Ithaca, NY 4th of July Fireworks Displays Cayuga Lake Style

The neighbor's illegal fireworks were the closest and most magnificent but there was also something about being on a dock in the middle of hundreds of people setting them off in a sort of surround sound experience that added to the effect.  My 5 year old son said, "This is the best night EVER."  

We usually rent my mom's lake house in Ithaca to other people over the 4th of July, but this year we serendipitously ended up with it.  I have a suspicion that little minds will be planning to perch on that same dock to watch pyrotechnics next year.

How do you photograph fireworks?  It's actually easier than photographing a 1 year old.  You need a shutterspeed at about 1/10th of a second, 800 ISO and something to rest your arm on (or a tripod).  It's best to wait for the grand finale before you start clicking.  I though the reflection off the lake gave these images a lot of interest.

Alternatively, you can just photograph your children as they're watching the fireworks, which is likely to be even better.

Are those children in sweatshirts on the 4th of July?  Why yes, yes it is! (I prefer it to super sized bugs though)

Ithaca, NY Newborn Portrait Photography ~ Meet Derrick, 3 days old

Ithaca is one of my favorite places to be - especially outside but the session day was breezy so instead Yuli cranked up the heater and we spent the morning sweating.  Despite concerns about fussiness he managed to give us some touching sleeping moments, which Yuli says have helped her through some sleepless nights.  I think that's true of images in general - the happy ones carry us through the times when we're bleary eyed!

I sometimes wonder how many newborn sessions are responsible for how many pregnancies.  How can you look at Derrick and not want a baby in your arms?

Yuli had her hair in a ponytail.  She took it out and it cascaded down her shoulders like this.  I give you permission to feel jealous. :)  
The whole extended family was visiting.  They were all surprised when they saw the images from the session and said, "Oh, so that's what you were doing up there!"

This was a parents' favorite.

This was not photoshopped!  Both dogs actually looked at the camera at the same time.  Score.
In a few months this new family will be packing up to move to New Mexico to pursue Rick's career, which is a bummer!  I really enjoyed working with you all and wish you the best of luck!

Conesus, NY Family Portrait Photography ~ Sarah and Josh at the Farm

I have a vivid memory of Sarah on speaker phone saying, "Debra will deliver the baby, you just need to catch it."  She was talking to my husband.  I was about to give birth.  My faulty directions meant my husband caught the baby.

Sarah is a midwife who's been serving women in Rochester for quite some time.  She's attended every one of my births over the last eight years.  In the winter, I wanted to reward some remarkable people and Kara nominated Sarah with this lovely essay: click here to read it.

It was an honor to be able to give a little bit back to her.  On my way down to Conesus I couldn't help but recall all my memories of her attending my births - first as a student, and then on the phone as my husband caught Eli.  For a few of them, she was pregnant herself.

Sarah, thank you so much for all of the ways you've blessed the women of Rochester!

Sarah had each of the kids hold something that was meaningful to them.  Lily was holding a kitten, which she re-captured for the next picture.

This is the gate to the garden where Sarah spends "a lot of time."  I bet - it's huge!!!  They also have their own chickens, rabbits, cows, kittens, turkeys and probably other animals I didn't have a chance to meet.

Sarah specifically chose the formal dresses in the woods look, which she loves.  I loved it too!

A little after session treat...

Plan your session!

If you're not the planning type, don't let the word scare you - planning a portrait session involves three main components.  Click on the images for some inspiration!

clothing for kids during photo sessions

portraits that are different from everyone else's

Savannah ~ Highland Park, Rochester, NY

Savannah was not 100% sure about smiling for the camera.  We tried bubbles, but they ended up all over our hands instead of in the air.  We also tried an oinking pig, which evoked more curiosity than smiles.  Some tickling from mom finally paid off.

Hannah did a phenomenal job dressing her family.  The colors especially blended with the blooming purple flowers we happened to walk by.  Early summer is an amazing time to walk through Highland Park.

Style ~ How to Get the Most Out of Your Portrait Session

by Debra Wallace

My daughter was born with enough personality for three people.

Melody circa 2008 (age 2)
She's feisty, free spirited, and creative - and pretty much has been straight out of the gate.  If an image portrays her as calm and princess-like it doesn't fit.  It's like a physical therapist going to a chiropractor.

Your dog, your house, your outfit - all of these things have personality.  Generally the more we age, the more comfortable we are with who we are.  We exchange experimentation for knowledge, which is a whole lot more efficient and definitely less stressful.

Visiting Kerry Stitch at Indigo Tones was a huge step for me in this process.  After a lifetime of buying clothes I never wore, her statement of, "You like to dress like everyone else" was strangely liberating. Now I am at peace with my relationship with Eddie Bauer.  I admire skirts, dresses and lace from afar.

Your family portraits follow this same principle.  Your images should represent your family's personality.

I have a huge weakness for shirtless men holding naked babies.  My husband Jason has been an awesome sport about it, but since he almost never takes his shirt off ever (even though he totally could with his half a percent of body fat!!!), those images just look weird to me.

This image is weird.  He even wears shirts swimming - inside.
The same is true of a portrait session.  You can absolutely love someone else's session but if it doesn't fit your family, the images will feel out of place.

There are essentially three different styles of family portraits:

1. Formal.  Rebecca packed my kitchen for me when we moved.  I offered to do portraits for her as a thank you gift.  She loves, loves, loves formal images which are generally not my thing, but I couldn't turn down an opportunity to hear a heartwarming rendition of "Mama has a big ole' butt, oh yeah."

2. Natural - this is about 90% of what I end up doing.  It's my personal favorite.

I overuse this image, I know.  I think it might just be my favorite family image of all time ever.

Here are some more relaxed, natural portrait sessions to explore:
Rainy Day Portraits ~ Black Creek Park
Lisa & Brad ~ Tinker Nature Park
Liz & Bernie ~ Brighton

3. Sessions that incorporate an activity.  I don't see a ton of this, but I think it's awesome to explore some fun activities during a session.  If you're an off the beaten path type of person, check out this article:

6 Creative Ideas for an Awesome Family Photo Shoot

Remember that it's okay to appreciate someone else's spunk without feeling like it needs to be yours.  At the same time, if you're a spunky type, be sure to let loose!

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