Old Man, Gym: An Exercise in Small Talk

“Hey, there! It’s great to see you!”

“Hello, hello! You, too. You, too. Where is everybody?”

“Well, let’s see…”

“I guess it is a little early, still.”

“Yeah, it’s definitely a little early, I think we still have about 10 minutes before we get started. I’m usually here for the 5:45 class and most people…Well, I shouldn’t say most people. Actually most people get here 10 to 15 minutes early in the morning, but there’s always a handful of people that show up either right on time or a little bit late. Well, sometimes a lot late.”

“The morning crowd is a little different, eh?”

“Yeah, you could say that. There’s also a strange thing where if the 5:30 class is full, there aren’t many people in the 7:00, but it’s also happened where, say, I come in to do the 7:00 class and notice the 5:30 isn’t very full – I’ve gotten nearly 30 people in a 7:00 class before.”

“Is that right?”

“Yep! So who knows. Clock is definitely ticking, though.”

“That, it is.”

“When I was in college I did restaurant work and one thing that has stuck with me forever is once a manager told me ‘Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable.’ And for some reason that’s just always stuck with me. I try my best to show up early for everything if I can help it.”

“Well, let me just tell you, as a manager, that’s a great quality for an employee to have. You see, I used to be in management but it wasn’t in a restaurant.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, it was. Well, I guess you’re too young to remember it, but it was a drug store called Revco.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember Revco!”

“Yeah, well, I was a manager there. I did it for years and years.”

“Was it here? Have you always lived here?”

“Yeah, oh, yeah. I went to [redacted] Academy growing up. That’s where I started boxing. Yeah, I used to be on the boxing team in high school.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah, I was. But, you see…Ha ha…You see, there’s a story behind it. I didn’t know anything about boxing. But I wanted a sweater with a letter on it, and for me, the only way I could get a letter on my sweater was to either get on the boxing team or play tennis. And I just…Well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to be playing any tennis! So I joined up on the boxing team and I did the best I could. But, you see, I was 16, 17 years old and I was about the same height I am now, maybe about 160 pounds and most of the other guys [gestures toward me] were, you know, bigger guys. But I did well. I got in there with them and…And, well, I got my letter.”

“That’s awesome! What a great story!”

“Yeah, so then the Japanese bought that school and turned it into [redacted] School for Girls. That was after I got out, though. I spent some time trying different things. Once I got out of the military I went and tried to get into sales, but I’m just not a salesman and I never have been. I just don’t have the personality to approach someone and try to sell them something.”

“Oh, I get that. I tried to sell insurance for a brief period of time and I didn’t care for it. Just really high-pressure sales and I just couldn’t do it. I’m the kind of person that will say ‘Hey, do you want this? No? Okay, then!’ and on to the next customer, you know?”

“Oh, yeah, me, too. Me, too. That’s when I started at Revco. It’s retail but it’s not really selling anything, really. I mean, for the most part, it’s just people coming in and picking up prescriptions. You’re really just providing a service at that point, not really selling them anything. I did that for a long time. And then when they turned into CVS I decided to get out of there. I figured I’d already put my time in and I didn’t really feel like starting over again so I retired.”

“Sounds good!”

“I ended up going back to retail, though. I work for [redacted] jewelers and it’s still retail, but I’m not selling anything, really. There’s no face-to-face with customers. It’s mostly on the computer or over the phone. I mean, sometimes they’ll call and say they’re looking for such-and-such a diamond and I can help them find it but when they start asking questions, that’s when I start having trouble. I mean, I know the answers, I’m just no very good at wording it the right way, but I still give it what I’ve got.”

“I think that’s great.”

“Yeah, and this [boxing] has been helping me, too. I tell you, I’ve only been coming for – what is it – two, three weeks now? I’ve only been coming for a few weeks and I’ve never felt so good. I can tell I’m stronger, my stamina has improved, my balance, my concentration…So many things have gotten better just in the last few weeks. Why, I’ve not exercised since…Well, since I got out of basic training, I’d say!”

“Really? Well you’re doing a great job!”

“Yeah, I can’t keep up with you guys and I don’t expect to and I don’t even try to, but I do the best I can and rest when I need to.”

“Well, I think you’re doing a great job and I’m always so glad to see you come in here. It looks like class is about to start so I’ll let you get going, but it was great talking to you and I’m sure I’ll see you in another day or two!”

“You, too!”

[photo post] Lost Sew’l Organics

Early in the spring, I went ahead and booked up my summer as much as I could. Anybody remember last year when I took a non-credit photography course? Well, I thought it was rad. It was mostly “under” me, but it was great to have someone actually teach me the exposure triangle and give me feedback on my art – actual legit feedback from a talented professional photographer. The teacher, Lynn Freeny, was hilarious and seemed to really know his stuff. With this in mind, it should be no surprise that I wanted to sign up for his more advanced classes – Advanced Photography and Photography Studio Lighting, both offered over the summer.

I signed up, had the dates written down, and spent weeks looking forward to it only to be told that not only one, but BOTH, classes didn’t make due to a lack of interest (I was the only person signed up for the lighting course. Lame.). So what do you do when your summer photography classes don’t make?

Well, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do, but I definitely know what happened to me. In lieu of photography courses and classroom time, I just went all-in and picked up my first pro photography gig!

Let me get something out of the way real quick.

I’m in a place where I can pretty much make the art I want to make. My creativity is merely an outlet at this point and I do not rely on it in any way, shape, or form, financially. What this means to me is that I don’t need a bread and butter for a photography business. I don’t want to shoot babies curled up on beds with bows on their heads, so I don’t and I won’t. I don’t want to shoot weddings with the same 50 poses as the bride before this one and the 50 brides before her, so I don’t and I won’t. I don’t want to shoot family portraits that are oversaturated and generic, so I don’t and I won’t.

I want to make art, not a mass-produced product.

What I’d really like to do is shoot portraits of beautiful women with tattoos in cemeteries and at abandoned churches.

Luckily for me, I’ve made a great friend in Amber, founder, designer, and curator of Lost Sew’l Organics. Lost Sew’l Organics is a pretty sweet operation where Amber produces lovely women’s clothing that’s hand made, affordable, and sustainable. She had a new line coming out (that launched today!) and she wanted me to shoot her and her models wearing each of the new pieces. Would I take the job?


In a recent post, I talked about my adventure in location scouting around Oak Ridge and Rockwood. I found two spots that I fell in love with and after seeing the girls at both locations, I don’t think I could’ve been more on the money. Amber seems very happy with the results, as well as her models Caitlin and Sam. I’ve been dying to post the photos and am happy to finally be able to share them with you.

If you’d like to see these in high-res as well as several more photos from this session, check out my album on Flickr.

Just because I didn’t get to take one of the classes doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything about photography through this experience. I’ve always known that “baptism by fire” is definitely one of the best ways to be “saved” and this certainly fit that bill.

Things I learned:

  • I already knew this but I further proved that you can create quality work without a massive amount of pro equipment. I shot on my Canon EOS Rebel SL1 with a 50mm lens I paid $100 for. I brought my tripod, but didn’t use it. The only other tools I used was my handy Metro camera strap by BlackRapid ($40 on Amazon and without a doubt the best camera accessory I own) and a reflector since I knew I’d be shooting facing the sun in the early morning hours. That’s not even $1,000. Equipment doesn’t equal talent.
  • Shooting RAW is where it’s at. I read a lot about photographers shooting RAW and, to be honest, it almost always sounds like a pretentious photographer preference – just something else to let us dummies know they’re better than we are. I realize it’s probably not the best idea to try something new on a project that means this much to you, but I figured I got myself out of Auto mode easily enough – I can learn to shoot RAW. And I’m hella glad I did. There were several photos that would have failed had I continued to shoot JPEG. RAW saved a lot of those photos – you could almost say RAW saved the whole shoot. I’ve been converted.
  • Shooting gorgeous women is my calling. I’ve eaten crab-stuffed salmon and blueberry bbq ribs while shooting cooking shows, retraced the steps of an unsolved murder with the police chief while shooting police shows, followed the clogging feet of dancers on stage during live theatre productions, seen an old friend get his head busted open with a steel chair while shooting a local wrestling event, and lots of weird, boring things in between…But nothing I’ve ever shot has come close to the coolness that was this photoshoot.

After the shoot, the four of us stopped at a random, generic Mexican restaurant by the interstate for lunch. I was sweaty and gross, had grass in my hair, and stains on my jeans. My shoes and socks were soaking wet as if I had been wading in a stream, and I was worn out as if I’d attended boot camp that morning. When I sat down at that table and shoved huevos y chorizo into my pie hole like I’d never eaten before, I was overwhelmed with the pride of knowing I’d just helped someone rad with something they care a lot about, their passion, their well-being. It was awesome knowing that she’d trusted me to capture that and I hope she gets out of it everything she deserves.

All the things.

We’re doing it again in November, y’all!

Get social and keep an eye open for it.

[photo post] Masquerade & Days of the Dead

Summer convention season is approaching its end, leaving us with nothing to look forward to until the Fanboy Expo Halloween show coming up in October. I apparently didn’t post any photos because I didn’t take very many at either show, but this year took us to Mad Monster Party in Charlotte back in March, Marble City Comic Con back in April, Fanboy Expo in Knoxville in June, and now, Days of the Dead in Louisville, KY. When it was announced this show’s guests would include Nightmare On Elm Street’s Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss, there was no question as to whether or not we’d be attending this show (our first at this event) so we got tickets and a hotel room almost immediately.

But then we found out that the Thursday before the show, all the way down in Atlanta, GA, an event would be held at the Center for Puppetry Arts to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the release of the Jim Henson classic Labyrinth, starring the great space man-turned-Goblin King, himself, David Bowie. Not just any event, however. No, this event would be a masquerade ball in tune with the famous scene from the film. I say “famous” but to be honest, I had never seen the movie until I started dating Erin. Hell, I’d never even heard of it.

If you’ve given me a 5-star face palm just now, hear me out. While I watched Sesame Street and the Muppets growing up, I wouldn’t appreciate puppetry until I was much older. And Labyrinth is mostly a musical, which was a no-go for me for a very long time. I turned my nose up at most Disney movies because they involved so much singing. When I was little, I was convinced that if a movie had singing in it, it was for sissies. All music was to be heavy metal or at least very hard rock and roll, or else it was too wimpy for my taste, and Disney movies were neither heavy nor hard.

Even though I know better now regarding both musicals and puppetry, and I know what a righteous rock star Mr. Bowie was, the fact remains that I still somehow never knew anything about this movie. And then when I was 18 I started dating a woman that proudly claimed Labyrinth as her favorite movie.


All I’m going to say here before I post a few photos is that we went. If you want the specifics and more photos, you can read Erin’s much more passionate review of the evening on HER blog (that’s right – she has a blog now and you’d do well to subscribe to it!). I’ll also say that even though it’s still far from my all time favorite, the evening was brilliant, beautiful, and in some respects, even magical. They really did a great job pulling together something special for the lucky few that were able to score tickets.

As usual, if you want to see all of the photos in high res + a few extra, head over to My Flickr account.

The only other thing I have for you in this post are a few snaps we took at Days of the Dead. Mostly Erin with her Scream Queens and us with the Mistress of the Dark, herself, Elvira. Days was a great show at a pretty nice venue. It seems there are lots of freaks that are bitching about something or another, but we had a great time. It was a very big show with lots of talented artists, tattoo artists, and vendors set up alongside an impressive guest list in a clean, very accommodating hotel located in a city I grow fonder of with each visit (this was our third visit to Louisville for various horror cons). I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year!

I have some great photos to share some time next week of a photo shoot I was fortunate enough to do for a group of lovely ladies a few weeks ago. Look for them here or follow me on Instagram.

On a final, more vain note…