Our daughters have been putting on a Friday night dance show the past few weeks – or at least on our Friday nights that are free of plans. Our youngest typically spearheads the events and begs her older sister who gamely joins in. They choose 3 or 4 songs, apply some gaudy looks (and too mature poses that are frightening if foreshadowing their teenage years), and freeform some dance moves.
Dance shows are, of course, the perfect excuse for playing with makeup, leotards, and bathing suits. They are also a perfect excuse for me to memorialize this fun age with some portraits.
There was even a special Christmas show with full Frosty the Snowman dress
And then, there are some Fridays when I'm not entirely sure what is happening nor what the night's theme may be, but simply sit back and enjoy.
Halloween seemed to come and go nearly unacknowledged in my house. We didn’t carve the pumpkins until the Wednesday before and still haven’t lit them this year. They are still forlornly sitting out on the front stoop and I’m tempted to light them belatedly over the next night or two just because.
The kids wavered on their costume choices until the week before the holiday and in the end I found myself with a gypsy, an archer, and an undefined, cloaked person wielding an axe.
Despite what seemed like a general apathy in my house toward Halloween as it approached, the night of trick or treating was fun. We spent the night walking and laughing with friends as the kids dashed from house to house. The candy haul (obviously the most important aspect of the holiday) was bountiful. Bags were dumped onto the floor and candy was consumed, bartered and boasted about until the sugar crashes and bedtime.
Our girls have birthdays 1 week apart and it's always been easiest to merge the extended family party into one celebration for both of them. I know many kids wouldn't be happy to share their parties, especially with a sibling, but these two have always been willing and enjoyed it.
At 7 and 10 years old now the sisterly bond is growing quickly and becoming stronger between Abbi and Charley. Sure, it has it's moments of fraying but that's natural and always mended in short order. We have no doubt these two will give us trouble in the future, but they will give us an abundance of laughs and love too.
Happy Birthday Girls!
This Wednesday is our daughter, Abbi’s, 10th birthday and for many years she has been mentally counting the days to that day because my wife and I set the age of 10 as the (arbitrary) “age of piercing” in our house. Yesterday, after the long wait, Abbi had her ears pierced.
The walk through the mall to the jewelry store was tense, but fun to be a part of. Abbi selected a set of post earrings and then nervously sat in the chair quietly answering the clerk’s questions with a blend of excitement and anticipation on her face. As the two clerks – one piercing each ear – began a verbal countdown to “the piercing”, Abbi closed her eyes, bit her lip, and powered through the brief pain to reveal a smile on the other side.
Typical of such events in life, Abbi admits the build up was worse than the act. Now, in 6-8 weeks she can begin to cycle through all the earrings she received for her birthday.
Last weekend brought one of our first real tastes of spring and my wife, daughters and I celebrated with a long hike at Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation.
It was a beautiful day. Nature was just beginning to reveal all its latent colors in flower blooms and and chirping songbirds. Browns were giving way to varying greens all along the trail. The sun broke easily through the trees which are only just beginning to unfold their leaves. Mosquitos don’t have a jump on the warm weather yet and weren’t the annoyance they will soon become for a period.
The park service offers “X-plorer Packs” for kids filled with gear to keep them interested in and excited for the outdoors (magnifying glass, binoculars, bug bottles, butterfly net, minnow net, etc.) and it served its purpose. The girls had fun searching for birds, wading for minnows, and catching frogs and insects for a closer look in the magnifying jars.
I’m a fan of winter (I like snow and the cold doesn’t bother me) and we had a good one, but as the snow melted, my thoughts quickly drifted to hikes, kayaking and garden plans. We’re I’m happy to see spring arrive finally.
Last Sunday laughter and yelling drifted in through the open house windows. I looked out and saw that the neighborhood kids had collected at our house. Not at all unusual. The kids float from house to house in the neighborhood like a murder of blackbirds loudly and excitedly alighting on one corn field until bored and then moving on to a new field.
What was noticeably unusual this time was that every kid was covered in mud and more globs of mud were flying through the air striking their mark on backs, heads1, and arms. Mud fight!
My wife and I went outside to get a better look and good laugh and the kids stopped dead when they saw us. It took a moment to realize why: they were waiting to be punished. But it was too funny for anger and our laughter at the look of them covered in mud released the tension and the mud fight began again earnest. The kids actually requested that we turn on some music “really loud” - possibly trying to create an impromptu Woodstock/Bonnaroo (insert your favorite music genre’s largest outdoor concert here) feel. Instead I went in for my camera.
Through threats and, to be honest, a bit of pleading, my camera and I remained mud free as I photographed the action. I suggested that I get a light out for more formal portraits. There have been many times that I’ve lost kids and moments in the time it takes to grab equipment and set up light stands, umbrellas, and lights. Thankfully, this time they were entertained enough that I was able to call them over when I’d prepped a strobe and umbrella near our patio wall.
We sent the neighborhood kids home when dinner time arrived and they walked down the street uncertain of what their own parent’s reactions to their mud-covered clothes would be (it was laughter as well). It was fun to see kids being kids. Fun to bring our own childhood memories of mud fights and friends to the fore. Fun to get some wonderful photos of it all. The mud fight was the talk of the bus stop the next morning. The parents of the neighborhood were "awesome" for not being mad.
A win-win for all.
Many thanks to my freshly showered and mud-free models who helped me test the lights before the mud portraits.
We later tried to establish a “no headshot” rule after a few ears and eyes were mud clogged, but the rule was readily ignored almost immediately after it was made. ↩
I’m ignoring spring yard work this morning (the rain outside helps) and finally going through images from our trip to Florida last week. I posted some sun and fun photos on my Instagram account which usually functions as an easy way to share with friends and family but last week was more of a gloating platform for our northern friends and family still stuck in near freezing temperatures.
Overall I didn’t take a lot of photos over the week and those I did are family photos and, in truth, are likely more interesting personally and to family. There were a few sunrise photos that turned out pretty well. I don’t consider myself a landscape photographer by any means, but most mornings I would creep out of the hotel room before the kids were up and walk the beach and, for an Northeast Ohio kid that lives among hills and at the bottom of one, watching the sun rise over an open horizon is rare and something compelling to photograph. In fact, one morning the kids wanted to be woken early to see the sunrise. Troopers.
It was good to reacquaint with sunshine in Florida after a long, dark winter and a sluggish, delayed start to spring here in Ohio.
And one of my beach girls.
Warmer temperatures have brought mud season to Northeast Ohio. It’s too early in spring for the bursts of color that will appear over the next month, so everything outdoors remains brown, chilled, wet, and uninspiring for me when looking for photographs. But these eggs were sitting on the counter and something about eggs foreshadows spring for me.
Well, truthfully, as a chicken owner now it’s not just a spring-thing. Oftentimes chickens will cease laying for a bulk of the darker months of winter, but I think because our chickens didn’t start laying until late fall we were still getting at least an egg every day even through the winter. Still, with the weather warming into spring – albeit slowly – the bounty has increased over the past few weeks.
Maybe a Catholic upbringing in childhood that included dyeing Easter eggs every spring. ↩
A few weeks ago I photographed Claire. She spent her photo session quietly observing or napping despite the shuffling of equipment, the flash of the strobe, and the jostling about by adults with cold hands.
Welcome Claire. Have fun getting to know your family and good luck in all you aspire to do and be.
Winter hit full force here in Northeast Ohio in late January and early February. I’m looking out the window at roughly 2 feet of snow in the yard.
Yesterday was cold (negative windchills) but the sky was cloudless and the sun glowed off the snow giving the day a feeling of beckoning crispness. Hard not to answer with a few hours spent in the woods so I grabbed my snowshoes and dog Monty and did just that.
It was beautiful. And untracked. Monty periodically gazelle hopped ahead in his excitement, but the majority of the time he let me break trail and had an easier time lumbering in the wake of my snowshoes (and continually stepped on the tails of them nearly tripping me every time).
This type of weather typically draws out complaints and grumbling from a lot of people, but I'd like to see it stay around for awhile. It’s better than just-above-freezing temperatures with rain and mud.
Some pre-bedtime images from last night.
My wife is out of town for a bit so I have left my strobe and gear set-up without feeling too much guilt about the clutter. Similar to this entry from over the weekend, these images are just my kids and I playing around and having fun. A happy side effect to the laughter and goofiness we share during these “house shoots” is that I’m nicely padding my photo library with photos to print and put in our family yearbooks.
It’s an overused cliché about photographers “preserving memories” but there is a large grain of truth to the saying. These photos are going be damn fun and nostalgic in the distant future when our kids have grown.
Scroll through my blog and you'll see how willing my kids are to step in front of the camera and lights whenever I need them. This morning my girls jumped at the chance to model and let me play around. One of the things I like the most about getting my kids to help out is that when I give them free reign, I never know where things will go.
This morning things started out...well, weird.
That kiss in the last photo seemed to soften up the ghoul and the morning began a transition.
Eventually everything normalized and I passed the camera off to each of my girls and worked on my own camera presence. They are much better at modeling than me, but I did enjoy the daughterly love.
I’ve announced this elsewhere but it may have been missed by those not scattered around the social media outlets I use.
The food and restaurant scene in Cleveland has been growing and garning national attention in the past several years. In conjunction with that vibrant growth Noelle Celeste and John Benedict began publishing Edible Cleveland. The magazine focuses on the Greater Cleveland food community and brings together the writing, photography, and art of Northeast Ohioans that are invested and interested in that community. Edible Cleveland’s winter issue was recently released and I’m happy to have two series of images in it. My images accompany 2 separate essays, The Chestnut Was Dead: To Begin With and Harvesting in the Heart of the Polar Vortex both written by my friend Steve Corso of Bat Barn Farm and Foraging.
The Chestnut essay details the blight-troubled history of the American chestnut and some local farmers and landowners that are working today to preserve the American chestnut genome and reintroduce the once popular nut to the public by growing other blight resistant hybrid varieties. The essay on winter harvest is a brief look at Steve’s efforts to continue harvesting farm produce into (dare we say through) Northeast Ohio’s frozen winters.
The Chestnut Was Dead: To Begin With begins on page 44 and Harvesting in the Heart of the Polar Vortex on page 53, but I encourage you to page (scroll) through the whole magazine. It is filled with good work by Cleveland creatives. ↩
I convinced the kids to sit for a little while in front of the lights during a school-free snowday yesterday.
Truthfully, I didn’t really have to do a lot of convincing. I’m lucky to have a built in set of models under the same roof and, even as they’ve gotten older, they are still more than willing to stand in front of the camera when I get the itch to play, test out ideas, or simply need to scratch that creative itch.
A small "12 Days of Christmas" project I photographed over the past few weeks as my house ramped up for the holidays. A fun reason to keep my lights out and get the kids involved with brainstorming creative ideas for the series. The girls came up with the idea for the 4th image on their own and I think it is my favorite from the set.
The last image is in there by kid request. They are suckers for selective colorization and photoshop and like to see all the ways you can manipulate images. Unfortuanately, there's no photoshop action for improving the model's looks in that one.
Thanks for a good year of conversation, reading, and images everyone. Enjoy your holidays!
My family traveled to New York City last week for our Thanksgiving holiday. I’m not much of a big city guy and New York City has a way of both awing me and repulsing me. It is a place I enjoy for a few days and then anticipate returning to my country solitude.
My wife and I have been to NYC numerous times, but this was the first visit for our kids. Our trip was hectic and fun, tiring and memorable, quick and too long. We covered a lot of ground and saw many things. We went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Top of the Rock, The Rockette’s Christmas special, and the September 11 Memorial (although we were unable to enter). We ate many good meals, walked a lot, and generally soaked in the seasonal atmosphere of the Christmas window displays on Fifth Ave and glittery glow of the decorated city.
We left for this trip ready for turkey and giving thanks for what we had. New York successfully brought my family together, bonding us in mutual exhaustion and excitement; reinforcing the meaning and blessings of family and good friends in a city of millions of jostling, ear-bud wearing, car-honking strangers. The night after returning home we decorated our house for Christmas (just weeks away already!) and prepared to celebrate again all the love and fortune in our lives.
From my family to yours, Happy Holidays.