We have been friends with the Charter families, and their respective families, for years. So when we started talking about doing an extended family session in Billings, I was so excited and looked forward to it for weeks!! I am so happy that we were able to capture this weekend for them, especially considering the circumstances…
As fires racked the country last month, Montana was no exception. While Oregon, Washington and California were bearing the brunt of media coverage, and rightly so as the detestation there is intense- Montana was quietly burning away…
We had traveled to Billings for a double family session with our friends and their families, while the Bobcat Fire burned uncontained just north of the city. We knew that the fire was threatening their ranch, but we didn’t yet know to what extent.
I had gotten a text earlier in the day expressing concern that the fire may interfere with our session, and as I glanced at the text in the middle of city traffic and errands, I made a hasty reply that I was sure it would be fine. The light was good and the smoke was not obscuring anything at that point.
Little did I know that the fire was a concern because the family had been fighting the fire all day on their own land!
*Cue facepalming my hasty reply*
As the family starts showing up, we found out that Mike and his son had been out helping the firefighters all day and had just gotten back in time to clean up and come in for the shoot.
As the landowners, they were out helping the firefighters and hotshot crews to know where to lay fire breaks and lending their own efforts. They were tired, they were stressed, and yet, they showed up with big smiles and laughter that evening- not because of what was going on, obviously, but because of who they are. The smoke that was filling the sky and clogging the air was the ashes of their own belongings, their own land, but their joy is not in material assets.
Their values stand in putting spiritual things first, their family, and their future.
Even so, we almost felt bad for pulling them away for that work to take pictures in the midst of that! And yet, that in itself drives home the very importance of what we were doing that night. If you’ve been following me very long, you know how big an advocate I am of having family pictures taken. To freeze that year, that day in time, when your family has come together and you’re overcoming challenges and obstacles, yet you can still be together as a family and have a smile on your face and joy in your heart in spite of what is going on in the world around you.
That is a precious thing.
That is worth remembering.
Even when everything else is gone, you have your family, and you can look back on all the times that you’ve been there for each other.
It was two days later that we found out that their family cabin and all the outbuildings were completely destroyed in the fire.
This a wonderful thing about the digital age- now when you have family pictures taken, they don’t have to burn up in a fire or be lost in a flood, you have those digital files available in perpetuity. So, we hope that these images do not only bring back memories of that day and of what they were facing then, but of the joy, the comfort, and the future that they have together as a family. Being able to tackle everything that this world throws at them, and still be able to find joy and laughter in being together and in looking forward to the future.
We love you guys- thank you so much for letting us come down and spend the evening with you!