As it turns out, having a child with special needs like this, makes it very difficult for them to get family photos. They had tried getting photos at a local department store, but they limited the studio time and number of shots to the point where they could not get a nice photo. They also did not have the ability to edit the photos to the level that was needed.
I saw this as a great way to give back to a family that has endured so much. And here is how we made it all happen...
We started the photo session with the family sitting down. This put less pressure on Jeffrey and got everyone used to being in front of the camera.
Being comfortable with his walker, we then moved to that for a while. (Photographer's note: You will see that there were distractions in the background. Knowing that I could control much of the shoot, but not everything, I focused more on Jeffrey and figured that I would remove those in post production.)
I love this shot of Jeffrey as he approached mom and dad. You can see the happiness in his face. This is one of the edited photos for the family.
Then it was time to try and get some photos of Jeffrey walking on his own. Most of the time, I am very picky about my shooting location and backgrounds, but in this case, it was more important to find a flat surface for Jeffrey since he can not easily navigate any bumps or slopes.
As you can see, my wife Annette was on hand to help out. She was there to spot him, working as hard as possible to keep him safe and stay out of my shot.
Annette knew that I could remove her from the image using Adobe Photoshop, so she stayed fairly close to Jeffrey as I fired off photos.
And it was a good thing she was close by. Jeffrey only went down once, but it reminded us all how difficult this was for him.
With Annette completely out of the frame, I was able to capture images of Jeffrey as he walked on his own, towards his parents. This was a huge moment for them, and I was excited to be there capturing this for them!
Interestingly enough, Jeffrey had much better balance while holding the leash of his companion dog, Kodiak.
Here is a cropped final image of Jeffrey and his amazing supportive brother, Adam, walking the dog towards me.
All this walking was tiring for Jeffrey, so we let him take a break and concentrated on getting some images of the other family members.
Mom, dad and Adam.
After shooting images of the three of them, dad picked up Adam and was playing around with him. Re-framing quickly, I shot this photo of the two guys with great smiles.
After a while, we had Jeffrey stand up again and stand next to mom. I shot numerous photos of him looking at me (or Annette who was getting his attention while standing behind me), but really loved this shot of him looking up at mom.
We were finishing up the photo session when I noticed Jeffrey's wheel chair, which was on the grass 20 yards away. I ran behind the wheelchair and then asked mom and dad to walk away from the chair with Jeffrey. For this shot, I focused on the three of them and let the wheelchair go out of focus. Jeffrey just happened to turn back and look my way for a fleeting moment and I grabbed it. (Photographer's note: I always shoot in continuous mode so that I never miss a shot. For this session, knowing that it would be more challenging than most, I actually used my Canon 1DX and sometimes shot at 12 frames per second to make sure that I captured as much as possible.)
This was my favorite shot of the day. Focusing on the wheelchair this time (and drawing attention to Jeffrey's name embroidered on the seat), I shot more images of them walking away. I love the symbolism of this photo with Jeffrey and his parents leaving the wheelchair behind. I hope that someday in the future, this becomes a reality for them.
It was the end of an hour long shoot and we had captured everything we wanted. At my wife's suggestion, we had the whole family lift their hands in celebration.
I for one feel very fortunate to live the photographic dream, getting to travel the world, go to the Olympics, and experience many joyous occasions. But sometimes even I take things for granted. Things like walking, talking, playing sports and doing everything that I want to do. Not everyone has that ability. I think that it is our responsibility to give back to those less fortunate than ourselves and share our craft and passion with those who can benefit from what we have to offer. After working on this project, I can tell you that I felt like the lucky one, not because of my health and mobility, but because I was invited to be a part of this special moment.