[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?

Duh.

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.

Favorite.

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…

me

[photo post] Location Scouting

I’ve been given a pretty rad photo project to work on that will be happening next week with my bro Amber at Lost Sew’l Organics. Since I still have a week to prepare, I figure I would go out and scout some locations to shoot at while also combining my budding interest in urban exploration. I’ve spent the better part of the last week researching various abandoned places and cemeteries in the general area and have put down a few that are easy driving-distance for a small group of people and I set out to check two of them out yesterday morning.

I started in Oak Ridge at the historic Worthington Cemetery. Oak Ridge is a fascinating place given its WWII era history. Elza is a community in Oak Ridge where one of many entrance gates stood in the 1940s when comers and goers were checked as they entered and exited the town during the Manhattan Project. Nowadays, very little exists in that part of town that would indicate such a gate ever existed, let alone the “busiest and most public” entrance to town. However, there is a small “park” with the town’s name on the sign. While most likely use it as the head of the Melton Lake Greenway, there’s another, unpaved, path that starts at the other end of the park. This short, wooded, path guides you through a beautiful wooded area, crosses over overgrown, abandoned railroad tracks, and eventually brings you to Worthington Cemetery.

The cemetery boasts around 50 headstones, some reportedly restored, but most are extremely old. While the majority of the death dates were between 1900-1950, I definitely saw at least one with an 1860 death year and more than one were so old and worn, none of the inscription could be deciphered. There were a few headstones belonging to month-old babies, husbands and wives, and one row belonging to the Worthington family. This is likely where we’ll be shooting next week.

I have more photos, as always, over my Flickr account so dig ’em there if you’d like. Otherwise here are these:

Next, I headed to Rockwood, TN to scope out the abandoned Post Oak Springs Christian Church. Reportedly the oldest Restoration Movement Christian Church in the state of Tennessee, this church formed in 1812 and the building was originally built in 1876. According to the church’s wiki page, the congregation of the church now meets in a more modern church across the road, but the old church has fallen into a state of major disrepair. Vines and mold are growing all over the building, paint is chipping away, and the backside, likely added later, is completely destroyed as the corner has fallen in. Windows are broken, shingles are missing, gutters are falling – in a word, it was beautiful.

Across the street was a very small, very old cemetery that included a nice wooden cross. I wanted to shoot it but there was no fencing around it to indicate where the property line ended and there was an angry redneck banging around his truck not far from the headstones. He was a locksmith using the tools out of the back of his locksmith truck to open the door to said truck that he apparently locked his keys inside. He was pissed, but I guess if anybody’s going to lock their keys in their car, he’s the best guy to do it.

The big shoot is next week and I plan on spending about a week processing the images, but bet your ass I will be sharing the best of the best on here, on Flickr, and on Instagram. Follow me, would ya?