The Blog

1 year later . . .

Almost a year to the day of shooting the Gallagher Family's "Day in the Life", I had the pleasure of shooting a family portrait session with them. 

They are as charming as ever, and I didn't think it was possible, but they've only gotten even more photogenic. 

In just one year, these kids already look so much bigger and older (and learned the act of photo bombing :) )

Having done a "Day in the Life" for them , I feel as though I'm a small part of the family.

I look forward to continuing to see this family grow and evolve and capture them in photographs for years to come. 

 

Who I am . . .

I remember walking out of the hospital, 3 day old daughter in hand, and putting her in the tiny car seat in our car.  I also remember closing the door, and saying to my wife . . "That's it?" "We can just take her home?"   "No manual?"  "No official 'parent approver' to tell us we've passed inspection?".  "We don't have to take some sort of test or something"?

And that happened TWICE!

Between all the fights, laughs, talking back, silliness and tears,  they are funny, smart, wonderful young kids who amaze me every single day.

They are the thing I'm most proud of. 

They are who I am. 

20 years and counting

A good friend called me and said. . "I know it's last minute, but would you possibly be free tomorrow to take photographs of my girlfriends and I for our 20 year high school reunion"?  Well, I was able to do it, and it was minutes from home, so it was meant to be.  Then the tricky part was finding a place to shoot at the hotel where they were getting ready.  It was 7pm, so I was starting to lose the light behind the trees that surrounded the hotel.  I literally was sitting IN a fireplace outside by the pool in order to get enough distance to shoot with my long lens and not have these ladies (most of whom were wearing high heels) fall into the pool inches behind them.  I needed all the light I could get, and had to shoot into the sun to get the nicest background I could get. Because I was shooting directly into the sun,  I was getting flares all over the place.  I used what I had and grabbed a big pool umbrella and rolled it over to help flag off the sun from my lens.  I had JUST a bit of room left above the heads of the girls before I'd see an ugly umbrella in frame.  Photography is like a giant puzzle that you also have to juggle while balancing on one foot. . . . 

I love it! 

 

All in the details. . .

There was a local (small) car show the other weekend in the town I live in.  I have to say, I don't know much (ok, anything) about cars, but I thought it could lend itself to some interesting photographs.  I have to say, the attention to detail in these old cars was much greater than it is today.   I even let my daughter take one (she said she wanted to take a "cool shot like daddy")

Watermelon Face

Ah, Summer Camp.  This this is one of the faces I came home to yesterday . . . 

time. . . .

Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions. 

-John Randolph

As I looked through the viewfinder of my camera at my girls this morning, I had this wave come over me about how hard it is to fathom how much has happened our lives.  Another last day of school, another year gone, another last picture.  There are so many quotes about time, but this one spoke so much to me.  This is the exact age I lost my dad (I was 9 and he was 42 . . ok, I'm 43 now).  Time is constantly the most incredible concept for me, and to this day, I wish I had and endless supply.

Welcome Darcy J.

Here are a few shots from a photo session I just did of the 1 day old Supermodel Darcy J.   It's been a while since I've had babies this little and you forget just how small and fragile and dependent on you they are. 

C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s   L e s l i e   a n d   T o b i n   !

the home of the brave . . .

Today's the day.  It's been looming on my calendar for over a week now.  I'm scared beyond belief, but not for me. . for my little girl.

Today was the day I was going to have to take her to the Oral Surgeon to have TWO teeth extracted.   She didn't know.  My wife thought it was best we didn't stress her out the entire week like we were, and then , on the morning, let her know we were going there instead of school.  I thought this felt like I was blindsiding her, but if she felt half the anxiety we were feeling by knowing, then I think my wife made the right choice.

So as I was saying, today was the day.  She woke up her happy little self, and then my wife had to lay the news on her that we had to go to the dentist.  She cried and was visibly scared.  I think it's just instinctive that kids (and adults) are scared of the dentist.  

Well, I took her to the first appointment , to her dentist who she knows, for an examination to assess the problem.  Her teeth, for whatever reason (genetics, asthma medicine, candy) are in pretty bad shape.  On the other hand, my other daughter, who lives identically to the way her sister does (with the exception of the asthma medicine), has ZERO cavities.

Well, the exam went as expected. . . X-rays, and a quick look in her mouth by the Dr.   The dentist took off the little apron and told her that it was over.  WHEW. . nothing hurt, nothing was invasive.  

We walked out of the dentists office, a relieved and renewed daughter bouncing along next to me.  She thought that was it, it was easy.

Here comes the worst part.  We had another appointment at the Oral Surgeon in 30 minutes from now to have two horribly decayed teeth extracted from her head, and I was the one that got to lower the boom.

I tried my hardest to be positive and assure her that everything was going to be ok, but to be honest, I had no idea how this works.  I'm not quite sure if I was trying to convince her or myself more.

She was DEVASTATED even more than when she first heard the news earlier in the morning.  

Through her crying and nervousness, she powered through.  We made it there and she walked up the stairs and into the office where all she saw was a bunch of adults waiting to be worked on.  I assured her that kids go here and that's why we were here.  Meanwhile, I'm starting to look at my watch to see if my wife will be here soon so we can take turns "faking" it in front of our daughter.

My wife , who was dropping off our other daughter at school, and NOT a fan of practice of dentistry, arrived:

________________________

tor·ture  /ˈtôrCHər/   (aka dentistry)

Noun

The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.

Verb

Inflict severe pain on.

________________________

Well, it was our turn.  The three of us went back to the first consultation room where we met the surgeon.  He couldn't have been nicer or more calm. . perfect for us (all of us).

He explained what he was going to do and we moved on to the next room.  Here , my daughter's vitals were taken, relaxing her, and getting ready to go in.

Once in the chair, we then had to leave and wait in the waiting room.  They said from start to finish it would probably be about 30 minutes.  My wife would be a good nba ref because she was calling out minutes every 5-6 of them.  After about 30 min, the assistant came out to tell us how proud we should be of our daughter who did fantastic.  

We brought her home to some smoothie and soup and a nap.

She's still sleeping in the other room right now while I write this.  My little girl continually amazes me in what she is able to push herself to do.  Her own motto is "never give up".  She continually pushes herself to do things when she otherwise can't.  From the littlest thing , all the way to teeth extraction.    I know there are children and adults that have MUCH more difficult and challenging things facing them, and I feel so lucky that MY ridiculous fears are just that. . . ridiculous.

I'm always inspired to see my brave one when I come home each night. . .

home of the brave

steps away

I have had a lot of loss in my life. . .

My father died of Cancer when I was 9, my Mother, when I was 24, my little sister when I was 39.  Not to mention aunts , uncles cousins, and one of my closest childhood friends that I grew up with.

During all this loss, there was always a woman who was there for me.  She was like a 2nd mom to me. . . Sharon Felder.

Sharon was a young 20 year old that lived above our family when I was a little boy.  Little did I know what a huge part she'd play in my life.  When my father got sick and passed away, my mom relied on Sharon to watch me and my little sister.  Ever since then, Sharon has been there for everything.  I saw her get married and have 3 children, she threw welcome parties for my babies, she always checked in on my sister and I to make sure we were alright.

Sharon was the one who introduced me to the director I ended up working for for 6 years .  That was one of the most exciting times in my life.  Being on set of major motion pictures, traveling around the world, meeting the biggest celebrities, and having a job with a lot of responsibility.  All along, Sharon was in the next office planning all the big events for the company.  Her sense of style was immeasurable.  There was nobody that cared more about you than Sharon.  All the while, she would look out for me like I was another one of her children.

When my sister got sick, she wasn't able to work.  Sharon had told my sister's story to one of the most generous women I've ever met.  Her name was Linda Adams .  Linda ended up paying for ALL my sister's expenses so she could focus on her treatment and make an attempt to get better.  It was the single most generous things I've ever seen.  Sharon was the one who orchestrated all of this setting up a new apartment for her with all the furnishings.  She even made shirts for everyone that said "Team Marni".

My sister passed away, but her last years were certainly better for having Sharon and Linda in it.

A few years ago, I got word that Sharon, the last person / family member from my childhood, has Cancer.

This was just 2 years after my sister passed away from the same disease.

I was rocked.  It took me a few weeks , but then I called Sharon on my way home from work one day, and spoke to her for nearly my entire hour commute.  Well, talking is a loose description.  I could barely get any words out between all my crying.  I didn't want to do that to her, but I couldn't help myself.  But of course, in typical Sharon fashion, she tried to make me feel better.

She was very positive and said she was going to fight this.  I was certainly glad to hear how positive she was, but I also heard some fear in her voice for the first time.

I've never had Cancer turn out positively for anyone close to me.  I was truly hoping for the best.

I've not been one to handle things like this very well.  With EVERY person I lose, it doesn't get any easier. . in fact it has gotten nearly unbearable to deal with.

Months went by and I hadn't talked to Sharon.  I couldn't do it.  Selfishly, I couldn't bear to hear her voice knowing she was stricken with this terrible disease.

So I waited. . .

and waited. .

and waited. . .

I would get updates from my step sister that Sharon came to her little girl's birthday party.  I would hear updates from former co-workers that they had a shopping outing.  etc. . .

It has now been 2 years later.

I don't get back to Los Angeles much anymore with the craziness that all our lives become, especially after having kids.

Well, I had to go to Los Angeles for work for 3 days.  I stayed in Burbank. . . 15 minutes from Sharon's house.

I said to myself. . . I need to go see Sharon.  The first night, I saw a friend for dinner who lived walking distance to my hotel.

The 2nd , and last night, I said . . . " I have to go see Sharon tonight".  I got knots in my stomach.

After work I went back to my hotel and sat there for an hour contemplating what I should do.

I got in my car, drove to her house, and sat out front.  I must have sat there for 2 hours. . .scared, crying, frustrated, angry.

I was hoping someone would come outside and see me so that I would be forced to make contact.

After my 2 hour struggle, I started my car, drove back to my hotel, and went to sleep.

3 weeks later, Sharon passed away.

I had no idea she was that ill when I was "feet" away from her.  I want to think that if I had known, I would have gotten out of my car. . .but I didn't.

If I had just knocked on the door.

I went to the funeral which was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.  Hearing stories of Sharon, seeing photos, and seeing her family made my selfish, childlike behavior hurt even more.

There have been plenty of things I wished I had done in my life, but none will live with me everyday the rest of my life like this one.

by Michael Clemens

The best camera is . . .

the one you have with you.

It's an old adage, but it's a good one.  In today's day and age, almost everyone has a camera on them at all times, from a point and shoot, to a phone or tablet, or weather you're carrying your expensive dslr.  Well, I've become a bit of a camera snob since getting my first dslr over 10 years ago.

The other day, I went out with my family, do dinner an a movie.  On a normal day, I would actually schlep my dslr and 70-200mm lens with me.  Just dinner and a movie, but WHAT IF there is a shot I've just got to get?  But this day, after having quite a few shoots lately, I decided to leave it at home.

As luck would have it, (I believe it's officially called Murphy's Law), while walking through a parking lot, I see this gorgeous , brand new, shiny red cayman parked all by itself.  Due to the nature of the parking structure, most of it was enclosed, but there were areas that let some light poke through.  At this time of day, it was lighting up just the emblem on the back of the car, as if a spotlight from God .

I was thinking "see, I should have brought my camera".  Well, I didn't have it, so I had to use the "best camera" (the one with me), to grab this shot.

What you see below is the shot I got on my iPhone.  I did just a tiny bit of processing (ON THE PHONE ITSELF) by adding a little vignetting and a little sharpening. . . but that's it.  I honestly don't think that I could have taken a better photo with my fancy equipment.

I think I was put in my place by myself.

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by Michael Clemens

Remembering Sammy

I was asked by some friends to take some photographs of their family dog because he was getting so old, they didn't know how long he would be around.  What I didn't know, is that they may actually be needing to put him to sleep.  Seeing this sweet old dog just tore my heart out.  We went outside to get some shots, and this poor ol guy stumbled and struggled just to get down one stair.  All of a sudden, a quick afternoon shoot for a friend became much more important.  This was going to be documenting a "family member" for possibly the last time.  I'm now possibly responsible for how he was to be remembered.  Pictures are said to be worth a thousand words, but after taking these, only one comes to mind. . . goodbye.

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Best Feet Forward

A wonderful mom at my children's school came to me with a request to help her with a project for her daughter's room.

It's based on a project I volunteer for each year for the 5th grade class called "Inspirational Soles".  It's a series of shots of the kid's feet in the shoes that represent what they want to be when they grow up.

The purpose of the mom's request for a special shoot was because she wanted to re-design her daughter's room with a sports theme.  The problem was, that everything "sports" was either really girly, or really masculine.  This way, it would not only be more appropriate, but it would be completely personal.  We went out to a local park and below are three images I took as well as a shot of how the (black and white) versions were used in the final design of the new room.

From the colors to the quotes, it's such a clever way to make a little girls room beautiful and inspirational.

I can't think of a better way my photographs have been displayed.


 

 

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by Michael Clemens

comforting moments . . .

2011120209-26-43_SeesTheDay

In relation to my last blog post, my older daughter had a performance at school the other day where her class was to sing in front of the school as they hosted the church service that day. I got there early to get a good seat .  Well, as I looked back at the entrance to the church, I saw my daughter upset.  I know the face.  I got up to see what was wrong, and she said her stomach hurt.  This was a pretty clear case of anxiety and stage fright.  Now, my daughter has done things like this before, but for some reason, this was not setting well with her.  Even though she's the "older" child, she's by far the more "cautious" and calculated.  She'll let her little sister lead the way (similar to the kings taster. . if it doesn't kill the taster, then it's safe for the king to try).  Well, her teacher saw her crying with me and saying that she didn't want to go up there.  The teacher obliged her and let my daughter sit with her and watch the performance.

Afterwards, her stomach may have felt much better, but her pride did not. As the crowd recessed from the church, my wife took my daughter aside to talk to her about what she was feeling.  She explained that weather it was an upset stomach, or simply nerves about performing in front of everyone, it was totally understandable and ok.

I was able to catch this vulnerable and comforting moment.

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by Michael Clemens

School Daze . . .

Who's right and who's wrong? My daughter has a project from school that is obviously beyond her 7 year old capabilities.

Now, she can certainly "do" the project, but when other kids show up with suspiciously polished presentations (cough, *parents*, cough), do you help your child so as to compete with the other children?

Or is it that we , as parents, are competing with other parents?

So, is it wrong that the teachers assign projects that are too advanced, or is it wrong that we feel we need to make it great instead of letting our children complete it themselves even if it's not going to look spectacular?

All I can say is "Thank God" I (and my kids) have my wife.

The project was to make a doll that reflects part of your heritage.  With my wife's family from Portugal, she embarked in the "helping" of the doll creation.

As you can see, she would pass 2nd grade with FLYING COLORS.

 

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by Michael Clemens

the toast . . .

  I've shot too many weddings where people who are less than eloquent have been chosen to be "best men" or "maid's of honor".

I suppose you can't pick your friends based on their speaking ability, but it would come in handy when that moment comes that the spotlight is on them representing you on one of your most special days.

The WORST is when someone who was not "appointed" decides that he or she is going to "honor" you by giving a speech of their own.

I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but I began to get so embarrassed, as if I was dropped in this room full of people completely naked.

I've actually caught myself looking through the lens, not surveying what else was going on in the room, not taking a single photo, as if to "hide" my giant body behind that little box that captures photographs. Maybe if I don't move, or make a sound, nobody will see me. But wait, this isn't about me.

Then the person giving the speech tries to be "funny". . . it's as if the guests were watching an execution. Like watching a car accident, I can't seem to turn away . . . a little sick, a little scared, but so curious.  The introduction of "the joke" seems to be the sure sign that alcohol is involved.

Then it hits me . . . (my inner voice) "my photographs don't capture sound!".  I have the benefit to shut this person's mouth in the photographs that I deliver. If I can get a great image, I may actually be able to SAVE this person. It's a huge challenge, but that's part of the fun too (after the color comes back in my face).

Then there are those people, COMPLETE STRANGERS, that are so well spoken, so clever, and so heartfelt, that they move you to tears. I swear, there have been a handful of times (out of 100 + weddings) , where I have welled up from listening to this person I have met that day, and maybe had a few interactions with, move me so much, it makes me think about my own life. It's an incredible skill, and the lucky Bride or Groom hit the toaster lottery.

Here's to the great toasters!

 

 

by Michael Clemens

Finding my own footing . . .

Being a parent, I find that most of what makes me think, is watching my girls find their way.  My youngest daughter, who I've mentioned before, has an incredible will.  She will not let fear beat her.

She went on a play date with her friend and her friends mom.  They went to a rock climbing gym.  The mom assured my little girl that she didn't have to do it if she didn't want to.  I can certainly say, she was scared.  But being scared makes my little one angry that she's IS scared (I wish I was more like her).  So what does she do?  Harnesses up, and beings to try and find her footing.

She first went up a few "rocks" , and then came down (repelling like she's done it for years).  She went up a second time, and went up even higher, third time, higher, until reality set in and she realized just how high up she was.

I learn so much everyday from my kids, and they have no idea that I too am just trying to find my own footing.

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by Michael Clemens

Who says there are no seasons in California?

Taking a walk with my daughter's, I was pretty amazed at all the colors.

It's no Vermont, I know, but really quite gorgeous.

Soon, there will be no leaves on the trees, so I was glad I could have that time

to appreciate it with my kids.


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by Michael Clemens

Torn . . .

What do you do when your child is scared to do something that you know isn't scary and is even good for them?  I suppose the answer is "you make them do it".  This weekend , my little girl went for her first ice skating lesson (yes, even in California there are places to ice skate).  Sure there is the potential to fall and get bumps and bruises, but overall, not a dangerous activity.  But she was scared.  She made it out onto the ice, but couldn't move an inch.  She caught my eye and started crying.  She wanted my help.  Well, there is no worse feeling than looking back at your sweet little girl and saying "you'll be great", and then turning away so as not to make more eye contact.  I know it was good for her, and I KNEW she would end up loving it.  But those moments stick with you for a long time.  If it had gone bad, and she didn't rise to the occasion, would she look at me always and say "my dad didn't help me when I needed it" ?  The job of a parent is really challenging, as any parent knows, but those internal struggles are even more difficult than the daily physical ones.  Needless to say, she lived up to her name and not only was able to do it on her own, but another little girl came up to her and asked MY daughter for help.  Another proud moment in the day in the life of being a parent.  Way to go E ! 

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by Michael Clemens

Just Married (in style)

Forget limo's, horse drawn carriages. . . leaving your wedding in a classic Impala says, we're married in style!  So many people take their weddings so seriously.  Although it's a serious commitment, it's supposed to be fun and a celebration of the two people .  I love when couples have fun with their weddings.  Not only is it more realistic, but it takes some of the pressure off.  The best advice the priest that married my wife and I (side note, and speaking of "style", the first time I met him he pulled up on his Harley) was that whatever happens, right or wrong, pretend it was supposed to happen.  Nobody will be the wiser.  I've kind of vered off a bit on a tangent, but the point I was making that being married in style isn't just about the wheels. . .it's about the attitude.

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by Michael Clemens

Thanksgiving visitor . . .

 So, like usual, we gather at family's house for Thanksgiving dinner.   This year, we had an extra guest.  This cat (who's name is now Smokey) found a spot near the action and was happy watching us the whole night.  Maybe he was looking to get some scraps, but he hung out til the last guest left.  .  .

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by Michael Clemens