“Lights will guide you home” - Coldplay
We initially planned to have Clarisse pre-debut portraits done in Pasadena City Hall. But setting up a date for the shoot posed to be more of a challenge than I thought. Since Clarisse was about to graduate from high school, she was pretty busy with all her extra-curricular activities. I was in San Francisco with the wife when her mom texted me that she had to cancel a date we previously set up. She forgot that Clarisse will be watching a lantern festival in Arizona. Hmmm. Desert. Lanterns. Portraits. So a light bulb went off in my little brain. And since I'm more inspired shooting in places I've never been to, I took a weekend off and drove to Littlefield, Arizona. Where the lights festival was being held.
But to be honest, days leading to the trip, I was a little hesitant since I will be in a strange place with people I don't really know. Add to the fact that it will be an event with hundreds or even thousands of people and my anxiety level went up a notch. Oh and also, my wife couldn't go with me. So add another two notches on my anxiety belt. Look, I may seem confident and friendly behind the camera, but you take that big chunk of rubber and metal away from my face and I become one of those introverts who would rather stay at home and avoid conversations with people. Might sound funny but it's true. So while sitting at the parking lot waiting for the Guevarra family, I was trying to draw up plans. Plans to make this whole shoot as productive as it can be to satisfy my creative side and at the same time, try to find a way where the introvert in me won't freak out because of the huge crowd. But thankfully I found solace when the Guevarra family invited me to hang out with them while we waited for the event to get started. They were so warm and welcoming that the more I got to know her family, the more I found myself getting caught up in what was going on as well.
Which was a good thing. Because I wasn't expecting to be moved by such a simple idea such as a lantern festival. In my head I was thinking: "Ok, just a bunch of lanterns in the sky. Big deal. Shoot them portraits, then go home." But oh man, once you see those things light up the night sky, it will leave you in awe. It was a different energy altogether. Especially the thought of hundreds of people writing messages on the lanterns, sharing their dreams and wishes. And then at the perfect moment, letting them go. I never knew it could have such meaning. I was there to do portraits for Clarisse, but even I had difficulty focusing looking at all those lanterns taking flight and lighting up the night sky. And the way the lanterns slowly floated up made it feel like time slowed down. It was indeed, a unique experience.
*Although it was a month after, we were still able to do what we initially planned: to do her portraits in Pasadena City Hall.