I stepped off the plane and braced for it. Anticipating that hug that envelops you entirely and takes your breath away...not in the Top Gun kind of way but in the literal sense. Of course I'm talking about none other than the humidity in the South. While it was still early in the season I know from a minute or two spent in a sauna that: (1) I am a wimp with humidity, (2) I enjoy breathing in arid Western climates, (3) I have not experienced humidity above probably 20% in a great while, and (4) Did I mention I'm a wimp when it comes to humidity?
I've lived in the South numerous times over the years and know that I'd have to step up my A game here if I had any chance of making it through a lovely family photo shoot without asking for oxygen. Hiking at 10,000ft? No problem. Walking at sea level in the South Carolina heat? Not a chance.
As I ambled briskly in the direction of a sign that absolutely did not lead me to the car rental counter, I went over a list in my head. I'm a big fan of preparation and lists. As a photographer I do a lot of mental prep before each shoot and review it all on the way to a session. Some things that occupied my mind at this moment (other than the fact that the place that said ask for help here had no one near it and I still had no idea where I was going) included that I needed to practice breathing, remember that my tolerance for sweet tea was now nonexistent and that I couldn't wait to photograph Payton, Taylor and their family again.
The last time I was able to get this gorgeous and fun family in front of my lens, they were living in Phoenix. Now they had moved east in search of the beach and a different style of life. I couldn't help but notice how different it was from the desert. The green was still arriving but had already surpassed that of Arizona (except for the artificial grass lawns) and the trees were abundant. Most notably of all, while I had left Colorado and 77 degrees in March, here it was not humid at all and actually a chilly 49 degrees. I could see that springtime in the South would be a bit different than I had imagined.
After navigating through one Carolina and across the next, I met up with the dynamic family of four in Charleston, SC. I knew that the girls would be older and taller but I wondered if they would be the same. Upon seeing them within the first minute I knew I had struck gold once more. The girls were undeniably themselves. This is what I LOVE to see. One of my favorite things about photographing little ones is their authenticity. They don't dwell on who they should be, what they might grow up to become or how they need to be. They are as authentic as it gets and I love to capture that.
There was so much fun to be had that others wanted to join us. Unfortunately they came and surprised us when we were not ready. One of the South's residents that I wouldn't mind never seeing again are fire ants. They seemed to be particularly interested in joining the party but we will not be inviting them back again. They definitely brought the family together in an attempt to fling them to the edge of the universe. Luckily all recovered quickly from the encounter but we will definitely tread lightly in the future.
I must admit I was a bit giddy about getting to photograph the entire family under stately live oaks. The girls were confident, genuine, silly, fun, and energetic. Their mother is stunningly beautiful and their father handsome. But most of all, they are so in love with their little girls and it shows. It shows in Payton and Taylor's confidence and freedom to be themselves as well as the way they look to their mama and daddy in awe. This is what happens when you raise your kiddos to be as they are and not just as they should be. Payton and Taylor, I hope that whatever you grow up to be that you remember that who you are is more important than what you do. Stay true to yourselves and you will continue to be amazing people just like your parents. I can't wait to see where we meet up next time. Hopefully it will be just as fun but with a lot less fire ants.