Pandemic or not, kids are still going to turn 13, and in the Jewish tradition, that means boys are still turning into men. So, even though the original plan was that I would photograph this boy’s whole celebration, party and all, part of growing up means learning flexibility. After moving the date once in optimistic hopes that maybe, by winter, the pandemic would be over – he ended up doing a Zoom ceremony and then celebrating just with his family, in the comfort of his home. I still went to capture some socially-distant pictures of him dressed at the synagogue on a particularly breezy, chilly day; and then later on the day of his bar mitzvah at his home, where we lucked out with some warmer, sunnier weather. His family was super considerate about making sure to keep their distance or don their masks around me and had a great time having this opportunity to dress up and capture their son’s big milestone.
Author Archives: RY
Pandemic Pictures: Court and Grant and family!
Once again, I got to photograph one of my favorite families in the DMV. Court and Grant know how to raise kids the right way: the kids were calling undecided voters, fighting for Black Lives Matter, wearing masks and keeping their distance and attending virtual school and walking their dogs. This year, Court is proudly donning her grandmother’s Cherokee jewelry as she and Grant celebrate a milestone anniversary—10 years! This family is also very well-read and in these pandemic times, they’ve also read a lot of great novels. Here’s the family on a lovely autumn afternoon, right before the leaves all disappeared.
Pandemic portraits: Wunan
Even in a pandemic, conferences are still going on, even if you only need to be dressed professionally on top but no one will ever know you have on PJ bottoms. Here, Wunan requested some pics for upcoming events she’ll be participating in, so we found a nice sunny fall day for those!
2020 Election Day in D.C.
I took my kids downtown to check out the state of our nation’s capital before all hell broke loose as the votes were being tallied. In the morning, it was rather calm and even eerily quiet. Tip to tourists: visit the National Mall on Election Day if you want pictures with nobody else in them, maybe during a pandemic, too. Down at Black Lives Matter Plaza, people were showing up to look at the signs and art decorating the many layers of fences surrounding Lafayette Park to the Ellipse (and the White House in the middle), chant their slogans, take pictures, blast music (Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” was a good mood-setter), and have a jovial time before reality set in – whichever way the election would go. I wanted my kids to have a record of their being present for this, since it will be many years before they can fully comprehend—and appreciate—this very unusual and historic election.
A Socially-Distant Bar Mitzvah
Certainly, these are unusual times. Most unusual, I received an inquiry for some socially-distance bar mitzvah photos—service rehearsal only, as hosting a party was out of the questions these days—and it turns out, the mother inquiring was someone I WENT TO CAMP WITH WHEN I WAS 13. We were in the same cabin for two years, and I remembered many details about her—that she had long dark brown hair, that she was into acting, and that she was funny. It was then quite fun to reconnect decades later, find out not much had changed, and meeting her own kids, one who was the same age as the last time I saw her.
In any case, her kid was a total trouper, going through his readings even with a mask on his face and adding Lysol wiping of the Torah to the sacred rituals. The synagogue had set up some super-duper web cams to capture all the events that were going on currently, since, despite a pandemic, milestones big and small were still happening. In honor of his bar mitzvah, he even carefully drew every single design, by hand, on the dozens of yarmulkes that were sent out to invited guests who watched by Zoom. According to his mom, he did wonderfully at his service, even if it was to a mostly empty sanctuary but a crowded Zoom room.
Family Session: 15-Year Anniversary!
Tracie and Akbar met freshman year of college and in 2005, when YouTube launched and W became president again, they tied the knot. They said that with each major anniversary they had talked about going on a nice vacation, one being to visit the Grand Canyon finally, but then various life things happened—birth of a kid, and now coronavirus. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop them from celebrating and having this photo session gifted to them by a friend, so I hope that my presence made up for missing out on the Grand Canyon – again. Happy anniversary, you two!
Storms over Sanibel
We drove to Sanibel Island from the DC area because we wanted to avoid flights, and while there we experienced some of the coolest thunderstorms ever. Here’s the only lucky shot in the dark – literally – I got of one flash of lightning during the nighttime, from the balcony of our condo.
Socially Safe Family Photos!
When people were ordered to stay home from school and work due to novel coronavirus, the first thing I thought was: wow, scheduling spring photos should be a snap. Everyone’s home! Parents! College kids! But then we had to follow that six-feet-wide distance rule, which theoretically isn’t a problem when you have some great zoom lenses. However, since I’m a photographer and not a spy, I knew it would limit some of my work, including setting up lighting equipment and having the flexibility of approaching people closer than the allotted six feet.
As much as I enjoyed documenting the non-quarreling moments of my family’s day-to-day in this interesting state of affairs as I navigate between Khan Academy and work emails, I wanted to get out and talk to other people. Even if it meant yelling from 10 feet away. So I did, with camera in hand, around my neighborhood last Tuesday, when the weather was forecasted to be warm and sunny. In exchange for a “socially safe” session, families donated $30 or more to the Capital Area Food Bank. In total, I raised about $800 through Facebook and separate checks people wrote—and counting! And I met many new neighbors, fellow elementary school parents, kids, pets, and their neighbors. People really took the opportunity to get out of their sweatpants and dressed their kids up, and, as one person admitted, made her husband shave the mustache he had been carefully cultivating. Cherry blossoms and magnolias were in peak bloom and people’s hair still looked fresh from their last visit to the stylist’s.
THANK YOU to you all for such a fun day, and for helping other families in the DC area get food—which we know is not easy, if you’ve tried buying eggs recently. It’s an unprecedented time I have dubbed Stranger Things. (Which, sadly, I finished bingeing before we were asked to stay home.)
I’ve received numerous inquiries as to whether I will be doing another session like this, and I will keep you all posted! In the meantime, here are the families who participated in my first “socially safe” photo sessions.
Nutrition is a very important part of daily life, and with all that misinformation out there on the world wide web, why not consult an actual nutritionist who can help guide you through all the necessary criteria to fit your (or your family’s) health needs? Here’s Amy, MS, CNS, LDN, local nutrition expert, who recruited me to help take some more updated headshots. If you must know, the fruit bowl was deliberate. And I’ve included some outtakes so that you know that Amy is not all about vanity but is a real, blinking, laughing (a lot of laughing) person. She also comes with an authentic English accent, so you’re more likely to pay attention to what she says than you would to any other health expert out there.
Family: Grant + Court + Kids + Canine Kids
This blog post is going to be a huge promotion for Grant’s Amazing Bacon (GAB) even though he’s not exactly in the business of selling it. However, Grant is an incredible griller/ meat smoker/ pickler/ chef/ etc-er who I once traded photographs for his melt-in-your-mouth bacon (and then purchased the next order with cash). Literally, I brought home the bacon. And everyone to whom we’ve ever served this bacon has had the same reaction: “OH MY GOD! WHERE DID YOU GET THIS BACON?!” From San Francisco to Chicago to New York to Washington, D.C., we have been spreading the gospel of Grant’s Awesome Bacon. There was even a toddler, once diagnosed with failure to thrive, going back for third and fourth servings of this bacon, to the point that his mom was asking us for Grant’s name and contact, so she could especially order his bacon if it meant her kid would eat and grow.
Anyway, slightly beknownst to Grant and Court, I have been trying to encourage Grant to market his delicious cooking to a greater population, an idea over which he hems and haws. However, though I did not photograph any pictures of bacon, I have photographed their warm, kind, welcoming and very well-read family. (Court you may recognize from prior photos that I’ve taken of her company). Here are some pictures that we took right before the holidays.
Cool Blue Bat Mitzvah!
December in the DC area is very fickle, and for this bat mitzvah, we happened to land on some of the colder days of the month, even though the girls were so good at pretending like it was a balmy tropical day in their sleeveless dresses (a lot of me calling out, “THINK FLORIDA! WE’RE STANDING ON A WARM BEACH! YOU’RE GETTING UNBELIEVABLY TAN!”) We shot photos during the bat mitzvah girl’s rehearsal and then a week later at her party celebrating the actual bat mitzvah at The Loft at 4935 in Bethesda. To keep with the winter theme, they chose shades of blue – in their dresses and at the party – and the guests had a blast with nonstop dancing, party games, food and a photo booth. Here are some pictures from that fun day!
Celebrating: Bookish Bat Mitzvah!
This December bat mitzvah at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rockville was one of the nicest ones I’ve been to: small, low-key, and with such understated elegance, as the photos will illustrate. The bat mitzvah girl loved reading, so the theme was books. It was a refreshing challenge to the guests who volunteered to help come up with the design for the decor – how does one make books seem fun and party-ish? Well, they pulled it off with the use of encyclopedias, paper flowers cut from texts, and bookmarks as name cards. I was allowed to subtly photograph the ceremony from the back and then capture the rest of the party, where kids ate Chinese food (brilliant choice) for lunch, and everyone played games, danced, took photo booth pictures, danced the Hora and watched a slideshow of her growing up. Here are some pictures from that lovely afternoon.
Snapshot: Hora under the stars!
I love that this bat mitzvah girl was trying to capture the hora from her point of view on her phone while hanging on for dear life. More coming from her bat mitzvah in early December!
There’s a phrase in Chinese: pao lai pao tu. It translates to “running here, running there.” My college roommate’s father, after hearing about my various travel shenanigans through the four years, one day declared that I was very pao lai pao tu and my own family agreed, and I do not dispute this.
Our trip to Maine two summers ago (2018) is exemplary of this motto and my personal philosophy, even though it causes those around me to grumble while I plan all the details. We decided to embark on a two week trip camping trip to Maine (with a two-day stop in Boston and three nights in an Airbnb farmhouse in southern Maine). This includes, but is not limited to, driving about 12 hours to Maine with a 4- and 6-year old in the backseat of our CR-V and then sleeping in a tent with them for nights on end. Now, a CR-V is a nice small-medium SUV which is not really designed for a two-week camping trip to Maine, especially when your kids are still confined to carseats, but in all my years of pao lai pao tu I had succeeded in packing everything tightly, from suitcases to car trunks, like a winning Tetris game. Our kids may have complained about having their feet propped up with bags underneath.
Because we had a then-4- and 6-year-old, one of whom gets carsick from watching an iPad for more than 2 minutes, I planned out our trip to break up with a stop at Rye Playland in Rye, New York, where the end of Big was filmed and where I spent my summers as a kid; then in Boston for a few days where Jon could work from the Cambridge office of his company while I dragged the kids around the Freedom Trail; then an extended lunch at the Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery, Maine where I ate many a lobster when I used to work in Boston; and a stop at a waterpark in southern Maine before we reached our first destination in Lincolnville, Maine before we headed into Acadia National Park. We spent a few days hiking and checking out the cutesy New England towns before we went into the woods to camp lakeside in Acadia for a week. To make things extra complicated, I piled some camera equipment with me, of course, to document the whole experience, though I did leave my flashes behind – we were going au naturel on this camping trip.
There’s a difference between a photoshoot and photographing your vacation. I didn’t take pictures the whole time—for example, whenever sand was involved. Or if it was raining, which was most of Boston, so there are no Boston shots except on my iPhone. My camera weighs a lot and sometimes I just didn’t feel like dragging it up a mountain. I also didn’t want to be stuck behind the camera the entire trip—I wanted to actually be on the vacation itself. Also, when you have two kids tugging at your clothes or complaining through a hike, there’s only so much creativity you can have.
In any case, I was able to capture a lot of great moments, anyway, so here are some of my favorites.
Company Pics: The Management Center!
This is now my fourth time photographing this group (here they are earlier this year, last year, and the year before), and each time their headshots always come out so photogenic. Is it because their purpose is to help nonprofits run even more smoothly and therefore, help people and the world? Or because they are exude such care and support for one another as colleagues and friends that it shows through their smiles? In any case, something is working right at this company (and I dare say almost every company, whether a nonprofit or not, could stand to learn a little about good management if they want their employees to look this relaxed and happy in their professional headshots).
This particular day was extremely blustery and windy that the people could barely stand without being blown over, let alone any of my light stands. In between gusts of wind throwing debris into their eyes and their hair all over the place, I managed to get most people’s pictures done quickly before we retreated to safety inside to take the rest of them. Here’s a few selections of headshots I particularly liked (for artistry, really) and some of the working teams who congregated for a few serious and then silly shots.
Gala: The American Osteopathic Foundation
In late October, I was fortunate to photograph the 2019 American Osteopathic Foundation’s annual gala and awards ceremony at the Hilton-Inner Harbor in Baltimore. I wasn’t even sure what an osteopathic doctor did – and I learned a lot that evening. At the very least, they are a compassionate community of physicians who really love and believe in what they do, and it was a very thoughtful crowd of people who enjoyed being in each other’s company. Awards were given, standout doctors were recognized, scholarships were handed out, and a one million dollar check was emotionally accepted to provide future scholarships. Afterwards, the group capped off the evening with a candy bar, drinks, and dancing to a live band.
Renewing Vows: Nick + Amy
Weddings are beautiful—but marriage isn’t always so Pinterest-perfect. I have always wanted to take some very realistic shots of marriage, 10 years later, when everyone’s completely settled into a whole different life with kids, mortgages, financial obligations, career changes, messy houses, the mundaneness of the day-to-day. But 10 years is an excellent marker to step back, examine the original wedding vows, and see if they need some refinement or fit into your current life.
I had the opportunity to capture some wedding vow renewals of Nick and Amy—two people I’ve known them since they passed their five year anniversary, and now they’ve just surpassed 10 years. They decided to officially renew their vows and added a couple with their daughters. They chose a secluded woodsy spot on a beautiful fall day in Rock Creek Park, complete with a picnic and twirly dresses for the girls. As Amy put it, it was a second chance to do the wedding the way you really wanted to the first time around. Here are some shots from this lovely morning.
Soccer Bar Mitzvah!
What a day for this soccer boy – a whole ceremony in the morning and then a hopping party in the evening for his friends and family at the Bethesda Hyatt. It was themed with – of course, soccer balls – with non-stop games, dancing, and even a cartoonist, which I love because it was a nice departure from a photo booth and a nod to the days when I went to bar/ bat mitzvahs. Here are some shots from his rehearsal and then at his party afterwards!
B was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer about four years ago. She was a friend-of-a-friend, someone I met maybe once or twice, at the mutual friend’s wedding and possibly at some other party. In the spring, I learned that her prognosis wasn’t very good, and she was organizing a get-together with her close friends to assemble photo albums and videos to leave to her children, who are 8 and 6. Since she lived maybe 30 minutes away in Virginia, I offered to do a photo shoot for her with her kids, as a gift, which she gladly accepted.
We met up at Glen Echo Park, and her kids ran around with my kids, riding the carousel and playing on the playground. I took pictures of B and her kids hugging, tickling each other, being silly, laughing, all the things that young kids are good at doing with their mother, who, at that age, is the most important person in their lives. She also sat with each kid independently and they chatted while I hung back with my camera. I’m not even sure what they talked about, but it wasn’t my conversation to eavesdrop in.
Despite that these are the most important photos I have ever taken, and out of respect for her family, I will probably never publish them anywhere. They were only meant for B and her kids. I did choose this one to post, mostly because it’s from far away, but also because even from far away one could appreciate the closeness that mother and daughter had. The photos turned out really well, and B was very emotional about them. Our timing was good, because soon after, the sweltering DC summer temperatures set in, the carousel at Glen Echo was closed for renovations, and she spent her summer trying to stay cool while in and out of hospital visits. She passed away a few weeks after the school year started.
The kids might not remember that they went to Glen Echo that day, much less that I was there or who I was. At the very least, I hope these photos give them some comfort and memories of a time when their mother was still there.
Snapshot: A Soccer Bar Mitzvah
This bar mitzvah boy and his proud mama last week right after his rehearsal. More to come from this celebratory weekend!
Look at how professional, sharp, smart, knowledgeable and strategic Sara is! If anyone is looking for someone with experience in international relations, she’s your prime candidate.
Family Session: Niki and Eric and kids!
I met up with Niki and Eric and their kids for a summer photo session at the Maryland Soccerplex, an enormous complex of 24 separate, full soccer fields (and indoor ones!) in South Germantown, Maryland. If you couldn’t tell, this family is clearly a soccer family. Both kids are dedicated and very talented players. Their son will be celebrating his bar mitzvah over the weekend, which will be, of course, soccer-themed. We lucked out on a slightly cooler (i.e. not ridiculously humid) late August day to play with their new puppy and kick around a soccer ball. Enjoy the pictures!
Snapshot: Bar Mitzvah-bound!
This boy, with his two loves: a soccer field and his new puppy, is becoming a bar mitzvah this weekend! Stay tuned for shots from their family photoshoot at the expansive Maryland Soccerplex, and later some shots from his bar mitzvah.
Sarah + David + Family!
This is my third opportunity to photograph members of this family – first headshots for entrepreneurs David and Sarah, and now with the rest of their gang. They welcomed their baby a few months ago, and their other kids absolutely adore her. The oldest is thrilled to have another girl in her corner, but the boys are going to be the big brother protectors as well. These were some of the most behaved kids I have ever worked with, and they are all under 8 years old! I don’t know what was in those snacks Sarah gave to them before, but they were charming and smiling and adorable all at the same time. You can see for yourself.
Snapshot: Sarah/ David + Family!
This was supposed to be a picture of just David and Sarah quietly enjoying a moment together, which as parents know, is short-lived. One by one, the kids started piling up on their laps. As usual, spontaneity results in one of my favorite photos from this session! Also, these kids are unbelievably well-behaved! More later from this shoot.