The House Surrounded by Wood

About the simple photo shoot that took two tries (so far) to get right.

The client left a voicemail message, explaining that she wanted us to take an aerial photo of her house as a surprise Christmas present for her husband. She left a phone number, but I was afraid to call her back. I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

She caught me in my office two days later. We met at the airport so I could take her deposit and learn more about the job.

She explained where the house was — less than a mile south of the airport — and described it as being surrounded by chopped wood. “You have to take the photo soon,” she urged. “Before all the wood is gone.”

She’d done her homework on the Flying M Air Web site, and knew all about the Pentax 67 camera with the big negatives. The one I’d just decided to sell because it was so difficult to use. She wanted us to use that camera because she wanted the photo blown up to a large print.

I took a $50 deposit and told her I’d call her when I had a contact sheet for her to look at, probably within a week. She told me to e-mail her, since her husband never looked at the computer.

Mike and I went up a few days later. We’d loaded the camera with 10 shots, but had decided to use half of them photographing Rancho de los Caballeros, in hopes of selling them a postcard. I flew for about 20 minutes. Mike took pictures. I had to climb to 5000+ feet for the photos of the ranch.

I dropped off the film at Safeway, requesting Kodak processing. The only kind of processing I could get for that kind of film. I noted that I wanted a contact sheet only. No sense in spending $20 on processing.

The contact sheet was a major disappointment. If the client wanted a great shot of her neighborhood, we could deliver. But a photo of just her house and all that wood? By the time we had it cropped enough, we would have been better off with the 35mm negatives.

I broke the news to Mike. He complained that the camera didn’t show the right thing through the viewfinder. I didn’t point out that the ranch photos came out okay. There didn’t seem to be a need to start an argument.

I e-mailed the client and explained the situation. I asked her to come to the airport and tell me which angle she liked best and to draw her property line on the best shot. She came in and looked at the contact sheet. “My house is one of those?” she asked. I assure her it was. Then I pointed it out. She picked an angle and I used a Sharpie to mark up the image. I told her we were switching to a 35mm camera, one my photographer was more accustomed to using. I told her he’d do a better job and she could still get her enlargement. I told her it was a “man thing.” She understood completely.

We went up today to try again. Mike loaded his Nikon with zoom lens with 24 exposures of 100 ASA Kodak print film. He shot about 10 of the house, 10 of the ranch, and 4 of the town. I dropped off the film at Osco, so I could pick up the prints tomorrow.

Let’s hope I don’t have to continue this tale in another blog entry.

What do you think?