Using Photography To Find Purpose and Say “Thank You”

A group of Jackson firefighters after our first firehouse studio session

We all have something we can give to others in life. It’s easy to feel like what you have to give may not be as special or important as what others do. Maybe that feeling might keep us from giving sometimes. Isn’t that too bad?

It’s taken a while for me to find my niche in life. I’ve had so much rich life experience but it’s taken a lot of trials to find where I really belong. On the flip side of exploration and diverse experience has been a feeling of searching for that one right purpose that could give me a sense of meaning in what I do.

My dad, Captain Franck Tremaine, at mom’s house.

My dad was a firefighter for 40 years and was admired by many for his courage, candor, and commitment. With a role model who had made such a massive impact on life in my community, I put a heavy expectation on myself to do the same. I could enjoy my work or studies, but the question always remained, was I making a difference?

This week, I’m creating art to glorify, celebrate, and THANK the incredible men and women of the Jackson Fire Department. Their job is unbelievably taxing, and alienating in ways that most of us are fortunate not to understand. My hope is that I can use my particular set of abilities to give them something that will fill them with pride and confidence.

After a lot of searching and a lot of growing, I’ve come to realize that there are so many different facets to our lives, and they’re all important. The people on the front lines of life can’t do what they do without a really great support system behind them.

So here I am, finally accepting that I have the soul of an artist and the mind of an engineer, and not at all the body of a firefighter! And that’s ok. It’s better than ok. I can use what I can do to lift up other people who have different things to give than I do. We all do this for each other and it’s what makes life amazing.

If you’ve struggled with feeling like you don’t have much of value to give, take a second look at where your strengths lie. You have something in there that someone else really needs.


Driving The Back Roads: Crafting the Relish Senior Session

I watched the weather all week and Friday was looking spotty but I decided to keep my appointment with Bella unless it was literally pouring. I know that might not be the right choice for everyone, but Bella was one of my high school senior models and we were going out to play and experiment. Sometimes a little rain can make magic. 

A beautiful shot of senior model Bella in Jackson, CA

We met up after school on a Friday afternoon. After chatting a little about logistics and taking some opening shots in the spot where we met, we hopped in my car, bound for the Amador backroads via downtown Sutter Creek. Our plan was to drive slow and stop wherever we felt the pull to shoot. I saw a side street that attracted me so I parked on Main. But after a few shots and a little wandering, The Antique Gardener caught my eye and I put two and two together.

I was elated when we were graciously welcomed to shoot in the back garden. The Antique Gardener is one of my favorite spots in Amador County. There is something about that space that reaches me at a great depth. I would move in if they’d let me.

The Antique Gardener in Sutter Creek, CA was an amazing location to explore.

We relaxed and took our time shooting in that beautiful garden. After a few more stops throughout town, a little good natured heckling from “The Locals” (I’m looking at you, John Campbell) and a fun surprise bump into John Michael Poulson of Lexie Jean Photography (one of the area’s leading real estate photographers), we loaded back up and cruised on toward Amador City the back-back way (because since the highway got bypassed, the old highway is the new “back” way).

All along the back roads we stopped here and there to shoot in the beautiful spots we saw, and we wrapped it up by setting up studio lighting in a wide piece of road to catch an amazing stormy sunset. 

Stopping wherever we wanted was fun and relaxing.
The sunset was so worth the few drops of rain we felt!

Through the whole session we got just a few drops of rain, but the sky was gorgeous and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day. I’m so glad we went, and I’m so glad we worked this way. It’s usual to set a time limit on a session, or plan to shoot in a certain location because that’s convenient. But there could be no comparison to the rich story of Bella we created by tripping around together and following our hearts for the whole afternoon. I hope I can always work this way with my seniors.

How To Photograph Small Children Without Frustration

This moment never happened.

Little ones don’t usually think sitting still for a picture sounds like fun. It may be possible to barter a few fleeting seconds (literally, seconds) with a two-year-old, but realistically, photography takes more time than that.

So. When I do a session with little kids, I don’t worry so much about getting them to hold still. I like to set them up in a situation and get them to play and have fun. It’s up to me to do whatever acrobatics are needed to capture the perfect moments that ensue. I shoot many frames to get a few, and when there are multiple people in an image, it is likely a composite of several original shots.

You wouldn’t necessarily think this was two different shots, but sometimes, that’s what it takes!

If you have a session scheduled with your kids, don’t stress too much about how they act when you get there. Straight out of the car and feeling pressure to “be good,” little kids probably won’t be able to sit still and smile for the camera right off the bat.

A little shy at first… what a beautiful image came of it! Big smiles are beautiful but they aren’t our whole story.

As a photographer, I expect this. The best way to handle the situation is, if they’re being silly, be silly right along. If they’re being reserved, capture that mood and give them time to get a feel for the situation. These are things kids do when they’re uncomfortable. A lot of times, that little bit of space held for them leads to them settling in and becoming a lot more relaxed.

Sister wanted some individual attention while brother settled in. I could tell it made her feel really special.

Long story short, making beautiful images of little kids sometimes requires thinking outside the normal conventions of portrait photography. Let them be kids. Get them playing and laughing and then surprise them with a squeaky toy behind the lens. Let them run circles around you. Tell them about the bunny in the camera that they’ll see through the lens if they’re looking at JUST the right moment…

Your patience and forbearance (and the photographer’s skill in Photoshop lol) will pay off 100 fold.