I confer a lot with my twelve year old on what’s hip, and what’s not.

Did you know that fresh actually means cool?

And did you know that tide pods actually taste like candy?

I sure didn’t.

So I asked my three daughters if they wanted to jump on the bandwagon of craft store photoshoots and they squealed with ear piercing glee.

Huh, who knew following the latest trends would make me the “Cool Mom”. 

The-More-You-Know

So off we went to Joann craft store.

I can see the allure of this type of shoot, and why the idea went viral. The lighting inside these giant craft stores are utterly terrible: fluorescent, flickering, dull, rage inducing. So the challenge is high to get shots that are exposed correctly, sharp focused, etc.

It’s also fun to “steal” these floral backdrops for a few minutes and then leave the store without actually buying anything. 

DSC_2847-Edit

Laceybw

I paid my twelve year old the sum of $5 to follow me around with my backup Nikon so I could clip together some shaky, yet useable, footage of this shoot.

Joann Photoshoot

Enjoy Peons.

And here are the rest of the edited shots from this shoot:

DSC_2859-Edit

DSC_2843-Edit

DSC_2862-Edit

DSC_2833-Edit-Edit

 

 

Advertisements

This is a birth story.

But this is NOT a story about giving birth.

We’ve all read a million blogs telling first hand accounts of their birth story’s. Contractions. Water breaks. Contractions. Pushing. Pushing. Contractions. Fart. Hemorrhoid. Baby. Tears. 

This is not one of THOSE birth story’s.

I mean, yes, all of that did happen……technically. But this story is a first hand account of birth from the other side (which I found much more enjoyable to be honest).

It all started the day before Katherine went into labor. We squeezed a short maternity shoot into our hectic schedules. We laughed through the whole shoot, and even harder and longer at the “unusables“. We laughed for over an hour.

DSC_1100

I still maintain that Katty laughed herself into labor because she went into active labor the next day.

I met her at her house around three where she was laboring at home for as long as she could. She kept saying  “I don’t think this is really it. You should go home

But I knew. I knew from the way she breathed, the white knuckled grip, the arching back; I wouldn’t be going home.

So I meandered around her house for the next seven hours, we ate beef stew and played dominoes. (I told her in a few hours she would be enjoying the stew again via vomit).

I encouraged Katty to walk around her house, to enjoy the quiet, the tidiness, the peace. Because her house would never again feel so empty.

She disappeared for a while, likely overwhelmed by the rush of emotions. There is always a moment when it feels like your world is crumbling around you. You know your whole life is about to be different. You know it’s too late to go back. It’s scary. And it’s overwhelming. But it’s also necessary. And when she needed a moment alone, to wrap herself in the realization that THIS was actually it, we left her alone.

Let’s fast forward to 10:00pm when Katherine decided it was time to head to the hospital.  I got lost on the way. I do that. When I showed up Katty was dilated to a 5.

DSC_1260

There is such a different atmosphere in birthing rooms, such a stark difference to the aura of sadness and anxiety that envelopes the rest of the hospital. Birthing rooms buzz with excitement and promise. I walked into Katherine’s room and a flood of memories washed through me. This was familiar. I’d done this before (Three times), and this time I didn’t have to be in pain. Can I get a Hallelujah?!

 

Still, as familiar as I was with the whole process, I had never experienced it from the other side before. I wasn’t prepared to be knocked on my ass by humility. I wasn’t prepared to feel frightened and inspired by Katherine’s pain. I wasn’t prepared to discover a whole new definition for “Awe”. But indeed I did.

DSC_1292

It was almost like a car accident. You want to turn away but you don’t want to miss anything.

DSC_1271DSC_1276

It was hard to watch. We all breathed with her during contractions and, in fact, I clenched with her as rode out the waves of pain. I started getting cramps before I realized what I was doing and mentally kicked myself in the shin.

Katherine rode the Pain Train for hour after hour. Andrew alternated between rubbing her back and letting her hang on him for support. Such a lovely team.

Although, we all kept wondering how Andrew could look so damn perfect and be so damn chipper.

He was practically vibrating with excitement.

Katherine….not so much.

DSC_1320

At this point we were all exhausted (except for Andrew who couldn’t sit still). It’s actually extremely hard to watch someone go through so much pain and not be able to do anything about it. Katherine’s mom, my aunt Teresa, had a grimace of pain in every picture. It made me wonder if I would be the same way if I were in her position and it was MY daughter giving birth. Teresa was there when I was born, helping my mother the same way she helped Katherine. I’d never seen my Auntie so quiet, offering the comfort and assistance that she couldn’t verbally. It was beautiful to watch; A night of action, not words.

DSC_1377

Things went from 0-60 real quick after the nurse told us that Katherine was fully dilated. Suddenly our weary bones perked up, the exhaustion left and it was time to rock and roll.

Thinking back to my own births, I didn’t remember being such a bad-ass. I mean, I’m sure I was, but I wasn’t concentrating on anything else but getting the damn parasite out of me. Looking at Katherine, gathering her remaining strength to push over and over and over, made me realize the strength of us women. We are awesome! We were built for this purpose, our bodies know how to take us through to the end.

As Spock would say “Fascinating”.

I wasn’t silent for the whole thing. My mantra for the night was “Katty stop holding your breath”. I may have said that 52 times that night. And then I shut up. Because she didn’t need me anymore, or Andrew or her Mom. I watched Katherine’s instincts take over, watched her body flow through the moves that billions of women had done before her. She had this.

DSC_1355

DSC_1417

DSC_1361

DSC_1369

There were a lot of firsts that night, and I stood there humbled as we all experienced them together, in our own way. My plan was to take a picture of the clock on the wall, the minute Prestyn was born. But as I panned over I caught Andrews first moment seeing his daughter’s face.

DSC_1421

DSC_1426

I often told Katty that there is no pain like the pain of pushing out your baby…..

DSC_1427

DSC_1429

……and there is no moment quite like the moment you first see your baby. You only get to experience it once. The moment of awe.

DSC_1441

And the “We did it” moment.

DSC_1439

And all of a sudden, our family was a little bigger. 6lbs 11 ounces bigger. And Prestyn was just there, like she’d always been there. She wailed a hearty cry, covered in goo and sporting fiery red hair. And she was perfect.

DSC_1452

In some ways it was kind of terrible being the photographer in this particular scenario. I was the silent observer, trying with all my might to melt into the shadows, to keep my shutter clicks from bothering Katty. I didn’t help her rough through her contractions even though I wanted to. I could’t cry when Prestyn came out because then I wouldn’t be able to see through my lens. I feel like I missed out a little bit on the whole experience.

BUT (and this is a huge but), I got something priceless in return. Not only did I get to watch this beautiful little girl take her first breath, I got to photograph it.

DSC_1457

This little human who was brand new to the world had never EVER had her picture taken before. I was the first. That’s special. I will always have that.

As a photographer there is no greater honor.

DSC_1470

DSC_1474

DSC_1477DSC_1476

 

How quickly you forget how tiny they can be, how precious. And just how different your world feels afterward. 

DSC_1499

I went home to my own children with renewed vigor and the memory of what I went through to bring them into this world. I never knew how bad ass I was. I did this three times! and yet I didn’t fully appreciate it until I watched it from the other side.

I learned so much about Katherine and myself and life that night. But out of all the things I learned and forgot about my own births, I remembered THIS moment clearly:

Joy.

DSC_1533

A Song and a Self Portrait

“What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
What of the righteous?
What of the charitable?
What of the truthful, the dutiful, the decent?

Fin

Doomed are the poor
Doomed are the peaceful
Doomed are the meek
Doomed are the merciful
For the word is now death
And the word is now without light”

-APC-

Here’s a life hack: dont ever tell me an interesting tidbit about yourself and expect that I won’t want to photograph it.

I have an obsession with photographing interesting.

So that’s what happened when my friend Dave told me he used to pose nude at the college for art students.

Not a lot of men are comfortable in front of the camera, and even less are comfortable nude. Praise Jesus For such an opportunity! 

I needed him for my portfolio (which is 99.9999% women).

Of course he said yes. Who wouldn’t want to work with me? Who wouldn’t want to strip down (with the possibility of being drenched in fake blood), be yelled at and asked to do awkward things? Nobody! Because as hard as my photo shoots are to get through, the end results speak for themselves.

When Dave came over for the shoot he brought his confidence and his friend Jim Beam. Perfect. 

The great thing about my job is that I’m able to see past the fake smiles and what people try to hide. I make it my objective to shoot the expressions in-between the posed shots. Those tiny moments when real emotion seeps out.

                                         Posed is nice, but pensive is better. 

 

It’s taken me years to develop the skills to be able to bring these expressions out of people. The right questions need to be asked, the right tone, the right words. It’s a unique formula that I am still developing. The result…..

DSC_6910

…breathtaking. (Lets all take a moment to pat me on the back. Come on. Don’t be shy)

DSC_6974

Dave has a beautiful soul and I wanted to capture that.

DSC_6829

DSC_7039

 

I have these moments during a shoot where I completely leave the world around me. My brain automatically takes control over the technical jargon that I’ve spent years and years jamming into my head (Don’t forget the rule of thirds, ISO, depth of focus, shutter speeds, apertures, angles, lighting etc etc). I’m glad my brain doesn’t need much focus for that stuff, because it leaves space for the artist in me to come alive. For me to become the character I want to portray.

And while I was shooting Dave, my brain ran absolutely wild with ideas. The mood shifted. And suddenly I had a story I wanted to tell.

“Don’t freak out” I told him. “I have an idea”.

DSC_7237

I am so grateful to him for not ruining my vision with awkwardness, and for not questioning my professionalism. Bless him for following my directions so perfectly (even when I was slightly manic).

Pretend you hate me. Pull my hair. Put your hands on my throat. Pretend you love me. Don’t worry about the pain. Squeeze my arm. Perfecto!

I become quite bossy when I have a vision.

DSC_7265

But Dave didn’t actually need too many instructions. As though being naked hieghtened all vulnerability and he was standing there with such raw emotions only inches under his skin.

Great stuff.

cen2

This shoot could have gone south a bajillion times over (I mean, come on), but Dave’s natural theatrics came through and we were able to tell a beautiful story. These photos leave so many questions unanswered. They leave you feeling split open, melancholy (Hi Ali!), self righteous, angry. All the good feelings. All the bad feelings. All of them. And if I can do that, then I did my job. People say art needs to SPEAK. I say NAY!! ART NEEDS TO SCREAM. ART NEEDS TO SLAP YOU IN THE FACE. ART NEEDS TO LEAVE YOU BLEEDING. Because how else can you confront those emotions? Art, baby, art.

Cen1

My Aunt Zoila tried hard to get me into modeling when I was younger. That was until I found my calling behind the camera, and a style that might have looked a tiny bit out of place in a Sears ad. But I suppose I could be called both. I enjoy taking self portraits, I love conveying emotions in my pictures. Lately I’ve been trying to find models other than myself (I’m sure my readers are getting tired of seeing my face over and over again). But its nice to jump into a photoshoot every once in a while knowing I can put into it exactly what I need. Nicer still is to find people who can throw me such raw emotions, especially knowing what I usually put my models through.

Bravo Dave! 

P.s. I need to learn how to hide my shutter release remote better. You can see it in almost every picture! *face palm*

 

 

My cousin Katty called me one day to tell me about a wonderful photography opportunity.

Rebecca.

Rebecca, she said, had the most glorious waist-length hair. And was actually willing to let us photograph her. (Some people balk when they see my wild eyes and hear my even wilder ideas).

I love when opportunity calls. Or rather, I love when opportunity calls Katty, who then calls me. 

The Walking Hair showed up at my house, shiny, soft and connected to a shy, exotic face. My mind went full tsar bomba and exploded with possibilities.

We can have the fan blowing her wonderful mane around her face!

We can splay it around her head and shoot her from above! 

We can strip her naked and have her black tresses shield her private parts! 

As with all idea that come from my brain, some worked great! Some did not…..

I’ve never had long hair before so I wasn’t aware how heavy it would be. My tiny fan was NOT cutting it. Coupled with the fact that it was freezing that day, so my beautiful Hair (connected to Rebecca) was cold.

We stuck a space heater on Rebecca AND the fan, set up lights and got to work. (I’m surprised she didn’t leave my house with the sniffles).

DSC_2285

We are about 0.325 milliseconds away from blowing a fuse here. We used two umbrellas and an accent light, aka a hair light, to add a nice sheen to her hair.

I wished at the time the fusion of hot and cold air would create a tornado and swirl around Rebecca’s hair magically, but no such magic happened…woe is me.

DSC_2068

It was extremely difficult to get her hair to cooperate, and I remembered why I’ve always kept mine short. Still, the beauty of it, the flowing chocolate waves, were mesmerizing to watch. And she seemed to know how to tame it.

It took some finagling with the fan and positions but we finally managed to score some beautiful images.

Hair2LR (1 of 1)

Soon after, we abandoned the idea of blowing hair (pouty lip), and took some glamour shots with her hair down and natural.

And then….oh! 

Magic! 

Rebecca reiterated over and over how she was not a professional model. That she didn’t know what to do, how to position her arms, her face, her hands. I was shocked by this. I thought she did amazing. Or maybe it was her quiet, shy nature that really made this shoot. 

I didn’t give her much direction with her face, somehow knowing her eyes would speak (which is usually the case with quiet people). And a reserved melancholy oozed from her skin.

Hair1LR (1 of 1)

hair4

Suddenly the shoot wasn’t about her hair anymore. She was no longer a walking wig. Instead she became Rebecca, quiet, sweet, and full of a secret sorrow. Rebecca, who’s face tells the story we all want to hear. She was Rebecca, who just happened to have long hair. Ahh, the sweet bliss of a photo shoot transforming itself. 

Hair 4

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t see it. I hadn’t met Rebecca before this day, I didn’t KNOW her, so I was dead set on shooting a beautiful girl with magical, Rapunzel hair. I never imagined it would turn into something more, (you’d think I’d know by now that my shoots never go as planned!). I’m not sad that it turned out differently. Just ashamed that it took half of our allotted time to see that this young (barely legal) girl could portray such emotion, and throw out such epic shots. Goosebumps.

DSC_2432

A waterfall of chocolate hair walked into my house, and a sweet, sad and brave girl walked out.

I only met Rebecca that one time. It’s been a year and I haven’t seen her since. But she taught me a lot!  Don’t assume. Don’t hold so tightly to ideas in your head. Don’t judge a book by it’s hair. 

 

I’ve been so fixated lately on finding models with an aesthetically pleasing quality. When the truth is, that beauty really IS on the inside. And sometimes it oozes out in time for me to photograph.