Back to school week is almost over. The air has been a bit fresher with the promise of new beginnings. Small children with seemingly large backpacks, big children with impossibly small shorts. No matter how big or small the child or the school, there is an electicity in the air this week as kids of all ages, all over BC get ready to meet new challenges & make new friends. For parents, a huge rush of emotions from relief to excitement and yes, even nostalgia.
At Clipsake we are dedicated to celebrating life's momentous occasions. We find beautiful moments in the everyday and we love preserving them with video. Through the course of our work, we are lucky enough to come across local talent all over BC dedicated to the art of making and keeping memories. Today, we caught up with two talented photographers, both out of Kelowna and both called Jessica! Here's what we learned from them about back to school, family photography & making memories.
Kelowna Photographer Jessica Balfour was bitten by the travel bug at age 10. In fact, her parents accomodated her request to leave home and live on an island for a year (she lasted 4 weeks!). She is now a wife, a mother to four children of her own and a dang good photographer.
We asked Jessica about her most powerful back to school mememory and for her, it was when she changed schools in the Kootenays. So as she entered her first day of grade 1 in Nakusp BC, she remembers being freaked out by a rather big toothy boy...
"I was at the front of the line as the teacher invited us all in to the big new class room.There were two students, another girl and a boy, that had to repeat grade 1 and they had been let into the room before all of the others. They were both big and tall and their desks rose above all the other small desks. As I led the class in, the tall boy sat there, arms folded with a huge toothy grin, and stared at me, smiling the whole time. Oh man, I was freaked out. Funny thing is, out all the kids in class, in fact, that school, he's the one I have remained close friends with. In fact, after 34 years and many cities later, we now live a mere 5 blocks from one another. Funny how things turn out."
*Jessica - Grade 1 - Nakusp B.C
Now living in Kelowna with her husband Darren and their four children, back to school is a big time operation. She has two girls and two boys with the youngest beginning grade one and the oldest beginning grade 11. Says Jessica, "getting everyone out the door happily and on time is my main goal. Anything over and above that, quite honestly isn't a priority."
We were curious what type of back to school traditions her family has and for Jessica, its getting a family portrait done each Fall.
"It's not always fun for all involved :) but I've never required my children to smile in our photos. I'd rather have a memory that is authentic to the experience and moment in our lives."
With 15 years of photography experience under her travel loving belt, we thought we'd be fools not to get a bit of advice about taking great family portraits from this talented Kelowna photog. What are two things a family portrait shouldn't be without? "Nature and fun!" says Jessica.
Kelowna is such a gorgeous part of B.C. and as it is back to school time, we thought we'd throw in a fun fact! Kelowna encompasses 214 km² of land and 48 km² of water area. In amongst all the beauty and space of the area, we decided to ask Jessica for her favourite spots for families to make some memories and snap some great fall portraits.
Says Jessica, "One of my favourite places around Kelowna to take portraits, at any time of the year but especially in the Fall, is Mission Creek Park. It has miles and miles of trails in the woods, that run along the creek side and the backdrop looks absolutely beautiful in the Fall. Another favourite place is the Gellatly Nut Farm. It's another great spot with lots of trees and it also happens to be right ot the lake side."
Jessica shares that her favourite thing about taking family portraits is the children. "I absolutely adore a child's authenticity in photos along with their sense of adventure. I love the energy they bring to us big people!"
We love Jessica's energy quite frankly as well as her tradition of taking a genuine commemoritive family photo. If you are planning to do the same, she has some advice for you.
"One of best pieces of advice I can give a family whether you're hiring a pro or doing it your self, is to leave your expectations and preconceived ideas of what a perfect family photo is, at home. Come open to letting your kids be kids. Let them pick up sticks. Let them play. Let them be free so they will enjoy the experience. Take your time and have fun. That's why I love taking families into the woods, says Jessica, there is so much to explore that way."
Seriously amazing advice from a pro! What we'd love to suggest is to let your phone sit (landscape) on a mini-tripod on video mode while you are capturing your photography session. All of this footage will make for a great family video montage sometime in the near future!
Next, we caught up with Jessica Zais - another Kelownafornian photographer. She is a candid moment hunting bookworm who loves travel and goofing off. Oh yeah, and she's a dang good photographer. Her most vivid back to school memory takes place at Dr. Knox Middle School in Kelowna. The day? The first day of Grade 8.
"I had drifted a lot from friend group to friend group in grade 7 as I was the only super artsy, alternative person in my grade. There was a small group, a grade up from me, who were super artsy and a little punk (one girl even had awesome spiky green hair) who I had watched from afar in grade 7 and thought were so cool. I decided grade 8 would be the year I would attempt to befriend them. So my first day of grade 8, I did not hold back from expressing myself. I wore rainbow knee socks, a bright red skirt, retro blue top and to top it off, a realistic looking chin-length black wig that had blue streaks in it. I wish I had a picture! I remember walking past that group of fellow alternative students in the parking lot and hearing them whispering “She looks cool. Who’s that?” So I gathered up all my courage and went and started up a conversation. They ended up inviting me to hangout with them at lunch the next day and ended up becoming close friends. I felt like I had finally found my place. : ) When they went to high school the next year, I ended up doing grade 9 and 10 in one year through correspondence so I could catch up and graduate with them!"
(Place holder photo while we wait for Jessica's grade 8 photo ;)
In fact, this theme of being open and brave has run through into Jessica's photography career. Jessica shares that her favourite part of taking family photos is "showing people all the love they have in their lives" and she isn't afraid to get goofy or ridiculous to help families realax enough to show that natural part of themselves.
Jessica says that being super close with her own family has really motivated her to find this connection and closeness in other families. Says Jessica, "I love seeing the difference of them starting out a little nervous at the beginning of a session and then, by the end, being relaxed and saying “That was fun!"
For those families in Kelowna wanting to go the DIY photography route, Jessica shares some of her professional photography wisdom. "We are so blessed with so many amazing backdrops in Kelowna for photos. A great spot for fall photos is McMillan Farms. It’s such a fun place to spend the day with the kids (hay rides, corn maze, and more) and they have lots of fun backdrops for photos. I always love Knox Mountain for photos but big, open backdrops an be tricky to work with if you don’t have an SLR and can’t work your camera on manual mode. The reason for this is because you don’t want the sun right in your subjects eyes, so your camera can do tricky things and make your subject really dark when you put the sun behind them. So, for a less-complicated lighting situation, choose somewhere with lots of trees in the background but is still nice and open, where you can place the sun behind your subjects with ease. A great example of this is Mission Creek Greenway. Have fun and make sure to click those in-between moments of things like people laughing, or walking/playing that end up being pure gold for your memory banks."
Keeping it ultra-simple, Jessica says the two most important elements to a family portrait session "real smiles and a little fun." Jessica's philosophy is that our day to day lives are special enough to want to capture, and we couldn't agree more! "Whether it’s starting a tickle fight or picking up your kid and putting them on your shoulders, don’t be afraid to let loose and be you! These little moments of how you have fun in your day-to-day lives are really special to capture".