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Photo tips for Moms: Lesson One

This afternoon, I drove down a typical Northern Virginia summertime road; the trees lining the road were massive, thick and green, their tops tangled 60 feet in the air over me, completely obscuring the sky and casting shade that easily ate up at least four stops of available light compared with the thick, hot sunny light from the freeway I’d exited only a few minutes before.

The speed limit was 10 mph and I was early, so I was driving lazily, listening to music and thinking about my childhood summer days at Camp Cottonwood. The smell of pine, lake water and dust is the same in Virginia as it was 30 years ago in Oregon, and I was marveling at how quickly 30 years have passed and here I am picking up my own children at camp when I turned a bend in the road and saw them.

Walking together along the dirt road, their backs to me (and, because I was “controlling my speed” as the signs along the road asked me to do, they were totally unaware of my car approaching), was a college-age male camp counselor with a little side-kick grade-school camper. They looked back and forth as they talked to one another, one up way high and the other down as if at the ground, and they seemed to be in no big hurry to be anywhere else in the world other than right in that moment. It was one of the sweetest photographs I’ve ever seen, counselor and camper against the picturesque backdrop of a hot Virginia summer day.

As I approached them, I noticed that the camper was somewhat of a wreck. Covered in dirt — or was that slime? Closer now, I can see it’s a girl, and she is clearly drenched. And somewhere beneath the black and brown dirt and twigs and twisted up whatever-it-was, I began to make out the telltale signs of pink Converse high-tops. And a tank top that might at one time have been a lovely Old Navy lime green. Sort of exactly what my littlest camper was wearing that morning when I dropped her off.

I pulled up to the counselor and the camper, rolled down my window, smiled and asked them if they were okay. They were fine, he told me, she just might have rocks in her shoes is all. Worried, I asked him if she was supposed to be wet and he said, “Sure!”

Later, I heard that while most of the other little campers jumped over the stream (including my oldest camper), and a few daring campers hopped deliberately into the stream and then sprang out to the other side in wet shoes, my littlest camper actually dropped into the stream and did a few push-ups! And there was a snake, and by the time I was tucking her into bed tonight, the snake’s fangs were merely inches away from her ankles…

So what does all of this have to do with a photography blog?

I don’t know who said it first, but I’m pretty sure it was Jay Maisel who first tried to impress it upon me:

Bring your camera; because it’s pretty hard to take a picture without it.

I’m glad I had my phone with me, because whenever I look at this photo, my mind will take me back to the image of my little girl, nearly unrecognizable in swamp attire, walking along a tree lined dirt road with her counselor. Unfortunately, you’ll only see it painted in words. 😐 Perhaps this image will serve to remind me not to ignore the first, best rule.

[RAZR photo of Alexis, after I cleaned her up for the car]
(Camping tips for Moms: Lesson One bring a towel to cover the back seat!)

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1 comment

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  • Guy Wire - Great post, Christine. Unbelievably sweet picture. Do you know, she reminds me more of you here than in any other photo I’ve seen. It’s something in the eyes, obviously, but also in the nose and the smile.ReplyCancel