In August, my little assistant and I hosted "portrait play dates" in our home. These play dates are something I do for fun but also as a service to my clients and friends. With a backdrop and lighting set up in our living room, we invite friends with little ones over to make a few portraits with us and then play. I started this event last February after making a small setup for Valentine’s Day photos to photograph my daughter, Ellamae. When I realized how much work we had put into the setup for just a few photos, I invited friends over to make a portrait too. I offer one free digital file for them to use however they want. At that time I suggested using the image to create personalized Valentine’s Day Cards.
This August, with Ellamae home from Mother’s Day Out for the month, I struggled to balance time with her and time spent working on my photography business. To combine work and play I invited some friends with kiddos over to make photos again. We had five photo sessions/play dates and they were a blast! We captured some fun images of the kids and then spent time playing and chatting.
The first date was with Micah. He is a busy little two year old, but we managed to catch a few good smiles. He really liked our tiny rocking chair! After photographing, we went outside and chased some bubbles.
Next we had the Castillo family over. It was the day of Jacob’s 8th birthday so we got to make fun birthday themed photos with him and his sister Jonah! Their mom took my suggestion to bring fun props along for the photos and had several different options to make fun and interesting portraits! They brought playdough and Ellamae got hers out. These two are a photographer’s dream and so great at making portraits! I would love to photograph them every day.
Miles and Levi are regular photography clients and a little older than our other play date guests but we had fun with them too! They brought Ellamae a fairy garden and after our photo session we went outside and planted flowers in it. I loved the way the boys showed Ellamae each step and helped her to complete the project.
Edith brought her newborn, Julian, and seven year old, Nicole, over Thursday afternoon. Nicole immediately told me when she walked in the door that she did “not want to take pictures!” She had fallen asleep in the car on the way over and was less than happy when she arrived. However, after hanging out, chatting and seeing Ellamae for a bit she joined her mom and brother for a few sweet photos. I was honored to preserve a few precious moments during this delicate time that passes so quickly.
Last, we had Andrew come to visit. Andrew was nearing his first birthday so we tried out a few themed props that I had around the house. Then we got some shots with his favorite toys so his family could look back and remember this precious phase of his life. Always smiling, Andrew exudes joy and always keeps me grinning!
Portrait Play Dates allow me to practice my trade, see some of my adult friends, and our kiddos get to play together. I can’t think of a better way to spend a week!
If this sounds like fun to you and you might want to host portrait play dates at your house, please let me know. As a play date host, you will receive 10 digital portraits for free. This is a good excuse for your friends to get photos made of their little ones in a laid back atmosphere, play with friends and have some adult bonding time too.
Oh yeah....and a few portraits of my own kiddo....
Symantha “dated” my brother at church camp, back when dating meant calling someone your boyfriend or girlfriend and sitting next to them at the campfire. Although we lived in towns almost three hours apart, somewhere in the next few years I discovered that she was the cousin of one of my closest high school friends. It always amazes me how people weave in and out of our lives, popping in and out with serendipitous timing.
About a year ago, a Faceook message from my high school friend (and Symantha’s cousin) informed me that Symantha had moved to Edmond, OK and she suggested we meet up. We both had little girls and might be able to reconnect. Knowing the isolation I felt as a newcomer to Oklahoma City, I was eager to reach out to Symantha. I also have a great appreciation for spending time with people who relate to my roots. There is an understanding between people from “home” that you can’t find in others.
Symantha and I started meeting up for play dates and our daughters got along great. Even though Symantha’s daughter, Holly is almost two years younger than my daughter, Ellamae, they have a great time together. We hold a lot of parallel views on parenting and I wholly enjoy our time together. Chats about Michigan and things only Northern Michiganders understand help ease the pain of living so far from our families.
After Symantha asked me to capture their family portraits, we got together to discuss ideas for their session. We met at Starbucks, but only after attending a pregnancy event together, because we both happen to be pregnant right now also! I asked Symantha what she had in mind and what kinds of things Holly is into at this phase of toddlerhood. What would she like to remember about this age and phase in the years to come? Symantha mentioned baby dolls and a bubble machine! What fun! She also said that her husband Randy really likes willow trees. Pulling all of these things together, Symantha brought along the adorable tea set, blanket and bubble machine and we agreed on Kite Park in Nichols Hills. This park has a large, well kept willow tree and lush green landscaping, perfect for family portraits! AND….a wonderful playground for celebrating with family fun after the session, because FUN is always number one on my priority list for family photos!
I first photographed Jennifer and Charlie for an engagement session in 2010. Somehow I convinced them to let me photograph one of the most important days of their lives and captured their wedding day a month later. They have made me a part of numerous important occasions in their lives over the last seven years. We now schedule a date each spring to commemorate their son Kendall’s birthday.
This year, when I talked with Jennifer about current interests and loves, superheroes topped the list. Kendal’s mom tells me “Some days all he plays with are his superheroes! Sometimes they even go into timeout for pushing and hitting their friends!”
I always say family photo sessions require planning, preparation and packing and this session involved all three. Jennifer ordered some new superhero masks and capes and anxiously awaited their delivery – hoping they would arrive in time for the shoot. On the session day we toted a bucket of superheroes and costumes around downtown Oklahoma City. The extra luggage was totally worth it! When we first arrived, a group of women making senior portraits expressed their jealousy of all our cool superhero gear. They wanted to borrow it!
Even the best planning needs flexibility, so when I saw thunderstorms in the forecast for our scheduled session in Automobile Alley, I texted Jennifer asking if they wanted to try to head out earlier and avoid the storms. We were able to beat that weather without any worries, by just making a small change to our plan!
As Jennifer and I very carefully lined up Spiderman, Captain America and their buddies for one of the shots, Kendall shrieked, “Are they playing with my superheroes??” Of course we were! Everybody gets a chance to have fun making photographs with Crackerjack Photography!
A couple weeks after their session, Jennifer and I met up to review their final edited images and place a print order. She stated that so many of the images showed Kendall’s personality and different parts of it. This is one of the things I always strive for. "I loved them! They brought tears to my eyes because you captured Kendall's personality perfectly," replied Jennifer in a follow up survey.
I can't wait to see how this family changes in the next year and I hope they continue to include me in capturing each new stage of their lives!
One Night in Sulphur, Oklahoma - March 2, 2017
“This is kind of exciting, huh? A mini getaway!” said my husband (who plans trips all over the world including adventure activities like ocean fishing, rainforest tours, whale watching, etc.) as we were driving to Sulphur, Oklahoma! Sometimes I’m just not sure how his mind works. After a 90 minute drive to the hotel, filled with planning of other trips including Disneyland, Los Angeles, Montana, Michigan and Austin, Texas, he was excited to be staying one night, in a hotel, in Sulphur, Oklahoma! Don’t be mistaken, I was excited too.
We were planning a long weekend trip to Lake Tenkiller, but then noticed the weather wasn’t looking quite so awesome all weekend. With Ellamae asking to go swimming for the past week and a coupon for a free night’s stay at the Artesian Hotel, we decided to make a quick one night getaway to Sulphur to get our swim on, a massage for mama and some fishing for daddy. I got the car all packed up on Thursday, picked Josh up from work at 5:00 and we were checked in and swimming by 7:15 pm!
As we approached the hotel entrance, Ellamae observed “It smells like a stinky pool out here!” She was so excited to go swimming. We had a family swim for the evening and then Josh slipped down to the casino to play some Blackjack. Ellamae and I got ready for bed so we could do more swimming in the morning.
The beautiful pool at the Artesian has an indoor and outdoor section. It was a little cold for swimming outdoors, but still fun to look out there and dream of coming summer. There were a group of teenagers in the pool who were in town for a competition. Two girls watched and giggled at every move my daughter made, making her dad and I feel ever so grateful for each smile, giggle and thrill of excitement over something as simple as “kick, kick, kick”- ing her legs in some chlorinated water.
Ellamae watched cartoons while I did a little writing (this blog post J) and checked my email. Then we wandered downstairs for breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Springs at the Artesian. The food always impresses us here and this time Ellamae gave the approval saying “XXXXX’s (my personal favorite breakfast venue) pancakes were not tasting as well as these pancakes!” She said her bacon had “too loud crunch” so she “ordered” (ate) mine. The one plate was plenty to share between the two of us. As 80’s disco music played in the background, the new Snapchat filter was so fitting!
After breakfast, we headed to the pool for round two of swimming. We visited the “Bath House” this time and it was lovely! The “Bath House” (hot tub) at the Artesian serves as “a nod to the past” as the City of Sulphur was historically known for the area’s natural springs. Its generous size prohibits the standard awkwardness of sitting in a circle with a bunch of strangers playing footsy and the kiddos can move around in it without disturbing anyone. This hotel feels serene and elegant, but at the same time maintains a family friendly atmosphere!
Josh returned from fishing in time for me to shower and pack up before heading down to the Sole’renity Spa for a massage. My therapist, Rhonda was great and explained some things about massage therapy that no one has ever taken the time to talk to me about. I’ve decided I might need to start getting regular massages so that I can be more comfortable! Rhonda talked about visiting her son in Hawaii and I shared about the time we vacationed in Hawaii and there was a Tsunami (more on that later).
Even though, on this day, they were running behind and my appointment started about 20-30 minutes late, the staff has been very professional in both my visits to this spa. I wanted to use the Eucalyptus steam sauna after my massage, but Josh and Ellamae were finished with lunch and heading to “play the piano” in the hotel lobby. I’m not sure if that is allowed. I wanted to stay at the spa longer, Josh wanted more time to fish and Ellamae would have loved to swim more. The important thing is that we all got to do something we enjoy. No one was forced into too much of anything not their style and we all went home before we were too tired. We spent the drive home dreaming about more adventures together and what’s next in life… but not without a walk in the park and ice cream first!
My daughter, Ellamae, is 3.4 years old (as described by my husband, the geologist). At her ripe age, she has traveled more than most adults have in their lifetime. Before birth, she toured at least 11 states and has currently traveled in as many countries as she has celebrated birthdays!
People ask me regularly about two topics: travel (with my family including a 3 year old and often an 80 lb. goldendoodle) and photography.
I hear “You travel so much!” or “You take really great photos.” For families, these activities both require lots of planning, preparation and WORK! I ask myself “Is this really worth it?!?” every time I’m running around the house for an entire day (ok, maybe three days) packing before a trip (even if it’s just for the weekend). But, you know what? It’s always worth it – for the experiences and memories made. Family portraits involve planning, preparation, work and maybe even packing – snacks, props, outfit changes, etc., etc. - but in the end - the images and memories you cherish forever are worth it! Nicholas Sparks said “Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Remember that.”
Today I’m committing to sharing my experience with the world through words and pictures. I’m starting a blog! I have so many unshared images overcrowding hard drives! In an effort to liberate some of these images, you’ll be seeing some blog posts about past trips. Hopefully, I can inspire you to pack a bag, plan a trip (or maybe a family photo session) and create some memories. In the meantime, I hope to make connections for myself through sharing and reliving these experiences. My husband is the planner, I am the historian. Consequently, my apprehensions are always about the future and my partner always wants to talk about how we should have done things differently. Today, I seek to live more in the present. Perhaps revisiting these experiences will encourage us to focus on the NOW in a spirit of gratitude.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Charleston, SC, April 2014. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Charleston, SC, April 2014 Family road/camping trip to Colorado, August 2014. San Juan Mountains, CO, August 2014 Camping at Molas Lake, Silverton, CO, August 2014 Post attempted hike to Highland Mary Lakes near Silverton, CO, August 2014. We didn't quite make it there. September 2014
The road trip to Colorado in 2014 remains one of our favorite family trips. It is possible to enjoy long road trips with infants...and pets! National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, July 2015 Visiting Uncle Zach and the White House, Washington, DC, July 2015
Touring Monte Verde Cloud Forest and checking out hummingbirds with our guide, Donald. Monte Verde, Costa Rica, May 2015 Embarking on the Don Juan Coffee & Chocolate Tour. Monte Verde, Costa Rica, May 2015 Exploring the grounds of Monte Verde Lodge & Gardens. Monte Verde, Costa Rica, May 2015 Balcony view at La Mariposa Hotel. Maunel Antonio, Costa Rica, May 2015 This pup, owned by the people where we stayed, La Posada Private Jungle Bungalows, followed us everywhere! Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, May 2015 Hanging Bridges at Selvatura Park. Monteverde, Costa Rica, May 2015 Chabil Mar Resort, Placencia, Belize, May 2016 Foot washing. Chabil Mar Resort, Placencia, Belize, May 2016 Playing and fishing. Chabil Mar Resort, Placencia, Belize, May 2016 Sunrise. Chabil Mar Resort, Placencia, Belize, May 2016
© Crackerjack Photography
Welcome to the blog of Crackerjack Photography and photographer, Jamie Kirschner. Here I share my life travels and photographic adventures through words and pictures hoping to inspire you to make a trip or a portrait!
<Header Photo Credit: Kelly O'Roke Photography