My photography life has shifted dramatically, at least for the time being, as predicted by my friend Scott Forman, toward baby portraiture. I’m proud to announce that Teri and I had our first baby on December 20, 2011, an amazing little girl we named Gavin Rae.
Now as you already know, I’m lousy at portraiture, but I’ve been able to employ an old technique used as a substitute for skill and vision by subpar but successful portraitists for centuries–use a pretty girl as your model. And the camera loves Gavin.
One of the best pieces of advice that we’ve received–and that all new parents should receive–is to cherish the early days of your baby’s life. These are the days when they change in profound ways almost daily. Gavin had already gained a full pound within her first week. In big-people world, this doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider that she was 6 pounds, 9 ounces when we left the hospital–a 15.2% gain!
It reminds me of the adage about how a watched pot never boils. The changes are nearly imperceptible in real time, but they become apparent in pictures. I already finding myself waxing nostalgic while browsing through the pictures taken minutes after her delivery, when she was just a delicate collection of bony angles. I can only imagine how I’ll feel when I look at them a year, a decade, a generation from now.
At last check, she was up to 15 pounds, and has already grown over 5 inches in length. The sleeplessness of her early life has given way to 6-hour stretches of nocturnal peace for her and her weary parents. She has also developed an infectious smile, and she has become very interested in the world around her. I’ve been trying to think of the best words that can articulate the feelings she stirs in me, and the only way I can describe it is the butterflies of new love.
So I keep firing the shutter feverishly–almost 5000 photographs so far. I’ve even used the video function on my camera for the first time, recording three-minutes slices of her daily life so she’ll have something to look back on for herself.
Nonetheless, I’m not the type of person to embrace stasis; I’m already eager for her to take her first step, to be captivated by her Winnie-the-Pooh books, to really interact with us. But I understand how important these pictures of her first days will become later in all our lives. Many of my favorites can be found in my permanent Gavin Gallery, which I update regularly.
But in the meantime, I have one more day of photographs to share from my Oregon trip, which literally feels like a lifetime ago. It was my last full day in Portland–a Wednesday in late August–and Ben had returned to work that day, so I ventured out to see some of the city by myself.
One spot in particular had been on my radar since October 2009, when one of my Flickr contacts posted an amazing photograph of a Japanese maple tree ablaze in fall colors. So I negotiated the light rail system and a couple of shuttle rides to find the Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park.
The colors in the Garden that day were not nearly as fiery as in my friend’s photograph, but they had begun to turn from the lush greens of summer to the muted yellows and oranges of early fall. As you might guess based on the name of the Garden, there are numerous Japanese maples throughout the place, but when I found the one I was looking for, it was instantly recognizable based on the photograph I had seen.
It’s a surprisingly diminutive tree, but its small tortuous branches rise majestically, imparting a sense of grandeur. It seems to have sprung from a painting. Its symmetry feels deliberate, as if guided and manicured slowly like a bonsai tree.
I spent the next half hour or so photographing the tree from different perspectives as onlookers watched me work. The results are below.
Soon afterward, I left the Gardens and departed on a self-guided tour of the city itself. I started at the International Rose Test Garden nearby and made my way slowly toward the downtown area to get lunch, find Voodoo Doughnut (which Teri and I had seen on Man Versus Food), and to eventually meet back up with Ben.
We spent the rest of the night working our way down the waterfront park, taking pictures of interesting things (there was no shortage), and stopping several times for refreshments at the bars and breweries along the way.