Now that our three older kids are entering the stage of going to dances and parties and special events, I get almost as excited as they do about any opportunity they have to get dressed up and do something fancy. I love taking their photos, and I usually start planning a few days in advance for some fun photo ideas.
Our oldest son went to homecoming on Saturday, and he and his date asked if I could photograph them before the dance. They had gone to his homecoming three weeks ago, and we got some beautiful shots. We were all excited about the chance to shoot more photos before the dance at her school across town.
We all agreed it would be fun to shoot photos of the two of them on a big bridge that’s not too far away. Then, we hoped to get some group shots with her friends by the river. Now that the sunset is a little earlier, the timing would work out perfectly to get silhouette shots of them framed by the sunset. I had the whole photo shoot planned out in my mind.
But when Saturday arrived, Mother Nature had other ideas. The rain started in the middle of the night. It was coming down in sheets, with intense lightning and loud claps of thunder. The rain continued all morning. I convinced myself that by mid-afternoon, we would get a break. I envisioned the clouds parting to wow us with a beautiful backdrop, just in time for our photo shoot.
Finally, by mid-afternoon, I had to concede to the weather. The rain was only getting more intense, coming down in thick waves. Just when you thought it might slow down just a little, another round would hit. Torrential downpour would have been an understatement.
That’s when it hit me that I needed to stop trying to create the perfect photo-op out of impossible conditions. Instead, I needed to think of a way to capture the beauty of what we’d been given. So, how do you take outdoor natural light photos of people who are dressed up and don’t want to get wet when it’s pouring down rain?
With an umbrella, of course!
As I was driving to the home of my son’s date, I noticed several covered pavilions in the parks by her house. This might work!
We ended up with some really fun shots of the two of them standing under an umbrella together. You can’t tell from the photos how hard it was actually raining, so I thought I would post some other shots to show the whole experience.
Here’s my son trying his best to keep his date dry as they walked up to the pavilion.
I edited the photos to look like they were standing outside, but they were really covered by a small section of roof.
I was actually the one who got soaked because I had to stand outside of the covered area to get far enough away to take the photos. Thankfully, my son’s friend’s mom held an umbrella over me to try to keep me from getting too wet!
With a little help from Photoshop, I was able to delete a random picnic table and crop out the top of the pavilion to create some cute photos of the two of them “outdoors”.
Can you see how hard the rain is coming down as we rushed back to our cars?
Well, these two had amazing attitudes on what was probably the worst weather imaginable for homecoming. We also created some great memories of taking photos in that crazy storm! And I was reminded of a lesson that’s often hard for me to remember. Instead of trying to create a perfect experience, just find a way to enjoy the day you’re given!
If you’ve read my blog for long or if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that I’m obsessed with taking photos of the full moon.
I have an app on my phone that tells me the stages of the moon and the time it will rise and set each day. “That’s just WEIRD, Mom,” our 7-year-old daughter recently informed me.
On the one day of each month when the moon is perfectly full, it makes its way onto the horizon just as the sun is setting directly on the other side of the world. The sun shines a spotlight on the moon, making it look bright red or orange as it climbs over the horizon. The moon also looks exceptionally large if you can catch a glimpse of it right as it’s making its debut.
No matter how many photos I’ve taken of the full moon, I still want to go see it that one evening of the month when it’s at its fullest. For several days beforehand, I start thinking about where I might go to photograph it. I like to pick different settings to give it perspective.
But sometimes, like last night, things don’t work out as planned.
A few weeks ago, I took a photo of the crescent moon as it was setting behind our house. Our 14-year-old son has taken an interest in photography so he was out shooting some photos, too. I saw him standing there and realized it would be the perfect time to shoot a funny perspective photo of him “holding” the moon.
This photo inspired with some other fun ideas I wanted to use last night with my daughters holding the full moon.
But, alas. The sky was super overcast. You can only see the moon at its fullest when the sky is clear, so I knew it wasn’t worth dragging them outside for a photo shoot. Instead, I headed to the grocery store.
Of course, I made sure all of my camera equipment was packed in the van, just in case. As I was coming home, the moon was glowing brightly through the clouds. I couldn’t believe how radiant it was. Even though the cloud cover was significant, the moon was shining like a beacon.
I drove to one of my favorite photography spots and pulled over. Right in front of me, I could hear a loud, “Whoo-hoooo. Whoo-hooooo.”
Perched right on the light post in front of me, sat an owl. What could be better than a photo of the full moon with an owl in front of it?
I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the van. It was pitch dark at this point, and I didn’t want to use my flash because I might scare the owl. I kept moving my ISO higher and higher to try to get my camera to be able to “see” the owl.
I fired off several shots, then ran back to my van to adjust the settings. By about my third attempt, the owl flew away, leaving me with only this super noisy, dark, grainy, unrecognizable photo.
I turned to take my photo of the moon, and it was gone, too.
The clouds had completely shrouded it.
I got back in the van, and kept driving.
I was almost home when I saw the moon peeking through the clouds again. I stopped and jumped out.
I knew I didn’t have long, so I tried to grab a shot without my tripod. My ISO was too high, so I missed all of the detail on the moon. I ran back to the van so I could use the interior lights to adjust my camera settings.
Now, my ISO was lower, which meant my shutter speed also needed to be slower. I couldn’t hold my camera steady enough to get a clear shot.
I ran back to the van to get my tripod. The top piece can twist all of the way off, and this had happened last time I used it. I was scrambling to get it back together. By the time it was all set, I looked up at the moon, and it was gone.
So, this morning, I got up and walked downstairs to see two of my kids staring out the window.
“Look at the moon!” my daughter exclaimed.
There it was. Huge and red as it was setting behind the houses on the other side of the prairie.
I ran to the van to grab my camera. I was back in about one minute. But by then, this was all that was left. Just a tiny fragment of that beautiful moon.
What’s the point of all of this?
It made me realize that this experience is really closer to real life than many of the photos I like to post. Behind every beautiful moment, you will find a dozen frustrating, blurry, sad or anger-filled moments that no one sees.
This is true in photography and life.
I decided that maybe it was good to post some of my photography bloopers for a change. Sometimes it can be refreshing just to know the true story. Life is so much more than the edited, filtered, cropped and manipulated moments that we see on social media.
And that’s OK. I still loved hearing that owl. I loved seeing the moon shining through the clouds. And the red moon setting this morning was an awesome sight.
I can only share my failed photos with the world this morning. But maybe those are the images that you needed to see. I hope they are reminders for today that every moment doesn’t have to perfect. And every image doesn’t have to be beautiful. Just enjoy what you are given.
When I think about November, the first thing that comes to mind is NOT how beautiful it is. In my mind, November is the transition from fall to winter. It’s the month when the vibrant colors of October start to fade. It’s the month of dark evenings and cooler weather.
As I thought about ways I could practice gratitude this month, I decided I would challenge myself to post a daily photo showing the beauty of November. Lots of people share posts each day about what they are thankful for. I decided I would try to do this through photography.
Honestly, I had my doubts about how successful I would be. But, as always, you will find beauty when you look for it. And during the first week of November, it’s been easy to find.
The trees have been amazing.
The weather has still been fluctuating from cool evenings to warm days, bringing eerily beautiful foggy mornings.
I’ve been able to catch a few sunrises.
And some gorgeous walks through fallen leaves.
Seeing the farmers out in their fields makes me appreciate the bounty of the season.
Week One of my gratitude photography project has been amazing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the month brings!