Kendalyn couldn’t believe her ears.
“Family portrait will be down at the dam on Buffalo Calf Rd!”
The dam?! Murkey brown water. Often covered in algae. Muddy, brushy banks. Surrounded by bare, leafless trees and dead, yellow grass. Along a narrow road, where would we park? Where would we stand? Does James really know what he’s doing?
Now, rewind a couple of days….
Everyone is in town for Christmas, and the annual Staddon family portrait is on the calendar! Outfit colors have been chosen. Style themes and backdrop ideas have been tossed around. Now it’s time to choose a location!
An expansive field not too far from the house has been suggested. Another possibility is the top of a beautiful grassy slope offering pretty views down the valley in both directions.
I scout both locations. The field is found to have some complications. The top of the grassy slope? Practically ideal! The grass-covered dam was plenty wide, broad enough for a car to drive down, and stretched perpendicular to an east/west running valley, a tiny lake below adding the perfect touch, if for no better reason than to add a pleasant atmosphere for the portrait experience.
Sunday afternoon rolls around. “Family portrait will be down at the dam on Buffalo Calf Rd!”
The dam? Oh yeah!
Days after the pictures were taken, Kendalyn mentions to me how grateful she was that the location worked out.
I realized several things after the little conversation that ensued. Folks perceive the same thing in many different ways. Living in this area, seeing “the dam” regularly, at different times of day and in different seasons, there is a lot more I know about that place than the soccer mom visiting from Texas once or twice a year who drives by it (usually during a rainy time of year) on their way to Grandpa & Grandma’s house. It’s also very important that we, as portrait photographers, communicate clearly when needed. To me, in that situation, “dam” meant the general location and the beautiful grassy slope. To others, “dam” could mean the lake itself, or the muddy banks surrounding it. Of course, I was super grateful that Kendalyn trusted me with the shooting location, but it was a good reminder to me that the position of portrait photographer is indeed a position of responsibility not to be taken lightly.