all-time funniest comment you've gotten while shooting : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Following up Ellis' great thread about the worst advice ever, how about this: what's the funniest comment anyone's ever made to you while you were shooting?

I gave my all time favorite in the other thread, but here's a close second: I'm shooting on a cold rainy night in downtown Seattle a couple of years ago, and this guy walks by and stops and looks for a minute and says "just a wild guess: you don't have a girlfriend, right?"

ha!! i had to admit at the time that i didn't...


-- chris jordan (, April 18, 2002


OK, boys and girls. I can't wait to see/hear what this will bring. Very enjoyable thread from Ellis. Chris' new inquiry is the perfect follow-up.

Chris, may I assume that wedding photographers horror stories are out? Most of mine were awful at the time but funny in retrospect.


OK, here's mine.

As a wedding photog I always got the qip, "Got film in there?" My answer, "Usually."


-- Steve Feldman (, April 18, 2002.

that should be "quip"

not qip

-- Steve Feldman (, April 18, 2002.

I was shooting pictures of Seattle's Kingdome before they blew it up and while I was waiting for a cloud to pass an extremely intoxicated homeless man staggered up and wanted to look at the groundglass on my Speed Graphic. He bent over, peered through it, then, shocked, stood up again and squinted at me and asked in a kind of pleading tone, "Is that upside down or something?" And then he fell over, dizzy. It was too much for him.

-- Erik Ryberg (, April 18, 2002.

I had the ultralight aluminum 8x10" Gowland monorail pointed toward a regatta of tall ships headed up the Hudson (alas, they changed their route due to low water conditions, so no good shots to be had in the end). A guy comes up to me and says, "I bet that's the kind of camera they would have used in the days of those ships" (many of which predated the invention of photography, lightweight aluminum monorails aside).

Then there was the drunk who tapped me on the shoulder in Tampere and went into a long tirade in Finnish, occasionally making the motion of shooting a rifle with accompanying sound effects. In retrospect, I suppose it was funny.

-- David A. Goldfarb (, April 18, 2002.

Steve, if you have some wedding-related killers, i say tee 'em up.


-- chris jordan (, April 18, 2002.

I've got two. I was under my cloth (black on the inside, white out) focusing on a blown-out van amongst rubble in an awful, abandoned section of Jersey City, NJ. I was made aware somehow of a presence behind me. I dropped the cloth and spun around to see an African-American man standing 10 feet behind me. I nodded to him, and then he smiled and said, "This ain't no neighborhood to be hanging out under no white sheet." We both laughed at that.

Just after "Bridges of Madison County," came out as a movie I was shooting a truss bridge in Rockingham County, VA. I heard someone walking up to me on the gravel road. I turned and saw an old farmer-type watching me. I nodded hello, and he asked what I was doing. I told him that I was being paid to photograph old truss bridges throughout VA. He was silent for a beat and then he responded, "We don't need your kind around here," and walked away. I can only assume...

-- Rob Tucher (, April 18, 2002.

Is it an indulgence to relate two episodes? I shall, anyway.

1. I was set up for a record cover pic of a somewhat 'celeb' rock singer beside an unusual structure in North Sydney. As the moment of capture drew ever nearer so did a middle-aged, mildly intoxicated street-dweller in an overcoat. He strode right up, peroused the Linhof Technika and queried the accessory spirit-level inserted into the shoe on top of the body. "What's that for?" he asked. "To make sure everything is level," was my reply to which he opened his overcoat and took out a builder's level and starting checking the nearby bus seat, power pole, garbage bin. "I'm always amazed how many things aren't level," he said as he sauntered off.

2. I was shooting a shopping complex in Darwin, a remote far-flung outpost of civilisation. I was annoyed at having missed a wonderful opportunity for a personal shot of a queue of barefooted Aboriginals lined up at an island stall for a shoe repair company when I had another encounter. As I flicked my darkcloth out to ready it for it's enshrouding task and very tall (6ft 3in) young man came over and in a brusque menacing manner enquired: "I suppose you think you're a magician?" to which I instantaneously responded, "You think I'm going to pull a rabbit out of a hat; I'm actually going to pull a hair (hare) out of my ass!" He shambled off. Next thing I was being abused by this aggressive, loud woman (musn't upset the patrons, must I?) She accused me of being rude to her 11 year old son. Mind you, he was beside her and her language was like Velvia compared to my subtle EPN remark.

That's it from me for now, cheers Chris - great topic.

Walter Glover

-- Walter Glover (, April 18, 2002.

I was deep in the most rural areas of Haiti, and shot a photo of a striking elderly lady in front of her mud and thatch home and had given her a Polaroid as a thank you. She looked up with piercing brown eyes and quietly said: (in creole)

"Your machine speaks the truth too quickly!"

-- Fred De Van (, April 18, 2002.

From another photographer on this forum who insisted that while the image on thegroundglass was reversed top to bottom it wasn't reversed left to right.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 18, 2002.


If you have read some of the stuff on here, you should accept that to him, it was not reversed. Quit while you are ahead.

-- Fred De Van (, April 18, 2002.

I had someone tell me that the thing they always liked about photography was the wonderful math of exposure. How one f stop was exactly the same as two shutter speeds. I said I thought the proper ratio was more like 1:1 on those, and the indignant person got out his OM camera (see? now this? see?) and proved to me that he was right and that I didn't know what I was talking about. I've always wondered how he did that. Must have something to do with the rule of thirds.

-- Kevin Crisp (, April 18, 2002.

Perfect timing for this thread, since my "all time funniest" just happened 5 days ago...

I was out shooting spring landscapes with my Fuji GX680 (OK, not large format but the next closest thing) at Potato Creek State Park in N. Indiana. I was crouched along a trail, tripod-mounted camera pointed low to the ground at an interestingly textured rotting stump, cable release at the ready. Two hikers walked by, and in all seriousness asked me the one-word question "Birdwatching?"

-- Danny Burk (, April 18, 2002.

I was killing time in a small upstate NY town.A train horn sounded in the distance,so I walked to the RR tracks with my 4x5 camera on its tripod.I snapped the train as it passed,and walked back to my car.Several minutes later,a woman drove up & asked,"why were you taking a picture of those kids on the corner?.They think you are a pedophile!!!!!!!!!!"(At this point,if I speak,Im guilty!!How does one respond to such an accusation?)I then explained that I had taken a pix of the passing train,and hadnt noticed the kids on the corner.In a prosecutorial tone she suggested she was going to call the police.I said"go ahead & call the police,Im thinking of charging you with harrassment"!I then turned to her & said:if those teenagers were home studying & doing their homework,and not loitering on a street corner,they wouldnt have to worry about being molested by me or anyone!And maybe you should get back in your car and mind your own G- d damned business?I then drove off into the sunset.Since this day,I think about what am doing,and what some moron watching,thinks Im doing.Pretty scary!

-- Edsel Adams (, April 18, 2002.

A while back I was hiking along the top of a canyon with my wife when we came across an abandoned stream gage mounted on a platform that was hung from the side of a cliff and accessed by an old metal ladder. Thinking that the platform might be an interesting perspective for a picture down the canyon, I cautiously went over the side of the cliff and down the ladder. My wife, who complains often that I have my camera set up too close to cliff faces, would not even go near the cliff, but she stayed up top with my camera equipment while I checked things out. (No use hauling down all the LF gear before scoping things out.) The ladder and platform turned out to be surprisingly sturdy for as old as they looked. When I got down to the platform I noticed a large rock sitting on the edge of it. Thinking to have a little fun with my wife, I pushed the rock off into the water while simultaneously doing my best impression of the cartoon-like falling off the cliff voice. Oh noooooo......splash! The rock made, what seemed to me, just about a man-sized splash when it hit the water. There was a brief moment of silence from above and then I heard my wife say " well, if you're going to go swimming, you might as well take your cameras." This was followed shortly by what seemed to me to be a backpack-sized splash. I took me a moment, while I checked to make sure my cameras were not floating downstream, before this struck me as funny.

-- Tom Hieb (, April 18, 2002.

"If you have read some of the stuff on here, you should accept that to him, it was not reversed. "

And he would still be wrong.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 18, 2002.

I had a lady at work ask me how do you know how much powder to use on the flash.

-- Ross Schuler (, April 18, 2002.

Actually, I've been looking for an excuse to relate this here, so this thread is very welcome.

It wasn't actually WHILE I was shooting, but . . .

We were staying at a veyr nice B&B outside of Ghent, Belgium, last year, and across the street was a very nice, pretty pond. I went out one morning, set up the camera by the street and shot the picture of the pond as I saw it. Heard the next morning from Ingrid, who ran the B&B, that her next-door neighbor, a lady who was, shall we say, not entirely right in the head, had called her father, absolutely indignant that this %^&*( MAN was out in the street, photographing her through her window! Her father (who lived in the next house down) looked out his window at me, and came back to his phone to tell his daughter (rather dryly, as we heard it) that the camera was pointed the other way.


-- Anthony J. Kohler (, April 18, 2002.

This isn't a funny comment, but, I have to say that about 20 years ago, I shot a wedding for someone that worked at a bank. I was impressed by the very large photo order she placed. Then about 3 months afterwards I found out she was arrested for embezzelment...

-- Pat Kearns (, April 18, 2002.

About two years ago, I was shooting in the mountains at medium elevation in a place much frequented by hikers. The picture I was trying to capture was a succession of backlightened mountains outlines. I was turning my back on another possible shot of alpine scenary not well lightened at that time of the day in my feeling. Then a couple of hikers stopped close to me and the man whispered in his wife's ear: "What a large camera (Toyo 45)he has, it must be an least!" But the woman evidently wanted to have the last word. She told me loudly and with quite a bit of anger: "Why do you shoot this direction? the opposite direction is much nicer!"

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (, April 19, 2002.

A few years ago, I went with my photography class to one of the most religious Jewish settlements in the West Bank, near Bethlehem, called Bat Ayin. It's a remote, mountainous settlement in the judean hills near Jerusalem, with an exraordinary view of the hills. I was making a photograph of that view, when a settler came next to me on a donkey and said: "You should have been here yesterday. The sky was cloudy and then the sun broke through them and we were sure that the Mesiah had arrived!!"

-- Hagai Kaufman (, April 19, 2002.

In 1991 I was traveling with a 4x5 field camera in the Jordanian desert, not too far from Petra. I trying to photograph a dry 'wadi', a deep seasonal river valley cut deep into the earth, from above, and was having some problems with focus. My set-up had attracted the attention of a group of nomads (Bedouin), particularly the children. Who insisted that I have tea before continuing. I had tea and coffee and a banal conversation with the father. His oldest (?) son, who appeared to want to join the coversation, but was too bashful, finally burst in, "why don't you tilt the lens 10 degrees down?"

-- jason (, April 19, 2002.

This is not a funy comment but perhaps a funny story. My girlfriend and I were wandering around the alleys of Varinasi, India a couple of years ago. I stopped to photograph some pilars and the usual crowd gathered. This is good, because my girlfriend enjoyes shooting people. Anyway, I got all my stuff out and began the long process of taking the photo. As we all do when in crowds, I was trying to keep very good track of all my stuff. Suddenly I could not find my Pentax digital spot. I stood straight up and said to my girlfriend in a very concerned manner that I could not find my spot meter. No one but us spoke English, but they all obviously became very concerned and actually began looking around the area as we did, even though they had no idea what we were looking for. I found the meter under some stuff in my tripod apron in a minute or two and held it up and smiled. Everyone smiled and cheered. What wonderful people.

-- Paul Mongillo (, April 19, 2002.

I was set up with a 4x5 on a downtown street with a huge bag of stuff, llght meter around my neck, the whole shebang. A woman asked me, "Are you a photographer"?

I looked at all the stuff, looked puzzled for a minute and said, "What gave me away?"

-- Kevin Bourque (, April 19, 2002.

I was photographing some water pockets on the Navajo reservation, when some kids came over and started splashing around right in front of me. Realizing, of course, that it was their water pocket and I was a guest on their land, I very tactfully asked them to kindly get their butts out of the way so I could shoot. So, what do they do? They line up and strike a pose and started insisting that I take their picture. So I did the old “click the shutter without pulling the dark slide” trick and said ok now clear out, whereupon the older one of the group looks up and says: “Lets see the Polaroid”.

-- Bruce Wehman (, April 19, 2002.

I had the Arca pointed into an abandoned storefront on Main Street, Phoenixville, PA. A well-dressed businessman-type walked briskly by. He glanced into the storefront and then at me, calling out rather loudly, "What could you POSSIBLY see there to photograph?"

I said, "If you can't see it, I can't explain it to you." He nodded as if that made perfect sense, and walked on.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, April 19, 2002.

In 1983 I was photographing a railroad station with an 8x10 positioned on the commuter waiting platform well in the clear of the tracks. (This was in Merion, PA, west of Philadelphia on a 4-track commuting rail line.)

Under the dark cloth I heard a car drive up behind me, lock the brakes, and skid on the gravel. Turning to see if I was about to be struck, I saw that it was a police cruiser and the officer jumping out, running toward me.

"Alright buddy, just what the h*** do you think you are doing??!!", he shouted. "Taking photographs of the station" I stuttered, partly in shock from this unbelievable intrusion. "Oh yeah, with what??", he screamed. By now he was standing on one side of the camera, I'm on the other side. "This", as I pointed to the camera in front of him. "That's a camera?", he growled in disbelief. "Yes sir", I confirmed. "Well,...don't get on the tracks!!", he grunted, and then stomped off to his cruiser and pulled away.

To this day, I can only imagine that someone saw my setup on the platform, thought it was some kind of weapon (machine gun, rifle, etc.), saw me "aiming" at the tracks from under the cloth (perhaps waiting to blast the next train), and called the police. And this was long before September 11, 2001.

-- Bill Johnson (, April 19, 2002.

To: Kevin B.

Reminds me of the "Here's your sign" routine.


-- Steve Feldman (, April 19, 2002.

OK Chris - here goes:

There was the wedding that I assisted on the hottest day of the year. 117 degrees in the San Fernando Valley, CA. Had 2 Hassy bodies break down. Finished the day on a Yashicamat Twin and a Mamiya 645 (5x7 proofs trimmed to 5x5). No one could tell the difference.

Then there was the wedding where the proofs came back and the couple were already separated.

Then there was the wedding where on arrival to the reception site I found the cake in a beautiful garden setting. Made several creative and straight shots of it. About 30 min. later a loud crash was heard. Cake bumped by a busboy. The father of the bride wanted to know if I had taken the shot earlier. Since I had, he was at least relieved. The bride never saw her cake until she saw the proofs.

Then there was the wedding where when the bride saw the proofs about 3 weeks after the wedding, called and yelled at me that my pictures were evil and had ghosts in them. She wouldn't buy a finished album from me and refused to pay the balance on her contract. Found out the next day from the bride's mother that the bride was very superstitious. A few of my "make-up mirror" shots had two sets of faint shadows behind her image. The result of using a two flash system (main high on camera, fill slave held by assistant).

Then there was the wedding where . . . .

Any wonder why I shoot mountains, rivers, snow, trees and butterflies now?

-- Steve Feldman (, April 19, 2002.

another good one came to mind: i was shooting a closeup of a manhole cover in the middle of a busy street in downtown seattle one rainy night. i had to wait until 2:00 a.m. when there was less traffic, but there were still a few cars around, making the shot somewhat dicey. i was squatting there with my camera in the middle of the avenue, tripod legs splayed out with the camera right down at street level, and a cop pulls up, gets out and asks what the heck i'm doing in a hard-ass tone of voice. i showed him the wet manhole cover (which was reflecting wild colors from a nearby neon sign), and got him to look under the darkcloth at the ground glass. he looked silently for a few seconds, then went back to his car, turned on the flashing lights, turned the car sideways and blocked off the whole street so i could finish my shot!!


-- chris jordan (, April 19, 2002.

I was at Arches National Park taking pictures along the Devil's Garden Trail (a very popular spot), when a whole busload of retired folks from a tour bus came up the path. One elderly man paused to watch me focus and meter, then stepped up and said "You must take very beautiful pictures, since you have such wonderful equipment!"

Ah, if only it were true...

-- Clay Martin (, April 20, 2002.

When I'm out in public, I'm always asked my some young couple, "can you take our picture?" while I was out with my wife for an anniversary dinner, I mentioned to her, "Gee, no camera. I won't be asked to take anyone's picture." To our amazement, about 5 minutes later, an asian couple handed me their point & shoot and asked the classic question.

Even without a camera, I must have the look of a photographer about me:

At a trip to the local waterpark with my family, I was standing in the middle of a pool of water with my older daughter (no cmaera in hand). A woman waded up to us, handed me her disposable waterproof camera & asked me to take a picture of her & her child.

It's a family joke now, whose going to ask Daddy to take their picture? (Just for reference, I don't wear camera logo clothing.)

-- Ted Brownlee (, April 20, 2002.

I was shooting a hockey game for a daily newspaper. It was something like Junior B and I arrived with a few seconds left in the first period so I got to chill my bones through the intermission.

A spectator came over and asked. "Are your pictures going in the [cities other daily newspaper and my competitor]?" "No, sorry but I'm with [my paper]." "Well is one of their photographer's here?" "Nope, sorry I don't see anyone."

So then this guy just starts to chew ME out. "Why the hell aren't they covering this?" I kept saying, "It isn't US. It's THEM" but he kept on insisting that we all worked for the same paper. It was kind of fun since he was getting more and more pissed off and he never could get his head around all of this! I can only imagine what he yelled at the refs!

-- David Grandy (, April 20, 2002.

Non-photographer pokes his head up under the darkcloth to see what I'm up to.... "It's in color!!"

-- John Hicks (, April 20, 2002.

I was in New Orleans carrying my 35mm camera, making pictures of people in a square. There was a gang of children running around and they began pleading with me to let them make some pictures. I figured “why not?”, and started passing the camera around to the kids. Some didn’t look through the viewfinder, didn’t focus or compose, just started clicking and pointing the camera at their friends. They were smiling, happy to have the opportunity to try something new. When they finished making their pictures they allowed me to make some photographs of them.

When I returned to Chicago I developed the film and was surprised to see that that the pictures they had made were far more interesting and creative than my own efforts. I guess the lesson for me is to try not to think so much while making a photograph, have a lot of fun, and keep a smile on my face.

If you want to see an example of one of the kid’s photographs, I posted it at :

-- James Webb (, April 21, 2002.

Not to break up the flow of funny comments, but in case you all haven't checked out Chris Jordan's web site, here it is:

I lived in the Pacific North West for several years and "Seattle street studies" is just stunning.

-- Jon (, April 21, 2002.

Ha-- what a great bunch of anecdotes! My favorites were Walter's "spirit level" story and Rob's "Bridges of Madison County." What a hoot! Dang, this thread should be made into a magazine article or something. Or maybe a book, along with everyone's funniest photos.

Speaking of which, maybe that's a good new thread. My funniest was a self-portrait on a mountain summit in the Cascades with my Nikon. Timer set to 10 sec, I ran across a 30-foot section of icy snow to pose majestically with the sea-of-peaks behind me. As I sprinted toward my chosen spot, I slipped exactly as the shutter clicked. Photo: me flailingly suspended sideways in mid-air immediately prior to snowy face plant...

-- chris jordan (, April 24, 2002.

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