Living in a desert, my daughter doesn’t often have the chance to enjoy unstructured play time on the ocean shore. She loves to walk barefoot in damp sand, hunt for sea shells, run after beach birds, and examine washed up seaweeds. She and I just returned from a week-long stay in Florida to visit my parents. We ventured to a beach a few times. Because of riptide, the water was unsuitable for swimming. She engaged in several hours of shore play while being surrounded by the sound and smell of the ocean. This was great for her development and memory making. It was also ideal for me to document her cuteness.
In a few months my daughter will turn three years old. The natural world around her is new and magical. I want to capture her expressions of concentration, joy, and wonder as she takes in experiences for the first time. Newness is short-lived.
Having a tropical pristine beach as a backdrop was perfect for several on-location candid sessions. I am satisfied with the three images in today’s post, but making them did not come without challenges.
Challenge Number One: Access to her face. Literally, I ran circles around my daughter to get access to her face instead of the back of her head.
Challenge Number Two: Shooting into the sun. Most of the time she did what any sensible person would do: she positioned the sun behind her head. I didn’t want silhouettes. My external flash was put to use several times.
Challenge Number Three: Hat brim shade. Most of the time, my daughter complied in wearing a protective sun hat. I did my best to use fill flash, but wasn’t always able to eliminate the shadows above her nose.
Challenge Number Four: Little people don’t sit still for long. Children are usually in perpetual motion. The times when she was concentrating on discoveries were easier to capture than when she was running around.
Challenge Number Five: Catch the child in the act of being a kid. Offer props so the subjects can become immersed in discovery, exploration or play. At the ocean, my daughter was thrilled by simple examination of seashells and washed up seaweeds.
Perhaps she will be a good photographer one day. Here she is examining a shell, as well as the light passing through it. She’s looking for the light!
I was running backwards to keep a few feet of distance between us when I made this image. My daughter was chasing after me with hands full of sand. She thought I was playing the game, “Can’t-catch-me-I’m-the-gingerbread-girl.” In reality, I didn’t want sand thrown on my equipment. Also, I needed to achieve minimum focal distance required by my lens to focus on her face.
The best candid images I have made of my children have been aided by them playing with some sort of prop. Objects, such as toys, offer kinetic activity to help produce interesting movements or gestures. I like props because they make use of hands in a natural way. With props, the image gains traction for visual storytelling.
For example, in my post from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, wind ribbon streamers and a sled enhanced my childrens’ interest in the natural forces of our location.
Below are ideas for other beach props you can offer children not only to focus their activity, but also to provide a story line, and also to provide pops of color excitement that enhance the visual appeal.
1) A magnifying glass helps children examine found objects;
2) Shovels, buckets and sand building molds for children who like to build forts, dig holes, and tote water to their creations.
3) Bogeyboards, flippers and goggles for children who like the action of riding incoming waves.
4) Basic snorkel gear encourages exploring at the water edge for crabs, minnows, shells and rocks.
Parting thoughts for users of DSLR and Digital Point N Shoots
(Don’t be hasty-wasty if you are still shooting with film. Why oh, why, would you take action candids of children using film?? Save the rolls for long exposure landscapes).
When shooting candids of children on location, take lots and lots of photos; keep on shooting when you think you’ve nailed it. Even if you used automatic settings on your camera, shoot dozens more images than you expect to keep. There will be many “back of the head” shots that can be tossed. There will be many out-of-focus and improperly exposed images that can be tossed. If you can come away with a few awesome snaps from the shooting session, it’s an accomplishment. Best of all, you will make images that capture the essence of a childhood stage of life that is evanescent.