[photo post] Thanksgiving Urbex, Part 1 + A Flower Man

At the time of this writing, the sun is just about to disappear over the western hills of Kingsport, TN. It’s about 4:30 and I’m hanging out at the dining room table at my parents’ house. It’s my first holiday home in almost a decade (if not a full decade). Dinner is later tonight and I’m excited. If it won’t be a new tradition, it’s at least a welcome change from my current day-to-day in Knoxville.

I had a few beers with my uncle at Sleepy Owl Brewery and Model City Tap House last night before having a hash brown night cap at a Waffle House around 10:30. When I woke up this morning, the sun had barely peeped over the horizon. It wasn’t even 7AM. I decided to throw my clothes on from last night, strap my camera over my shoulder and hit downtown for some Golden Hour shots of my home.

I roamed a few of the main drags but mostly stuck to the alleys between them. I’ve been through there several times before but there’s always something new for me to capture. So that’s what I did. Everything except the selfie was captured with my 24mm lens. The selfie was done with my iPhone.

If you want to see more photos high-res style, check them out on my Flickr feed. Otherwise check these out or follow me on Instagram. As always, thanks for having a look. Below is a story about the Flower Man.


In addition to it being Thanksgiving, it’s also my mom’s birthday. She’s working and we’re celebrating tonight. I can’t wait to see her.

On my way home from my photo session, I pulled in to the local Food City to buy her some flowers. I grabbed up two dozen roses and struggled to hold them together since my hands were still numb from the blistering cold I’d just spent two hours walking around in. When I got to the check out, the sweet cashier started speaking to me and a minute later her bag boy — a hunched over, short gentleman; older but not OLD; Pushing 60 I’m guessing — came over to help out.

The cashier and I talked about how cold it was outside. She then brought James into the conversation — “James, aren’t those beautiful?”

James studied them closely. Probably five or six very uncomfortable seconds passed before he said anything.

James: Well…I mean…I think a T-Bone steak would look a little better if it were me.

Cashier: (polite laughter)

Me: Honestly, James, I’d say the same if it were me, too. But they’re not for me or you — they’re for my mom. Today is her birthday.

James: It is!? Well how old is she?

Cashier: (condescending look toward James)

Me: How old? She’s 19.

James: 19!? I thought he said his MOM!

Cashier: He did! He said they’re for his mom and she’s 19 why is that so hard to understand?

Me: I can’t explain it, James. No one can. When your mom is forever young that just happens.

James: Well, honestly, my birthday sometimes falls on Thanksgiving — around every four years or so — it’s the 26th and I hate it.

Cashier; Me: (blank stare)

James: You get together with family and you’ve already got cakes and pies coming and it’s hard to tell who’s celebrating what. And I just don’t like it.

Me: Well, my mom is going to have a pleasant night tonight with her family whether it’s Thanksgiving or not. A lot of it is all in how you interpret things, I guess.

James: (silence)

Me: Happy early birthday, James. Y’all have a happy Thanksgiving!

[exit]

James was weird. Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I bought your birthday flowers from a weirdo. Happy birthday either way!

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A Conversation with Toby

I’ve been pumped all day. I had a great class this morning, hung out at the gym for a while and then headed back to the Cottage in South Knox. I was going to rest up a little bit, shower, get dressed and then head into town to see one of my favorite bands, Mutoid Man. I’ve been pumped about it all day.

All day.

I pulled on one of my new t-shirts and started scrolling through Instagram and saw Mutoid Man posted a concert photo talking about how tonight they were playing in Durham, NC.

I nearly posted “Don’t you mean Knoxville?” but decided to dig my ticket out first. There in black and white: Mutoid Man opening for BORIS at the Concourse in Knoxville on Sunday, November 5.

That’s tomorrow.

So Heavy Metal Concert Night quickly turned into Heavy Metal Laundry Night at the Cottage. I thought I’d make the most of things and I drove over to Milano Pizza and Mediterranean. The restaurant is on the edge of a shopping center that also includes a laundromat, a nail salon, a smoke shop and a Chinese takeout joint. Their corner of the building was dark and there was a small group of weirdos hanging out near the bus stop. This place was shady and potentially threatening.

I was way into it.

Inside, the place was hot. A fan on the counter. I’m pretty confident they had zero orders they were working on despite it being a Saturday night with a UT football game about to start. The gentleman working there took my order. I wanted a large double-mushroom pizza. He repeated “large” and “double-mushroom” before sneaking to the side door to the kitchen to call out my order.

“Double mushroom!” he called out. “Doub..Doub…DOUBLE MUSHROOM!”

He closed the door and came over to take my payment. $9 for a large pizza, so I was pretty happy so far. He froze before taking my card and went back to the door. He cracked it open, looked at me and said “Double mushrooms? You want…Mushrooms under the cheese? Or on top of the cheese?”

Honestly, nobody has ever asked me that. I assumed highly trained pizza chefs were qualified to make that call on their own and I’ve never been disappointed. I don’t know that I’ve ever even noticed. I said “On top…” partially because I wanted to see the mushrooms but mostly because “I don’t give a shit…” would’ve been inappropriate. And this guy was nice too nice to be mean to.

“15 minutes,” he said.

“Cool.”

So I went to the smoke shop because I don’t know why. I successfully burned through about 90 seconds in there. I had 810 more seconds before my pizza would be ready so I just went back to my car.

With 30 seconds to spare, I started to climb out of my car but immediately regretted that decision when I saw a man walking down the sidewalk. He’d just been talking to another guy at the corner and you could just tell by the way he was looking around that he was dying to find someone else to speak to. He looked right at me when I opened my door. I’d been busted.

He mumbled something at me so I pretended to not hear him. But then he exclaimed “It’s a small world, man!”

You’re right. It totally is, I admitted. He stopped.

Let me just tell you, man. I just met — JUST met — a family member from Blount county. And the hell of it is…He’s black! Black! Blew my fucking mind! Now listen, man…You have a good night, alright?

I reached for the door. You, too, man.

He stopped again and reached his fist out hoping for a bump. Said fist was also holding a bag of chips. Hey, man. My name is Toby.

Toby, my name is Firefly. It was great meeting you and I completed the fist bump.

Yeah, man, great to meet you. Now hey, I used to run with Collective Soul if you can believe that!

Collective Soul, yeah? Wow! I was wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt.

Yeah, man! We’ll see ya! and he turned and left.

A little boy was seated behind the counter in the restaurant. No sign of the man who took my order. Two women were in the back, one was boxing up my pizza. When the boy saw me, he jumped up and sprinted to the back screaming Someone is here! Someone is here, you fools!

An older woman wearing a hijab walked around the corner with my pizza. She smiled as she handed it to me and I thanked her. She then looked worried. “Double mushrooms?” she whispered almost like she was afraid she’d gotten it wrong.

I smiled again and said “Yep, double mushrooms!”

She smiled and gave me a thumbs up as I backed out of the restaurant. Toby was in the parking lot near the laundromat and I saw him violently throw his bag of chips up against the wall and storm off.

I have a feeling his mind had been blown for the second time in one night.

I love you, South Knoxville.

[photo post] Lost Sew’l Organics, October 2017

You guys already know how much I love doing photo shoots for Lost Sew’l Organics. I did it back in August ’16, then again in November ’16, and most recently in March ’17. I love shooting photos, y’all know that, but there’s nothing I like more than doing these fashion shoots with Amber and her friends.

This time around, Amber wanted some shots for an all-black made-to-order line (released today) and she’d found a rad little spot in downtown Sevierville, TN — Off The Chain Cycles is a custom bicycle service and restoration shop that only recently opened its doors. When I was told “downtown Sevierville,” my first thoughts were I’ve never been there and where IS downtown Sevierville, anyway?

Turns out I’ve been by it the hundreds of times I’ve driven to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg over the last almost 33 years. I feel stupid for skipping over it because it’s actually quite beautiful. And budding, to say the least. Lots of new shops opening and rumor has it there’s a lot of new restaurants with outdoor seating slated to open in the next few months. And right in the middle of it — this custom bike shop.

RAD

Over the last year and a half, I’ve gotten to do the above photo shoots and work with her amazing friends Sam, Caitlin and Mal. Sam is world-famous at this point. She’s been the star of every shoot, and she was back again for this one. Amber also brought along her assistant Ali and her new model Angelika.

And gods bless America, Angelika…

I’ll let you figure out why I say that.

I did something a little different this time around in the form of a quick promo video. Consider this a teaser for the photos below:

I shot 626 photos and delivered 200. I’ve uploaded 47 to my Flickr account and will be pushing 17 to my Instagram. Below are 8 of my favorites. Get at ’em. Lens credits in the captions.

Also, thanks to Amber, Ali and Mark, we got a few BTS “action” shots. Dig ’em.

Even though Angelika and Sam did a great job making me look like I know what I’m doing, I’m always learning and looking to share my knowledge with anyone that’s interested. Here are a few things I learned on this shoot:

  • I’ve said this before but it’s way important to be over-prepared if you’re not sure where you’re shooting. This time around, I brought my 24mm, my 50mm and my 85mm lenses but only because I didn’t know what I’d have to shoot and how much space I’d be able to shoot in. Turns out, I used all three for three completely different shots. I was a little over-prepared, and it worked out.
  • I bought an LED that fits on your hot shoe a couple of years ago (like this one) thinking it would be good for handheld documentary-style video. Turns out, I was wrong. BUT…That handy dandy light comes in handy for some of these shoots if I want juuuust a little more light. This was no exception. While we had ample natural lighting coming from the windows of the shop, there were a few times that having a second light off to the side, turned down to about 50% or so, lightened up shadows just perfectly. That light has been rad, even though I’ve never used it for its intended purpose.
  • If you have a shady spot and morning light…USE IT. We agreed to go shoot in the shop and they were gracious enough to let us come in and do it, but I just couldn’t stay inside the whole time while we had such even cool lighting outside the shop. Some of the best shots of the day happened out there. Don’t be lazy, y’all.
  • And sometimes some people just can’t stop modeling with their face.

Here’s a lot of social stuff for y’all to get in on. Follow all of it, man!