The funny behind-the-scene story of this amazing photo

Dog walk nearly ruined surprise

One of the funniest stories happened after I was commissioned to photograph Oak Alley Plantation's Signature Tree, which is used on the plantation home's marketing and is a favored place for weddings.

Old high school mate Rachael Schexnayder asked me to shoot the tree as a surprise retirement gift for her husband, and she secured permission for me to work after the sun went down. Her husband worked at the plantation home when he was younger, and the family lives down the road from it and has close ties with the owners.

I started before the sun went down, capturing a great sunset image of the old oak tree. And then I cooled my heals until well after the sun set to ensure the stars would show up. I then set up my tripod and pulled out a high-powered flashlight that would be used to "paint" the tree with light.

So I'm out there in the dark of night running around the field, shining light on the tree to capture this really cool image. Light painting isn't an exact science, so I would open the camera's shutter for 10 seconds, move around quickly adding light to the tree and check the exposure. It required many shots to get this final image.

What I didn't know was that Rachael's husband decided they needed to walk their dog on the levee between the tree and the Mississippi River, and Rachael couldn't come up with an excuse to keep her husband away from the plantation — so she could see my light dancing around in the field, and she's praying her husband wouldn't notice because he could call the owners and report that someone was messing around on the grounds.

Fortunately, Duane Schexnayder never looked my way, and I finished up without him being the wiser. The print that was purchased was the sunset image of the tree, but I just love the nighttime photo — and the story behind the shoot.

You just never know what's going to happen on a shoot.