Leave it to me to schedule our Family Art Studio session for the snow storm weekend.
But so it went. We drove to Ann Arbor, braving the highway traffic and slick conditions, to spend the day making art at my work.
This was the boy’s first trip to an art museum, and he had a lot of questions. Were the statues real? Why can’t you touch the art? That bust of George Washington – where’s the rest of his body? Why was that girl so hairy?
We took inspiration from Japanese graphic design and made our own poster out of cut-out shapes of colored paper. It was us and six other families – half of what was scheduled to show up.
“The difference between your art on the fridge and these drawings is that there’s a frame around them, and they’re hanging in a museum,” I said.
There’s nothing like a snow storm to get the family out of the cabin fever funk.
It’s also a great excuse to get the ol’ point and shoot camera out, dust off the lens, and take some photos of the outside activities. Despite the broken battery door, my Canon PowerShot SD750 still works great, and shoots fine.
This thing and me go way back. We’ve been on many adventures, from road trips through New England to hiking in Zion, and all of life before I purchased my first DSLR.
This weekend, when the snow started to accumulate, I broke out the SD750 while me and the boy went sledding, and then to capture all the fun in the yard when we got home. After all, if it gets wet, no big loss.
A side benefit: the photo files loaded lickety split into Lightroom.
This time of year is tough: resolutions, winter time blues, Fat Tuesday.
Apart from resolutions, I think about habits – either starting new ones or trying to get back into old ones I’ve let slip.
Take meditation. I had a decent mindfulness practice for almost 10 years. But with kids and moving and new jobs, I let that habit slip. Or fitness: my workout regiment has come and gone for years. After the glut of the holidays, I always have to kick-start that habit after the new year.
Even my photography habit goes into hibernation this time of year. I always have to give myself a project to wake it back up again.
The trick is to not feel bad about letting habits lapse. They come and go, and that’s natural. I could feel guilty about not working out, or taking more photos – or I could just get moving and start forming those habits again.
Every year this cycle starts again. And every year I have to remind myself: it’s okay.
It’s a hard habit to break, having your kids say “cheese” whenever they see the camera come out.
Our own kids started saying “cheese” almost out of nowhere, and at a very young age.
Meanwhile, I strive for those in-between moments when taking photos of the family. I want their real faces, and real smiles, so I’ve learned to be sneaky and quick. Those in-between photos are the ones I treasure, collect, and share.
Sure, the grandparents want a nice framed photo of the kids looking at the camera and smiling. Family snapshots have looked like that since our parents were kids. Again: a hard habit to break.
Me, I want some real life in my photos.
It’s made me think about making family photos for friends and family. My paid gigs are few and far between these days, but when I do get asked about taking family portraits, I want to make a suggestion: How about we hang out for a morning, and just let me capture what happens in between the Cheeses? There’s some intimacy involved, yes, but like a good photojournalism assignment, the good pictures are made by simply being there and capturing what happens.
“I once needed to shout from the rooftops but have now said my piece. Can we be done at some point? Can we gaze upon this world and shrug, content with the work we’ve done? God I hope not. The mere thought of it depresses me.” – Patrick LaRoque
Sure, it’s nice – getting a week between Christmas and New Year’s off as a freebie vacation week. That week is one of the many benefits of working in higher ed.
Except when you’re sick.
It hit us the weekend before Christmas: a scratch throat, a groggy unease, and sinus pain that felt like continual just-before-you-sneeze agony. Then, from Christmas day to just this week, a persistent sickness. It didn’t ruin the holidays, but it certainly wasn’t fun.
Maybe it’s a good thing I had that week off. But there are better ways to spend a vacation than homebound misery.
So I took the usual Christmas morning photos of the kids opening presents. Other than that, and despite some big photo plans I had, I just didn’t get much done. Instead, I’ll share some pre-Christmas fun in the playroom with the kids.
Before the snow fell. Before the presents showed up under the tree. Before the misery.
Every year, I give a simple gift to my side of the family: a calendar of full-page photos from the previous year, showing all the kids in the family doing their thing. Easter, summer, Halloween, birthdays – it’s all in there.
And every year, the calendars are a hit.
I’ve been giving photo calendars since before I had kids of my own – probably five years or longer – and there’s no gift that makes a splash like they do. My family tears them open, thumbs through the photos, and remembers the year that was. You’d think they’d get old (“Another calendar? C’mon, Dave.”), but they don’t.
What keeps them fresh? We keep adding family members. That means new birthdays get added to the calendar portion, and new photos of new people appear up top. I added a kiddo to this year (Riley, in April). Family variety, in photo form.
“Sometimes I’ll take out the photos and frame them,” someone told me this year. What a nice thought: an 11×16″ photo worthy of a hanging on the wall for longer than a month.
I often feel like I’m taking the easy gift route for Christmas, giving away family photos year after year. But you know, they’re never not appreciated. I think it’s the variety thing, but I also think it’s because no one prints photos anymore, so any picture of a grandkid that one can hold is a true gift.
We can share our photo talents so easily starting with the ones we love.