The thing about stories is that there is always what happens behind the scenes, the note taking, the brainstorming, the messy wads of crumpled up metaphorical paper that ends up on the floor as you work your way through what you want the world to see. This commercial shoot contained all of these things, yet in the end my client had the clean images she had envisioned to promote her new product line.
The weather in the mountains in the Fall is almost as unpredictable as a day in the life of a parent, and this shoot tested both. It was the eve of my daughter’s 14th birthday and she was excited to be heading up the mountain with me as she had been hired by my client to be the babysitter who would help keep the littles wrangled as there were going to be several models with their children who were of various a age range, but all within the “don’t take your eyes off of them as we’re on the side of a mountain” age. We arrived to the chilly, but clear mountain meeting location, and my daughter continued to sing the Taylor Swift songs that had been blasting in the car, while letting me do a few test shots as we awaited the crew for the day. And, then, the mountains began to disappear as the clouds rolled in, along with the chill, and the backdrop was now nothing but white.
No problem, I’ve got this. After about 10 minutes, my client arrives, somewhat frantic, unable to focus on the shoot that we had so thoughtfully planned out together, because, well, she’s a mom. And, that takes priority. One of her kids was not enjoying the trip their family had just made from the flatlands of South Carolina to the 5892’ elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway, actually wasn’t having any of it and was done. My client made the decision that she needed to get her daughter off the mountain for the sake of everyone’s sanity and not to scar her child for life and create some deep-seeded fear of heights. This was a plot twist that I was not expecting, but we're both business owners and moms so the show must go on.
I was delighted and relieved when I saw that one of the models was a former midwifery client of mine (I attended two of her four births), who also happens to know all there is to know about baby wearing and runs a local all things baby/toddler/child/mama shop (The Littlest Birds in West Asheville, check it out!!!). She was going to have to be my wingman because at this point in my life, I have no need nor desire to wear a baby! My client handed us a box that contained a few of the items from her new line and left. You do what you’ve got to do, and that’s what we all did.
One of the other models was also there with her little one and we started shooting, the stark white background of the clouds was not what my client had envisioned for her images, so I pushed through, ended up getting some great shots and then made the decision that we were going to need to drive, caravan style down the mountain to look for clear skies.
I was the lead car and when we finally got to an overlook that I thought would work, I pulled over, the caravan followed and low and behold, there at the Lane Pinnacle Overlook, I found my other model who had been lost as to where we were to meet. Perfect! And, this new model had her husband, son, and her teeny tiny twin girls with her….mad respect, mama! Again, let’s do this! And, we did until I exhausted the location as it was after all, just a pull off on the side of a two-lane winding mountain road, and we weren’t the only ones there. And, my client really only needed her product and the models in the shots, so the tourists with all of their selfie action who had just as much right to be there as we did, I wanted to move a little further down the mountain. Load up and the caravan is off again.
As we head down the mountain and closer towards town, my daughter stops singing along to T.S. long enough to check in with me about how I’m holding up trying to get through a shoot without the client and one that is definitely a prime example of controlled chaos. Knowing that these models knew how to manage the product and I knew how to manage my camera, I was actually doing really well. I also got a good eye-roll or three out of her when I started talking about when her and her brother were that little as I was feeling a little mushy about how fast time actually goes, seriously, it was her last day as a 13-year-old!
Whoo hoo! Last stop!! Haw Creek Valley Overlook. If you know this area, you know, if you don’t let me just tell you that it is a tiny speck of accessible land to try and shoot and capture the valley behind it. I’ll liken it to when you see those images of someone sitting in what looks like a field of flowers when in reality it is a patch of weeds next to a truck stop on the interstate, yep, like that. If it works, it works. And, it did. One of my favorite parts about this part of the shoot was that the daddy of the twins put his son on his back and he proved what is known by many, which is a babywearing daddy is pretty hot in the eyes of a mama, kind of like how a man taking care of a sink full of dishes is.
I can’t say that on the drive back home was one full of much reflection about all that I learned and how I grew during this shoot on the eve of the anniversary of my becoming a mother, but I can say that what I actually gained from this is still showing up to this day, especially in writing this while porch sitting in my favorite work spot, reflecting. Motherhood created for me a life long lesson of letting go and going with the flow which serves me well as a photographer. My client and I both got a piece of that that day last November, and how wonderful it was that in the end we were both beyond pleased with the images and while the preplanning of the shoot was mostly taken over by elements beyond our control, the ability to turn it into a Choose Your Own Adventure book was quite empowering. Cheers to that!