Framing the day around fuel.
On an average wedding shoot, I go nonstop for 8 to 9 hours. To maintain my head of steam, I start the day with a cocktail of energy bars, vitamin supplements, caffeine, and Tylenol. (Principle #1: Be prepared.)
Sometimes I have the cargo room to carry a water bottle, but I don’t like to drink too often because I don’t want a bathroom emergency at the wrong moment. I’ve had some close calls, believe me. It’s a very specific kind of tension you feel, trying to get a 3-year-old to stay in one spot for a group photo while your bladder is bursting.
Rather than drinking water throughout the day, I usually resign myself to getting dehydrated. Then, as soon as the bar opens at the cocktail hour, I cut the line and ask the bartender for a large glass of water with no ice. I chug it on the spot since I don’t have a free hand to carry a drink around. After the dinner and toast, I chug one more. Those two glasses of water don’t replenish all the fluids I lose, but knowing my kidneys as I do, sipping throughout the day is just too risky.
The other piece of the puzzle is eating. At every wedding, some well-meaning soul says, “You have to try the fried ravioli!” or whatever appetizer is at hand. Sometimes they offer to grab me a cocktail.
On a few occasions, I’ve made the mistake of taking them up on it. When this happens, I’m inevitably in mid-bite or mid-sip when someone’s 90-year-old grandmother gets up to dance, and everyone starts waving at me to come take a photo of this once-in-a-lifetime moment. I pitch the rest of the stuffed mushroom I’m eating into a nearby plant, grab my camera with my greasy fingers, and hurry over to take a photo while trying not to choke.
To avoid this, I usually save my appetite for my contractual dinner break. I’m a vegetarian, so if the wedding planner and caterer get their wires crossed and forget to order a meal for me, I end up having to fill up on bread and potatoes. I always carry an emergency protein bar, but it’s not ideal fuel for the marathon day.
If I’m lucky, dinner lasts an hour. More likely I get about 12 minutes. I sit down, unstrap my cameras and flash battery, and take a bite. Then a family member stands up to make a toast while I have a mouthful of broccoli. I hastily refasten my gear, shove one more bite into my mouth, and resume shooting. Break’s over.
Honestly though, there are harsher working conditions in this world than having to eat and drink at unpredictable intervals. It’s not too tough as long as I don’t let inertia set in: I keep moving, keep shooting, keep exploring. (Principle #3. Stay interested.) The time between fill-ups goes by pretty quickly. Plus, at the end of the day, when my memory cards are packed with photos, I usually head home with a piece of cake in tupperware on the passenger seat.