Last Sunday laughter and yelling drifted in through the open house windows. I looked out and saw that the neighborhood kids had collected at our house. Not at all unusual. The kids float from house to house in the neighborhood like a murder of blackbirds loudly and excitedly alighting on one corn field until bored and then moving on to a new field.
What was noticeably unusual this time was that every kid was covered in mud and more globs of mud were flying through the air striking their mark on backs, heads1, and arms. Mud fight!
My wife and I went outside to get a better look and good laugh and the kids stopped dead when they saw us. It took a moment to realize why: they were waiting to be punished. But it was too funny for anger and our laughter at the look of them covered in mud released the tension and the mud fight began again earnest. The kids actually requested that we turn on some music “really loud” - possibly trying to create an impromptu Woodstock/Bonnaroo (insert your favorite music genre’s largest outdoor concert here) feel. Instead I went in for my camera.
Through threats and, to be honest, a bit of pleading, my camera and I remained mud free as I photographed the action. I suggested that I get a light out for more formal portraits. There have been many times that I’ve lost kids and moments in the time it takes to grab equipment and set up light stands, umbrellas, and lights. Thankfully, this time they were entertained enough that I was able to call them over when I’d prepped a strobe and umbrella near our patio wall.
We sent the neighborhood kids home when dinner time arrived and they walked down the street uncertain of what their own parent’s reactions to their mud-covered clothes would be (it was laughter as well). It was fun to see kids being kids. Fun to bring our own childhood memories of mud fights and friends to the fore. Fun to get some wonderful photos of it all. The mud fight was the talk of the bus stop the next morning. The parents of the neighborhood were "awesome" for not being mad.
A win-win for all.
Many thanks to my freshly showered and mud-free models who helped me test the lights before the mud portraits.
We later tried to establish a “no headshot” rule after a few ears and eyes were mud clogged, but the rule was readily ignored almost immediately after it was made. ↩