What is your most treasured possession? 

When I first fell in love with photography, I was working as a scuba dive master and I was mesmerized by the amazing images of octopus, seals, turtles, whales, dolphins and other incredible life that my fellow divers were taking. So I got my own underwater camera and dived in to the world of photography with a passion. I've always been a nature freak so it just felt like a natural extension of my lifelong love of the outdoors and nature. If you had asked me then if I'd ever become a family or wedding photographer, I would have laughed my head off. I was not interested in taking pictures of people!

Nine months into my new hobby, my skills had grown so much fellow divers were turning to me for advice and the owner of the dive shop asked me to be the shop's dive photographer. My new duties involved taking photos of new divers on their first dive. It wasn't long before I began to notice I liked the images of octopus (or turtle/seals/dolphin/fish) with a diver in it more then when it was just the animal alone. The human element somehow made the natural element even stronger. It was unexpected twist and I was deeply puzzled by it. One day, after seeing their dive photos, a vacationing family asked me to do their family portrait on the beach too and it was so much fun I was immediately hooked. Somehow, in just three short years, I ended up going from an underwater photographer of turtles to a wedding photographer of brides. 

The thing is, I never really took it all that seriously. I mean, I loved creating the most beautiful and fun images for my clients that I could, but I didn't fully appreciate the value of the photos I was providing until this last year. It took a wake up call of the ephemeral nature of our time here on Earth to bring home to me the astonishing value of a photograph.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself... if you had only 5 minutes warning that a tornado, wildfire or earthquake was going to hit your home and destroy it utterly, what is your most prized possession (besides people/pets)? What would you grab first on your way out the door, that would be irreplaceable if lost forever?

Thousands of people have faced this question in 2017 alone (and now again in 2018!) From wildfires in California, tornadoes in the mid-west and hurricanes in Texas, disasters large and small are destroying homes, communities and entire towns. 

It doesn't even take a major disaster. For the first time in my career as a photographer, this year I had two clients contact me to tell me of a losing a loved one and how grateful they were to have their photos. 

Jaxon, Oahu North Shore 2016

"Hi Bodhi...not sure if you remember us. We were the huge family whose photos you took last summer. Anyway... I have been thinking of you because our beloved Jaxon was killed in February. Do you remember him? Anyway, it was a very tragic snowmobile accident and has been so painful for all of us. I am writing this though to THANK YOU. You have no idea how many times we have been just so beyond grateful for the photographs you took and to have those memories captured on film.  I just wanted you to know how meaningful your job is to others for their lifetime. We have learned that we can never take our time here on earth for granted. Again...thank you beyond words." - Laura G.

Jaxon's memorial headstone, with the family silhouette photo we took at the end of their session. Photo from the family.

Another couple had a last minute maternity photo session, just a week before she was due to deliver. A few weeks later, when he contacted me wanting to get ALL the images from the session, I discovered they had lost their baby. 

"Our daughter didn't make it. That's why the pictures are even more important. We appreciate everything you have done for us. Thank you!"

The banner photo of this article is of me and my high school sweetheart, Terri, taken during a motorcycle road trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in the late nineties. A month after we went to our 20th high school reunion in 2000 she was struck and killed on her front lawn by a speeding teenager who lost control of his car. As you can imagine, I absolutely treasure these photos, above everything else I own, as they are all I have left of her.

The quality of the photos make it obvious these were taken long before digital cameras and mobile phones, with a simple Kodak point and shoot. As such, they are physical prints. And physical prints are extremely vulnerable to fading over the years, let alone fire, flood, mold and other forms of loss. And unlike digital images, it's impossible to share them with others without being in the same room.

That's why I digitized all my old family photo albums, slides and prints. I used a service similar to ScanCafe.com and Legacybox.com. By converting everything to digital images, and then storing copies of them on an online data service like Dropbox.com, I now have the safety and convenience of digital as well as the tangible delight of the physical prints.

While I absolutely love the freedom and creativity offered by digital photography (I would never have had the patience waiting for film to be developed!), I've come to realize it has one serious drawback: unless we print them, we no longer have the beauty and immediacy of physical prints and albums. How often do you print your digital photos? It's so easy to get busy and leave them buried on the computer or iPad.

The good news is that high quality prints and enlargements are more affordable than ever before. I recommend to clients to get their all their images bulk printed (4x6, 5x7) at someplace like Costco but for special enlargements that you want to frame and hang on the wall, use a professional photo lab for the best quality in papers, inks, etc. You can purchase these high quality prints directly from your photo gallery and they will be mailed directly to your home. My favorites are aluminum metal prints for their stunning detail, color and resolution!

And last, consider a photo album for your family vacation or couples session. For about $200 you can get a 25-30 page album in hard or soft cover to have on your coffee table or give the grandparents. It's a wonderful way to have all your treasured photos immediately at hand in a more far satisfying way then your iPad or phone can ever provide. 

(example 8x10 albums, hard cover version on top, soft cover on bottom)

If you'd like a printed photo album of the images from your family or couples session with me, let me know at bodhi@lightnessphotography.com.

In the meantime, give your loved ones a big hug and make sure you get a good photo of it. You never know... twenty years from now it just may be your most valued possession.