Featured Senior Session: ballet, sunflowers and goldenrod glow with Ms Anya

I’ve known Anya since I moved to the Ithaca area about 8yrs ago. Her mother and I are both homeschooling mamas with similarly age spaced children. Her youngest is the same age as my oldest, and so she’s a bit further along the homeschooling road than I am. When she contacted me to photograph her middle daughter, Ms. Anya for her senior portraits, I was beyond excited!!!

Anya is a homeschooler who transitioned to public high school for her final years of schooling. She has spent the entirety of her youth as dancer in the Ithaca Ballet Company. She performed the lead role as Ariel in The Little Mermaid this past year, and my kiddos were amazed, as they’d never seen ballet before that. Upon graduating from high school, she will be attending University of Utah’s ballet program (which I hear is NOT an easy program to get accepted into!) Since ballet is such a major part of her life path, we needed to incorporate it into her senior portrait session.

Ithaca, NY senior portraits, ballet

Her mother left her and I to decide what we wanted to create, though she did say to me, “I’m trusting that whatever you two create together will be absolutely magical” So magical was the goal! After some preplanning and wardrobe consulting, we hiked down into Buttermilk Falls State Park with all of my fancy lighting gear in hand. My daughter (who was holding my light stand securely amidst the current) and I were ankle deep in water. Thankfully, it wasn’t too cold out for this shoot. After the first snapped shot, my jaw dropped. Ahhhhh!!! This is going to be an incredible portrait session!

Several dance poses, and some sore toes on slippery rocks later we headed out of the gorge to a nearby field. The golden hour lighting was phenomenal and so I captured quite a few headshots while we were here.

Here is also where Anya busted out a pair of jean shorts that needed to be included in her portrait session. These were not just any ordinary jean shorts though, they were actually a pair of her mothers jeans from high school that she had repurposed into shorts for herself. I admittedly became a bit teary eyed thinking about how her mother had worn these decades ago, and how the joyful free spirit of her mother was there living with her daughter in those shorts. I also imagined all of the fun adventures they must have been on!

We also had the opportunity to spend a bit of time in a nearby sunflower field that was in bloom. Anya admitted to me that she doesn’t like to get too fancy or dressed up often, but that sunshine and sunflowers are totally her jam. This photo feels like an unwritten lyric from a Grateful Dead song~ which also happens to be one of her favorite bands. Sunshine daydreaming perhaps?

What was more important to Anya than sunflowers was what she calls her “spirit plant”, Goldenrod! In fact, we planned her entire shoot to sync with the blooming of the goldenrods. She was introduced to goldenrods as a child during her time at Earth Arts nature camp by one of her mentors Dale Bryner. Dale had an incredible impact on Anya’s life, and sadly had passed away back in 2011. Being photographed in the goldenrods was Anya’s way of paying homage to Dale for all of the nature loving lessons she had bestowed upon her and to celebrate her love of nature.

While the images are glorious what you don’t see in the images above is that Anya and I are being swarmed by mosquitos. (turns out damp goldenrod fields are a breeding zone for them) I believe the prompt in the above images was something like, “Ok, smile like your face isn’t being swarmed and lets get the heck out of here” It was time for a different plan.

We quickly gathered a couple of bundles of goldenrod as we ran out of the field swatting for dear life and brought them blooms to my backyard where we were safe from the swarm. Turns out all we needed to do was lay them on the ground and frame Anya’s beautiful face and VOILA! gorgeousness (sans mosquito bites) I’m really in love with how these turned out.

Of course no epic senior portrait shoot would be complete without a little smoke bomb action. I mean, its not everyday you get to work with someone whose foot can reach their head repeatedly on command. This was my first time working with them (this shoot was done last year) and I wanted to practice with someone who I know would be a good sport. This was the first image I took right after we light the smoke bomb. My jaw dropped and I was like, ok, we’re good. Though we did play some more, this was really the only image I needed for my vision to come to life.

Ithaca, NY senior portraits, ballet

Since that afternoon, my daughter, Malaya, has been practicing her high kicks. I mean what 10 yr old wouldn’t be completely awe inspired by this?! So I want to personally thank you Anya for being not only an incredible client, and all around exceptional human being; but also for being an inspiration to me and my daughter!

Leave a Comment