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This past July my trusty Alex and I took a road-trip past Toronto to Burlington, Hamilton, and Mississauga to photograph some amazing Extreme Families. This has become a sort of annual tradition for me, but I’ve certainly never photographed so many families in such a short amount of time. Usually, I’ve gone to photograph one family and then packed up and headed back home to Ottawa. This ambitious trip saw us photograph 6 families in 3 days, plus one portrait client because why not. Below you’ll see all the family photos, as well as some behind-the-scenes photos or, as I like to call them “Alex holding things.”
Let’s start at the finish: I had worked with Deborah, Stuart and their three beautiful girls a few years ago at their company warehouse for Adult Essentials and Ironkids gummy vitamins. When Deb heard I was coming to town she made me squeeze in one extra shoot on our way out of town to photograph them again, with their new doggy addition.
Their photo (above) was the last one we shot, on a small sand beach just outside of Hamilton, Ontario. Despite the questionable water quality, we all got a little wet for the sake of the image. Personally, I can say I didn’t develop a rash, but I don’t know how Alex did.
Our first stop on the trip was the Hall-Warner family at the family distillery. Yup, John Hall (far right) opened up Forty Creek Whisky back in 1992 and that was one of two potential locations for our shoot. My conversation with the family went like this:
“Do you have any specific locations that you and your family enjoy and would be comfortable in?”
“Well, not really, we could do our back yard, or a nice park or something. There’s also our 20,000 barrel whisky cellar.”
“That. We’ll do that.”
Because the space is quite dark, I wanted the image to convey that mood and we only used a single large Elinchrom light-source and a large Westcott reflector to fill for each of the family groupings. I placed a few lights back into the warehouse to help illuminate the barrels to give the image depth, but otherwise that was it.
Kathy was another person who I had been wanting to work with for a while, but our, and her kids, schedules never really worked out. Finally, all her kids were going to be there at the same time and we headed to her home after wrapping up in Grimsby. Clouds were starting to roll in and I was worried about some of the potential shifts in lighting, since we were going to be working outside. Thankfully, Kathy has her whole family whipped into shape, and we were able to pull off the images quickly. Of course, I’d expect no less from the author of “I am SO the boss of you” and her apprentice Bossy Jr.
It’s often said that photographers are problem solvers and it’s true; we have to be able to adapt. The previous day, Tosha and her husband were in Halifax for a marathon, their return flight was cancelled due to that storm I was worried about the previous evening. I had scheduled two family shoots a day, with each one taking about four hours. They were going to catch a morning return but it would force us to start about 3 hours later. Thankfully this worked out, as our afternoon family also happened to be their direct neighbours, and they wanted to hold out to see if the sky would clear-up. No problem. And while the skies were still grey for half of Tosha’s shoot, we were able to use our strobes to brighten things up enough and replicate a sunny day in the final image.
Next-door neighbours make multiple location shoots SO much easier. We just had to move our stuff from one back yard to the next. Len and Jen’s gamble in the weather paid off, their entire shoot was sunny and beautiful. The stress from the morning was alleviated with a complimentary beer from the backyard beer-tap. An oasis at home, they’ve built their backyard as their escape from work and I certainly felt it. I have to say, their baby is probably one of the most charming and agreeable little girls I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. All smiles, clapped on command… basically the opposite of my own children.
The shoot that was supposed to be the most challenging turned out not to be at all. The Buitenhuis’ youngest daughter is non-verbal and autistic. They have struggled to get her into any family photo over the years and had basically given up in frustration. But, thanks again to my favourite family-photo shill Julie Cole, they became aware of the way I work with kids one at a time, finding things that they’re most comfortable doing and working with them until we get the right shot. The one we had the most trouble with was the boy, from my personal experience I’m not exactly surprised, but we got him into line by saying he’d be knocking his dad out and that seemed to work. Of course, getting the family pets in the shot is also an important part of what we do in the Extreme Family Portraits.
And a few more pics from the road.
Since I started this post on our last day, I figured it’d be okay to throw in a recent “bonus” family. Following up to what is probably my most popular image of all time, The Petit Family needed a follow up with their second monkey, before the third (on the way) came. A for-real scientist, Alex (the mom, not the assistant) secured her lab for the shoot and we went with the “experiment gone wrong” kind of family which is well suited for this crew. Unlike all the other shoots, the confined space had me using smaller speedlights to focus the light, giving it more mood, but also making sure to avoid too much spill on the lab which is a pretty distracting mess of science-stuff.