Through the Lens: We Click Together

July 23rd, 2013

My boss loves me. I know this because she says it all the time. OK, she’s never said it to me directly, but I’ve overheard her tell other people. Someone will say “How do you like…” and she’ll say “Oh, I just love…” Then she’ll wax on about why she loves me and all the time we spend together. Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, so let’s go back to when we first met.

You say potato, I say focus lock

Our working relationship began a few years ago, and she was the first, and only, person I have ever worked for. Though I had all the fundamentals necessary to be successful, including being up to date with all the latest photo techniques and technologies, I still hadn’t actually gotten out into the field and shot any photos. So I credit her with plucking me out of obscurity to work with her.

The funny thing is, I’m still not sure why she chose me. If you were to compare me to the many others out there it’s not like I was head and shoulders above the rest. Maybe it was because she knew she could get me cheaper than many of my counterparts who came from more recognized photographic backgrounds. Or perhaps it was the fact that when she saw me she just “had to touch him and see how he felt” in her hands. See, I told you that she loves me.

Now I’m not going to lie and tell you that things have always been roses. There was a definite learning curve for both of us at the start. As with all photo partners you have to build up a rapport before you can go out there and start getting amazing shots. The only way you can achieve this is to spend a lot of time getting to know one another. So that’s exactly what we did.

Right off the bat the main issue that popped up between us was the difference between our technical lingos. Translation: I was used to calling things by one name, and she was used to calling them by another name. Here’s an example, I use the term “shutter priority” while she was used to “tv” so we had some confusion as to what she was asking me to do. Even the way we cycle through the settings on the camera is different. My process is M-A-S-P whereas she’s accustomed to M-AV-TV-P, so when she would be ready to shoot in AV she had to adjust her lingo to A for me.

That wasn’t our only difference. We also physically do things differently. That may seem like a small thing to some people, but when you’re accustomed to zooming in clockwise with a lens and suddenly someone else makes you go counter-clockwise it takes a bit of getting used to. Fortunately, she had the patience to sit with me and go over how I do things. Once we did this she was able to see that even though we had been using different terms for different settings we still meant the same thing. I credit her for her willingness to not give up on me in frustration.

It takes two to (photograph) the tango

Once we’d gotten through our initial “getting to know each other” phase she decided that the only way to see if we were right for each other would be for us to go on a photo trip together. The next thing I know she’s got us booked on a flight to South America.

Before we even left the airport she had me snapping test shots of other passengers and even one of airport security that got both of us in a little hot water. It turns out that for security purposes you’re not supposed to be photographing the metal detectors and stuff so they wanted to take me away. Fortunately for me, she jumped right in and said I was just doing what she told me to and that she was relying on me for the trip we were about to take. I guess that’s when I first began to suspect how she really felt about me.

Once we were on the plane my suspicions were confirmed. For the majority of the flight she kept a hand gently resting on me, almost as if she were afraid if she moved it someone else would claim me for themselves. Plus, every once in awhile she’d look at me with a dreamy, faraway look that can only be described as puppy love and smile sweetly. Add to that the fact that we took a few more shots out the airplane window, and every time I could practically hear her coo with delight at what I’d done.

Our trip took us to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we captured the vibrant street life all around us. There was gorgeous architecture everywhere, flamenco dancers on street corners, and colorful bric-a-brac in neighborhood flea markets. For me it was a delight just to be with her, capturing the images and listening to her say “maybe just a little wider on this shot,” and “I wonder how this would look with a sepia filter,” and “ah, this one is fantastic!” With each additional shot I knew that our bond was becoming more than just one of employer and employee.

Falling… for me

After a week’s stint in Buenos Aires we took a 24-hour bus ride up to Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil and Paraguay. If you’ve never heard of the place, it looks like the land that time forgot with hundreds of waterfalls, lush vegetation, and unique wildlife all around. The place is so full of photographic opportunities that it’s hard not to take thousands of photos of every little thing that you see there. Fortunately for us, that’s exactly why we’d come there so you can imagine our bliss.

To get around the falls, which are part of a massive park system, you have to travel by truck through a jungle with a massive overhead canopy where monkeys scamper about. Shooting upward, from shadow to sun, from a moving truck at fast moving animals is no easy task. But because of my technical background and know-how I was able to automatically adjust shutter speeds, light settings, and zooms to get the perfect shot. Again, the delight on her face at us having captured the shot was proof enough that she was enamored with me.

Perhaps the crowning moment of the entire trip came when we’d reached the most impressive portion of the falls, called the Devil’s Throat (or Garganta del Diablo in Spanish). This nearly 300 foot high by 2,300 foot long area of the falls is where nearly half of the massive Paraná River cascades down. As she stood there gazing out in wonder as the water thundered down she pressed her check close to my face, and it was like she was looking right through me as I captured the images. It truly was a magical moment for both of us.

Since that voyage we’ve embarked on many other photos excursions, both far and near, and our work together just keeps getting better and better. Sure, it’s true that she’s worked with a few others over the years, and there are new kids out there who are more technically advanced than I am. But despite all those Johnny-come-latelies when someone asks her: “Which camera do you like the best?” she still says “I love my Nikon D700!”


Peter Urbick has more than a decade of experience as a professional writer and manages all aspects of content for Zenfolio. In addition to being an amateur photographer he enjoys travel and was inspired to write this story after visiting Argentina….alone. Originally from Seattle, he can frequently be found wearing University of Washington, Seahawks, or Mariners clothing (right down to the shoes), much to the amusement of the rest of the office.

We Click Together is part of Peter’s Through the Lens series. Be sure to check out the first and second articles here.