A week in the sun

It had taken us 3 and half years to work up the courage to attempt an overseas holiday with children, but the time had finally come to throw caution to the wind and jet off to sunny Greece for a much needed break.

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As the plane touched down safely in Thessaloniki all the worries of losing a child at the airport, having a screaming baby strapped to you for a 3 hour flight, or not being allowed through passport control due to the poor likeness of the 6 month old baby photo compared to the reality of the 3 year old presented, were instantly forgotten.

We soon settled into a daily routine where the only decision we needed to make was whether to visit the beach, swimming pool, or play ground.

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The beach provided hours of entertainment but the slight concern over sea urchins (warning signs were prominently posted at regular intervals) meant that our favourite haunt was the pool.  Or to be more accurate, the 4 pools, all of which absolutely had to be visited each day.

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The discovery of the poolside drinks service which included chocolate milkshakes was a real turning point.  Our already very vocal 16 month old was quick to learn the word “chocolate” and more worryingly “mojito”! This provided the incredibly friendly staff with hours of entertainment and we often found she would be whisked off to perform for other guests and staff.  All that talking does take it out of a girl…

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We were blessed with excellent weather, warm enough to enjoy to pool each day, but cool enough not to cause the girls any issues.  And the clear skies at night offered up a fantastic view of the Milky Way from our balcony as we enjoyed a much deserved glass of wine or two.

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RL

 

Bath time

Bath time is one part of our daily routine that is (usually) filled with smiles and laughter.

It should be an ideal moment to capture some beautiful images of happy smiling faces.

However, as you can probably imagine, there are a couple of major drawbacks with this as a location for a photo shoot. The poor lighting and confined space of the bathroom are one thing, but the biggest concern is the large amount of water and its proximity to my camera!

Last night I decided to throw caution to the wind and capture some photos; from a safe distance of course.

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Bath time is usually around 6.30pm and with the location of the bathroom and adjacent houses, at this time of year we get lovely evening sunlight streaming in through the obscured glass window.  That helps considerably with the otherwise tricky fluorescent lighting options.

To overcome the obstacle of space, I simply removed myself from the bathroom altogether.  This had a number of significant benefits.  Firstly, it provided a natural frame for the shot – the bathroom door.  Secondly, it gave me sufficient distance to shoot at 50mm instead of distorting the images with a wider focal length.  Finally (and probably most importantly) it put me safely out of the splash zone!

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One unforeseen drawback to being outside of the bath room was that I immediately became a target for an assortment of bath toys that were lobbed at me, with surprising accuracy I might add!

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RL

P.S. Just in case you were concerned, Mum is just out of sight, hidden behind the bathroom wall, so I wasn’t being too irresponsible!

 

 

 

2 years and 20,000 photos

Last weekend I found myself looking back at some photos I’d taken a couple of years ago.

At the time I remember thinking how pleased I was with them.  It seems funny to admit this, but I think they were actually the first photos that made me think “hmm, maybe I’m alright at this and I should try and take photography a bit more seriously”.

Here’s one of them that I particularly love:

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Whilst this photo still brings back very happy memories and makes me well up with pride to think that gorgeous baby is our daughter, what it doesn’t do is make me think “wow, that’s a great photo”.

In some ways that makes me a bit sad because I now look at this image and part of me can’t help but see a poorly composed image with the eyes almost central when they could easily be on a thirds line, the knee just slightly cropped losing any feeling of space around her to grow into, the fussy background and nappy distracting a little from the intended subject, and it’s a touch under exposed.

Despite that rather long and critical list, the most important things are still present, it’s in focus and it’s a beautiful subject.

In the two years that have past since this was taken I’ve taken around 20,000 more photos (according to my Lightroom catalogue) and have hopefully learnt a thing or two about firstly getting it right in the camera, but also about how to fix minor issues after the event.

I’ve just spent a couple of minutes with this image in Lightroom and just a few small tweaks turned it into this shot:

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You can’t fix everything in two minutes in Lightroom but you can certainly make some significant changes.

Looking at these older shots made me think it would be interesting to create a similar scene for daughter number two who is now at almost the exactly the same age as Clara was when these were taken.

We’ve moved house since then so I couldn’t recreate the shot exactly, but the idea was the same, capturing the first efforts to sit up pre-crawling, taken on a bed.

Here’s an example of what I came up with for Eleanor:

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In another two years I might be looking back at this photo and thinking of a list of things I should have done differently but for the time being I can just enjoy it for what it is, a photo of our stunning baby girl enjoying life.

RL

Zara’s newborn shoot

When my oldest and dearest friend told me she was expecting her second baby I was absolutely thrilled.

When she then agreed to let me photograph her precious newborn I was even more excited.

That was six months ago, and the time has just flown past.  Two weeks ago the gorgeous Zara was born and this weekend I got to meet her.

On the morning of the big day I nervously ran through the check-list I’d gradually built up trying to ensure I had everything I’d need for a photoshoot in someone else’s home. With the car fully loaded with everything thrown in from beanbags to backdrops, heaters to hats, I was all set.

I wasn’t really sure how I’d feel handling a close friend’s brand new baby but Zara’s mum was an absolute superstar. She calmly handed over Zara and asked if I’d mind being left on my own so that all the photos would be a surprise when she got to see them.

It still amazes me to think that less than three years ago I had never held a baby.  I can clearly remember the look of shock on the teacher’s face at our antenatal class when at the end of the final class she asked if anyone had any questions and I had to sheepishly ask how to pick up a newborn.

Instead of feeling nervous about being left with someone else’s baby I was much more concerned that I’d let down my best friend and she’d be disappointed with the photographs I was about to take.

Things didn’t initially go to plan when Zara refused to go to sleep but I took the opportunity to get the room ready, camera settings right, and generally get settled down so I could focus on taking some beautiful photographs.

Deciding to just roll with the situation the first set of pictures I took were all with Zara wide awake. I got to capture her bright blue eyes and outstretched legs, then I invited mum back in for a feed and a cuddle to get Zara settled.

It did the job perfectly and within a few minutes Zara was totally calm and gradually dozed off to the special type of sleep that only newborn babies can achieve. I quickly got to work and started with some simple close up shots making use of her stillness but also allowing her to get totally relaxed so that I could move her in to different positions without worrying I’d wake her.

With my own two daughters waiting outside with their mum time was limited so once Zara began to stir I decided to call it a day having had a good half an hour of uninterrupted shooting time. We said our goodbyes and hurried home so that I could take my first proper look at the shots.

I was relieved to see that on first review there were at least one or two of the 300ish that I’d taken that I was pleased with.

The final edited album has 50 photos in and I’m really pleased with the results. I felt that I’d managed to successfully put all of the things I’d learnt over the past year or two to good effect. It’s satisfying to feel that the hours and hours of work have paid dividends and I can hopefully make other people happy with my photographs.


RL

Hand in hand

Over the years I’ve become used to hearing my parents’ friends commenting on how “I’m my father’s son”. I never really used to appreciate it but I now recognise that many of the things that I love doing are also my dad’s passions.

One significant example is photography. I remember as a kid how I used to love seeing my dad with his big camera bag full of exciting looking equipment. Now that I’m a father myself I find myself speaking to my dad more about his relationship with my grandad. It was facinating to hear about how they used to take photographs together and then develop them in the back room of their small flat.

As I’ve become more serious about photography Dad has kindly recovered a number of lenses from the loft that he used to use with my grandad. Obviously things have moved on slightly in the lens world but happily with the help of the Internet we were able to find some adapters that allow me to use the classic lenses with my modern DSLR, although full manual is the only way!

It dawned on me as I took this series of photos that the glass I was looking through had also been looked through by my grandad, and as he would have seen me as a baby with my dad, I was now taking photos of my daughters with my dad by my side. Sadly my grandad passed away long before he ever got to meet his great grandchildren but the lens he photographed his grandchildren with lives on and so does his memory.

This series is called ‘Hand in Hand’ and it’s my effort at showing the connection between generations.

   
    

 RL

Father’s Day

Monday morning, on the train to the office with rain soaked shirt and soggy trousers, looking at photographs from Father’s Day it seemed impossible it was just yesterday.  What a difference a day makes, especially in England where the British Summer is at its unpredictable best.

One of the things many people love most about taking photos is looking over them and being able to lose yourself in that moment again.  I often judge the images I’ve captured by how strongly it brings back the feelings from the time it was taken.  Sunday was a gloriously sunny day and it’s amazing to almost feel the warmth of the sun again as the grey rain clouds roll past the window.

This week I read an interesting article by Quentin Decaillet about how he measured his improvement as a photographer over the past twelve months.  One thing that particularly stood out for me was the way his selection process had changed and was now less based on emotion and more based on the quality of the images he’d taken.

I’ll definitely be taking on board that the selection process should be based on the technical quality of the photo and not just by any emotional attachment to the scene being shot.  When selecting photos of your own family I think it’s only natural to be lead by the heart, but hopefully the overlap between my technically best shots and the most emotive ones will continue to increase as I use the same techniques for family portraits in both my personal and professional worlds.

My first year celebrating Father’s Day as a father of two was perfectly simple.  I got two beautiful hand made cards.  Our two year old is an all or nothing kind of girl, and she definitely went for the ‘all’ option when it came to the glitter glue and sticky dinosaurs that made my card.  Equally impressive was Eleanor’s effort. At 6 weeks old she managed to do an expert job of creating perfect hand and foot prints in green paint.

Clara and I got to go for our usual Sunday morning swim, followed by a trip to the playground.  On our return we discovered the fridge had been freshly stocked with tasty food ready to go on the BBQ.  I rustled up some of my patented home made burgers and we were in business. Possibly slightly excessive for two adults and toddler but nothing went to waste!

  
  
I did make one request for the day, and that of course was to have some time to take some photographs. Getting a shot set up with both the girls together proved impossible but I did ensure that I got some time with both of them to take some individual portraits.

    

  

RL

Letters

For Eleanor’s one month birthday I cemented her name into the family tree, not by registering her birth (we’d actually got that sorted out within a week) but by buying her a white wooden letter E to add to our existing collection of S, R, and C.

With our limited alphabet complete I had a vague effort at creating amusing words. Thankful for the addition of a vowel to our collection I was still a little disappointed that the best I could come up with was CRES. Obviously having another baby and naming them Tony is tempting, but instead I decided to see if I could come up with any other creative uses for the letters.

I had a vision of a photo with all the family holding their respective letters, some individual shots with the letters subtly displayed somewhere in the image, and finally the comical switch up with appropriately confused looks.

As with so many of my creative ventures the execution was somewhat lacking. On my first attempt I managed to capture a single image before Clara decided she had better things to do, which involved me running around the garden.

Eleanor then decided the only possible way to lie was with her head pointing away from me. If I turned her to point the other direction she just turned her head, clearly captivated by the giant letter E next to her.

  

 

On day two I had a little more luck and managed to get her face towards the camera, only to then be pounced on by Clara desperate to join in the fun but refusing to go anywhere near the letter C.

  

When it comes to drawing and painting I realised from a very young age that the part of my brain required to complete these tasks was a little deficient, in fact I’d go as far as saying it was non-existent. This hasn’t been a cause for concern for many years but now that our two year old has taken to art this shortfall is fresh in my mind.
Clara is already better at drawing than I am and I realised just how truly terrible I am when I attempted to draw a kangaroo and it made her laugh out loud. Having a two year old laugh at your art is quite a sobering experience!

The reason I mention this is that by discovering photography I found a way that I too could have an image in my head and then share that image with the world. For anyone that can’t draw you’ve probably felt the frustration of picking up a pen, sketching out what you’re trying to convey only to look down at the paper to discover it appears that a snail has crawled through an inkwell and across the page.

That frustration had suddenly been lifted for me with photography; well it had until the subject of my photographs became mobile. The age old adage of never working with children or animals is starting to make a lot of sense.

As always the weekend went by far too quickly so the full suite of photos will have to wait for another day. Thankfully one of the children is still stationary long enough for me to photograph them so all was not lost.

  

RL