Lavender Love - A portrait session I've envisioned for years | Winston Salem Photographer | Jasper & Fern
For YEARS I’ve been searching for a lavender field to photograph in - YEARS. This past Wednesday, while at a painting party at Wine and Design, a friend told me about a field they’d just discovered not to far from where we live. It was kismet!
You see, I called the lavender field, Frogholler Lavender Farm, the next morning only to have the next perfect domino fall exactly as it should. I discovered that we were at the peak of harvest season. Not only that, the farm was only taking photography appointments through the coming Saturday (two days from when I called them). PLUS, they only had two spots available - one being the very next morning at the last opportunity for really pretty light.
Now, this whole whirlwind experience falls even more perfectly into place! (Happy dancing makes it difficult to type!!) I contacted my business neighbor Kay, the owner and head instructor at Juxtaposition Studios, to see if she was open to be my subject for this impromptu session. She just so happened to be available at the time the farm had open and was excited about the idea. All I had to do was bring the vision in my head into reality.
It was at this time in the process that small obstacles started to show up. You see, whenever I have outdoor portrait sessions, I always check the weather. Many times I can find another suitable location, use our portrait studio or reschedule if the session location is important to my clients and the photographs’ aesthetics. This time, where there was no opportunity to reschedule and the location was certainly important to the final product, the predictions showed 70% chance of rain. I hoped for the best though and moved on.
A drive to High Point, NC was the next step in the process. They have a discount gown center there that I love and I wanted to find something that fit the ethereal aesthetic I looking for and that would also compliment for capturing beautiful movement. Knowing this was a steep request, I set out determined and willing to think outside the box.
Getting everything else I needed to get done that day, I only had an hour and a half left to drive to High Point and search for the perfect dress. When I arrived, nothing was living up to my vision. So, in the last 10 minutes of the store being open, I started looking at short dresses. I was halfway down one rack when I saw it in the next aisle. It was the perfect color for Kay’s skin and hair and had gorgeous embroidered detail. Immediately, I switched aisles and lifted the dress from the row. It was short but it was only nearly perfect - and I was doubting a little bit of this domino falling into place. I wanted this dress to be long. I wanted it to show and compliment the graceful movement of Kay’s dancing. I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied if this dress didn’t become what I wanted.
Off to Hobby Lobby I went, dress draped on my arm, seeking a close match of loose fabric I could sew to the dress. No such luck. So I stood. Staring at fabric, I kept going back and forth between three reams across each side of the Fabrics section of the store. I’m certain I looked like a crazy person. All that deliberating, pacing and comparing worked out though because a plan was hatched.
Now, I’ve never dyed fabric before. This was a risky plan. Nonetheless, I decided to be confident and give it a try - after all, this opportunity to photograph a vision I’d had on my mind for years wasn’t something I wanted to pass up. So off the shelf came the dye and 15 yards of the fabric I thought would end up looking closest in the end joined the bottle in my arms.
Arriving home near 9pm, there was much work to be done. With an early morning start for the portrait session and an hour’s drive to get to the location, I knew I needed to work smart and swift to be able to sleep enough and keep up my energy for the session. As such, I immediately started washing the tulle fabric I’d purchased, preparing hot water for the dye preparing a drying line and setting up outdoor lights - because it was very dark already in my yard.
Now, those of you who have ever dyed anything before probably noticed the potentially fatal flaw to the project - TULLE fabric. Oy. For those of you who, like I me at the time, have no idea why that’s such a big deal, let me share my mistake. Tulle is a synthetic, plastic fabric. It does not accept dye well. When I discovered this, I was, again, a little wary that everything was going to work out. Ultimately, this fact made me decide to wait and see what it looked like in the morning before cutting up the dress to transform it. I wouldn’t want to go to all this effort to destroy a dress, counting on using it for the portrait session only to wind up with mismatched tulle and a cut up dress to work with. After cutting the tulle, washing, dyeing and I went to bed, rainy weather and uncertainty looming.
The next morning, I walked outside to see how the material had turned out only to discover that it had rained and the material was still wet. BUT to my ABSOLUTE delight, the material was an incredibly close match!! I did a little happy dance and swiftly moved all the fabrics into my dryer, popping out the ironing board, pins and elastic while I waited. Then, once the tulle was dry, I set to ironing each piece, pinning it to the measured elastic (because I am definitely not a seamstress and I enjoy the flexibility of impermanent designs) and chopping up the dress.
When Kay and I arrived at the farm, the darkened clouds were just beginning to drizzle. Dorthea and Mike came out to greet us and even set up a canvas tent for us to hang out in when it was pouring - and boy did it pour!! Standing in the mud with Kay kneeling on the passenger seat of my car, I pinned the remaining layers of dyed tulle to the elastic around her waist. As the rain continued, I took time to pin the embroidery I’d previously chopped from the original dress onto this new creation, finalizing the transformation.
With dress complete and time waiting for no one, we ran out into the field in a torrent of rain. THIS, however, was not a hitch or a misaimed domino. One of my favorite things about rainy sessions is the intensity of the colors the moisture brings out. The wet lavender was rich in color - and rich in smell! The leaves on the trees and surrounding plants were emboldened. It was perfect, absolutely perfect. There was even a soft mist that rose from the ground when the rain took a break. All of these elements combined with Kay’s wet hair and the free and unleashed mood of her movement made this impromptu portrait session absolutely perfect.
At the end of the session, going through the photographs, it was nice to reflect on the thrill of the whole project from start to finish and remember that taking chances and rolling with whatever comes our way can make room for amazing outcomes. Was this exactly what I had been envisioning for years? No. I can say, however, that the adaptations to the vision, the adaptations to the weather and all the elements that went into this portrait experience truly made this more memorable and exciting than my original vision.
Check out her portraits below!!