As wedding photographers, we often work in conditions that are far from perfect. We also often need to make decisions in a split 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… that happened to me. I fell into a fountain.
I’m one of those people who learns new things the hard way: from my own mistakes. And I’m actually quite happy that this accident has happened to me. I learned a massive lesson from it, and I know now what to do if it ever happens to me again. I also want to share this unfortunate story with you all, to make you aware of the next steps that you may need to do if you ever have an unexpected incident.
So What Happened?
I would love to have the footage of the incident to show you what exactly happened. Unfortunately there is no video evidence of it. I did a quick search on YouTube, however, and found a very good visualization of what I actually did:
It all happened on March 18th, during a 6 hour wedding 3 hours away from home. It was supposed to be a pretty straightforward day. It was also my last wedding before a Wedding Workshop that we organised for the upcoming Monday. I didn’t expect anything to go wrong.
While I was driving to the venue, I began thinking about the subject of backup clothes. Some of my photographer friends had shared some horror stories and about how backup clothing had 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 arrived at the venue, Muckross Park Hotel in the Irish town of Killarney. It’s quite a nice spot, and all parts of the wedding are in one place. Just outside the ceremony room, there was a small fountain with gold fish swimming around.
“Lovely,” I thought.
Bridal preparations went very smoothly, and 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 nice.
We then moved back to the venue to do some family photos and bridal party portraits. A couple more minutes mingling with the guests and I would be ready to hit the road and head home. I found a really beautiful spot for the bridesmaid and groomsmen photographs just outside the ceremony room, and I started to take some of the shots of the boys.
Using only a 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 then posed the girls beside the boys, but I couldn’t get them in the frame so I have decided to take few steps back. Have you ever been so happy and excited while shooting that you forgot about your surroundings? I called it “the hype of a happy man.” Anyway, 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 foot behind me. A split second later, I instantly knew I was very, very wrong. It was the coldness of water in 6°C outdoor conditions. I fell onto my right side into the water, and the camera that I had on my Holdfast strap on that side became fully submerged. So did the pouch that contained another lens on my right hip. The camera attached on my left side went partly underwater — just a lens dipped in while body remained dry.
There was a splash, a scream from the girls, but in 2 seconds I was fully out of the water and quite confused about what had just happened. I looked up and saw the bride, groom, and bridal party with expressions of complete shock on their faces.
With water dripping from my camera equipment, the first thing I said after coming out from water was:
“F**k it. We have to keep going.”
With my trousers, shirt, and jacket wet, I detached the gear on my right side from my strap, left it on a table, and used my mostly dry left-hand camera to complete the bridal party shoot. Here’s the first photo from immediately after the incident:
I completed the shoot, partially in shock, with a smile on my face, using equipment that I wasn’t sure about (I didn’t know how much of the left camera got wet). I apologized for what happened, but assured them that they’ll have a funny story to tell in a few years’ time. I’m also thankful there were no other witnesses of the incident, as all the guests were mingling inside.
Here’s a video I recorded a few minutes after the mishap (pardon the strong language):
The first thing I did after remove 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 on my right-side camera, a lot of water came out.
“Lovely,” I thought.
I gave all the equipment to the hotel staff, who took it over to the spa area where was relatively warm and dry. I ran back to the car, picked up my backup body and a 24-70mm lens, and, still wearing wet clothes, went back to finish up the assignment. A lot of people didn’t even notice that I was wet (though I did see some people staring at me, so obviously they knew what happened at that point). Finished up at 6pm, went back for my equipment, packed it to the car, left it in the passenger foot area for drying (with heat at full blast), and recorded another video:
The Damage Report
When I arrived at home, I immediately put all the equipment into rice (the number one tip that came up on Google). I rang up my friend Eoghan from f1.0 Camera Repair, and he advised me to bring the equipment straight to him, as even the cameras and lenses are in the bags of rice. They needed to be opened and cleaned ASAP so water does not damage any more internal parts.
The next day I dropped all the equipment with him and the final report was pretty obvious. Everything that went under water was beyond economical repair:
- Nikon D750
- Sigma 20mm f/1.4 (that was in pouch)
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (on the left camera)
- Sigma 50mm f/1.4
- Nikon SB-700
My memory card and batteries were safe to use after the incident. No files were damaged.
There are many lessons that I learned from this incident. Some of them are pretty obvious, but some of them were actually quite new to me.
1. Always look around yourself. Safety first.
2. Bring backup clothing 😉
3. Have backup equipment. If you lose all the equipment that’s on you, do you have extra tools in your car to finish up the job?
4. Act professionally. I believe how I dealt with my client was a good example on what to do in such a situation.
5. If such an incident happens, do not operate your camera. Remove the batteries right away. Put all the equipment into the bags of rice and bring the equipment for the repair ASAP.
6. Memory cards can take a beating. Mine are fine to be used again.
7. Have equipment insurance, make sure you read the small print. They have sorted me out pretty quickly.
8. It’s just equipment. It’s replaceable. Photos may not be.
9. 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.
Here’s the feedback I received from the bride and groom after they received some preview photos after the wedding:
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.
Since my accident, the hotel has replaced the water in the fountain with something more pleasing to the eye (thanks Adrian for sharing this photo):
About the author: Tomasz Kornas is an alternative wedding photographer based in Ireland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
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