documentary

Hello, Rhiannon Dagmar | Portland Birth Story Photographer

Rhi wasn't anxious to be born. She was comfortable hanging out in the subtle rhythm of her mama's movements and sounds. Maybe it was the pull of the tide or the gentle words from both her parents that guided her into this world; but her entrance was powerful and joyous.

Throughout Talia's pregnancy, she soaked in all the information from books, classes, friends and family, and of course her care providers. Her dedication to being prepared and fueled with knowledge was such a benefit because she understood how little control nature gives women. We make plans and then watch them trampled, not necessarily due to complications, but because we have a vision that was too broad, too grand, and maybe unrealistic.

Birth is fierce. 

A gentle touch, reassuring words, and the allowance of moving through each second with the knowledge that emotions are exactly where they should be. Fear and pain, elation, confusion, understanding and compassion fill the room. Each witness to labor and birth finding their breath and releasing it, to join in the tremendous work of a mother.

Those plans, you know, the ones you lay out carefully, even if they are few on the paper can be swept away when your body tells you otherwise. Talia was so strong throughout the entire labor. I arrived to her in child's position, breathing and sounding her discomfort. I witnessed the  rise and fall of contractions, built upon one another in such rapid succession that she wasn't able to catch a moment to relax. She wasn't in transition, but her body was responding as such.

It's okay to change your plans. 

Her body and soul needed a break. We sat with her as she decided on an epidural and encouraged her to do what she felt her body and baby needed. A space free of judgement. And wow, what a change once the epidural kicked in! A calm and even laughing mom returned; able to continue and feel human.

Over the next few hours, everyone tried to sleep, but rest was the best we could do. I walked the hallways, watching screens, listening to beeps and the movement of staff in and out of rooms where babies were no doubt being born. I returned to the room to see the glow of phones as a distraction for the passing hours.

I watched the rise and fall of contractions on Talia's monitor. A drop in Rhi's heart rate brought the attending nurse into the room, lights back on, adjusting Talia to see if that would help. It was a tense few minutes where wide-eyed looks swept the room; breathing slowed, the air felt heavier, but with the skilled hands of the nursing staff, Rhiannon's swiftly beating heart returned. 

The glorious moment the doctor arrived was at hand. A verbal check in, some laughter, and the excitement of pushing was on the horizon. 

A mother's love...

Being present at birth is beyond measure. The beauty and strength, the ripples of emotion, breathing and holding on bring to head the immensity of this moment. I am so thankful to be trusted to witness and document such an intimate event. 

It has been nearly seven weeks since Rhi's birth. She's grown so much in both body and mind. Her parents are rockstars, even when they don't know what the hell is going on. 

I want all the birth stories! If you have one to share or know of someone who is pregnant and wanting their story told, send them over. What a thrill to look back and see your own birth through another's eyes.

With gratitude to all, 

Amy

Summer's Rad: Camping | Portland Real Life Family Photographer

Every year we head to Central Oregon to camp along the absolutely beautiful Metolius River. There's a specific campground we love, named Pine Rest, with spacious sites along the water, the quiet rustling of grasses, and crunching of pine needles as our feet delight in the mundane.

A short trip up the road to the fish hatchery leads us over the river on a old wooden bridge where the river creates crashing white whirlpools around rocks. At the holding pond, the kids spotted two bald eagles just waiting for the crowds of interlopers to fade away so they could catch a tasty meal. We usually see some hawks or other smaller birds of prey perched on the stands erected in the middle of the pond, but the eagles were quite a treat to witness.

Handfuls of fish food pellets are purchased for each kiddo. The smell takes me back to being younger and delighting in the flashing bodies of rainbow trout as they leap out of the water and slip back in with their morsels.

There were also hoards of butterflies that had just emerged from their cocoons. They flitted dangerously close to the sprinklers to keep cool and would rise in a cacophony whenever someone or something would approach. Nature is magical.

Back at the campsite, we played bocce ball, card games, whittled found sticks, climbed into the ice cold water, spent time in the hammock and ate food only consumed while camping

Being outdoors in the sun, no technology or work, little cares, and enjoying each moment is what summer is for.

If you want someone to come hang out with you and make real life pictures of your outdoor adventures, then you know who to call/text/email/etc. Simplicity is where it's at. Enjoy it!

The Million Phone Photos (and how to get them into a book) | Your Friendly Portland Family Photographer

I see you.

You're so good at making a picture of your kid covered in spaghetti, or nearly flying off the merry-go-round, and the sunset glowing while puffs of dandelions are blowing on the breeze. These and a million other pictures are stored on your phone's camera, or maybe you've made the next step and have them stored on your computer (good for you if you've done this!).

But what now?

My hard drive is filled with nearly one terabyte of data. WHAT?! I have to sit down and make a concerted effort each month to delete photos that do not make the cut before I transfer them to permanent storage. Folders are made for each day of the month, catalogued into years and sent to multiple back up locations. 

I've learned to make one folder just to document the year. I take my favorite image from the day and place it in my "365" folder. A picture a day that will then go into a photo book or album at the end of the year. These are treasures; little pieces of an entire year that would otherwise be forgotten.

We all are guilty of leaving the hard work of organizing until it feels SO big that we just throw our hands in the air. You're with me on this, right? 

Let's change this narrative, together! There are many companies who offer reasonably priced photo books that you can make directly from your phone, pad, or from Google Photos. Honestly, there's no excuse folks. The industry is making it as simple as possible for all of us to make yearly, if not monthly, photo books. Instagram, Facebook, iPhone, etc...they can all be put into a book in minutes.

Still overwhelmed?

I understand. Do you want soft or hardcover? What type of paper (semi-gloss, pearl, matte) and should it lay-flat or be more like an art book?

Most of these decisions will be based on how hard you (or honestly, your kids) will be on your book over the years. I prefer a hardcover option because I want my kids to not worry about looking through their lives for fear of a delicate book ripping or falling apart.

Chatbooks is a really easy way to create your yearly family, vacation, or whatever the occasion may be, photo book. You have two sizes to choose from and an option for soft or hardcover. You don't have to figure out what paper choice since they only offer one archival option. The price is right, too ($15-30 depending on size 6x6 or 8x8). They even offer a "Photo Book Series" which you set the parameters and books are printed and sent to you without having to do anything...NICE!

Blurb is an excellent company, but their user interface is more complicated and there are many more options. If you are looking for a higher-end photo book, this is one company to research.

Many friends of mine have used MixBook. They are more pricey than Chatbooks, but have more options to choose from if you wish for a variety of papers or a lay-flat option.

There are many more, but these are companies who have shown a solid understanding of their customer's needs and produce a good product. 

Keep in mind...

While these are great for the photos you take of your family, friends, and events, they are not a product I would offer to my clients. I create professional, hand-made albums filled with art; the living moments of your family. My products are meant to last a lifetime!

Whether you hire me to document who you are now and create an amazing album, or use your own images in a consumer based photo book, I urge you to get your life off of the computer, out of the Cloud, and into your hands!

Soundproof rooms are WEIRD- a visit to the audiologist | Portland Family Photography

Over the past two years, Olivia has had abnormal hearing tests at school. When she was in first grade, I chalked it up to a massive cold she was still recovering from. The results were handed to me in one of those flurries of pick up madness, meaning I forgot about it for a couple weeks, lost the paper and found it again; only to lose momentum and not follow up on testing again.

I remember thinking, "She hears just fine. I can whisper at one end of the room and she still looks my direction and rolls her eyes." 

After this year's test, I realized this wasn't just a blip. She had severe hearing loss in her left ear above 2000Hz. I consulted Dr. Google and my dear friend who's daughter wears a hearing aid, sending her pictures of the results. It appeared that this frequency was quite high and I had this little thought that, "well, she won't hear all those annoying high pitched sounds...".

With this, I scheduled an appointment at Doernbecher Children's Hospital with an audiologist. I had no idea what to expect from our hour long visit. It was fascinating! The sound proof room, the hook-ups in ear and out of ear, and the computer screens full of data left me with wonder.

Liv's audiologist was full of humor, silliness, and the utmost care. I don't recall what she had told Olivia, but it sure got her to giggle!

Liv was able to feel the squishy-ness of the sensors before they were inserted into her ear to test her eardrum's movements. 

We entered the sound proof room, where Liv was hooked up in both ears to register her ability to not only hear sounds, but the voice of her audiologist, who was in another room watching her (and me) respond to the stimuli. She held a clicker in her hand which indicated when the sound reached each ear. I learned very quickly just how severe her hearing loss was with high pitched input. It actually made me wince!

I had been sitting in a chair behind her through most of the test, but wanted to see her reactions. When she couldn't hear as well, she would move forward in her seat. These natural body cues we have are so ingrained, even when they won't help us in an isolated environment such as this. Her eyes would skew to one side to increase her concentration and she would even lick her lips (this is her "I'm totally in the moment" body language signal).

We learned after her test that she cannot hear  "s", "th", "f", and "k" out of her left ear unless in a very low frequency. Thankfully, her right ear compensates for this loss of range. Am I worried? Hell yes. What if this is degenerative? At this point, a hearing aid won't be of any help and I have this gut ache knowing there's nothing we can currently do. I know it's not the end of the world; that many parents struggle with conditions that vastly outweigh what Liv experiences. However, as parents, we all feel this skip in the routine, the trip on the sidewalk, the tumbling feeling as we lose control.

So, I ask you, reader, what life events have you felt a loss of control over? How do you work through them? This is what we do as caretakers of the next generation and it's freaking hard. 

Keep on keeping on...

Amy