Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Lesson In Parenting At Iverson Spit

If you follow my Twitter account, you might have seen a lone post a couple of months ago: "Driven off the beach during last night's shoot by a misbehavin' assistant. That's what I get for hiring a 4 yr old." That was an abbreviated version of the events.

I planned the trip to Camano Island for a few weeks. I prepped my son for exactly what would happen. We would drive to the island, we would play for an hour at a playground, we would eat lunch, and then we would hit the beach for a short photo shoot before resuming the day of adventure. It worked great...well it worked great up until the photography part.

We arrived at Iverson Spit and the scenery was awesomely raw. The beach was littered with driftwood, the water was being pushed up into the bay by a strong breeze, and the gray sky hovered overhead. I set my son up with some sand toys and I set up my camera gear down low and close to the water's edge. Right away things began to go wrong. I began to shoot and he began to complain. He needed me to play with him; the sand wasn't sticking together; his shovel wasn't working; he couldn't build a sandcastle by himself. The breeze made it difficult for us to hear each other so every time he called to me, I had to take the tripod out of the water and walk over to talk to him. Each time I became more frustrated. I asked him to wait patiently for 15 minutes and then we would play. I warned him once, I warned him twice, I gave him a freebie and a third warning. When he demanded for me to come the fourth time, I scooped everything up and headed back to the car. We were finished for the day. If he couldn't wait for 15 minutes, I wouldn't continue the day of adventure. He was devastated and we drove the hour back to the house in complete silence. I probably could have salvaged the day, but the lesson needed to be taught... right?

Well, maybe not.

Last week I decided to take a look at the images from that day (a grand total of 8 frames). They were all gray and flat but one had a pretty decent composition and some nice waves breaking on the shore. Maybe I could salvage something from the day after all. As I tried to bring the image to life on the computer, I thought about the events and began to realize something.  I told myself I left the beach to teach him a lesson, but truthfully, I was just mad. I was mad because I did everything right that day. We spent time at the playground, we had lunch so he wasn't hungry, and we were dressed for the weather. Why couldn't I just get fifteen minutes of photography in?

Because he is 4.

He is extraordinarily bright and mature for his age but, at times, he still acts like a 4 year old. He does exactly what a 4 year old does: he pushes the limits just to see what happens, he pushes my buttons just to see how I respond, and he assumes the entire world revolves around him. 

After some thought, I realized I pushed my son a little too hard that day. I ignored the warning signs on previous trips that he was burning out tagging along with me and my camera gear. Each time he was a little less interested. Each time he complained a little louder. I was just so anxious to include him, I ignored the signs. Should I just concentrate on letting him experience nature on his own terms, fostering a love of the outdoors, and laying the foundation for the future? Do I need to leave the photo equipment at home? Maybe it doesn't need to be all or nothing and I can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. I do, however, need to learn to read the situation better and be willing to put the camera down if need be. 

How do I feel about the image? Well, I probably pushed too hard on that as well. In order to salvage something from that day I darkened and added more contrast in the sky then I am really comfortable with. Did it work? I can't really decide. I think I'm too emotionally invested in the situation. I love the image because of the path I took to get it and I hate the image because of the path I took to get it. I guess I will just leave it up to you...

Iverson Spit, Camano Island, Washington


Anonymous said...

Love this typically to your son, what about a kids digital camera? Amazon has a Fischer Price one for $38..he could shoot with you..might not always work to keep the peace, but it might have gotten you a few more shots.

Jim Lundgren said...

Tried it. He "doesn't think the quality of the pictures are the same as my Nikon" :)

Anonymous said...

Precocious and precious.. of course he's right! Lol... I'm stumped then.