Hazards of the Job

I’ve been known to go to some pretty great lengths to get photos for my clients. Just last weekend, in fact, I hiked 6 miles, roundtrip, to photograph a mother and her daughter on Arkansas’ most famous rocky outcropping, Hawksbill Crag. (Should you desire that, it will now cost $5,000, a new car & a significant portion of any stocks you own, but I’m glad I did it that ONE time.) Tonight, however, I thought I would have a fairly run-of-the-mill senior portrait session, ending downtown at sunset. I met Mary Margaret and her mom, Meg, in the Heights at the salon where she was getting her hair and make-up done. MM had noticed an area behind the salon, in an alley, that she thought would make a good background for some shots and I agreed. While she was finishing up her hair, I went down the stairs to look around. Rustic door, check. Large cactus against corrugated tin, check. Weathered iron stairs, check. Lots to work with in a small area – a photographer’s dream. Mary Margaret came outside soon and we got to work. I took a few shots to see what I liked best and at one point, said to MM, “Be careful not to back into that cactus!” I really liked the door as a backdrop so I had her pose in front of it and at one point switched from a zoom lens, where you zoom in and out with the actual lens, to a prime lens, which has a fixed focal length and requires you to move your body to get closer to or further from your subject. You know where this is going, right? I had been so conscientious to warn MM about the cactus and then I not only backed into it, but, in an attempt to get the perfect angle on this shot, actually sat my ass right down on it. OUCH. I may have cursed. I don’t even remember. I reached behind me thinking I would pull out one big cactus spine & get on with the session. I reached behind me, pulled out the big cactus spine and realized there were many, many TINY cactus spines that I had not seen when I initially saw the cactus. Now I had a few of them stuck in my hand (easily removed) & SO many of them stuck in my left butt cheek (not so easily removed). I pulled the ones from my hand and continued to shoot, trying to decide if this was something I could deal with later or not. Considering I would be riding SEATED in a car and I had now determined they weren’t just stuck on my jeans, but in my flesh too, I decided I’d probably need to do something immediately. And at that moment, all of my Discovery Channel binge-watching paid off. I remembered that during an episode of “Untold Stories of the ER,” a young girl had fallen backward onto a cactus and the doctor had begun picking the spines out, one-by-one, with a pair of tweezers. It didn’t take him long to realize this was not an efficient way to remove them and he remembered that his wife used hot wax to remove body hair at her salon. She came to the hospital with her wax and he was able to remove all the spines from the poor, terrified child. What luck! I’m at a salon! This is my plan now! Meg ran upstairs and asked Amy, the stylist I am forever indebted to, if my plan would work & she agreed it was worth a try. I finished up the photos and went upstairs, reminding everyone we needed to do this quickly because we were still going downtown and time was of the essence since the light was fading by the minute. KUDOS to Amy for her quick, thorough work and for not laughing uncontrollably when being asked to wax someone’s rear on a moment’s notice. I had removed all of the spines from my jeans but my underwear was, ahem, a lost cause, as they were stuck in the elastic leg trim. This was the first (and hopefully only!) session I have done commando. I’ve always sworn that endlessly watching the Discovery Channel would pay off but I envisioned solving a crime or escaping a kidnapper. I never saw it coming into play removing cactus spines from my ass while photographing a high school senior. When I was about four years-old, I went to an open house with my mom at a florist and I was enamored with the display of cacti just within my reach. My mom noticed this and said, “Noelle, don’t touch that cactus.” She turned her back and heard me cry. She said, “Noelle, did you touch that cactus?” And, of course, I said, “No.” The moral of the story is that karma can literally bite you in the ass 46 years later, so whatever you do, don’t touch the cactus. And don’t lie to your mother.

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