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)
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.
Take some time to catch the moments. The littles in your life will change faster than you can imagine and the history of your family will depend on how often you train a camera and a mindful eye on your day to day life. Yes, there is always another load of laundry to do and I’m sure the dog needs a bath but that will be ongoing… your children will be differently little every day. There are some dear friends on Facebook who are on it. They post charming snippets of their kids and will no doubt have photographs to share with them later in their lives. Get your pictures off of your devices and put them in a safe place… you don’t get a Do-Over. That is incredibly important.
If you can, you should hire a pro every now and then to cover your family in a way that you can’t. I love it when my phone rings for a family session. It could be a walkabout in the Pearl District with an ice cream cone or it could be an hour or two spent hanging out at your home… the goal is to put real people in front of my camera and catch what happens. Let me sit on the floor and get to know the kids well enough that they are just themselves when the camera is out… the less direction from me or from you, the better.
I was lucky to have parents who took lots of pictures. The photographs from my childhood were rarely posed. Instead, I can look back through them and remember the houses we lived in, the cats and dog who were part of our tribe and even some pictures of my parents when they were young and beautiful, before time wore into them. That was a gift to me. ;0)
If you’d like to see more pictures of people, young and old, this will take you to my Studio portfolio. Let’s make some history! ;0)
About two years ago, I had the pleasure of covering Cait and Matt’s wedding. Two days ago, I spent a couple of hours with them at their new home doing a kind of anniversary session. They had said they wanted to do a sort of day in the life photo shoot so we started with the two of them transferring vegetables into the beautiful planter boxes that Cait built. From there we had a small piano recital… Matt plays very well and Nunu always curls up under the music… Cait joined him to listen.
There is a man-cave downstairs with her woodworking shop and her Harley Davidson posters so we added some of that to the mix before they relaxed on the deck with a couple of beers. A few more cuddling on the couch and then some silly ones at Matt’s desk. All in all, two hours that they can revisit in their older years. The time will have flown by and they will laugh and wonder how they were ever this young.
Cait and Matt have some open wall space in their home and I can’t wait to see what they decide to print and hang from this day in their lives. ;0)
Let’s make sweet pictures!
For me, road test is my description for taking a new camera or lens out into the world to see how it performs. It is the second step if you count the first step being the one where I shoot around my house in an utterly familiar environment. In the road test I try for something brand new… something I can’t predict too well.
The new camera is a Lumix GH4 by Panasonic… a snappy little camera with a lot of muscle under the hood. So far, I am very, very pleased. Yesterday found me at Fort Vancouver for the first time. I have been on Officer’s Row a gazillion times but never had a chance to go into the fort. This image was taken in the blacksmith’s shop in natural light and I couldn’t be more pleased. The only caveat here is that Adobe doesn’t support RAW files for this camera yet… the workaround for now is to shoot RAW + large JPGs and save the RAW files for later. That means that as nice as this version looks, I can’t wait to get my hands on the RAW file and see how it flies!
My unending thanks to Mark Toal, the Panasonic rep who has given me so much of his time and information… I have been looking for something small and fresh for a few years and he suggested I look at this line.
Ultimately, this little camera is going to take me places I want to explore… sure, I could pack my Nikon bag but sometimes it seems like too much to carry… like it’s too much work. Since play is what I’m after, I may extend the road test for awhile. ;0)
On a very soggy weekend before Spring Break, several sets of Montessori parents and small children gathered on the muddy slopes of Gabriel Park… our mission was to create an art piece to frame and offer at auction for a good cause. The annual Pathways Auction was established to generate Tuition Assistance funds for qualified applicants. The Auction is held yearly in the spring and the proceeds are used to fund tuition assistance, special programs and to supplement the educational environments.
This is all a volunteer effort… if you’d like to get involved, there is more information at Montessori Pathways Spring Fete.
Back to the muddy hill… imagine a dozen three to five year olds on one hill, about the same number of parents on a slope right behind me and the feat of directing this small circus! The rain was spotting my lens and the little girls wearing dresses were reluctant to sit all the way down. It devolved rapidly into sword fights with brandished mums and lots of laughing. We all got muddy and when I left, most of the kids were running up and down the slopes of the park waving their tattered mums… laughter ringing in the air.
I love my job!
Inge called me to say that her husband was about to have a birthday… a milestone sort of birthday. She wanted to do a portrait for him so I suggested Edgefield and I could hear her smile over the phone. She and Michael got married there in 1998. Several years later, Michael had called me to do a surprise session for her birthday there… the girls were much younger then. So it seemed like the perfect continuation to go back to Edgefield for these pictures. Luckily it a place of many moods. ;0)
One of the best things about my job is watching the histories pile up… it feels very good to be a part of that.
The furry bookends on the bed are Science and Literature and Fiona is the cutie in the jumper. We started this conversation about a year ago when Alexis was 31 weeks pregnant… she and Kim were so excited! They asked if I might consider coming to Seattle to do baby pictures and I was thrilled to say yes. We decided to wait until she was about 6 months old. Newborns are beautiful but I really like it when babies are a little more able to sit up and connect… anywhere between 5 and 12 months is a great time to get them in front of the camera. Fiona was a trooper… we spent a little over two hours before she got tired of the whole thing.
One of the best things about a home portrait session is that it gives you a way, as parents, to share the early history of your lives together. When I look through the pictures of my childhood, I can see where I grew up… and in a few of them, I can see my parents younger than I ever remember them. That’s what I want my clients to have… that full sense of history with the most important people they will know.
Marriage almost always goes forward into family… don’t ever stop making pictures.
I have to laugh every year about this time… there is always a somewhat frantic scramble to get a Christmas card put together and out to the mailbox in time. Sometimes my people call me for a summer session or maybe a September sort of thing but mostly, they wait until pretty much the last minute. By then, the ‘last minute’ part becomes a dance with the weather… I always advise putting a few dates on the calendar so that when it rains, we have a second chance already set aside.
We had a cold, sunny day at the end of November for this session… this favorite of mine was sort of between the takes and I love the way it shows a real, fine family working together to get it done. ;0)
Writer, photographer, father, friend…
Today is Father’s Day and I wish I could call him to say it and hear him grumble about a silly holiday… all the while hearing his smile under the grumble.
A life too short… 1925 – 1990