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Chattahoochee River

Third River Session

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– Posted by Mark

Hey. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the river lately. The mighty Chattahoochee! IDK. It’s kind of fun for me since I’m from Phoenix and we only ever had one river. The Salt River. Seriously. The Salt River. WHAT TYPE OF NAME IS THAT FOR A RIVER.

That’s like ‘The Water River’. No. It’s worse because The Salt River wasn’t really a river salt, it was still a river of… water. LAME. I will admit that at least the fecal count in the Salt River was always impressively high… and I suppose it was cool to float through the desert on an inner tube in 115 degree heat. Alright. The Salt River was kind of fun.

Anyways. River. We’ve been spending a lot of time there lately with the interns and even a few clients. This time we brought along Alumni Intern Brittany, and a few other models – including current Intern Mishaun’s younger cousin. On my last visit to the river, the water level was pretty low and we could walk all the way out to the middle without dying. It was so low that we made everyone lie down on their backs. See:

This time – it was really deep – and it had a pretty good current going. OH. And did I mention there were snakes? Well, snake. Just one. But you know – when you’re waist deep in water and all of a sudden a snake swims past you… you might freak out. Which is what we all kind of did. Brittany got out of the water… and I waited a little while before I asked her to get back in… Because damn – we were there to shoot and I wasn’t done!

Was it cold? YES. Were the models cold? YES. What did we do? We made them really GET IN the river. None of this ‘posing by the river stuff’. If you know us – our models are going under and coming back up. Not only that – but our cameras are going to be sitting right at the water level because that’s where you should put your camera anytime you’re shooting with a body of water. Everything else is for tourists.

Did I mention how cold it was?

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Now – a week or two earlier, a few Interns went on their own to shoot at this same location. They had been at the first shoot when the water level was pretty low – but now all of a sudden the water was waist deep. For anyone – this can really screw up all of your plans for whatever shots you had in mind. I kind of felt the same way when I first arrive and saw how high the water was.

I felt like the first group kind of let the conditions beat them. I wasn’t going to let that happen – in fact I couldn’t. Because I’m not about to waste 3 hours of shoot time just because of A LOT OF WATER and some snakes. (Snake.) So. And you know what? It’s a great thing that the conditions were completely different from that first time at the river. Because I made completely different photos.

Remember our Improv entry? It’s not what you’re stuck with – it’s what you’re given.

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One more thing – it makes a big difference if you’re working with models who’ll do what it takes for the shot. You know – models that’ll get in a cold river and stay there for half an hour. Even with snakes. Of course – it’s also the photographer’s job to make them believe that the shots are ‘worth it’ – and I’m not saying that I didn’t keep yelling out ‘OMG This shot is AMAZING!’ over and over again just so that the models would stay in the water longer…

We have one more river session scheduled. We’ll see what we make from that one…

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River Session | Intern Experience

This past weekend was really, really busy for me and the Interns. On Friday we spent 10 hours at Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA) and then went down to Kai Lin art gallery to photograph the opening of the Zenith exhibition. Saturday morning, we were down at the river by 6:45 am and ready to photograph Intern Blake’s wife in a wedding dress – not hers, one she bought from ebay specifically for this.

One of the many perks and advantages that our internship provides are the many different types of photoshoots. We cover almost anything with people except concerts. While some photographers have gone into their niche markets and stay within narrowly defined marketing plans – we stretch our skills because we know that skills translate – and we don’t ever want to run the risk of making the same photos over and over again. This is especially true for wedding photography where many photographers tend to repeat shots/poses much more often than they should.

Up above you can see everyone walking out into the middle of the river. I lucked out and wore flip flops down to my car since my shoes were in the trunk – and that turned out great because yeah, there was no way I was going to just stand on the shore. Standing on the shore would’ve been lame. Blake had his crocs, Debra decided that her shoes would just get soaked – and Nick and Christian went barefoot. The sun was coming up and we had an anime convention to go to directly after this shoot – so we started shooting and pretty much kept up the pace the whole time.

This was technically Blake’s shoot since he set it up completely by finding the location and the model. So everyone else was 2nd shooter and not in the lead. We were all barely awake when we started shooting so we just had Blake directing his wife most of the time while the rest of us sniped shots from the various side angles. Usually that sucks. This was different because it was a wide open space, and we had about 130 degree radius area around the model where each of us could shoot without crossing each other and getting in our shots. It’s different when you’re in a room, or the model’s up against a wall. There are usually far fewer (if more than one) spots for the best shot.

I’m always looking for wide, epic photos that make use of the setting and try to appropriately convey the openness of the space. Yes, details are great and it’s always a good idea to get up close and get a variety of shots – but since I was waking up for most of this shoot, I hung back, set my lens to 18mm and held my camera just above the water as I kept taking pictures.

So what you see here are shots taken as the 2nd shooter. You can see everyone else’s photos when they post them to their Intern blogs – and then Blake’s specifically here (since he was main shooter on this one). I’ll admit that while Blake was off setting up the next set or just thinking, I’d ask his wife to look at my camera just for a second – which is why I got a few shots with her eyes actually in my direction.

Still. I’m hoping that the Interns realize that everything we do translates to other types of shooting. Because you’re not going to always be the main photographer – especially at events where there’s a group of competing photographers. So you’d better get used to finding new shots – the ones that are less obvious but somehow just as compelling.

Not only that – but you need to see photos before they happen. You need to anticipate a person walking across a field or across the street – and almost immediately know what shot you need to make. Where you need to be. Because you won’t have a lot of time, and you won’t have a 2nd chance.

I’ve covered this before in our newsletter. You need to pre-visualize your shots before you ever put the camera up to your face. Getting lucky won’t cut it. You don’t get lucky 20 times during a session. You get lucky once during a set – if that – and honestly, that’s a very risky way to make a photography career. Sure luck is often involved – but who wants to depend on luck? Make your own by actually being good.

Leah and I work very hard on every job we do. Whether it’s a paid gig or a ‘practice’ shoot with the Interns – all sessions must produce deliverable photos, if not usable shots in our portfolios. I use the term portfolio loosely – but the idea is that we’re not wasting anyone’s time. Why go to all the trouble of setting up a photoshoot if you’re not expecting amazing photos?

I’m not saying we always succeed. I’m saying that we always aim for deliverable photos. I’m saying that we always aim for epic shots. Whether it’s a wedding, a Steampunk fashion show, or Bhutanese refugees.

Intern Blake and his wife.

Right after the river shoot we went directly over to Anime Weekend Atlanta for the 2nd day of shooting the convention.

If you saw our Dragon*Con photos, or read the entry, then you know how I feel about standard ‘con photography. Our primary goal was simply to make different photos. Not only that – but I told the Interns that we weren’t going to take the easy way out. We weren’t going to photograph people in empty spaces. No – we were going to make different photos right alongside everyone else – and that means in the halls. That means with people walking in and out of your shot, and security telling you to move along.

But then also when we do decide to use a secluded spot – it can’t just be a blank wall as the backdrop. Blank wall = boring.

We need a commercial kitchen. We need to get kicked out of the commercial kitchen. Then we need to convince someone to grant us permission to shoot in the commercial kitchen. Yes. That’s what we need to do.

Of course – fandom conventions are overwhelming. It’s very easy to get caught up and want to photograph EVERYTHING. That would be a mistake. You really need to be selective and slow down. I decided that I would make a series of headshot type portraits. Because it’s not just about the full body costumes.

We had full access during the convention with our staff badges and with eight of us running all over the place – we made a lot of photos. You can check out the Intern posts as they make them – and check back here in the next few days for my photos of the hall cosplay, the headshot series, and the Lolita Fashion Show.

See you tomorrow, and thanks.

Atlanta. Chattahoochee. River. Trash. The. Dress. Photo. Shoot. Locations. Wedding. Photographer.

Kelsey & Adam

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Kelsey graduated from The University of Northern Iowa in 2006 with a B.A. in Sociology and again in 2008 with an M.A. in Communication Studies.  She is currently teaching and working on her Ph.D. in Communication at Georgia State University.

Adam graduated from The University of Florida in 2005 with a B.A. in Telecommunication.  He is currently working for Turner Broadcasting as a Senior Coordinator in the Broadcast Operations Center.  Translation: he makes sure that television viewers see what they are supposed to be seeing.


We had been planning a long weekend in Savannah for a while and were counting down the days left until our getaway.  The night before we left is when Adam popped the question.  He came home from work and after telling her hello asked her to open a package of M&Ms.  He explained that he couldn’t seem to get it open.  Kelsey, secretly wondering why he didn’t just go get the scissors, obliged him and tore a small opening in the package.  As she handed it back to him he held out his hand so she would pour some of the M&Ms out.  Kelsey wasn’t making it very easy for Adam and poured just a few into his hand.  He asked her to pour some more out and as she did she noticed that these M&Ms were unique.

Small background story: We have a silly nickname for each other that has now become public information.  A long time ago Kelsey thought Adam called her by a nickname and, to poke fun at him, started calling him this nickname, too.  But when Adam questioned her about the nickname, he seemed to have no recollection of ever calling her this.  Somehow the nickname has stuck and has turned into a running joke between the two of them.  It most likely began when Adam noticed that Kelsey, despite not having a particularly unique accent, has a very unique way of saying a few particular words.

So what did these very unique M&Ms say?

“Marry me boobs!!”

Kelsey was stunned and amidst lots of smiles and laughter kept asking Adam if he was serious.  When Adam finally insisted that he was serious Kelsey of course said yes and they hugged and kissed.  Then Adam asked her to pour more of the M&Ms out.  Kelsey thought this was odd but once again obliged her now fiance by pouring the rest of the small bag into his hands.  As the M&Ms came spilling out a gorgeous ring landed on top of them.  Adam remembers hearing an audible gasp from Kelsey when she realized the ring was hidden in the package of M&Ms.  The ring was beautiful and fit perfectly but quickly became even more special when Adam explained that this was the engagement ring his father had given to his mother years before.  It was an incredible night and we got to spend the entire weekend in Savannah celebrating the engagement.

Adam went to bed that night thinking that the engagement story was over but Kelsey knew differently.  What Adam didn’t know was that, after months of planning, Kelsey had been planning to propose to him that weekend as well.  On the way to Savannah Kelsey pulled off the road and got something out of the backseat.  She explained to Adam that she had been planning to propose as well and had been looking all over for the perfect engagement present.  She had looked for watches and rings, and even bought a ring, but nothing seemed to be the perfect engagement present that felt perfect for Adam.  After all that shopping though, Kelsey finally found the perfect thing to give to Adam, a gift that symbolized how much she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him by her side, right at home.

Since they first began talking, Kelsey had been writing a book of letters to Adam.  Although she didn’t initially have plans to give this journal to him, the engagement was the perfect time to show him how certain she had always been of their relationship.  So on the side of the road, somewhere between Atlanta and Savannah, Kelsey gave Adam the journal of letters and explained that he hadn’t been the only one with a proposal planned for that weekend… !!!

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