2020 took the wind out of my sails: how I discovered what I have
2020 was going to be a great year.
But then something happened that took the wind out of my (and your?) sails
...but first, here is a video made at Container Park in Las Vegas last February, a month and a moment that for me represents the "Before Times".
On the wedding side of things, a lot of couples (all) had to postpone or change their 2020 wedding plans. I've been fortunate that all of my couples are either rescheduling or holding intimate ceremonies with receptions at a later date. And, to alleviate a lot of stress, I am able to photograph both events for them.
But there is more to my response to this pandemic than just waiting it out. I've found what I am thankful for and see a solid path forward by looking at the past first, learning and adjusting in the present while preparing for the new realities of tomorrow.
The Before Times
I came off of a great Christmas season. I had caring people working in teams photographing Santa at Hazeldean Mall and Mean Green Santa at Billings Bridge. But it wasn't just photography, we were responsible for the system and for each other working as a team at both locations to create experiences that were above expectations.
The team deserves so much credit - so I will shout out to them (in no particular order) Ted, Frank, Christine, Kathy, Chrissy, Claire, Alain, Bob, Steven, Lisa, Cory, Emma, Kiera, Ionna, Rebecca and Tara.
The main challenge was people knowingly (and in some cases unknowingly) getting into line ups that would have them waiting for three hours. That's the problem with becoming popular for doing things uniquely the right way - you go a little bit viral and BOOM, you’ve got line ups. Line ups that start early and end late. If your system fails, you go viral in the wrong way, and if it works you win. Our system WORKED. I gotta tell you when you get stopped at Costco by a stranger thanking you for taking their pictures with the "Grinch" you realize the impact you have on the lives of people around you - in spite of the long wait times.
After such a busy season followed by “nothing” the true understanding that photographs are time machines really sinks in.
As an offshoot from all of this I was truly surprised by one thing:
And there is the time I got to photograph these children at Sensory/Silent Santa Sunday, they had me crying (tears of happiness) because they were having so much fun.
Using online booking software we sold out of 10-minute family sessions within 2 hours of posting - though some people had to cancel due to illness it was so popular that we scheduled more dates in March. This knowledge will really come in handy for Safe Social Distancing Santa photography at Hazeldean and Billings Bridge this Christmas season.
There is an annual conference for wedding and portrait photographers (it’s called WPPI). Held in Las Vegas every year I've long held onto the dream of going to WPPI and 2020 was going to be the year. Taking advantage of early booking discounts for flight, hotels and attendance fees I stayed at the Luxor, took in 18 seminar sessions and 4 intensive learning sessions, met some great photographers, had my first In N Out meal, met up with my good friend Bryan Jones and even went to "The Happy Place".
Bryan Jones shot this slo-mo on my iPhone at the Happy Place (and, yes, that is Bryan doing the jumping high-five with me at the Happy Place)
Did you know that a Double Double means something different at In N Out? I didn't. But now I like both.
Photowalk session with Scott Johnson in the corridors of Mandalay Bay - model: Payten Lewis
A Pandemic Is Coming
One Last Wedding in "Before Times"
And then everything was shut down.
In April we were all set to make pictures with the Easter Bunny at both Hazeldean Mall and Billings Bridge. It was going to be great. Didn't happen. (I even bought a new Bunny Costume which, ironically, arrived from Wuhan Province a week before we were supposed to start).
Time to review and reflect and sharpen the saw some more
Santa never sleeps
Old Weddings are New Again
And had more time with immediate family making pictures on abandoned railway tracks in Smiths Falls
and recording an audition for University
Through it all I've discovered that talents, skills, experience, a desire to create and empathy are quite a recipe for preparing for the future.
I've been preparing for what I'll get to do again using what I've learned during the last five months (and my entire life). The Pandemic may not be over, not yet and not by a long shot, and I know there is so much more to do and learn. I have always known that the winds will change from ideal to nothing to a gut-splitting 180-degree turn but the best way to be of service is to adjust my sails and hold on tight leaning in to share the gifts that I've been given and have worked for in helping others to uncover their own gifts.
Here are some of the other pictures I made during the Pandemic Shut-Down
I even found some old film negatives featuring, among other things, mirror selfies of my teenaged self
Keywords: Frank Fenn, Ottawa Engagement Session, Ottawa Wedding Photography, pandemic, serving, sharpen the saw
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