Erika Ray Photography » blog

FB and Twitter are always filled with articles linked to Forgiven, Kindness, Zen stuff.  It’s good and nice to read.  I’m guessing more people need to digest these types of articles.

But don’t you ever want to read something about Meanness?  Something about how it feels good to roll around with Mean and Nasty for a couple days?  Some times that’s exactly what I want to read.  I don’t want to feel shitty about having negative feelings.

I want to feel justified and human.

When you’re going through something difficult, everyone reminds you about Karma.  You take those statements and cling to them in the storm.  People continue to hand Karma out like it’s a band-aid when you’re Boo-Hoo-ing.  But finally you have to rip it off and simply say, “That’s life.”  You can’t hug those shitty feelings for too long or else you’ll end up bitter and angry over the uncontrollable.  Uncontrollable things don’t deserve that much attention let alone negative attention.

But one day, Karma does come knocking.  And Karma always invites you along.  He’s so kind that he gives you the balloons and confetti.

Ever get so excited over something that doesn’t deserve excitement?  I’m not talking death or health issues.  Maybe like a huge scratch on your smug neighbor’s new car?  Or watching some pompous jerk get puked on?  Or seeing the Road Raging Asshole pulled over?  Or anything shitty enough that you can’t wipe a gleeful smile off your face?  You’re able to make statements that even your own Mother says, “We didn’t raise you that way.”  And you refuse to apologize for your feelings.  You can acknowledge that your emotions are completely juvenile.  But there’s a tiny splash of delight mixed in.  Nobody writes articles about that Splash, so you feel like an awful person.

For about three seconds..

And then Karma rolls over and whispers, “You’re welcome, Sweetie.”

For a little while, you get to snuggle under a blanket with Karma.

He’s a really good snuggler.

 

 

**He also knows exactly when to sneak out of bed and leave you back under Kindness’ gaze.  Karma is pretty swell guy.

If this was a 365 month, I would have bailed on the project.  I think I missed 4 days this month.  One day is enough for me to quit a 365.  4 days…  I don’t know why.  Holidays?  Maybe.  You can blame the holidays for almost anything.

But the other 26 days were filled with pretty damn good seconds.  Christmas traditions.  Christmas gifts opened.  Dancing.  More gifts being opened.  Sweet ass New Year’s Eve moves.  Laughter.  Good friends sharing drinks.  And only a few tv shots.  I’ll take those 26 seconds over nothing.

 

 

One Second A Day :: December-January from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

At my last birth there was very little English spoken: Portuguese is their native tongue.  As a birth photographer it wasn’t an issue because I’m there to observe and document.  But there was something magical about it.  It was as if I was watching the most heart-felt movie on mute.  The scenes were so moving and powerful that I didn’t yearn for the exact words.

The caress of a loved one’s hand.  The loving touch only a mother can offer her daughter.  The nourishment of a dinner given to “strangers”.  The gracious offer of blankets and pillows. The grip and support during a contraction.  The tears and gasps of exhaustion.  The hushed words in a tone that could only be used for encouragement and compassion.

Only once did the Midwife ask someone to translate Raquel’s words.  “She said, ‘I can’t do this.'”  And Amy responded, “Tell her when she doesn’t think she can any longer, that’s right before she will do it.”

And a few minutes later, Raquel and Andres were holding their son.  The same hands that offered compassion and strength were now holding new life.

You don’t need to understand the conversation to know the entire room was deeply in love with the baby and in awe of his mother.

It’s the universal language of birth: love and awe.

Bem vindo ao mundo pequenino.

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  • Anonymous - Amazing! Brought tears to my eyes!January 20, 2015 – 10:08 amReplyCancel

  • Carol Klein Ray - These are some of your very best.January 20, 2015 – 2:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Daiane Ouriques Colnaghi - :D So beautiful! Thanks for all these lovely pictures and care with my friends!January 20, 2015 – 6:38 pmReplyCancel

“What are you doing?”

“I’m seven, Ma.”

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He’s the first to spark up a wrestling match, but he’s the first to crawl into your armpit area and snuggle.

He’s an excellent reader, but hates to read.

He loves chicken, even when it’s actually pork (even when you repeatedly remind him that it isn’t chicken, “I love this chicken”).

He’s a young kid, but he has the comedic timing of a wise old man.

His teacher says he has a talking “problem”.  Outside of the classroom, his family and friends hear about 4 words.

He’ll follow Lego directions for hours to create the cover photo .  He’ll sit for seconds and whip up something imaginative and beautiful from his own mind.

He reminds me with his already deep voice that he’s not a “baby”, but he’ll always be my baby even when his voice actually deepens.

This is what it’s like to know and love Becks: a ball of contradictions, spunk, humor, love, fierceness and my baby.

When I met Holly, she said, “I really want pictures.”  She also said she likes to be in the bathroom for most of labor, so I pointed out that would make pictures difficult.  There was a false alarm and when we got there she said, “I keep telling Trevor we need this stuff out of the room for pictures.”  When we returned, lights were on and helpful for photos.  I was ready.

The birth is NOT about pictures, but it certainly helps when a client cares.  Holly did retreat to the bathroom, but didn’t stay there.  Even when she really wanted to stay, she came back to her bed.  She had the lights on for the majority of the birth.  She needed them off for a little bit and her husband kept an eye on the situation.  She said, “Turn them on” and a few seconds later they were welcoming their third child.  The first boy.

Because the birth is not about styled photos, I try so hard to capture the feeling of the room.  I need for you to feel an ounce of that incredible moment.  When her baby turns 10 and the Mom is flipping through pictures from the night, I want her to remember how beautiful and powerful she was.  I want family and friends not at the birth to feel the love I was privileged to swim in. Birth photos aren’t about crowning shots or the newborn.  It’s about the beginning of a powerful love.  My aim is to make you experience this love.  It’s my only goal.

With Holly’s birth, there was a tenderness that was weaving in and out of the pain.  I want you to know that the cat needed to stay close to Holly.  She never flinched when Holly screamed from a contraction.  How a friend and her son came to deliver his newest pal.   During labor, we watched him crawl and play with Holly’s youngest daughter.  I can’t record Holly saying, “Please bring me her.  She wants to snuggle.”  But I can try with the pictures.  Scroll down and find the photo where she’s clutching her son’s tiny hand  and looking up at her husband.  In the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard, she said “I love him.  I just love him.  Don’t you love him?”  If I weren’t already on my knees, those few words would have buckled me.

I hope you can tell that she never needed to ask.

The entire room loved him.

They really loved him.

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  • Anonymous - AMAZING!January 9, 2015 – 8:09 pmReplyCancel

Christmas Eve Checklist:

  • Christmas cookie day tradition.  Done.
  • Gifts purchased.  (Mark deserves this credit.)  Done.
  • Fresh new haircuts.  Done.
  • Christmas lights seen from car windows.  No seat belts and huddled together with pals (Neighbors deserve this credit). Done.
  • Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner planned, shopped, and ready for the oven. Done.
  • Cream cheese softening on the counter for Grandma’s spinach rolls. Done.
  • Holiday break craft chosen and started.  Done.
  • Daddy/Sons Christmas Eve movie planned.  Done.
  • Beers chilling in the fridge and wrapping paper on stand-by.  Done.
  • Fingers crossed my birth waits until after presents are opened (But listen… A Christmas Eve/Christmas baby might give me my badge as birth worker).  Done.
  • Christmas jitters and excitement levels on high.  Done.

I hope your Christmas Eve Checklist is full of Done‘s and you can just relax, eat, drink, reminisce and laugh with loved ones.

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I spend a lot of time saying, “I’m lucky” when I talk about my birth photography photos.

But that’s a bullshit thing to say.  That’s not giving me an ounce of credit.  If you said that about yourself, I’d rip you a new one.  I’d say, “How dare you?!  You’re a fantastic photographer.  Sure luck is 10% of life, but don’t sell yourself short.  Now say it!  Say you’re a damn good photographer.  SAY IT!”  If you’ve been around me long enough and if you’ve uttered a bad comment about yourself, you know damn well this is a version of what I’d say.  Tip: Don’t try to put yourself down around me.  I don’t stand for it.  So I won’t with my own.

Talent helps, but so does working it.  Practice always helps.  Hell, go to my Flickr account and click on my first picture.  I won’t ever delete it or the other photos I hate because they tell me to always keep working it.

  • Think about what you want to show the couple.  Really think about it.  And when you’ve figured it out, sell it.  If you believe it, you won’t be doing a cheesy “car salesman” sale.  You’ll be giving them your vision (yeah, I got artsy-fartsy).  For me, it isn’t the baby.  It has never has been the story I wanted to sell.  Figure out your angle and believe in it from your toes to your eyeball.  Once you know your route, finding shots is easy.
  • If you’ve never been at a birth, watch a couple of videos.  There’s a birth moan that shocked me the first two times.  I can’t describe it.  I’m no longer shocked by it because I know a baby is coming soon, but I wish I would have watched something.
  • Stay out-of-the-way.  Be quiet.  Stalk the birth.  I’m used to shooting in cramped and uncomfortable angles because I need to be in decent outta-the-way spots.  Oh and be quiet!  If you’re silent, your story is easy to find.  I’m not paid to help the Mom.  I’m paid to watch her and show her the event.  So I’m really quiet…  This means I hate my shutter.  God, I hate it.  I apologize to every single mom during early labor.  I even explain about the shutter sound in our Face-to-Face meeting.  They all say they get it, but once they’re in labor my guilt ramps up.  I hate that this tiny sound might interfere.  You don’t think the shutter is loud?  Get into a silent room when a woman is having excruciating moments of pain.  It’s like a bomb goes off every time I snap.
  • For me, I never use a flash.  Why?  I’d fucking kill someone if a flash popped and my legs were open mid-contraction.  This gets tricky.  Photos need light.  So I crank up my ISO and use a fast lens (50mm, but I recently got a 35 mm).  Sometimes I’m able to adjust the light.  I discuss this during our Face-to-Face.  Everyone agrees to more light, but everyone also loves to labor in the dark.  I usually ask the midwife to address this if I think it’s going to be a problem (I really don’t like talking during a birth).  If the light is real crappy, figure out a way to use it.  Frame people in it and then try really hard to make it work.  I bring white balance gray cards.  Most times things move fast and I don’t have this luxury, being a birth photographer means you gotta roll with it, so I’ve also gotten very good at finding a neutral gray in the scene.  Lucky note: most of my husband’s always have on a gray t-shirt and it has usually produced decent results.  And when in doubt, convert to black & white.
  • I hate over-shooting.  I’m so lazy.  Over-shooting means I have to cull a lot of images.  What Mom needs 20 pictures of her in one particular labor position?  None of them do.  Get your shot and get out.  Know when the couple needs to be alone (hint: be quiet and you’ll learn).  I shoot all of mine with a fixed lens which means I have to get close.  Learn when to be close during the early labor.  Once it ramps up, she won’t notice.  But during early labor she needs space.  So I sneak in, shoot quickly, sneak out and wait for the next moment to shoot.
  • Now that I’ve done enough births, I have my own image list.  I know what I need to shoot for the family.  I try to do a family shot, but that becomes difficult if all kids aren’t home or unsure of new baby (I would never force a younger child to sit for a picture during a birth).  I know we need to get weight and measurements.  We need to do a Mom/Dad shot.  I have my mental list, but that does not mean I get everything I want.  Birth photographing is really good if you’re okay at letting things go and living without a plan.  But I try to hit the big ones.  Make your list and try to nail it.  And if you don’t?  Let it go.  You just photographed a birth!!

 

There’s so much more, but it’s the holidays and I’ve got sugar cookie dough to make.

So just ask.

What technical questions do you have?
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Post One about Birth Photography

Post Two about Birth Photography