Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la!
A random fact about me: I love listening to Christmas music. I will turn up the volume and belt it out. If you’re in my car, I will insist that you sing with me. I can listen to it throughout the year, not only in December.
But what if your season ISN’T jolly?
There is nothing jolly about my heater breaking the other day and it was only 35F degrees out — and I have 3 kids and a puppy to keep warm. I was struggling to stay sane with my husband, Lawrence, away on another business trip. This past year, I had some health issues, which has effected us emotionally and financially. And every Christmas, I feel the void of my dad’s passing because this was the holiday when I’d see him.
Well, get this…
I still love listening to holiday music even though it may sound contrived when there are things I’m worried/stressed/unhappy about. You know why?
Because every Winter, there are cheerful holiday songs playing on the radio. No matter what. That reminds me that time never stands still. Things are ever-changing, and that includes how we see things.
We had warm clothes to wear when the heater went kaput. Whenever my kids found out I was cold, they’d rush over to hug me to keep me warm! Lawrence travels frequently for work, but he always returns home safely. I found some great doctors who helped me with my health issues. And although I wish we could be spending the holidays with my dad (or just have my kids and Lawrence meet him!), I know that it was his sudden passing that gave me the kick in the pants to change my career to one that makes my heart happy.
The songs remind me that things will be okay, so why not be joyful. Be thankful. Be good to others because some have it worse than I do. And enjoy the little things because time continues to move, and you don’t want to find out that the ‘little thing’ was actually a ‘big thing’ and miss it.
So last Sunday, I had my last shoot for 2016 with Leonard, Gabrielle, Christian and Livvy. It was a Styled Shoot with a Winter theme, so we had it at a Christmas Tree Farm.
Everything about it makes me want to belt out holiday music. <3
For my son’s 9 year old birthday photoshoot, he wanted to be an apple. Seriously. An apple. I don’t know why. He thought it’d be fun to dress as an apple and act out a story. As a mom photographer, I have to just let him run with it because hey, he wants to do a Styled Shoot, so who am I to squash his creativity?!! Not I, said the photographer. Not I.
So enjoy Ian’s story about The Apple Boy:
Once upon a time, there was an apple.
The apple loved being an apple, but he wanted to see what else was in the World.
First he hitched a ride on a wagon. After it stopped, he carried his apple friends to escape from the scarecrow.
After resting on a hay bale, he looked at the other apples and realized he was very different from them. He was a boy!
He then saw a bear coming towards him!
Since he knew he wasn’t actually an apple, he wasn’t afraid. He just walked over to the bear and fed him.
The boy now made a home at an apple farm with the bear as his pet.
And he lived happily ever after.
When you think “kid”, you think about how cute they are when they learn something new, like ride a bike or learn to read. Skip. Brush their own teeth. Maybe even do a cartwheel.
But then there’s Kina.
Seeing Kina move in her poetic, effortless, athletic way… I forget she is only 12. Twelve! All I see is a talented dancer. Like a seasoned athlete, Kina was able to make mesmerizing shapes during her photoshoot with the challenges nature and I gave her…
Fit inside a hole in the rock, make inspiring shapes, and don’t mind the red fire ants. Done. Climb to the top of that giant rock, go to the edge, and create interesting lines…oh, and try not to fall to your death. Check.
And when we hopped over to location #2 for some grassy, playground photos, the sun had disappeared and the wind picked up, leaving the temperature 25 degrees cooler. And she was in a leotard. Dance elegantly and pretend you’re not freezing. I was shivering. For Kina, no problem.
The part that gives me butterflies and makes my eyes water (they’re leaking as I’m writing this) is that I’ve known this amazing person since she was a baby! She was the cutest little chubby-cheeked baby with a full set of dark curly hair. Now with her talent mixed with hard work and dedication, she is dancing with the best of them and learning from famous choreographers.
I am in awe.
For my Mia’s 11 year old shoot, we chose to concentrate on her love of creating with her hands, reading, and creative writing.
So she made 11 cranes out of origami paper — one representing each of the years of her life. Then, obviously, we turned one of our hydrangea shrubs into a Wishing Shrub. :) Mia carefully placed each crane while thinking about the meaning of each year. With the last crane, which represents this upcoming year, she made a wish.
Afterwards, she hung out on our swing bench and read a story she wrote.
It was so… “her”. <3
I remember crying in Kindergarten when my teacher insisted that each student announce what they wanted to be when they grew up.
I was a shy child whose parents split up when I was three and we moved around a lot, so talking in front of a group was far from being ‘fun’. (By the end of Elementary School, I couldn’t stop talking, so there was a weird life symmetry there! ha!) Anyhow, I remember thinking to myself, “How would I know what I want to be?!! I am only five!”
The result of the silence and all eyes on me: tears.
Fast forward to 6th grade.
It was a similar situation, but this time, the teacher asked us to think about what we wanted to be when we grew up. This time, I did. I put a lot of thought into it. I had friends who named the profession of their mother or father. Some wanted to be what they considered a ‘hero job’: a doctor, a firefighter. For me, I had always loved Art. Always. Yet, I thought being an Artist meant standing on a sidewalk with my paintings and hoping to sell something, so I could have money to eat! Thus, Art was never something I considered as a plausible career.
Instead, I came up with two things. I was 11 years old, and I knew I wanted to be…
I’ve always loved kids and thought the coolest thing in the entire World would be to be a mom. To have kids. To hold babies. To love them unconditionally. To teach them skills and help shape them to be confident and good people.
And happy. I didn’t know what job I wanted. I didn’t think about income, industry, or position. I didn’t care about the details. I just knew that whatever my career would be, I needed to be happy.
So going full circle here, I am now a business owner of something I am passionate about: creating art. I am also a mother of little humans who test my patience sometimes (haha), but they make me grow and learn and teach. They make me want to always see the World as a silver lining, to find good in people. I can humbly say that I am happier with them in my World.
Thank you — yes, YOU — for sharing in my journey!
Now why on Earth am I thinking about all this?
Well, my littlest monkey just turned 6 years old. (These photos are from her 6 year old photoshoot.) She is in Kindergarten, and I remembered how I was asked that question when I was her age. Unlike me, however, Avie knows what she wants to be when she grows up. A singer. Well, not any ordinary singer. A Singing Baker. So in a few years, if you hear about a bakery that just opened up where the baker sings, you’ll know it’s my child!
When I grow up (hey, I’m still growing!), I want to be where I am now. But just older.
Votes started coming in the minute I posted these albums onto my Facebook business page! Thank you to all who chimed in. It is always a lot of fun for me to see what people like because there are always a few surprises. This is me when I’m looking through the votes: “Ooh, interesting…why this one?!! Wait. What? Why not this one?!!” hahaha.
Without further ado, check out the results of people’s favorite images — as of today (voting is continuous). The #1 images in both categories, however, won by landslides, so those are pretty secured in their stately positions.
MOST DELICIOUS LIGHT OF 2015
Photos considered in The Most Delicious Light category were images where light played a significant role in the overall image.
The sweetness of this mother-baby moment wouldn’t be the same if the sunlight was “hard”.
The golden sunlight warms this engagement hand-holding image.
Found an abandoned farmhouse for this shot! Love the thin stream of hard light.
The sunlight is what brings attention to the streamers and her face…and creates even more JOY in the image.
Tied for #4
Love how the sunlight points out the boy’s long baby hair and lit up the tree in the background.
BEST MOMENTS OF 2015
A “moment” can be a split second in time, or it can be a moment that tells a story — whether sweet, emotional or humorous. Or all of the above!
Dancing with Dad
It LOOKS like candy.
The laughing rocker and her sister.
The moment you help your brother fly like an airplane and the wind blows your hair into beautiful lines in the sky.
Contrasting layers of an emotional human interaction with a city reflection. Soft and hard. Warm and cold. Curves and hard lines.
[This image also won the "Everyday Life" photography contest with iheartfaces.com in March 2015!]
Want to see more?
How do you
make bribe encourage your kids to get along, look happy, AND look natural in front of your camera when you photograph them all the time and they are not having any of it??? You work the entire shoot around drinking sweet thick eggnog and eating fresh out-of-the-oven, melt-in-your-mouth gooey chocolate chip cookies you made from scratch. That’s how!
So for my Styled Christmas Shoot of my kids, I am proud to say that all my props (excluding ingredients for the food) cost $8. The basket, bottles and straws were in the dollar section at a local store. The baker’s twine I already had, and the large glass bottle was a gift. Clothes were a mix of things we already had and a few items that tied everyone’s colors together. Total cost was $50.
The reason why I’m mentioning this is to show that you don’t need to spend a lot to have props in your shoot. Props can provide you with something to do, something to hold, and basically, a reason to not look at the camera — in addition to providing a secondary purpose, like being good bribery material (hee hee). [To see another Styled Shoot created on a dime, see my Train Station Shoot.]
Happy holidays to you and your loved ones this holiday season!
Styled Shoots involve more directing of subjects, which is a fun contrast to my regular shoots (Lifestyle Photography) that are more natural-flowing.
In this shoot with Crystal, for instance, I took her into a deserted building and a cemetery ==> NOT your typical photography locations. Some of that occurred on a whim because the other areas were occupied by another photographer. Instead of leaving altogether, I got more creative! It feels amazing to still achieve the quality of images I had visualized beforehand, even with the unplanned changes. Boo-yah!
Before diving into the behind-the-scenes (BTS) images, I’d like to share a phone selfie of me and Crystal taken before the shoot, so you can see what she looks like on a “normal” day. She is stylish, cute and gorgeous, right?!!
And, I know you’re thinking it, so I’m just gonna come out and say it for you… I need a tan! ;) Alright, let’s get to it!
I chose this area because I liked how the green in her top (it was a silk scarf!) matched the leaves in the tree, so I placed her here. Since she has never done a professional shoot before, I gave her a branch to hold, so her hands had something to do.
(PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Sometimes hands can look awkward. They need to have “a purpose”. Don’t just let them fall to the side. I call that “a dead arm”.)
I also love her muscular arms and back, so finding ways to curve and bend her body highlighted those areas. It also makes the image more editorial than headshot-y. (Do you like my formal terms?!!)
What I Shot
[Specs: ISO 400, 1/1000 sec, f/1.4, shade.]
I started shooting her in different angles (straight on with the cemetery behind her, through the trees, etc), but none of those gave me the “wow” effect that I wanted. I ended up moving closer and closer, and shot her from the side, as you see below.
I found the side view more flattering. It showed off her arms in a feminine way and created a harder line around her jaw, which I liked.
Also, from this side view, I can see her wrist tattoos, which offers a visual detail that I find interesting.
What I Shot
[Specs: ISO 400, 1/400 sec, f/1.8, open shade]
I could see that the sun was hitting the bush with the flowers, so I knew I wanted to shoot through that for a cool foreground bokeh. To get into position, I am looking through the viewfinder the entire time, so I guess I ended up in a funky legs-all-twisted kind of position! haha.
The other image (below right) shows me giving Crystal posing direction.
What I Shot
I love this shot of Crystal. She looks flirty and fun! Her stance also shows off her athletic build. (She is a volleyball athlete!)
[Specs: ISO 400, 1/1250 sec, f/1.4, speckled light]
So at the end of the shoot, I looked around for a strip of light. I visualized a dark environment with a tiny bit of light, so I could create more of an emotional, storytelling image than just “a pretty” one.
I found this strip of light inside a deserted building that worked great, however, based on how the sunlight streamed in, the light was very low to the ground. I gave Crystal directions to sit, kick off her shoes, and bend forward into the light. I painted a story for her so she would have “activities”, so that the image would have a story…
She was a girl at a party who stepped away from it to be alone for awhile so she could think. The rest was up to her. Was she sad? Pensive?
What I Shot
[Specs: ISO 250, 1/4000 sec, f/1.4, super bright stream of light]
Then I walked up to her to get a close-up.
I wanted to highlight the shapes from the light and shadows on her face and body, so I had her body produce even more shapes by making her limbs bend and her body asymmetric.
[Specs: ISO 320, 1/5000 sec, f/1.8, bright stream of light]
I don’t want to be sappy, but sometimes I can’t help it. When I think about Myra — my friend for over 25 years, a former roommate, a sister and twin — I sometimes get choked up. I’d tell you more, but then I may have to find my box of tissues, so let’s skip the details of why she is an awesome human being and special to me.
Anyhooooo, she recently started a blog, cleverly titled Eat, Drink, and Be Myra (I came up with the name, so of course I think it’s clever – ha!), so this weekend, as part of her birthday outing, we did a shoot for her new business venture.
The shoot was sandwiched between giggles, eating, catching up, and eating again… our usual activities.
Q: What do you do when your cousin gets a rockin’ haircut and visits you from the East Coast?
A: You dress her up in your clothes and take her out for a mini styled session!
Q: What do you do when you have only 1 hour for the entire shoot, including drive time, and the location you chose already has a professional photoshoot in session?
A: Shoot in the adjacent cemetery, of course!
I know, I know… that sounds horrifying, but it wasn’t. I promise! Crystal was game for anything as having a Styled Shoot was completely foreign to her, so everything we did was fun to her. (What an awesome model to have… one who is gorgeous, fun, funny, humble AND appreciative!)
We were also respectful of the location and tread quietly around the paths. Crystal even said “thank you” to the cemetery when we left. Now if that isn’t
a little weird creepy silly respectful, then I don’t know what is! ;) Love you, Crystal!!! <3