So I headed back to Atlanta for the 3rd time. 2nd time in 2 months. (Hey, they love me down there! I love 'em back! Well, they love my headshots at least!) No workshop this go 'round. This time nothing but shooting clients. 15 people paid their deposits and booked me for headshot sessions. Whoa! 4 days, 15 clients. Okay, I got this. No going back. Instead of putting this story down in typical blog format, I’m going to go with the good ol’ stream of consciousness writing and just…share my experience and all as pure streaming thought from my mind.....as it all happened.......
Here we go:
Packed gear and all 1 day before heading out and of course, still wasn’t sure I had everything. Think Tank makes a great bag. The Airport Security 2.0 is my first and I love it. Also, the Artificial Intelligence laptop bag is a nice addition. Configuring the contents of the bag and where to put what was a slight task.
3 camera bodies (Nikon) – 2 D800's, 1 D610. Lenses - 70-200mm f/2.8VRII, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.4. Flashes: 2 SB 910’s 2 SB800’s. Multiple Pocket Wizards – 4 Flex TT5’s, the AC3 Zone Controller and the MiniTT1, set of PW Plus II’s. Cables, cords, chargers etc. TONS of Eneloop batteries and chargers. Bunch of memory cards, Extra camera batteries. Gitzo blower. Wacom Tablet and accessories, Profoto 3’ RFI Octa, Profoto RFI Speedlight Speedring , Lastolite 24x24 Ezybox softbox. Etc, etc, etc. A bunch of other stuff and of course clothes. Most important – 10 black tees, 1 pair black Converse CTAS Suede, 1 pair black Vans SK8 Hi Reissues, 1 pair black Vans low top Authentics, 1 pair white Vans Sk8 Hi Reisssues.
I ordered 3 new Impact Heavy Duty lightstands from B&H and had them shipped to the hotel.
Uber pick up at 5am. Great driver. (although he was slightly late picking me up as he got pulled over by a cop for speeding!) The speeding thing worked out well though for my trip to the airport. Checked in, checked my bag. Decided to upgrade my seat for the flight. Hit up the security line. Pretty damn long but nowhere near as bad as last trip. They use dogs now and it sped the whole process up. No shoe removal. No removing laptop and sticking in another bin. Just toss the Think Tank on the belt thingy and walk through. Of course, they held my bag for a second check considering all the electronics and gear I was carrying.
On toward my gate. Stopped for quick breakfast and coffee. Got to my gate only to realize, I must have not completed my upgrade purchase as I thought. Must have missed something in the menu options. Ended up in group 5 (the last to board) Announcements were made explaining that by the time they got to my group, there would be no room to store a carry on in the overhead bin and my bag would need to be checked. Can’t have that. Spoke to agents at desk explaining I had over $20k worth of equipment in my bag and there’s no way I’m checking it. Charmed them....sort of. Madd attitude they had but they let me board with group 1! All is well. For now.
Scheduled to leave at 7:05. Plane sat on tarmac until 7:50. Flight was miserable. Like being on Denzel’s plane in Flight. TON of turbulence the whole trip. No snack, no coffee, nada. All good. Landed safe. Sped through airport like O.J to Hertz. Grabbed rental. Sped toward Buckhead. Arrived at JW Marriott. Upon check in, immediately explained that I needed my package which was confirmed delivered the day before. (my lightstands.) Took them 20 mins to get my package upstairs. WTF? Mind you, was a 60 year plus little woman that carried my package to the lobby. ? WTF ? There were no MEN available to bring that upstairs? Moving on. Running behind. First client at Noon. Shooting next door to the hotel in a parking garage of Lenox Mall. First client arrives…dope dealing begins. Next clients are women. My ATL make up artist, Naja arrives. (check her site out!)
My make up artist is talented. My make up artist is the truth. My make up artist is a trooper! My make up artist Naja! The rest of the day goes well. Wind is an issue for the clients with long hair. Wind is a pain in the ass with hair and with gear. Didn’t have the time to grab sandbags from PPR that morning. Wind is a pain in the ass. Lights blown over at least 2wice. Could have sworn things broke. Nothing broke. Nikon and PocketWizard...take a licking and keep on...flicking! All good. Back to hotel to back up images. Head out for dinner at South City Kitchen Buckhead. A bit overrated. They don’t serve mac & cheese? HUH? What? Long story from manager regarding this leaving me still like…”Huhhh?” “What?” Drinks later at Whiskey Blue with fam and friends. Back to hotel. Room upgraded to top floor with city view plus access to the executive club/lounge. (all that for the morning’s mis-steps and holding me up some.) Okay. Cool. Back up day’s images. Sleep time.
First things first. Head to PPR to rent some sandbags. First client at Noon. Wind was again a pain in the ass for the women with long hair. Mall parking lot security rolled up on us while shooting. Explained that I had obtained permission to shoot there from the management office on my previous trip. No go. He had to make some calls. 10 mins later…all good. All cleared. Back to shooting. Moved location to another part of garage to see if wind would be as severe. Sort of worked. Took me from my favored background though. No biggie. Back to hotel. Dinner alone at Houston's. Really good steak and a glass of Cab. Drinks with little brother. Off to bed eventually.
DAY 3. (shit hits the fan)
Set up at location for first client. Security rolls up on me (different than the day before.) I proceed to explain that all is well and I’ve got permission to be there. Several calls ensue via walkie talkie and phone. Feedback. Bottom line: The head security supervisor on duty THAT day is unaware of the previous arrangements made with the actual management office. And…the management office folks I previously dealt with aren’t in on weekends. SO…..was ordered to pack up and leave! 10 minutes prior to first client of day showing up. Start packing up gear. Stressed. Gotta find another location QUICK. Get a call that 2 clients (booked by the same person) won’t be able to make it that day due to unforeseen circumstances.) Deep sigh of relief actually. Get another call from my first client of the day….who tells me she’s got a flat but cabbing it to location. We all have issues. Cool. A bit more time to think. Call my mua – “The only spot I know about where I may be able to get what I want background wise and possibly be under shade is on the BeltLine! Please tell me how I get there!” She gives me directions. First client shows up…I proceed to explain the location change. I break everything down and pack back in the rental. We drive about 10-15 minutes to the new location. Entrance to the BeltLine behind Trader Joe’s. It’s 100+ degrees! I have no idea where I'm going. Whether the spot will work. I've got a client with me, another showing up later and 4 to shoot the next day. I'm fucked.
Get to Trader Joe's...park in back. Head to entrance of BeltLine. Find an overpass with shade. It may work. Take some test shots. This may work. Too much pedestrian traffic and bicyclists. No way in hell to set up and be out of the way. This won't work. Head back to car. It's 100+degrees. Stop to ask park officer about other locations on BeltLine. He tells me of a spot behind the skate park in Old Fourth Ward. I'll have to check it for tomorrow. Behind Trader Joe's...at the end of the shopping plaza...is a recessed corner. An abandoned store of some kind. Complete shade. Dark, almost seedy, homeless alcove of some type. Across the way is a bunch of other stores. I spot some mildly greenish, bluish glass. Do some test shots. This may work.
We're out of the way and could set up and shoot for hours. No issues. It's a 100+degrees but somewhat cooler in this corner. I set up shop. We shoot. We do dope. It works fine. Helps having an extremely cool and patient client.
My MUA shows up ahead of the next client. Slight problem - No where for her to pull her suv into with shade so she can lay out her tools and work. It's 100+ plus degrees. She's a trooper but how to get this done without her and the client both melting? The next client shows up. I make a decision to move the final client to tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll have some shit squared away by then. She's cool with it. We all head over to the Mexican bar for a drink and some nachos and some revealing and funny adult convo. All good. I gotta boogie to PPR to return their sandbags and get my $300 cash deposit back before they close at 5. I make it in time. I purchase 2 fifteen lb sandbags for the rest of my gigs and to just have when I'm in ATL. Hit the road. Head to the mall and grab some more Vans and some gifts for my sis, nieces and nephew. I'm off to my sister's an hour away. Great night with my nieces, nephew and my lil' sis' in her new house.
Up early to hit the road and go scout this possible location by Old Fourth Ward skate park. I get there.....it's 100+degrees already. Park the car and walk a bit to the BeltLine. Passing the park, I get nostalgic thinking on my BMX vert days. Find the spot I need. Not bad. There's shade from the overpass and it's out of the way of pedestrian and cyclists. Also, some decent backgrounds that might work. Talk to a cop parked. He gives me more suggestions and is madd cool. I decide this spot will have to do. Head back to the car. Naja arrives. We grab gear and all from the cars and head back to the location. It's 100+ degrees. Naja has no real place to set up. She can't use the back of her suv as usual. There's no tables or anything. On top of all...the ground is a mess. Dirt....not even decent grass. Just...dirt and dust and blah. In between all of this, I'm trying to text, call, email the clients scheduled for the day to tell them of the location change...all while realizing my battery is at 20%! I call my brother Patrick to make sure he's still coming through for the day to help me out. First client shows up. Gotta make this work and get shit done. It's hot. Cool cop directs us around a corner from where I'm setting up. There's a picnic table and benches there. Cool. That'll work. Naja and client head over. Table is a mess but will have to do. I get set up and prepare to do dope.
First client is ready. I get started. All good. Where to change tops? There are some large stone columns....she can go behind there...out of the way and undress. Works fine. Second outfit change....Naja and client discover a random folding table has been left leaning against one of the columns. Can't make this up. A table. A brand new long folding table. We bring it up place it where I'm shooting, open it and all is good. Naja has a place to work now and lay out her stuff. It's a freakin' miracle! SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU TO WHOEVER LEFT A BRAND NEW FOLDING TABLE ON THE BELTLINE BEHIND THOSE COLUMNS! (hit me up...I owe you drinks!) It's freakin' HOTT out! Patrick shows up. Thank god. Needed the extra hand to make some runs back and forth to the car. He's a big help. Grabs case of bottled water, my sandbags and miscellaneous. Gotta get him to take my phone to the car and charge it some. Toss a few bottles of water to some local photographers across the way doing their thang who asked to "buy" some bottles from me. (shout out to those folks) Toss bottles to some skaters grinding in the park. Hey, I had a whole case of water....you gotta share! That ATL heat is no joke!
Clients show up, one after the other....all goes pretty well. A client, Terrence, from my first day shooting comes through for some quick follow up pics in between and hangs around to help me out some. I shoot 4 clients back to back. Naja has to leave soon. The last client is running late. She finally shows....Naja gets to work. Suddenly, the weather changes. Winds whip up, sky darkens and that smell of hurricane and rain is in the air.
Meanwhile...Naja works her magic. I inform the client...who brought her lovely mom, her boyfriend and her uncle to the shoot that we may have to reschedule due to the weather conditions. Then, I find out at that moment....they booked me and drove 4 hours from Alabama just to shoot with me. Can't just reschedule them for my next trip to ATL. This has gotta go down....NOW! Waiting for the sky to open and shit to get worse. Naja finishes and I we get to shooting. A few shots in....the wind is nuts. Sand, dust and whatever flying around. Lights tumble. Things get crazy. Not too much later....the weather just......chills. (not the temp though!). The wind stops. The sky brightens. Things calm down. All is well. We keep shooting and finally.........it's a WRAP! I'm exhausted to say the least. It all feels good though. Break everything down with my brother and Terrence and then hit the road. Little bro' and I hit up Little Five Points and had dinner at an Ethiopian spot called Kimi's. After, we headed to airport, dropped off rental and had drinks before my flight. Oh, and this time, I upgraded to first class! And this time....I got it right! Too tired to actually enjoy the flight and honestly....wasn't any big deal. I just wanted the extra leg room and to be able to board first!
So, that was my trip. Had a blast! ATL has shown me so much love and continues to! I'm still getting hit up with requests to return and people are still booking me in advance without even having a guaranteed date. LOVE YA'LL! I'll be back soon! Oh.....and now....it's all about dealing with all of those client shots and edits. I'm waaaay backed up but getting it done!
SPECIAL SHOUT OUTS: My brother Patrick, my MUA Naja, Terrance Davis, PPR Atlanta and most especially to all of the people who put their trust in me to shoot their headshots: Terrance, Nadine, Mitzi, Serwa, Robin, Cheryl, Amanda, Lamardea, Crea ("Meg"), Brea, Adrienne, Auburn and Amaris.