August 20, 2015
Location: Levine Children's Hospital.... Charlotte, NC
Nikon D600 w/50mm 1.4 Alien Bees 800 and Pro Studio 300 Strobe.. Portable Backdrop
This blog will probably be one of the most difficult but yet rewarding to write about. First I would like to say Flashes of Hope has to be one of the best volunteer organizations worldwide. The effort that they put forth to bring a bit of happiness to these families lives is amazing. When I was contacted by Charlotte Flashes of Hope Chapter Director Kelly Patterson, I was so excited for multiple reasons. First, because I was contacted due to my portfolio and secondly because I ALWAYS wanted to volunteer and participate for such a great cause. After communication with Kelley through emails, I knew this was going to be good working relationship. She asked if I was available for coverage at Levine Children's Hospital and I didn't hesitate a second.
Tiffany and I arrived at the hospital around 9:30am and we were greeted at the entrance by Kelly. We loaded up a cart with my equipment and went inside. After getting checked in we went straight upstairs to start setting up and moments later were joined by volunteer make-up and hair stylist from Salon Namon. I was beyond excited to get started but also very nervous. When I thought about the importance of these photos and how much joy it would bring to the families my nervousness would go away.
The first family that arrived were a mother and son. He was 6 months old and absolutely adorable. He was so happy and loved the camera. Mom was smiling from ear to ear. We attempted a few different setup positions but with a 6 month old sometimes to have to wing it. The photos turned out great. Toward the middle of the shoot we really started to get some smiles as you can see in the photos below.
Next, I had a room shoot which meant the child is unable to come down to where we were set up. I was informed that it was an infant with some deformation. I was 100% comfortable with taking these pictures because I know this is one of God's children and I would love to provide memories for the family. When I arrived to the room there was a quick introduction and I began shooting. When I met the mother I could tell she was so happy to have this opportunity to work with Flashes of Hope. I then suggested that possibly I could get an image of her holding her child and as you can see below they came out great.
When I got back downstairs, about 10 minutes later a mother and son came into the room. They both came in with smiles. I could tell that the son was very tired so I didn't want to have him doing to much. While his mother was getting makeup and hair done we were able to talk a bit and turns out he is a huge Green Bay Packers fan. I wish I would have brought my CheeseHead...that would have been a great picture. I tried turning him into a Colts fan but that didn't go well at all.
Once Mom was complete with hair and makeup it was time for her to join the fun. The love she had for her son was so evident. You could tell that when see saw him smile she would light up. I noticed that there was a stuffed bunny sitting on a chair and it was brought to my attention that "bunny" has been with him through ALL of his surgeries. So of course we had to include him.
Next up we had a lovely mother and daughter. Another smile rolled into the room. She seemed to be a little shy, which I understand since she had no idea who I was. She went with her mother for makeup and hair, let me tell you this little girls hair was so long. Not only was it long, it was also beautiful. Once she was done with her hair and makeup, there was that smile we were all looking for. Her mom was able to assist her out of her wheelchair and get her positioned. I couldn't be any more pleased with the way these turned out!!!!
We took a little break for lunch and chatted a bit about the remaining families we would be working with. We would have 2 more room visits and the remaining families would come to the room we were located. I was eager and excited to meet some more families, then a few moments later a mother and son showed up. A pattern that I was starting to see is all the kids would typically come into the room with a smile and those that didn't would be smiling by the time the first picture was taken. This little guy had the coolest little smirk and even gave me a thumbs up. Such a cool kid!!!!
Next up we had a room visit. This one would be of another baby unable to be removed from their room. When we walked into the room Grandma was just waking up and Mom was brushing her sons hair. He was sleeping so peacefully but that wasn't going to stop us from getting some great pictures. Each room had blinds that we could pull up which provided more than enough light. I kept my ISO at 400 and with my 50mm 1.4 I had no problems. As you can see below, he was so peaceful. Mom even had him in a photoshoot worthy outfit.
This next mother and son were awesome to work with. First, let me tell you this kid is in love with superheroes. He had a Ninja Turtles hat and mask. There were even Ninja Turtles stickers on his chair. He waited with his mom while she got makeup and hair done but when she was finished he was ready to go. He displayed the biggest smile starting at picture one. Then we were able to get some with his mask on as well as some pictures with Mom. Little did we know that the Event Coordinator by the name of Carrie would have a great surprise. What would it be... a Cape... yes a cape... and it worked out perfectly!!!!
Immediately following my superhero, a young man accompanied by his Grandmother came into the room. He had a bit of a smile but I could also tell he was pretty tired. I noticed that he had a Duck Commander shirt on and asked if he watch Duck Dynasty... Instant smile. He stated he doesn't watch it often but he has seen it before and likes it. I'm just glad his response wasn't "Whats Duck Dynasty?" We talked a bit more and he said he was ready for his pictures so we began. He was so calm and smiled so easily. It was a pleasure meeting him and even more of a pleasure taking his portraits.
While we were waiting for the next family to show, I overheard a conversation in the hallway about running late due to it taking longer than usual to get their baby dressed. A few seconds later, a Mother and father rolled in with their baby girl. She had a machine in her stroller with a long tube which ran up to her throat. This was extremely difficult to see, to know that this little girl was experiencing these health issues at such a young age. She was dressed in a bright pink outfit with a pink bow in her hair. She looked like a little baby doll. While capturing her I looked over the the Mom to see if she wanted to take a picture also. She wasnt up to it at first but we let her know much she would appreciate the photo once she saw them. The Father was tricky also, he told me he wasn't photogenic for after seeing these photos I would have to disagree. They both looked amazing next to their little girl. I hope they love these!!!!
Shortly afterwards I was notified it was time for our last room visit. This would be another baby unable to leave their room. When I got upstairs and walked into the room, my first reaction was "He is so small" He was wrapped up in a blanket going in and out of sleep. I wanted to hurry up and get started so I would be sure to get some of him with his eyes open. I was able to grab a few and they turned out great. Its looks like he was peeking over his blanket at me. We then had Mom pick him up and captured that as well. We didn't want to stay to long since clearly the baby was trying to sleep and Mom wanted to rest as well. However, I was still able to get some good ones....check them out!!
When I got back downstairs, waiting for me was the largest family yet. It consisted of a Mother, Son, Daughter and Grandma. Also to my surprise was the resident Therapy dog Windi had arrived. Windi was adorable, Tiffany and I both loved her. Windi literally looked like a miniature Lassie. You will see what I mean in the pictures below. I introduced myself to the family and the son wasn't looking forward to getting his pictures done at all. I was told by Mom he received some news that he wasn't able to go home that day so he wasn't very happy. However, Grandma was a great help and was able to lift his spirits and he provided me with smiles the entire time. We got pictures with him and Windi... also with his baby sister. Once mom was done with makeup and hair she joined the party and we were able to cpature the entire family. As we were wrapping up, Grandma had a request to get a picture with her grandson and you better believe I got a good one for her. I shared below as well. This family was such a joy and a pleasure to be around.
This last family definitely had us wrapping it up with a bang! Consisted of a Mother, Father and Son, and this little man as so entertaining. His laugh and smile could change the atmosphere of any room. He was full of energy and his parents were so nice. He was dressed to impress and was ready to say "CHEESE" which he did say by the way. He also followed up by saying "BANANAS, APPLES, PIZZA and numerous other foods. Turns out it was also Mom's birthday which made the pictures even more memorable. We had a few close calls with the backdrop getting knocked over, but Dad took care of that quickly. I was able to get pictures with the entire family and I couldn't have asked for a better family to finish up the day.
In conclusion, I would like to say that my experience at Levine Children's Hospital was by far one of the most enriching and rewarding events I have ever participated in. Interacting with all these families while they are battling cancer while still having smiles on their face. Also to see how mentally and physically strong these kids are. These kids are fighters and by far the strongest people I have ever met. We tend to take things for granted, not realizing what others are dealing with. For those who took the time to read this blog and see these lovely smiling faces, just remember those days you feel down or think life isn't fair, I what you to think about these children and the fight they are going through. I would also ask for continued prayers for these families as they continue this journey. I was so blessed to be chosen as a photographer for Flashes of Hope and cant wait to work with them again. I encourage everyone to volunteer for great causes like this. Even if its an hour of your day. That 1 hour can change someones day.
Flashes of Hope Charlotte: http://flashesofhope.org/chapters/charlotte
Salon Naman: http://salonnaman.com/
Levine Children's Hospital: http://www.carolinashealthcare.org/levine-childrens-hospital