52 to Two, Project Update

Our son hit the 18 month old mark this week, so I thought it would be a good time to update the progress of the 52 to Two Project – my way of documenting his second trip around the son.

As a refresher, this is a follow up to the Daily Baby Project, which involved capturing a daily image of our son’s first year with my smartphone camera. This follow up project raised the bar by arranging at least one photo shoot with my full gear, each of the 52 weeks of his second year.

So, how’s that working out so far? Let’s take a look…

Project Status

Let’s start with the original mission statement when this all started six months ago:

Project Mission – Plan and execute 52 weekly photo shoots leading up to our son’s second birthday, documenting both his growth over time and the development of my own photographic style for portraiture.

From there, let’s jump to the results for a moment, with the project images in the 52 to Two gallery.

[button link=”http://www.krisnelsonphoto.com/52-to-two-image-gallery” color=”#444″ text_color=”#ccc”]View Image Gallery[/button]


As you can see, the images are arranged by the week number, starting with “Week 00” denoting his first birthday party last December. You’ll also see that out of the 26 weeks of this project, I’ve already missed about 9-10 weeks in there.

But rather than scrap the project, I’m moving forward as best I can – which is really the only way learn from these things anyway, right?

Goal Status

Using those images as a measuring stick, let’s go back to the goals from the project mission statement.
“…documenting [our son’s] growth over time…”

This one definitely feels like it’s on track, not only from documenting his growth, but the great memories of this 2nd year as a family. From his Alohawear at his Baby Luau and opening presents on Xmas morning (Week 03), to his first time playing in the snow, Easter, and Mother’s Day.

Project or no project – these are great keepsakes that any parent would be happy to show off years from now.

On the growth side, I’ve captured him practicing his first steps (Week 04), playing with his first hockey stick (Week 15) – a big deal in our family 🙂 – and getting used to playing in the pool (Week 25).

Now, onto the second goal for this project:
“…development of my own photographic style for portraiture.”

This one is a little more subjective, but still neat to analyze.

To reflect, although I started doing landscape photography back in 2006, I didn’t really ever contemplate formal portraiture until about 3 weeks before our son was born. Even then, it wasn’t until our son was six months old did I really get him in front of the camera, a la photo shoot style.

So by that math – and how big of a kickstart that six month portrait session was for me – I’m treating this as the end of my first year as a portrait photographer. Cheers to that!

Back to the goal about developing my own photographic style. I’d like to say it’s still evolving, if you look back at the second half of last year and the first six months of this project.

While I’ve spent a little money, time, and effort working with simple studio lighting setups and gear, most of what I’ve been shooting has been on-the-go, outdoor portraits. Some of that can be attributed to a lack of space in our home and the busy life of a two, working parent household with an infant. That’s not meant to be an excuse – it’s just what I’ve been adapting to and working with.

I’m also finding that the more mobile our son has gotten, the more challenging it is to keep his attention in smaller places for very long. There have been good shoots, like the Easter ’12 session, where he was an angel. And there are other times where I can’t to sit still at all.

That alone has led me to adopt what I guess you could call an environmental style – getting down at his level, observing what he’s doing and hoping he doesn’t notice I’m there with the camera. The Nursery Playtime shoot was a good example of that. I managed to sneak a few smiles directly into the camera, but the rest of the time was him just reading his books and all.

Another example would be the outdoor park portraits we shot in April, where he’s playing around and exploring, while I’m lurking and looking for my shots. I enjoy capturing the interactions between my son and my wife, too, especially when it comes to story telling and those keepsake moments.

On the other hand, the same younger age-related challenges I mentioned can prove to be trying when I do want to capture more traditional poses with my wife and son together. The most notable example there is from our recent Mother’s Day shoot. You might have noticed things start out with just our son solo, but then it took quite a bit of effort and patience in getting him to stay in his mother’s arms and focus long enough at the camera with a happy smile on his face.

Near the end, you can see he’s losing that focus and just wants to be on the ground and running around like the free spirit that he is. Gone are the days where he needed one of us to carry him everywhere, which was so much easier for getting images with him and my wife together.

From Here…

With the second half of the project still ahead, I don’t think I’ll be changing too much on the approach. While I’d like to be working with studio setups more, I don’t see that in the cards for this project with our son at this age. Plus, getting outdoors and chasing him around everywhere is fun in it’s own right, as long as he (and the weather) are in a mood to cooperate.

I’d say in the last month or two, I’m starting to get better with on-camera flash for fill light outdoors, which when comparing recent photos to ones from this time last year has been a big improvement. It’s probably a simple skill more tenured portrait shooters have, but it’s the minor improvements like that I see in my work over time that keep me positive and motivated to
experiment, fail, and then succeed.

I do feel blessed, though, that I have my own travelling models that I’m able to practice and build my skills with, in hopes to move this craft into more of a career. And I feel equally blessed that these skills and creative energy is spiking at just the right time while our young family’s memories are going as fast as our son is.

Having the ability to capture quality images of the greatest times in our lives and maintaining an avenue for sharing them easily with our family and friends is well worth the long nights in front of Lightroom and the consequential lack of sleep. It’s also more fuel for my life motto:
“Never Stop Learning.”

Armed with the desire, tools, and support for pursuing this passion of mine and seeing the reactions and happiness it brings to those close to me is something I know is special and don’t take for granted.

On that note, here’s to more photo shoots and learning during the second half of my project!

– Kris

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