Category Archives: Photography :: Family Life

When I arrived at the Greene’s home on the Peninsula, I was quietly overjoyed that their newest addition was still napping.  There is something so pure and innocent about a sleeping child.  Whenever I see my own kids sleeping, I think about more than just having a quiet household.   When I see those sleeping babies I am reminded of possibility… theirs and mine.

Sitting on the ground, waiting for her to wake, I noticed the mirror on the underside of the mobile on her swing.  It was similar to the mirror on the swing my own kids had, but I had never noticed how they looked in it.  I didn’t slow down to peek at what they spend a lot of time looking at – their own reflection.  I was grateful that I didn’t miss it this time and had a chance to show her parents what their little girl sees when she’s being lulled to sleep.

The world is a very different place from the eyes of a child.  I believe we all need to take the time to get down onto a child’s level to experience life in the way that they do.

Her mom has several handmade, lace dresses that her grandma made for her when she was just a girl.  Most of them are still too big, but this dress fit perfectly.  What struck me most about this dress what how fragile it was, but her mom didn’t let that stop her from having her 11 month old wear it.  She said that her grandma made the dresses to be warn, not kept in a closet.  Such wonderful advice!  Heirlooms should be used and honored, not tucked away and forgotten.

She is just learning to walk, and that taste of freedom makes all other forms of transportation unacceptable… including shoulder rides from her big brother.  She spent the entire time trying to get back down to the ground.  Bless his heart… he just let her wiggle and pull her way around.  Even if it meant the occasional elbow to the nose or tiny baby dagger nails to the cheek.   All girls need a big brother like this one.

She popped her head out of her ball pit to reveal the most elaborate head of staticky hair, and not only did her parents laugh along with her, but they were thrilled to have it documented. This secured a place in my heart for this family for an eternity.  I want to surround myself with parents who see the perfection in the seemingly imperfect… life is much more enjoyable when you search for the lightness in the uncontrollable.

She prances along the sidewalk outside their home while her dad does his best to keep up.  Seeing the dichotomy between his full grown feet and her tiny, demure, one-year old feet makes our responsibly as parents even more evident.

She is at the age of sheer concentration.  Be it trying to walk or feed herself.  She’s incredibly focused and takes these tasks very seriously.

Our session started off with her nap and ended with her big brother dozing off on the couch.  Exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open, he powered through his little sister’s Elmo book with her.  Big brothers are awesome.

Not even a year old, this angelic little one commands your attention and will hold onto your heart.  She’s entertaining and loveable.  Feisty and expressive.  But above all else, she is this family’s love.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. My next photo class for moms has been announced!  You can register (and get the details) HERE!

Photographing small children is a bit like interval training. I’m either dashing around trying to keep up with quick little legs, or I’m sitting on the ground waiting for the next thing to happen.  The younger the kids, the more I seem to wait.

Little ones have their own agenda, and they really don’t care what we have in mind.  When it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat.  And the world will have to stop until this new project is complete.   It’s not like they’re suddenly going to say , “hey, I forgot you were trying to photograph me being awesome… let me finish this one last Cheerio so we can get back to business!”   Nope.  That never happens.  And I’m grateful.

Their slowing down forces me to slow down.  To pause.  To look around while I wait.  I take these lulls in my sessions to find that one photo…. the magical, layered photo that reveals a little more the longer you look at it.  

Here is this Palo Alto Family’s One Photo:

Family Photography in Palo Alto CA

The feet are where the crux of the magic lies.  Both children have their signature pose.  On the left, she has one foot up and one down.  On mom’s right, he has his feet crossed.  Two positions they seem to hold at all times throughout the day… no matter what they’re doing.

Now, layer on Dad working in the adjacent room – even though he’s not physically in the picture, he’s involved because this is what he sees when he walks out of his office.   His wife, mother of his two wonderous children, is sitting in-between them, turning side to side as she alternates between helping each of them with their snacks.  If we look at the floor we see the remaining evidence of their hunger.  Which was soon lapped up by their two very loving, and mildly skittish, rescue dogs… yet another layer in the deeper story this picture tells.

This more than just a photo of cute, dangling feet.  This is history.  Their history.   So much is said in one photo.  So much to recall and remember.  I’m happy to sit and wait for children to finish eating, if I am granted access to moments like this.  My heart is happy.  :)

 

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

 

A few weeks ago, I posted a lovely Danville Saturday Morning photo session that somehow morphed into a Family Life session.  This happened because, when talking with this mama, it became quite clear that her sentimental heart was barely being contained in her petite frame.  She told me beautiful, moving stories of her daughter, husband and distant relatives.  With each story I asked myself, “does she know what her love looks like?”  It’s radiating off of her, and her eyes brightly shine when she speaks of her family.  I wondered,  “does she see what I see?”

And that is the very core of my photography and how I view my families.  I’m constantly searching for the moments that move their hearts, and I ask myself – what makes them love the way they do?  I want, nay, need to show them what their feelings look like.

Our love for our families is dynamic.  And since we can’t step outside of ourselves to see this, I’ve made it my mission to show you what your love looks like… statically.  

Curling up on a couch reading a story about a Greek lamb has a completely differently meaning when the couch you’re sitting on was the very same couch you crawled upon as a child.  Walking around her home and hearing the stories about her furniture’s history was a special treat for me.  I believe family heirlooms should be enjoyed and not tucked away upon a shelf left to gather dust.  And this mom has taken that same philosophy to a whole new level.  She inspires me.

They sit in front of this giant mirror and practice yoga together.  Today, her daughter wasn’t in the mood for it.  She was struggling with putting on her socks and was insistent on doing it by herself.  But ultimately, her struggle ended with tears.  And like magic, Mom was quickly able to restore the balance and quell the bubbling storm that is a toddler who just lost the battle with a sock.

The rustic rope swing is tied high up in one of the many towering, old oak trees that cover their property.  A lot of time is spent outdoors, and the swing provides entertainment for daughter and dad – mom was a little less enthusiastic about going for a ride on it.  (Understandably so… I would leave that to the kids and dads, too!)   But she watches with excitement and beams with the love of a mother.   When I got home and saw that there was a rainbow in this picture, I sighed.  It so fitting since this little girl is their angel.  She’s the light of their lives and seeing her floating over a rainbow couldn’t be more fitting.

 Whether they’re being pensive or playful, children are honest.  And sometimes we have to just ride the emotion waves and let them feel what they’re feeling.  I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about children… they know no other way than to express themselves authentically.

 And then there is the bathtub… She  reminds me of a little princess that doesn’t know she’s a princess.  And it makes my heart smile.

I’ll leave you with this one last image.  I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again, mom and dad are where family started. Honor it.

Thank you my sweet Danville family for an awe inspiring morning.  I left happier and lighter.  And these pictures take me right back to that place every time I look at them.  xoxoxo!

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. This little girl is the inspiration behind my next article about embracing the emotion.  Be sure to check back or join me over on Facebook.  :)

 

They call her Baba. Her youngest grandson picked her name when he was barely walking, and it stuck. She laughs about it because he was so adamant… she couldn’t convince him to change even if she wanted to.  Now, four more grandkids later, they all call her Baba, and she’s grown to love it.

Baba’s immensely thoughtful daughters surprised her with a Mother’s Day gift of photography – for just her and her grandchildren.  At first, they wondered if I would take on the project because it wasn’t a traditional family session, but this is what I thrive on. Extended family is the absolutely best kind of family to have.  I was very close with my own grandma, and if I had pictures of the two of us playing Kerplunk while eating apple slices and cheddar cheese,  or swimming in Lake Pelican, I would be forever grateful.  So I jumped at the opportunity to help someone else hold onto their own memories.

Baba and Papa have a beautiful home tucked away in the Berkeley Hills. Recently their grandkids discovered a small playhouse hidden in the side yard that has gone unnoticed for over a decade. Unbeknownst to the grandchildren, their own mothers played in that very house when they were little, and they are more than happy to pass the playhouse torch.

The three oldest grandkids gather together and work on sprucing up the little house.  From feather dusters to brooms, they’ve rid this little gem of spider webs and layers of dust.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time with these kids over the years, and I can say with certainty, this is the most organized I’ve seen them.  They’re united in the one goal of getting the house ready for playing… and the youngest boy bringing in freshly picked flowers was the icing on the cake.  I’m pretty sure his mom’s heart melted a little when she saw this photo.

 When they heard the neighbor call to them, they quickly gathered around the window to say “hello”… or make faces.  Either one.  They may be up to the task of cleaning a nearly forgotten little playhouse on the hill, but they’re still kids.  And with his silly faces, he’s here to remind us, lest we forget.

 

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. I’m sure most of you have figured this out by now, but I’m a bit of a sappy, sentimental mama. So it’s no surprise that this session filled my heart.

 

If you watch, open your eyes, slow down… and be patient… you can capture more than just a moment.  You can capture a flood of memories.  

Her mom is blow drying her hair as she has done a hundred times before.  She is bouncing on her toes making the hair drying process just a bit of a challenge.  Her toenails are painted, but chipped… she doesn’t mind.  She’s wearing in a frilly, white dress that is tied loosely with a pink ribbon.  And if you look very closely, you can see the impressions on her legs from her shin guards.  She walked off the soccer field only an hour before this picture was taken.

If I didn’t wait… if I was just focused on the end goal of getting pictures, I would have missed this.  And from the series of four pictures I took, this one says more than the others combined.  It has an entire childhood summed up in one place, and her parents can relive so much because each detail has its own story.  It’s not just a picture of a little girl getting ready for a family photo shoot.

This is my message to everyone:  slow down. Decide what’s meaningful before you click the shutter.  

And my challenge to every mom out there (and dad!) is to focus on getting just one phenomenal photo rather than 15 mediocre ones.  That one photo can tell you more than the 15 combined if you let it.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Need more help doing this, sign up for my newsletter – I’ve got a webinar coming up on this very subject and newsletter recipients will be the first to find out about it. :)

 

A few weeks ago I blogged the beautiful, perfectly crazy Buhalis family’s Saturday Morning Session. But I purposely left out a short series of pictures because I felt like they needed to be on their own. They needed more words. More space. More time.

Here’s why…

Before any session, I talk with my clients a lot. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. It’s not just about what their kids do every day, but about what they, the parents, do. How they feel. Who they are. Our children’s memories start with ours. It’s important to me to understand exactly where parents are coming from. What’s in their heads and hearts. Our conversations lead to some unique discoveries. Many times the mom or dad didn’t know something was important until we talked about it. For this family, I was talking with her about her daily family routine and was instantly stopped by her comment that she helps her youngest son get dressed.

Why is that important to me when nearly everyone else wouldn’t bat an eye?

Because it’s a moment that is repeated day in and day out for years on end, and yet we barely take notice of it. Probably because it’s our every day. And those things easily become mundane. But I don’t see it as mundane. To me, it’s wondrous. It’s not simply helping a child get dressed. It’s helping a child stand… in more ways than one.

When we’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to remember that helping them dress won’t last forever. It slowly fades. Most of the time we don’t even notice when they stop asking for help. Usually we’re too busy pushing down the road to independence to notice that they no longer need us in the same way.

For this mom of three, the simple act of helping a child get dressed has been a part of her life for nearly nine years now. If you have more than one kid, you might not even realize that you’ve been assisting someone getting dressed for such a long period of time.

When I look at these pictures, I don’t just see a mom helping her child get dressed… I see a mom with an uncontrollable love. A mom who devotes her life to her children. She is there for them 24 hours a day. She is on-call all of the time and never off duty. And when she helps her youngest get dressed, I see her patience. I see his dependence. And I also see the end in sight. He will wake up one day soon and dress himself… just like her other two. While that will be lovely and freeing, it hurts my heart a little. For these are our babies, and it is at this age when we are their everything.

In my own home we are at a transitioning place. My youngest is dressing himself 80% of the time. I guess that’s why these pictures hit home for me.

I can practically feel the weight of his tiny hands on her shoulders. And the slight struggle as he wiggles into his shorts.

I’m so, so, so glad that she has these pictures. Sometimes that’s all you need to move from one stage to the next. A memory. A reminder.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area