My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Niece the Photographer (Part 1)

The Pipsqueak has had an affinity for the camera since... well, most of her life. Even before we returned Stateside from China, she was paying attention most of the time when I pointed my camera at her, and by the time we'd gotten home she would usually reach for it. (I've often bemoaned how many photos I have that feature a close-up of her palm.)

It wasn't long before she had figured out the whole, "say cheese!' bit and began to really ham it up for portraits or candids (most of which didn't seem too "candid" because she'd pose as soon as she heard the beep of a digital camera booting up). Oh, sure, there have been times we've wanted a nice family photo and Miri's decided she wanted to do something else, making it necessary to figure out how to distract her until she'd forgotten she didn't want to be photographed, but for the most part she's had a blast being photographed & looking at photos of herself.

There's been a new development over the past 15 months or so: she'll hold her hands up in front of her face, demand that someone say, "cheese!" and with a laughing "CLICK!" will "take a picture" with her imaginary camera.

Even more recently, she's begun demanding to use a real camera (usually her uncle's), and I've begun to (gingerly, carefully, nervously) let her take some shots on her own. I'll continue hanging onto the camera strap 90% of the time -- thus the collection of extreme close-up portraits of yours truly on the camera's SD card! -- but lately I've begun letting her do almost everything on her own. To be honest, although she's actually taken some pretty good photos (to be seen in a future post), I still have to clean fingerprints off the lens after most shots, and she usually holds the camera with her hands covering both the flash and the IR port for the auto-focus... thus multiple collections of images like these:

Of course, the majority of the Pipsqueak's photos are pretty much what one might expect from a three-year-old more excited about being able to handle a camera than about the science behind its use... so she often forgets to make sure her entire subject is actually in-frame:

The headless person to port is Grandma, to starboard is Cousin E.

I think the chin in the red shirt is me; I know that's me in the green tee.

No idea on the left (Cousin E, perhaps?); Grandpa's on the right.

Another minor difficulty with my niece's current level of photography skills is the sheer excitement she feels at holding an actual camera in her hands. She gets so excited, in fact, that she will often forget to aim the camera at her intended subject... as in the following miniscule percentage of similar photos:

The top left photo is Xuan, one of Miri's fuzzy feline sisters; I know the one to the right was supposed to be Grandma at dinner, but all bets are off if you're guessing who or what was the intended subject of the bottom photo.

Lastly, my niece is a three-year old... so some of her photos are a bit different from images an older photographer might try to capture. For example, the image below:

No, Dulce didn't turn around just as the shutter clicked. No, Miri didn't accidentally push the button at the wrong moment. This is just one of almost a dozen photos my darling niece purposely took of the unsuspecting kitty's tush! ("Uncle Brian, I took a picture of Dulce's butt!" <giggle>)

Then, of course, there was the evening my niece became fascinated with the idea of photographing her feet. Again, and again, and again, and... <sigh> These two are a sampling of more than twenty such photos she took over the course of a single afternoon & evening.

Lastly, there are those photos that are simply taken without an understanding of composition, minimum focus distance, or the use of flash, or even simply the need to push the right button at the right time...

On the other hand, these shortcomings have helped create some interesting photos; the two below were taken the evening I was installing safety latches on several bathroom cabinets. The Pipsqueak managed to capture a pretty neat first-person view of me drilling pilot holes by shooting directly over my shoulder (coincidentally blinding me with the flash just as the drill bit touched wood), and I think the image on the right is just a pretty darn cool shot of yours truly and sister framed in a doorway.

Now, lest anyone think I make it a habit to disparage my niece's work as a budding photographer, I will shortly be making a post showing some of her better work -- which, quite frankly, is sometimes indistinguishable from snapshots taken by much more experienced camera users.

But I still think it's cute that she says, "Click!" out loud every time she takes a shot. <grin>

(A serious postscript... I began composing this post a couple of days ago, but since then learned of some tough times for the Bartlinskis, one of the adoptive families we literally bumped into in Guangzhou in 2010. Check out their family blog -- "Our Place Called Home" in my blog list below --  and please keep Teresa and her family in your thoughts!)

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