As Wedding Photographers, we quite often work in conditions that are far from perfect. We also quite often need to make decisions in a split of a second so the day runs smoothly for the bride and groom. Everyone of us is also afraid of doing something, that may prevent us from completing the job. And unfortunately (or fortunately!) that happened to me. I’m one of the people who learned new stuff the hard way – from my own mistakes. And I’m actually quite happy that this accident has happened to me. I took a massive lesson from it, and I know now what to do if that ever happens to me again. I also would like to share this story with you all, to make you aware of the next steps that you may need to do, when you have an unexpected incident.

How did that happen?!

I would love to have the footage of the incident to show you what exactly happened. Unfortunately there is no video evidence of that, however, YouTube search came up with a very good visualisation of what I actually did. Here it is:

Let’s start from the very beginning. 18th March, 6 hours wedding, 3 hours away from home. It was supposed to be a pretty straight forward day. It was also my last wedding before a Wedding Workshop that we organised for the upcoming Monday. I did not expect anything to go wrong.

While I was driving to the venue, a thing came through my mind about backup clothes. Some of my photographer friends mentioned in the past some horror stories and how the backup clothing saved them from big trouble. Naaah, why would I need anything like that? I’m experienced, I know what I’m doing… easy.

Expect the Unexpected

I have arrived to the venue (Muckross Park Hotel in Killarney). Quite a nice spot, all the part of the Wedding are in one place. Just outside the ceremony room, there was a small fountain with a gold fish swimming around. ‘Lovely’ I thought. Bridal preparations went very smoothly, so did the ceremony. We have moved over to Muckross Abbey for some portraits of the bride and groom. I was super excited as the results were pretty nice.

Awesome! Let’s move on back to the venue to do some family photos and bridal party portraits. And then, couple of more minutes mingling with the guests and I will be ready to hit the road back home. I found a really beautiful spot for the bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s photographs just outside the ceremony room and I started to take some of the shots of the boys. Using only 35mm lens for these, all I had to do is to make sure I fit them all into the frame. Here is the last frame before the incident happened:

I have posed girls beside the boys, but I could not get them in the frame so I have decided to take few steps back.

Many of you were so happy while creating work that you forgot about the surroundings? I call it ‘The Hype of a Happy Man’. And that’s exactly what happened to me.

I tripped and fell into a fountain

The minute I tripped over, I thought that I stood on someone’s who was standing right behind me foot. Split of a second later proofed to me that I was so wrong. Cold stream of water in not so pleasant outdoor conditions (Only around 6 degrees Celsius). I fell with my right side under water. The camera that I had on my Holdfasts on that side has fully submerged. So did the pouch that contained another lens on my right hip. Camera attached on the left side went partly underwater (Actually, just a lens dipped in while body remained dry). Bit of splash, bit of scream from the girls, 2 seconds and I was fully out from the water. Quite confused what has just happened. I looked up. Paula & Jon and their bridal party completely shocked, water dripping from the equipment, the first thing I said after coming out from water was:

Fuck it. We have to keep going.

With trousers, shirt and jacket partially wet, I have detached cameras from holdfast, left them on the table, and using my left camera (which was dry) I have completed the bridal party shots. Here is the first shot immediately after the incident.

I have completed the portraits, partly in shock, with a smile on my face, using the equipment I wasn’t even sure if it works properly (I did not know that the left camera did not go under water, I was pretty sure it did). I apologised for what has happened, but assured, that they will have awesome story to tell in a few years time. Thankfully there were no witnesses of the incident as all the guests were mingling inside. Few minutes after that, I have recorded the video:

First thing I did is I have removed the batteries and the cards from the cameras. I could see a lot of water dripping from many parts of the equipment. When I opened a card slot in the right camera, a lot of water came out. ‘Lovely’ I thought. I gave all the equipment to the hotel staff so they brought it over to the spa area where was relatively warm and dry. I ran back to the car, picked up the backup body and a 24-70mm lens, and having my clothes wet, went back to finish up the assignment. A lot of people did not even notice that I was wet, however I could see some people looking at me, as obviously they knew what happened at that stage. Finished up at 6pm, went back for my equipment, packed it to the car, left it in the passenger foot area for drying (heat full on!) and have recorded quick video:

Damage Report

When I came back home, I have immediately put all the equipment into the rice. This is a number one advice that came up on Google anyway. I have rang my friend Eoghan from f1.0 Camera Repair who advised me to bring the equipment straight to him, as even the cameras and lenses are in the bags of rice, they need to be opened and cleaned ASAP, so water does not damage any more internal parts. The next day I dropped all the equipment to him and the final report was pretty obvious. Everything that went under water was beyond economical repair:

Nikon D750
Sigma 20mm 1.4 (that was in pouch)
Sigma 35mm 1.4 (on the left camera)
Sigma 50mm 1.4
Nikon SB-700

Card and batteries were safe to use after the incident. No files were damaged.

My Big Lesson

There are many things that I took from that lesson. Some of them are pretty obvious, but some of them were actually quite new to me.
1. Always look around you, safety first.
2. Backup Clothing ;-)
3. Backup Equipment. If you loose all the equipment that is on you, do you have extra tools in your car to finish up the job?
4. Act Professionally. How I dealt with my client was a good example on what to do in such a situation.
4. If such an incident happens, DO NOT OPERATE your camera. Remove batteries STRAIGHT AWAY. Put all the equipment into the bags of rice and bring the equipment for the repair ASAP.
5. Cards are safe, water cannot damage them, they are safe to be used again.
6. Have Equipment Insurance, make sure you read the small print. They have sorted me out pretty quickly.
7. It’s just an equipment. It’s replaceable.
8. Network. If you do not have a backup equipment, make sure you have a friend nearby that can help you out in such a situation.

Bonus #1

I think it’s worth mentioning the feedback that I have received from Paula & Jon, after I sent them some preview images:

“We had such a great wedding and have not stopped saying how wonderful you were. We were so impressed as were all our guests with your professionalism. We hope your equipment is okay or at least your insurance will cover the cost. We can’t thank you enough. The photo you sent is wonderful so can’t wait to see the rest. If you would like us to post a review or feedback somewhere please let us know. We would be delighted to do so and we will not mention any mishaps.”

That just shows what our role is on every Wedding Day that we attend. It’s not about taking pictures as such, but acting in professional and efficient manner. Make sure to look after your clients and yourself first.

Bonus #2

Big shoutout to Mike from ConnsCameras in Dublin for organising backup equipment for me in virtually no time. I would be lost without his help!

Bonus #3

Hotel has replaced the water in the fountain with something more pleasing to the eye. I hope that the future of a gold fish is bright in another pond. Thank You Adrian for sharing an image from the venue!