Columbia River Gorge Family Portrait

January 17, 2020

With all of the idealistic New Years posts we have been seeing lately, I felt compelled to state the obvious. What you see on social media is not real, perfection is an illusion. In my experience (in all areas of life, not just photography), the closest to perfect we get is letting go of it entirely and embracing the very real chaos that life throws at us. I thought this session illustrated the idea beautifully. 

This client is a very close and dear friend of mine and an incredibly talented artist in her own right, Ashley Swindoll (go check out her work! She was my muse/model during art school and now that we are all growed up, we have been wanting to set up a family session for years. She made a trip all the way from North Carolina to Portland, Oregon to shoot with me, and we had been planning it for months. We selected the perfect location in the Columbia River Gorge, made inspiration boards to curate the perfect mood, researched the exact right time for the perfect light, even went shopping together for the perfect outfits. Then, when we got there, it was . . . Not perfect. 

It was windy. And I mean, like, baby tornado windy. Her hat wouldn't stay on, her hair was instantly a mess, and (most heartbreaking of all) her youngest son was TERRIFIED. The wind was loud, pushing him around, and it made the water very choppy, which he found particularly scary. He was crying, demanding to be held, and would not go anywhere near the water. Within a few minutes of dealing with this, along with being constantly whipped in the face by her hair, and chasing her backup wardrobe all over the beach, mama was over it too. On the verge of tears, she was so disappointed that the shoot we had spent months planning down to the last detail was “ruined”. 

I have been a professional photographer for fourteen years, but even the most seasoned among us cannot control things like wind. No matter how much you prepare, you must be ready not only to expect the unexpected, but more importantly to embrace the chaos. I told Ashley to forget about what we had planned. Instead, pick up her son, comfort him and pretend I’m not even there. Then I followed them around while she cuddled him and took about a 1.2 million candids. And you know what? MANY them were ugly crying faces or her picking hair out of her mouth. But the others, they are some of my favorite family shots to date. I was able to capture a very real moment of connection between two sons and an amazing single mother in her element; being a loving, caring, strong, protective mom. 

Anyway, this is much too long, but I thought it was worth saying. Hang in there, embrace the real, embrace the chaos. 

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