I had the absolute pleasure of visiting one of my best friends in Orlando this past weekend.
TJ Harris has been one of my biggest supporters since I met him back in 2008 and it had been almost three years since we had seen each other. I finally bit the bullet, bought a plane ticket, put in for time off of work and made the trip.
TJ works at Disney World as an attendant, someone who stays with the Princesses while they meet park visitors to ensure their safety and that the process moves smoothly. Because of his employment, I got to go to the park for free and skip just about every line, which was awesome.
We spent the whole day Friday doing the touristy Disney exploring. I met several of TJ's closest friends, all of whom are fantastic people and a pleasure to be around. They all greeted me warmly and were ecstatic to give me my first Disney experience.
Saturday was spent with two of TJ's friends from work; Keith Hanson, one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and Leslie Angevine, whose beauty and charisma completely enthralled me the entire afternoon. We drove about two hours to the opposite coast of Florida and spent the afternoon on Treasure Island where we shot on the beach.
My recent experience with portraiture has primarily been with male models; it had been years since I really threw myself into a shoot with a woman, and I could not be happier with this shoot with Leslie. Photos are always more successful where there's chemistry between the subject and the photographer, and Leslie is simply impossible to not get along with. This is the kind of girl who will compliment your outfit when you look awful, sing along to Disney movies (which we did Friday evening after the beach,) and still eat way more than you do at Taco Bell (which also happened Friday after the beach.)
Saturday evening was spent, as stated, eating Taco Bell, watching Disney movies (The Little Mermaid and The Lego Movie to be specific,) drinking Sparkletini and editing photos from the shoot. With every finished photo, Leslie was overjoyed with the results, and her reaction is exactly why I take photos in the first place.
TJ and I ran some errands Sunday morning before we met up with the ever so handsome Jaymz Couch for a shoot. We ventured out to Celebration, a town owned by Disney just a short drive from the parks. Celebration is full of expensive cars, nice houses, shops, ponds and white picket fences, and was almost eerily picturesque.
We moved from Celebration over to a nature reserve back towards TJ's house. We were quickly shooed out by the patrols closing the park about 20 minutes after we arrived, but not before I took some great photos of Jaymz.
From there, we swung by a dock in TJ's development for a couple photos before the sun went down.
Sunday night was spent teaching TJ a few songs on guitar. We had always played together when we first met, back when he was living in Pittsburgh and I was there for school. He's gotten so much better and his grasp of the theory was so impressive. So much has changed.
We took a bit of time out of the night to take a few photos of his bike.
Monday was my last day in town, and we spent it relaxing in TJ's living room, exchanging music, playing guitar and chatting.
Most times when I'm away from home for more than a few days, I just want my bed. I want familiarity and routine and my own home, and when I got home Monday evening, all I wanted was to go back to TJ. I will see you again soon, Orlando.