before going down.

The base commander loved my shot and had us get him a framed and matted 11x14 for his wall. When I presented it to him, I told him about my experience and he laughed and shook my hand, saying that he wouldn't have had the nerve to walk on that ledge.

It was definitely worth the shot, though.

Dave McDermott's picture

A couple of years ago, I was doing a lingerie shoot with a model in a forest. An old man approached us and asked us what we were doing. I just told him we were taking some photos. He stood there and wouldn't go away, so I brought the model into an abandoned house a little further into the forest.

Grand I thought, a bit more privacy here. After about 5 minutes of shooting in the house we got attacked by a swarm of bees. There was a nest in the roof that we had obviously disturbed. She ran out of the house half naked and screaming. I ran out after her, so to the people outside it looked like I was after assaulting her. That was the only real disastrous shoot I've ever had.

Anonymous's picture

I arrived before sunrise so I could hike a couple miles into the wetlands to get a landscape photo. In the darkness, I pulled out my backpack and leaned it up against my car while I got my tripod out and strapped it to the pack.

I flipped on my headlamp and was about a mile down the trail when I felt a large bug in my shirt. It's not an unusual thing in the swamps of Florida in the summer, but suddenly it began to sting me. A lot.

I looked down and saw what appeared to be a wasp. I grabbed and swatted until it let go and flew away, but then I realized there were several of them. I was feeling a lot of other bites as well and started to freak out a bit wondering what the hell was attacking me.

I threw my pack to the ground, ripped off my shirt and headlamp and realized that I was covered in fire ants. The little guys that you normally see, plus the big drones with wings. They all had locked their jaws on me and were stinging me over and over.

After much swatting, scraping, and pulling of bodies, I dislodged the big ones and fended off the rest with a shower of DEET. It was at this point that I realized my mistake - I had put my backpack down on their mound on the darkness.

I have surprised alligators, nearly stepped on venomous snakes, and encountered many other dangerous things here in Florida, but this was the most painful and frightening. I even have the scars on my chest to prove it.

And, worst of all, I didn't even get a shot that morning as it was overcast.

Ralph Hightower's picture

Fire ants are brutal! What I want to do is pour molten aluminum over a fire ant mound to make a cast of the mound; I've watched several YouTube videos of people doing this. Payback is hell!

R S's picture

I was in Venice on the second floor balcony of St. Mark's overlooking the square. I didn't have anyone with me so I asked a random person that also had a DSLR to take my photo. I switched my Canon over to "auto" and handed it to him. He immediately shook his head and switched it back to manual, and proceeded to take some of the best photos I got of myself the entire trip. He didn't speak any English, and but we both spoke camera.

Will smith's picture

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David Adamson's picture

During my wedding photo days I was standing behind and to the left of the minister so as to get the father daughter kiss after coming down the isle. Just after the kiss the suspender straps broke and came of the pants causing them to fall to the floor exposing his underwear to the laughter of the crowd. It took the minister several tries to start talking again with out cracking up. Finally he was able to get back to the business at hand.