digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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Do what’s important – photograph your loved ones!

"Boo, you go explore first and report back" - she wasn't the adventurous one of the pair.

So today’s lesson is not about photography technique or any of the “how to” stuff, it’s all about the WHY!

Why Photography is Important

Whether you are a pro, amateur or hobby photography. No matter if you have a fancy DSLR, point and shoot, or a Smartphone. Please remember that the photographs you take are important, regardless of the quality or what you took them with.

I write this with tear stained cheeks, and puffy eyes because today we had to say goodbye to our much beloved and already missed cat Pumpkin. She was 18, and “they” say she had a long and happy life, and that we should be happy she passed without pain, with us by her side. But the selfish part of me misses her and wants her here with us still.

Photography records history – records life!

Below you see some of my favorite images of Pumpkin taken in the 5 years she’s been in my life. It’s not the same as having her here, but they will provide some comfort when we miss seeing her little furry face. A record for us that she was here, and touched ours hearts so deeply.

As I look at them it makes me want to hop in my car and drive the four hours south to Calgary to go photograph my 92 year old grandmother. I suddenly realize I have few photos of her recently and I feel a burning need to go and document her life, however long she has left with us (right now I don’t even want to think about that day!). I recently just finished a project to create a photo book of my husband’s uncles who are into their 90′s as well.

My project – and yours, if you are with me?!

So . . . My mission, and yours should you choose to do it with me, is to photograph a loved one and produce a book. While they are still alive! In my years of experience doing portrait photography, I’ve had many families come for a portrait AFTER the loss of a loved one.

Do not wait, act now!

Is there someone in your life, a family member or pet, that is elderly or sick? Get on the phone, hop in the car, do what you need to do to make this happen and go photograph them!! As soon as possible.

In Memoriam – Pumpkin, a Royal Cat

It’s been a long couple days and we had to make the tough decision today to let Pumpkin go peacefully. She got sick really quick, her kidneys failed, and she refused to eat or drink. After a night at the vet hospital and no improvements we made the call. With the doctor assisting, she quietly went to sleep in my husband’s arms surrounded by love.

It’s with great sadness we say goodbye. She’s left us in body but lives on in our hearts. We love you!!

Rest in Peace Pumpkin
1994-2012

In the window or our RV during our trip, she loved the soak up the sun

One of her rare trips outside, she was a dainty indoor kitty

Just love her cute little face

One of my favourite if not the favourite photo of Pumpkin, our little orange kitty

She sleeps . . . you are loved and missed already Pumpkin!

“Boo, you go explore first and report back” – Pumpkin wasn’t the adventurous one of the pair.

Addendum, thanks for Carol for sharing these beautiful poems with me. They have helped in our grieving process.

The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
Author Unknown

The Last Battle

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.
Author Unknown

Update December 6, 2012 – we lost another one!

Ever curious and mischievous, even at age 19!

Rest in Peace Booger (aka Boo)
1993-2012

Boo, was our little Bombay kitty with the big personality, that gave us so much joy. Today we had to say goodbye to Pumpkin’s companion of her 18 years, Boo (short for Booger). After Pumpkin was gone Boo stopped eating and we knew she was grieving for her longtime friend, as we were, but for her it was like losing a spouse. Even though there was frequent cat boxing in our house, they certainly loved each other. It was hard for us to watch her get weaker and weaker, and become a shell of her former active, feisty self. We tried everything possible to help her for 8 weeks including being in the vet hospital on IV for 3 days, getting cat acupuncture, Reiki, kidney medication (her kidneys were failing too), dental care on an abscessed tooth, giving her daily feedings with a syringe and water injections under her skin to keep her hydrated. Finally the decision had to be made when her back leg stopped working for her and sometimes it wouldn’t keep up with her, even though she still insisted on jumping from the dining room table to the puffy armchair four feet away. She had trouble getting into and out of the litter box and began peeing on the floor and even on the dining room table. We did not want to see her suffer so we knew it was time.

Edmonton Holistic Veterinary Clinic

Big thanks go to Dr. Jennifer Marshall, Heather Hanrahan, and all the staff at the Edmonton Holistic Veterinary Clinic. These people truly care about your animals as much as they do for their own. The did everything they could to help Boo, but it was just her time to go. The way in which our final time with her was handled couldn’t have been more perfect. Dim lights, an aromatherapy candle burning (that smelled like pumpkin ironically) and the utmost of love and care for her and for us. Thanks guys, you’re the best!

A special bond and a cat lover is born

Boo and I had a special relationship. Most of my life I’ve been a dog person, then in 2007 Rob moved in with his two cats, and naturally, I had some reservations. I was very allergic so unfortunately they went to live in the basement, something I still regret to this day. For the first year in the house Boo hissed and swatted at me any time I walked past her. Gradually I showed her I was the alpha cat and I was in charge, not her. I started hissing and swatting her back in a playful way, and we gradually became friends. Eventually the cats came to spend their days upstairs with us and Boo would push her way into the bathroom to rub against my leg (yes while I was on the toilet) and purr.

Then in December 2009 we hit the road on a 6 month RV trip and took both cats with us. I awoke one morning to find that our propane had ran out and it was a chilly 12c (54f) inside the motorhome, and I had a cat on my pillow squashed up against my face. It was Boo! From that day on she’s accepted me as her second human, and trusted me more than anyone other than Rob. I could hang her upside down (was just our thing, and she seemed to like it), nuzzle her face with my face, and she spent many hours sleeping on my pillow and sometimes even under the covers with me with her little paws tucked up on my shoulder. I had always loved Pumpkin, but Boo earned a special place of her own in my heart because I had won her over.

We called her the “cuddle monster”

My view most mornings, oh how I miss that furry butt in my face.

Boo was really good at “cat typing” and she’s almost deleted Rob’s entire hard drive, shrunk the view it to 10%, and rotated it vertical. We had to google how to undo it!

Boo the sun worshipper!

Boo is the star of my Night Photography class when I show this “painting with light” image. Done with a long exposure and flashlight and she sat there the whole time!

Oh those big green eyes!

Moving on, but not forgetting

Suffice to say we miss them both dearly and our house is now cat free, and feels very empty and quiet. Who knows, you might see another article in the not to distant future on a new furry addition, we’ll see . . .

If you’ve even had a pet and lost them, my condolences. It hurts so much to lose them, but they sure bring us so much love and joy for the time they’re here it’s so worth it!

If you’re curious about cats in a motorhome you can read about their experiences in these two articles:

Christmas day 2009 in Arizona at RV park in Phoenix

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  • Jill

    Such a beatiful kitty! My favorite photo is the one taken of her outside. I love the way the light is dancing in her eyes. So sorry for your loss.

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      Thanks, it’s been a tough day. I started writing about it more like journaling for myself and decided the message was important enough to share.

  • Laura

    So sorry to hear about Pumpkin. At least you and Rob have the many photographic memories of her, and of course the stories of her adventures! Hugs as you move through your loss.

  • http://dianawalker.com Diana Walker

    Hi Darlene and Rob, I’m so sorry to hear of Pumpkin’s passing. I never met Pumpkin, but I love seeing the photos, and I feel like I know Pumpkin since Rob talked her often. Sending her and you love.
    “Animals Are Soul Too”, is a very healing book – search for it on Amazon if you are interested in it.
    Hugs
    Diana

  • Dave Weckwerth

    Darlene

    Don’t know you , apart for your site, but want to extend my sympathy for your loss.
    It is hard to lose a pet that has been a part of your family even for a short time, much less for eighteen years.
    The hurt does get less over time , but you don’t forget even after several years .
    I’m a dog guy , and have lost three in the last twenty years so I’ve been through the loss and recovery as well.

    Best wishes ‘
    Dave

  • Pearl

    What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your private moment and using it to inspire others. Your idea is wonderful; to take pictures of a loved one (two or four legged) and create a book. Cherish them now and behold them in memory forever.

  • http://knitsofacto.blogspot.com Annie @ knitsofacto

    It’s so tough when we have to let them go, so hugs to you. But what a beautiful record of her kitty life, and an important reminder that we should all use our cameras to make our memories permanent. That is the first time I have ever seen cats on a camper trip! Bless her paws. Rest in peace sweet Pumpkin x

  • http://www.butterflyrosedesigns.blogspot.com.au Nikki

    I’m so sorry for your loss Darlene. Your images of Pumpkin are beautiful. I agree it is so important to take photos of our loved ones. It’s amazing how looking back at photographs can trigger a memory that may have been forgotten. Thanks for the reminder. Take care, Nikki.

  • http://darylmander.com Daryl

    Sorry for your loss Darlene. I’ve recently become a pet person myself and love my pet dog dearly, you’ve inspired me to make sure to get plenty of photos of her and the rest of my family.

  • Lura

    So sorry. It’s a hard thing to go through but your photos of her are lovely. Your message hits home too.

  • http://www.russconsidine.zenfolio.com Russ

    Beautiful shots – such a very pretty kitty – we too lost our “Holly” earlier this year after 15+ years and it is indeed VERY sad. We have a 10 year-old Golden Retriever, Lola, and they are definitely one of the family… My sincere sorrow for your loss –
    I am a true believer that we will all meet again in our next lives!

  • Judd Harris

    Sorry for your loss! I know what you are I lost two English Setters dog this year. It is a very hard to go through. I also have many picture of them. I am happy for that.
    Judd

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      Thanks everyone for your kind words and support. I didn’t originally intend to write about this but I just felt the need to share and I know if resonates with pet owners and anyone that’s lost someone close to them. I have a family photo of my family taken 2 months before we lost my dad in 1997. I cherish that with all my heart.

  • http://saraholeary.net Sarah O

    Pumpking will live forever through your exquisite photos. You captured her essence in those beautiful eyes for sure Darlene. I’m so sorry for our loss but glad you can write about it and you have such precious memories.

  • http://FB Jan

    Thanks for posting this, Darlene. I grieve for you and Rob and for Larry & myself,
    as we have to do the same for our little dog, Snuffy, very soon.

  • Rob

    We also lost our beloved black lab of 16 years. He was our best friend and was always there for us. I am so glad that I took his photograph each year he was with us.

    We are sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing your feelings and beautiful photographs of your special friend.

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      Thanks all!

      @Rob I’d love to see the images of your dog? What a great record of his life!

      @Jan I hear ya! Poor little Snuffy. Love to you guys too!

  • Beth Russell

    Thinking of you during this difficult time. I think Pumpkin would have had a wonderful life with you and your partner. Thanks for the gift of sharing – the beautiful pics and your words. A caring reminder- thank you so much

  • Lorri

    I shared your link on my page because it was so heart warming and touching – I love pictures and how you said it was so beautiful I am always taking photos because memories are the best to have in your heart and in your hand as a picture! Your photography is beyond beautiful You inspire me!!!

  • Vicky Hildebrandt

    This was a beautiful way to pay tribute to “family” ~both human and the Pumpkin kind. I always tell people to take pictures~don’t worry if it’s perfect~it’s a moment in time that will never be again~a memory that cannot be replaced <3

  • http://www.brewhomer.com Kenneth Schauer

    Ouch… touching, beautiful, and a call to action! I shall take more pictures of my cat and dog, trying to catch them in those precious acts that I love so much… like the dopey look my dog gets when the ball bounces off her head, or the amazing places my cat George finds to sleep in every day. Thank you for sharing this, and I’m terribly sorry for your loss. I’ve been there, and I’ll be there again… the trip is so worth it though.

  • http://www.byjanet.net/purple Janet

    I remember when my dear family dog died. Chelsea the cocker spaniel. I told a friend about it, also a dog lover, and he told me about rainbow bridge. hadn’t heard of it until then.. Gorgeous pictures of your kitty! May she be well.

  • Leslie Mariko

    My thoughts are with you Darlene. One of my bassets died in August, just 4 days short of their twelveth birthday. We did manage to take a special trip with them in July to Kananaskis & took photos there. I think Hanna waited for me to come home on the day she died. I was with her & her sister when she left. It was hard, but best for us to be together then.
    I’m sure it helped Diane to recover too – no searching. Pumpkin left you knowing that she was well loved & will be remembered with great pleasure for the times you shared.

    Leslie

  • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

    Thanks everyone for your kind and supportive words. Currently our second cat is now in the vet hospital with kidney failure also. We’re hopeful she’ll respond to the treatment better than Pumpkin did, Boo always seemed a bit tougher but she’s still just a little kitty. Our thoughts are now with her so if you want to send some love her way it is much appreciated.

  • Joyce

    My thoughtst are with you also Darlene. These little creatures add so much to our lives and it is so difficult to let them go. The poems are beautiful and I will share them with a neighbor who recently had the same with Harley, a very special and gentle dog. Good luck with Boo, my heart is with you.

  • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

    Thanks Joyce!

    Hey how are you making out with all the stuff we talked about? Did you go do photos in that garden again later in the day?

  • EeWei

    So sorry to read about Pumpkin and that Boo is going through a rough patch. This entry made me go through all the photos I have of my two furry babies and making a mental note that I haven’t taken enough photos of them in the last couple of months and that I should capture more moments of them. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Julie

    Wow. I have not been following the posts on Facebook for a while, but just the other day, out of the clear blue, I thought of Pumpkin (such a truly cute name) and it made me smile. I recall the pic of her when she was blind and how courageous she must have been. I must have a cat’s soul. So sorry to hear you have lost her. I still have dreams of my long departed and much beloved cat Minnie and I imagine we’ll meet again some day. I have a few precious pics of Minnie and in each his beautiful soul shines clear. I hope Boo makes it though ok…

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      Thanks Julie, it’s proven to be really tough. We miss her daily! They sure touch our hearts!

  • http://FB Jan

    It’s been two weeks now since we put Snuffy down, but I still fight tears occasionally. I had read your post while we were wrestling with what we needed to do; I picked up the camera and sometimes the phone, and took a few shots while I still could. Thanks for sharing with us out of your grief, Darlene. It was what I needed to hear, just when I needed to hear it. Those last few photos of our little furry friend are so wonderful to have!

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      Thanks Jan, I’m so sorry for your loss too but I’m also glad you got those last photos of her. We miss Pumpkin terribly still and it’s now 3 weeks for us. We’ve always been a two cat family and it’s just weird saying “we have one cat”, who we almost lost to because she was so grief stricken after losing her lifelong friend. But Boo has come around and is eating again and mostly back to herself so we’re very thankful for that. Losing them both at once would have been devastating. Those furry little faces sure make their way into our hearts and have a way at tugging at them.

  • Frances Miller

    Darlene,

    What a lovely person you are! I can notice that from the way you expressed yourself about the death of your cats. I have experienced the same grief and the anguish of having to take a decision to put them to sleep, but I can tell you, it is very egoistical not to do it because they trust us completely and we have to take this decision for them. Please don’t feel so bad about it. The day will come when you will open your heart and house to another furry friend.

    Whenever your come to Mexico City do not hesitate to let me know. I would love to meet you. My hobby is photography and calligraphy and my great love is my little dog. My father was a well known american photographer in Mexico . Maybe the day will come when we can meet.

    Frances miller

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      Thank you for your comment Frances, I would love to meet you too! What is your father’s name? How can I see his work?

  • allison

    Darlene – What a wonderful article! I am sorry for your loss but understand perfectly since I experienced the same this summer with my dog & 15 year old best friend, Molly. Adopted from the pound she was my constant companion for 14 years. I’m so glad that I took many photos of her over the years, the last few are the most precious. She is gone from my sight but always in my heart. Thanks again for sharing

  • http://shellesinger@zenfolio.com shelle singer

    I do just what you suggest. Take those photos of your loved ones.

    shelle

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      Awesome! Do it before its too late. We are wishing we had more photos of us with the cats. We have only the one with the Santa hats.

  • http://www.milkywayphotography.com Tim Mielke

    Great article. I find photographing our little kids a great way to keep the memories. They change so quickly. I have not done much with our cats and dog though. Something to try soon.

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