As soon as we step through the door of our house, I realize he probably hasn’t had dinner. I apologize for not stopping somewhere along they way and offer him the usual late night dinner options. He chooses cereal. A big ol’ bowl of cereal. His phone has been constantly beeping and buzzing from a combination of work and friend-related texts and emails. He takes a call from his dad, who wants to make sure he arrived safely. “He always worries about me, a lot more than my mom does.”
Ford’s family is from Texas, and they are all in the oil and gas industry. He is the youngest of three. His dad took him and his brother fishing and hunting at an early age. A few years back, he started to realize he enjoyed shooting pictures of his brother and friends as much as—if not more than—shooting a gun. “I still love to hunt and fish, but if I have to choose, I am going to grab the camera.”
It’s past midnight, and we plan what we are going to wear in the morning and discuss what time we need to get up. I feel bad saying 5:30 or 6:00. He asks how long it will take us to reach the river and then suggests we get up and going around 5:15. He wants to be in the water before daybreak to capture the best light of the day. He explains that he will only have a couple of good hours to shoot in the morning and about the same at night; shadows are the enemy. He also explains how he is used to getting up at 3 AM to hunt public duck lands. I immediately realize that he is the seasoned veteran, and I am the guy who will need to be shown some grace.
Morning comes way too fast. Still, I jump out of bed and quickly get dressed. As I walk downstairs, I hear friendly voices in the kitchen. My daughter and son-in-law are talking with Ford while he eats another bowl of what he had for dinner the night before.
We all head out, and I am surprised at how easily everything flows. It’s his calm demeanor. We continue our conversation from the night before as we drive along in the dark. Ford has his camera going as soon as we step out of the truck. Even though it’s still dark, he’s taking pictures of something, of us. We carry our canoes down a narrow, winding trail and find a good spot to put in. My oldest daughter is a trooper: she has been designated the sole paddler in their canoe so Ford can do what he does best. As soon as we all load up and start to paddle, we hear a big Canadian Goose off in the distance. My son-in-law calls a few times, and it immediately turns and heads our way. The combination of familiar sounds mixed with the new rapid clicking of the camera make the moment seem far from normal. I decide as the goose circles us one more time that we haven’t reached shooting hours. We are probably out of range anyway.
As we navigate down the river, the scenery along its banks starts to become clearer. I can tell Ford likes what he is capturing. His camera is heard nonstop. He directs us at times to stop or slow down as he tries to capture different angles. We see a bridge in the distance, and he tells us to slow down and wait while they paddle off to its base. He jumps out and navigates his way up through the brush. Moments later, he’s standing on top of the bridge. I laugh because he certainly doesn’t look like the typical photographer above us: he has two cameras hanging around his neck, but his old-school camo jacket and camo waders are anything but typical. He gives us some instructions, and we try our best to follow them. He manages to capture an awesome photo of us, despite our weak attempts to stay centered as the river pushes us beneath him and the bridge.