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Atlanta’s United Tae Kwon Do

practicing what I preach | by +elaine

with the season 9 interns now on board, I find myself (re-)dispensing these bits of wisdom that I’ve learned since I was an intern way in the long ago of season 7. you know, back when we had to walk 5 miles to get to shoots. through snow. uphill, both ways. things like wearing comfortable shoes. having spare hair ties in your bag. investing in a flash if you don’t have one. and a ladder if you’re short like me. having a spare camera battery charged or charging when you’re using your other one. never letting a client see that you’re nervous and unsure. and always bring your camera. always. even if you have no plans or the inclination to shoot. because if you don’t, that’s when the opportunities especially present themselves.

I’ll tell you the truth, though. I love love love what I do. but sometimes I just want to be in the moment, and not trying to capture it. to be at a party and enjoy myself instead of taking pictures of other people having the fun. yes, photography is its own wonderful fun, but it separates you.

I know I mentioned the tae kwon do camp that I ran this summer, but did I tell you I’m a tae kwon do student, as well? this is relevant, I swear. 11 Alive invited our school Atlanta’s United Tae Kwon Do (along with a Nella Fencers, and Hands On Atlanta) to be on tv for a live feed during the olympic breaks. so a bunch of us showed up in our uniforms at Centennial Park for demonstrations and olympic trivia quizzes. and a lot of hurry up and wait in the crazy hot sun. I brought my camera bag, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, but with the full intention of not using it. I wanted to be, not to do. but I just couldn’t help myself. when you’re a photographer, you can’t help but see the world as an ongoing series of great images to be captured.

whenever the olympics were back on air, we weren’t being televised. so, I grabbed my camera which I (almost) always bring with me, I put my hair up with my spare hair tie, I ran around in my comfortable shoes, and shot with my fully charged battery. I shot to have something to do. and then, even when we were back on tv, I kept shooting. because that’s what I do. really, I just can’t help myself.

a shameless plug | by +Elaine

so, you know how I’m not busy enough? when I’m not in photographer, wife, or mother mode (or in any of the various sub-modes), I sometimes run a summer camp for 4-to-8 year olds at our tae kwon do school, Atlanta’s United Tae Kwon Do (ATLU). backstory: my husband and I opened the school right about the time our third son was born, over 6 years ago. (see? not busy enough.) at the time I was running a parent’s morning out program for infants to pre-k’s, and four summer camps each summer for over twenty 4-to-6 year olds. so fast forward to present day, it totally makes sense to combine our wondertwin powers. the result? Camp ATLU.

it’s not all tae kwon do. it’s art, food, community. more backstory: my husband, in one of his past incarnations, was a flight paramedic. so it’s important to us to have the kids meet and appreciate the local EMS (emergency medical services). thus, “community.” these are people who put themselves into situations that normal folk are trying to get away from. thank them. we were lucky enough to have two police cruisers, an ambulance, and a ladder firetruck (“the quint”) come by on different days for the kids to touch and climb. sirens and horns and buttons galore. just big ol’ expensive playgrounds on wheels. the kids weren’t the only ones excited and having a good time.


then there’s the tae kwon do. we take these kids, a majority of whom have never taken a tkd class before, and have them put on a demonstration by the end of the week. they learn about the 5 Tenets of Taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. they learn coordination and confidence. and to use their powers for good. all important stuff. plus breaking boards is just cool.

I’ve got to say, I don’t for a second regret leaving the parent’s morning out to pursue my photography, but there’s something so wonderful being with the kids again. some of them unwilling to disengage from their parents that first day, then having them not want to leave me to go home on the last day. hugs and excitement and wonder and joy. drama and bickering. kid colors and messes and new experiences. children who actually listen to me and do what I say (unlike my own). how can you not love that?

I’ll tell you something, though. I think I slept for 2 days straight after it was done.