This weekend I traveled across Texas for a wedding (second shooting with my friend May), and I’m just now typing up this post from our last trip-for-a-wedding out to Midland, TX. If you’re not a Texan let me just tell you now that Midland is not a place anyone goes to by choice. It’s a town that is 90% oil and gas companies and employees temporarily there for the oil boom. The remaining 10% of the population is your normal small town, not a “destination wedding” by most standards. That being said it was honestly a beautiful wedding at a gorgeous church and the local country club. It was gorgeous and everyone was so sweet and amazing.
Both May and I are film photography junkies so I brought a few rolls of film along to just capture different moments on our trip. Those images are scattered throughout this post. Before I share the story of our Midland, TX trip with May I need to give you a little bit of background on how wedding photography works. A little peak behind-the-scenes.
Even though I have my own wedding photography business, when I'm not booked with my own clients I open up my extra days for freelancing with other photographers, and I regularly second shoot for many local photographers. It's a really good experience because you can learn so much working with other photographers. Different ways to shoot, different ways to organize and manage time on the wedding day, etc.
May is the woman behind May Carlson Fine Art Photography and I've worked with her three or four times over the last few years (when she’s needed a second shooter and I’ve been free), and we've bonded a lot between those times. The second wedding I shot with her we were talking about anxiety, depression, and all the other things you normally discuss with someone when you’re drunk at a bar at 1am making friends with strangers, except it was 4pm in the afternoon and we were stone-cold sober. It’s that kind of friendship and I’m so grateful she’s in my life. She shoots a lot of film and has given me so many tips, and it's just awesome how we've really clicked the way you sometimes do with people. Seriously if you love that light, bright and airy look go check out her Instagram - @maycarlson and @lifeofmayc, it's visual candy.
More background on second shooting at the bottom of the blog post.
Okay - back to the actual story.
May had asked me if I could second shoot with her at a wedding out in Midland, TX so I got a dogsitter and had a work-vacation with May.
We arrived on Friday night and May went to shoot the rehearsal dinner while I sat at the hotel on my laptop, editing. Everything went smoothly until we were getting ready to head to the church the morning of the wedding. We climbed into May's vehicle and ... nothing. It didn't start. It's every photographer's worst nightmare. To be 5+ hours away from home and have car problems right before you need to head to the ceremony.
Thankfully May is always prepared for everything so we had been planning to get to the church an hour early. We had plenty of time since the church was just on the other side of the highway, but were both pretty much panicking. We couldn’t walk that far with all our gear, and even if we could - how would we get from the church to the reception venue, then back to our hotel? Of course, neither of us know anything about cars. Was it just the battery? Was it the starter, or ignition switch? We both crossed our fingers it was just the battery, and asked the hotel staff if they had anyone working there with jumper cables. A maintenance employee was kind enough to jump May's battery and we heard the sweetest noise - the roar of her engine.
We pulled up to the church with plenty of time to spare and got to work capturing the wedding day preparations. Before the ceremony we went out to test May's vehicle again to see if it was still holding the charge or not - and it wouldn't start. Okay, no stress, just not sure how we're going to get to the reception ... just a small wedding day hiccup, (imagine me actually biting my nails). Thankfully one of the groomsmen noticed our situation and offered to not only jump us after the ceremony, but to also jump us after the reception so we could get back to the hotel afterward.
That groomsmen gets all the prizes for taking a ton of stress off of us. It's not easy trying to shoot a wedding when you are stressed out about if you can even go back to the hotel afterwards and he made the evening so much easier!
During the reception we were talking to the videography team (who actually worked in the AV department at the church where the ceremony was) and they were really cool people. I wish they were actually wedding videographers and not just doing it as a favor because they were really professional and great to work with. Long story short, they offered to come to our hotel first thing Sunday morning to jump the battery so we could go to AutoZone! That really touched me because we didn't even know them, but they were so helpful.
So it's Saturday night, the wedding just ended and May and I get back to the hotel pretty tired, but also so over dealing with the battery and we were planning to get a couple drinks at the hotel bar to unwind before going to bed. Of course, the hotel bar was closed. WHY?! It wasn't supposed to be, the hours said it would be open - grrrr. Well next best option, when you're in a tiny town and without a vehicle, is to walk to the restaurant around the corner from the hotel. So we do, and as we get there we see they had just closed, too. Apparently everything in Midland closes at 11pm on a Saturday night. Thankfully there was a bar that was still open nearby.
Walking up to the bar I caught a glimpse of what looked like formal wear on the patio and almost started to say to May, "What if this is where the bride and groom are having their after-party?" But I stopped myself not wanting to jinx it. We walk in to the crowed bar, clearly the only open place for miles (it was actually decorated more like an upscale club, even though it was tiny and in Midland, TX).
It was too crowded inside so we step out onto the patio and guess what? Sure enough - the whole wedding party was there. We had crashed the after-party. I have to give them serious props though. Even though a few of them had to have noticed us, they were nice enough to not try to drag us over to their celebrations. I know that sounds weird but they knew that we were off the clock, we were just trying to unwind and if they talked to us then we'd have to be our professional selves when we've been working for 10 hours straight and just want to drink our beers.
Beers drank, we headed back to the hotel, crashed and woke up bright and early to meet our new best friends from the church who was coming over to jump us. Not only did they jump us but they also gave May a pair of jumper cables just in case we needed them down the road. After a few minutes we got to AutoZone, and sure enough - her battery was bad.
With a new battery we headed back towards home, ready to just be home and done with the insanity of the trip. I know May was eager to send her film to the lab to get developed so she could get started editing the images, it was such a beautiful wedding to photograph.
We stopped in Fredricksburg for lunch and found a store with the most amazing furniture and fell in love with $4,000 worth of furnishings, and of course we nerded out talking about photography and shot a couple rolls of film just of each other (because if you don't have a photo-off are you even real friends?). I needed to get home to my dogs so we didn't get to stay too long. Once we got back to May's place and said our goodbyes I started heading home and not more than 2 miles from her place I got a flat tire.
Not going to lie, I was paranoid about our trip this weekend because while it would be fun to photograph the trip, I was just too nervous something bad would happen, like somehow I’d jinx it. The good news is I didn’t jinx it, it was a smooth trip and a complete DREAM of a wedding. I wish we had an extra 2 hours to just capture portraits at all the beautiful parts of the venue their reception was at.
Our trip to Midland was the most chaotic trip I've ever been on, but it was filled with so many good people just helping us out that it gave me a little bit more faith in humanity then I'd previously had. And I got to bond with my friend even more so that is always a good trip. If May shares a blog post of the wedding I'll edit the post and include a link to it here.
Have you ever had a chaotic, stressful work trip, or trip of any kind? As much as I love traveling and exploring (my fingers are currently crossed for a winter trip in Colorado with my dogs) sometimes it just gets super stressful - especially if capturing someone's wedding is involved! I'd love to hear about your experiences, of if you have any great travel tips you live and die by!
PS: This photo that May captured of me is my new favorite “official” photo of myself.
The 411 on Second Shooting
Many wedding photographers offer packages that include a second photographer. Not going to lie - for inexperienced wedding photographers it’s just a safety net, a way to insure all the important moments are captured. For some photographers it’s a marketing strategy to try to get more bookings.
For the more experienced wedding photographers it’s a way to work with a complicated timeline and still capture all the images a client wants, but doesn’t have enough time for. Short ceremonies, short getting ready time, etc. are all impossible to capture fully with only one photographer. If a ceremony is so short that moving from the back of the aisle means my missing important photos then I can’t capture the equally important moments, like the mother of the bride tearing up during the vows. That is when a second shooter is indispensable.
Second shooters are typically experienced wedding photographers. They might be new to the industry, they might not want to run their own business and instead just want to shoot for other wedding photographers, or they may be another wedding photographer with their own business just filling in their extra dates with extra work.
The key with second shooting is that the second photographer is capturing images the way the lead photographer (the person you hire) needs them shot. It’s shooting for a different photographer’s style. When I second shoot for May or other photographers I am not capturing images the same way I do for my own weddings - I’m shooting to their style, and it’s a very different relationship I have with the couple and their guests. It’s very different from hiring me as the photographer.