Category Archives: photography

impromptu baby photo shoot: capturing my favorite expressions

If I’ve learned anything about myself, especially as a mom, it’s that I need to leave the house as often as possible. Just get up and go. The one day I didn’t go on a walk when C. was an infant — it was a slushy February day in D.C. — I was near tears. I also know that I’m happiest when I’m doing something new or creative.

Today, I decided to photograph the Sierra mountain range just before sunset. I’d like to get better at photography — and the best way to do that is to play.

It was a blue-sky winter desert day, in the high 50s and dusty. I pulled through the drive-thru at Beansters, bought a spiced vanilla chai, and blasted my new favorite song by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. As I left the parking lot, I had no idea idea where I’d drive. I ended up at the dirt parking lot behind the community college. But I quickly realized that you have to hike quite a distance to get a good shot of the mountains. It was already 20 minutes before sunset.

So, instead, I turned the camera on C. I have a new appreciation for the athleticism required to get shots of kids. And how tricky lighting can be when they move so fast. And sometimes the best expressions don’t pair with the best lighting. C. thought I was playing a game, so he ran away from me giggling hysterically, which made the first part of the shoot ridiculously joyous (until he got tired and wanted me to stop). I walked away with some of my favorite expressions and gestures.

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wedding day: ‘OK, it was worth it’

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A few days before our wedding day, A. said to me, “I have trouble believing that all of this money and effort is worth it.” We were putting together programs (we had our favorite singer-songwriter David Berkeley write a personal song for us that we walked down the aisle to, and wanted people to see the lyrics). A. was designing the escort cards with Greek letters to communicate to the waitstaff what everyone was eating (Pi was pork, Sigma salmon… yes, we really did that for you math geeks). I was trying to keep track of everything we had to bring: fixings for S’mores, Bells beer, a wagon, etc. etc. And we were TIRED.

But the day of, there was a buzz in the hotel room where the ladies got their hair and makeup done. M. popped the champagne, and after I gently rubbed off some of the foundation (why do they always go overboard?) I felt better.

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We got on the shuttle from Frederick to Thurmont — A. sat in the back, and I sat in the front so we wouldn’t see each other.

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We drove past trees full of red, orange and yellow leaves to Thorpewood, a mountain retreat on 150 acres in Maryland.

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I put on my dress downstairs in the dressing room and I felt beautiful (and I wasn’t sure I would.)

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We took photos and wandered around the venue…Image

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While my brother rehearsed the ceremony in the loft (he was AMAZING and made both me and A. cry).

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By just before 4 p.m., the ladies took a golf cart to the pine forest —

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And while A. walked up the aisle with his parents, I hung back by myself in the cart, anxiously waiting.

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And by the time my dad walked me up to the trellis where A. waited for me, holding C., I was relaxed. Happy.

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I put C. down at my feet, and he played with the pine needles and didn’t make a peep the entire ceremony.

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A. and I wrote our own vows. A. made me laugh —

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and I couldn’t get through the first words — “When I met you more than 3 years ago, I knew you were different” — without crying.Image Many people later said they cried along with me: A.’s uncle said in his New York Italian accent: “What were you trying to do to me? I haven’t cried at a wedding in 40 years.”

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At the cocktail hour, I drank red wine, which had several people worried I was going to spill (I didn’t.)

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We had butternut squash soup shooters and crispy avocado rolls —

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and I tried to talk to as many people as possible. Even though we had 115 guests, it felt like this: “Hi! How are you!” Hug. “Oh, hi! Haha, yes, thank you!” Hug. “Ohhh really? Hi!” Hug.

During dinner, I was trying to make the rounds after checking on C.

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I was at the Caltech table, when our babysitter came up to me, holding a flushed C. The babysitter looked concerned, upset and sheepish all at once. “He just threw up,” she said. At the time, C. was almost 11 months and had never been sick. “Oh dear,” I said and I reached to grab him. He was covered in towels and had a glazed look. His cheeks were the color of the red tulips in my bouquet. “He’s warm.” A. was there, too, and we agreed to take C. up to the loft to take his temperature. 101.9. “Go talk to C.,” A. said, referring to the pediatric-oncologist in the house. Oh my god, thank goodness for C. She suggested we give baby C. ibuprofen (which my sister-in-law had) and try to get him some sleep. (By the next afternoon, his fever was up to 103.3, but went away by Tuesday morning on its own.) The lovely N. held him all night, and assuaged any worry I might have had.

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Then it was time for speeches. Adam’s brother E. gave a speech that had A. literally sweating and me doubled over with laughter.

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S. gave a speech that made A. bawl (“Any mention of C.’s birth makes me cry!” he says).

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I awkwardly thanked everyone for coming and then said something about how we know what happens when I talk — I cry — so let’s go dance.

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And that’s what we did. We danced.

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I haven’t had that much fun at a dance party in years. My cousins were hysterical, my friends were fun as usual.

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I never made it to the fire pit outside to roast a S’more. I forgot about our desserts (my mother-in-law’s homemade Italian cookies, cake from Queens and pies from New Jersey). There were a few people (regretfully) I didn’t say hi to. But all in all, I left that night feeling full of love — and madly in love. I wouldn’t have done anything different. And A., the man who always said he’d never get married, said to me the next day, while nodding his head: “It was worth it.”

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*All photos by Channing Johnson (and more here), All Rights Reserved

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