Most everyone of a certain age has accumulated a set of sliding doors. If I’m not mistaken, every photograph you share is a door into another you.
Originally a wedding client, Jim has hired me a few times over the years. We’ve done family pictures when his kids were little, and there were business headshots, but my favorite session was a lifestyle shoot. He was on the edge of many new chapters in his life and happy. He was in tip-top shape and moving forward into a new relationship. His reasoning for having new portraits was sound. He wanted to catch some of the good years. I wish more people would consider it.
Every day, I hear people wishing they’d had really good pictures from certain times in their lives. We all know you can’t go back. Say you have a great five year stretch where life is just humming along and you feel really right in your world… maybe that’s a good reason to have a portrait done. It’s a keepsake for you, certainly, but it’s also a trophy for a future time… something to share with your kids in your somewhat older years… a truth.
Jim and I talked about what he wanted to do… with a little planning it turned into about a four hour stroll around Portland. We started at the rock gym in John’s Landing and, after a change of clothes, we walked the East Bank Esplanade for portraits… some for business and some for pleasure. The balance of the afternoon was wandering in the Pearl District settling briefly here and there where structure and light came together. All this in the name of serendipity and the luxury of time… this was not a rushed or over orchestrated shoot and that’s the best kind.
Anticipation is a mix of so many things. Nerves, certainly, but also joy, a little bit of slo-mo and some butterflies in your belly. I can feel it from where I stand. The bride is staying out of sight as the others are watching the guests arrive, their conversation light and intimate.
It’s a dusty August day at Camp Colton, a place of many tall trees… birds and chipmunks live there. This little space is set aside from the main event cabin, a quiet place for the women to get ready. I’m standing in the back of the room watching the light play on all of the parts of the scene, knowing it will be a moment maybe forgotten later. There are lots of big parts in a wedding day but it’s the little bits that enrich the history. I push the shutter button quietly so as not to break the spell.
I’m never sure if the players are aware of what’s ahead on a day like this. The general format is similar but each one has it’s own special arc of emotions. The entire crowd will play their parts and her own butterflies will calm as the daylight fades into the party. For now, walking through that sunlit door, she is about to join him in an entirely new journey. Sure, it starts with a wedding but a marriage is what is being born here.
Gabrielle’s family photo sessions are always a treat. We’ve been working together for almost 2 years chronicling the growing family. For her ease, we have done all of them in her mother’s living room. They are neighbors enough that it is easier to get the whole tribe there on foot rather than packing all into carseats and such.
This latest session, I asked her if she was interested in me bringinga backdrop and my studio lights. She loved the idea.It took a little longer to get everything set up but it gave us a much different look. The studio lights I’m using now are a constant light source rather than flash and it seems to be a softer approach. I feel like it doesn’t wear on my subjects as much.
I had also asked her to keep the color palette of outfits mostly muted. With the dark background, I really just want to have the faces be the thing to catch you. Family photos really ought to be about the faces of your loved ones. Logo T-shirts and the glittery bits can distract from that.
We did several variations of kids and grownups, some silly and some traditional. Family sessions need to run at their own pace so I usually block out two hours when there are Littles involved because they need to have breaks occasionally. The middle Little in this crowd always takes a banana break. Sometimes twice. What I know for sure is that it doesn’t pay to set a time frame and force it too much. Every now and then, a meltdown is what you are going to get and you just have to roll with it.
When Gammy brought out the scarf, there was lots of draping, hiding and wrapping… the sisters had a fine time with it! The scarf came into the picture neatly folded and by the time it was rescued, there were new wrinkles and bits of fuzz on it.We’re lucky the snacks were in the other room.
Mother’s Day is coming up.Do you think she’d like something like this? ;0)
Once upon a time, there were fancy tents erected on a normally sunny slope in Carlton. It was an October day in Oregon, so I suppose they were always in the plan but I had visited the site a few days ahead of the wedding and it was startling to see this empty hillside so suddenly populated.
Brooke and John were expecting a crowd of about 225 for the festivities… imagine that many people in the lush dinner tent… keep in mind that the floor is grass. This site was, literally, a relatively level spot on the slope heading up to the private vineyard. The cocktail tent had a clear ceiling and the ceremony tent had an open wall facing west with a perfect Oregon view.
As the crowd arrived, the Trolley picked up each load of guests waiting at the bottom of the dirt road and ferried them to the party.
I was wandering with the cameras to catch the bits as they happened… nothing should be left out of the final picture of the day. That includes the vendors who pulled this magic out of thin air. There is a list of most of them at the end of this post.
And all through the visible hustle and bustle, the cook’s tent was it’s own busy hive. That tent was off to the far end of the dinner tent. I watched a constant stream of black-suited wait staff and white-coated kitchen staff working under changing skies as they set up for the evening. If you look at that handsome menu, you will see what a feast this was… no mean feat for an offsite gala. After dinner, the crew of Nick’s Italian Cafe received a standing ovation… well deserved.
When my assistant and I left, the rain had stopped and that kitchen was packing up by the light of the moon. ;0)
No matter the size and scale of a wedding, the vendors are the puzzle parts that each couple needs to consider when they start planning.
A friend of mine posted that he was considering changing his look. The post triggered a visual in my head and I messaged him to see if he’d sit for me before he cut off his ponytail. His gracious yes let me play in a way that is rarely an option. I asked him if he had a good overcoat, a nice suit, maybe a hat… he said he had the right coat, a tux but no hat. Then he asked about having a cigar as part of the conversation. My visual adjusted favorably and off we went. After some discussion about where, we settled on the Little White Shed at the Cornelius Roadhouse. I brought my black fedora hoping it would fit. He strolled up the walkway in that cold silver light and we made our way to the shed. I had called for permission and we were grateful that the bartender had the wood stove rolling already. We had a great hour of quiet collaboration.
Scott Sakamoto runs a blog called Puff Sumo for cigar aficionados. It’s a passion he has rekindled from years back and now he takes it to a much different level.
People as Landscape
On a related tangent, I just submitted his photo to a portrait competition. Then I added a few more of the personal portraits I like. The underlying link is that none of these was work for hire… all of them were done in play. A lot of the work I do for hire feels quite narrow in comparison. The clients tend to have a defined end product in mind and that tamps down the play.
After a session last week another friendsaid “I’m curious to see how you see me.” That speaks to the dance between a person and a photographer. Every one of us has a face we assume when the camera is present. It’s just theway it is. The work of the photographer is to cut through a little of that drama to a truer version… to keep it real with as much grace as possible.
I’m a people-watcher from way back. Faces will always fascinate me…
SW Portland has a lovely secret garden in an old, elegant neighborhood. I will not identify it here because it is a somewhat untrammeled space with neighbors who might like to keep it that way. On an early September afternoon, I had the pleasure of working with Sara and Kathleen and their wonderfully attentive crowd of family and friends. Anyone peeking into that garden was seeing a sumptuous feast and a lot of relaxed, friendly conversations… a perfect combination.
As the day moved towards twilight, the toasting glasses waved in the softer light. At any wedding, you can gauge the deep friendships as you listen to the little gasps and laughing during the toasts, especially with an open mic. This couple has earned the love of their people and it was great to witness that.
At the end of the day, #LoveWins is not just a hashtag. It is an abiding truth and no one should have the desire or the power to interfere.
Mother’s Day is fast upon us… are you ready? It’s not like you have to do much beyond finding a nice card and taking your mom to a good brunch or a nice dinner. Even those things were kind of pushed by the card companies and it all turned into a holiday on everyone’s calendars. At it’s best, it’s a day to actively celebrate someone you love.
Over the years, I have been privileged to do several portraits of moms and kids and it always makes me think of how, years from now, those moms will look at the photographs and see time. The kids won’t appreciate that sense of time until they are much older and then they will understand how much history and time are intertwined.
Most of my childhood memories are of a working mom and a lot of the pictures reflect that. One of the very early photos, though, is one that catches my heart every time. Bath time on the kitchen floor… I love her wide open smile, her glee in this chore so evident!
On Mother’s Day, my mom liked getting homemade coupons for jelly donuts from a favorite bakery… back then, I was able to set up a deal with said bakery by prepaying…I was 12 or so. I don’t think gift cards were a thing yet. ;0)
Make pictures of the real parts of your life… you don’t always have to be perfectly dressed and posed, ok?
Let me know if I can help. ;0)
The wind was up on that September day in 2000… normal, I’m sure, since Rowena Crest is high above the mighty Columbia River. We had hiked up to the crest from a sweet little private property. Ever the Oregonian requirement, everyone wore sensible shoes even if they carried a party pair.
There was a slightly sheltered circle on the bluff where the ceremony was set to happen. The barn, out in the open, was being staged as a place for a toast afterward before everyone was to hike back down to the dinner party. I remember the bright and unexpected sound of many glasses breaking as they hit the gravel and we all looked over to see the tablecloth losing the battle with the wind. It didn’t deter anyone from enjoying the festivities except for the delicate clean up… that took some patience.
After the toasts, while the crowd started down to the party, we took some sun drenched minutes and played with the wind in front of the camera… it was a treat to see them relax so thoroughly in each other’s company.
Dawn and Jenna were pioneers ahead of their time in this lovely wedding outing but they were so perfectly paired I can’t imagine anyone saying nay to them. They met as bike messengers… a very Portland sort of beginning. After the wedding, they packed up and moved to sunnier Colorado and they have been missed here, no doubt.
As a side note, I have been pulling some old favorites from my film archives because I finally have some software worthy of making scrumptious scans. It is almost like having an actual darkroom again. ;0)
Every Spring, for the last few years, my friend Molly has tasked me with helping her create a photograph of the kids in her son’s class. We have always tried for a heart shaped grouping… sounds so simple, right? The first couple of years were hysterical because the kids were so little… we tried to line them up head to toe and I was to take a photo from above them. It was absolutely an exercise in herding cats.
The goal is an art piece for an auction to benefit the school and, each year, this class has gotten a little older and a little easier to direct. It seems the timing is always a challenge and we have had to dance around a lot of rainy weather. It wouldn’t be so bad but the kids like to dress up and invariably we get glittery dresses and muddy shoes added to winter jackets… the whole thing starts to look like it might blow out of control. ;0)
This last year, Molly and I had rescheduled for the umpteenth time and we finally got a dry but cold grey day with a brisk breeze. I met her at the school… she chalked out the heart shape on the edge of the playground and then hauled buckets and buckets of flower petals that she had collected up to the chalk line. We had the kids line up on the chalk and then tossed in this riot of color and textures… the breeze enough to keep it exciting. As they were fluffing the flower petals, I climbed the worn stairs to the second floor to a just emptied classroom. The windows were high and hinged outwards so I grabbed a stool and leaned out as far as I could, trying to clear the big concrete sill and the edge of the glass. Luckily, I was working with my Lumix so I could hold the camera out level and still use the tilt screen for framing and focus. All that planning paid off and the flowers scattered in the Spring breeze.
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
~ Paul Simon
In January I had an email from a bride of mine… she said she was ready to make a wedding album. She said she wanted to make an appointment to come make some image choices. All of which is a very normal sort of email to come across my desk. Except, she got married in 1994. Waaay back in 1994. It was all film, of course, and she and her love got married in one of the darkest churches in town on a January afternoon so there were challenges to start with. She had given away or lost her proof books so the only thing left to work with were her negatives. Lucky for her, I had archived those negatives. It will be a challenge but we have started the process and I will talk about that another time. For now, there is a more important conversation to be had.
Here’s the thing… I’ve archived the negatives and the digital files of all the weddings covered in my career. That means if you got married with me or had a family portrait session, unless you have already gotten them from me, I still have your images.
This winter, one of the bigger projects in my home office has been to get rid of the extra layers of stuff that have accumulated over the years… we’ve had a major shredding festival and have emptied out cabinets and drawers to pare it all down to things we might still need. Pretty soon, that clearing will include client negatives and the large collection of CDs with early digital files on them. Film was from 1985 to 2004 and I always retained the negatives. In digital, my clients didn’t get files until about 2012 or so. It’s just time to free up some space… downsizing in place, I guess.
If your memories are important to you, I’d like to help you connect. Please feel free to get in touch because I can’t keep them forever.
I have a new email, by the way… email@example.com
Drop me a line. ;0)