Friday, September 28, 2012

Snap happy!

I am a raging photoholic. I have probably taken close to a million photos in the past several years. It's an addiction. Like an alcoholic needs a drink, like a junkie needs a fix, I NEED to take pictures. Daily. If I'm out somewhere and I see a photo op (something cute, beautiful or unusual) and I don't have my camera with me to snap it, it physically HURTS. Once I was driving home from nightshift and saw a blue heron sitting by the water with the golden glow of the sunrise behind him. It was the perfect shot. I had to have it. D'oh! I was dead tired after a long night but I rushed home to get my camera and raced back to the pond hoping he'd still be there. He was. Yes. It's a problem.

I once sat by my patio doors for 2 hours taking hundreds of pictures of a severe thunderstorm trying to capture lightning. I had mastered the art of photographing fireworks but lightning was even trickier. If I wasn't so stubborn it wouldn't have happened. I took a lot of pictures of a black sky, one millisecond too early or too late for the bolt. I wasn't giving up. The timing is crazy. You have to press the button before the bolt even comes. It's an act of blind faith. Meanwhile my Mom phoned me from her basement, terrified because a tornado watch was in effect. I told her I was enjoying God's fireworks display and trying to get a piece of it! Mom begged me to take cover but there was no way I was missing this show when I had a front row seat! There was a dark cloud in the sky that might have been a funnel cloud for all I knew but I was going to get this picture if it killed me! Then it happened. Magic. The sky was lit up with multiple bolts at once, right over my backyard. I'd never seen anything like it. It was so beautiful. And I caught it with my camera. It was so close the glass seemed to shake a little. I felt it in my bones. I was ecstatic. I have always loved thunderstorms. The awesome power and beauty of nature makes me feel close to God.

I have this need to capture every moment in images. It started in 1994 when I went to Europe with my boyfriend at the time (my longest relationship -- on-again, off-again for nine years). We backpacked across Europe for 26 days, going to to England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. I knew that I might never see these places again so I had to record everything. My boyfriend thought I took too many photos. I don't think I took nearly enough. At the time I had a terrible cheap little 110mm camera. With the parallax error some of my pictures were quite horrendous. The camera was so poorly designed that what you see in the viewfinder isn't even what you are actually photographing. Many of those shots were crap. Except in Venice where it's so picturesque it's impossible to take a bad picture. Even in the rain. I didn't know what I was doing. Before that I didn't even own a camera. My boyfriend had borrowed his dad's camera which was of much better quality. Unfortunately he would only take a picture if he thought it was "worthy." He didn't want to get photos of me in front of the landmarks I'd crossed the world to see because he thought that was cheesy. I had to twist his arm. I explained that if we weren't in the photos then there was no proof we were ever even there! Photos of us at all the major sites were the best souvenirs we could have. He didn't want to "clutter" the photos up with us. (This could be one of the many reasons we didn't work out!) Luckily I did get him to take a picture of me in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum and my favourite castle, Neuschwanstein in Bavaria.) I took 30 rolls of film. At the time that seemed like a lot. It's nothing compared to how many digital photos I take now. If I had Europe to do over again I would take a hundred times more photos. Probably a thousand times more. I could snap 30 rolls of film in one hour!

Photos are tangible memories. Time is so fleeting. The camera allows you to freeze a moment and preserve it forever. That is priceless to me. After Europe, I was hooked. The rest of my life would be frozen in images. I took my camera everywhere. I'm so grateful for the photos of Europe and of all my travels and adventures. Over the years I have had several cameras. I was constantly upgrading, partially by choice and partially necessity. I had a Canon which was destroyed in Montreal when a stranger offered to take a picture of my boyfriend at the time and I and then proceeded to DROP it on the concrete! "You want I take your picture?" he had asked with a thick accent. Not a French accent. I don't know where he was from. Possibly from Hell! The pictures survived but the camera didn't. The stranger muttered sorry. I was devestated. I made sure to get a camera with a self-timer next time so that I wouldn't need a stranger to take our picture again. Some cameras (Minolta, Pentax) just wore out. Three years with me would be like thirty years with anyone else. I take that many pictures. It's quantity more than quality really but as one of my teachers said once, you produce quantity to get quality. They're not all gems but if you snap 100 you're bound to get at least one perfect shot.

The first time I got a camera that had a macro feature, I was taking close-up nature shots like a fiend. I loved going on hikes and getting photos of flowers and leaves. When I went to Algonquin Provincial Park, with my boyfriend at the time it was incredible to be somewhere beautiful with someone who really appreciated it and who loved photography almost as much as I did (he wasn't the 9 year boyfriend. He was the on-again, off-again 3 year boyfriend. The sensitive but tragic alcoholic.) Watching the mist rising from the lake at sunrise was one of the most magical moments of my life. I took hundreds of photos during that trip. I even got a close-up of a mother moose with her baby by the side of the road. I knelt down a few feet from her. She looked right into my eyes. People said I was crazy because she might have attacked me. My boyfriend got a picture of me shooting the moose (with a camera!) Other people were taking pictures but no one but me dared to get so close to her. I will risk my life for a photo! One of the macros I took during that trip, of some maple leaves, was published on Oprah's website:

When my niece Shannon was a baby, I took thousands of pictures of her. Back then it was a film camera and I was printing them all out. The guy at the photolab was very friendly. He asked if she was my first child. I explained "She's not even mine! She's my niece. God forbid if I ever had one of my own. I can't imagine how many photos I'd take!" At the time I didn't plan to have kids of my own and never thought that I would. Little did I know that one day I'd be a Mom to my own little girl. It still blows my mind.

So here I am now with my first child. And yes, of course I'm snap happy! A real paparazzo! (Or Mamarazzo!)  Michelle has gotten used to staring down the lens of a Nikon, to seeing the flash, to hearing me squeal "Where's your smile, baby?" At least now with digital photos you don't have to get them all "developed." I could never afford to print them all out! You can take 100 shots and choose the best few. I do want to print some out for a photo album but God knows when I'll be able to go to one of those kiosks. There's no WAY Michelle would let me stand still for that long! I've heard that you can order photos online, then just pick them up. I'll have to look into it. That may be my only hope of having a baby album for Michelle. I don't even know how many pictures I've taken of her so far...At least a thousand I think. And it's only been two months!

I'm always so happy when I'm able to capture one of her smiles. I've been fortunate enough to catch quite a few. The real challenge has been trying to get a good photo of Michelle and I together. Either I look like a weenie or she's pulling a face. It's hard to get both of us looking and smiling. When my Mom takes a picture she's so short that she winds up taking it from too low and it looks like I have 5 chins. My sister has tried to get a few but it's hard to make Michelle cooperate and she often starts to fuss just as the camera clicks. She smiles for Mama but not with Mama. And then in the shots where she looks good, it's unflattering of me (blinking or smiling weird or God knows what.) And of course it's even more difficult with the self-timer to get Michelle looking. It always seems to snap at the wrong moment. My friend James, of J Harvey Photography, was kind enough to do some portraits of Michelle and I very recently. I can't wait to see the pictures! He showed me on his camera that he caught at least one of Michelle smiling. I was so happy! I have many pictures of her smiling at me but that's the first one of her smiling with me. James also did my maternity photos, if you caught that post back in June. I'll post a blog about his new portraits once I have them.

I want to capture all of Michelle's milestones on camera. I have pictures of her sitting up already, mind you it's in her Bumbo chair. I love the chair! It was so cute to see her sitting on her own, sort of. She loved the chair too and was quite entertained sitting in it. I guess it was a novelty for her. I managed to get a few smiles from her in it.

I've also been giving her some "tummy time" to strengthen her neck muscles and help her hold her head up. She seemed to get a kick out of that too.


She's been standing a little as well, with a lot of help from me. She is always kicking her legs and sometimes stiffens them so much I thought I'd try standing her on my lap. She did surprisingly well (of course it's hard to get a photo because I need to hold her with both hands!) My Mom said don't be too anxious for her to stand and walk or she'll be getting into all sorts of mischief. She said that once Michelle is moving around I may be looking back at these early days as easy because at least she wasn't mobile so I had some control over her. (Not that I have much control mind you. She's the one in the driver's seat and calling the shots!)

Of all the places and faces and things that I have photographed, Michelle is by far my favourite subject! Everyone says how quickly they grow up so all the more reason to have each step of the journey preserved forever. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her life on the internet (I've been sharing mine for years on sites like Youtube and Twitter.) When she's old enough to read it I hope she realizes it is a testament to my love for her. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I have been devoted to her and I love her more each day. I hope it doesn't embarass her. I know that parents always wind up embarassing their kids! My Mom kept baby books for each of us kids. This blog is my version of a baby book. 
Michelle you are my life, my love, everything to me. We are on this adventure together, both of us learning and growing each day (physically for you, spiritually for me). I'm sorry if I'm a bit of a photo fanatic. I hope all the flashes don't hurt your eyes (I do opt for natural light when it's available!) Thank you for being such a good sport so far!

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