This year I set a goal for myself. Inspired by the countless photography accounts I follow on social media, I’ve decided to engage in a 365 Photography Challenge. The basic rule of the challenge is that you’ll take and post a picture a day. That’s easy enough (no, it’s not, but it sounds like it), but I saddled myself with an extended challenge. As I was looking through the pictures I’ve taken in 2017, I was kind of blown away by how much my children (who are quite clearly my muses) have grown in just the course of a single year, and so I thought that it would be a neat idea (and one that would prove rewarding) to document their year in portraits, and so my 365 is all about capturing a picture of each of my kids every single day. It’s only been a week and it’s proving a touch overwhelming because it can never be about a picture but has to be about trying new things and new edits and telling new stories and so, while I know I’m overthinking it, I have given myself quite the task. So far, my two girls are at least excited about their daily portraits (my son is not the most cooperative child), but we’ll see how long that optimism lasts.
With a new project comes a new look/goal for the site. I started this series (Let Me Tell You a Story…) mid last year, but I couldn’t keep it up as consistently as I wanted, and let’s be frank…my ideas about how it should look and read changed a lot. So, this year I’m reinstituting the series, worked around my daily portraits. As much as this is a photography site, this is also a site about storytelling, and what better way to tell a story than through shared experience.
For their first portrait, I figured the best way to start a new project/new year was with early morning light bedhead pics. I’m not comfortable with low light indoor pictures, and so I’m hoping that this project will break me out of my comfort zone and improve/expand my skills, but more on that later.
Daddy’s Little Helpers
We had friends (Jon and his wife) in over this past week (actually we’ve had company for two weeks now) and so we’ve been pretty busy. One of the things we decided to do was plan and prepare a big meal. If you’ve followed this blog at all, you’re most likely aware that I’m a bit of a foodie and quite enjoy cooking myself. I’ve planned meals to include my children in preparing, and have told myself many times that I would actively do more of that, but more often than not I try and do the cooking myself.
I love being in the kitchen. Cooking, especially a big meal, gives me a sense of calm and control that a lot of times throughout the day I feel a lack of, and so sharing the kitchen with others, especially kids that I have to help constantly, chips away from that feeling of calm and control. If I could spend the day ALONE in the kitchen every day, I think I would, but alas, that’s not realistic.
And I know that this makes me sound like a bad dad. I’m fully aware of the fact that cooking with your kids is a good thing and helps set them up for later in life, since cooking is a wonderful skill to hone. In fact, I have wonderful memories of being a youngster and cooking with my mother, so I had the training and the example (and every time my kids wind up at Nana’s I hear about how awesome a time they had cooking something), but I do everything with my kids so I think I deserve this alone time, right?
Regardless, I’ve decided to make good on that promise to myself to include them more. That all started this past Tuesday when Jon and I made lobster mac and garlic shrimp burgers. We had an open afternoon (my wife was at work and his wife was resting) and so we spent a few hours listening to Spotify and letting the kids shell shrimp and cook lobster and toast buns and you know what, it wasn’t awful. LOL, it was actually kind of great. My eldest is now pretty happy that she’s the first person in our family to cook a lobster, and my son was so proud of the bread he made. Seeing their happy faces always gives that sense of calm, so it sounds like a good trade off.
I also have two very picky eaters (the two youngest) and so maybe having them involved in cooking new things will inspire them to actually try eating them!
The Most Magical Days in the World
If the kitchen is my happy place, Disney World is our family’s happy place. We literally cannot be in a bad mood while there. Rain, shine, crowded, empty, hot, cold; it’s all good. Wednesday we took Jon to Disney for the first time. Jon and his wife don’t have kids and live in TX, so obviously Disney World is not high on their list of places to go, but every time they come to visit we talk about dragging them to the park with us. This time it wasn’t just talk.
We went to Animal Kingdom on what has to be the coldest day in Florida history. We rolled into the parking lot and it was pouring rain and 39 degrees outside, but we were all smiles, even Jon (but he’s like the most easy going person I know so he may have been dying on the inside, but we’d never know). It warmed up to like 46 degrees after lunch, and the rain stopped, but we still had a great time.
Pandora is pretty much the coolest place at Disney right now, and I’m not even an Avatar fan (the graphics weren’t even that great). The flight simulator is the single greatest ride I’ve ever been on, and the whole construction of the place is absolutely spellbinding. That’s the magical thing about Disney; each park truly transports you somewhere new. Animal Kingdom in particular is a wonder for the eyes, with each continent being so richly represented (except for Dino Land, which is a sore spot in an otherwise brilliantly conceptualized park). It was neat to experience it with someone who’d never been there before. It’s like watching a movie you can’t stop talking about with someone who has yet to see it; there is just this satisfaction (laced with a tinge of fear) that comes from watching them take it all in.
To hear him talk about buying season passes made me smile.
I know that a lot of people talk negatively about Disney World, about the money pit/over crowded atmosphere, but I don’t see it. To each his own (and I’m sure there is a much larger debate/discussion here), but I’m more than happy to make Disney mine.
My Greatest Showmen
Took the kids to see The Greatest Showman this week. Long story short, it’s pretty entertaining (it’s a musical about the circus, so that’s kind of a give in), but it’s complete and utter fluff. On the way home we Googled quite a bit about P. T. Barnum’s life and this particular film was mostly a fabrication (from the timeline to the actions), very loosely based on his life. That said, it was a fun time in the theater, with grand visuals and catchy songs/choreography. The acting was, decent at best, and the songs were too modern for the setting, but the sets, costumes and cinematography were absolutely breathtaking.
I’m a sucker for a musical, especially one with such a nostalgic theme and the words ‘grand spectacle’ slathered all over it. I also understand that my cinephile roots make me a little more critical of films that are merely there for entertainment. I wanted a more realistic portrayal of Barnum, warts and all, and while the film brings up things like Barnum’s disillusionment with his fame, and a possible attraction to another woman, and the way he used others when his star power went to his head, the film conveniently drops those plot points when they start to get too heavy. It’s a PG rated family film, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with why they steered the film in certain directions, but at the end of the day it just feels too light to be a biopic. It feels like a fictional Disney circus movie. When the film ended, Jon and I both said that the film felt like what you’d get if you took a Disney animated film and made it live action.
Still, I’d watch it again.
The kids and I were inspired to give our takes on Barnum with some ‘ringmaster’ portraits, and I love how their personalities are so prevalent in their portraits. My son is a complete ham, and it shows in his kissy lips and inability to sit up (yes, this crop was necessary because he wouldn’t sit still for two seconds). My eldest is in her pre-teen moody stage (despite only being 10) and so model stares and looks of complete disinterest are the name of her game, despite the fact that she secretly loves having her picture taken (at least I hope that’s the case). And then you have my youngest daughter, who is coming into her own as a spitfire who loves the camera. Working with them everyday like this has been so much fun.
A Little Fine Tuning
So, one of the things that I want to get out of this project is an advancement of my photography skills and more comfort with my camera. I am so used to using my camera outdoors and have only used it minimally indoors (yes, I use it, but always with an external flash) that I wanted to explore natural light within the low light atmosphere of my home, creating moody and interesting portraits with the light at hand. So, this week I played with the settings on my camera and attempted to capture some more dramatic moments with the kids. Inspired by artsy film posters and backstories of tortured musical geniuses, I kind of love how these three portraits turned out.
I took these at a very low exposure with a small lamp shining directly on my kids from the left, casting an amber glow across the keys of the piano. I also chose to take these portraits from three varied vantage points so as to create a more well rounded collection and give different feels to each picture. Editing was fun and explorative as I used heavy vignettes, over clarification and fluctuating cool and warm tones to capture the almost eerie mood I was going for.
I have a lot to learn and hone with moody low light photography, but I’m excited with this start. I’m always open to suggestions and critique, so if you have any pointers I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!
With Our Own Eight Hands
One of the things about living in Florida and having palm trees in your yard is that they need to be maintained, which is something that I apparently need help with because my yard is always tarnished by drooping fronds that skirt the ground. Whenever Jon comes to visit, he helps me trim my palms to the best of our ability (they’re pretty tall) and so Friday, his last day here, we trimmed them up, leaving my front yard to look like a palm tree graveyard. Now these fronds will all need to be cut down and bundled in order for the city to remove them, but before that happens I thought it would be fun to let the kids play with them.
Saturday afternoon, the weather finally starting to warm up, we decided to built a fort made out of fronds and twine. Now, I’m not the most ‘handy’ of men. I’ll admit this. I’ve never been. This is why I wait until Jon comes to visit to get most of what I need done around the house done. He’s handy. So when it came to actually building a fort with the kids, I felt kind of bad. I had no idea what I was doing. That feeling of aimlessness often leads to frustration, which then leads to me getting irritable, which is never a great thing when you’re trying to do something ‘fun’ with the kids. So, while the boy is running around like a psycho hitting everyone with sticks, I did a lot of tempered breathing to tune him out and try and wrap my head around what I needed to do. The thing is, palm fronds are not the most sturdy of materials. They are huge and oddly proportioned so that they weight heavy and bend too easily and so getting them to stay upright took some serious finagling.
I decided that creating a teepee was my best option, and so using dead trunk pieces as a base I made a triangular teepee skeleton and bound it with some heavy twine (nearly rope) so that they wouldn’t come apart at the top. They I took the greener freshly cut fronds and cut them practically in half, using sheers to cut them into points at the bottom so that I could drive them into the ground and lean them against the base, using more twine to interlock them together. It wasn’t pretty or very sturdy, but for the afternoon it worked (it did not withstand the wind of the night), and the kids were pretty proud of it.
I have to admit, so was I. Like I said, I’m not a very handy person, but I didn’t Google how to make this tent of sorts, and I didn’t even get help from Jon (I did call him in a panic on the outset of my venture, but I went a different route than his suggestion).
Watching the Sun Kiss the Sea
I honestly can’t think of a better way to end the day than by watching the sun kiss the sea. I’m at the beach a lot, especially lately, but more often it’s with clients than with my family. The first year we lived in Florida, we took the kids to the beach almost every Wednesday night to watch the sun set, and they were my favorite evenings of the week. So, last night the wife and I decided to get out and venture to the beach with the littles. One of our favorite beaches has to be at the Charlotte Harbor. It’s not a beach in the way one might expect a Florida beach to be, for it is a harbor and mostly consists of a boardwalk and about ten feet of actual beach leading to a body of water that resembles a lake, but it’s gorgeous and the sunset there is always spectacular. It’s also adjacent to a park, which the two youngest LOVE, and has such scenic spots all over the place. I’ve done a few shoots there and love the variety of options. The beach also gave me an excuse to get out my new lens and test it in the ever changing light of the sunset.
I think I’m in love.
So, there’s my week in pictures and pondering. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little exploration of my ‘life in a post’. I’m excited to share this coming week with you as well!
Song of the Week: This Is Not The End
So, instead of sharing a playlist every week, I think I may merely share my favorite release of the week. It’s early in the year and so I don’t expect a bounty of great music just yet, but there were a handful of songs I enjoyed this past week. Brothers Osborne and Devin Dawson delivered two very different takes on Country music, both with great results. I particularly loved the honky-tonk vibe to Shoot Me Straight. Boyz II Men join Charlie Puth for the R&B ballad, I You Leave Me Now, and I have to say they make a magical partnership. But, for me, the standout song of the week is MILCK’s powerful This Is Not The End. From the lyrics to the vocal delivery to the poignancy of the message, this song is one that could last the year as one of my personal favorties. The way it is laced with such vulnerability, it just emotes beautifully. I hope you check it out!