You Can’t Cross the Streams · DEDPXL

One of the exciting things about photography is that you never know what the next day will bring.  One of the stressful things about photography is that you never know what the next day will bring.  You never know what chances you might get 24 hours from now.  That phone call.  Who you might meet.  The mystery and chance encounters keep me on the edge of my seat.  Keep it interesting.  Keep it scary.  Sometimes that might mean lots of quiet days, trying to network, pushing my name, but sometimes a little gem pops up every now and then.

My first job out of college was doing design and bottle photography for a wine vendor.  I don’t drink.  The probability of me staying at a place that sells liquor and wine for a long time wasn’t likely.  But I made some connections, and when I finally left that job so that I could concentrate on my photography full time, I hoped that I might hear from them every once in a while.

Years later I got a call.  Someone involved in Hollywood was going to be in town for a day promoting some wine and vodka, and would I be interested in “shadowing” them for the day and getting images?  Most of what they were asking for was the typical “event” images; the talent with the members of the company, signing autographs, shaking hands with the company owner, that sort of stuff.  Run and gun.  Smiling heads.  I’m sure we’ve all had that call.  However,  they couldn’t tell me who it was.  I tossed them a quote, worked out the details and we were good to go.

I went in the day before the event and got the tour and layout of how the day was going to unfold:  The morning was in the meeting room.  Then photos of employees with autographs.  Then off to do a group shot with the whole company.  Run and gun.  Smiling heads.  Yup.  I brought in some lights to set up for the group shot.  The room that we selected was large enough, but kinda boring.  The walls sucked.  It was cramped.  The light was terrible.  Make the best.  I went right for the “Wedding Group” setup: two lights with an umbrella and softbox on either side of where the group would be.  Nothing fancy.  With a small sized company all in one image, we’re going right for the simple and basic.

While I was setting up the group shot, I figured I’d take a chance and set up a second small setup off to the side, against a wall.  I brought along a roll of black seamless, taped it up to the wall, and stuck a black “X” on the floor with gaff tape.  My logic was that right after we got the group shot of the employees and Hollywood-whoever-it-was, I’d see if I could nab them for an isolated portrait while everyone else was shuffling out the door.  Fast and simple.  What do I have to lose, right?

I had a few employees come in and stand for me while I got the light set up.


I whipped out my meter, got the exposure where I wanted it and then wrote that down on a piece of gaff tape and stuck it right to the light stand.  That way all I need to do is crank my aperture and shutter and I’d be good to go.  It was actually part of the lighting I was using for the group shot, so all I had to do was spin the light around against the wall, set my camera to the predetermined setting, and take whatever shot I could.  If I could get it, awesome.  If not, well, at least I took the extra half hour to set everything up.  Who knows.  What did I have to lose, right?

Just as I was leaving for the evening, after getting everything set up, I was pulled aside and they told me who it would be that I would be following tomorrow.

Dan Aykroyd.

Elwood Blues.  Doctor Detroit.  Sgt. Joe Friday.  Beldar Conehead.

But it was Ghostbusters – one of my favorite movies of all time, that absolutely scared me stiff.

I was going to be trailing behind a real Ghostbuster the whole day.


Ray Stantz. Holy shit. Oh my God.

The next day was a blur.  Dan arrived, talked up his vodka and sat down to give autographs to the employees.  The whole time I photographed everything for the wine companies archives.  Then we were off to the room to do the group shot.  My chance was coming up.

There was this guy with Dan that I called “Mr. Rolodex”.   Mr. Rolodex had Dan’s complete schedule and calendar memorized in his brain and he stuck right with Dan.  Any time someone asked Dan a question about could he come-here-go-there Dan would look at Mr. Rolodex and he’d say “We have to be at such-and-such place in 10 minutes”.  Or “back to the meeting room in 5 minutes.”  You get the idea.  It was impressive, but stressful because everything was managed right down to the second.

We did the group shot.  He was making people laugh.  Big smiles.  We got it.  Awesome.  As everyone was standing up, I looked at Dan.  “Sir, can I get a shot of just you, alone, a simple portrait?”  Dan smiled.  He looked at Mr. Rolodex.  The Human Calendar looked at me and said “We have to be at a resturaunt on Elm Street in 10 minutes.  You have 45 seconds.”

45 seconds.


My exterior was calm, cool and collected.  On the inside I was a nervous whirlwind screaming “I ONLY HAVE 45 SECONDS OMG OMG OMG”.  I walked him over to the big X on the floor.  I swung the light around.  I eyeballed my gaff-tape cheat sheet and adjusted my settings.  “Right here.  Right to me.  Give me a little bit of a smile”.  I sounded like I knew what I was doing.  Really though, I was practically wetting my pants.  I felt sick to my stomach.  I felt like I had been slimed.

Three shots.  I got three shots of him, and two more of him holding two bottles of his wine, and in the sixth frame I had the hand and arm of Mr. Rolodex grabbing him saying, “We have to go, we’re already late.”

It was the fastest portrait session I’ve ever done.  I was covered in sweat.  I’ve seen Ghostbusters so many times; I’ve watched those characters and quoted his character so many times in my life, and there I was with his direct attention for 45 seconds.  His eyeballs were stuck to me.

I looked down to turn the camera off and wipe my brow, and when I looked up he was gone — 45 seconds.


If I hadn’t taken that extra time and set up my secondary setup the previous day, I would have missed that chance.  While I would have been still screwing with a light and metering, he would have had to walk out that room and I wouldn’t have gotten a shot of him for myself.

I took that job for that 1 shot.  I took that job for that 45 seconds.  It doesn’t matter what I was paid.  The check went to rent.  But I got 45 seconds and a portrait of a guy that makes me laugh.

Take that chance.  Go that extra 5 steps.  You never know what might happen.  You’ll always regret it if you don’t.  Sometimes we take a gig just for the paycheck.  No emotion involved.  Sometimes we don’t know what might happen.  Invest a little extra time.  Kick it up a notch for the sake of kicking it up a notch.

I followed him for the remainder of the day; signings, appearances, pictures with the fans.  Throughout the whole day Dan was a trooper.  He even stayed an extra 4 hours at one location because the line was so long.  “They are the reason I’m here.  I’m not leaving without every person getting a handshake.”  Pretty awesome.

I followed him to his last location that evening (which was full of people wondering where the hell he was) and as I finished up with the last portrait of him and the venue owner, he turned to me.  “You’ve been awesome all day.  What can I do for you?”

I reached into my bag, pulled out the cover to my Ghostbusters dvd with a huge, dorky smile on my face.

“Sid – don’t cross the streams.  Ray”


You can’t cross the streams unless you take a chance.

– Sid

Sid Ceaser

Sid Ceaser is a commercial, editorial & fine art photographer based in Nashua, NH and is a monthly contributor to DEDPXL. In addition to shooting he also teaches workshops and runs a podcast with designer Dave Seah.

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  1. Jim Robertson

    Fun post, Sid!

    I also just want to mention that I would like to know who is writing the articles here before I get to the end. Perhaps it could just be included in the title? I know sometimes it’s obvious but not always.

    • Zack

      Let me see how we can do that. I know we can just drop a line of text in but I want to keep a consistent look to blog posts here. I’ll get to working on formatting it.*


      *That means I’ll get Dan working on it. 🙂

      • Jim Robertson

        Thanks, Zack. I like being able to envision the writer in these situations they write about. Of course we know what you look like. While reading Sid’s words I can imagine him as his muppet avatar or the late comic genius. 🙂

      • adam bucci

        is it really that important to know who wrote something before you read it? i read this and didn’t care who wrote it but i can see people out there seeing the byline at the top and ignoring the story because it wasn’t written by zack. i say leave the byline at the bottom.

        • Tommi

          When the words “I”, “me” and “my” are repeated over and over again, I want to know who “I” is. It has nothing to do with whether or not it’s Zack who wrote it. It’s all about being able to connect the thoughts, experiences and emotions expressed in the texts to the thoughts, experiences and emotions expressed in the previous posts by that person.

          Also, imagine that this blog post isn’t a text, but a lecture you’re listening to. But the lecturer is hiding in the shadows, and his voice is masked. It’s only at the end that they step into light, revealing their muppet self and say “Oh, I’m Sid, by the way.” Makes no sense to me.

    • Daf

      I thought the very same thing too.
      Got to the line about photographing bottles and thought – hang on – this isn’t Zack – so had to scroll to the bottom to check.

    • Zack

      Hey y’all,

      How about the changed image at the top of the post? Does that communicate the by line effectively enough? Let me know!


      • Sid Ceaser (@sidceaser)

        “You are reading the DEDPXL NEWS NETWORK. Next up, Sid Ceaser tackles crossing the streams.”

      • Tommi

        If this will be done consistently from now on, in the top picture with similar look, I’d say it’s a good solution. Visible enough but not distracting.

      • Sid Ceaser (@sidceaser)

        Would it look too hinkey if a small “by: xxx” were to appear just underneath the title of the post?

        by Sid Ceaser <—– in smaller font

        Or would that mess up the layout?

  2. Guillermo

    Awesome story and portrait, Sid 🙂

  3. jarWoodson


    That’s 10 kinds of ridiculous awesomeness. Much respect. I’d have most likely peed myself and ended up with a lousy shot. Cheers!


  4. jason flynn

    fanfuckingtastic story! I had heart palpitations the whole read! and the message is spot on. well done, Sid!

  5. Bradley

    Great story, and great advice. I do events for a child care center my mother-in-law operates. Never had a celebrity there, but nice idea to setup an impromptu portrait area.

    Also, it was really fortunate you had the DVD with you or do you always carry it? 😀

    • Sid Ceaser (@sidceaser)

      They told me the night before – just as we were leaving. That morning as I was heading out the door, I grabbed that dvd and jammed it into my camera bag. When he finally asked, I was like “whew!” because I kept trying to find a time to stick it in his face during the day, but it never came up.

  6. Patrick

    Brilliant. Thanks for that.
    And yes, always kick it up a notch. Always.
    (That, and the light is pretty much always terrible:)).

  7. Denise Burridge

    This is so TRUE! Yesterday I had that call! I get a phone call asking me what are you doing today. I don’t have anything on the books just doing office work. I get asked how fast can you get out to Hoover dam? I’m like I can be out the door in 30 minutes. During the hour drive, I was going over in my mind what I had to do shooting in full sun etc. I get on location. The location that I’m shooting at is a 1000 ft drop with no barriers. Did I mention I’m afraid of heights. Let’s just say I Love my job and I had a kick arse day! I even had the opportunity to zip line across that 1000 foot drop! Had I given into my fear of heights, I would have missed out on an opportunity of lifetime! Push past your comfort zone you will be amazed about what you will find just outside of it! Thank you Zack for being such a huge influence on my philosophy with my photographic journey!

  8. Steve

    Best blog post I have read on the internet for ages. Reminds me of the stuff in McNally’s “The moment it clicks”. Thanks for writing this.

  9. Mark Farrelly

    Great story, I have been a photographer for 20 yrs. it’s nice to know that other photographers get that sense of nervous energy, fear, excitement plus you have to remain calm and in control at the same time. It’s nice to read how excited you were to meet Dan, and that he lived up to your expectations and was a great guy. I love reading your stories as they are real with out pretension. Cheers mate, mark from Australia.

  10. Craig Ferguson

    I had to shoot Yao Ming in similar circumstances a few months ago. His minder gave me 30 seconds, which included the time to climb onto a table so I could try to match his height.

  11. Carlos Sandoval

    Great piece! Again. Thanx, Sid, for sharing this one out. I am also a big Ghostbusters fan. Great to know how a man´s effort is worth it. You worked your ass off the day before and you got a kick ass portrait and a hell of a story. Well done!

  12. Jeff Wade

    Really great article, thank you for sharing! 🙂

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  14. click here

    Great story, I have been a photographer for 20 yrs. it’s nice to know that other photographers get that sense of nervous energy, fear, excitement plus you have to remain calm and in control at the same time. It’s nice to read how excited you were to meet Dan, and that he lived up to your expectations and was a great guy. I love reading your stories as they are real with out pretension. Cheers mate, mark from Australia.