A balancing act

Hope everyone is enjoying the first hot weeks of summer.  My husband and I kicked off the season by spending a relaxing long weekend away at Sunset Beach, NC with a couple of close friends.  The memories we made over those four blissful days are priceless.  We stayed at a gorgeous condo, awoke early for hot coffee and delicious breakfast, spent many hours poolside and at the beach, and kept evenings simple with card games, tunes from 10 years ago and a decent amount of cold beer.

When I travel and take time off, I am often torn between experiencing the moments and capturing the moments on film.

A few years ago I had a realization.  I spent a lot of money on some really great tickets for a concert by one of my favorite performers.  Instead of truly enjoying the show, I made the mistake of taking video and photo for the entire 3 hours.  So I ended up with great footage, but no real memory of the concert.  Sad indeed.

From that moment, I decided I would try to let “photographer Melanie” relax and just enjoy myself.  Believe me, I L.O.V.E. photographing all the time, but I needed to find a healthy balance.

This weekend at Sunset Beach I practiced that balance.  I snapped a lot of photos with the low-quality camera on my phone and with my pocket Canon, but I only pulled out my real camera once, at the beach, for this moment.

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My husband Jed tossing our 2-year-old daughter Natalie into the air at Sunset Beach, May 2014.

I discovered that when I focus on enjoying myself instead of documenting every second of every minute of every day, the real, precious, perfect moments that matter most appear right in front of me.  And luckily my lens was there.

 

Soothing techniques

Every newborn photo session is unique just like every baby is unique. Thus, my job meeting and photographing these little ones never gets boring. I have a new experience every time. I get to know families personally, as I am invited into their lives at such a precious, intimate time.

Being a newborn photographer means not only making sure a great photo comes to life. It means engaging in private moments with a family – sometimes brand new parents. Some of the finest compliments I have received during these moments are words like, “You are so good with my baby. You are so patient with my baby. Ohhh, so that’s how you soothe a baby.  I’m learning new techniques from you.”

This means so much to me. Knowing that I’ve comforted both baby and parent is a really critical part of the process. I thank every parent that trusts me with their sweet bundle and with capturing these priceless moments. It is a true honor.

Baby Kate was one of my latest sessions with brand new parents. At nine days old, she was alert enough to know what was going on, but still young enough to need many baby zzzz’s. The parents and I spent some time together calming her, rocking her and patting her to sleep.  She was such an angel and I loved that her parents got to be a part of the session in that way. I always try to capture some of the behind the scenes, candid moments. Those are the ones parents think they will remember forever (because those early days seem soooooo long); eventually it all becomes a faint memory.

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The moment before the photo

A significant portion of the photographer’s time during a photo session is spent watching and waiting for the photo to happen.  We get in place, we get our exposure perfect, we spend time getting to know the subject and family members.  Many times I find myself with my lens focused on the space that the subject is about to occupy – where the swing is about to enter the frame or where the baby is about to crawl. This photo is a perfect example of what I mean.

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I am squatting in front of a tree, my camera focused on a 2-year-old girl’s shoe, waiting for her to muster the confidence to step up into the tree where she’ll enter my frame. It is a funny part of photography how we really inspect the photo from outside and in.

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Of wonder and leaves

Madeleine has been such a joy to photograph since birth.  I have had the opportunity to capture her newborn photos, 6-month photos, and now her 1-year portraits.  She is such an amazing little lady who is a natural in front of the camera.

For her 1-year portraits, Madeleine’s parents had the idea to take photos at West Point on the Eno.  Many families and photographers frequent this outdoor venue, though it was a first for me.  I visit the Eno River a few times a year, but never had I been to West Point on the Eno, the entrance to which is off of Roxboro Road in North Durham.

The park is fabulous, perfect for hiking, adventure water sports, picnics, and those who love history.  Madeleine’s family and I got to visit on a cool fall day.  Spending time with my clients is always a joy, but spending time trekking through a gorgeous location with my family is even better, especially when the location is a place my client has selected.  Kudos to them for leading us to this ideal setting.

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Innocent afternoon

Early autumn afternoons outdoors make for great photography conditions.  The sun is low in the sky and hits subjects and surrounding elements at unique angles, making dramatic impact on a photo.  Not to mention that children just want to be outdoors, exploring and creating.  When kids can just be themselves it makes for a better photo.
This photo was taken in early October around 3 pm.  I wouldn’t typically suggest that time of day as ideal for shooting – it still can be a little harsh.  Four o’clock and later makes for even better lighting. I got lucky with this shot.  Her face was just beyond the boldest rays of the sun, but her hair and dress wasn’t.  Her hair and dress highlight the innocence of her age, so I appreciated that they were in such direct light.
The hazy air is another benefit to shooting early morning or late afternoon.
She was so focused on her game that I couldn’t have paid her to look at the camera…but I’m glad she didn’t.

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Just married

I left Chelcey and Brian’s wedding reception blissful, hopeful, and happy. That’s just the effect that these two have. I truly wasn’t ready to leave them even after having spent the entire afternoon and evening with this delightfully in-love couple.
Chelcey is a dream bride. She is genuine in voicing her opinions yet somehow oddly focused on pleasing those around her, even on her wedding day.  It was amazing to see her selflessness.  Her husband Brian is the same way.  Together, they make you feel welcome.
This was a photo idea that Chelcey came up with, and is one of my favorites from the day.  Isn’t she gorgeous?

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