Welcome to my Blog!
This is the place to stay up to date on all the latest news here at Cheryl Bigman Photography. You'll see pictures from my most recent portrait sessions & events, read the backstories on all the great families and kids I get to work with, and take a peek into my own life as a photographer, a dreamer, and of course, a hockey mom. I hope you enjoy the Blog as much as I enjoy creating it...
Just returned from Spring Break and thought it was about time for a personal story on the Blog. I'm wondering if any of you can relate to what you're about to read as I'd love to know I'm not alone! Honestly, I wasn't sure if I should even write about this as it's a bit embarrassing, but here it goes...
This year I let my daughter decide where she wanted to go for Spring Break since we haven't had a mother/daughter vacation in quite a few years. It was really a pre-emptive move on my part. I figured if she chose our destination, I would avoid hearing that lovely "teenager voice" complaining about everything wrong with our trip.
So where did she choose? St. Louis! Not exactly what I had in mind for Spring Break, but I had never been, and knowing how much she loves history (and hockey), I agreed.
A Visit to the Gateway Arch
The one thing I knew for sure I wanted to do in St. Louis was see the famous Gateway Arch. After all, it's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of St. Louis, right? When I found out you could actually ride to the top for spectacular views of the city, I was SO excited! My daughter on the other hand was less than thrilled. It's about 640 feet high and at first she was hesitant to go. Being the adventurous type, I was determined to convince her we had to "not think" and "just do"!
We arrived at the Old Courthouse to pick up our "Journey to the Top" tickets, and walked past a few exhibits on the history of the Arch.
This one in particular got my attention - a model of one of the original "pods" that carried passengers to the top. It looked like a tiny space capsule with 5 seats crammed inside and no windows. All I kept thinking was, thank goodness times have changed because you would NEVER get me in one of those things!
We made our way to the entrance of the arch and patiently waited for our boarding time to be called.
Walking toward the boarding area felt like waiting for the Space Mountain ride in Disneyland. There were lots of interesting displays on the walls about the construction of the arch, but I never saw any photos of what the tram really looks like. We made our way down the stairs and were told to stand in front of the steel door with our boarding number on it. Here is what we saw...
The door looked like something out of Alice and Wonderland. It was tiny to say the least. I had convinced myself that this was no big deal. Just a short 5-minute ride to the top. I was excited to hear we could spend as much time as we wanted taking in the the views (and of course taking pictures) before returning back down to earth. Camera at the ready, I heard the cars coming down to pick us up. As Door #4 opened, I stared in utter shock and disbelief at what was in front of me.
The tram car looked exactly like the "pod" we had seen in the exhibit! (Note: this picture is a close-up of the pod in the museum. I was so stunned after that door opened, I forgot to take a picture of the actual pod!)
My daughter climbed in without hesitation along with another adult dad and his daughter. My heart was racing, my hands started shaking, and all I could say was, "I'm sorry, I can't do this."
I've never thought of myself as being prone to panic attacks, but there I was - completely frozen!!!
Just the thought of being closed into this thing with 3 other people sent me into a full-on panic attack. I said goodbye to my daughter (telling her to please take pictures for me), and walked away. I honestly thought I was going to cry. I was so thrown off-guard by how much this affected me.
Panic Attacks? - not me!
I never understood panic attacks before this. I've always thought I would never be "that person". And there I was, sitting in the lobby waiting for my daughter to come back and tell me how ridiculous I was. How could I have let the arch defeat me? Am I getting old? What the heck is wrong with me? I was so disappointed in myself.
About 20 minutes later, my daughter returned from her ride, took one look at me, and wrapped her outstretched arms around me. All she said was, "Come here. Poor mama." I think she saw the sheer terror in my face when that steel door opened.
We walked outside and she shared her iPhone pictures with me. Here's some of what I missed (Photo credits: Hallie Bigman).
Shaking it off
Once I started taking pictures outside, all of my anxiety disappeared and I was back in my happy place, looking for that unique shot of the famous arch. Here are a few of my favorites.
So that was our traumatic event at the famous Gateway Arch. I can only think of one other time in my life when I've even come close to feeling the way I did that day. I was getting ready to shoot a Bar Mitzvah party at UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium and got stuck in a Field Club elevator. Felt like the walls were caving in!
I would LOVE to hear from anyone else out there who's experienced panic attacks or something similar. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.
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Maya | Bat Mitzvah
Once in awhile, someone comes into your life who touches you in ways you could never imagine. Several months ago, I met with Maya’s family for a consultation about photography for her Bat Mitzvah. As they told me their story, my heart just ached.
You see, one year ago, their youngest daughter Naomi ("Nomi") was diagnosed with Leukemia and their whole world was turned upside down. It reminded me of the first time I met Chelsea and her family (Chelsea's Hope), who many of you know I've worked with over the years. Listening to the pain in their voices as they described what the last year has been like was heart-wrenching.
And while Naomi's parents were focused on the endless tests, chemo, hospital stays, and complications, Maya was often left to fend for herself. She had to try and continue living her 13-year old life of school and religious studies in preparation for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah, and she did so with courage beyond her years. One of her wishes was that her little sister Naomi would be well enough to attend her Bat Mitzvah...
I had the honor of photographing Maya's Bat Mitzvah a few weeks ago, and I'm happy to say Naomi made it with flying colors. To be the one to capture her and her family having this one day of “normalcy”, celebrating Maya and just being in the moment was awesome!
Nomi’s journey of recovery however is far from over, and the entire family's resilience is being tested once again. On Feb.9th, Nomi re-entered the hospital and endured 8 days of intensive chemotherapy in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. Last week, Maya entered the hospital and underwent the procedure to harvest her own bone marrow in order to donate stem cells to save her little sister's life.
In Maya's D'var Torah (teaching) about courage, she shared her thoughts on this next step in Nomi's treatment. Maya touched every single person listening that morning including me.
Tears filled Maya's eyes as she spoke so eloquently about being the bone marrow donor for Naomi, and about her fears as she and her family enter this next phase of her sister's treatment.
Here is an excerpt from Maya's speech:
"In new situations, we often need a push. We need someone who believes in us and helps us build our confidence to try a new experience.
Early last year, shortly after my sister, Naomi, was diagnosed with cancer, I had to have my blood tested to see if I might be a match in case she needed a bone marrow transplant. I have a phobia of needles, and I was scared to have my blood taken. My mom and I went to have this done at the same time. Even though I was scared, it helped to have my mom with me.
Even more than that, I kept thinking about Nomi and everything she was going through. I thought, if she can do all of that, then I can do this. Even though I knew I had to do it, her experience helped me build up my confidence to face my fear and do something scary.
Nomi will be getting a stem-cell transplant in February and I am her donor. When I found out, I didn’t hesitate about doing it, at all. But, I am very nervous about how uncomfortable and painful it will be, and I am anxiously anticipating the day. I know I need support to help me get through it and have the confidence in myself to be able to deal with it.
I have learned that I am capable of doing more than I might think.
We are all capable of doing more than we realize. When we come up with excuses and try to get out of doing things that are hard, we might not ever get the chance to see that we can be good at the difficult challenges we were too scared to try."
Wow, what a powerful lesson for us all! Really makes you stop and think...
Maya's celebration that evening was such an incredible event, truly a celebration of life. Photographing Naomi and her family letting lose and having the time of their lives was such an amazing experience.
Thank you to Maya’s family for sharing their inspiring story and to Maya for having the courage to share her innermost thoughts and feelings about a very difficult situation.
Thank you to Bar/Bat Mitzvah DJ extraordinaire Adam Goldstein (Gatsby Entertainment) for making so much of Maya's party possible.
I will continue to follow Maya and Naomi's story in a series of future Blog posts so stay tuned. In the meantime...
Maya's family needs our help
A Fundraiser has been established to help the family pay for Naomi's mounting medical expenses. For the past year, they have been living off of the father's salary as an 8th grade science teacher since mom quit her job to take care of Naomi. Please read more about Naomi's story and consider making a donation today. Goal is to raise funds by Naomi's 12th Birthday on April 27th, 2015.
San Francisco Bay Area Bar & Bat Mitzvah Photography
I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Bat Mitzvah Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in Bar & Bat Mitzvah photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Service Area Information
Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Bar & Bat Mitzvah Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Paula and Zack | Surprise Portrait Session
So I get this call from New York and I’m thinking maybe I’m finally going to fulfill my dream of photographing an East Coast Bar or Bat Mitzvah! But little did I know that the gentleman on the other end of the phone was about to give me the photography opportunity of a lifetime. Storytelling through pictures is and always has been what I love most about photography. (I think I must have been a photojournalist in a previous life.) Whether it’s a B’nai Mitzvah, a wedding, a high school senior, or families and kids, I’m always looking for the backstories, and this gentleman had one of the best I’ve ever had the honor of telling.
The gentleman proceeded to tell me that he was flying out to California to bring the love of his life back to New York with him, and he wanted to surprise her on her last day of work. He asked me if I was familiar with the last scene in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman”. Well, duh, who from my generation doesn’t know that scene! Richard Gere playing the role of Zack Mayo, after graduating from the military academy against all odds, shows up in his whites at the factory where his girlfriend Paula works. He scoops her up in his arms, places his hat on her head, and carries her off into the sunset. One of the best movie scenes ever, right? So when this real-life Officer and a Gentleman asked if I’d be willing to capture the moment when he re-enacts this scene with his girlfriend, I could hardly contain myself! He told me his girlfriend works at the elementary school down the street from my house. That’s how he found me on the internet (isn’t Google awesome!). So for the purposes of this Blog, the Gentleman shall be known as Zack, and his lady, Paula.
We talked about all the details of the shoot, and I was already strategizing about how I was going to capture that special moment in all of about 30 seconds. No pressure! The plan was to wait down the street from the school until about 12:15pm, follow Zack into the school, and then into Paula’s classroom for the big surprise. I would then follow him as he carried her out of the school and walked down the street. For all you photographers (and photo enthusiasts), keep in mind that I was going into the classroom completely blind, no idea on white balance, lighting, etc…, and then going right into shooting outside at high noon. I decided to carry 2 cameras, one with a wider angle lens for the classroom, and one with a long telephoto lens for outside, both with flash at the ready.
While we were waiting down the street for the big moment, I decided to capture some portraits of Zack by himself as he was looking so sharp in his uniform. It was at this time that he shared his very special story with me and I can’t tell you how close I came to breaking down in tears…
Zack and Paula first dated in high school. Then, they each went their separate ways, and he joined the navy. They ended up marrying other people, having kids and living separate lives. As is so common, especially in my generation, they married young and as the years went on, grew apart from their spouses. They reconnected at a high school reunion and began communicating more regularly when they realized how much they enjoyed being with each other, and that they had a very special connection. Fast forward 5 years after trying to have a bi-coastal relationship, they finally decided that they did not want to spend another minute apart. Paula gave her notice at work, packed up her house, and prepared to move back to New York.
The Big Moment
I love surprises, but I tend to get caught up in the same emotions that my clients are experiencing, so the challenge for me was to stay focused on getting the shots. Not an easy task! We walked into the classroom and this is what I saw through my camera…
It all happened SO fast, and Zack was obviously VERY excited as he booked out of that classroom SO fast I had to run to catch up (while shooting!). Sometimes these things don’t always go as planned. Zack hoped this would be a very private moment, but we didn’t realize it was a Minimum Day – the whole school was out at 12:15! Parents were everywhere picking up their kids. Kids watching knew something great was happening, but they had no idea what. As a result, we had a curious audience watching all of this unfold. I really love the shots that show their reactions because they help to tell the story. Can’t you just hear them saying, “Awwwww”?
After the big moment, I introduced myself to Paula. I’m sure she was probably wondering the whole time who this crazy lady was chasing her down the street taking pictures. I decided to do a few quick portraits of Zack and Paula at the same spot I used earlier for Zack’s portraits. I just let them be in the moment and the results were exactly what I hoped for. Every time I look at these pictures, I feel the love and the passion these two have for each other.
I feel so honored that I got to be the one to capture this very special time in the life of a true Officer and a Gentleman. A turning point in both their lives for sure. Zack and Paula, I hope you will look back on these pictures years from now, and remember this moment like it was yesterday. Thank you Zack for finding me on Google. Thank you Paula for being so lovely. I wish you both a lifetime of happiness together in New York.
San Francisco Bay Area Photography
I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Portrait Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing portrait photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area portrait photographers. Each family and each story is one of a kind, and I feel your portrait photography should be one of a kind as well. Every portrait session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together your story.
Service Area Information
Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Portrait Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Svetlana, Douglas, Sarah, Rebecca, Joshua, Benjamin | Family Portraits
What Makes a Family Portrait Truly Unique?
We’ve all seen them – beautiful portraits of families all dressed in matching blue jeans and white shirts. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But what if you want something a little different. Something that will remind you years later what your kids were like at this age, and how you all related to each other. That’s what custom portraits are all about.
One of the first questions I ask my clients when planning their family portrait session is, “What are your kids into right now?”. If I can find a way to incorporate each child’s “thing” into your session, we are guaranteed to come away with a great collection of natural-looking, truly custom portraits. And just the fact that they’re doing what makes them happy creates a fun session for everyone.
Svetlana’s Family Portrait Session
When Svetlana contacted me about doing family portraits with her four kids, we talked a lot about how to make the session relaxed and fun. The kids were all spread out in age, each with different interests and personalities. We decided to go to Hap Magee Ranch Park in Alamo, CA since it not only has a variety of environments to choose from, it has a great playground for the kids to look forward to at the end of the session.
We started with individual portraits of each of the kids. Here is Sarah.
Sarah is an artist who loves to sketch, so I thought it would be fun to place her in this tranquil forest-like setting and have her do her thing – sketch. I just love the feel of these images.
And this is Rebecca.
She brought a little surprise guest… meet Dinah the Bearded Dragon. I’ve done lots of family portraits with pets, but this was a first for me! (And no, I’m not a big fan of reptiles, but I have to admit she kind of grew on me.)
Rebecca also loves gardening, so we used this cool sign in the park’s own garden.
And this is Joshua. He’s into reading books, but forgot to bring one. Hey, it happens. So the challenge for me was to get him comfortable in front of the camera without any added props. I asked lots of questions about his favorite things, and soon his personality came through.
And this is little Benjamin…
Ben LOVES his trucks and brought a very special red one just for his portraits. At first he was a little shy and decided it would be fun to hide it from me, but as soon as I told him how much I loved trucks too, he just had to show me.
… and it stayed with him for the entire shoot!
Of course, we had to get portraits of the entire family together. The first thing you’ll notice is they are not all wearing the same thing. Mom decided to color-coordinate their outfits, but she didn’t stress over getting it perfect. Definitely not “matchy-matchy”, kids were all comfortable, and it worked!
I also wanted to create pictures of smaller family groupings to add variety (mom with the girls, dad with the boys, mom & dad, etc…) I could definitely feel the love in this family and that’s what I wanted to capture.
In the end, we created a unique set of portraits that captured everyone’s personality perfectly! It’s my wish that as the kids grow older, the family will look back on these portraits fondly, and remember what they were like at this time in their lives. Thank you Svetlana, Douglas, Sarah, Rebecca, Joshua, and Ben, (and Dinah) for allowing me to document your family’s love so beautifully.
San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s Photography
I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in Family photography and Children’s photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Service Area Information
Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Family and Children’s Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Yep, today’s the day – my first “post-50th” birthday. Funny how birthdays take on a whole new meaning after 50. Instead of thinking about what to wear to the party, I think about how grateful I am to still be here so I can go to the party! Seriously, I can’t believe how many friends my age have passed or are fighting the health battles of their lives. Having had a couple of health scares myself this year, I’ve grown to appreciate every moment I’m here on this planet!
Since I just returned from photographing the first ever Chelsea’s Hope Lafora Research Symposium in La Jolla, CA, this birthday carries even more meaning as I reconnected with several families whose children have lost everything to this horrible disease. The pain these families have endured is indescribable. I had the honor of photographing many of them for the first Chelsea’s Hope Fundraiser back in 2009, and it’s been heartbreaking to watch their decline ever since. Several have passed away. This is a disease with no cure.
Thankfully, an incredible team of researchers have put the “Hope” back into Chelsea’s Hope with groundbreaking discoveries that will eventually lead to a cure. Because it is so rare, Lafora is considered an “orphan” disease, so little or no funding is given. I’m proud to say that Chelsea’s Hope has raised an incredible amount of funds over the last few years, but it’s still not enough.
My Birthday Wish
My birthday wish is for you to find it in your heart to give a little something (or a big something) to Chelsea’s Hope Lafora Children Research Fund in honor of my 51st birthday. Donations can be made through the website at : www.chelseashope.org .
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