Adrienne's Blog (31)
One of the great things about getting a new camera is how the learning curve has inspired me to get reacquainted with some fundamentals. I find myself playing with different situations just to see how my camera will behave - and in the process, I reinforce what I know about photography.
Tonight, I played around with light. Literally. I was drying the baby off after bath time, and noticed the light spilling from the bathroom doorway into the bedroom. I knew there was a shot there, so I placed the baby in the middle of the doorway and started hunting.
Once you understand how truly limited a digital camera is, you really understand how amazing the human eye is. Just looking at Stella from my bedroom, I could see all of her facial expressions and the details of all of the light in the bathroom but my camera couldn't. There was just too much difference between the bright light of the bathroom, and the dark of my bedroom for the camera to make out her face - even though I could see her plainly. It's a hard concept to wrap our heads around, initially.
But once I understand where my camera is limited, I can use it to my advantage for some pretty artistic effects that one just doesn't experience in our everyday looking around.
First I expose for the background. My settings were ISO 2000 (it was REALLY dark!) f/1.6 and shutter speed of 1/320. By exposing for the background - the brightest thing here being the chandelier - Stella becomes a void of black, or a silhouette. The trick here is first to get your exposure correct, and then wait for the silhouette that tells the story. Here I waited for her to turn to the side so I could make our her cute little button nose.
Since I had some wiggle room in the shutter speed, I decided to slow it down and try to expose more for her face. By moving the shutter speed to 1/40, her face became recognizable, but the background light becomes extreme. Holy incandescent blowout!
It's definitely not the prettiest light for a baby (think more moody album art, bizarro thriller or even ), and it's definitely not in focus, but it was a worthwhile experiment - one I haven't done in quite some time!
Have you seen this on facebook? Where everyone is posting a new status of what they're thankful for every day this month? I LOVE it! So why don't we do this motographer style? I'll start...
I'm so thankful for FAMILY.
A thousand words would be skimping here. Our extended family is going through a very rough time, and this picture says it all. I'm so grateful for my family, no matter how much we get in the way of ourselves at times.
Post your picture to your status and make sure to share it on our Facebook page!!!
I know you've seen the commercial... the new Microsoft commercial that promises to magically produce perfect group shots by offering a choice of heads from different photos. I'm not going to say I don't think it's possible, because it is... BUT, doing it well takes a little more human finesse than I think a computer is capable of. So until someone can prove me wrong (I'm calling gimick!!!) here's a video tutorial I did last year for my local newspaper's blog.
Last Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to have my picture taken with the 4 generations of women in my family. When the 2-year-old was happy, we were just okay. When the rest of us were genuinely smiling, well, the 2-year old was doing other things. So after a quick reiview of the lcd screen, I knew I had a choice. I could drag things out hoping for all the planets (and faces) to align, possibly turning those smiles into grimaces, or I could spend a little time fixing it later. Here's my "later".
|Family Holiday Photos - Head Transplant!|
It began with two cousins in a basket on the side of the road. Four Octobers later, the tradition continues. Every year, my mom makes no bones about it - she expects cotton pictures.
As the holiday season approaches and it's time to prepare for seasonal cards and document the various occasions, something else is always in the back of my mind. Don't misinterpret what I'm about to explore, because it's not that I'm opposed to cotton pictures, or any other pre-planned shoot, I think they're gorgeous. I just find that I drag my feet a little any time I'm SUPPOSED to shoot something. (Just ask my mom, she swears I have a conspiracy to withhold holiday pictures.) Something about my personality gets just a little heartburn when it comes to manufacturing reality in a photograph.
If we lived on a farm or if we'd just spent the weekend going cotton picking ourselves, I'd be snapping away. But pull over to the side of the road, stick the kids in the cotton field and start clicking, and somehow I feel a little less than honest. What's with that? There's no harm in pretty pictures, right?
I think I'm close to figuring out what's eating me. A couple of things actually...
First it has to do with "posing". There's a lot of talk amongst photographers about "unposing" or avoiding the staged, Olan Mills look in modern portraits. In real life, my children never sit together in unison with perfect posture, turn to me with a tilt and smile. And if I chased them around daily asking them to do so, when they're old enough to figure out how to exact revenge, I'd be likely to find a Nikon with playdough shoved in all of it's moving parts.
The second has to do with why I take pictures to begin with. It's because I love everything about my children, every detail of their existence. I take pictures because I want to remember and relive every moment - so why would I make up moments to remember?
Standing there in that cotton field, not long after standing on the side of the road stuffing two kids into matching outfits, I found myself exploring that topic in earnest.
When I show the three-year-old where to stand and smile, will I catch the same glimmer in her eye as when I set her free to run?
When I'm just "old familiar mom" behind the camera, is it even possible to get two kids to look at me and smile in unison? Or is it better to set the scene and let them do their own thing?
What tells the story of what I see with my heart when I look at my children? Is it pressed perfection, or stolen glimpses of love and magic?
As the holiday season begins, these are all questions I'm asking myself as a momtographer - especially when I "set up" a shoot. I think the conclusion I'm reaching is that there's nothing wrong with creating opportunities to take unforgettable pictures as long as we impart unforgettable memories with our children as well. As long as magnifying the reality of what lives in my heart always trumps manufacturing reality - grandma's gonna get her cotton pictures.
What are your thoughts? How do you approach special shoots with your most precious subjects?
You'd think someone who thinks as much about photography as I do would already get this. While infants are adorable to play with while on their back, it just doesn't translate to the camera. It's tough to get a flattering angle - even when you stand directly over them (wrapping your camera strap around your arm so that you never accidentally drop the camera, of course!). Their tiny little chins get lost in those cute little rolls and your camera records a giant blob of baby without the benefit of those coochie coos.
Still, what did I do yesterday in the yard? Grabbed the camera while baby was laying on her back on blanket in the grass. It only took a couple of awkward shots for me to snap to my senses...
So what's a mommy to do? Tummy time! It's doctor recommended for the littlest ones, and momtographer recommended for getting in good shots!
I grabbed the boppy pillow, put it in the grass and then covered it with her blanket. And then put my wee one in the center with her arms propped up over the side and her legs through the opening. Suddenly we were in business!
It's best to have your camera ready as soon as tummy time begins, before baby's little muscles get tired and we end up at the cranky portion of the exercise event. Oh who am I kidding - I totally wanna look back on those memories too!
Last week we took our girls to the beach for a staycation getaway. The oil spill has prevented us from making use of the waves (the water's open, but momma's not allowing) - but the pool's still perfect, the restaurants are still yummy, and the sand's still open for playing!
It was my first "real" chance to take sibling portraits of my three-year-old and her 9-week-old sister. Anyone who's ever tried this is laughing at me right about now. Even with grandma just inches outside of the frame, it wasn't easy. First, let's pretend that the three-year-old knows how to properly support the infant:
Now let's pretend that both (or even one!) might look at the camera:
Or when they do, that they aren't giving a fake smile:
For 50 or so shots, you may get one lucky one in:
So we (my mom and I) stopped and thought about it. Here's what we figured out... First, that newborn is still going to be hard to position, even moreso in the charge of an older child. So we still have to position the infant as though it's an infant! On land I would use a beanbag or a boppy under a blanket. At the beach, carve out your own positioner in the sand and place a blanket over it! Here, my mom dug out a hole in the sand while I held the newborn, the blanket while the three-year-olds ran circles around us and I tried to keep the sand out of my camera!
Once we dug the hole, we repositioned the blanket and placed the baby where she looked good on her own...
And then added the older children as observers...
Once we got them into position, a funny thing happened... we didn't have to give them any more direction.
You can emulate this look at home either in front of the window or out in the yard by placing the infant in a boppy, with a couch cushion or two behind it. Cover with a blanket, and your kiddos will be eye to eye.
Plus, you won't have to deal with the sand :)
Life is messy. As the mom of an 8-week-old and a three-and-a-half-year old, by this I can swear. So if I care about documenting the little moments that really matter, I have to recognize that I can't always pick the perfect setting to make the memories in.
This week, we had a sweet moment on the office floor between sisters. Stella was lying on her play mat and Sydney just COULD NOT keep her hands off of her. Since we've spent our fair share of time in the hospital and doctors office with a sick wee one, usually I panic. But when I turned around to find Sydney lying inside the playgym with her sister, my heart melted. After all, this was the very same playgym Sydney was kicking around on just three years ago. (Someone get the tissues!)
But photographically speaking, there's a WHOLE lot going on visually inside that little mat of wonder. Wild animals, wild colors and the general awkwardness of both children being under something made it difficult to capture the intimate details of their sweet interaction. This is one instance where a black and white conversion is particuarly useful! If we can take away all of the color distraction, we can focus our eye on the real action!
Here's my first image straight out of the camera. You can see it's sweet, but there's a whole lot of busy going on! I want their hands to stand alone!
I could just crop them tighter, but I feel the arc of the playgym tells the story of where they are, so we're going to have to leave it as is.
Next I'm going to convert to black and white (I do this in Apples aperture, but any black and white conversion of your choice will work). Normally I would adjust my exposure and contrast setting first, but I like to see the image in black and white before I start playing with those settings.
Okay, now that it's in black and white, I can see what needs adjusting. This image is very grey to me as is - it needs more definition between black and white, otherwise known as higher contrast. I'm going to address this two ways.
First, I'm going to adjust my black point. You can either do this in Aperture or Lightroom - or by adjusting the leftmost slider of the levels adjustment in photoshop.
See how much richer the darker tones are? But I still want a little more definition, so now I'm going to adjust the contrast.
That feels better to me. Finally, I want the attention on the center of the photo, so I'm going to add a vignette, darkening the edges so that your eye is naturally drawn to the bright hands in the middle.
And voila - the moment captured now focuses on what I was "seeing" when I took the photo!
So now I have this amazing memory of their precious time together... when it's good ya'll, it's really good!!!
A warm hello from that island somewhere in between Timbuktu and Antarctica known as post-partum. We've had exactly one emergency a week in the first three weeks of our little one's life, and I gotta tell you, I'm ready for the new normal to emerge 'cause I'm not settling for this!
I won't get into the details of the first two, because nobody wants to read about a 30-something's trek to heal from childbirth, but I'll tell you, I'd have much preferred the third could be blamed on me as well. Stella began to run a fever Sunday afternoon. If you've ever had a newborn with anything over 100.4, you know what happens next. Blood draws, spinal taps and a minimum 3 days in the hospital. We couldn't kick the fever until day 4, so we're just getting home.
We're counting our blessings over and over, although I will turn into a primal club-weilding cave-mom should anyone try to touch her over the next five weeks.
So in celebration of her homecoming, and my first trip to my desk since her arrival, I want to post an unedited photo her Aunt 'Becca and I took when she was 4 days old. Pullbacks, tutorials and more pictures to follow!
And so it begins. And so it continues. It's the beginning for you, but to understand from where all this love comes, you'll have to understand about from where you come.
You came into the world at 11:12 A.M. the day after the 4th of July. Your big sister will always remind you she came two days after Christmas, also just after 11:00 A.M. Your mommy can remind you that her birthday always falls the week of Thanksgiving - you'll have to ask your grandmother at what time. Suffice to say, Gray girls have an inclination to attach ourselves to excitement.
It's almost time. Really, any time now. Seriously. Baby, are you listening? Mommy is ready.
I can only say this because I am finally ready. The bassinet arrived - which is pretty important since we decided to forego the nursery renovation decisions in favor of something much more simple like buying a new house. Still no name, but I'm resolved that we'll choose one after we see her, hold her, kiss her, see her big sister hold her... oh can you tell I am really starting to wrap my arms around this whole thing?
It wasn't that way for a while... a good while, actually. I think my list of to-do's was piled up between the sightline of my heart and the miracle of what's just around the corner. And, of course, the list of to-do's included having everything ready for newborn portraits. So here's my list of preparations on that front! Who knows, it may save you from doign something rash like, oh, hosting a real-estate open house while 38 weeks pregnant.
I'll spare you all the once upon a time drivel and get to the point. Okay moms of girls, admit it. We're all suckers for the tutu. It's where the dreams of little girls and their mommies colide into magic, whimsy and living-room twirls.
On the other hand, you've gotta admit, the tutu photo card has been played! I've caught myself thinking 'If I see one more newborn in a shocking magenta tutu...' well, I'll let you fill in the blank. That's why today I was so excited to see fellow Momtographer Megan's precious photos of baby "I".
Well y'all, the oil's here. I haven't seen it first hand, mostly because I can't bear to, but also because I know the epic battle that would take place if I went to the beach but told Syd she couldn't touch anything. Yes, I think anyone who's still letting their kids in the water needs a head check. I've heard reports of 'Mommy - there's black stuff on my feet' answered with 'Well go back in the water and wash it off'. Why don't you just offer them a towel dipped in dispersants, or better yet, just encourage them to slather the petrol like sunblock? SPF 150 with a side of carcinogen. (Forgive me, I'm a grossly uncomfortable pregnant woman taking my round ligament pain out on the internets.)
But that said, I promised I'd share the pictures that Sydney actually took herself of the beach. Rather than try to explain the gravity of what floated just offshore, I gave her a point-and-shoot camera with the instructions to take a picture of anything she thought was beautiful. What follows, to me, is equal parts amusing and beautiful... thanks for indulging me!
When I first gave her the camera inside, she said "I want to take a picture of the baby." Nice.
It's offcial y'all, I've got baby fever. Which is probably a good thing since I'll have my own in my arms in just a few weeks!
But it was confirmed by self-diagnoses yesterday when, on Facebook, I saw my sweet friend/fellow momtographer Rachel and her newborn baby "A's" self-portraits. And here's a fair warning, if you don't want baby fever... don't scroll down!!!
Okay Momtographers - school is out (or almost out) and it's time to put our snap in overdrive! Our mission for the May/June challenge? Capture those memories forever. Sandy toes. Sprinkler romps. Water balloons. Rope swings... you get the idea. The winner will receive a gift certificate to Amazon.com.
And since we missed the May challenge (thanks to a very pregnant Momtographer) I'm gonna sweeten the deal. Here's a recipe Sydney and I made this morning for Fresh Strawberry Lemonade! It's the perfect way to kick off the summer!
FRESH STRAWBERRY LEMONADE - Southern Style!
This makes a good sized batch, perfect for a self-serve spouted container. If you're using 2-gallon pitchers, you may need to mix in a larger container first!
1 quart lemon juice (approx. 6 lbs large lemons - larger lemons tend to be sweeter!)
1 lb of strawberries
4 cups of sugar
5 quarts of water
Cut Lemons in half and juice (I use a citrus attachment on my food processor!)
Remove the hulls from the strawberries and puree (I used my food processor again to contain the mess, but a blender will work too.)
Add lemon juice and strawberry puree to large container.
Add sugar, stir.
Add water, stir.
Now sample! Too thick? Add more water. To tart? Add more sugar.
I can't be 100% sure, but I THINK this is international toddler contrarian sign for "just right".
We all have our days when the dog gets tangled in our feet
When the doorknobs catch us as we stumble by, dodging little messes left by little messes
When the air is just a little harder to breathe
When it's everything I can muster just to make sure her pants aren't on backwards, her hair has met a comb and something passing for lunch is tossed in a tiny heap
Yet, the moment the garagedoor closes and I'm left alone with the remnants
The messes become evidence that my life is complete
Oh Momtographers - I've missed you. Heck, I've missed me. I've been sequestered in my own head for the last few weeks - I wish I could tell you it's all been good, but it's been, well, interesting. Sometimes insanely busy checking things off the list before baby, sometimes tending to work, sometimes tending to my health (I earned myself a weekend in the hospital), a whole lot of napping, a few crises thrown in, and of course, through it all tending to my wonderfully-sweet-inquisitive-charming-mind-numbingly-active-3-year-old. I gotta tell you, the juggling act of being me in this season is not one you want tickets to unless you just want to laugh at me. And if that's the case, I'll pop you some pop-corn as long as you promise to save me some... 'cause I'm hungry.
About two weeks ago, I laid awake in bed, wrestling with whether or not to take Syd to the beach. We live just an hours drive from the white beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, so as you can imagine, the beach has been a huge part of our family life. I was a week shy of being 8 months pregnant, one week off of a hospital stay and tethered with a pile of things to do here at the house. We were smack in the middle my husband's busy season at work so I'd already decided not to go. It was a move that would save me from packing up the house by myself and being the sole entertainer of Sydney in a tiny beach condo for 5 days. But with the oil spill looming off in the waters, we truly didn't (and still don't) know what to expect going forward. I don't mean to be all doom and gloom (did I mention I'm 8-months pregnant? Yeah, that means my drama-filter is completely broken) but I knew our days there, at least for the short term, would likely be numbered. It's kind of like watching a disaster unfold in super slow motion. It may be a while before the crude washes up, but we're already getting tar balls, not to mention the who-knows-what they're spraying in the water.
Our winter cave has been abaondoned! The grass is growing, the birds are chirping, and the swingset is a-calling. Spring is officially here!
But shooting outdoors, especially in the late-afternoon hours, remind us that we have to be mindful of a few things when making use of the great sunlight. Specifically, avoiding the glare, haze and lens flare that can occur when the angle of the sun intersects with the angle of lens.
Our playground faces South, so in the late afternoon it gets direct sunlight from the West. This isn't a problem when I shoot with my back to the South - my lens 90 degrees to the sun.
I've always wished I lived in the kind of house where there would be a perfect door frame on which to etch the growth of my family from month to month, year to year. The kind of door you'd find in a family farmhouse that's been around for generations - one that practically cue's Amy Grant's "If These Walls Could Speak". But alas, I'm one of the modern families of nomads who commit to address nor decorating long enough to make generational graffiti on my walls.
This past spring break, as my daughter was running down the boardwalk to the ocean ahead, I had a flashback to the year before and the year before that one. As it turns out, I have roughly the same image of her, year upon year. I have my own photo milestones...
Here she is at one - waiting for Daddy to come and take her hand and help her pull her wagon.
Again at two - skipping merrily towards the sand.
Twice this busy week I had moments of photo wow - roughly at the same time of day, but with two different sets of circumstances. Both involved backlighting. For those of you not familiar with the term, it's when the majority of the light on a subject comes from behind. There's also an article explanation HERE. In natural light photography, you see a lot of this early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is low in the sky, available as a backdrop. (Hey thanks Mr. Sun!).
In this first photo, we were returning from a birthday party. I was tempted to share the photos where my child tried to blow out the birthday girl's candles, but I thought better of it :) Instead, I'd rather share this moment of wonder I caught as she was racing back up our driveway amped on 2 cupcakes (icing-only, of course).
ISO 320 f/5 SS 1/100 50mm lens
Remember our article about Cloudy Days - how they're a Momtographer's best friend? Well, yesterday's school Easter Egg Hunt was a quick refresher in how sometimes you just can't escape circumstance.
I arrived at school at 12:20, to make sure that I would be there in time to catch the little bunnies hop out of their classroom towards the egg hunt. I even brought the Spydercube that I'm testing out to help calibrate my photos. But before I saw the first sign of my bunny - I knew the photos would be less than wonderful. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the sun was shining directly overhead.
In case you haven't experienced this yet - or made the connection - bright overhead sunlight is THE MOST CHALLENGING kind of light in which to photograph your child. The brights are REALLY BRIGHT and the darks are REALLY DARK, creating contrast and shadows that are hard for your camera to properly interpret. Plus, there's the whole squinty eyes thing.
Have you ever wondered why professional photoraphers need assistants? It's not so that the photographer doesn't have to carry their own bags (though I'm sure there are some photogs who see it that way!). It's because the photographer needs to be able to focus on the moment that tells the story - even if the backdrop and lighting surrounding the story isn't the best shooting scenario. By taking care of small details that would otherwise make a scene unusable, an assistant frees up a photographer to work their creative and technical magic. Maybe it's holding a reflector to bounce more light into an area - or maybe it's using a diffuser to diffuse harsh lighting - there are so many things that an extra set of hands just out of the frame can do to help make magic within the frame!
Today I got in a little practice being the mommy of two - though I'm sure a real mom of two would tell me that I was cheating - I had two three-year-olds! We did all of the fun things that three girls could possibly do without a sleepover and nailpolish. We got smoothies ("Hey Sydney's mommy - are we going to the movies?"). We went to a jewelry store where they ran to the engagment rings like tiny moths to a flame... proof that diamonds are in our DNA! We even went to the toy store!
I had a return to make to the local 'R' Us, so I obliged them to a walk through the store, store-credit in hand. We ran through the bouncy balls and tinkered with the toy trains, but when we got to the end of the play kitchen aisle, both girls stopped in their tracks, mouths gapped in awe. There, behind a wall of cardboard and cellophane was a shiny red cash register - complete with a headset, walkie talkie, hamburgers, frieds, chicken mcnuggets, a happy meal box and CREDIT CARDS! I didn't even pretend we were going to fight it.
When we got home, I tried to direct the girls to set up shop in the open shade of the back porch. No.such.luck. "Old McDonalds" was destined to go into business in one of the least ideal places in the yard - under the playhouse. As the bright full sun was lowering in the sky, the girls weren't safe from it's glare - but they didn't care - they had a drive-thru window! Meanwhile, mommy was stuck with the worst contrast imagineable, peppered with the shadow of the monkey bars overhead.
So I pulled out my pop-up diffuser - a round, white disk that photographers use to soften harsh lighting situation. But professionals usually have someone or something holding it into place - I needed it just over their heads at a 45 degree angle. Clearly I wasn't going to be able to hold it and shoot. ASSISTANT!!!! (crickets.)
Enter the bed sheet. I grabbed an old sheet that we use to cover plants on the coldest of nights and tied it to the monkey bars. VOILA! It wasn't edge to edge coverage of the drive-thru, but it bought me some even open shade! Next time I'll actually take the time to march indoors and find a white sheet because the redish plaid did give off a color cast that I'll have to work on in my photo editing software, but hey - it did the job! And bed sheets can be tied almost anywhere - to tree limbs, fence posts - anywhere you need the harsh lighting of the sun diffused.
"Welcome to Old McDonalds, may I take your order please?"
"Okay, one french fry, one chicken nugget, one diet coke - would you like an ice cream?"
"Thank you - have a nice day ma'am."
Can I be real with you guys for just a minute? This week stunk. No, it didn't stink in any sort of life-altering tragedy sort of way, but in that "I really have no idea which end is up on this whole motherhood thing" kind of way. If I had a paper calendar, I would have written in red sharpie "FAIL" on every square this week. Actually, it was so pitiful and emotionally draining, that shoud I have been the sort of organized person that could commit to a paper calendar, I would have invested in a self-inking stamp of the word "FAIL", just so I would have it around (and so that little hands couldn't get to the red sharpie I'd inevitably leave out on the counter.)
For those of you who didn't know me prior to the launch of this site 7 weeks ago, I suppose this means we're past our first date and I should let you in on a little something. I don't love photography for the pretty pictures. I guess that's a fringe benefit, but it's not why I'm here.
Photography saves me. Truly.
When I'm having weeks like the one I'm having, it's like the reassuring voice of a girlfriend who's been there. It's an objective, yet gentle friend that helps me keep perspective. The stories it shares are a reminder as real to me as the banana stting in my bathroom trash can (after my 3-year-old decided Girl Scout cookies is the true breakfast of champions) that I have to remember the whole journey, not just the ditches.
When, after a year without a single bedwetting, we've puddled the floor three days in a row, I can look back and see her tiny tush in diapers and remember how far we've come.
When her gymnastics coach has to leave five children against the wall doing handstands so that she can retrieve her from the foam pit, I can recover from the horror by remember from which genepool she emerged.
When a morning-long battle over running a brush through her hair ends with "I don't like you anymore", I can be reminded of what she would actually look like if I let her go to school as though she'd just rolled out of a pop-up tent.
And finally, if my red-streak continues long after this transition from being an only child to a big sister settles out... if I somehow fail to let her know in the day to day just how much I love her... she will someday be able to look back and realize that her mother was in awe of her every moment.
Keep twirling sweet child. You will always be my first baby.
I'm so proud of my friend Courtney! Yesterday marked her little man's five-month birthday and we walked her through some transformational tips to taking better pictures. As it turns out, all she needed was a starting place! When she showed me her pictures - BEFORE 10 AM, no less - I knew I had to share them with everyone!
BEFORE - 4 Months
AFTER - 5 Months
And now she's got the bug!!! Congrats Courtney on your beautiful pictures and I can't wait to see what you do next!
I love the internet - where else can you catch up with someone you haven't seen since high school and pick up instantly? Well, I haven't seen my friend Courtney in *ahem* a number of years, but from her Facebook page it seems the only thing that's changed about her is the number of gorgeous children… including her latest who is 5 months old today!
So in celebration of today Courtney, here are some tips for capturing your baby boy!
First things first - find your pocket of great light. Where are the good windows in your house? Glass doors? No glass doors? Take advantage of this gorgeous weather we're having down south and open one up! Windows and doors take the bright sun and diffuse it into gorgeous portrait-taking light, so find your best and brightest portal and plop that baby boy down at the edge of the light. (Or you might want to try a baby doll first so he's fresh when you get your camera settings perfect!)
What do I mean by the edge of the light? Here… see how my not-so-little one *sniff* is positioned just on the shadow side of the light?
Now look what happened when I put my duff down just inside the door - me sitting in the light, and her just on the other side - magic! And since she's facing the light - look at what it did to her eyes!
Now lets talk about backgrounds. From what I've seen on facebook, your little man should be lifting his head and pushing up. Since we want a decluttered backdrop, use a bench, ottoman or even a chair like the one Sydney's sitting on and place it behind him. Now take a very neutral blanket (dark and heavy wools, felts, etc work nicely - but so do plain white down comforters!) and drape it over the back of the ottoman spilling onto the floor under him. It doesn't have to be perfect, just make sure it's not distracting. If it's large enough, you could even put a boppy or a dog pillow underneath it to give him some reinforcement.
Next - you have a Sony DSLR-A300 camera, so rather than get into how to use your manual controls (because I'm just not familiar with your camera!), lets try and take advantage of the built-in portrait mode. That should be your equivalent of Aperture priority mode. While you're at it - turn off your flash! You want all natural light here. According to the Sony Website, there should be a "flash off" position on the Exposure Mode dial.
Also, check your ISO. If you find a really great pocket of light, you should be able to stay between 100-400. The lower the ISO the better RAW files you have to work with on in your computer. How do you know what that number should be? Take a test picture. Too dark? Bump your ISO. But be careful - go too high and you'll introduce noise.
Speaking of Raw files, are you shooting in RAW or JPEG? For these precious portraits, you want to be in RAW, or at the very least, RAW + jpeg so you have both on hand. Just make sure your memory card is clean so you have lots of room!
Okay - now that you're done with your menus and dials, get on your belly and shoot! Go eye to eye with that baby boy. Connect, laugh, tickle, sing Elmo songs! Don't just rely on your zoom - get in close with your camera. You don't have to see the whole blanket in every shot. What if you just got his head? Just some toes? Get down low with him and just see what happens! Just make sure he stays facing the light!
And finally - come over to the boards and show us your pictures!!
The holy grail of post processing. A program the simultaneously organizes your images, keeping your from accidental deletion, ridiculous file renames, and general photo anarchy while allowing you to do nearly everything you need to do clean up, punch up, and export your images. That's what I keep hoping for in a photography workflow… one program that lets me make simple non-destructive adjustments to settings like white balance, exposure and crop, roundtrip to Photoshop when I need to, and let me prep and print, even upload to Facebook, all without leaving the interface. Something simple like iPhoto - but packed with options for serious photographers. And something that doesn't jam up my computer more than once a lunar cycle.
It's probably just coincidence that I was home recovering from childbirth when Apple's Aperture was first released, but faced with our first ever glut of pictures, it was the RAW editor/archiving solution that my husband and I were looking for. Seriously, who knew you could take 1000 shots of one little face in just a couple of weeks? The interface was intuitive, it worked relatively well, and years later my photog friends who live through the chug chug chug of Lightroom are still jealous of the gorgeous gamma vignette I can apply with a single click. At the end of the 30-day free trial in early 2007, I was hooked!
It hasn't been perfect, but I've enjoyed it. So when I saw the jaw-dropping features were announced for Aperture 3, I knew this was going to be the version that made all of my Lightroom buddies sit up and take notice. With over 200 improvements (many of them slight but thoughtful functionality tweaks) there's lots to be excited about. All effects now have built-in brushes so you can paint them on or off of the photo, much like a Photoshop layer mask without having to think about the mask. There are now programmable presets (with 36 built in) and curve adjustments. There's built-in facial recognition, facebook and flicker export. It'll even let you archive and edit your videos! MOMMY GOLD!
It's all GREAT! Except for this tiny little thing… it's not quite functioning yet. As much as the owner of three macs hates to break this to you, this should have been a beta release. There are some pretty serious bugs that need working out before I would dare recommend this program. I started out with a fresh, empty library on the fastest Mac made with more RAM than you even wanna know about, and it ran slower than my previous version. There's a workaround by taking it out of 64-bit mode and just running it in 32-bit mode, but even then I get the spinning beach ball of death more than I care to admit. Search around on some message boards and read the horror stories of the people who've tried to import their existing libraries (some of them well into the terrabyte range) and you'll see that clearly there are some 3.0.x.x updates in Aperture's future.
The good news is… what I have been able to play with is very promising. The presets are nice starting places and I still think they've got the market cornered on the gorgeous gamma vignettes. They've even allowed us to paint out parts of the images from the vignettes, which was my only previous complaint about that shining feature. But I need to be able to see my brush strokes in real time, or I might as well just erase with my eyes closed. And it would be great if I could do it without the random program crash.
So am I working in it? Yes. I'm an Apple believer and I'm determined to uncover the good. But because I edit video and motion graphics for a living, I have a beast of a workstation - complete overkill for simple photography work. With the trouble I'm having with 16 GB of Ram and 8 processors, I can't even begin to imagine how this program would perform on my laptop or even a screaming iMac. Let's let those with iron stomachs fight this one out with tech support first. After all, we do have sippy cups to tend to.
In the mean time, we must put our Indiana Jones fedoras back on and wait for the next promise - either a real update fix from Apple or a homerun from Adobe and the spring release of Lightroom. In the meantime, there are still too many giant boulders rolling around threatening to smash my workflow.
"Without the bitter, the sweet ain't as sweet."
That's a line from the movie Vanilla Sky - a movie I connected with so incredibly deeply that I sent everyone I knew to the theaters to see it. And then they all said, "Um, that was weird." Yeah, I know, my taste in a night at the movies doesn't always sync with the folks who love and tolerate me. But even today, I'm wildly inspired by the idea that someone's greatest handicap can be that their life is perfect.
My extended family is going through some extraordinarily rough stuff right now. We're in the twixt and tween of grief and hope for a little baby named Piper - my cousin and her unborn child can use every bit of hope that you have to offer into the air. And at the same time, another one of my family members is canceling their visit to us next week to take the opportunity to cherish the life of a dear young friend who is savoring what time they may have.
I write this not to be a downer, but just as a gentle reminder - celebrate life. In the aggravation of carpool, sing a song. When the laundry piles are high and the appreciation is low, be thankful for the bodies that fill those dirty clothes. Make going to the mailbox to retrieve circulars a BIG FAT DEAL! And just when you think you can't take one more game of Candyland, pull out the camera and remind yourself just how precious every gift of a moment is.
Intoxicate yourself with the beauty of the mundane. Sometimes just seeing it flashed back at you on the viewfinder can remind you how beautiful it all is. And when hard times come as they do, let them be the seasoning that remind you just how sweet life is.
Love for the weekend -
Yesterday was my daughter's first-ever gymnastics lesson. Gush. I can't tell you that this post isn't a great excuse to tell you how proud I am that we may have found an outlet for our super-active chatterbox (after our *ahem* interesting experience with ballet), or how entertained I am by her fearlessness. But if I'm going down the emotional rabbit trail of my parenting experience, I need to disclose that it was a real nail-biter.
Ah, the push and pull of parenting. Let go. Stay close. Hide in the bleachers so you're there for the inevitable potty break, but
I hear the annoying cliche' in my head all the time.
Practice makes perfect.
Yeah, but in the undertow of muddy waters between the practice and perfection, here I sit… holding my camera.
I know the right camera settings. I know the right lighting situations. I know how to set everything up. But right now, I'm having the hardest time making them all come together on a consistent basis. It could be pregnancy brain - and with it, exhaustion, the patience of a puppy in a milkbone factory, and the temperament of, well, a pregnant woman. It could be that I have the creative blahs. Or it could be that we've launched a website to help our mommy friends take better pictures and now I have a little stage fright.
Whatever the culprit, I'm not going to get over this hurdle unless I commit to take more pictures. Our lunchboxing section on the message board has forced me to start out the day knowing where my camera is and breaking the ice on something "safe" like lunchmeat and applesauce.
But, to my surprise this morning, my daughter wanted her picture taken with the leftover roast beef, and mommy found the answer to her dilemma.
To get our guest in the photo, I had to step back and widen the frame to include her. Immediately the perfectionist in me kicked in.
"Her hair isn't brushed yet!"
"The kitchen table has crap all over it! - This goes against our clutter rule!"
"I don't even have the lunchbox out of the car from yesterday!"
HEY BUMBLING IDIOT!!!!!!!! They're JUST pictures. Shut up and shoot.
Before I knew it, we were making happy faces, sad faces, surprised faces, "mommy stop taking pictures" faces, and then
This morning, I'm more than a little bit distracted so I appreciate if you just go with me on this slightly-off topic post. As most of you have surely by now heard, the island of Haiti was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 with several aftershocks in the range of 4-6. That would be devastating in any city - but to have struck so near the capitol of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the word devastating doesn't seem enough.
Growing up, my snot nose was privledged enough to go on a mission trip not once, but twice to Haiti. I had to dig through the scrapbooks to find the evidence, but here I am at 11 visiting these PRECIOUS girls at their school:
Well hello there Momtographers!
Being my inaugural Momtographers blogpost, this is the paragraph where I'm supposed to say something profound, insert a rally cry, and set the tone for this - our new website. And I would attempt to rise to the occasion if it weren't for this ticky little thing... I can't keep my food down.
Krista and I have have been locked to our chairs for days weeks on end putting the finishing touches on everything we've worked on for over a year and laying the ground work for the things to come, and I can't hold onto dinner. So I pat my face, come back to the computer, chuckle over IM with Krista that I've thrown up AGAIN, and ten minutes later I have a spoon in my mouth eating the guilty substance all over again.