Photographing a Birth

It was Thursday, March 26th, and I had just gotten home from a long day of shooting a kid's surf camp and a horse riding ranch out in Bodega Bay, when I got a text message at 4:56PM that said, "Labor is starting wondering if you are available to come over for pictures?" I had been transferring the photos I had shot all day to my computer, so I just had to feed my dog and I was out the door in 10 minutes or less...

She only lives about 10 minutes away from me, so it wasn't long before I got to her house. On the way over, she had texted me to please just come in through the back door, so when I got there, I was able to get in the house and get right to shooting. When I entered the house, I could feel the energy, the tension. A few steps in, and I look to my left to discover Brittney in her bathroom looking as if she will be having a baby soon; maybe before the sun goes down. I quickly set my bag down, and joined the nurse(s) in the bathroom, but I stayed with the woman by the door so I wouldn't be intruding too much. I had a moment of hilarity in my head when I put my satchel down and joined the medics in the room with inferior privilege and authority. My job was nowhere near as crucial as theirs, so I wanted to stay out of their way, but I did feel wanted.

I remember starting out with a hand-held flash and popped off maybe 20-30 photos before saying something to the effect of, "Hey Brittney, you're doing great!" We both laughed at how awkward and silly that statement was, as it was obvious she knew I was there, and the late introduction was the perfect ice breaker in true "Gary" fashion.

I was quick to ditch the flash as much as possible during the birth. Each time it went off, I felt bad thinking it might bother Brittney, and I have fast enough lenses paired with high ISO capabilities good enough to hopefully get away with natural light. I knew I might run into some motion blur, but I thought it could add to the true emotions that were in the room. I was mainly shooting with a Nikkor 50mm ƒ1.8D lens, a Nikkor 85mm ƒ1.4G, and a broken Nikkor 28-70mm ƒ2.8D lens. By broken I mean it no longer does anything electronic. No autofocus or electronic aperture control, so I have to stop the lens down manually. A huge pain, but I've been getting by with it this way for at least 6 months now. I cranked up the ISO, and lowered the shutter speed and had at it.

Baby Sawyer was born almost exactly 15 minutes after I got there and shot the first photo. Amazing! Now I have never personally witnessed a birth before, and I would be watching one first hand through a 35mm viewfinder and a couple different lenses, trying to focus clearly enough as to not blow capturing this miracle. I remember feeling under pressure, I remember sweating, I remember everyone sweating. It was intense! It was amazing! Brittney handled it surprisingly well, and Sawyer came out a very healthy baby! Everyone was in tears with joy. I was overwhelmed with happiness, but I must have missed the true intensity being distracted by exposure triangles and manually focusing a broken lense. It wasn't until I was editing the photos that I was truly overtaken with emotion. The photos came out beautifully in my eyes, and I hope theirs too. So far I've heard she loves some of them, so I'm happy! 

I came back to their house a week later and shot some more photos of Sawyer with a different approach. Instead of shooting candids of whatever I could, I brought a little lighting gear over, and we had a formal portrait session. One week old and he's already living that model life. I also shot Brittney's maternity photos  and blessing way, which I'm including a few of in the photo gallery.

Oh, and I forgot to say how this happened 2 days before the one year anniversary of quitting my "real" job and pursuing photography full time. In one year on my own, and I think I can finally say I've shot it all, haha!