I have been meaning to write this blog post for quite some time. Yet, for what ever reason, I just never got around to it…. Maybe it was because I needed a bit of distance from the subject. Maybe I was too busy or just said that to myself as an excuse for laziness. Whatever the reason, now is actually the appropriate time for this post. You see, one year ago today, I was in a condo in Beaver Creek Colorado, getting ready for a big wedding to shoot that day. Courtney was prepping Avi, talking to her about the babysitter who was on her way, and I was drinking a cup of coffee thinking how I should be getting in the shower. Looked at my phone and saw a missed call and a message from my Mom. On the voicemail, there was a crack in her voice. It was the sort of message where you knew that when you called back it wasn’t going to be good: your Grandpa died today. I kept my cool. Stayed calm. Made sure my Mom was okay. Asked about Grandma. My mom apologized for calling saying that she should have known that I was going to be off to shoot a wedding, but I assured her that I would have wanted to know right away. I thanked her for calling and letting me know. I told her I loved her. Hung up, teared up, and hugged my daughter. I cried in the shower, but then got dressed and went to work. That is how my grandpa would have wanted it anyways.
It was strange to be invited into people’s lives on one of their happiest days while inside you are grieving. A hand shake here, a congratulations there, and click click while you hide behind the camera. Honestly, it was an amazing wedding. One of our best of the year. I was grateful not to be shooting in LA though. Being in the mountains seemed appropriate. In between the chaos of the day and the festivities of the night, I took a few moments here and there to look out onto the view of the Rockies and to wish my Grandpa well. The client never knew. Early the next morning before Courtney and Avi woke up, I walked in the crisp air, down to the river, and waited for the sun to rise. My grandpa loved to fish. I sat there looking at the small pools in the river wondering which one he would choose to drop his fishing line into? Then I took a few pictures.
Ever-since my grandparents moved from California to Oregon, I hadn’t seen them very much. In the twenty years since they had moved out of Los Angeles, I had been up Oregon four or five times. It is so easy for life to get in the way: girlfriend, city life, college, marriage, work, child. I took for granted the fact at 36 years of age, I still had all four of my grandparents. Most people I know are usually lucky to have one or two grandparents when they are in their mid twenties while I still had all of mine into my mid thirties. They were always there. All my life I had known they were a phone call away or less than a day’s drive. I was lucky. As I write this, I realize that I should have been more grateful.
However, the point of these thoughts is to put perspective on the power of having photos of your family. My daughter will not remember ever meeting my Grandpa, but she has a picture with him. In a sense, she’ll never be able to say she met him as she is too young to remember such things. But as she grows into an adult, she’ll be able to know him through the photographs that I had taken on my last few trips to Oregon. She’ll be able to understand that he was a hard working man, an avid trap shooter, and competitive when it came to fishing. She’ll learn that he was stern, and not with out faults. But, she’ll learn that he was loyal to family a was a loving man despite his hard shell. Hopefully I learned a thing or two from him that made me a better person, and I hope that will make me a better father to her. She’ll learn all of then while being able to see him in a photograph. Photographs that Courtney and I took.
Being a photographer has its challenges and being a wedding photographer means having to sacrifice the weekends when many of our family and friends get together. Courtney and I have missed out on many fun times over these past five years. We missed out on out daughter’s first birthday because we had booked a wedding before she was born thinking she wouldn’t actually be two weeks late. We’ve missed out on family reunions, barbecues with friends, birthday parties on the beach, and weddings of people who are close to out hearts. All of that being said though, we are grateful to live such a life. We are able to spend more time with out daughter than most of our friends are able to spend with their own children. We are grateful that we can be somewhat spontaneous through out the week. We are also grateful when a client chooses us to document an important time in their lives and tells us how much they love their photos. But, we are humbled when we learn that a client’s grandpa had passed and that one image that we captured between him and the groom meant so much to them. We are grateful that we were there, that the light looked nice, and that the warm embrace between loved ones happened in front of our lens. We are grateful to be photographers.
A month after my grandpa passed, we headed up to Oregon to his memorial. A chance to say goodbye amongst family and friends. I told a story about how I used to love riding in his old Dodge truck on out way to our family fishing trip. The windows would be rolled down in the summer heat. I would stare off into landscape of the high desert along Route 395. I shook hands with friends of his whom I hadn’t met before. Saw family whom I hadn’t seen in years. There were tears, but there were smiles too. When we got back to my grandma’s house that afternoon, Courtney and I let Avi run around and splash in some puddles. It had rained a bit earlier. The air was fresh. I was happy to be with my family. As we walked between old trucks and trees, I took a few pictures.