Ammi Midstokke was writing an article on work/life balance for Out There magazine and asked me to do a photo shoot of the Evans brothers of Evan Bros Coffee. With Aimee setting the course, I should have known it would be fairly epic! From slack-lining (which is a hell of a lot harder than it looks!) to coffee-sack races and half-naked snowball fights and of course, masculine snow angels, it was a very fun time. I realized halfway through that I might be developing frostbite in certain areas but that, I have happily discovered, is all part of the job description.
How to describe you and how I feel about you?
You, my sweet passionate girl, are a mountain stream full of snow-melt in springtime that cannot WAIT to get down the mountain to the unknown far-off destination, not caring or knowing what you will find there, only full of all the promise of untold adventures along the way. You rush along through life heedlessly, full of boundless energy and passion, often angry and frustrated at the rocks and trees that get in your way, forcing your waters to back and eddy and find a different direction. So full of excitement and the joy of simply being able to rush down the mountain, you sometimes unintentionally run rough-shod over and around things, never meaning to cause harm but just too excited to be gentle. You simply cannot be contained.
Indeed my greatest challenge with you is to not squash your outrageous spirit. All too often it feels like I am constantly correcting you, saying no, telling you how to behave differently. And I am working on it, working on channeling and directing your spirit rather than sitting on it, but I am so sorry for the many times I fail. The truth is, you remind me in many ways of myself when I was little; Irrepressible and like a volcano of life, I never could understand why people were constantly telling me to sit still, to calm down, to stop fidgeting. And so I will keep working on it, keep remembering, keep trying to encourage your spirit rather than stifle it.
As a strange juxtaposition to your wild nothing-can-stop-me passion, you are one of the most sensitive and observant people I have ever met You can read people's emotions and reactions like a book and are more socially aware of dynamics in a roomful of people than almost all the adults I know. As an example, when you were about ten months old, you used to know exactly how to make me helpless with laughter and you would literally string me along, waiting til my laughter died down then doing it again to get me started all over. Often i catch you just watching me and my reactions and i know you are taking in every detail. You have the most incredible memory I've ever seen, remembering small details and smells from three years ago.
You are irrepressibly curious and often have to learn things by trying them, again very much like your mama! You have a vivid worlds-without-borders imagination that surprises me all the time, your only limitations being whether Anahla wants to go along with the way you want to play the game. Often you struggle with not being able to control a situation but you are learning to live and let live and allow others to have their own ideas and opinions.
You are just beautiful and hilarious and an atom-bomb of energy and I love every bit of of you more than you can possibly understand. I hope i can be a mama worthy of your spirit!
I love you!
Beautiful baby Kestrel was lucky enough to be born into a family who are passionate about getting her outside and deeply connected to nature. As this is something very close to my own heart, and Cassie is a good friend, it was a lot of fun to try and capture the spirit of their family, both in the woods and at home. And Cassie was up for an adventure when I photographed her nine months pregnant on a very icy slippery walk through the woods, even baring her belly to the elements!
My lovely Anahla,
Firstborn and so full of passion. We knew your name the second you came out - Anahla Joy, meaning Fiery Joy or a Flame of Joy. And wow, what a fire you are! From day one, you were full of fire - whatever you do or feel you are fully in it, no holds barred, no punches pulled. Whether it is raging anger, hysterical laughter, hurt feelings, abounding joy and excitement, or affection for your baby sister, you are completely abandoned to it! If you feel like being whiny when you are hurt, you are VERY whiny but if you feel like being tough, I can't believe what you can put up with without crying.
Sometimes it is hard to deal with your levels of passion, especially when it comes out as anger. But I am learning patience and learning the better ways to engage you. And I love your passion. I love that you are your own person, even though you are a twin. I love that people will not be able to push you around. I love that you only invest your energy in something when you see the value in it, not just when somebody else tells you to. And that when you invest you energy, it is completely wholehearted!
I love that you get lost for hours and hours in detailed creativity. You disappear in creating playdough projects or painting or putting mud on a stone in a way that I cannot imagine doing. You re so patient! I know you are truly happy when you sing as you work, which is every day!
I love that you are so entirely physical with your love. You push in to affection like a bull and will not take no for an answer and while that is sometimes tricky to manage, especially with your baby sister (though she is going to grow up tough thanks to you) I love that you express yourself so wholeheartedly! I love that you want "long long long long looooooong snugles" at night!
You have the cutest way of talking right now at the age of four that I wish i could capture, so enthusiastic and sweet with not all your pronunciation quite right.
I love that when we fight we can have long snuggles afterwards and talk about how it made us feel and that you accept my apologies so completely.
I love you more than you can know!
To see more Letter to Our Children, see Allison Moore's post
It has been wonderful having our niece Kavi stay with us for three months on her gap year between high school and college. In February her boyfriend came down from Canada to stay for a week and I took them out on the ice-covered mud of our lake in the rain to do a little photo shoot of them. I asked them to have fun and act crazy. Little did I know how far that could go! Although i probably should have guessed...
We started with them slipping and sliding all over the ice, jumping up and down, giving each other piggy backs, dancing, you know all the "normal" stuff that two fun people will do on ice. Then Paul suggested we see how far out we could go. I was nervous - we'd had a couple warm days and I wasn't sure where the mud ended and the water began, but I said I'd follow him. If he didn't fall through, chances were I wouldn't either. He kept going, and after a while I couldn't see mud anymore. Then all of a sudden, a big slab of ice that we were standing on completely gave way under our feet. My only concern was the very expensive camera equipment I had in my hands and I literally jumped back onto the "safer" ice, only dousing one foot in ice water.
I have to confess that my concern was not exactly for Paul and Kavi's safety as much as first getting my camera safe and then snapping pictures of the absolute shock on their faces as they fell chest deep in icy water and struggled to get out. I may or may not have been laughing hysterically at them. Sorry, Paul and Kavi, but I know you can look after yourselves!?! it was a very memorable and fun afternoon!
Somewhere in the back of my mind was the awareness that my backside had turned to ice from sitting in the snow for the last couple hours but I barely registered it; I was having too much fun. And who could be behind a photoshoot this much fun but Ammi Midstokke? In case you haven't read my other blogs, Ammi Midstokke is a friend who is a great writer and who lets me take photographs of her doing adventurous things such as.....snowshoe running!!
Ammi had been asked to review two pairs of running snowshoes and asked me to take some pictures for her. A beautiful cloudy early morning with several inches of snow, wide open spaces, mountains and really fun action shots to get was bliss! I came home feeling alive and inspired!
Every month in 2014, I will be taking part in a project with other photographers as we write letters to our children. I will write to each of my girls in turn. I missed January but here is my first letter to my newest little lady.
How can i begin to tell you the way I feel about you? You are light incarnated. You are peace like a blue summer sky, bubbling joy like a singing brook, brimming with life. You teach me so much every day! Every time I hold you, every time I feed you, I am amazed.
You have old eyes. Eyes wise beyond your days, eyes that see right through me. Straight to my soul. And, like Jesus, your eyes don't condemn, don't judge any darkness they see there. Your eyes laugh mildly, as if to say "Really? you want to take yourself, and life, so seriously? Peace! Joy! And love! Its Good."
Life to you is a continuous and constant source of wonder, joy and laughter. I hardly ever see you when you are not smiling, giggling, cooing, amused, babbling in that hilarious, "i- can't-believe-the-world-is-this-funny!" voice! If i am busy folding laundry or cooking, all I have to do is glance at you for you to burst into a smile brighter than a sunbeam and all I have to do is make a silly noise for you to laugh out loud.
One of my favorite things in my day is as I lay you down to to sleep. You have been feeding and have usually fallen asleep at my breast but I as I lay you down in your crib, the movement wakes you and you almost always open your eyes briefly and lazily, just long enough to give me a wide sleepy smile that breaks my heart with its sweetness.
Your name means flourishing, blooming, blossoming, abundance, harvest, connected to the source. From your fat dimpled legs to your easy smile and your contentedness, your certainty that you will be well looked after, to your delight in everything that goes on around you, you embody these words already.
My sweet Skye-bird, born under a blue afternoon open sky on the last day of summer, you are a gift like water and I am so grateful to be your mama! I love you
To read more letters and see more beautiful pictures, check out the post by Bobbi Jo-Stuart . From there you can go through all the different posts in our group.
Mike and Marsha and their incredibly gorgeous kids were so much fun to photograph. Marsha warned me that they might not have it all together when I came to their house, as they had just got back from hospital with their newborn baby boy and everything was a little chaotic. It was three days before Christmas and I walked into their place expecting the kind of madness that only too often is my house. Instead I found a lovely tidy house all decked out for Christmas (how the heck did they manage THAT?) and their kids beautifully dressed and super fun and polite. Highly impressive! It was fun to spend the morning celebrating their new Christmas baby!
A snowman as a surrogate husband for a christmas card photoshoot - as fun a premise for a family photoshoot as i have heard!! And it totally lived up to expectations in fun-ness. It was, of course, the inspiration of Ammi Midstokke of the Brazen Apron blog. If anyone can weather divorce with more grace and sense of humor than Ammi and her daughter B, I would like to see it. She wanted pictures of the three of them doing lots of fun winter activities together - sledding, skiing, drinking hot chocolate, snowball fighting, with Mr Snowman Husband at the center of the action.
It turned into a huge family affair with my husband, niece, and two of Ammii's friends, plus all our kids of course, joining in the action. And its a good thing they did, because between all the props we needed, trying to build a big enough snowman, so as not to have a ridiculously diminutive "husband", trying to protect my camera from the falling snow, and nursing Thalia in snatched moments while muffled in layers of goose down, everyone was pretty busy! Our grand plans of having the snowman actually move around for the different activities were soon foiled by the fact that our snowman was no "Frosty". Nonetheless, as inanimate as he was, he was very much part of the family.
We had a blast posing all the activities, Ammi getting stuck for about ten minutes trying to fit her new telemark ski boots into her bindings, attempting to get some shots where her daughter, B, wasn't licking the snow. Of course, we had to get some couple-poses with Ammi and her new button-eyed, carrot-nosed man expressing their undying love and passion for each other!! After a couple of hours, we headed inside for warmth and a cup of Ammi's delicious coffee, which I am still dreaming about.....
Annie and her gorgeous three year old daughter Fate were an absolute pleasure to photograph - i loved hanging out with them, walking down the trail swinging Fate in the air between us and slowly seeing her warm up to me. Falling over while running down the trail, Fate split her lip open pretty nastily and both Annie and I thought it might be the end of the shoot, which was a bummer, because as two mums and with a newborn at home waiting to nurse, it is not always easy to find a time to get together. But Fate was a little hero and after a while, totally rallied and played her heart out with her mama. It was so much fun to be with them and try to capture the essence of their beautiful relationship and to gain two new friends too!!
"What d'ya think you're doing? Can't you read?" We turned to see an irate man in a bath robe charging towards us, a one man stampede, wielding his coffee cup like a truncheon. "You can't park here", he bellowed. "Didn't you see the signs? This is private property and you are trespassing." As Ammi politely tried to explain that we meant no harm and just needed a place to park to save us miles of lugging our equipment up the trail, i found myself wondering how threatening two blonde haired, blue eyed ladies must appear to this man who feels the need to brandish his coffee cup to protect his land. Clearly, the days of "This land is your land. This land is my land", are over. That land was his land and despite our excessive loveliness and gentle entreaties he remained unmoved and we loaded up our gear, mountain bike and all and drove to a more "legal", less guarded spot. Thus began my first adventure-sports photo shoot.
A few months back, my family jumped in the car in Georgia and stopped driving in Sandpoint, Idaho. It didn't take long to decide to stay as we met people that resonated with our personalities, values and hopes. Ammi Midstokke is one of those people. Did I mention I was 7 1/2 months pregnant when we moved to Sandpoint? Visiting my midwife's office in August, i discovered her daughter and business manager, Ammi Midstokke of the fabulously written and hilarious laugh-out-loud blog, "The Brazen Apron" which i highly recommend you checking out. Ammi is not only a great business manager and amazing cook but a mama, an outdoor sports fanatic and an incredible writer. When i heard about her passion for climbing, mountain biking, and oh pretty much anything with an element of danger in it, i was super excited to find a like- minded lady. When she offered me the chance to take some photos for an article she was writing, i was ecstatic. And that's how we ended up warding off a local grump and trying to capture the fun and spirit of mountain biking for a blog Ammi was writing for Mountain Gear.
The fact that I was eight months and three weeks pregnant just added to the fun. My ideal of what a heavily pregnant woman should be able to do has always been shaped by the woman in that movie Apocalypto, where she is not only chased by Mayan warriors through the jungle with a toddler in tow, but gives birth in a deep pit that is quickly filling up with water, while standing on a tiny ledge and balancing the toddler on her shoulders. So lying on a path trying to capture Ammi's bike jumps or climbing trees to get a good angle, barely tested the limits of my imagined pregnant ability! At the same time, it made me happy to be active and doing something so fun while the thought rattled in the distant recesses of my mind, "You know, you could go into labor up in this tree!"
We had so much fun working with the light and the trail shapes and chatting constantly and Ammi never tired of riding the same sections of trails over and over for me to get the right shot. Or if she did, she was very patient and gracious about it. And i discovered what I had always expected and hoped that I LOVE shooting adventure sports. Ammi got my pictures published on the Mountain Gear blog and I gained a new friend. A perfect way to start on a trail that I hope never ends.