Autumn’s First Day Moves In

Today is the first day of autumn.  It’s also ‘Move In Day’ at Western Washington University for the university’s 15,000 students.  Ninety-two percent of the incoming freshman will spend the next school year in residence at the dorms.  On this day, parents and their students descend upon the university campus in vans, SUVs and station wagons stuffed to capacity with pillows, towels, rugs, desk chairs, DVDs, computers, whatever it takes to make their assigned dorm room feel like home.  Neighboring streets are jammed with the traffic as everyone waits their turn to pull into the nearest dorm parking lot to quickly unload their belongings in the allotted 20 minutes.  Western students wearing T-shirts printed with the word ‘HELP’ are strategically posted around campus in order to direct both students and parents to their intended destinations.

My youngest son kindly granted my request for a quick shot of him in front of his new home during 'Move In Day' at his university.
My youngest son kindly granted my request for a quick shot of him in front of his new home during ‘Move In Day’ at his university.

It’s a day full of emotion for both.  Emotions to which I can readily relate having gone through this ritual myself with my own three sons.  Any parent who’s ever taken their son or daughter to college can recall that day in considerable detail.  There’s the excitement of seeing your student off to a new adventure, one which many of us probably embarked upon ourselves.  But it can be bittersweet to say good-by and head back home minus that young woman or young man who spent the first 18 years living with the family.  It’s a period of adjustment for everyone.

As I look back, my memory of that day for each of my sons comes back into sharp focus.  They each started off alone, at different schools, in different states in locations where they had no immediate family.  The experience for each of them, while similar, was also different.  Two of them flew off on airplanes to their college cities, taking with them whatever they could pack into their duffle bags and my extra suitcase.  One loaded up a moving truck to the max with whatever furniture we could spare as well as his own bedroom furniture so he could furnish the little apartment he had rented for himself off-campus.  Upon his departure, I climbed the stairs of our home to the second flor and went into what had been his bedroom.  It was empty except for one barren bookcase and a pile of dirt that had been swept to the middle of the room’s wooden floor.  That’s when I realized that he was truly gone and the tears welled in my eyes.

With his things finally unpacked and his Washington State flag pinned up on the wall, my son could sit down at his desk and phone home to his father.
With his things finally unpacked and his Washington State flag pinned up on the wall, my son could sit down at his desk and phone home to his father.

Yet it’s a happy time too as memories of your own college experiences come rushing back.  I’m sure it was just as hard for my parents to say good-by to me as it was for me to see my sons leave.  I don’t remember that, of course.  All I recall was the thrill of finally being out in the world on my own, of trying out new things, of making new friends and of getting a pretty good education along the way.  College is a bridge between the known and the unknown.  Crossing it is a big deal, for everyone.

I remember the last thing my oldest son said  before hopping into the rental truck and driving off to his university. He turned around, took a long final look at our house as if committing every detail to memory, and said aloud almost exactly what had been running through my own mind:  ‘So this won’t be my home anymore.’

I grabbed one final picture just as my son and husband were about to close up and head off to my son's college.
I grabbed one final picture just as my son and husband were about to close up and head off to my son’s college.

He later learned that wasn’t exactly true. He could always call our house ‘home’, but from that moment on, it would never be quite the same.   He was growing up, about to find his own way and to learn to live and lead his own life apart from ours.  Now, years later, as I watch the students and parents at WWU unload their cars, stroll together through the campus one last time before hugging each other and going their separate ways, I smile knowingly.  And as I pass by them, a tear or two still comes to my eye.

Two of my sons head off together, ready to conquer the school and the world on 'Move In Day' at the University of Oregon.
Two of my sons head off together, ready to conquer the school and the world on ‘Move In Day’
at the University of Oregon.

A Model Senior

Every now and then I feature in a  blog post one of my  wonderful senior portrait clients.  It’s so much fun to hear about the activities they are engaged in and the dreams that they are pursuing.  When gettintg to know my seniors, I strive to engage them in a way so that their personality or interests are expressed in my portrait of them because it is, after all, a portrait about them. Earlier this summer, I put a ‘shout out’ for a senior model.  One of the first to respond was a young woman who attends Bellingham High School–Maya Norton.  Maya came to my studio, as do all my seniors prior to scheduling their sessions, so that I could meet her and learn more about her.

Maya's big smile is infectious to anyone she meets and it certainly was in her senior portraits.
Maya’s big smile is infectious to anyone she meets and it certainly was in her senior portraits.

She walked in my door with a big smile on her freckled face, a sense of poise and confidence, and an exuberance that is highly contagious. As we talked, I was even more impressed by all that she had already accomplished in her young life.  Last winter, for example, she went with her mother to Mexico, then stayed by herself to live with a family and volunteer with an organization that was helping women entrepreneurs start their own businesses.  Her high school culminating project, she told, will draw from that experience in a presentation about micro-financing. In addition, Maya has volunteered here at home for the Red Cross, the Bellingham Food Bank and as a tutor at Sunnyslope Elementary School.

As captain of her high school cross country team, Maya doesn't haven much time to sit.  Fortunately, running is her passion!
As captain of her high school cross-country team, Maya doesn’t haven much time to sit. Fortunately, running is her passion!

She’s also an athlete who has participated in track, soccer, the annual Ski to Sea race here, and cross-country running.  In fact, Maya, who’s now captain of her high school’s cross-country team, was recently featured in an article appearing in the Bellingham Herald’s sport section.  Here’s the link to that article:  http://bit.ly/1eWj7Cp. So it was that I selected Maya as my studio’s senior model for this season.  We scheduled a session down by the water, a location that we determined together.  I gave her the same guidelines that I give to all my seniors about clothing, expectations, props and other tips to better prepare her for working in front of the camera.

The dress, the long hair, the water, the rocks, the sky. the stance all lent to create a sense of romance in this senior portrait of Maya.
The dress, the long hair, the water, the rocks, the sky. the stance all lent to create a sense of romance in this senior portrait of Maya.

As it turned out, Maya was natural.  She brought with her a favorite dress that we used to create a romantic feel on the rocks.  She slipped on a simple, elegant black outfit sassied up by a pair of purple rain boots and umbrella for another set.  And naturally, she had to include her Bellingham track jersey for at least some of the shots. Each clothing change seemed to bring out another dimension of her personality which is, I suspect is indicative of Maya herself–a young woman who has depth and several facets to her.

The purple boots set off her black outfit perfectly and the passing train added an element of motion to Maya's senior portrait.
The purple boots set off her black outfit perfectly and the passing train added an element of motion to Maya’s senior portrait.

Her mother has kindly said:  “Your photos of Maya are great! The Herald’s photos are good action shots, but it’s hard to look ‘photograph-able’ when exerting oneself in a race! We’re so thankful for how you captured Maya in her racing jersey, in the town she loves. Thank you! ” Thank you, Maya, for coming into the studio and for giving me the chance to photograph such an exceptional young woman.

You can view more images from my session with Maya, as well as other senior portraits, underway now, that I’ve photographed by visiting my website gallery at  http://bit.ly/1avw5Ec

Fair Enough

Although summer is fading quickly here in the Pacific Northwest, the annual Washington State Fair is just getting underway.  It’s a huge event with lots to see and do.  I’m not planning to go but I went to the Northwest Washingtonl Fair in August in Lynden.

Now I know where George Lucas got his inspiration for the character of Jar-Jar Binks in "Star Wars."  This little Nubian goat has a face just like him!
Now I know where George Lucas got his inspiration for the character of Jar-Jar Binks in “Star Wars.” This little Nubian goat has a face just like him!

I had not been to the fair for a few years and had forgotten how much fun it is just to stroll through the animal barns and look at all the horses, cows, sheep,pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, and ducks.  It’s a great little fair, manageable in size but still with lots of variety of things to do.

My friend and fellow blogger, LaVera, entered this cake in last year's Northwest Washington Fair.  She took first place, to no one's surprise.
My friend and fellow blogger, LaVera, entered this cake in last year’s Northwest Washington Fair. She took first place, to no one’s surprise.

Besides the livestock exhibits, there are all the 4-H exhibits.  Last year, my friend and fellow blogger, LaVera, took first place in the cake decorating competition. You can read about her cake’s adventure at the fair on her blog, Tea with LaVera at:  http://teawithlavera.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-lynden-fair.html

When my sons were little, we rarely missed a chance to take them to the fair.  They loved looking at the animals but also hopped on some of the carnival rides that were there.  The carnival still attracts a huge number of younger fairgoers but except for the carousel and ferris wheel–my two personal favorites–I tend to skip it altogether.

The ferris wheel is one of my favorite carnival attractions to both photograph and ride.
The ferris wheel is one of my favorite carnival attractions to both photograph and ride.

The fair also has a number of stages where local and touring music groups perform for audiences who welcome the chance to sit a bit and listen while they rest up.  Headline performers take the stage set up in the arena where a stadium full of people come to see them.  The demolition car derby also always seems to be a big draw.

I love the colors of the carousel that blur together as horses and riders go round.
I love the colors of the carousel that blur together as horses and riders go round.

And of course, there is always plenty to eat.  The line at the Lynden Dutch Bakery’s booth for the poffertjes–a traditional Dutch treat that resemble small, fluffy better pancakes, was long as usual.  I opted instead for a ‘Moo-wich’, the biggest ice-cream sandwich I’ve ever seen made with ice cream from the local Edeleen Dairy packed between two chocolate chip cookies concocted by the locally owned Woods Coffee.  I could hardly get my mouth around it, but I managed.

The great thing about the Northwest Washington Fair is that you can easily go and spend just a few hours or an evening, as I did.  It also provided me with some fun photo opportunities as I wandered around.   If you go next year, or if you go to the state fair taking place during the next two weeks, be sure to take your own camera and take a tip from me, go hungry!

You can view more of my fair images on my Portfolio page.

Photos of Fall

Autumn is one of those seasons during which a photographic opportunity seems to present itself every time I turn around.  For instance, I was driving home from my early morning work out the other day when I rounded the corner and, as I did, I looked down the hill towards where I had just come and saw a single football sitting smack in the middle of the sidewalk. That, in itself, would have seemed to signal that fall is near, especially with the football season officially underway now as of this week.  But the entire scene was softened by the morning layer of fog that comes when fall is approaching here in the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Southwest.

Taking care that no other cars were approaching, I stopped my own after turning and popped out my little Nikon point and shoot that I carry around with me just for these sort of occasions.  It doesn’t have the super lens of my pro camera or all the other manual options but in a pinch, I can get a pretty good image.  I season it with a dash of Photoshop to give it exactly the flavor of the moment.

Thought it would be fun to share with you this autumn ‘photos of fall’ as I see them, take them and have time to post them just for you to enjoy.  It’s a perfect time for my portrait work as well so I may include some of  those as well. While I hate to see summer slip by as it is such a short season here, autumn brings with it so much color and coolness.  Hope these images will say ‘Welcome Autumn’ to you as they do for me.

If you click on my ‘follow’ button at the bottom of my blog page  you’ll automatically be alerted by e-mail whenever I’ve posted a new autumn image.

Here’s my Photo of Fall for today.  I call it:  Fog and Football.

Uh oh.  You know autumn's on its way when both football and fog touch down.
Uh oh. You know autumn’s on its way when both football and fog touch down.

First Day

This morning, a friend called up the picture on her phone of her granddaughter, posed before the front door, backpack on and book in hand, as she was about to leave for her ‘first day.’  For many of us who live on the West Coast, the first day of school was today.

It can be difficult to go back to class when it’s still so gorgeous outdoors in a place like ours  where the summers are so short.  Not like many other locations elsewhere in the United States where going into a cooled classroom might provide welcome relief from the heat of the season.  First Day at Calahan

With the start of each school year, I always made, as do many parents, a visual record of the day by snapping a picture of my sons as they headed out the door or were about to enter the school with their lunchboxes and books.  In my own experience, I found that the hardest of these notable days was the first day of kindergarten for my oldest son and my youngest son, and the last first day of high school for my youngest son, Tim. When they take that step across the threshold of the school door, you know that life will never be the same for either of you.  As a parent, it’s both a proud and poignant moment. 

 

I joined the many moms and dads before me (including my own) to capture a ‘Kodak moment’ of that milestone day.  Being the sons of a photographer, even while I was still working as a full-time journalist, my boys knew better than to try to dissuade me from this annual ritual.   First Day at LowellAs elementary students, they were often happy to share in the fun with a picture together with their brothers going out our door, beside the car or in front of the school.  That spirit of cooperation grew less enthusiastic as they entered their middle school years.  Forget about posing anywhere near the school where friends could see them.  All the ‘first day photos’ from those years were taken at home.  By the time they reached high school, they were at least resigned to the fact that it was better to humor me than to resist.  And I had learned by this time to be satisfied by quickly shooting the annual picture on the fly, like paparazzi stalking their celebrities, just as they were about to head off.First Day at Sehome

Even that initial day at college did not go undocumented.  Although it may not have been the actual first day of classes, I managed to snag a few shots of each of them on campus before my husband and I bid them a tearful but joyful good-by and good luck.  To me, that special day was as worth keeping for posterity as was any graduation day.  It captures the beginning, not the end of a life event.  I think there’s a richness of emotions of that day that you can look back upon later.  Uncertainty, excitement, confidence, even a little presumptuousness about the journey on which they are about to embark.First  Day of College

Now that they have all moved on and, for the most part, moved out, I look back fondly on this first day of school as I see other parents taking part in the same yearly ritual.   I smiled quietly, thinking of my own sons ‘first days’,  preserved on film (digital wasn’t yet around) that now bring back a flood of warm and bittersweet memories.

At the risk of totally embarrassing my youngest son, I thought I’d share some of my personal ‘First Day’ photos  for you to enjoy.  Maybe you’ll share a few back.