The Writings

Playing In Traffic - My Shoot With Nail Taxi

I was sitting on the bed in my room, minding my own business, and I looked down to see the CRAVE DC book on the floor. It made me think back to all of the shoots I had done, all of the people I had met, and all of the crazy shoots I had. Last week, I talked about my shoot at Northside Social, but this week, I want to take a second to look back at one of the memorable shoots I had for the book. It involves almost getting hit by a car. No, seriously. Back in March, Wendy had contacted me about "a fabulous mobile nail salon" called Nail Taxi, headed by Cinnamon Bowser. The company was started in 2005 and now services a ton of cities, such as Washington, DC, Atlanta, Baltimore, New York, Dallas, Chicago, Richmond, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and even Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver up in Canada. She offers an impressive variety of manicure and pedicure services, so I was more than thrilled to get to work with her. The problem was figuring out a time and day to actually do it. Cinnamon had a slew of events she was hosting, from offices to house parties and everything in between, and I had a ton of shoots I was doing for CRAVE and for the rent payments!

After much back and forth, we finally got a date down, and in late-May, we set up the shoot.  During our talks, and what I typically do to make sure the images fall in line with what the client has in mind, I asked if she had any ideas about what she would like to see in from the shoot. I knew she and I would get along great the moment she said, "well, I have this vision of me being in the middle of traffic - you know, to emphasize the 'nail taxi' concept."  It's music to my ears when I hear a client willing to step up the shoot and joins me in making sure the photos in the spread stand out! However, how was I going to play in traffic without endangering my client's life?

Because the book is all about the Washington, DC-metropolitan area, I figured having an iconic part of the city in the background while she stood in the middle of the street would be a great way to go. The trick would be finding a place that would risk my client, you know, dying. I then remembered how Pennsylvania Avenue leading to the Congressional Building was wide enough where Cinnamon could stand comfortably without getting hit by one of the countless crazy cabbies, but still emphasize the traffic/street aspect, while getting the Capitol in the background. Score!

I met up with Cinnamon at a nearby Starbucks (gotta get my iced chai on a hot day, 'na mean?) and saw she brought some assistants - her two kids, who had just gotten out of school. It was amusing when she told her children what we were up to, telling them in a calm, nonchalant tone, "We're just going to go into the middle of the street to take some pictures!" They were a little concerned, at first, as they watched from a nearby street corner as Cinnamon and I made our way to the middle of the street. However, once we got going, it was pretty obvious to see we were going to be out of harm's way for most of the shoot.

For the most part.

I wanted to get a few more filler shots for the spread, so I had her products lying out on the asphalt to continue capturing the street feel throughout her shoot. Because the shoot took place in the afternoon, the sun was a little harsher than I anticipated, so I had to play around and avoid some harsh shadows. I positioned Cinnamon and the products in a way where it was more flattering than the shadows allowed and tried to use the resulting contrasts to make the products stand out. Part of this was putting some of the darker items, such as tools she uses for manicures and pedicures, onto the white stripe on the street to help them stand out. I waited for traffic to cooperate and shot when there were no approaching cars, since I enjoy existing on this planet, as well. I managed to get a few good shots in, until...

"Oh! Watch out!" In typical DC-fashion, a cab driver had done an illegal u-turn and managed to get a little too close to comfort to me as I shot the products on the stripe. Cinnamon hollered to let me know he was cutting it close to where I was shooting and managed to narrowly avoid flattening me into the pavement! We got a good chuckle afterward, and I told Cinnamon, "no risk, no reward!" The sacrifices we make for a good shot sometimes, you know?

I managed to also take a picture of an idea Cinnamon had, where the products would be near a car's tire. I waited for a red light at our intersection and safely shot next to a car.  Using Photoshop, I manipulated the image so the tire looked a lot closer than it actually was, since there was no way I was going to be THAT close to a car after my near-death experience with a taxi. In hindsight, I made the image a little too cold, but I think I was trying to overcompensate for the extreme high temperature the images were getting from the afternoon sun.

We started to lose some sunlight, but we had gotten the images we wanted, so we headed back home. Cinnamon had driven to our meeting location, and because the gears hadn't stopped turning yet, I tried to get one more photo of her in the car as a "just-in-case" shot. With her kids safely seated in the back, I stood next to her SUV to get her reflection from the side-view mirror, and when I showed her what I was up to, she loved the idea! I dodged the image in the mirror to bring her out more, but I was secretly hoping there would've been more cars in the shot to really complete the image.

It was a great day of shooting, and lots of love and respect to Cinnamon Bowser for her willingness to put herself out there and try some experimental shots! It was a lot of fun, and seeing the images printed in the book is a constant reminder of what a great sport she and her kids were on that day. And how much DC taxi drivers suck at life.

Check out Nail Taxi on Facebook, on Twitter, and at their website for more information!

Until next time,

- Patrick