Paula and Zack | Surprise Portrait Session
Date | 10.17.14
Location | San Ramon, CA
So I get this call from New York and I’m thinking maybe I’m finally going to fulfill my dream of photographing an East Coast Bar or Bat Mitzvah! But little did I know that the gentleman on the other end of the phone was about to give me the photography opportunity of a lifetime. Storytelling through pictures is and always has been what I love most about photography. (I think I must have been a photojournalist in a previous life.) Whether it’s a B’nai Mitzvah, a wedding, a high school senior, or families and kids, I’m always looking for the backstories, and this gentleman had one of the best I’ve ever had the honor of telling.
The gentleman proceeded to tell me that he was flying out to California to bring the love of his life back to New York with him, and he wanted to surprise her on her last day of work. He asked me if I was familiar with the last scene in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman”. Well, duh, who from my generation doesn’t know that scene! Richard Gere playing the role of Zack Mayo, after graduating from the military academy against all odds, shows up in his whites at the factory where his girlfriend Paula works. He scoops her up in his arms, places his hat on her head, and carries her off into the sunset. One of the best movie scenes ever, right? So when this real-life Officer and a Gentleman asked if I’d be willing to capture the moment when he re-enacts this scene with his girlfriend, I could hardly contain myself! He told me his girlfriend works at the elementary school down the street from my house. That’s how he found me on the internet (isn’t Google awesome!). So for the purposes of this Blog, the Gentleman shall be known as Zack, and his lady, Paula.
We talked about all the details of the shoot, and I was already strategizing about how I was going to capture that special moment in all of about 30 seconds. No pressure! The plan was to wait down the street from the school until about 12:15pm, follow Zack into the school, and then into Paula’s classroom for the big surprise. I would then follow him as he carried her out of the school and walked down the street. For all you photographers (and photo enthusiasts), keep in mind that I was going into the classroom completely blind, no idea on white balance, lighting, etc…, and then going right into shooting outside at high noon. I decided to carry 2 cameras, one with a wider angle lens for the classroom, and one with a long telephoto lens for outside, both with flash at the ready.
While we were waiting down the street for the big moment, I decided to capture some portraits of Zack by himself as he was looking so sharp in his uniform. It was at this time that he shared his very special story with me and I can’t tell you how close I came to breaking down in tears…
Zack and Paula first dated in high school. Then, they each went their separate ways, and he joined the navy. They ended up marrying other people, having kids and living separate lives. As is so common, especially in my generation, they married young and as the years went on, grew apart from their spouses. They reconnected at a high school reunion and began communicating more regularly when they realized how much they enjoyed being with each other, and that they had a very special connection. Fast forward 5 years after trying to have a bi-coastal relationship, they finally decided that they did not want to spend another minute apart. Paula gave her notice at work, packed up her house, and prepared to move back to New York.
The Big Moment
I love surprises, but I tend to get caught up in the same emotions that my clients are experiencing, so the challenge for me was to stay focused on getting the shots. Not an easy task! We walked into the classroom and this is what I saw through my camera…
It all happened SO fast, and Zack was obviously VERY excited as he booked out of that classroom SO fast I had to run to catch up (while shooting!). Sometimes these things don’t always go as planned. Zack hoped this would be a very private moment, but we didn’t realize it was a Minimum Day – the whole school was out at 12:15! Parents were everywhere picking up their kids. Kids watching knew something great was happening, but they had no idea what. As a result, we had a curious audience watching all of this unfold. I really love the shots that show their reactions because they help to tell the story. Can’t you just hear them saying, “Awwwww”?
After the big moment, I introduced myself to Paula. I’m sure she was probably wondering the whole time who this crazy lady was chasing her down the street taking pictures. I decided to do a few quick portraits of Zack and Paula at the same spot I used earlier for Zack’s portraits. I just let them be in the moment and the results were exactly what I hoped for. Every time I look at these pictures, I feel the love and the passion these two have for each other.
I feel so honored that I got to be the one to capture this very special time in the life of a true Officer and a Gentleman. A turning point in both their lives for sure. Zack and Paula, I hope you will look back on these pictures years from now, and remember this moment like it was yesterday. Thank you Zack for finding me on Google. Thank you Paula for being so lovely. I wish you both a lifetime of happiness together in New York.
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I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Portrait Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in
portrait photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area portrait photographers. Each family and each story is one of a kind, and I feel your portrait photography should be one of a kind as well. Every portrait session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together your story.
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Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Portrait Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
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