Gray Matters — Family photos
Belfast — Since my son Shane has been old enough to walk, he has accompanied me to some of my work assignments that fall on weekends.
I do it for two reasons, the chief one being that it allows me to spend that time with him while also giving him some new experiences and the chance to meet new people.
Another interesting upside that I didn't quite expect is his new-found interest in photography.
In recent weeks, he has used a small digital camera I have to experiment with lighting, composition, and of course, perfecting the art of capturing good quality selfies.
While photographing the goings on at Miracle on Mortland Road this past Sunday, I was reminded of how important it is to make sure I get a few images of myself with Shane, a hard thing to keep in mind when you're always so focused on capturing the people and places of Waldo County.
It happened as I was taking a few photos of the folks who were admiring Clayton Larrabee's beautiful horses, Ben and Buster. Clayton brought the impressive animals to the event so he could provide wagon rides for the children and their families who turned out at Searsport Elementary School for their annual chats with Santa.
After I got a few photos, I asked Shane if he wanted to go over and meet Ben and Buster. He responded with an enthusiastic yes, and I started taking shot after shot of him admiring the horses from a short distance away — I could tell he was a little intimidated by their size at first. But soon, as the closer of the animals turned his head toward Shane, the boy reached out his mitten-clad hands and placed them gently on the horse's side.
It was about that time when Clayton shared his observation that since I spend so much time getting pictures of everyone in Waldo County and members of my family, I probably don't have a lot of photos that include me in them.
"You know what Clayton, you're absolutely right," I said.
And before I knew it, a nice man volunteered to take a crash course on how to operate my camera and Shane and I got in our places with Ben and Buster.
The photo turned out fantastic, and it is now one of my favorite photos that I have of my son and me.
Then I was so inspired by Clayton's encouragement I went ahead and hopped in a photo with Shane and Santa at the end of his visit with the big man — a big thanks to my sister Jess for snapping that picture.
I never spent much time thinking much about it before, but after going through a few old family photos I discovered how few times I appeared in pictures of a lot of milestone events like birthdays, family campfires, interesting family outings. I think because I am so used to being someone who is charged with capturing memorable moments with my camera for my profession, I unwittingly took on the role as family photographer — it just feels natural for me to do it.
But in the years to come I will do a better job of getting my own face included in those family snapshots so my son will have them to look back on when he is older. Shane already sees the value of a well-composed selfie, which tells me at his tender age, he has a better sense of this kind of thing than I do. Even so, as he gets older I will continue to teach him the value of all-inclusive family photos.
A big thanks to Clayton for pointing out my regular absence in our family album, and for enlisting the help of others to include me in a photo that carries great memories for Shane and me.
Even if you're not all that photogenic (I am not) and even if you dislike having your photo taken (like me), I would encourage you to break out of that comfort zone behind the camera once in a while so you, too, can have a few great images to go with those memories.