Tag Archives: children

Introducing Lamorra Sage Day


It’s been three months since our second daughter was born. On January 27, Lamorra Sage Day and her fiery red hair arrived in a hurry. We got to the hospital with plenty of time, and at first, things progressed smoothly — dare I say, normally. The nurses even dismissed me to grab dinner from the cafeteria — “we’ll need you to be in top form, so fill your stomach”  they said. “There’s plenty of time.”

I was at the cash register buying a couple of bananas when my phone started to ring. At the top of the elevator, a nurse was waiting for me. “You need to run,” is all she said. In the delivery room, I washed my hands, took Hailey’s palm, and the doctor immediately said to me “OK, Dad, are you ready to announce the gender?”

What? Hailey was in active labor for 15 minutes. I was there for the final three.

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Kihei and South Maui with a Toddler

Kamaole Beach Park III, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

After Hana, we traveled around the empty and rugged southern end of Maui, up over the shoulder of Haleakala and back to Kahului, where we then proceeded south to Kihei, one of the most touristified places in all of Hawaii. Our trip was winding to a close, but we came for one reason: humpback whales. Continue reading

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The Wagner, Lineberry and Lamberton Families

(Click on images for a larger view)

It has been a good two years since I did a family portrait shoot, so when I was asked to photograph the Wagner, Lineberry and Lamberton families out at the Wagner family farm near Hudson, Colorado, I was a bit nervous. “How do I do this again?”

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The Best Food and Drink in Kauai

Plate of Kalua pig with poi and lomi salmon, KauaiI had heard that Kauai’s food was the type of thing to inspire obsession. Actually, I hadn’t heard that. I saw it manifested in my brother, who goes to the Garden Isle almost every year, and who — as a result — now hosts an annual luau with more than 30 menu items from there.

Well, here I am, two months after the trip, and I still have the international/sometimes kooky/always delicious flavors of Kauai on my taste buds. Here’s the best of what we had:

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The Road to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park

Red dirt cascade descending from the Waimea Canyon area, Kauai.

On the Friday morning before Thanksgiving, I had a feeling my brother was trying to talk us out of going to Waimea Canyon. It was a long drive, he noted. Time on Kauai was precious, and Varenna — our 8-month-old daughter — would be facing backwards for the whole ride. Poipu had a baby beach.

But I acted like the typical younger brother: the more he discouraged it, the more determined I was to go. This was a verdant miniature Grand Canyon, and at the end of the road was a window to the Na Pali Coast. Yes, time on Kauai is precious. But for me, that meant not letting a week slip by without seeing this magnificent sight.

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10 of Kauai’s Best Beaches

Footprints in the sand at Kalihiwai Beach, Kauai(Click on the images for a larger view)

So remember how a few posts ago, I said that I wasn’t much of a beach person?

Well, I’m back from Kauai, and you can consider me converted: I love beaches … if by “beaches” you mean the stunning, drop-yer-jaw, how-could-God-design-such-a-perfect-thing beaches that seem to be nestled into every corner of the Garden Isle. In fact, after visiting Kauai for eight days, it may be safe to say I’m forever spoiled. The bar will be high for any future strips of sand I encounter (sorry, Chatfield Reservoir).

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Fall Color at the Maroon Bells

The Maroon Bells in fall color outside Aspen, Colorado(Click on images for a larger view)

I’ve struggled to photograph the Maroon Bells in the past. Struggled because of two things: (1) everybody has photographed them and an original angle is getting more and more rare, and (2) they perfectly face to the east and, as a result, are often 2 stops more bright than their surroundings, making an even exposure especially tricky.

A six-month-old girl plays near the Maroon Bells outside Aspen, Colorado

But then my wife took our daughter there for a day trip this past October (I was attending the Colorado Governor’s Conference on Tourism in nearby Snowmass) and she returned with a series of astonishingly original photos of the Bells. How did she overcome my two stumbling blocks?

Solution #1: visit the Maroon Bells with an adorable baby and let her eat the dirt on the shore of Maroon Lake — original photos abound — and …

Solution #2: visit in the fall when the sunlight is slanted and the exposure is more even.

The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake in fall color outside Aspen, Colorado

Our daughter’s middle name is Autumn, and this being her first fall, well, it was especially meaningful to have the two of them join me in Snowmass for the conference. After the day’s sessions, I’d take Varenna off of Mom’s hands for a little bit, and go for a short jaunt through the aspens with her near the hotel. She’d squeal and kick with delight at being outside, at facing forward in the Baby Bjorn carrier, and at the sights and sounds and smells of the woods. She’s a Coloradan by birth, and already she is acting like one.

Enjoying the Maroon Bells in autumn, Aspen, Colorado

So when the conference ended and I had a little freedom to wander, we returned to Maroon Bells as a family and spent a few hours in the aspen glades and along the lake shore, watching a blizzard of leaves flutter over the lake as autumn had one last gasp before winter.

Close-up of the Maroon Bells outside Aspen, Colorado

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Graspin’ Aspen 2010 – Steamboat Springs

Since 2007, Hailey and I have made a special long-weekend trip in the fall to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Yep, the same Steamboat Springs that seems to grace every other post on this blog. I know. We go there a lot. However, it just keeps revealing itself to me in new ways, each time.

Each time we go there, whether its in July, the dead of winter, or even mud season at the tail end of April, this wholesome little cow-town with a massive ski resort glued to its hip seems to get more and more nuanced for us. With all due respect, I don’t think many other Colorado towns would stay fresh after so many visits.

This trip, however, had a different complexion to it, and that’s because of three ingredients: 1) our six-month-old daughter Varenna (now eight months old); 2) our good friends Tim, Lexi and their 19-month-old daughter Cora; and 3) our friend Jenny, who is expecting her first in March with her husband Matt, my best friend. This made September’s trip — dare I say it — a “family friendly adventure.” God, what a hideous cliche, but that’s the new reality. We get excited about places where our rambunctious little girl can be her most rambunctious, and playmates are an added bonus.

For the previous two falls, we’ve done this fall color trip with the Jordayzerton crew — the aforementioned folks, plus Stu and Shannon Kilzer. Unfortunately, this year, it didn’t quite work out that we could get everyone to come. Matt had a fencing tournament, and Stu and Shannon had a family emergency. Even the Lambertons had to head back early, but all was not lost. By Saturday afternoon, we did our traditional drive up Buffalo Pass to drink in the endless expanse of golden aspens that drape across the Zirkel Mountains.

We’ve had better years for color, in particular, the 2008 trip when every tree was 100% vibrant yellow, gold and red all at the same time (must have something to do with the dry spell we’ve had since July). But whatever we lacked for in this trip was made up for by our two girls, Varenna and Cora.

Their curiosity and enthusiasm for being outside was infectious. Varenna even figured out what my camera does. At one point while she was in the Baby Bjorn carrier, we ran down a road while I held the camera out and fired shots back at the two of us (third from top). She quickly picked up on how her face appeared on the camera back, which inspired only more giggles. Daddy’s little girl …

Tim and Lexi parted ways with us from Buffalo Pass, with their Saturday night of driving back to Denver in front of them. Through Monday, it was just us and Jenny, hanging out at the condo, going for walks, and letting Varenna explore things like aspen leaves with her fingers … until they ended up in her mouth. Such is travel with an infant, but if this weekend was any indication of the future — of seeking out other kids, other new parents, and laid back activities like going to the bookstore for two hours — that’s fine with me.

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Telluride, Colorado – Part 1

The New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride, Colorado(Click on images for a larger version).

There is something to be said for living in a fantasy world. Check that: there is something to be said for visiting a fantasy world … for a few days.

Telluride defies description — at least one without hyperbole. Such as “the prettiest town in the United States.” (OK, there. I said it.) But for all of its majestic grandeur and quaint homeliness, it is a not a place that one would call “down-to-earth,” “approachable,” or “realistic.” We toured an open house — a 2500-square-foot Victorian two blocks off main — that was going for $3.2 million. I witnessed a morning rush hour on quiet little Lizard Head Pass that consisted of commuters driving in from Rico (28 miles south), and maybe even Dolores (67 miles south) — all flocking to this enchanting little town to work in the wine bars, day spas and five-star hotels. How this community functions is a bit of a mystery, but it does function. It functions magnificently. I want to go back. I’d put it on top of my U.S. destination list all over again.

Hotel room in the New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride, Colorado

And incredibly, in late August, it wasn’t too steep. We stayed at the New Sheridan Hotel on Main Street (that’s Varenna in our room, above) for less than $175. In the middle of winter, that would go for about $335. We ate a superb dinner, one of the best meals of the year, at 221 South Oak Restaurant for the same price as pretty much any nice sit-down restaurant in Denver. Hey: we were on vacation. Why not? And when you consider the crappy room we paid more for in Mesa Verde (not to mention the regrettable $13 “Navajo taco” Aramark doled out there), Telluride seemed like — gasp! — a great value.

Main Street in Telluride, Colorado

Still, this thought about people actually living there would not leave my head. Maybe it was because the night before, while eating dinner in an empty dining room at the Chipeta Sun Lodge, I told Hailey I could retire to Ridgway. It is gorgeous there as well, but it also felt cozy, livable, and … realistic. Telluride? It just didn’t add up how you could get to a point in your life where that was attainable.

Full moon over Telluride, Colorado

But ask me now what the highlight of our late-summer trip was, and I wouldn’t hesitate. It was this place. I’m a sucker for massive mountains, waterfalls spouting off in every direction, lush greenery everywhere you go. I like my scenery without subtly, and if I can have a medium-rare elk chop with asparagus and lingonberries for dinner beneath that landscape? Sold.

Panorama of Telluride, Colorado under a full moon(Hello, I’m a great big panorama … click on me for larger version)

Night one concluded with an amazing scene on Main Street. A full moon rising over the San Juan’s at the end of the valley. It was one of those stirring scenes you can’t turn away from. They happen all the time in Colorado, but this one was especially gripping. I stood out in the middle of the street with my camera on a tripod, firing off exposures trying to get it just right. Trying to put in perspective the magnificent beauty of these mountains … until a drunk stumbled out of the New Sheridan and asked me for a good burger.

Like I said … it’s nice visiting a fantasy world for a few days.

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At Home With Varenna

And so an amazing first two weeks at home with our little girl has come to a close. Back to work tomorrow, but the journey, the adventures, the milestones — they will only keep coming with greater regularity. I feel like I’m meeting a new Varenna everyday. A bigger, smarter, savvier little girl with each sunrise.

Two weeks ago, she was a swollen little newborn who could barely keep her eyes open. She’d claw at her cheeks and eyebrows, the sensory experience of her new life too much to handle. Tonight, while lying on my chest, she wiggled her way from my sternum to burrow her face under my armpit, as though she’d find a food source under there, the whole time making ravenous little grunts. I could hardly contain my laughter it was so cute.

Varenna looks a little like me, and she looks a little like Hailey. And yet at the same time, she looks, and acts, not at all like either of us. It’s so incredible to see the individualism of a newborn. She’s mellow, content, and yet capable of incredible assertiveness. Her eyes are blue one day, blue-gray the next, hazel the next, blue again the next. The fact that I can’t peg her personality, let alone her physical traits, down makes parenthood all the more surreal.

Since we’ve come home, we’ve had several visitors come over. Hailey’s parents have visited, and we’ve Skyped Hailey’s brother and sister-in-law in Virginia and grandmother in St. Louis. My mom and dad came by for dinner, and this Thursday, since we were feeling pretty house-bound, we took Varenna to their house in the foothills southwest of town. Four or five sets of friends have stopped by to meet her, and my brother and his family have come by, with his wife Amy spending last night at our place (what a trooper … she even helped with night duty). I thought that our wedding was the once-in-a-lifetime event where gratitude for these friends and family would be the most intense. To have that experience twice is truly a blessing.

Varenna’s room has turned into a neat little sanctuary, complete with woodsy creatures, stuffed animals and a soundtrack of birdsong that we like to play on a compact sound system. Whether Varenna the Newborn eventually becomes Varenna the Outdoorsy Girl is entirely up to her, but for now, she’s got a lot of cuddly creatures surrounding her.

I’ve set up a blog just for Varenna photos. I did it mainly for family and friends to keep tabs on her (and to keep the Tanager Blog focused on travel, portraiture and other photography). My favorite post so far has to do with the many faces of this girl.

So there you go: our little family. Hope you are all enjoying spring …

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