Every photo shoot is unique. Whether it is a wedding, family photo shoot, birth, reunion, anniversary or senior portrait....every shoot has a story. Every photo is part of that story. When I learn about the family, the high school senior, the soon to be mom and dad, the 50th anniversary couple, the bride and groom, I want to create something that represents them, their story. Something that when they look at the photos years later, they are filled with emotion, filled with memories from the moment. I want them to be able to feel the sun on their body or the cold wind in their hair. I want them to remember laughing, smiling or crying. To me, photos provide a special look into the past, a look into a moment of time. It is my privilege, my job, my goal, my passion to create images that truly capture these moments.
On the night of July 18, 2018 I had a particularly special shoot, the Kubina Family. Let me provide a little background to this story. Kyle Kubina is from Indiana and moved to Whitefish, Montana in 2013. He found his happy place here. He has been the face of the Base Lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort as the bar tender at the only bar at the base area for 5 years. EVERYONE knows Kyle. EVERYONE loves Kyles. Bar tenders are often used by people as sounding boards. People open up to bar tenders as they sip there hot toddy, IPA or hot cocoa. Kyle has a way of telling it like it is and people love him for it. He is kind, extremely smart, sarcastic, quick witted, full of life and content. He has chosen his own path in life and has always lived on his own terms which created a relaxed demeanor and confidence.
Kyle and Karma at the Summit of Whitefish Mountain Resort Summer 2016
The Base Lodge bar happens to be situated mere feet from Mountain Life Photography's viewing desk on the mountain. So, over the years, we have become very close to Kyle. Last March, he began to have issues recalling words and reading. He contuined working until the end of the ski season, April 8 and scheduled a Doctors appointment for the 13th, a few days after employee ski day!
On April 13, Kyle's entire world change when he was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma, which is a type of brain cancer that is typically terminal. He had surgery on April 19 at Rush in Chicago to remove the main portion of the tumor. He has since been in and out of the hospital, had multiple surgeries, tried a variety of medications, chemo and other drugs as well as alternative medicines (medicinal mushrooms and juices). It is an ongoing battle filled with ups and downs that Kyle takes in stride all with a smile, grace and positive attitude. It is remarkable how he has handled the cards that have been dealt. He continues to amaze me and assures me every time we say goodbye 'I will see you again, I will be back at the lodge soon'. He says it so matter of factly and confidently. I believe him. I admire Kyle.
Kyle finished his first round of treatment in June. Based on how aggressive his first treatment was, his doctors wanted his brain to take a break. He had 4 weeks with no treatments on the books so he decided to take a much needed vacation. The timing was perfect as it fell in line with his annual college reunion where he and a bunch of longtime friends camp in the Pacific Northwest for a week or more. He was scheduled to fly out from Oregon July 5th to spend a week in the wilderness with some of his closest friends. After camping, he was going to spend some time back at his home in MT and he was looking very forward to seeing his favorite band, Phish, play later that month. Unfortunately, he was plagued with headaches which went from bad to worse very quickly. Nothing seemed able to alleviate his pain. He was eventually hospitalized and put on a morphine drip. Within a few days he was admitted into hospice. An MRI revealed what looked like the return of a massive tumor, and they were told to prepare for the worst.
So mid-July Kyle's entire family was on its way to Montana to spend time with him for his remaining days. Then, miracle of miracles, he rebounded! The steroids he had been administered kicked in, and he felt remarkably better!
This is where the photo shoot comes into play. With everyone in Kyle's family in one place at the same time and Kyle feeling better, we scheduled a family photo shoot. We scheduled the shoot for 6:30 pm at City Beach in Whitefish, Montana. As I have mentioned before, I am a very emotional human being, I cry at every wedding I photograph, I cry when I watch a choir of children sing, I cry just thinking of my son. So, I prepared myself that this was going to be a very emotional night.
They all arrived at the same time and as they walked up to me they were smiling, laughing, hugging and having a blast together. The love this family has for each other is intense and contagious. The entire shoot was hilarious. No tears. Just laughter and smiles. Exactly how Kyle lives day to day.
Meet the Kubina Family - One amazingly tight loving awesome caring happy positive family. A family I admire and aspire to be like.
Kyle has three amazing beautiful sisters. Seriously, these siblings are like best friends. They love, respect and tease each other like no other. Their relationship is every siblings dream, having a friend and a sibling all wrapped up in one. After the shoot I said ' I wish I was part of the Kubina family'.
Kyle and Kelsey are also a fantastic pair. These pictures truly depict their love for each other.
We finished the photo shoot with a dip in the lake. It was like a scene from a movie. To me it felt like time stood still as they slowly fell backwards into Whitefish Lake. The mountains stood tall in the background as everyone plunged into the cool refreshing waters. It was a moment of pure happiness, simplicity. It was like being a child again with all of the weight of the world being lifted off of your shoulders, at least for one sweet moment.
Kyle has always been especially awesome with our son. Our son talks about Kyle frequently asking where he is, how he is feeling when will he see him again.
One day in September we were pleasantly surprised to run into Kyle at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. It was a cold rainy windy day and as we drove into the parking lot, who did we see but Kyle Kubina. We all had a magical day as we summited Oberlin Mountain together. Imagine, a day spent in Glacier National Park summiting a mountain with your dear friend battling brain cancer, your 2 year old son who adores him and a mountain top to yourselves. A day we will never forget and cherish forever.