For the last two days I’ve been writing about my experiences photographing the town I have been staying in. Earlier in the summer I had offered to let the town’s marketing department look at my photos to see if they could use any. This kept me on my toes trying to find the most flattering places to photograph – things that would draw people to this not-so-run-of-the-mill, actually-quite-attractive lumber town.
One Sunday evening, in order to quickly kill as many birds as possible, I organised for a group of friends to meet out at a campsite next to Ten-Mile Lake, one of the provincial parks north of town.
The plan was to take photos of a young family camping next to the lake at sunset. Unfortunately, none of the campsites had an actual view of the lake. I took a shot of them enjoying a campfire together, which I shared in yesterday’s blogpost. All the other friends stood out of sight behind me until I was done, before joining them to barbecue wieners and roast marshmallows on our prop fire.
But to get the shot I wanted, with the lake in the shot, I had to pitch the tent right on the edge of the road. Several of my long-suffering friends then gathered arms-full of leaves, and scattered them on the road to camouflage the tar.
“Ok, one more handful here,” I would instruct. “And a bit thicker there.”
This was the result on the road. Pretty well fabricated, I think:
But that wasn’t the happy happenstance to which the title refers.
I had been hoping to take photos of someone walking his or her dog down a leafy path, as well as of a fisherman in the sunset. But most of my friends were completely useless to me, as they brought neither a dog nor a rod, and seemed to be there only for the fellowship and food around the campfire!
The campsite had just closed for the season but the managers were there with their children, tying up a few loose ends. (They do that here – close all the provincial campsites as soon as it starts getting cold, and then re-open on the 1st of May the following year.) I told them of my predicament, and they immediately offered to help.
“One of our kids can walk our dog, if you like,” suggested the mom. “We have seven. I’m sure I could find one who wouldn’t mind!”
I wasn’t worried about finding a willing child. The dog, on the other hand, had not stopped barking from the minute I arrived, and was straining to take a bite of my buttocks … if only it could get loose. But fortunately, once it was on a leash and enjoying some exercise, its whole demeanour softened.
And then I found out that the first kid who had volunteered had a twin.
“Ooooooh! Why don’t we shoot the two walking the dog together?” I suggested excitedly.
And again, the couple seemed as excited as I did about it. While the mom went off to brush twin number two’s hair and get her dressed in a similar outfit to number one, I took a few photos of their younger brother, who was desperate to be part of the action.
And then was the turn of the twins, who were very willing models.
Their response to everything I asked – whether to look at each other while walking, to start again from further back, to run, or to stroke the dog – was a broad smile and an “of course!”
When we were done, and walking back to their place, I really pushed my luck.
“So, uh, you wouldn’t happen to have a fishing rod and another kid who would like to pretend to be fishing would you?” I asked the dad.
It turns out they did have one of both. But no reel or fishing line. We weren’t trying to catch a fish after all though – only a photograph. Here it is:
I thanked them all profusely and emailed them the photos a few days later.
“Thank you so much,” responded the dad. “The kids feel like celebrities.”
But I should have got in the last word. Because this was the happiest of photo-shoot happenstances. Because it brought me such pleasure to see those I was shooting as excited about the creative experience as I was. Because I loved seeing the dog walkers’ glee at having been asked to be involved. (Even the dog seemed to be smiling.)
“Thank you, mom and dad with seven kids. Thank you for lending me four of them for the serendipitous shoot, with an all-round happy vibe.”