It was a typical Sunday evening.
We have dinner with my wife’s family every Sunday evening.
It’s a tradition we’ve had ever since we got married nine years ago. As with most traditions, it’s one that’s evolved over the years. We used to have dinner at my in-law’s 10-foot long dinner table. We would sit around and talk for hours afterward. We’d gossip about the latest news, debate life’s great questions and talk through whatever home renovation or trip one of us was planning.
Now, Sunday dinner looks a lot different.
Between my wife and I, and her sister’s family, there are five kids under the age of 5 now. Let’s just say that when we get together now, it’s a lot noisier! It’s chaotic. But it’s a blast!
Kids bring so much joy.
This particular summer Sunday evening was the same as any other. The kids had been in the pool before dinner. Once they finished supper, they went to play in the living room. They had a new sit-and-spin toy they loved to play with. Two kids would sit down, opposite each other, and spin each other around and around in circles. They loved it. In hindsight, it’s a miracle that one of them didn’t get sick!
I had my X100F with me.
I have my X100F with me everywhere I go. More on that in a bit, though.
The kids were taking turns spinning each other and laughing. I sat down next to them and documented that moment.
This is my son, Ben, who’s 2.5 years old. He’s immersed in an uncontrollable belly laugh as he and his cousin, Cooper, spin around on this toy.
This Sunday night dinner was not unusual. In fact, it was anything but unusual. It was completely normal. But it’s a tradition, and it deserves to be marked. To be celebrated. To be remembered.
We all celebrate milestones, but the “ordinary” is worth documenting, too.
As a professional wedding and portrait photographer of 11 years, I take pictures for a living. Photography has taken me on countless adventures. With my camera, I’ve been able to be a part of so many incredible experiences. I’ve been a witness to some of life’s most joyous moments.
I spend so much time documenting the lives of others. It’s important to remember to document my own life, too.
The more I have documented my growing family through photography, the more I realize there’s so much more worth documenting than the big milestones. Yes, the big events – birthdays, weddings and holidays – are great to photograph, but they’re not the whole story.
In fact, they’re only 5% of the story.
I want to tell the story of our every day. I want to remember the ordinary. The normal. Those are the everyday moments that I want to remember.
Like every night before bed, how we say prayers as a family in Ava’s bedroom. And afterward, Ava jumps up into her bed and we tuck her in. Ben hops up, too, to say goodnight. Sometimes they tickle each other and goof around. We often have to remind them – “It’s bedtime, say goodnight now.”
But even in the silliness, there is an unspoken bond between them. Brother and sister. One night, I captured this image.
It tells the story of our bedtime routine. Our tradition. It tells the story of the relationship between a brother and a sister. It shows Ava’s protection for her little brother. An ordinary moment worth documenting.
Photography as a vehicle
Imagine hearing a song from your teenage years, and how it might bring you back to that time of your life. It would remind you of all the people that were in your life and the things you had going on.
An image has that same magic.
An image is a window into the past. An opportunity to re-live a moment and experience the feelings you had when the image was created. The ordinary moments are fleeting. Unless you pause and document them, they will flicker away.
When I am documenting my own family (and a client’s families), I want to tell a story. I don’t just want what’s on the surface. I want authenticity, yes, but I also want meaning. I want something deeper.
That’s what documentary photography has shown me.
I have learned to document my family in a new way. The catalyst that has pushed me to do this is simple – I always carry my camera with me. Everywhere.
My Fujifilm X100F
My little seeing machine; my storytelling tool.
What I love about my Fuji X100F is that I don’t have to change lenses. I don’t have to fiddle with flashes. I don’t have to carry around a bag with all kinds of accessories. I don’t really even have to think about the camera.
It fits in my pocket and goes with me everywhere.
It’s become an extension of me.
It allows me to be in the moment. It allows me to enjoythe moment. And yet at the same time, when I am called to do so, I can easily document the moment in a non-intrusive, non-interruptive way.
We went camping up North with my parents this summer. The kids love to explore the outdoors, as every child does. There is something so beautiful in a child’s carelessness. Their vulnerability. They don’t care what they look like or whether they’ve brushed their teeth yet or not. When they see a butterfly along a path, they chase it with a sense of wonder and excitement that only a child displays. They don’t even care that they’re still wearing their pajamas.
The electronic viewfinder in my X100F allows me to get it right in the camera. It allows me to use my creativity to tell the story I’m trying to tell without worrying about the details, but I can see what I’m going to get. I use light, composition, and exposure to fulfill my vision.
My X100F is my seeing machine. My storytelling tool.
One day, we were at the local butcher getting hamburgers for dinner. I had Ava and Ben with me, and the clerk at the shop asked them if they wanted a popsicle. I don’t know any kid who has ever said “no” to a popsicle. As we got back in the car to drive home for supper, I documented this moment of them as they enjoyed their new sweet treat in the back of the van.
An ordinary moment worth remembering.
With my X100F, I love that I am limited to one focal length. It’s one simple, small, portable camera. It forces me to focus on storytelling and not about playing around with my gear.
One late afternoon, we were playing in the playroom upstairs, and we asked Ava and Ben to clean up. They needed a hand with something, but I was holding Andrew, our 6-month old. I put him down in Ava’s bed for a moment so I could bend down and pick something up for them. The light streaming into the room on the bed was stunning. I noticed it. Andrew looked up for a split-second, and this is the image I made.
These images are all straight-out-of-camera. I shoot JPG on my X100F. The colours, the tones and the depth out of my Fuji are unmatched. There’s nothing else I would want to do to this image. Removing the need to edit these in Lightroom or retouch them in Photoshop eliminates another roadblock for me. Think about it – how many personal photos do you have that are waiting to be edited? Having to go through your personal images and spend all that time on them is just another obstacle to overcome. It’s one that might cause you to think next time you press the shutter to document your family and think – “Do I have time to edit these?”
As a photographer, I believe in being a master of our craft. I don’t want to have to rely on digital manipulation to fix the mistakes I could have gotten right in the camera in the first place. Fuji helps me with this in two big ways:
- With the EVF, I can see my exposure and white balance in-camera as I’m making the image.
- The colours and tones out-of-camera are rich. They’re damn-near perfect as far as I’m concerned and I wouldn’t want to do anything to them, anyway!
One Saturday afternoon, as we were getting ready to head out for some errands. Ava and Ben were getting ready to go in the mudroom. I could hear their giggles from the kitchen and knew they were up to something. I walked in (X100F in hand) and found them both wearing “Daddy’s shoes” as they put it – they thought it was hilarious. An ordinary moment worth documenting.
I encourage you to think about how you’re documenting your own families lives. I hope you’ll consider getting your camera out and telling your own story. In doing so, I implore you to think more deeply about why you’re pressing the button each time you do.