Photographing high school seniors is one of my favorite type of sessions. Not only are seniors generally happy-go-lucky—they are graduating after all—but the one-on-one interaction we share allows for both experimentation and careful consideration. Every session is different for each senior.
I recently had a very special and enjoyable experience with one senior, Parker. Two sessions actually. Parker’s first session was held outdoors, venturing out into the streets and alleys of his hometown to find different background and unique scenes.
Parker’s mom, Kari, suggested that we take some outdoor photos at Parker’s grandmother’s home, once the leaves turned to their beautiful yellow, amber, and orange colors of fall. I thought it was a great idea. Any effort to make my seniors’ sessions more personal is worth it to me, so I agreed.
Scheduling a day to take these photos was difficult. For one, high school students run tight schedules. You can scarcely find a weekend or week night that isn’t filled with an extracurricular activity, and Parker is a very active student. Two, it’s hard to time a photo session just right to catch vibrant fall colors. It’s Nebraska. One day we have the most glorious, brilliant autumn hues, and the next day they’re all swept away by a 60-mile-an-hour wind. Good luck.
But we managed to find a Sunday morning at the last minute that worked out for all of us. A bit chilly, but it would have to do.
Kari was gracious enough to drive me and her son to his grandmother’s country acreage in Iowa. About an hour and a half later, we arrived to a small gravel lane cut through a huge grove of hillside trees. We drove a ways, and I noticed a name (which escapes me) carved into a wood sign, similar to the ones you might see at state parks.
And that was my initial thought. “Oh, Parker’s grandma must have a home in an area designated as some sort of natural park.” I’m not even sure if that allowed, but that was my impression.
Oh how mistaken I was.
I asked Kari what the name on the sign meant, and she said that’s the name her in-laws gave their acreage.
People do that?! I realized then we weren’t talking about a small country lot, this was a ton of land. (The exact acreage number also escapes me). I can’t say how excited I was at that point. This was a beautiful area. Not only would we have more than enough background options for photos, this would be just like walking through a state park, and I love the outdoors.
We continued up the lane, and the true personality of Parker’s grandmother, Susie, started to surface. I will never forget this. On the right side of the driveway, I saw little gnomes in red pointy hats sitting amidst fallen dry leaves. One was waving courteously, another was mooning shamelessly, and oh dear, there’s one squatting. Perhaps we should give him some privacy. Let’s keep moving. “Don’t forget to cover it with a leaf!”
Susie’s home was lovely. We retreated inside often during our photo session to warm up and recharge before getting back to work.
There were so many places for photo opportunities. We visited tree stumps, a retaining wall, a small orchard, and a small hand-crafted walking bridge made by Susie’s late husband Tim. I would find out later how truly talented Tim was in woodworking.
After we finished up in the immediate area around the house, Kari offered to grab the four-wheeler so we could go up the trail.
Oh my land, there’s more!?
Parker, being the cross country nut he is, walked or ran the whole trail. Kari and I rode the mountain climbing mobile. It’s Iowa, these hills are huge.
As was this trail. We made several stops throughout this thickly wooded area for pictures, and luckily we were able to find some pretty fall leaves, which was our goal.
This trail forked in a couple directions, one of which went up at a very sharp slant. That’s the one we chose first, and Parker left us in the dust. I wish I could run like that.
At the peak of this trail was a beautiful cabin, one that Tim had made himself. It overlooked an endless valley of trees and cornfields. Absolutely breathtaking. The kind of view that would be striking during any season of the year, and there was a bench stationed at that spot for family to do just that.
Behind the cabin were handmade wooden grave markers for each of the dogs this family had over the years, a great tribute to man’s best friend. Each marker was painted with the names of the dogs below them. It looks like they, too, will forever have a great view.
Next we descended the trail deeper and lower in to the woods. This offered a nice break from the biting wind we endured that day. We came upon yet another wooden cabin, this one bigger than the first, adding to the list of Tim’s impressive woodworking products. What a fantastic spot for a cabin, so peaceful and secluded.
The cold finally got to us, and we called it a day after seeing a few more locations. I thanked Kari for inviting me here. It was such a beautiful area. I was tickled to have toured it, and also jealous that my family doesn’t have an acreage like this! I think people would pay to visit, that’s just how cool it is.
But most importantly, it meant something to Parker. This is where he’d visit for holidays and spend time with family. This is the place he’d think of when he views his senior pictures.
And I was honored to be a part of it!