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



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.

LEGO fun

At some point in the past, we were given a large bin of loose Lego pieces. A treasure trove but as is customary with any toy a child owns my kids' interest in the Lego bin waxes and wanes; the bin will get a lot of use for short periods and then disappear into a closet for awhile until it reappears again.

Last week we took the kids to see the Lego Movie (Do it. It was really good.) and since then the bin has reemerged and it's been fun to see them dig back into the bin and their imaginations.

The Bowl

Last Friday The Bowl finally made an appearance for the first time all winter when our youngest was hit with a 24-hour stomach flu. To think I was naive enough to think that we'd skate into spring with out ever needing it.


The Senior

I’ve posted my thoughts on both an infant and a toddler portrait session I was hired to do last fall, now I wanted to finish of the trilogy with a brief look at my first senior portrait session. I haven’t advertized myself for the Senior portrait market and typically photograph toddlers and younger, but when I was asked to do senior photos I readily excepted. I knew the family through a school connection and was fairly certain that it would be a relaxed affair that would give me some freedom to ease into my first senior photography gig.

I was right. The session was fun and relaxed and I was able to try out various local locations. I also discovered that senior photography couldn’t be more different than my usual toddler or infant portrait jobs. To have a subject that was willingly cooperative and that could follow my guidance for poses and positions was, well, luxurious.

We began photographing at the local country club where Katie works. Her employment gained us the use of 2 golf carts which helped us quickly gain access deeper into the course property. I talked my 9-year old son Jude into assisting as my reflector holder and he did a stellar job.[1] Katie wanted to start the session in a black dress primarily to get the formal, mother-required outfit out of the way and get into something more casual. We drove a loop through the course and photographed the dress photos. It was beautiful property and partly cloudy skies helped to cut down on harsh shadows. We stopped back at the clubhouse for an outfit change after Katie had allayed her mom with a good coverage of dress photos. I had scouted the course a few days before and discovered that the country club had a few rental cabins on site. The cabins had rustic porches that caught my eye as a good location for some photos. The photos at the cabin turned out to be my favorite of the day. Jude nailed the his reflecting angle and lit Katie with some beautiful golden, late-day light which helped separate her from the shadows of the porch.We finished up at the golf course and drove down the road to Punderson State Park for some more photos on the porch of the lodge overlooking a lake and autumn-colored hillside. My second favorite images of the day of Katie leaning on a split-rail fence in front of an autumn-colored maple tree were made there. We finished the portrait session with a quick stop at some nearby soccer fields for a series of photos of Katie and her soccer cleats. Katie is an avid soccer player. I was a bit surprised when I learned that she wanted some soccer themed photos but purposely didn’t bring a soccer ball. She correctly pointed out that everybody uses a soccer ball. Instead, she wanted just her cleats as they were really the key piece of gear for her from game to game. It was a great decision in my opinion and it was nice to be thrown a curve ball so late in the session when my creativity was drifting into cliche. I tried to layer the photo vertically from foreground to background and set the soccer goal as an anchor to help define the theme.

For my first senior class portrait job I couldn’t have asked for a better client or experience.

  1. I had brought along flash equipment, but the day was windy and I could foresee battling the wind with umbrella gear would be a hassle so I stuck with using just a reflector with Jude’s help. He was very excited to find out that he’d be paid for his work. He was less excited that he needed to wait until I had bills smaller than $20’s to be paid. I mean, really, the job includes daily room and board too.  ↩

The Toddler

In a recent post I shared images and thoughts from a recent infant portrait shoot. As a family portraitist, it’s necessary for me to switch gears from photographing sleepily content infants to stoically acquiescent husbands. More often than not, I find myself in the middle photographing toddlers.

Toddler photography is a large part of my business. Like all ages, toddlers vary in personality. Some are outgoing, others aloof, and some shy. This little guy was a shy one. In these cases I take it slow. I left my camera aside for a bit and chatted with him about some of his toys. I showed him I was harmless by petting his dog and joking with his parents. Eventually, I picked up my camera and photographed one of his toy trucks and showed him it on the camera LCD (kids love that one).

As I eased into photographing he clung to his parents and was not eager to look my way or smile, but during the hour I photographed he began to warm up and by the end of that hour was laughing with his parents about his favorite book and showing me his football.

Well, that’s a rather glossed over version of my progress with him. As happens, just when things were beginning to go well I did make the miscalculation of suggesting we go outside for some photos. We grabbed coats and went out into the wintery day and got some nice photos, but when he was stopped from playing on his snow-covered swing-set and brought back inside the portrait session was delayed for a short tantrum. All part of the process.

Breaking through the shyness of a child can be tough and is certainly a lot of work. So far I’ve been lucky. No portrait session has been completely ruined by my failure to eventually connect with a child. Even luckier, I have always had fun.

The Infant

This past Autumn some of my portrait work varied in client age from newborn infant to toddler to a senior in high school[1]. All were vastly different portrait sessions, but each was enjoyable and fun.

The edits are all in the clients’ hands now and over the next few blog posts I’ll share some images from each portrait session along with some thoughts on each. While not the chronological order of when the sessions occurred, I will start youngest to oldest.

Infant (newborn) photography has become quite an industry. I have primarily honed my infant photography skills on my own children and my youngest sister’s children with a sprinkling of paid work mixed in. I like infant photography. It has a slow relaxed feel compared to the hectic chase and fire of toddler portrait work. Honestly, in essence you are dealing with an accommodating little person who is at your photographic and imaginative whims – as long as the infant is kept warm, fed, and comfortable, they are completely content being posed and laying around. That said, much of the infant photo industry has become cliché and gaudy in my opinion. The photographer’s imagination and the infant’s passiveness have been stretched too far making the infant have a more prop than the subject.[2]

That’s not the style I aim for in my infant portraits. My goal is to keep the images simple and focused on the infant. In this case I was dealing with nervously new parents and a 2-week old little girl. We set up near a large sliding-glass door with indirect light which worked perfectly and left my umbrella standing forlornly for most of the portrait session. Not typical for an infant so young, she was awake and alert throughout the session. We started photos using a black bean bag, some pink blankets, and a black background, then moved to the couch for some family photos[3], and finished with some crib photos.

The client was very happy with the edited images and I am proud to have given the parents something that will mean more and more to them as each year their little girl grows older and further removed from the small, innocent girl in those photos.

  1. Read that as ranging from immobile to hyperkinetic to cooperative.  ↩

  2. Obviously my opinion. Possibly naively misplaced if a “newborn photography” Google search is any indication, such elaborate infant photos must be requested by clients and make money for photographers.  ↩

  3. I really like the overall prominent, muted browns here.  ↩