“At times, my fears quiet down and I’m filled with amazement, able to witness the love and grace that surrounds all of us. That’s all. That’s everything.” ~ Vicki Caroline Cheatwood
And this was my office today, taking a seat at the skins with this incredible group of players known as Four Leonards and a Fifth (not pictured is Melissa Snow Groves). I was beyond thrilled that they let me play with them (really, I wore them down), and I was able to finally meet Billy (in green) and wife Becky Rudd. I’d only seen Becky play with Andrew Perkins (guitar), David Hurst (long hair), and Melissa at the first Leonard Cohen Tribute show way back in 2017. I loved Billy and Becky the second they walked in; gifted players both. I can’t tell you how much fun I had today. We played for two hours and actually got through about six songs; from Stevie Wonder’s Superstition to Cheap Trick’s Surrender. Not bad for a first time. This is going to be a super fun band and I’m in love with it already. They’re challenging me in the best way and this Stella is ready to get her groove back. They win Saturday (although I’m the real winner here).
Melissa Snow-Groves makes me howl with laughter. We did Rory’s three-month shots today and she did not disappoint (neither did Rory). It takes someone confident in themselves to makes such faces in front of a camera knowing they’re liable to be seen by lots of people. It’s so refreshing to be in the company of someone as confident and free and creative and spontaneous as Melissa. No wonder she’s got an incredible husband and two equally incredible kids. I can’t think of a better way to spend a snowy January Saturday than in the midst of such a sweet family, funny faces a bonus.
David Hurst and Melissa Snow-Groves were meant for each other. I sure do love them.
Aurora’s older sister Juni (Juniper) joined in the photo fun. She started off a bit shy. My lens has a way of seeing what she thought it couldn’t see. Isn’t it adorable? She was sure she was hidden. Some kids could care less about a camera, some can’t get enough of it (they’re annoying), and some take a little while to warm up. Heck, some adults do, too, but I can usually wear them down if given enough time. Juni’s reluctance was not unusual, and when she decided to come alive, that wasn’t unusual either. I think it’s equal parts trust and attention. Most kids want attention but they want it on their terms. They’re also unsure of people they don’t know well or activities they don’t understand well. Once she figured out it was okay to be herself, well, I have a lot of great pictures of Juni from that day. I hope someday she enjoys them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
You might recall that Sunday before last I mentioned photographing Melissa Snow-Groves and family. She just had her second baby, Aurora, in late September and they wanted newborn photos. I don’t do newborn photos, and we were already three+ weeks late, but we gave it the ‘ol college try anyway. Immediately I regretted not having a macro lens, and when I said so, Melissa suddenly said, “I have one and it’s a Canon!” First: wow, what are the chances? Second: game changer. I’m still not a newborn photographer – those folks have got an incredible system that’s tough to emulate without a lot of practice – but I would take pictures of a blank wall if that’s what David and Melissa wanted. That they would let me practice on them at such a crucial time in their second child’s life is really touching and I was, and will always be, honored they let me be part of it. This particular shot is stylistically different for me but I like it and now I’m totally sold on adding a macro to my arsenal.
Once more I was honored to photograph a very special event this evening; the Joni Mitchell Tribute concert at First Presbyterian Church. The show was part of their Music for Mission series, this time organized by Anita Courtney, the same brilliant woman who organized last year’s Leonard Cohen Tribute. A few of the artists performed in both shows, but tonight featured a few new acts, one of which was my friend Melissa Snow-Groves. I just photographed Melissa and her family (David Hurst, Juni, and newborn Rory) last weekend, so it was really cool to see her again so soon. I’d heard Melissa sing in the church choir and the Bach Choir, but I had no idea until tonight just how truly powerful and gorgeous her voice is. She sang Blue, the title track from Joni’s 1971 album of the same name. I made myself as small as I could in the seat by the piano so I could try to capture a somewhat unique angle that you don’t usually see. I don’t know if the rest of the audience could feel the power of her voice, but from where I was, I was absolutely blown away, and I just can’t say that about too many vocalists. Did I mention she’s an excellent pianist, too? If I had heard nothing else tonight but Melissa I would have called it a great night. As it happened, there were a lot of beautiful music and musicians in this show. It was anything but a blue mood, and I’m still just floored over how gifted Melissa is. If you ever have a chance to hear her sing, don’t miss it.