Behind the Scenes With the Davis Family

Davis family portrait.

Early this spring I got a message from Judy Davis about photographing her extended family. She’d purchased a certificate at the Lighthouse Mission auction and wondered whether I’d be available on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to create their portrait. We settled on Mother’s Day afternoon when their whole family would be together at their place outside Snohomish.

As I do for all my family portrait customers, I discussed clothing choices, whether we needed to schedule around nap times, and locations for the session. I stopped by their home outside Snohomish for a site visit on my way to another event east of the mountains. Judy’s husband, Bruce, was home that day and showed me around. We picked a place in their backyard with trees in the background that would have the sun behind everyone when we set up the portrait. We talked about having the grass mowed a few days ahead, as well as where we’d place their horse-drawn carriages. Did I mention that this portrait would include 19 people ages 3 to 93, a dog, and four Clydesdale horses?

With a plan in place, I arrived at the appointed time on Mother’s Day afternoon. It was a little chaotic with so many people in the house, but everyone was either dressed for their portrait or finishing getting ready. I set up my light, put my camera on my tripod, and made a few test shots with a volunteer family member. Then we herded everyone out of the house.

With large multi-generation families I like to group each individual family together so I asked all the kids to stand with their parents. That way I could see who went with whom. I began setting up the shot by seating the great-grandparents in the middle. Then I arranged each family around them, with some on the carriages and some on the ground, looking for nice comfortable individual family groupings that also had a good visual rhythm as a whole. I photographed a version without the horses first, just in case they didn’t cooperate.

Then Judy and her designated horse handlers brought the Clydesdales up from the barn and we arranged them behind the people, with one person holding the reins of each horse. I now had 24 pair of eyes to get looking at the camera at the same time! The horses needed to have their ears forward, showing attention, too.

I never count to three and have people say “cheese” because that produces fake smiles (and doesn’t work for horses anyway). I’m lively and animated behind the camera. Since I use a tripod and no one is moving, I can look people in the eye as I talk, make silly noises, and throw my magic hat in the air. For the horses, I have an app on my phone that plays horse sounds and almost always gets their ears up. Kids of all ages seem to get a smile with the horse sounds, too.

Davis grandparents and grandchildren

Once I finished with the large group, I set about photographing individual families and other groups on Judy’s shot list. As I worked, Bruce came over and pointed out that rain was on the way. Fast. We sent everyone back in the house, I stashed my camera and light under dry cover, and we developed Plan B. I suggested the barn and walked down to take a look. Judy was skeptical since it wasn’t spotlessly clean, but I convinced her that portraits there would look great. I carried my gear down and set up, then started bringing groups down for their portraits. When she saw the finished portraits she was pleasantly surprised how good her barn looked.

Davis grandchildren in the barn

With everyone photographed, I packed up my gear. Then they invited me in for a snack and a beverage before I headed home. I don’t expect that from my clients, but am always grateful when it happens.

A few weeks later Judy came to the studio for her viewing and purchasing appointment. She ended up placing a nice order, including a 20” x 40” Signature Canvas portrait that will go on the wall in the room where Bruce and Judy spend most of their time. It will be a constant reminder of the love shared among all the members of their extended family. I’m honored to have been trusted with the Davis family memories.

First Baby

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Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

There’s something very special about a first baby. After months of anticipation, a new life comes into your family. There’s no owner’s manual to tell you what to do, but somehow you figure it all out with the help of family and friends. All is future and hope and innocence.

Not long ago Jaina and Chris brought their new daughter, Winslow, to the studio for a portrait session. With little ones like this there are inevitable pauses to change a diaper or for mom to give a snack. The baby sets the schedule, not the photographer.

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

It’s easy to forget how small new human beings are when they come into the world. They fit on an arm, not much larger than a football. Tiny feet nestle in mom and dad’s hands. Will they someday carry her to the top of a mountain, to corporate stardom, to the White House?

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

One of Winslow’s grandmothers crocheted the dress Jaina and Chris chose for her portrait session. She won’t be able to wear it for many occasions before she outgrows it. I expect her parents will save it and share it with her when she’s old enough to appreciate it. Right now she doesn’t know anything about grandmothers or crocheting or the love that went into that dress.

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

My job during a portrait session like this is to make the studio comfortable, craft the lighting, and then know when to capture the magic that is a mother’s love for her new baby. Dad’s love, too.Check out these photos i did for thebestbabycribs.com.

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

Winslow’s other grandmother gave her the tutu. I posed her on a New Zealand sheepskin that my mother gave us when our boys were very small and used to play with nerf guns.

I don’t photograph a lot of new babies, but there’s something very special and almost reverent about the experience. Like anything involving infants, it requires a certain kind of patience. That’s something I seem to be pretty good at so please check out the photos i took for a baby competition.

Thank you, Jaina and Chris, for sharing Winslow with me.

Senior Portrait Session — Josh

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of working with Josh, a Ferndale High School senior, to create his senior portraits. We met at Hovander Homestead Park, just outside Ferndale, for a couple of hours on a glorious April afternoon for his session.

The video slideshow shows my favorites from his session. He and his mom have since narrowed down the choices, picking favorite expressions and poses. Continue reading

Visiting with Santa: Sunday Edition

Max & Olivia with Santa

Santa loves talking with kids, hearing their wishes and asking whether their parents have been good, too.

Here’s a video slideshow of the kids who visited with Santa on Sunday, December 8 at Bellingham’s Holiday Port Festival in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

This is the fifth year I’ve had the privilege of photographing kids with Santa at the Holiday Port Festival. We see a lot familiar faces each year as kids come back again, a little more grown up each time.

Thank you, parents, for sharing your children with us and with Santa. The prints you ordered will be on their way to you soon, just as fast as we can get them into the envelopes, stamped, and in the mail.