Photographers always say photographing their own families is much more difficult than photographing anyone else. I agree. But our saga goes deeper than the usual I-don't-want-to-do-what-Mom-tells-me-to-do situation; we have a long and storied history of pernicious wildlife encounters during our holiday card sessions.
In 2012, I set my sweet 2-year-old and 6-month-old in a pile of leaves in a beautiful park in Hillsborough. Then a frog started to hop all over baby Nora. Except it turned out not to be a frog; it was a spider the size of a frog. (Around that moment, a hurricane also decided to blow in from sea.)
In 2015, we took a delightful stroll in and along the Haw River—delightful until Jeff stepped on a copperhead. Luckily and surprisingly, it dashed away without biting, but it left us a bit shaken.
This year, I wanted to keep things simple. I had noticed throughout the fall that when the late afternoon sun filtered through the smoke from a fire in our backyard fire pit, it created a stunning effect. I thought it would make an interesting backdrop for our session, and I knew Jeff wouldn't complain as much as usual about helping with the photos if his job were to build a fire. I was right on both counts. But what I didn't calculate for was the fact that Piper would not be interested in snuggling with her sisters like she always is, because she was coming down with her first bad cold and cough. (It appeared in full a few hours later.)
I also didn't calculate for a special visitor I found crawling on her tiny pants while I was adjusting the girls on the bench: a spider that looked suspiciously like a black widow. I screamed and flung it off her leg...right onto Cricket's boot. Jeff ran over and smashed it before we could get a positive identification. I insist it was a black widow. Jeff thinks its legs may have been a little short for a black widow. I insist leg length is variable in every species. Regardless, the session ended abruptly, and I went inside to call my doctor sister to obsess over what black widow bite symptoms I should be watching for. Thankfully, Piper was just fine.
Oh, the perils of outdoor living. I can only imagine what creature will grace us with its presence during next year's session.
Cheers to you and your loved ones this holiday season!
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.