Quest for family photo eventually turns out picture perfect

  • Written by Claudia Parker

the parkers photo 10-13

Submitted photo

The Parker family smile for the camera during their outing to Matthiessen State Park in Utica, Ill.




Monday marked several observances of Columbus Day with parades, festivals and events to occupy those of us looking to spend our highly anticipated day off wisely. As most know, Christopher Columbus was an explorer said to have been determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but instead discovered America.

In lieu of Mr. Columbus’ voyage I took my family and a few friends on an exploration as well. After all, the day wasn’t solely about Christopher, it happened to be my birthday. “All I want for my birthday is a family picture in a beautiful setting we’ve never been,” I told my husband Don. “Starved Rock has a ton of canyons and waterfalls that would make a beautiful backdrop for a family photo.”

I’m one of those moms who like taking fall family photos for Christmas cards. I will spend weeks scouting locations and selecting coordinating outfits while watching the fall foliage forecast to ensure we look magazine publication worthy.

Don’t most of us get our inspiration from magazines? Could someone pa-leez tell my family how they’re supposed to conduct themselves during a photo-shoot? Clearly they haven’t been briefed! “How do you expect us to want to smile if you keep yelling at us,” questioned Don? I swear he asks me that every year. I wouldn’t have to subject them or myself to such harsh conditions if they’d just cooperate. No matter how many times I ask him to refrain, he still points at the lens to instruct the kids where to look. Who wants a picture with his index finger pointing at the camera?

Not me!

Then, as if on que, he closes his eyes on almost every-single shot! What starts off joyous typically turns into a highly stressful experience for all of us. I usually guilt them into posing. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me after all I do for you,” I’ve been known to scold.

Of course this year was going to be different because it was the only request I desired of them for my birthday. We were dressed in white shirts and denim jeans with an ideal 68 degree day to keep our temperaments in check. The setting was beautiful. There we stood at the foot of the French Canyon at the golden hour, which most photographers refer to as the magic hour because it’s either before sunrise or just before sunset. In our case, it was the later.  

Did I get my photo? NO!

Rhonda-Rene continuously maneuvered out of the frame while Don gave chase during my tutorials to those around me on how to work my DSLR camera. By the time all was said and done, it was too dark to get a viable shot. The pictures came out grainy and out of focus. I didn’t hike back to the car. It was more like a grumpy stomp!

Don was quick to snuff my flame by offering a ‘do over’ the next day at Matthiessen State Park in Utica, IL. “Let’s forget the photo,” I told him. “Let’s just go have fun.”  

Off through the forest we went down several flights of wooden staircases until we arrived at the bottom of a gorgeous, gushing waterfall. Don said getting to it was like auditioning for a slot on the television series, “American Ninja Warrior. “ We had to hop tree vines, and balance walking over creeks on wooden planks and partially submerged rock trails.  

It was adventurous, exciting and absolutely the most fun I’ve had in a long time. There wasn’t matching outfits, perfectly applied makeup or fancy hairdos to capture a picture worthy of a Christmas card. Nonetheless, we just so happened to capture a beautiful family photo of authentic happiness. I, like Christopher, didn’t accomplish what I set out for, but I absolutely found something more valuable.