Portrait Photography Session: Emily & Jamie with Ron Delhaye Studios
One question. It can take just one question to present you with multiple opportunities and futures, even the possibility to skyrocket your career. It just took one question I asked my friend Ron Delhaye to try my hand in portraits with his upcoming shoot, which would be a family portrait session. The location was a small beach near New Buffalo, Michigan during the evening and then stick around for dinner at a hamburger joint called Redamak’s afterwards.
I would have to admit I was very nervous about it. My experience previously was with landscape or nature, so this was completely new territory for me. The biggest reason I even asked about assisting with the shoot was because I knew the people in the shot well, in which hopefully I would be less tense. They also knew that I have Asperger’s Syndrome and would have more patience with me. If it was someone unknown that might not have understood, I wasn’t sure I would be able to muster up the courage to ask in the first place. It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill that I couldn’t pass up. It’s always good to try something new. Makes life more exciting and interesting in my opinion.
He accepted with open arms however, and started planning on the trip. Due to foul weather, the photo shoot ended up being delayed a couple of days towards the weekend. Instead of us heading towards the spot in separate vehicles, I ended up carpooling with Ron in his car and instantly we were already off to the beach location. A new destination to explore! Fairly obvious that I was ecstatic of not only learning about creating portraits, but getting a few landscape shots in between. I was certainly not disappointed in the end as you will soon find out.
This time the ride was more silent than before, as I was never good at starting conversations and couldn’t think on what to discuss with him. We ended up stopping for coffee before heading the rest of the way, since both of us were running on fumes with little sleep. Both of us tired, yet ready to take off and get the job done. Such is life for most of us I believe.
Whether from a lack of sleep, nervousness, possibly car sickness coming back with a vengeance or even all of the above my stomach began to throw a fit. Luckily it never got bad enough to stop the car, but was quite the inconvenience. I was beginning to worry as we arrived, due to it getting dramatically worse. The fresh air and standing was all it took for it to eventually subside, as the family in question had already arrived. In a twist of fate, we ended up parking right next to them.
The family in question? It was a long time friend of Ron and mine Jamie with the love of his life Emily, and their son Sebastian. Their son happened to have chiari 1 malformation, which is a condition where brain tissue from the cerebellum extends into the spinal canal. He also happens to have Autism, very much like myself. Heard about this last year during a social gathering and decided to give them a few books my late-mother had to help her understand my Asperger’s Syndrome, in hopes that it could do the same for them. One of the books was authored by Temple Grandin, an American professor of animal science that has autism, a world-renowned autism spokesperson and a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. For this trip I forgot to ask about if the book I gave them were of any help, though I’m certain it did. I left a lot of my late-mother’s bookmarks and highlights after all.
Sebastian took one look at me and shouted out my name immediately. The first time I’ve met him was when I had a meeting with Jamie on advice for my website, with him and his family in town to get Sebastian a haircut. I never liked haircuts as a child either. Felt a little invasion of space when the barber got close to cut my hair. I only recall just sitting there with a big frown over it. Sebastian then said about me being Chris and him being the name of some dragon character in a children’s show. I do not recall the name, but I was too old to have watched it. Emily and Jamie on the other hand remembered the show fondly from when they are young. I’m starting to feel old from typing this.
From there we moved to several spots along the fine sandy beach to get some nice family shots. I was fiddling with the setting with my camera for every photo opportunity, which each attempt was trying my best to stay out in Ron’s line of view while taking a few myself for adding to the collection. A few times I also backed away in order to include Ron at work for some behind the scenes photos to use for promotional purposes. I wasn’t sure if I was doing well enough, but kept pressing the shutter button whenever I spot a moment I felt I had to capture. At least try to anyway, as they can vanish before I was prepared. A new lesson to keep in mind going forward in terms of photographing people.
Our first series of shots were on a boardwalk by the beach house, with a great view of the surrounding beach as the backdrop. A few times Sebastian, or Bash as they like to call him, was playing around with the water fountain situated by the benches that overlooked the expansive beach. The camera flash stand with the umbrella was placed nearby as Ron took a couple of shots of them together, with Sebastian between the couple. Occasional conversation broke out between shots that had them laughing, which gave way to more great photo opportunities while in a relaxed state.
We then moved to a spot on the beach where it took more of a steep drop, all of it sand and no jagged rocks from my recollection. The three sat in front of a wonderful view of Lake Michigan right behind. Ron positioned the flash unit by the group just out of his field of vision and both of us stepped back, inch by inch, to try and get ourselves in line. A few shots later Bash decided to crawl on all fours towards us and then had his focus on a rock, which he then began to play with. He didn’t throw it around, instead kept burying it in the sand and then tried to find it again to rebury it.
An odd thing to do for a passerby, but I had done weird things as well at his age. I sketched a ton and played with puzzles constantly. While everyone drew stick figures, I was sketching furniture and different objects with remarkable accuracy considering my age, all done free-handed. According to my father, I was playing with 100-500 piece puzzles when I was four years old. I don’t remember anything before the age of six unfortunately. I also was obsessed with learning different subjects with striking detail, such as the weather and natural disasters, even memorizing from videos of what on the Fujita scale the tornado’s strength was in the video clips, location, and the date it happened.
Was also teaching myself flags and names of countries when kids several grades above me were struggling with that. One gave me a look that spoke “What the hell are you?!” as I started naming off and pointing out all the countries in Africa on the displayed map. I even made the flag of Kenya out of colored construction paper one time. There was just something about the design of that flag I like more than others, probably because most of them are just colorful stripes when you get right down to it.
This extends to behaviors as well, as I absolutely hated wearing socks for a while because I didn’t like the texture feeling against my skin. Was a real pain in the neck about it when my family took trips to Discovery Zone and played in the ball pits. I guess you can say both Bash and I are oddballs in our own ways. Makes me wonder what kind of things he is memorizing or his own talents. Probably making his parents proud with all the things he is learning.
Eventually Sebastian returned to his parents as the photo shoot continued, with all of us moving down the steep hill towards the shore. Ron and I rushed towards a concrete structure on the other side as he instructed them to casually walk towards us. Jamie, Emily and Sebastian walked towards us hand in hand as both parents decided to give their son a little swing every now and then. Each swing had him laughing in glee, which in turn had everyone smiling while everyone else in the background were having fun exploring the shoreline. I turned around and took a few shots of Ron himself as he smiled into the camera.
Sebastian started picking up one pebble after another as he threw them into Lake Michigan, with his parents standing right by him and looked at the great view. Eventually it was decided to go back up the steep hillside as we walked back towards the parking lot. Sebastian became a little upset at times since he wanted to jump into the great lake, but obviously couldn’t have him soaked during the remaining shots after all. Throughout the whole photo shoot he kept trying to sneak away and head towards the shore, but his mother remained alert and caught him in the act every time, with the result being brought back to where we were, either hand-in-hand or carried in her arms. He got upset about not being allowed to play in the water, but it usually didn’t last long.
It was around this time that the descending sun over Lake Michigan began to display such vibrant warm colors that the sky looked as if it were catching on fire. It was perfect for a family shot of them having fun among the grass growth further back of the beach. Jamie crouched down to let Sebastian crawl on his back and stood up with him riding on top of his shoulders. He giggled as Jamie bounced him around while while Emily stood beside them with a smile.
The fiery sunset raged further as it was time to have parent-only shots. It was only then that I found out that they were expecting a baby girl and this was also a maternity photo shoot. They wanted to have some nice photos to coincide with the surprise announcement. Emily also later told us that Sebastian sometimes asked when his baby sister was going to come with his hand on her belly. While Ron was busy taking photos of the happy couple, I was in charge of watching out for their son as he played on the beach. I was also instructed to try and get some photos of him as well.
Sebastian noticed the sun in the distance and kept wanting to run after it. Of course this would have led him towards the shores of Lake Michigan, so I kept staying one step ahead of him to get a few shots while also trying to prevent him to going to the shore by standing in front of him. He started getting upset again since he wanted to catch it. I took a few photos of the sun and was about to show him there it was, but he took the opportunity to try slipping past me and walk towards the shore again.
It was a little exhausting, but he just had that strong fixation. I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation since I didn’t want to grab him. Similar to when I was his age, we both didn’t like being touched. I wanted to keep my distance and respect that due to knowing what it’s like, but at the same time I couldn’t have him running into the water either.
As luck would have it, his fixation switched to a pile of small boats nearby as he walked over to examine them. It was at this time that the parent-only photo shoot was finished as they walked over to where we were. Ron saw this as another photo opportunity and took a couple of Sebastian as he looked at the boats. I saw the opportunity as well and took a few shots of my own.
The happy three decided to return to their car while Ron and I were about to pack up. I decided to ask him if I could take a few shots of him for practice, as the flash unit with umbrella was still out. He agreed and attached some device to my camera that makes the flash unit work when I press the shutter button. I kept having problems with focusing, but was able to get a few great shots of his posing in front of my camera. We then switched places and he took a few of me with the camera in my hands.
The fiery sunset at that moment suddenly explode in multiple colors that kept getting more vibrant and beautiful as time went on. We returned to the parking lot to find them still in the car, asking where we should all stop at for dinner. As they were discussing our options, I was just fixated at the wondrous sunset that was occurring. Eventually the family drove off heading towards Redamak’s while Ron and I stayed behind the captured the spectacle while it lasted. He had already packed in his camera and thus decided to settle with his phone and SnapChat.
We were not the only ones there noticing the brilliant sunset extravaganza happening either. Everyone on the beach were gathering along the shore and taking photos with their phones. A few however settled with just watching the event while sitting along the shoreline. That right there was one photo opportunity I couldn’t afford the miss and took it. Also gave a shot at trying to get as many panoramas as I could along with single shots. Some of them on the beach while a couple were by the beach house on the boardwalk.
Ron stayed on the boardwalk recording SnapChat videos and a few panoramas with the camera app. He turned around as I decided to take a few more portrait shots of him for practice, specifically with the mini flash unit on my camera. He was surprised and didn’t think it had a flash due to it being hidden until I pressed a specific button to make it pop up. He then asked for my camera to take a few shots of me with the glorious sunset in the background while being able to try out my camera again. I complied and lend him the camera to take a few shots, while he kept commenting on how amazingly light it was in his hands. He was very much use to using a bulky DSLR camera for his work.
As quickly as it came, the glorious evening sky faded away as the sun submerged below the horizon of Lake Michigan. We both went back to the car and started driving off to meet Jamie, Emily and Sebastian at Redamak’s. It went on as expected, with all of us ordering hamburgers while having a lengthy discussion about theories on Game of Thrones. Sebastian payed more attention to his favorite cartoon show on his mother’s smartphone as we discussed on where the hit show was possibly heading for the next few seasons.
We then continued the maternity shot with an idea both Emily and Jamie had, which wasn’t going to be the typical shot that everyone sees on social media. The difference? Colored smoke bombs. I wasn’t sure what they were planning to do with them until the discussion. A new way to announce a baby: make the father look as if he is farting the color representing the gender the newborn is while the expecting mother tries to fan it away with a look of disgust. Have to give them originality points for that! Good thing they weren’t stink bombs!
They brought a test smoke bomb for the shot and went through a rehearsal of sorts to try and have everything positioned just right. We also had a number of shots with the sign asking the viewer what they think the gender of the baby will be. Certainly funny to watch how many different faces Jamie could make while pretending to release gas. Go leave a comment down below guessing how many he made during the practice round and the actual photo shoot!
It was time to say our goodbyes as everyone left in their separate vehicles. I wish Jamie, Emily, and Sebastian the best for them and the new member of their family. Certainly hope Ron as a great time with the nonprofit group UPportunity, as they are currently going on a trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Unsure how much I’m missing out, as I am not exactly the biggest fan of the severe summer heat from that region of the United States. At least they now have a new journey to document while I make my own relaxing trip across the county roads on bike, camera in tow. I think a new topic is starting to form into my head now. Guess everyone will have to wait in anticipation on what I will be discussing next.