If you've attended the Dorothy Awards hosted by the New Haven Pride Center, you will know that I've been photographing the event for them every year since 2012.
What you didn't know, is that the 2012 shoot was a near disaster. And I mean DISASTER.
So let's travel back to March of 2012, when I was shooting on a near daily basis for Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC) and working as a mail carrier for USPS every Saturday and Monday to boot. I was in the middle of a very messy, mean, nasty divorce. I owned only one Canon 7D, an external flash, and a kit lens, a 24mm f/2.8 prime lens, and of course the famous "nifty 50"--Canon's $99 50mm f/1.8 prime lens.
This was how I walked into the first Dorothy Awards shoot, after having put in a solid 8 hours for USPS, and driving an hour away from home--to Fantasia, a banquet facility in North Haven. Already spent, in other words.
I walked into the ballroom at Fantasia and just about shat an entire yellow brick road. There were bright red spotlights illuminating the room, a far cry from the dinners I was used to shooting in crappy light situations for CHC. There were two other photographers shooting that night as well--might I add, neither of whom were self taught and one of whom had far superior equipment to my own.
Instantly I knew the only two lenses I could shoot the entire night with were the two primes I had.
That's it. Two primes.
And do you know why? Because I was one of those jerks who couldn't figure out her $500 Speedlite (external flash). Like many photographers, I HATE the flash. HATE. Natural light all the way, even if it is bright-freaking-red! (hi, fauxtographers!)
Overheard that night in the ballroom, "She's shooting without the flash? That takes B-A-L-L-S."
TOTAL DISASTER. I would never live down the shame of this night, they would never invite me back, ohgodohgodohgod.
Halfway through the night I told Josh, one of the organizers, not to pay me for the shoot, so the pressure was off. I can't say that made the photos any better, because it really didn't.
I went back to Norwich feeling very defeated, but ready to work on it the following day.
(Which I discovered a year later.)
102. Less than 10 percent. What remained was so over-processed that I knew it was really pushing the limits of acceptable.
Fast-forward to March 2013, and things had changed! I had just moved days before, everything was in boxes in Brent's race car trailer. I was working in a new USPS office on a terrible route that was very long, but since the previous Dorothy's I had upgraded all of my equipment and had a bunch of L-series lenses...
...but CHC had just disappeared from my client list, and I was very much still in the middle of a crisis of confidence. (They said it wasn't my fault, budget blown, etc etc etc...but I still blamed myself.)
However, red spotlights be damned, at least I knew how to deal with them! My only complaint is that I can't see well enough to know when my camera is in perfect focus thanks to astigmatism. Excuses, excuses. Nothing irks me more than seeing a blown shot on the screen that looked fine in the camera. NOTHING. So I blew some shots, but overall didn't feel bad about the 2013 Dorothy's.
Of course not! I was 8 weeks pregnant in the throes of morning sickness (which translates to all day sickness). Brent came with me on the shoot as an assistant to do the Step and Repeat photos, and I had put in a very long day at USPS again (you'd think I would learn to just take Saturdays off for the Dorothy's by now...) and we barely even got there on time. I was overly confident that I nailed it until I started editing and I was just not happy with what I was seeing. Still, I submitted photos the same as I always did and figured it wasn't a big deal to anyone but myself.
I figured the Dorothy's were done for, though. I didn't think I'd be asked to come back. I left USPS in August and had my little boy in October. I was only using my camera to do product photography for my own Etsy shop.
A couple of days before the Dorothy's, Josh sent me a shot list, so I figured we would be ready to go, until I looked at it. Turns out he had accidentally sent me the rundown of Coronation for the Imperial Sovereign Court of all of CT. Crisis averted, he sent me the correct shot list the next day. Other small crisises involved finding my clothes that I hadn't worn since the previous Dorothy's which took 4 freaking hours and one of my backup batteries and chargers was missing...and still is...come to think of it I should ask if anyone has seen them...I didn't want to post the day before the Dorothy's because I didn't want anyone else to lose more confidence in me than I lose in myself. I have more than one backup battery, but still.
Come showtime, my little boy decided to be up all night and I went into the Dorothy's on THREE HOURS OF SLEEP. (You know what? My little boy is chewing on my arm right now as I type this. I should feed him.)
When I showed up at Fantasia, immediately someone remarked that they thought I wasn't going to be shooting this year, but he was so warm and welcoming I felt so much better about doing the shoot. I was pretty talkative thanks to the coffee. Can you tell I drank an entire pot today?
As for the shoot itself, it's not like I haven't been learning how to do things properly since 2012, I do know how my flash works finally, though I prefer not to use it. I would certainly hope I've learned something.
Here's to next year's Dorothy Awards, and I will see you all there!