It was barely 11:30am when we pulled into the slightly shaded parking spot. Chi, holding tightly to the dozen freshly filled helium balloons as wind gusts threatened to whisk them away, trailed behind me as I traipsed across the gravel path towards the beach-like water’s edge that seemed far closer to us than it was. The littles followed her, each still sputtering and gagging from the mist cloud of bug spray I’d saturated their arms, legs and heads with – - man that stuff lingers in the air and flavors it awfully.
The goal was a simple one: capture the boys for their 6th and 4th birthday portraits. The balloons were a gimmick, true, but one that I was certain would elicit some genuine expressions and carefree un-posed images. The beach setting would be beautiful, the balloons would add vibrant color to each image. Perfect!
The task proved difficult, though, even with the prior agreements from the youngest to cooperate and let Mommy shoot him. I suspect he’ll be telling strangers I “shoot at him” too much and he’s tired of it (and they might not realize he means with a camera).
First, Ya refused to be first. Instead of grabbing hold of the balloon bouquet, he splashed into the water, grabbed a handful of sand, and hurled it seaward. Instant attitude showed across his face and complete defiance radiated in his posturing. He was having none of this portrait-making business.
So I moved to the just-shy-of-six-year-old. JD isn’t used to the camera. He thinks I will command a smile (I suspect some drill sergeant with a camera belted out demands for school photos one too many times). And when he forces an expression, well, it isn’t exactly appealing. Think “I just ate something nasty and I’m waiting for you to turn around so I can spit it out,” that’s the expression.
At this precise moment, some nasty little fly landed on my leg and stung me. I swatted at him and moved into the water, cursing myself for not having tried to wear those silly preggo jeans that I have to keep hiking up every few seconds. He repeated this attack several dozen times and all his neighbors joined in. So much for that bug spray effectiveness test.
Clearly it was time to rev up my tactics if I wanted to salvage the shoot. I barked, “Mean face! Happy face! Sad face! Mad face! Jump! Skip! Play!” JD was confused. He hid.
And then, just when I thought I’d lost my opportunity, he peeked through his clutch of balloons with a mischievously blissful smile. Gotcha!
Granted, it’s not the traditional kid portrait, but it speaks volumes about who JD is at this age, at this time in his life.
I begged Ya to take hold of the balloons, bribing him with the gum (I’d unfortunately left it in the van, but he didn’t need to know this). He begrudgingly complied and complained about being so obligated to pause for a few clicks of the shutter. How dare I?
The flies continued to sting my legs, making capturing the in-between-the-complaints expressions truly difficult. So I suggested he jump. And jump again. And again. While he insisted that he’d cooperate if he could just pop the balloons.
Meanwhile, little cherub was collecting seashells. The first ornate shell still had its occupant inside, and after squealing in surprise, she returned it to the water with an apology. She then resumed search. I thrust the balloons at her and freed the completely disgruntled Ya to play without restriction. Obviously I have to devise a better plan to get his portraits.
Click. Click. Done.
At some point, I convinced the boys to pose together for a portrait. As I encouraged them to pretend they were enjoying this photographic torture, Chi met a friendly insect and convinced herself it was chasing her. She ran haphazardly through the water, splashing up spray as she swiped at her head with her hands.
All attention to the camera was lost. There were bugs on attack? The boys shot up from the log perch and joined in Chi’s crazy antics.
So, I gave up trying to compose portraits. Switching to my kit lens, I suggested the boys shed their fancy button down shirts and get comfortable in their tee shirts. The flies swarmed my legs and, I think, were actually being attracted by the sent of the bug spray rather than being repelled by it.
Chi composed herself moments later and resumed her shell search. The boys helped, forming a small pile of interesting sea-discards they intended to carry home with them.
I suggested they shed some energy (secretly thinking Ya needed to be tired if I hoped he’d nap). A race? Fun. Except the youngest bellows, “Guys! Let me win!” And that was just not happening.
So we packed up and hiked back to the van. The windows remained up to prevent the balloons’ escape. And the odor of the empty shells the kids so carefully gathered quickly permeated the cabin. We probably should’ve photographed and discarded the funky little things. Or, perhaps, carried the bleach bath they’re now soaking in to the sandy shore?