Some holidays are meant to be remembered more than others. Last Thanksgiving wasn't my favorite because my family was apart, so I was determined this year we would celebrate life's bounties together. My mother, "Grammie Joan," decided to host a gathering in idyllic Sun Valley, Idaho, where we used to spend our summer and winter vacations. My two grown children, Brody and Sheridan, drove there from Salt Lake City, while the girls and I journeyed from the Bay Area in a caravan with my brother's family. We had a blissful time at the foot of Bald Mountain skating, bowling, and even skiing on thirty inches of early season man-made snow. My kids often tease me for seizing impromptu photo opportunities with very few technical skills on a digital camera. I keep taking the photos, but never have the time to download them from the camera or manage them on my computer. What ever happened to Kodachrome?
After ineptly attempting to capture some of our Sun Valley memories throughout the weekend, on our last night I realized this trip was my chance to get a good family photo for holiday cards and gifts. There was no time to schedule a professional, but I had noticed at the skating rink that my brother-in-law, Courtney, has recently taken up a new hobby. He carried around his large Nikon lens while the rest of us snapped candids with our pocket-sized Costco specials. A surgeon in his early fifties, he somehow finds the time to tinker. I don't like to ask people for favors, and I rarely ask him; I didn't think he could spare the time on his much-deserved vacation. Happily, Courtney agreed to follow me and my children outside along the snow-lined walkway on a starlit early-winter night.
My sister Katie (whom I call "Martha Stewart"), offered to come along as the photographer's assistant and facilitate to be sure we looked model-quality with the main lodge for a backdrop. Kate is our family's style maven, so I was very happy to have her along. She and her sweet husband shared their good works and photography talents to create a special shot of me and my four children before Christmas. Even better, Courtney did not delay in sending me the product of his efforts. He followed through by immediately downloading the photos to my laptop, so now I have serious motivation to put those cards together on time!
Do you have a passion for photography? Our high school has an amazing photo program, thanks to a very dedicated and talented teacher, Margo Wixsom. However, as Dr. Clyde will attest, it doesn't matter if you are trained; you can do good works with photography if you simply devote the time. Ansel Adams, the prolific California photographer of the last century, dedicated some of his earliest work in the 1930s to wilderness preservation of the Yosemite Valley. Thanks to his book, "Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail" and his work with the Sierra Club to promote public awareness through breathtaking photos, Yosemite was designated a national park in 1940. Whether you publish a groundbreaking book and testify before Congress, as Mr. Adams did, or take photos of your extended family and friends over the holidays, your well-trained eye can serve those around you. But be sure to share those photos, and don't just keep them on the laptop like I tend to do.
Creative Service Ideas with Photography
- Make greeting cards for the elderly. Take a nature walk near your home and get photos of the beauty around you. Print the pictures at home, or at an inexpensive photo lab (I use Costco). Use a paper cutter to fit your photos to size and glue to the outside of plain paper cards or folded cardstock with envelopes. Distribute your homespun cards as singles or in sets of 5 to the elderly in a nearby care center. My church group recently donated handmade cards to Meals on Wheels, and they were a huge hit! We included stamps, but a bag with a special pen would also be a nice touch.
- Host a charity photo shoot for the cause of your choice. The Advanced Photography class at Palo Alto High School recently joined the Olevolos Club on campus to support the Olevolos orphans in Arusha, Tanzania, www.theolevolosproject.org. A $40 tax deductible donation is requested in exchange for a portrait with the donor's dog and his or her best friend by Palo Alto photographer Cathy Gregory. For examples of this project, check out: www.cathylens.com/