Though I did not want to be, I was an only child. I confess to envying my friends who had large families or even just one sibling.
Two or three times a week I get to observe preschool siblings (my grandkids) in action, and I see what I missed! Of course, there is some fighting and arguing, but overall, Jack and Mary Hollis show lots of love. When she says, "My Jackie," referring to her older brother, my heart melts! Having an older brother must be wonderful.
Last week, I had the joy of spending some time with these two brothers pictured below. Their sibling love was obvious from the first picture when Ryan immediately put his arm around his little brother. They happily shared the wagon and played together between taking photos. Brothers have a special connection.
If you are blessed to have a brother or sister, I hope you have treasured that relationship. Maybe you need to reflect on your childhood memories and rekindle the love that perhaps is no longer as easily expressed.
Just looking at the beautiful little boy above, you would never dream he had a very rough start. In fact, he was two months old before he was able to come home to be with his family. And I had the privilege earlier this week of helping document some of his awesome preciousness!
Seeing little Joel so strong and healthy just made me happy all over! I had been one of thousands of friends and even strangers who were praying for his complete recovery, for him to be able to come home. I myself was the recipient of that kind of outpouring of love and prayer just a few years ago and know how his family has been blessed by every act and word of encouragement.
You may know that I am not, nor do I plan to be, a baby photographer! The only baby "prop" I have is a white furry rug! These photos were taken just to provide his mom with some special photos before he gets much bigger! But what I learned is, regardless of the subject's age or the session location, most photography challenges remain the same!
We photographers definitely want good light! Since I am primarily an outdoor, natural light photographer, I was not equipped with extra lighting gear for an indoor session. I would be shooting manual and was hoping I would be able to find sufficient light sources without using artificial lighting. Fortunately, this home had wide windows allowing lots of softly diffused outdoor light to enter our setting. If you are a parent trying to get better photos of your children, consider letting them play in front of open doorways or non-covered windows where there is light but not harsh, direct sunlight. Get down on their level (let them remain stationary while you move around to find the best light) and take a few pictures (without flash!). Try to get the catchlights in their eyes. Some of my favorite pictures of my grandkids have been just inside my front door.
And, of course, any photographer wants to make the clients feel comfortable! Baby Joel (picture #4) let me know when he had had enough!! We knew he needed his mommy for a while before he could join us in getting more pictures! I've experienced the same thing with non-baby subjects! No, they don't cry, but they do communicate through body language that they would rather be doing something else! Many adults are uncomfortable having their photo taken--in fact, I have always been one of those people myself. If you are planning a family session, there is likely one person in your family who dreads the thought of pictures! I can certainly remember some very "unpleasant" Madison family beach pictures due to someone not acting very positive (without identifying specific people)!
Taking pictures can be fun, even for dads or teenaged sons! I like to think of the photography session as a time to get to know my clients and help them feel relaxed. If our priority is on connections and natural interactions and having a good time, rather than on looking perfect, we will likely be pleasantly surprised with the results: beautiful smiles, laughter, obvious joy. So, if you are planning a family session, emphasize the FUN you are going to have instead of making family members feel like they're going to a modeling session!
I love photography and when I have human subjects, I almost never tire of the challenge of getting good photos—those that show their personality, their energy, their connections. Even the most reticent preschooler or “my wife is making me do this”-dad is a challenge that I want to take on!
What was I thinking when, on January 1, I made a commitment to a 365-day-photo-challenge? At first there were fun things like snow and freezing weather with bubble experiments to photograph. But then came the rain and the gloom of February. No one is asking to have pictures taken on days that seem to promise more rain and, until this week, more chilly weather.
In spite of these would-be barriers, I have pushed through, and each day has brought something that I have found photo-worthy. But, as I looked at some of my favorite photographs from the past week (prior to our current spring-like weather), I had a sudden ah-ha moment. Many, if not all, of the subjects I photographed required some searching on my part, some intentional seeking of beauty. From a distance—from the vantage point of my sun room—they would not have been visible. I could have concluded that it’s winter, things are grey and gloomy, and I might as well give up on this 365-day-challenge.
When I left the sun room, camera around my neck and eyes wide open, I got closer to those mahonia shrubs and found their blossoms were home to bees and ladybugs. With my macro lens I was able to see details that I had not observed before.
Yes the yard was generally dead and without color. But, on closer inspection, I found tiny buds and tiny hyacinths, a few brave daffodils, and amazing seed pods. When we get close enough and when we have a great enough desire, it is possible to find intricate, colorful, and unique objects of beauty hidden among the dreary gloom of everyday life.
And that was my “ah-ha!” moment. What if I were as intent on finding beauty in people? What if I were as willing to invest my time and my knowledge and to get close enough to discover that an other-wise ordinary person is not so ordinary after all? What a beautiful world it would be!
I picked up the grandkids from WeekDay today with anticipation in my heart! I was looking forward to a cookie/milk break and making play dough. As I unloaded groceries, Jack and MH decided to explore the back of the van. They were having lots of fun hiding and “imagining” so, of course, I ran inside to grab my camera. Spur of the moment, serendipitous opportunity to catch these sweet faces.
Later, inside while I made playdough, they showed no interest in snack time; rather, MH found some Tow Mater tow trucks that change color when dipped in warm or cold water. I set up a couple of bowls in the sink, Mary Hollis dragged up a stool, and she was happy, along with Jack who joined the fun, for the next thirty minutes or so. No interest in my play dough!
As a child of the 50’s, I remember those playtimes when I could be creative and imagine and do what I wanted to do. For me, an only child, they were often time with just me. But I made so many happy memories with modeling clay, paper dolls, and little red vinyl 45 rpm records.
Children need time to just play. Toys or organized events don’t have to be the main thing. They do need parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who quietly keep an eye on them while letting them enjoy the “little things.”
The playdough may have to wait for another day. And I have to go finish a hide-n-seek game!
I knew when I first saw Tabitha and her almost three-year-old at my granddaughter's weekday school that I wanted to try to capture their beauty, love, and connection. And, I'm not shy, so I asked if we could set up a session. A beautiful day finally came, and we got together. Tabitha chose a perfect wardrobe for the two of them, the light was perfect, but. . .Little One started out in a not-so-perfect mood due to having been awakened from her nap too soon.
It was an opportunity for me to practice patience and wait and watch for those quick smiles. By the end of the session, we had more photos than we needed! I loved getting to know this amazing young mother and her daughter. I hope they will treasure these photos when K is much older as a reminder of a special day in the life of one about to turn three. Happy birthday, K, and enjoy your princess party next week!
Today is 100 days of school for my grandson. Last night his mother posted pictures on FB of him and his 100 Crayola crayons that he was counting and packing to take to preschool today. So, when he arrived at my house and sat down for breakfast, I asked him if he could count to 100 for me. Of course he could! What joy Papaw and I had as we watched his face as he got closer and closer to the magic "100". It was one of those moments I wanted to freeze and keep forever.
Parents and grandparents of any age child, but especially preschoolers, experience those feelings of wanting to hang on to every precious moment and to never forget the expressions, the activities, and the joy of being a child. My own three children grew up in the 70's and 80's before digital cameras and cell phones that make it so easy to snap a picture. My relatively sparse collection of their childhood photographs does not adequately capture all their cute moments, their awkward phases, their relationships with toys, pets, friends, and each other.
Being a grandparent has given me a "do-over" experience--not with my own children, but with my grandchildren. Although I don't see the older two very often, they know that when Lottie arrives, so does her camera, and so do her expectations of taking loads of pictures! The younger two, who are at my house multiple times a week, are becoming pros at this: "Look, Lottie, here is a pocket of light!" "Lottie, I see a bird in your yard!" "Lottie, I want to take a picture!" I'm blessed to be able to document their childhood and add my memories to those of their parents.
Today, I was reminded through Jack of his Uncle Matt when he was the same age, of his love of lining up toys (usually little cars, but also the same soldiers Jack was playing with). I'm counting the memories as Jack and I count dinosaurs and Indians and soldiers and crayons. Joyful day!
During the recent cold weather here in North Alabama, my husband and I had fun (he might debate that!) trying to create bubbles that would land on the ground and freeze, enabling me to photograph them. Instead, our bubbles floated away, making it very difficult to take pictures of them! The one above was one of the few that I captured that contained a reflection, which is what I really wanted to get.
Have you noticed how much little boys often reflect what they have seen in their dads? My daughter told me a few months back that her four-year-old had decided he didn't need to sleep in a pajama shirt anymore--he had noticed that his dad didn't, and, therefore, he concluded that he didn't need to either. (Never mind that it was winter and nights were cold!)
I had my own opportunity to observe this desire to imitate or reflect something of his dad recently when they were at our house for Sunday lunch following church. Jack had on his oxford button-down when he arrived, but I noticed when he sat down to eat that he was shirtless! His dad always takes off his outer shirt prior to eating our typical Sunday spaghetti meal and hangs it on a chair. There, in the dining room, was Jack's Sunday shirt hanging beside his dad's.
I love that Jack wants to be like his dad! And, because I'm always taking his picture, I often see just how much he looks like his dad! Someday, these photographs will remind his parents of these sweet times when a boy wanted to be just like his dad.