over 3 years ago

As some of you know, I got married without a wedding. So of course there were no wedding photos and no engagement photos. You know, the kind where the backdrop is heavily blurred and you see two regularly nerdy and awkward people looking exceptionally loving. I don't know about others, but I feel nauseated when I imagine myself being in one...

Cuz my version of an ideal photoshoot would probably have this vibe:

where NOBODY LOOKS LIKE THEY CARE about the camera. Or they look kinda mean. Or pissed off. Or anything but loving.

Wait a minute. Oh yeah, I was in those kinds of photoshoot. The mean kind.

See. That's more my type. Staring into the camera like I don't give a damn. Super me.

But as my pregnancy progressed and I got progressively more BORED because I could no longer do a lot of the things I used to do, I started entertaining the idea of a maternity photoshoot. How else am I to spend a good chunk of time and money now that I can't go to circus six times a week?

And then it dawned on me. I could do an aerial-themed maternity photoshoot! Then I don't have to look loving or even look at the camera (at least not all the time)!

I started looking on Yelp for maternity shoot photographers. I found LetLove who had all 5-star reviews. However, I did muse about who would ever be less than satisfied for reviewing the happiest thing that's ever happened to them? It's like my friend Chrissy's wedding dress studio. Ian likes to joke that she has all 5-star reviews, too. But wedding dresses and wedding photography aren't like restaurants where you get one customer on one rainy day with one stinky-faced waiter and there goes your 3-star review about how bad the service is here....

But I digress. I got in contact with Letlove who lived up to her stellar reviews: speedy email response, clear instructions, and most important of all, she was up for my ad hoc circus theme idea. We set the date at my 36-week mark, and I was left with the task of finding a suitable shooting space.

36-week Maternity Shoot

I had heard about Aspen Aerials and knew its owner Brooke. With the help of the lovely Rachel, I got in contact with Brooke who agreed to let me rent out the studio for the shoot.

As the shooting day approached, I started thinking about what I could possibly do for the shoot. At 36 weeks, inversion was clearly not possible. I had also not been airborne since January. Could I even do a single climb on the rope? Should it all be ground work?

I looked online for some inspiration. I found a silks photoshoot which looks like it used a chair to elevate the aerialist first so she can get into the poses without hanging for too long. There was also a blogpost by the aerialist Rebecah Leach about exercising through pregnancy that included some pregnant silk photos. I also really liked Rebecah's last comment on the "beautiful pain" circus folks are used to enduring that helps in labor...I definitely kept that in mind when I went into my own labor.

The day before the photoshoot, I went to Circus Center with my rope for some test runs. Funnily, when I called the front desk still remembers me and asked why I haven't shown up in a while. Of course it became obvious once I showed up in person.

I figured out two poses on rope, one for ground and one for air. For the terrestrial pose, I decided to just step on the rope tail and use the tension to support myself. Here is the practice video I did (and look who's in the background doing handstand doubles!):

Movie on 7-23-14 at 3.40 PM from Elizabeth Tseng on Vimeo.

And here's the actual shoot:

In the practice I was able to let both hands off the rope for a while, but during the shoot, having to do minor adjustments made it hard to be hands free all the time. I'm also not sure it would've looked much more different?

The studio already had a hanging rope, so another ground pose which I thought would work well --- and I think it turned out good, is to create extra rope loops with my own rope and sit in it:

For the airborne poses, I used the chair idea by first stacking mats underneath to gain height. Then if I just did a climb or two --- turns out toe climbs were most doable because my belly could be distant from the rope --- then I wouldn't be so pathetically close to the ground. Hey, it's all about creating the illusion, not so much about how much I actually climbed, right? ;)

This was the practice video. I was able to fumble to get to a foot knot. Strangely I remember doing a foot knot in my second trimester on silk and it absolutely failed cuz the silk sank into my ankles due to the extra weight and the pressure was unbearable. The rope, being more rigid, I think, actually was not that painful to sit in.

Movie on 7-23-14 at 3.35 PM from Elizabeth Tseng on Vimeo.

In the actual shoot, I think the foot knot pose did not turn out great because I kept swivelling around and it was hard to find a really good pose.

Also I had to brave a dead hang for like, 3 seconds :)

After the rope, we moved on to silks. I can see why most pregnant aerial photos are with silk. If you just make a cocoon, hmm, there's actually no skill involved. You just sit in it and have your picture taken. Also, silks are pretty and just naturally photogenic right? (But ROPE IS MORE AWESOME x 100 hahaha bite me for saying that)

By the way, during all this time, Ian's job was to quickly move the mats away once I was airborne and quickly shove them back when I was done.

I was not counting on Ian to be willing to join the shoot. Luckily, he sort of acquiesced at the end. And having taking aerial doubles for a while, we were able to use the trapeze at the studio for some basing work.

The final note on this section of the photoshoot is --- Aspen is a beautiful studio! I had never been there and had no idea it had such beautiful natural lighting. I think Let agreed that the studio was an ideal shooting place too. The soft light in the summer afternoon worked to our advantage.

We were done at the studio in about an hour. We then moved to the streets right outside and did some of the more typical maternity shoot photos. Here Let was the instructor in getting us into the poses. Here's one that I liked:

1w+3d Newborn Shoot

The package I bought from Let was a maternity + newborn package. Interestingly, she preferred to shoot newborns within 10 days of their birth so they look, well, more "new" and also they are easier to shoot since at this point they sleep most of the time.

Let came to our house a week and three days after Josephine's birth. Now that I've reached the end of week 3, I can see why she's right...newborns are indeed "easier", in relative terms, to shoot than a few weeks older. And by easier, we still ended up doing three diapers changes + one feeding + baby alternating between sleeping & crying throughout the shoot.

We shot in the "baby room" (really just the living room that now hosts the play pen and changing table) and the bedroom. Again we were blessed with good lighting.

From googling newborn shoots, I know folks like to put hats and furry blankets and other props like cheesecloth-wrapping their newborns. Somehow, I just did not want too many of her entirely naked. Or asleep. She came out pretty alert and awake, so I wanted some pictures of her at least semi-sober and not all milk-drunk.

I had a yellow blanket I purchased a while ago that we used for props:

I gotta say, Josephine did quite well in the shoot, showing a huge variety of facial expressions. Good job!

Lastly, we had to do something circus-y, right? ;)

Ian claims he does not like this photo. Too bad.

To sum up, I was very satisfied with the photoshoot. The maternity photoshoot ended up being my first professional (as in being taken by a professional) aerial shoot and I like it. Let's background in wedding and maternity photography puts a much gentler touch on the photos. Now I just have to add on to her all 5-star yelp reviews ;)

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