It’s interesting, sitting here with a cup of coffee in 2019 still contemplating some of the same questions that I asked myself back when I graduated from college in 2011. What should my niche be? What should be my creative focus? Not only do I struggle with which type of photography I should focus on, I also want to be a stippling artist, a logo designer, a user experience designer, an occasional blog writer (hence you reading this right now), and a multitude of other things.
It’s no secret that I love conceptual photography, but the truth is that it’s not something that many people are hiring for. I might get lucky and find some work, but it would take a lot of effort. What’s curious, is that as I reflect, I realize that in some ways I’ve found a niche that I didn’t really choose. How did this happen? I had kids. After having Dotsie, I embraced my inner passion for not only photography but for capturing memories of my kids that we’d have to hold forever. I experimented with the “Flying Dotsie” images and took some classic portraits along the way. People noticed I had a knack for photography and reached out. Because of my inability to really recognize my own niche, my niche evolved itself based on the needs of those in my circle.
I never saw myself as a family/children photographer in college. I just didn’t. It was probably the last thing I would have seen myself doing. Nature photography, landscape photography, conceptual photography, fashion photography, wedding photography. Surely I would end up specializing in one of those, kids are wreck-less and impossible to manage after all. There’s no way that’d be my forte. Fast forward 8 years, and I am sitting here reflecting on the professional jobs I’ve been hired for and almost all of them are children’s portraits! Whoa, that’s crazy. How did that happen? There’s something truly different about children portraiture that matches my own style that I didn’t realize until years later, and I am still coming to realize while writing this post. The same thing that fuels my inner passion for creating magical conceptual photography is a sense of wonder and inner child, which is exactly the characteristic that kids exhibit by just being themselves. My style is often about whimsy and spontaneity. Heck, I created a composition of our family as a scene from Peter Pan.
Why kids portraiture is such a good fit for us:
They don’t need direction. It might sound funny, but my least favorite part of a photoshoot is directing people. (one reason my wife is great to have with me at times) Sure, we can do family portraits but for the reasons I identified above it’s not a passion in the same sense of creative freedom and approach.
I want to catch people interacting naturally with their environment/world. There’s no one better at this than kids. Adults have a lot harder of a time doing this than kids because they are focused on how they are being perceived. Children just are.
We are able to get down on their level. Our photo sessions are often part playing tag, part running, part hiding behind bushes, part laughing, etc. In order to get kids truly interacting with their world they have to be comfortable and the only way to get that way is for us to embrace our own inner child.
I’m goofy. Sure, I believe in myself but I also believe that the world is far too serious most of the time. Kids gravitate towards this. My wife is probably even better with kids than I am, and having her as a partner helps enable me to zone into my photographic spirit at times while she plays entertainer.
Almost all of our current clients are repeat clients, which says a lot. If you are one of our clients who has hired me to capture memories of your precious kiddos, I want to thank you whole heartedly for not only believing in my talents but for helping me to really identify a niche that I didn’t know was there.
Ringing in the new year was different this year than others, and I’m not just talking about the fact we had 30 people in our family on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. This difference was apparent if you watched my wife after the new year rang and you could see the most joyful smile imaginable accompanied by tears streaming down her face. She wasn’t the only one in the family doing this. I just smiled at her and her sister, as I felt similarly. The thankfulness that we all have to God for the miracle of our Dad/Papa/Husband/Friend/Brother being with us still, and having not only escaped death earlier this year, but for him to be thriving fills us with gratefulness and appreciation. The power of our families unified gratitude echoed throughout the entire Caribbean.
Here’s just some of the amazing things that we experienced through my perspective (warning these may not make sense if you weren’t there and may confuse you a lot):
● I was granted co-celeb with my wife as she gained popularity from her lip sync battle prowess and I gained recognition as “the pole”.
● We kissed stingrays in Grand Cayman ( They tasted fishier than I expected )
● One of my favorite moments was floating on my back in the middle of the Caribbean. During that time I reflected upon just how thankful I am for my family/kids, and my wife’s entire family. ( They are equal mixes of integrity and ridiculousness which is exactly my cup of tea ) I also took a moment to be thankful for my Grandpa doing well after breaking his hip recently.
● We paddled down the great river in Jamaica which had the coolest sounds of wind traveling through the trees and most of us stopped to rope swing along the way ( Shout out to my niece Genesis for charging that rope swing with no fear )
● We danced so hard on New Year’s Eve I fell down 3 times
● We had conversations over ice cream late into the night and guarded the ice cream machine from late night mischievous teenagers ( One may have been yelled at )
● We searched for Hank ( If you don’t get this joke then ask Det )
● I was awarded a bottle of Champagne for my Catwalk sexiness ( To my surprise I looked much sexier in my head than on video )
● I got to meet more of LeAnna’s awesome family, and a couple of them got engaged! ( Congratulations to Josh and Chelsea!)
● I discovered that strawberry Daiquiris are perhaps the best tasting thing on Earth ( You’re welcome Jim )
● Young love flourished within our group ( I wont’ say who - Brandon and Dan, errr I mean Felisha )
● I smiled as my wife complemented random strangers everywhere we went (nothing I’m not used to, but it’s just one of my favorite things and happens more frequently on a cruise)
● We had authentic Mexican food at a private beach where we got to swim and party! I got to compete in a water balloon competition with my father-in-law.
● I threw Margarita’s carelessly in the air and caught them with my mouth ( This was supposed to be a group activity but it’s cool )
● Brandon and I got super close due to an overzealous photographer who had me lay down on top of him for a couples photograph. He giggled profusely.
● We were asked to go on stage as back-up dancers to “Beat It” for the person who won the lip sync battle!
● We snorkeled until our legs hurt and saw some awesome fish and a stingray submerged in the sand below.
● I showed off my Greased Lightning dance moves ( This unexpectedly played on 80’s night and LeAnna jumped up on a chair so she could see me over everyone and she was smiling so big I’ll never forget! )
● We enjoyed elegant dinners together most nights, but the waiter looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for the “secret off-menu items”.
● We played some epic games of corn hole ( Once known as Faba Baga) in the windiest spot on the ship.
● The sounds of screaming could be heard clear across the ship whenever DeAnna would win $25+ at the casino. In fact I could basically tell if she was in the casino or not by just listening for 10 seconds.
● We got to learn “The Jim Dance” this trip. ( Ask him to show you sometime.)
● We danced almost everywhere we went ( Especially LeAnna because as Mike pointed out “LeAnna IS music”)
● We hot tubbed until we got kicked out.
● We did some pretty crazy Conga lines and I saved Det from a “vibe” encounter.
● People gravitated towards our family like magnets as they always do. ( Or they looked at us like we were bat sh*t crazy )
● I was reminded just how much I love my freaking wife. I know it’s cheesy, but how she just LIVES her best life all the time is contagious and she’s contributed in so many ways to the person that I have become.
● And probably best of all, we laughed until our chins almost fell off every single night. If you want a sure way to laugh open your jaw as wide as you possibly can and start laughing. ( A trick my cousins and I would do growing up ) One of the cruise employee’s had the honor of encountering our family when we were full force laughing at this and he had the most hilarious look on his face as he smiled and backed away.
So thankful for this vacation full of awesome memories, and to celebrate the miracles we experienced this year,
-an obsession with The Lord of the Rings -the face of a Hobbit -a knack for photography -and a surprisingly close Hobbit house
“As for the Hobbits of the Shire, with whom these tales are concerned, in the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk. They dressed in bright colours, being notably fond of yellow and green; but they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown. Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).”
When my wife messaged me with an airbnb link to this charming Hobbit house, I couldn’t rest until I found a way to visit it. It’s booked pretty solid, but we managed to find an opening for 1 day. We spent most of our time trying to capture the essence of being a hobbit. Luckily the builder did a lot of the work to create the perfect environment. We just brought our hobbit spirits and creative photography to the table. The weather was a bit stormy for our stay, which felt very true to the quote “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. … if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” We hope to return and capture more photos of the interior in the future, but my wife will likely make me put down my camera next time at least for a short while.
All the credit for this building to Kristie Wolfe. We highly recommend booking a stay, and keeping on eye on the horizon to when she has not one but three hobbit houses in one hill. Here’s the description from her site:
“This inspired dwelling nestled right into the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge mountainside. Reverently framed by the iconic round doorway, the wondrous views will entrance your imagination and inspire an unforgettable journey. Every nook of this little habitation will warm your sole, every cranny will charm your expedition of repose. Up the pathway, tucked into the earth, an unbelievable adventure awaits!”
I think I’m quite ready for another adventure…in this exact same place.