Sometimes a photograph needs an accompanying before and after picture to show that it is real, and this is definitely one of those instances. So many people have asked if this photograph was put together in Photoshop but no, Adam really did jump this high over his family, much to his wife and children’s amusement!
This photograph was taken on a beautiful beach in Rock in Cornwall last August - we had such a wonderful time taking it, and even now I am still so thrilled with the result.
We had been walking and playing on the beach for a while when we came across a giant hole in the sand. Clearly some bigger children had spent a happy time the day before digging it out – I think the fascination with holes is one that will never really end. Even now, I love digging holes and hiding in them when I’m on the beach, and I have many happy memories of digging and burying each other when playing as a child with my older brothers.
Of course the obvious thing to do when confronted by a hole is to jump in, and that is exactly what Poppy and Edward did as soon as they saw it - jump in, jump out, frighten mummy and daddy by large cries of ‘BOO!’, that kind of thing. It was great fun and I was clicking away taking different pictures at interesting angles. Then mummy jumped in too, ever ready to get involved with a game, and then daddy jumped… not in, but over! The children whooped with delight, the most hilarious thing ever!!!!
I have to admit, we didn’t catch the perfect shot on the first take. Personally, I was so surprised that Adam would even think of jumping that high and that far over a hole, let alone that he did it with such skill! But of course, it wasn’t just me shouting ‘again, again’ in the manner of an over-excited Teletubbie!
And Adam did jump, again and again, and this was the result - a classic photograph, even if I do say so myself!
This month's image was inspired by a picture by one of my favourite photographers – the late, great W. Eugene Smith and his famous shot of his children, The Walk to Paradise Garden.
One of the best things about photography on location is the inability to plan. Until I arrive somewhere on the day, I have no idea what I will discover - even if, like Holland Park, it is a location that I know very well. Each day the light will be different, different things will be happening and the children will have different ideas about what they want to play and where they want to do it.
So I never plan my shots in advance, preferring to follow the momentum of the action on the day. This also helps to ensure that each photo shoot is unique to the family involved - I don’t have a set of stock poses and locations that I use week in, week out - everything is fluid.
I was thrilled when we began to head towards the nature reserve in Holland Park and I saw this tunnel of light open up before us. The family were walking together, so I softly called to the parents to hang back and let the children go on ahead. I saw in my mind’s eye Smith’s wonderful shot, but wanted to give it my own twist – to take in the scale of the trees and how small, how young, how innocent the children are while retaining the feeling of exploration and of sibling protection that I feel is key to the original shot.
As I pressed the shutter, I knew it would be magical. The children holding hands and talking seriously to each other – who knows what about. I wonder if they will remember when they look at this picture when they are older?
I always know that I am going to have an amazing time when I visit Adam and Henrietta to capture pictures of their wonderful children, Poppy and Edward.
This shoot was no exception. We had left the house to go for a walk down the lane leading from their house - it’s a lovely spot with a small stream, ponies to chat to over the fence, big open spaces to run around in, and also woodland – a wonderful variety of options for children and family photography.
My eye was drawn to the railway bridge, which is a lovely old brick structure with some of the most wonderful light underneath it, as the bright sun moved into shade providing lovely softly-diffused light.
We started taking some family shots in this beautiful light, but then Edward got a bit distracted – like all small boys, he wanted to be running around and not standing still for a (very quick) family picture.
Henrietta - who is a trained Opera singer and now a professional singing teacher - broke into song to entertain him. This was oh-so-different to when I do the same, and warble tunelessly my best renditions of ‘zoom zoom zoom, we’re going to the moon’! As Henrietta moved through a number of the top hits of Mary Poppins, Edward gurgled with laughter and when the whole family started to do Dick Van Dyke’s famous dance, well, I almost collapsed laughing and had to really concentrate to take a picture.
So here we are – isn’t it fabulous – Chim Chim Cher-ee as brought to you by Henrietta and her wonderful family.
What makes a picture remarkable? What makes one return to an image again and again?
It is an open ended question, for sure...
Sometimes it is an expression, or the emotion, or the light or composition. This picture, for me, is about mystery.
It is also about the Great British Summer that we know so well - a cold, wet day on Filey beach in North Yorkshire.
This shot was taken towards the end of a short trip down to the beach - the wild side, rather than our usual spot towards the brig. The day was overcast and drizzling, but with two small boys to entertain, it is always good to get out and about when we can and I love the beach in the rain.
The beach was deserted - photographically speaking, this is so much better than on a bright sunny day, and the light was glorious - misty and magical and more than a little threatening.
As always with children and water, the boys were straight down to the sea regardless of the spitting rain and the cold sea breeze. After a bit of splashing, they ran to greet their mum and together all set off down the beach.
In that moment, everything seemed to come together. It looked like a scene from outside of time - as at home in the 18th Century as the 21st - a composition you could imagine on a painting in the National Gallery, as well as in a White Company catalogue. Hair blowing, hand-holding, the sweep of beach and the glowering clouds...
I love this photograph and I hope you will too
To me, this picture is about the father and son relationship. It is about growing up in Oxford, rainy afternoons at the Ashmoleon museum, about science homework, about the joy of discovery and shared experiences. It isn’t – to me anyway – about having a family photo shoot, and I love it when my pictures rise above the circumstances in which they were taken, above ‘having Helen round to take pictures’ and all that is left are memories of a moment in time pure and simple.
As many of you know, I love photographing in new places and so I was thrilled when my clients suggested going to the museum (although we did take the risk that we would be thrown out, of course). We arrived early and didn’t stay long but it was great fun seeing what the children’s favourite objects were in a museum that they clearly love.
This shot is a particular favourite. I love the composition with father and son looking at the structure of DNA, while the younger brother plays in the background – how quickly children grow up! I love the interest on their faces and the closeness as DNA is explained.
I also love the receding pillars and light in the background suggesting new things to explore, new wonders to see and a future of learning that lies ahead.
I can only hope that Max becomes a famous scientist in the future so he can use this picture on the dust jacket of his thesis.