This is my son's friend Paul Dvorak. Took this about an hour ago now.
What is it with people—all people—and photographs, that they always wait until the very last minute to get done what needs to be done? From imaging professionals to casual acquaintances, it's always the same. Seems like 80% of the jobs I've ever done have been at the last minute. Or a little later.
My son and his friends are seniors this year. I feel for the guys who make their bread and butter from senior portraits—with a public high school senior in the house, I've gotten at least twenty fliers or postcards or advertising packets from local seniors photographers. It could have been thirty, I haven't counted. A lot, anyway. And not only do those folks have to deal with all that competition from each other, but there's always the competition from the "Dads with DSLRs." Like me.
Moms, too, of course. And friends and uncles and neighbors and so on.
And it doesn't even have to be DSLRs. Digicams, too. I'm sure somewhere out there in America, senior pictures are being taken with cellphones.
At any rate, trying to sell a professional portrait package to this household is coals to Newcastle. But I asked Zander not to wait until the last minute to ask me to do his senior portrait. Give me some warning, I said. Don't wait until the very last minute, I said.
So he didn't. He very kindly didn't ask me to do his senior portrait the day before it was due. He asked me the day before the day before it was due.
That's today. The pictures are due this morning, I mean. He told me that on Wednesday, driving home from the gym. But his girlfriend had to work all Wednesday afternoon and evening, and she wanted to be there for the shoot. So we planned to do it yesterday, when she could be around.
So yesterday afternoon, Zander comes home late, goes to the gym, then takes a shower, and of course I'm on the internet reading about computers. Suddenly I look up and realize it's getting dark. So I'm yelling at him to hurry up because the sun's going down and I'm losing my light. We barely made it, with the sunset fading in the west.
I could have done it inside. I do have a monolight and an umbrella. Except I loaned my only backdrop (the wonderful Photek "Background in a Bag," which I love and have gotten about 180 times my money's worth out of) to my next-door neighbor. I could just go over there and get it, except that she and her family packed up and moved to Portland, Oregon about a month and a half ago. Presumably with my aging and admittedly pretty tattered background packed away among their things somewhere. (And Amy, if you're reading this, I don't need it back—it's time for me to get a new one anyway.)
We all liked different shots. Kirsten liked one, I liked another, and Zander liked another. He got to choose, of course. (He's the client.) The one shown here is the one I liked. (He gets to pick the one that goes in the Yearbook; I get to pick the one that goes on my blog.)
He didn't want to dress up. He wanted to look like he looks every day. That's my boy...I don't like dress-up portraits very much either.
But notice his hair's still a little wet, because he didn't have time to dry it. Really, it was getting dark fast. But still, I was feeling kind of smug, thinking, "this isn't really last minute. Not last-last minute." I got to take my time with the post-processing at least.
So as we're finishing up the Photoshop work on Zander's portrait—as the last light fades into darkness—his friend Paul arrives. Zander says Paul needs a portrait, too, but he—Zander—is just going to shoot it with the monolight in the basement.
With the concrete walls as a background?
I told Paul if he'd only come by half an hour earlier, I could have shot him when I shot Zander.
"I was going to ask," he says.
So I had him show up at 6:45 this morning. It's getting light later and later, this time of year, and naturally I didn't think to check the time of sunrise. Even at 7:00 it's still not light enough. So Paul runs Zander and Kirsten up to school—the high school is five or six blocks up the hill from us—and comes back so I can do his portrait.
Now we're at the last minute. But he's gotten permission from his first-hour teacher to be late to class.
I used my aging and definitely sick 6MP Konica-Minolta 7D for the shoot, because I don't have a long lens for the mirrorless camera. The 7D has some quirks; its motherboard long ago went senile. Every now and then it spontaneously decides to underexpose by about three stops. You never know when that's going to happen. But in the 25 or 30 shots I did of Paul, the camera only pulled that trick twice. It won't review shots in full-screen mode any more, no matter how you try to set it, so you can't chimp even if you want to. It also pulled another one of its tricks and stopped autofocusing halfway through the shoot. So I switched to manual focus and was focusing it myself, with my bad eye (I have cataracts in my right eye), when it spontaneously came to life and decided to start autofocusing again—while set on manual focus! Jeez.
But I only lost four or five of the shots I took of Paul to the balky old camera's shenanigans. At least the camera didn't pull its nuclear option on me, this time—that's when it suddenly decides it doesn't have a lens attached, even though it does, at which point it resolutely refuses to work at all. The only thing to do then is to repeatedly detach and reattach the lens until it recognizes it again. Yeah, it has a setting to allow it to shoot without a lens attached, but that doesn't work either. The old girl has definitely seen better days.
I still like that camera, though.
So Paul and I select a shot, and I'm quickly correcting it in Photoshop, and Paul's standing there shifting from one foot to the other saying, "Zander's photo class starts in ten minutes...." Zander has to print out the two pictures on the Epson in the photography classroom prior to running them down to the office to turn them in. (We don't have a working photo printer at the house right now—don't ask; long story.) So I throw the two portraits on an SD card, wrap the cord around my new Sandisk card reader (because the one up at school is older and can't read the 4GB SD cards I've standardized on), hand it to Paul, and off he goes. "Bye—thanks!"
They'll probably make it, too.
With time to spare.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
ADDENDUM: Uh-oh. Waited too long. Re the "Background in a Bag" I mentioned, this notice has appeared on the Photek site: "PHOTEK WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO PROVIDE BACKGROUNDS. THE MILLS HERE IN THE UNITED STATES HAVE CLOSED WITHOUT NOTICE. WE WILL KEEP YOU POSTED IF WE CAN LOCATE A NEW SOURCE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATRONAGE."
I checked around, and it appears the black 8x12's are already gone. (Damn.) If you want or need another color, better get it quickly.
(Thanks to Aaron and others in the comments for alerting us to this.)
UPDATE: I'm glad to report the printing went off without a hitch and Zander and Paul got their pictures in on time. I even got my card and card reader back!