Several of my last posts have been family portrait sessions from China. This is the last family portrait from China, but it is a unique one. We spent ten days with the Seely-Olsen family in China. Becky (the mom) is a super great friend and she and her children have always been very important to us. Becky was married this year to Jeff (also, super great guy with super great kids). Well, Jeff works in Shanghai, China, so Becky and her children moved to China and the two families combined to make one very big family! In China, a big family is a very big spectacle.
We spent a few of our days in Shanghai with Becky and Jeff’s family and then took a few trips out into rural China. I will make one last post with my documentary/travel photographs from the trip, but this slideshow is a family documentary for the Seely-Olsen family. We never did a formal portrait session, but rather a ten day documentary of their family as we traveled through China. As you will see, the results are very different from a formal portrait session. Both documentary and formal portraits have their place and both are important to a family, but I tend to gravitate toward the usefulness of pure documentary because a true documentary captures families and relationships as they truly are, which is how I would prefer to remember my loved ones. That is why, even in my formal portrait sessions, I try to keep them very casual and documentary in feel.
Here are a few of my favorites shots from the Seely-Olsen Documentary Session. I know I have not represented each and every member of the family in this blog post, only in the slideshow. I have just posted my absolute favorite moments and shots here that can help me describe their life in China.
Becky’s kids are all over nine years old, Jeff’s are younger. So Becky now has little ones again. Aliah is the youngest and goes everywhere with Becky. This is their transportation to and from the market. All little errands, etc are done on this little scooter. We would hope in the back and off we would go. On one of our trips, we ran low on batteries and I was tasked with pushing the cart to get it up to speed where the batteries would keep it coasting a little longer than normal friction would have allowed. I would jump in and enjoy a short rest and then, I was back out to push again.
We took a bike ride through rural Guilin, China with all of the kids. This was at the bottom of a mountain as we prepped for the hike up the mountain. I love this shot. These two are very close in age and make up their own little section of the family. All the kids seem unite to take care of these little ones.
It was quite a hike to get up here, but everyone made it. Don’t be so surprised that little Aliah made it. Be surprised that Becky and Jeff made it. I think Jeff carried her most of the way up the mountain. I think Becky carried her too. I only had to carry my camera. Being a photographer has its advantages. My photo duties trump good friend, “let me carry your child up the mountain,” duties. So I only had to drag myself up the mountain. That was hard enough.
This was our countryside bike ride. I could have enjoyed riding a bike through the country there for days. Every time you came around a bend, there were more of these strange mountains and something very interesting to see. The people, the farm lands, the buildings, the textures. I think if I were to go again, I would want to spend a few more days just riding a mountain bike around the countryside.
We also traveled by boat. These little rafts are made of bamboo. They can seat two passengers and a gondolier. And no, he does not sing to you! Sometimes, he will try to communicate with you, but ours knew three words in English, so most of our communication was in pointing and nodding. This is Larsen. I have known him for a long time (because he is one of Becky’s kids). We had a good time on our river rafting adventure.
There’s Jeff with piled high with kids. By the time we reached the end of our river excursion, it was sunset. But sunset here is much softer and darker than other places because the finger like mountains block the sun very early in the late afternoon and the humidity (at almost 100%) scatters and softens the light you do have.
I suppose you would have a hard time judging when you would get true sunset on any given week as the sun shifts around the sky because the sun can be completely obscured by one of the finger mountains one week and the next week the sun could be seen through a gap between the mountains, giving you another 20 minutes of direct light in the day. At any rate, the soft quality of this image comes from the low and indirect and soft light of sunset in Yangshuo. It is truly unlike any place I have ever been on the planet.
This house was too much to pass up. I only wish we had been there at a different time of day. But you take what you can get when you are hiking from place to place. The light wasn’t optimal, but the house is so strange, we had to grab a shot.
Yes, it is a real place! These are rice terraces in Ping’an, China. I will show more images like this in my next China post, but I thought I would add this to give you a sense of the things we were seeing as a family.
The kids are all waiting for their foot massages. Everyone (except for me and Tate) got a foot massage. Not a bad thing to get at the top of a long hike.
You can see that the village spills through the rice terraces. The pathways through the village are windy and steep with lots and lots and lots of stairs. Hence, the foot massage.
While all of the less tough travelers were getting pampered with foot massages, Tate and I went in search of a spot to record a video. I was supposed to record a quick video inviting people to join me in studio at my creativeLIVE workshop in Seattle on Dec 6th, The Efficient Photoshoot. You can see the video we recorded by clicking here. Tate was a great director. We found some steps to rest the camera on and set up the recording. Once we were back in Shanghai with an internet connection we were able to send the footage to creativeLIVE and let them edit it into a video. We got a little slap happy toward the end and were making some jokes, but they were all cut out of the video. Maybe that was for the better.
Let this be a lesson to you. When in China and you come upon a fruit stand that has an open bowl of fruits and snacks for purchase, it is very possible that the owner’s child has been licking every sing one of them for the past 10 minutes. These are dried fruits of some kind and have a sugary dust all over them. I watched this little guy lick the sugar off each and every one of these dried fruits. I stood there for about ten minutes to see if anyone would stop him… nope. He was in heaven. So was I.
She is always so serious. I was so glad to capture this smile. This was on one of the last days. I think you just have to be around a child long enough and you will find the moment you are looking for.
Slideshow Music by Roy Ashen, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music