Photography always requires a sense of visual balance; that’s why we have the Rule of Thirds and other such guides. Having good physical balance can be even more important, though, especially when shooting outdoors. Not having good balance could, at times, be deadly.
Most any photographer who has shot for a sufficient period of time can tell you that some shots require an element of risk, sometimes on the part of the photographer, sometimes on the part of the model, and occasionally both. What our eyes want to see and what the camera is capable of capturing often requires taking up positions that one wouldn’t otherwise consider. Part of our job is determining whether the shot is worth the risk and how those risks might be mitigated.
For our Photo of the Day, the greater risk belonged to the model. Not only was the water the kind of cold that takes away one’s breath and causes near-instant hypothermia, but just getting her up there required traversing some rather narrow and jagged rocks. Just getting to the rather hidden location was challenging, but putting her up there, under the water, encumbered by a large wedding dress, and barefoot created a higher-than-usual risk factor. Fortunately, the model was nimble and adventurous
Fortunately, the model was nimble and adventurous. She was able to tread carefully across the slick rocks and balance herself through a number of poses, most of which were with the dress on. The weight of the dress was perhaps the greatest risk factor once it was wet. By the time we got to this final shot, removing the dress actually made the situation a bit safer.
I am happy to say I’ve never lost a model. I’ve lost equipment, clothing, supplies, and on one occasion almost lost a makeup artist, but never a person. Younger people tend to have a good sense of balance and most of us know what we can or cannot do. We’ve returned scraped and bruised, bitten and sunburned, covered in allergic reactions we couldn’t explain, but never a broken bone or career-ending injury. We listen when a model expresses concern, make adjustments for additional safety, and try to mitigate the risks as much as possible.
Balance is a young person’s gift, though, and as I get older it becomes more challenging. These days, I’m less likely to try jumping across a string of rocks in the middle of a rapidly flowing river or dangling upside down from a tree branch. My body no longer supports those activities with any level of safety. Gravity works against me now more often than not.
I look back at pictures like this now and sometimes think we were crazy to take some of the risks we did and perhaps we were a little insane. Striking balance between insanity and reason is just as important as keeping one’s balance on slippery stones, though. Fantastic photos aren’t taken while sitting in an easy chair. At the very least, we have to get out there and try. Often, the results are beautifully surprising.