Geauga Mechanical Corporate Headshots

A few weeks ago I packed up my lights, gray seamless backdrop, and other lighting gear, and drove to Geauga Mechanical Inc. for a few hours to photograph employee headshots for an upcoming update to the company website.

There isn’t much to say about the headshot session. I commandeered the lunchroom and by the time employees began to get out of a company meeting I had the room set up for photos. The beauty of headshot jobs and the inherent tight framing of the photos is that you can squeeze a makeshift studio in the most unlikely of places. The photographing went smoothly and successfully. The Geauga Mechanical crew were pros and employees cycled through in front of the camera and went back to work as the next person came into the room.

Along with the headshots I was also hired to photograph some exterior photos of the Geauga Mechanical building for the new website. Architectural photography isn’t my focus at this point and the exterior photos were a side project tacked onto the headshot work, but tacked on or not, the exterior images were more challenging than the portrait work in some ways. The building’s black windows are the most interesting aspect to the building, but they also function as one large mirror reflecting the surrounding landscape. I scouted the building a few different times at various times of day and decided, rather than fighting the reflections or dealing with them during processing (no less a nightmare), to use the feature and photographed the building with a late day sunset reflected in the windows.

Thanks to Geauga Mechanical for the work and support.

Missing the Moment and Digital Overload

Our daughters, Charlotte and Abigail, both had their birthday in the last 2 weeks ; a 6th and 9th, respectively. Needless to say, there has been a lot of cake and candles blown out around our house recently.

That recent bout of parties had me thinking again about an issue I have been bumping against for the past year and that, as society become more technology laden and social network driven, has been gaining notice from others as well: How much should I try to document my family’s lives by photographing them and how often should I leave the camera down and experience things in the moment without it?

It’s no longer a new phenomenon to have a sea of glowing smart phones held high and recording at concerts, speeches, graduations, and all manner of events that used to be enjoyed in the moment[1]. Even family parties. Worldwide we have rapidly become a society that feels the need to document and share everything.

Could it be that hiding behind a camera, experiencing events through the viewfinder or LCD might actually be taking away from our experience of it? Interrupting our formation of memories of what we experience? There is some evidence that taking photographs might obstruct our memories of events rather than assist them. Personally, I know that over time I began to feel like I hadn’t witnessed my kids blowing out birthday candles without watching it through a camera in quite some time. And it felt like a loss.

I suspect that everyone will have a different personal threshold for when they begin to feel that they are missing out on things when photographing them. Lately, I have begun to put my camera down much more during family events. And I’ve been enjoying it. I feel more involved, and there really is nothing like meeting your child’s eyes with your own over a glowing cake or wrapped present and seeing and sharing the excitement you see in them.

I still take photographs at family events just not as many and, if I feel I need more photos, other family members bring cameras and share their photos freely. But how many photos of an event or moment do we need?

Digital Overload

“Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them.”[2]

As I’ve put the camera down more for personal events, I have also begun to relax some about documenting every part of our children’s lives. There are simply too many moments and too many image files produced when I try for that to be possible. And to what end? Most of those images will linger on my computer never to be used. Do I ever go back and look at them all? Rarely. I’ve rated the best ones and sort by those when viewing my archives.

Will my kids want to browse thousands of images when they are older like I used to dig into the shoeboxes and print albums of my parents. Possibly, but those shoeboxes and albums contained degrees of magnitude less physical photos than people are producing today with multiple image files produced from rapid-fired digital exposures (often all of quite similar expressions and moments only seconds apart). It’s much more likely that in the future my kids will page through our yearly photobooks (made from my highest rated images) to reminisce rather than wade through bloated folders of digital files on multiple hard drives.

It’s Personal

I’ve found that I need to remind myself that our family events aren’t paying jobs, it’s personal. I don’t need 100 images from a cake cutting to show a client. I am the client. While I do try to make quality, special, and skillful photos of my family to fill our yearbooks, (we all like to look at pretty photography and it’s still good practice to keep my photography skills active) I don’t want to sacrifice actual memories of the moment to do that. I’ve needed to find a compromise, and, at times, am still seeking it. I still photograph family events but less than before and I play more outside of those events making photographs at other times, or staging them at times with my kids’ help.

Maybe it’s time to put the camera phones and DSLRs down more often and reenter, re-interact with the moments and people around us in our personal lives. Or maybe that boat has long since sailed and we are living in a time and generation in which social interactions have evolved through technology into something different than they were. Maybe part of socially interacting has changed to include the immediate or post-event sharing of images and videos with each other and absent friends. It has become obvious to me that, as my kids grow, my wife and I will have to constantly monitor and evaluate the invasiveness of technology in their lives. Road trips that used to involve board games and reading when I was young, for my kids involve movie and electronic time limits and repeated urges by me to look away from the screens to the beauty outside. My wife and I will have to guide our kids in finding a balance for technology in their social lives. In the safe, respectful and even ethical use of the making and sharing of media that is so easily produced today on pocketable devices as we also make concessions to a rapidly changing time when technology is becoming more ingrained in everyday life.
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We will have to show our kids that the moment isn’t within the pixels of a screen but behind it. Show them that a captured moment isn’t the same as an experienced one, and, at the same time, remind myself.


  1. It’s not a new phenomenon but it is increasingly annoying. Bear in mind that most of the people attempting to document whatever event they are at are in conditions and distances that will result in files that are nearly unusable or really indecipherable.  ↩

  2. “Taking photographs ruins the memory, research finds.” The abstract for the actual research paper by Dr. Linda Henkel can be found here.  ↩

Birthday Cone

This 6-year-old skipped a cake on her birthday this past Tuesday since there will be one at the family party this weekend and decided on a birthday cone instead.

A Morning of Portraits with Tess

A few Saturday’s ago I met Tess and her parents at a local park for a portrait session. Selecting parks for portrait session locations is tough. The ideal park isn’t crowded (at least during the photographing period) and has a good mix of natural “backdrops” (brick walls, trees, playsets, etc.) with some shade. We were lucky with our final location choice.

For a warm, sunny weekend morning the park wasn’t very busy and the portraits turned out great. Primarily because Tess brought a lot of smiles. Yesterday Tess turned 1 year-old.

Happy Birthday Tess.

9 Months Big

I spent a little time Monday morning photographing my nephew, Reid, for his 9-month pictures. I’ve rarely met a happier toddler, but Reid was off his usually jubilant mood that morning likely due to the pain from the 2 upper teeth he was cutting. Still we were able to power through at times for some smiles.

My sister once again had the chalkboard wall in her basement caligraphied and ready with Reid’s updated milestones since his 6-month photos, unfortunately this time she chalked those milestones down with permanent chalk markers. It’s fair to say the wall is going to need a fresh coat of blackboard paint before we finish the series on Reid’s 1st birthday.

Reid is sitting much steadier now than at 6 months of age so after the chalkboard photos I sat him at a table in a corner and gave him a toy train to play with. These photos are my favorite from the morning. Toy train, blocks, blue wall, to me they definitely say boy.

After finishing the inside photographs, we moved outside for some sunny, spring pictures[1]. It was after 11am and the sun was high overhead and casting a harsh light so we worked with shade and what we could with the sunlight. Shortly after moving outside we were able to get a few more smiles out of Reid by playing “Flip the Toddler”, but he was getting fed up with the session quickly so we wrapped up soon after.

Toddlers are tough photo subjects at Reid’s age. They are sufficiently mobile that you have to be quick on the shutter or find something that will occupy their fleeting, but insatiable curiosity long enough to make some photographs. It’s easy to loose a toddler quickly and often the parents follow as they begin to feel a mixture of embarrassment and frustration as their child’s mood deteriorates. It’s my job to find the cracks, the moments when the toddler is cheerful. It’s my job to make those cracks as necessary. To make even the photo sessions that don’t go off so well, look like they were smooth and simple. I was able to get several photograph’s of Reid that I am really happy with, but I feel like I left many unmade.

I suppose that is one of the reasons I keep making photographs.


  1. Lighting info: for the images inside I used two speedlights with triggers. One speedlight was umbrellaed on a Westcott ProGrip. My wife acted as my human lightstand and ran the ProGrip without disappointing (although she was rather disappointed to be shielded from seeing the action by the umbrella). The other speedlight, which was on a short Ultra-pod tripod and diffused through a small softbox, I moved around and put behind Reid to light walls. For the outside photos I used only the speedlight on the ProGrip.  ↩

Camping

I have many fond memories of the camping I've done throughout my life.

The carefree, timeless feel of the campsite.

The crack and heated glow of the fire and the persistent smell of wood smoke on unsuspecting objects over the following days. The odor of burnt marshmallows blackened crisp without, pristine goo inside.

Dice clicking and cards shuffling by lantern light.

A flashlight’s circle of comfort in the dark.

Contentedly zipping into a warm sleeping bag on a cool night. Stealing out of the tent early morning to sit near the smoldering campfire with a book and steaming coffee or to ramble the woods as they slough the night and greet another day. The smell of breakfast chasing away sleep.

All these things and more fill me with a nostalgic rush of joy and memories that I love sharing with Jude, Abbi, and Charley. It means a lot to me to know they are making their own.

Holiday Wear

Our youngest has been funny lately about photos of her and my sharing of them. At times she is adamant that I not post any photo that I have taken of her – an issue that I bumped up against often while working on my now defunct #kidslifepjct – and I respect that request.[1] Instagram project. But this morning she was very excited to be wearing a new dress and denim jacket and was more than happy to sit for a short modeling session before school.

As a parent you get the willing photos when you can. As with most of my child portraiture sessions I keep it light and add a batch of funny face poses to keep the interest. Actually, with my own kids it seems as if I need to add more of those than normal. Conditioned to the camera I guess.


  1. Ok, at times I may have chipped away at her and convinced her to let me post a picture that I thought was important for a theme I was working on or that would be a good addition to my website, but overall I try to set an example of respecting people’s opinions and requests about posting images on the internet. A lesson that I hope all 3 of my kids take to heart as they grow.  ↩

Wallets and Walls – Print those images

I'm always happy to see my images hit paper.

My sister printed handout wallet and framing sized prints from my niece and nephews' last portrait gig. Although, I stress to every client the importance of printing out images, that the files I provide them shouldn't just be left to linger on a computer, the truth is I need to take that advice more often myself. Other than our family photobook it's rare for me to print photos.

Hey, I'll work on it if you do.

Discovering threads

While digging around in my photo archives I discovered an unintentional series that had originated over the years: photos of our daughter when she was sick.

There are a lot of similarities among the images. The family puke bowl has a prominent role in all of them and two of the images, taken 2 years apart, are nearly identical.

It’s funny the threads you find connecting dots when you look at photos taken over time.

Portrait Trio

A few weeks back I went to my sister's to photograph portaits of my niece and nephews. I didn't witness it, but I'm pretty sure the trio whispered to each other at some point "Let's make Uncle Matt work for this one."

They did and I did, but it was still fun and I scored a few hits.

 

 

It's amazing how much changes in 3 months.

Boom Boom Balloon

Boom Boom Balloon. Such a fun game.

The certainty of knowing but the anxious expectancy of not knowing just quite when.

The waiting…the anticipatory muscle tensing with each click inward of a rod…the relief as your last rod clicks into position and the balloon is whole to pass onto the next player and their roll of the die.

Around and around. Until

BOOM.

Storytime

As I reviewed images I took playing around the other night, I came across the image below of my wife reading to our youngest daughter before bedtime. I immediately liked it and knew it would look good monochrome because of the contrasty lighting. But it was the moment not the look that really caught my eye.

As I was editing it occurred to me that I have taken many similar images of “storytime” over the years. There is something fundamental that attracts me to those moments of closeness between my wife and I and our children. An innocence and simplicity. There’s a touch of premature wistfulness too now. Our youngest daughter is already learning to read on her own and the knowledge that she soon won’t need us as often for the nightly reading time, will be able to read on her own in bed as her older brother and sister do, is sobering. I say “as often for nightly reading time” because, even with our older kids reading their own books, we still usually have a book on hand that we read as a family some nights. Those books have transitioned from picture books to chapter books,[1] which is a nice change, but it just feels different.

It’s still special, a moment worth savoring, but the innocence of reading to them when they were younger is lost. A corner turned that we won’t ever pass around again.


  1. Some suggestions for those with kids in the 6–10 year old range: Wonder, The Elephant in the Garden, Wild Wings, Nature Girl, and The One and Only Ivan  ↩

Rear Curtain Magazine Issue 5 is Released

Family is an important part of many our lives and is a term that can be loosely defined. And rightfully so. Many of us include more than just blood relatives in the people that encompass our own personal sphere of family.

Today Rear Curtain has released Issue 5 which examines the theme of "Family" and its varied meanings through the work of Jim Mortram, Mallory Benedict, John MacPherson, Hilde Mesics Kleven, Brian Miller, and William Albert Allard.

I'd like to thank all of the above photographers for sharing their work with our readers and Mark Krajnak for continuing the tradition of capping off another issue of Rear Curtain Magazine with his Noir series.

You can read more about the latest release of Rear Curtain Magazine HERE and Issue 5 can be purchased HERE.

As always, thank you for your support. Rear Curtain is a passion project produced in our free time alongside our other responsibilities in life. Your support and purchases are rolled back into Rear Curtain and help continue our effort to promote the skillful work of photographers with stories to tell.

Tapping Season

The approach of March brings longer days and greater daily temperature fluctuations, both signs that the sap of Maple trees is beginning to flow. For many in my area of Northeast Ohio some of that sap is flowing into buckets for production of maple syrup. While not as well known as Canada or Vermont for syrup production, Ohio is one of the top five states for tree tapping and its epicenter is in my home county, Geauga.

Last Sunday morning the kids and I met some friends to see their sap boiling set-up. Late February. A cool wind blows from behind me and chills my back while hot, billowing steam and a fire warm me from the front. The steam makes its way past me out of the lean-to that houses the large steel firebox that holds a tray of simmering maple sap. Geauga County is scattered with sugar houses, permanent, shed-sized structures for production of larger quantities of syrup, but our friends work at a smaller scale and have tapped only about 50 trees. Nonetheless, their boil system is impressive for a hobbyist rig: a plywood lean-to sheltering a welded, wood-burning firebox with a welded, 4-foot long steel tray of sap simmering away above. This was the first of several boils for the season[1]. It’s a full day affair even in small-scale syrup production with each boil simmering for most of a day (or, if time doesn’t allow for a long boil, the partly boiled sap is stored, chilled and boiled to finish another day) before enough water evaporates out of the sap to result in the Maple syrup people are familiar with on their breakfast carbs. It takes roughly 10 gallons of sap to produce a quart of syrup. [2]

The kids found the process interesting for a few minutes before the monotony of standing around talking and watching liquid boil wore them down and they left the lean-to with their friends for the snow piles and playset in the yard. Living in this area my kids have seen this process before and are well aware of where their syrup comes from and how it’s made, but I still like to expose them to the various processes of food production, especially local, natural foods.[3] And me? I always learn something new from people I talk with about their interests. I also like to stand around fires on beautiful days and ramble on with friends.


  1. the sap can’t sit long in buckets before it spoils so multiple boils are common as the sap flows over several weeks.  ↩

  2. A good overview of the syrup production process can be found HERE  ↩

  3. they also enjoyed a tour we took of a local dairy for a behind the curtain look at milk and cheese production.  ↩

Winter's Back

After a brief weather warm-up, winter has returned beautifully. No complaints from me or Monty.

Night Work

Our eldest artist working late into the night.