Embrace the Shake to Climb Mount Everest (or how I rediscovered my love of conference photography)

I admit it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write.  Much has changed.

And — well, not so much.

First and foremost, Matthew and I are now firmly rooted in our new palace in Palm Harbor, Florida.  While that may not SEEM like a big deal — it’s been a major transition.

NOW I only need my winter coat when I travel!  And, who knew?  A warm pool temp is 84 degrees.  Under 84 is “cold” and over is “bath water”.  Not a problem I had in Delaware.

The Palace Pool
The Palace Pool.  I look very manly riding the swan.  Honest.

I sold one of my cars — the Scion with dragons painted on the side — and drive my motorcycle almost exclusively.  When I’m not on my motorcycle, I’m  on a Southwest flight, or so it seems.  And every meal — EVERY MEAL — since Christmas (at least every meal eaten at home) has been consumed outside, on the patio, next to the pool.

Beyond the monumental personal changes, there were a few big changes in US Event Photos. What could be a bigger change than moving?  Isn’t that up there with death, divorce and a night spent in jail?

The biggest change — at least for me — has been not working with Honda this year at all the Indycar races.  The reason is both complex and simple.  The person who hired us for the past three years shifted careers to another company (where she is very happy), and the new management team decided to eliminate the famous green screen photo execution.  Sigh.  So sad.  Sniffle.  Sniffle.

I’d be lying to say I wasn’t upset, Honda became a lifestyle.  March through September, most weekends were spent — three days at a time — at one of the Indycar races.  Fan Village became our default family.  I’ve said it before, in many ways I felt like a very well paid carney.   Trevor, Jeff, Michelle, Ashley, Bobbie and others knew more about my life than my own mother.  We endured earthquakes, floods and mosquito hordes together — and triumphed!

But all things change, and to be upset about change is the equivalent of being mad water is wet.

Suddenly, weekends aren’t spent with Indycar, but with  Travel Channel, who booked us for a tour of shows throughout the United States.  A new set of friends, another carnival coming to a city near you.  After Travel Channel wrapped, STARZ came on board, and we’re continuing to figure out how things will look with the cable network.  By the way, Travel Channel?  They are taking the green screen photos we did throughout the nation and putting them in a TV show.  Or so says the rumor.  If that happens, no one will be able to live with me.

I’ll be a STAR (but not on STARZ — keep it straight.)

Travel Channel Greenscreen Photography
Dog sold separately and bow may not be color coordinated to your sweater.  
Starz greenscreen photography
Ahoy, I like the other pirate better.

Next, companies I haven’t heard from for a while are re-booking.  Today, I just finished an event in San Antonio, shooting a conference for Cetera — which I always knew as Genworth Financial — and, after shooting (literally) 45 breakout sessions, keynotes, and two gala parties I can honestly say:

I forgot how much fun I have as a conference photographer.  From the mariachi band to the rodeo, being a conference photographer lets me photograph a huge variety of situations and really turns up my creative juices.

conference photography
When cowboys go splat (at Cetera’s rodeo).  Look to the left:  that’s the belly of the steer as he bucks away.

General Mills, which wrapped a couple weeks ago in Phoenix, also brought home this point.  Where else can you move from shooting a fake Studio 54 to covering Alison Levine, a remarkable woman (who among other major accomplishments) led the first US Women’s Climbing Exhibition to the top of Mount Everest.  (A side note:  I thought I was photographing Adam Levine and got all excited.  But, truthfully, Alison was way better.)

How did Alison Levine climb Mount Everest?

The answer is both complex and simple:  on her second attempt, and one step (take ten breaths then take another) at a time.  “I’ll just go to that rock right there,” she said.  Then, when that rock was reached, “I’ll just go to that chunk of ice.”  Two months later, she was at the top.

After photographing  these events I return to my hotel room so full of adrenaline I can’t sleep.

Then there was the artist who had specialized in pointillism —  painting pictures out of tiny dots.  He became so good at it, the muscles in his hand went bad.  Suddenly, he couldn’t paint and was in a deep depression.  “Permanent nerve damage”, was the official medical diagnosis.  And the doctor’s advice?  “Embrace the shake.”  Nice, right?

Instead of clobbering the doctor in a hissy-fit, the artist did embrace the shake, and started creating artwork that was temporary and transient in nature, or that utilized materials never used to create art, like French fry grease. That artist was Phil Hansen, and he climbed his own Mount Everest.  Here’s a link to his talk on TED. .

I’d be lying to say I didn’t miss the excitement of the Indycar track, and all those people I now only see on Facebook.  But I’d also be lying to say I don’t love the new projects I’m working on, the  new people I’m meeting, and the creative high that comes with what I do.  Cliche, I know, but it’s a high which overshadows Everest.

Plus, I live in a palace.  How can I not embrace my own shake?

conference photography
Alison Levine climbed Mount Everest one ice chunk at a time.
conference photography
Embrace the shake.  Artist Phil Hansen created this piece from the finger prints of each conference attendee.  That was on the first day.  The final portrait was revealed at the conclusion of the General Mills conference.

To learn more about US Event Photos conference photography, click HERE.