The Time Fate Taught Me To Prepare

If by fate, I mean a rambunctious toddler.

When I first started studying photography in college, I realized that a good way to fund my obsession with camera equipment was to shoot weddings on the weekends. Even back then in the film age (which was far more expensive to shoot), I could clear $500.00 per wedding. I had a beautiful Minolta SLR – a complete system. I had upgraded from my X-700 to a Maxxum 700si. It was a very nice 35mm camera, the nicest I could afford. Even back in 98, this was a $1,200.00 camera, just the body. And it wasn’t digital. I didn’t get my first digital SLR until 2006, although I had a few point and shoot digitals before that.

I was shooting a wedding at a church near Crown Center in Kansas City, MO. It was a Saturday afternoon, nice day outside, seemed like it was going to be a normal day.

I always over-prepared for weddings. If I thought I was going to shoot 30 rolls of film, I’d take 90. If I thought I’d go through 6 of those expensive LiIon 2CR5 batteries, I’d take 20. Inevitably I always shot more than I expected to, especially with weddings. You just don’t want to miss “the shot.” I’ve found that I shoot about two shots per minute. Yeah, it’s sick.

My Minolta was practically new, so I knew I didn’t need to worry about malfunctions. I’d shot a couple dozen rolls through it and everything was coming back perfectly exposed. It was my first camera that had a “program” mode where it would autometer and then set the shutter and aperture automatically. With that confidence, I didn’t bother bringing my older X-700 with me, because it was a truly manual camera… much more arduous to use.

The service was over and it was time to set up for the formal poses. I set my camera on the tripod (and keep in mind, this was a $350.00 Bogen tripod… not a cheap piece of crap) and went up to set up my lighting, which at the time was a Novatron D1500 kit. I was always worried a kid would knock over my lights, because they were pretty fragile. The kit had 4 lights, and I rarely used 3, let alone 4, so I knew I had a backup if someone wandered into them.

As I was setting up the second light, someone’s toddler came running down the aisle and ran headfirst into my tripod… the entire thing toppled… camera and all. I could hear the glass shattering in my lens, and I thought I saw the film door pop open on the camera. I had other lenses, so I thought worst case scenario I had to switch lenses and probably had lost that roll of film.


The film door had not popped open. The entire camera had broken in two.

That was a problem, because I hadn’t brought a spare camera… didn’t really even have one.

The kid’s parents looked on in horror, but naturally didn’t offer to pay for it. I had no choice… I had to put the entire wedding party onto standby and I went off to IPAS, the camera store nearby there that gives me the heeby jeebies. I went in, bought a new Minolta 700si on my credit card, and raced back to the wedding.

Disaster was averted that day because I was close to a camera store and had enough credit available to buy a replacement. However, if it had been an evening wedding, they would have been screwed.

I learned my lesson on that day, and I never went to a wedding with only one camera body again. Last year, I shot what I plan to be my last wedding ever, and I took two Nikon D200’s with me. Of course, when you’re prepared, bad things never happen.

That’s just the way the world works. It’s the inverse of Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong except if you’ve already planned a contingency.