The Hwang Family Revisited: Surfing Grom Edition

Mll Valley Family Photographer

We have been looking forward to photographing Meg & Frank Hwang’s family for months. You may recognize them from the family photo shoot did for them a few years ago that was featured on our blog here. They are awesome, and their kids Ryder and Callen (AKA “The Bean”) are high energy and so much fun to photograph. Much more than clients, these guys are our friends from Bowdoin College and they’re also our off hours marketing and veterinarian help/advice gurus (Meg is a Vet and Frank is a marketing genius with Timberland). We are so appreciative to have them in our lives, and very grateful to them and our many other clients who have enthusiastically supported us as we opened additional studios in San Francisco and in Hawaii. Like so many of our loyal clients, they’ve patiently worked with our crazy travel schedule to coordinate a time when we were in their area and had a few hours to snap some very special pics for them. Well, the stars aligned and we finally connected a few weeks ago in Rye, New Hampshire. It was one of those shoots where I walked away feeling incredibly lucky to do the work that I do, and more than a little bummed to have to leave them so quickly. So, here we go: my story of photographing the one-of-a-kind Hwang family!

Wedding, Kids, Family Photography

I’ve said this a million times at this point, but kids need a chance to relax and have fun on a photo shoot. They have awesome energy and my objective is to document them just being kids and especially them having fun. The above photos are of Callen, (henceforth known as The Bean). When I arrived she was using her family’s sofa as a trampoline and rather than trying to contain all that energy we just went with it. We snagged a few sweet photos of her jumping like a maniac as well as a few real and and relaxed moments as soon as she burned off a little of that energy.

We all piled in to the car and headed off to the local beach to photograph a specific shot we had planned for their family holiday card. The kids were all perfectly clean, the light was great and everything was looking good for creating the most gorgeous family photo ever. As we walked over to our location for the shot, their son Ryder made a beeline for a giant sandy puddle. He must be part Labrador Retriever puppy because a.) he sort of runs sideways while still running forward and b.) he was knee deep, splashing in the puddle within seconds. He was having THE BEST DAY EVER.

So, this is what a kid looks like who is just totally happy. His nice clean clothes were totally sandy and soaked but that made no difference at all. Ryder had a wet rock and was so stoked about it! He just couldn’t stop running around, jumping in puddles and doing drive-bys past me to show me his awesome rock! The world needs more of this kind of joy.

Predictably, the Hwangs rolled with the punches. While some families would be freaking out that their perfect outfits got trashed, or their perfect plans got changed… the Hwangs saw their kid having a blast and just let me photograph him. So cool. They just scooped him up for a few seconds as he ran past for a couple quick photos. Effortless really, and so fun to see how happy the beach makes him.

Not to be outdone, The Bean took to the air and water to jump and run like a mad woman. I think she’s ready for us to put her in The Athleta catalog!

Soaked pants, bloody lip (from trying to launch himself off the lifeguard stand), sand in his eyes… and he keeps smiling. Ryder is awesome.

Best photo I’ve ever made in my life. Look no further. It will never be better than Callen spontaneously giving me The Shaka while standing on a Lifeguard chair. Malia, my Hawaiian wife beamed with island pride when she saw this. Whatever Meg and Frank are doing as parents, clearly, it is working.

This is an athletic family. They’re not going to sit/stand/walk calmly too long. You have to be quick and versatile, but by keeping the energy high, we capture moments like these.

And then, out of nowhere Callen brings me a flower. So sweet. Thank you Bean!

So there you go. The kids run around for an hour like maniacs and then there’s a window where they’re relaxed and chill… and images like the one on the right can be made. Brother and sister sitting on a rock together laughing. Perfect!

I get asked ALL THE TIME “How do you get the kids to stand still, smile, look at the camera AND actually look happy for a photograph?” ANSWER: 99% of the time I encourage the kids to be kids. Above right, Callen is dancing for me and I’m encouraging her not stopping her. Above left is the photo I made between dance sessions. you just have to anticipate and take advantage of those moments when they are there.

Same thing going on here: kids get to be kids, and there are moments where they’re happy and relaxed and secretly plotting their next move. Photo shoots are supposed to be fun!

The sun was setting and Callen decided to try her hand at parkour. Some very cute moments as Frank helped her get past some of the obstacles.

Ok, so after our “real” photo shoot (and after the sun went down), Frank and Callen decided to cruise over to the beach for an impromptu surf session. We photograph pro surfers for a living, so I was of course stoked to see Callen dive into the waves, but I was also sort of stressing out because the sun had already gone down and we needed to deploy some insane low light combat photography techniques to make anything come out. No matter how good we are, we need light to photograph action, so with that longwinded disclaimer about why these images aren’t perfect: here is The Bean shredding Cable Beach. (FYI DEFINITION: “Grom” = A young surfer. Shortened version of the word “Grommet”)


All right! That’s just some of the many, many awesome photos. The complete photo gallery that allows you the opportunity to see every image and buy downloads/prints is available here. As importantly, we’ve posted a bunch of photos online to our Facebook page here so you can share/like/tag etc. If you’re so inclined, please share the love and give our business page a “like” while you’re there or hit us up on The Twittah or Instagram! To The Hwang Family: love you guys! Thanks so much for your patience with our insane schedule! I think it was totally worth it! Aloha till next time!


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