When Clementine first called me to schedule a family portrait session, I realized that she was talking in slightly hushed tones. It came out a few minutes in that she was taking this step of setting up a family portrait while carrying around her two week-old baby boy, Ollie. Now, if you’ve been through the exhilarating/exhausting experience of dealing with a toddler and a tiny baby at the same time, you know that finding the energy and motivation to shower, let alone schedule a family portrait ON TOP of all the chaos borders on the miraculous. At least, that’s what I was thinking as we spoke; when we all got together three weeks later, I saw just how awesome Clementine and her family really are.
When I arrived in Old Providence for the evening shoot, Clementine was still feeding the baby. That left Chris and Henry to meet me and tour me around the house and grounds. One of my favorite parts of a family photography session, especially those that happen in the family home, is finding those beautiful, and often overlooked, locations around the house. A spot that really caught my eye was a beautiful old tree in the backyard with the evening sun sinking low in the sky behind it. Henry’s sandbox, which he adores, is also right there, so it was ideal. Once Clementine and Ollie joined us, that’s where we got started, and the images were gorgeous.
When we were all done in the yard, I really wanted to get a few more shots of Henry and Ollie together, but Henry was getting a little antsy, so I asked Clementine if there were any little treats we might use as a bribe. It turned out that Henry had been introduced to the wonderful world of Twizzlers just a couple days earlier, so we used those to coax him into a few pictures with his little brother. Watching him eat the candy was hysterical; the Twizzlers disappeared so fast it was like they were being devoured by an electric pencil sharpener.
Toward the end of the shoot, we switched up the location. First, Chris and Clementine plopped Henry in a wagon and we tooled around the neighborhood a bit. As we walked, neighbors came out to congratulate Clementine and Chris on the new baby. The whole time his parents were chatting, Henry was a sweetheart, and I couldn’t believe how relaxed Ollie stayed. When we got back to the house, Clementine, still holding Ollie in her arms, got down on the ground and did some chalk drawings with Henry. A talented architect, she doodled a perfect likeness of Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. in no time flat. It was actually kind of amazing.
I loved having the chance to spend the evening with this wonderful family. Their laid-back vibe was so pleasant to be around. They make this parenting thing look easy.
For the past several years, ever since Lauren was pregnant with her younger son, Peter, I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot portraits of this beautiful family on a regular basis. Normally, Lauren and Nathan schedule their portraits for a date in the Fall, but when Lauren learned she was expecting again, we decided to postpone until spring. The new baby—Marie—would be a couple months old by then and ready for her turn in front of the camera.
Each time I have the chance to see the Lebiodas, I find myself amazed by their flexibility, and by the sweetness and warmth with which they treat one another. So that we could take advantage of the soft early morning light, we planned to start at 7:15 AM. If you’re a parent, you’ll know how early that is to have a 4 year-old, a 5 year-old, and a 2 month-old up and running. But they were, and as always, they were incredibly charming and well behaved. I started by taking Lauren, Nathan, and Marie outside for a few initial shots, and when the boys, Henry and Peter, finished up their breakfast, they joined us.
The Lebioda’s house provides a ton of location choices for a photographer. It’s built into the side of a hill overlooking Lake Wylie, and whenever I shoot there, I feel fortunate for the abundance of options. This time, we spent the majority of the session outside, moving inside for a few images in Marie’s nursery, and shots of the boys playing while Marie had a snack break. When we have our sessions at their house, we always end on the playground. It’s a way of thanking the boys for being so good, which they always are. This time, we had even more reason to thank Peter and Henry, who were almost unbelievably sweet to their little sister, doting on her at every move. That little girl is lucky for the older brothers in her life.
I love getting the chance to watch families form and grow, and being able to renew my relationships with families year in and year out is an added bonus. Since I saw Henry and Peter last year, Henry finished kindergarten and learned to read, and Peter finished pre-school and started playing tee-ball. Just before she turned 3 months old, little Marie learned to roll over. And with any luck, when I have the chance to see them again, there will be a whole new level of skill and accomplishment each of them has reached.